Brugger and I received our first COVID-19 vaccinations on last Wednesday, so we’re halfway there. Yay!
Saturday, March 20, 2021
At the ass-crack of dawn, we left Greensboro for a long-planned visit with Ms B’s folks in Midland, MI. Happily, Del & Fern got their rounds of shots several weeks ago, so, barring vile variants or other unforeseen complications, they’re well defended against death cooties. Regardless, Brugger and I isolated ourselves even more than usual for the past week or so. As on our previous trip this past September (see “Midland with a Twist”), rather than fly, we opted to undertake the long drive. This time, we took a slightly different route, which added a few miles but shaved some time. We stopped a handful of times for pit stops, a picnic lunch, and a scant few geocaches, and arrived in Midland just after 8 p.m. As is our custom, we sat up fairly late with Del & Fern watching programs about good food, this time, Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy. Kimberly and I particularly enjoyed this one, as it showcased a number of locations we had visited on our trip there in 2019.
|The Rodan Mobile arrives in Midland right at sunset|
Sunday, March 21, 2021
A beautiful morning, and there are tons of new geocaches in and around Midland, many right in the neighborhood. So, after a pleasing breakfast of pancakes and bacon, I hopped on the bike and pedaled around to a few of them. Quick finds, the lot of them. Following this little adventure, I made revisions to a new short story for the anthology editor. And then... lunch from China Palace, a tasty and non-trivial quantity of food.
Meijer. Whenever we visit the Bruggers, it’s family tradition to hit Meijer to stock up on supplies for the week. No breaking family tradition this trip. I found a Life Magazine Godzilla edition, so on a whim, I bought it. It’s evidently from 2019. Anyway, I’m sure it doesn’t offer a word about Godzilla I don’t already know (if you know me at all, you know I have been a devoted Godzillaphile since the age of four), but it seemed novel enough to warrant picking up. It’s almost funny that, after collecting daikaiju memorabilia for years, spending thousands and thousands of dollars in the process, this is the first Godzilla publication I’ve picked up probably in 25 years or more.
After the shopping, I hopped on the bike again, this time with Ms. B. accompanying. We rode over to nearby Plymouth Park, hunted a handful of geocaches (and met some friendly local geocachers), and then put in a few miles pedaling around the neighborhood. Another mellow evening in the family room for some quality family time, and my blood pressure is probably at an excellent level tonight.
|Ms. B. at The Labyrinth at Plymouth Park. She casts a mean shadow.|
It was another beautiful morning fit for bike riding, but today I had a slightly different plan. I needed to return to Meijer to pick up a couple of items, so I headed out in the Rodan Mobile, snagged a half-dozen caches around the Midland Mall area, and then did my shopping. Another family tradition is for me to play chef for a day, and today was the day. Del and Fern had seen pics of my recent bout with Bolognese and decided it was only fitting I should treat them to some. So I spent the rest of the morning in the kitchen while they went off in search of a new toilet for one of theirs that had decided to go south. It’s possible I got the better end of this deal.
And the verdict is in: the Bolognese was some pretty good shit.
After letting the big dinner settle, I finally headed out on the bike. Put in quite a few miles this go-round, and picked up several more caches. Ms. B. got a new laptop, so once I returned, we spent a little while getting things set up. Lord, Microsoft used to be a pain in the ass. It’s now a fucking ludicrous pain in the ass, getting in the way of almost everything you want to set up that isn’t specifically Microsoft. There were words.
I have put in some lengthy bike rides in Midland, but I believe this morning’s pedal set a personal record. I covered the entire northeast quadrant of Midland and then some, snagging 19 caches (and failing to find several others) in the process. Most of these were of the typical park & grab variety, though a few proved a bit more interesting. One of them had reduced some poor, unfortunate geocachers to naught but bones. At another one, I felt I was being watched the entire time I spent looking for it. Near there, at a church where the cache was hidden, a churchy muggle accosted me and invited me to come for a visit on Sunday. On my long ride home, I saw Ms. B. and the family in the car heading the other way — out toward Clare to visit some antique shops.
