Thursday, December 31, 2020


STARTING TODAY—12/31/2020and running for the next SEVEN DAYS, you can pick up my novella, The Gods of Moab, for your Kindle at the special discounted price of 99¢ (regular price $2.99).

A pleasant New Year's Eve outing becomes an experience in otherworldly horror when two close-knit couples discover a shocking secret in the darkest corners of the Appalachian mountains. At an opulent mountain inn, Warren Burr, his fiancee, Anne, and their friends, Roger and Kristin Leverman, encounter a religious zealot named John Hanger, who makes it his business to bear witness to them of his peculiar... and disturbing... faith. His efforts rebuffed, Hanger insidiously assumes control of the couples' technological devices, leading them to stumble into unexpected, surreal landscapes... landscapes inhabited by nightmarish beings that defy explanation. To survive, Warren and his friends must not only escape the deadly entities that pursue them but somehow stop John Hanger's nightmare-plague from spreading to the outside world.

“The Gods of Moab is a chilling novella of Lovecraftian horror by Stephen Mark Rainey, acclaimed author of Balak, Blue Devil Island, Other Gods, The Nightmare Frontier, Dark Shadows: Dreams of the Dark (with Elizabeth Massie), and former editor of the award-winning Deathrealm Magazine.”

Put a little fear in your new year. Get The Gods of Moab by Stephen Mark Rainey for your Kindle here.

Love it or hate it, reviews are always appreciated. Thanks!

Monday, December 28, 2020

Can’t Hold Me Back

Thingummies overlooking my parking spot across US 70 at Haw River. Nah, I’ve no idea.

Why, yes I did need a rigorous geocaching adventure for today. There was a relatively new cache — “Can’t Hold Me Back” (GC93Y4W) — along the Haw River in Alamance County, just north of Burlington that looked promising, so I decided to make my way over yonder. The cache listing shows a set of parking coordinates, but they are quite remote, and I knew that legitimate roadside parking exists nearer the trailhead. However, that area turned out to be so muddy I feared I might end up needing AAA if I dared plant the Rodan Mobile there. When caching in this area a few years back, I had parked along US 70, near the southern end of the Haw River Trail, so I drove down to that location to see whether it appeared usable. It did, so I went for it. Across the road, there were thingummies watching me. No idea what they are about. Anyway, parking there shaves a wee bit of mileage off the hike, but what I saved in distance, I more than made up for in terrain difficulty....

Do you remember drought? At times like this, I recollect it fondly. The Haw is running high, fast, and hard, and there is flooding all around the trail. Before I even reached Boyd’s Creek, a fair-size stream that intersects the trail — today quite swollen — I had achieved the rank of Major Muddy Mess. The creek looked to be about waist-deep, so I went upstream a quarter mile or so and found a big log to use as a makeshift bridge. I stayed dry, but given the added distance, I resolved that, on the way back, I would attempt the water crossing. 

My makeshift bridge across Boyd’s Creek

At ground zero, I found the cache in good order. My pen didn’t much want to write, but I managed to get my signature on the log. About the time I started back toward the Rodan Mobile, I saw several deer grazing nearby. Then began the gunshots at frighteningly close range. I hadn’t thought to wear blaze orange (something to consider in this area during hunting season), so I made my egress from the area wildly waving my hiking stick and whistling Ennio Morricone’s “Ecstasy of the Gold” from The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly soundtrack at very high volume.

Back at Boyd’s Creek, I bit the bullet and made the water crossing. Someone had been kind enough to tie a rope across the creek, which is the only reason I didn’t end up totally submerged, for those unseen rocks down there are slickery. Happily, the water was only knee-deep, rather than waist-deep.

Boyd’s Creek water crossing, outbound; nice that someone has tied a rope across the water
Boyd’s Creek water crossing, inbound: chilly!

I was relieved to finally reach the Rodan Mobile, although it was not at all happy to see me, since I was covered in more mud than Lon Chaney as the mummy after sinking in quicksand at the end of The Mummy’s Ghost.

So, this outing proved rather more invigorating than I had expected. Although I did let loose a colorful metaphor or two along my trek, I can’t say I didn’t have fun. So, to the cache owner, all my appreciation for the new geocache and the opportunity for another adventure!