Rarely has a shower, leftover Bolognese, ice cream, and fresh hot coffee been more welcome.
For the afternoon, I made some forward progress in my newest Ameri-Scares novel, Georgia: The Haunting of Tate’s Mill.
For the afternoon, I made some forward progress in my newest Ameri-Scares novel, Georgia: The Haunting of Tate’s Mill.
Wednesday, March 24, 2021
Although I woke to another beautiful Midland morning, there was no cycling on today’s docket. I had to deal with some of my brother’s estate business, which ended up taking more time than I expected (and I had expected quite a lot). Then our crew hit the road for Saginaw, the Brugger folk for antiquing, the old fellow for geocaching. Now, I would generally not associate a place called The Antique Warehouse with a fantastic Italian beef sandwich, but this place has ’em. We enjoyed an excellent lunch together and then parted company. Off I went for some caches. The first was right there on the store’s property — or, rather, it was supposed to be. After a lengthy search, I couldn’t find the damned thing. I did find ample evidence of severe flooding, so I suspect the container ended up in the Saginaw River or something such. However, from there, I went after several others, and succeeded admirably with these.
Once antiqued out in Saginaw, the gang wanted to visit Warmbier Farms, a big old gift store in Williams Township, about midway between Saginaw and Midland. I have cached around that area on other outings similar to this one, and I did the same again today. Only one cache required me to walk a significant distance. It was at this cache, when I had reached farthest point from the car, that the bottom fell out. Big rain. Big, BIG rain. Big, WET rain. Wet ME. Believe you me, I got wet.
Needless to say, as soon as I got back to the car, the rain stopped.
|Before the rain: Old Rodan and the Zilwaukee Bridge over the Saginaw River|
The morning turned out a bit gray and chilly, but Brugger and I went forth, as we had planned, to the Midland City Forest, a short distance north of Casa di Brugger. Over 20 miles of trails wind through the forest, and after a few trips out there, Ms. B. and I have set foot on quite a few of them. This morning, we headed for a section I had never explored before, so a good many caches awaited my attention there. I managed to find most of those I hunted. There were tough caches, easy caches, creative caches, fun caches. We found a man made of wood carrying an ammo can around; a meteorite; a diamond in the rough; a birdhouse that wasn’t; and a bridge with a troll under it. Well, there wasn’t a troll down there until I went under the bridge, but... well... there it is. Ms. B. got in a wee bit of nature photography, which she most enjoys. I tell you this, I have exercised on this trip like I haven’t exercised in a long while, and I can surely feel it — in a good way, of course, except maybe for the pain of it.
Afterward, we set a course for Mancino’s, which is one of those places you do not fail to visit when you are in Midland. Brugger ordered her usual Italian grinder, which, as I can testify, is one of the best sandwiches on earth. And I opted for a Mango Habanero Steak grinder, which, as I can now testify, is also one of the best sandwiches on earth. A worthy rival to the Italian beef sandwich I scarfed down at The Antique Warehouse on yesterday.
A little forward progress on the creative writing endeavors, a final trip to Meijer, and what a fine penultimate day of our Midland trip this has been.
|There are some rough-looking trolls in Michigan.|
|And the occasional meteorite lounging about in Michigan.|
|If you look carefully, you might see Ms. B. checking out real estate in Michigan.|
|And if you listen, you might hear a chorus of peeping frogs making a mighty racket in Michigan.|
Friday, March 26, 2021
After a wonderful, relaxing yet invigorating week, our time at the Bruggers’ in Midland had come to an end. Ms. B. and I rose relatively early, loaded up the Rodan Mobile, said our farewells, and hit the road, now bound for Point Pleasant, WV, home of the infamous Mothman. I had visited Point Pleasant in September of 2018 while researching my Ameri-Scares novel, West Virginia: Lair of the Mothman (see “Lair of the Mothman,” September 30, 2018). I had loved the place, the lore, and... of course... the geocaching! It made for a perfect overnight stop on the long haul back to North Carolina. A while back, I had made reservations at the historic Lowe Hotel, where I had stayed on my previous trip. After a long and less-than-relaxing drive — traffic was bonkers all the way down — we arrived in Point Pleasant late in the afternoon. Pronto, we bolted for the Mothman Museum, so we might spend a little time there before it closed. I had explored it in depth on my last visit, but Ms. B. was keen on checking out the plentiful paraphernalia, especially props from the film, The Mothman Prophecies. Once done, we walked across the street to the Lowe Hotel and checked in. Since I was a return visitor, the proprietor was kind enough to give us a suite for the same price I would have paid for a single room. (As an aside, on the Lowe Hotel website, the header image with the room key is actually the key to our suite — which is officially what room 328 now is: OUR suite.) I can hardly recommend the Lowe Hotel highly enough. The place is exceptionally clean (as it ought to be during the pandemic); requires masks (as it ought to during the pandemic); and is, above all things, haunted. As on my previous stay, I saw no ghosts, but this hardly means they are not around. They simply don’t care to be traumatized by the character of certain guests, whose names shall not be mentioned here.
Once ensconced in our lodgings — and feeling the great starvation — we ordered a pizza from Village Pizza, which has its own connection to the Mothman. In 1966, the first individuals to witness the Mothman in the TNT Area, several miles north of Point Pleasant, fled the site and stopped at the location that is now Village Pizza. Our pizza? Well, it was fucken good. Once we finished our dinner, just after sunset, we hit the road once again — this time bound for the TNT Area, which had provided me with a big day of geocaching on my previous visit. Last time, however, I had experienced the place only in daylight, and I was dying to experience it after dark. We drove deep into the heart of the forest, once the site of a massive ammunition manufacturing/storage facility. From last time, I recalled the location of an open TNT storage bunker (these are called “igloos”) and made tracks for it. Sure enough, there it was, its doors still gaping wide, its interior as dark and creepy as all get out, just as I remembered (see accompanying video).
|Interior of the Lowe Hotel, Point Pleasant, WV|
|Point Pleasant sunset, viewed from our window at the Lowe Hotel|
|View from Tu Endi Wei park of the bridge into Point Pleasant over the Kanawha River|
|View of the railroad bridge over the Ohio River from the Point Pleasant river walk|
Since Ms. B. is less a geocacher than a sometimes-almost-willing accomplice, on this night, I figured I really should refrain from geocaching in earnest. However, one nearby cache looked particularly promising, so, once we quitted the igloo, I set my sights on it. At GZ, I found a huge, flat rock, as mentioned in the cache’s description. I located an opening underneath the rock that appeared perfect for a good-sized container. Then, upon aiming my flashlight into this gaping maw, I discovered, not a cache, but... a possum! Possum gives me a pretty scary leer, for he clearly had not expected visitors. Fortunately, he quickly vacated the premises. Seeing he was gone, I shone my light back into the opening, and this time spied the cache. Using my hiking stick, I was able to extract the container from its cubby. And once done, I re-hid it in a nearby, equally secure opening so that Possum could settle back in his preferred surroundings, if that was his desire. I hated to disturb him, and I really hope he doesn’t hold a grudge.
From there, we drove back to the hotel. Ms. B. was particularly keen on watching The Mothman Prophecies, so we decided to stream it on my laptop. The film diverges considerably from the “true” events, but it’s an exceedingly well-done movie, engaging to both emotion and intellect, drawing just enough from the source material to tell a compelling, original story. I love it. Along with Night (Curse) of the Demon and John Carpenter’s The Thing, it rates as an all-time favorite fright film.
And thus ended our week-long respite from the world. Our drive back to Greensboro turned out to be a bear — almost non-stop raging rainstorms, generating roughly 600 billion metric tons of human stupidity on the highways. But we arrived safely home, and this trip goes into my personal history book as one of our best ever.
And so, for now, I shall bid you good night.
|Inside the Mothman Museum in Point Pleasant|