The Haw River: very high, very fast
An awful lot of this...
...and very few of these.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Little River Regional Park

It was just friend Diefenbaker (a.k.a. Scott) and a grumpy old fart (a.k.a. me) on the geocaching trail today. We headed out this morning in fairly frigid temperatures, bound for Little River Regional Park & Natural Area, a few miles north of Hillsborough. The park lies half in Orange County, half in Durham County; the dividing line is clearly marked on the trails through the woods. Thanks to friend Maingray (a.k.a. Rob), eleven relatively new caches at the park, which neither of us had visited before, awaited our attention. The temperature warmed up to about 50 over the course of the day, so it turned out better than tolerable.

The trails here are quite nice, both for hiking and biking, with beginner, intermediate, and advanced trail difficulty levels for the cyclists. Scott and I put in somewhere between three and four miles on foot. We encountered a handful of folks on the trails, but for the most part, we found ourselves mostly isolated in the woods, which I particularly appreciated. We did find all the caches we hunted, so happy day.

If we’re lucky (or not), perhaps one or more of the short women will accompany us on next weekend’s outing. It’s nice to feel tall now and again.
Scott demonstrates his "I'm not really sleeping" approach to finding geocaches.
Our track (in purple) through the park. The smiley icons denote the caches we found.

Friday, December 25, 2020

Pleasant Hill Christmas

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Last Christmas was the first I had ever spent without my mom being present. In the fall of 2019, she moved to a nursing home, so Kim and I made for ourselves a mellow Christmas at the old homestead in Martinsville — “Pleasant Hill,” as Mom loved to call it (see “Damned Rodan’s Christmas Special, December 25, 2019”). Now that Mom is no longer with us, Kim and I are once again celebrating Christmas at Pleasant Hill, just the two of us. In some ways, I feel Mom’s presence now more than when she was still alive but debilitated. Over a period of years, as dementia took an increasing toll on her memory, her identity, gathering as a family became more and more emotionally difficult, especially at holidays. Now that she is at rest, I find that I feel closer to her (as well as to my dad) because time and distance have somewhat dulled the pain of experiencing her physical and mental deterioration at close range for such a long time.

This afternoon, Kim and I got off work at lunchtime, so we opted to see if we might be able to continue one of our longstanding Christmas Eve traditions: visiting Grove Winery on our way to Martinsville. Happily, the winery was open, and — even more happily, at least for us — the few patrons on the premises were soon to leave, giving us plenty of space to ourselves out on the extensive patio. We enjoyed a tasting and a glass each of their wonderful Nebbiolo. We then hit the road for the old homestead.

We had hoped to spend a nice evening outdoors in the company of our friends Stephen & Samaire, but inclement weather forced us to postpone the gathering. None of us are comfortable spending any length of time together indoors, so we’ll be hoping for better circumstances in the near future. Failing Plan A, our Plan B was to cook up a pot of chili (which we did); make some mulled wine (which we also did); bake a pumpkin pie (done); wrap presents and place them under the tree (done); and watch our traditional Christmas Eve movies, A Christmas Story and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (done and done). As it turned out, we had so much to do, trying to also fit in a social gathering would have kept us up even later than it is (currently 2:00 AM). Now that I’ve managed to crank out this portion of a blog entry, I think I will retire for the night. What’s left of it. Until later....

Ms. B. and Old Scrooge enjoying a windy afternoon at Grove Winery

Friday, December 25, 2020
For the past decade and some change, there has generally been geocaching on Christmas Day. Over the years, though, I have cached out such a radius that no caches remain for me to hunt in reasonably close range. But this weekend — and the upcoming week, since I am off work — may offer some decent geocaching opportunities. Here’s hoping.

Since it was a very late (or very early) Christmas Eve for Ms. B. and me, we slept far in excess of our normal hours this morning. Well, I did, anyway; sleeping late tends to be Ms. B.’s typical M.O. We opened our gifts — a wonderful haul! — and enjoyed some mighty fine apple fritters for breakfast. Coffee. Coffee! COFFEE! COFFEE!! I need more....

Then, right as we sat down to an excellent dinner... boom! Migraine. I’ve had far fewer of these damned things this past year than any out of the past eight or so, but the timing for this one sure sucked. Fortunately, the headache turned out to be relatively mild.

Upon arrival back home in Greensboro, I discovered what might be a troubling issue regarding Mom’s estate. But maybe not. I hope to have it sorted out shortly.

And so, I figure it’ll be a quiet evening but a busy week coming up, with quite a few activities on the docket, some fun, some less so.

I hope you’re having a fine time of it, whether you celebrate Christmas or not. G’day and g’night.

Dad is home. Woopee.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

If Jupiter and Saturn Meet...

I couldn’t get the greatest photo of Jupiter and Saturn all but touching each other this evening, but even with the barrier of trees partially obscuring the western sky, I managed to catch a pretty good view of the planets with the naked eye. It was a beautiful, if chilly, early evening, and somehow, seeing this relatively rare event — as well as having a fine view of Mars in close proximity to the Moon (at least from our perspective) — made me inordinately happy. Of all the sciences, astronomy most intrigued me as a youngster, and I still find myself getting a bit excited over intriguing celestial events.

And of course it’s not even a little bit cool, that — according to Twin Peaks lore — when Jupiter and Saturn meet, the door to the Black Lodge swings open. I suppose this is why my arm went completely dead and I could smell the odor of scorched engine oil around the house tonight.

“Once upon a time, there was a place of great goodness called the White Lodge. Fawns gamboled there amidst happy laughing spirits. The sounds of innocence and laughter filled the air. When it rained, it rained sweet nectar that paralyzed the heart with the desire to live one's life in truth and beauty. Generally speaking, a ghastly place. But, I am pleased to note, our story does not end in this place of saccharine excess. For there is another place, its opposite, of almost unimaginable power, chock full of dark forces and vicious secrets. Spirits there care not for good deeds and priestly invocations. They are as like to rip the flesh from your bones as greet you with a happy g’day. And, if harnessed, these spirits, this hidden land of unmuffled screams and broken hearts, will offer up a power so vast that its bearer might reorder the earth itself to his liking. This place I speak of is known as the Black Lodge. And I intend to find it.” — Former FBI Special Agent Windom Earle

I hope you get a chance to view this rare event amid the heavens, and may it make you as happy as it makes me.

“He is BOB, eager for fun. He wears a smile, everybody run.”

Decipher the Owl Cave painting, discover the way to the Black Lodge.
Tonight might be a fine night to try.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Geocaching Is Foundational

So intimated the hints on a couple of different geocaches I hunted this weekend. One in Winston-Salem, the other at Cedarock Park, in Alamance County, just south of Burlington. Yesterday, I went on a solo run around Winston, going more for caches that involved hoofing it than stopping and grabbing. I’ve become rather taken with Adventure Lab caches, which, unlike traditional caches, don’t offer hidden containers to hunt. Instead, they take you to various points of interest, where you must answer questions about specific landmarks while at the location. Usually, Adventure Labs have five separate stages, and you get credit for one cache for each stage of the Lab you complete. It’s a fun way to go after “virtual” caches while discovering cool locations. Yesterday’s Lab in downtown Winston took me to a number of historical points, some featuring statues, that I would have never otherwise discovered — which, for me, rates among the most desirable aspects of geocaching in general.

Statue of a young R. J. Reynolds, tobacco baron,
in downtown Winston-Salem

Another of the many joys of geocaching is finding great places for food and drink. Some time back, I discovered King’s Crab Shack & Oyster Bar, which I have enjoyed immensely any number of times now. Happily, they’re still open during the pandemic. They have outdoor seating, but as it was rather chilly yesterday, I opted for indoors — which suited me fine because, until I was ready to leave, I was the only patron in the place. A few came in just as I was leaving, but there was plenty of room to spread out, and everyone was wearing masks except when actually dining. I ordered my customary steamed oysters on the half shell, which were, as always, fantastic.

My favorite cache yesterday, apart from the Lab, was one out in an expansive area of woods; a rare commodity in the Triad, I can tell you. I had to hike a most of a mile out a semi-flooded sewer line cut through the woods, and then find an old concrete foundation where the cache was supposed to be hidden. The cache was rated only medium difficulty, but I was unable to locate it — until, just before I was ready to give up, I spied the container some distance away in the woods. Clearly, it had washed out of its hiding place. So, that turned out to be a successful venture, and I most enjoyed having all those woods to myself. Well, except maybe for Bigfoot. I’m pretty sure Bigfoot was lurking back there.

I also hunted and found a couple of caches on the grounds of Reynolda House, which is one of Winston-Salem’s most picturesque attractions. I’ve never actually been into the house, which is now a museum, but I’ve roamed the extensive grounds and wooded trails many times on my geocaching adventures. Yesterday’s visit didn’t involve a particularly long hike, but I did get to check out some beautiful areas around the gardens I hadn’t seen before. So my Winston-Salem outing made for a productive and highly enjoyable geocaching experience, even if I didn’t add a considerable number to my overall cache find count (which currently stands at 12,441).

Strollway Bridge, over US 421, in downtown Winston-Salem
A nice little wooded passage in downtown Winston
Garden House on the Reynolda House grounds
The gardens at Reynolda House
A cottage on the Reynolda House Grounds, where — if you are observant — you might find a geocache.

This morning, nasty weather dissuaded me from joining up with the Socially Distant No-Dead-Weight Irregulars for a typical Sunday outing, which usually involves a full day of it on the geocaching trail. Instead, since the rain let up early in the afternoon, three of us — friend Diefenbaker (a.k.a. Scott) and friend Fishdownthestair (a.k.a. Natalie) — met at a brand new cache, published only this morning, at Cedarock Park. We all found it surprising that no one had logged it earlier in the day, since adverse weather rarely stymies many of the local cachers. As it turned out, we did snag the coveted (read utterly meaningless) first-to-find honors, thanks entirely to Natalie, who turned up the container in a spot I had already checked. Sometimes it is to wonder how I manage to find anything that isn’t right in front of my nose (sometimes it actually is).

After the geocaching, I turned my attention to the second season of The Mandalorian, now playing on Disney+. I had very much enjoyed the first season, and all the recent glowing commentary on social media prompted me to go ahead and splurge on Disney+ again. And boy howdy, am I glad I did. I binge-watched all eight episodes over two days, and I can safely say, this series is everything Star Wars should be. It’s got its whimsical moments, to be sure, but on the whole, it’s gritty, grim, and, most appealingly, made more for grown-ups than little people.

And I am getting down to the final stretch of my latest Ameri-Scares novel, New Hampshire: Ghosts From the Skies. I am hoping to have this one put to bed by New Year’s, if not sooner.

That is all.

A little fixer-upper at Cedarock Park

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Sunday the Thirteenth

Geocaching has long been my exercise of choice. It gives me the opportunity to hike, bike, run, walk, paddle, and hunt cool shit in some of the most intriguing locations I have ever discovered. Sometimes there are car caches, sure, but my favorite hides are the ones that take me places, mostly in the woods, where I can combine the joy of the hunt with a rigorous workout. Lately, I haven’t had enough of these, but this weekend made up for some of that deficiency.

Yesterday, on my return to Greensboro from Martinsville, I detoured over to the Knight Brown Preserve, near Belews Lake, to hunt a relatively new cache, located at the farthest northern reaches of the trail system. The terrain here is moderately rugged, with significant ups and downs as well as rocky, root-laced, natural surface trails. The preserve lies a fair distance out in the sticks, but during the pandemic, people have been flocking to trails, however remote, to get that much-needed exercise. Not unexpectedly, I encountered quite a few vehicles parked at the trailhead, and a good many folks on the trails themselves. Happily, the cache took me far enough out to avoid most of the population.

Back home, Ms. B. and I set to work on the kitchen, scraping off the popcorn ceiling, removing light fixtures, and patching and sanding walls. Things are coming together, but there is still a ton of work to be done for the full renovation. That was far from as much fun as geocaching, but there was, in fact, yet more workout involved, so I ended the day pretty well exhausted.

Told Scott to look unpleasant, so he did.

This morning, I met friend Diefenbaker (a.k.a. Scott) — the only other member of the Socially Distant No-Dead-Weight Irregulars available today — at the Cane Creek Mountains Natural Area, a short distance south of Burlington. We had hunted a crop of new caches there a few weeks ago, but a handful of new ones had popped up a short time back, as well as at nearby Saxapahaw. We made those our targets for today. As with the Knight Brown Preserve, we encountered a good number of hikers on the trail, but we ended up far enough off the trails to hunt the geocaches in solitude. Happily, our hunts were successful. The trails here take you up and down many steep, rock-strewn hillsides, and after finding the last of our targets, we opted to forego the trail and bushwhack down one the steepest of the steep inclines. It cut off some distance, to be sure, but increased our cardio exercise three-fold, I would wager.

After Cane Creek, we set a course for Saxapahaw and a couple of new caches along the Haw River. The hikes here were short and easy, but the locations were scenic. The first one in particular, which led us to a Boy Scout camp along the river, bore an agreeable Camp Crystal Lake-ish atmosphere. We never did see Jason Voorhees (or his mum), but I think I made Scott nervous during our outing there, so my work was done.

A nice view of Saxapahaw Dam from the trail
After finding both the caches along the trail, we made our way to the Saxapahaw General Store, which — fortunately — wasn’t very crowded and offered decently spaced outdoor seating. So, we opted to grab lunch here, which, as is generally the case, turned out to be mighty satisfying. By the time we left, the crowd was getting larger, so our timing proved propitious.
The weather was all too summery for December, but at least the day turned out right pretty after some rain last night. Here’s hoping next weekend will offer another good cardio/caching opportunity.

The Haw River seen from the trail in Saxapahaw
Boy Scout camp near one of the caches. A bit of Camp Crystal Lake atmosphere going on here....
Scott nervously signs the log, fearing some frightful fiend doth close behind him tread.
Yeah, there was something fearsome watching us from the vicinity of the river. I think it was a duck.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

A Random Driver’s Ed Memory

Back in high school, my driver's ed instructor was the late, great Coach Robert C. "Husky" Hall, who passed away back in April. He was, to me, a bona fide folk hero. Champion basketball coach, golf team coach (in my senior year, I graced — or disgraced — the golf team with my presence), and quite possibly the most notorious driver's ed instructor in the history of driver's ed. Coach Hall took no guff, and you usually had exactly one shot at performing to his satisfaction. He had a big old class ring with which he would happily thump you on the head if you displeased him. Thankfully, I never got thumped — or if I did, the blow was sufficient to erase my memory of the event.

I admired Coach Hall and felt fiercely loyal to him. He was my kind of curmudgeon, even when I was on the receiving end of his ire. I have quite a few memories of him, but the most vivid was my first time out on the highway behind the wheel, with him keeping an eagle eye on my every move.

I was heading out US 58 eastbound, just beyond the Martinsville city limits. I'm doing 53 mph, hands at 10 and 2 on the wheel, feeling very comfortable driving, as my dad taught me a year or so before I started driver's ed.

"How fast are you going?" Coach Hall asks.

"About 53."

"Son, what's the speed limit?"

"55 miles per hour."

Coach Hall reaches over, shoves down on my knee, so I end up flooring the accelerator.

"Son, what's the speed limit?"

"55 miles per hour."

"How fast are you going?"

"80 miles per hour."

"Going a bit fast, aren't you?"

I point to his hand, still pushing down on my knee.

"Ah!" he says. "Don't make me do that again."

"Yes, Coach Hall."
So that might have been damn near traumatic, but later, he gave me his official "best driver in the class" endorsement by dragging me out of a class I didn't much want to be in to drive him to Bassett, about 20 minutes from Martinsville. He apparently had business at the school there and figured it was a good opportunity to give me some additional experience. That sure made me proud, and this time around, he was as nice and cordial and not-at-all curmudgeonly as a gentleman could be. And that was how he continued to be with me — until I joined the golf team.

How I managed to escape the thump to the head during that spell remains an unsolvable mystery.

Friday, December 4, 2020

More Sweet Than Bitter

Tonight, I made a drink and put the Christmas tree up at the old homestead — which I hope I can do for a long time to come. Last year, Mom was in the nursing home, so she wasn't here with us for the holidays; putting up the tree then held a special significance for me. It was even more so tonight, now that she is gone. I found a bunch of old ornaments that she had made by hand many years ago, and this reduced me to a big old weepy mess. But in its way, it was a sweet and wonderful mess. It’s kind of a weird feeling, but I am feeling things other than anger, frustration, and bitterness. That’s bloody beautiful to me.

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Geocache Adventures Podcast

A while back, the proprietor of, Ms. Amie Tilk, contacted me and asked if I would be interested in appearing on the Geocache Adventures Podcast to talk about geocaching and my first Ameri-Scares novel, West Virginia: Lair of the Mothman. Well, what do you think? Geocaching, the Mothman, yakking with another avid geocacher... well, yeah. I jumped on that.

So, if you can stand the exuberant goings-on, hop on over and give it a listen.