Sunday, March 25, 2012

Geocaching on the Lam

Last Tuesday I got a call from one of Brian's co-workers saying that he was was complaining of chest pains and they had called an ambulance. When I arrived at the hospital they said he wasn't there yet. I waited a while, but an hour later he still wasn't in their system. I called his office and the other area hospitals, and I even put out an all-call on facebook, just in case he got in touch with someone. A staff member finally dug a little bit further and found out that Brian was in-fact there but under a different name. I was relieved.

When I went back to Bay 5 he was mumbling incoherently. A nurse came in a few minutes later and started asking me questions about his medications and symptoms. It was then that I realized they knew nothing about him - he was basically a John Doe.

I decided it was time to start figuring things out myself. I found Brian's iPhone, turned on the Voice Memo feature, and started asking questions. What followed was 20 minutes of Brian telling me some very useful things about his symptoms, and some very random things about Girl Scouts, zombies, and the Dry Tortugas.

A doctor came in some time after I'd had a tearful breakdown and told me the cat-scan was negative for brain damage, meaning he had not had a stroke. Bloodwork was also normal, so not a heart attack, either. They were treating him for an overdose.

We were told he would be admitted and observed for the night, but a few hours melted into 24. The ER isn't particularly conducive to sleep, so I went 41 hours without it. Over time Brian's speech improved and he got more normal.

Two days later, an MRI revealed that his episode actually was a stroke. We've been at the hospital for 5 days now while they run a battery of tests to figure out why a healthy 40-something with no risk factors had a stroke.

Today he was given permission to go outside and get some fresh air. We took it a step further and went over to next parking lot in search of a cache, which is a stone's throw from the hospital. The cache is literally 381 feet from his room, but on the way back we got busted by the hospital fuzz. Sargeant SeriousFace was not pleased with our liberal interpretation of the doctor's orders. After getting confirmation from the nurse that we were allowed outside (although not off-property, oops), he let us "go," but followed us all the way back to the cafeteria.

I don't regret it. In the words of Hot Chelle Rae, it's been a really, really messed up week (Brian's stepdad passed away on Wednesday), yet he has been nothing but pleasant and compliant. This escapade was well-deserved, even though we got a little more adventure than we bargained for.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Geneva and the Confederacy

Long before Team Evelev, Brian and I met-up with some friends one Saturday morning and spent a few hours driving around the deserted roads of Seminole county.  We ended up in Geneva, an area of about 12 square miles with a population of less than 3,000.  Wikipedia designates it as "Boon Docks Florida".  The future EyeoftheSeeker, who was oddly-familiar with the area, took us to the Osceola bank vault.  What's left of the bank vault is a crumbling brick structure littered with spiders and trash.  Not so inviting, but nonetheless fascinating. 


In 1916, the Osceola Cypress Company built an extremely productive sawmill and the small town of Osceola. The location was ideal because of it's close proximity to the railroad and the St. John's river.  Osceola was progressive for early 20th century swamp towns - it had a post office, school, and commissary, plus modern conveniences like indoor plumbing and electricity (though it was turned off every night at 10pm).  The town was on-track to be the largest in Seminole county; but all of that changed in 1939 when the Osceola Cypress Company moved it's operations to Port Everglades.  By 1940, Osceola was a ghost town.  The buildings were dismantled and sold for lumber.  All that remains is the vault.

The vault was located inside the Osceola Cypress Company's office building. Being the safest place in town, this is where the payroll and other important documents were kept.  Despite the populate name, it was not actually a bank vault (according to the Orlando Sentinel).  I swear when I researched this a few years ago that the door was made of gold and had been sold for cash to support the war effort...but since I can find nothing to corroborate that story, I'm going to assume it was a mojito-fueled daydream.  The door was supposedly taken to South Florida by OSC, a far more likely and uninteresting story. 

You can find more info at Weird Florida's website and in the Orlando Sentinel article I linked to above.

On a sidenote, if this idea of lumber-companies-on-a-river-by-a-small-town interests you, see Prophecy.   If there was any link to geocaching, I would write a review this instant.

Inside the bank vault.  Not pictured: Spiders.
Fast forward to 2010.  A geocrazed Evelev looks up the area and discovers a cache there, but alas, it has been muggled and is temporarily disabled.  Some time later, the owner re-enables the cache.  Team Evelev decides to make a day of it, first hitting the vault, and then a mystery cache series nearby.  It's the type of series with separate caches that can be logged independently, but all hold a clue to the "optional" final stage. 
After the vault, we moved on to the first stage of the mystery cache, which was pretty straightforward.  The clue inside referred to something on the vault.  Luckily, I had a good photo, so I was able to figure it out from that, rather than go back.


The next search led us to a survey marker, the first I'd physically come in contact with. Inside the cache was a clue requiring interpretation of something on the marker.  I won't go into more detail than that.  I didn't think it was hard, but I've heard other people have trouble with that part.

The third stage took us to "downtown" Geneva, to the History Museum.  This cache was immediately visible, but extremely hard to grab due to the hoards of muggles taking part in a yard sale of some kind.  Normally, I would walk away, but I'd come too far.  Too far, I tells ya.  I decided to use the crowd as my cloak of invisibility, along with a dose of "I know what I'm doing, don't bother me" face.  People saw me, but the cache isn't really muggleable, if that makes sense.  It's still being found, so we're good.


The next stop took us to the Geneva Cemetery.  There wasn't actually a physical cache there.  This stop was technically part of the cache at the museum, but this is where the final clue to the final stage was.


The Geneva Cemetery is both beautiful and historically significant.  Lots of cemeteries are beautiful.  Big whoop.


The first piece of historical signifigance comes from the fact that seventeen civil war soldiers are buried there.  Sixtreen fought for the Confederacy, one for the Union.  The second, and in my opinion, more interesting fact is that one Lewis Thorton Powell is among those buried there. Well, sort of. 
(http://www.usgennet.org/usa/fl/county/seminole/Geneva/civil_war_soldiers_buried_in_gen.htm)

Aside from being Micky Dolenz' evil twin great-great-grandbrother, he had a history of getting mixed up with the wrong crowd.  The son of a Baptist minister / schoolteacher / farmer (all his father's occupations), Powell was the youngest boy in a family of 12.  He is described as an introvert who liked to read and take care of sick animals.  I don't know if that's take care or "take care". 

Photo Credit: http://www.usgennet.org/usa/fl/county/seminole/Geneva/Powell.htm
He joined the Confederacy in 1861 and was later shot in the Battle of Gettysburg, which landed him in a Union hospital.  Eventually he escaped and found his way into Mosby's Rangers (known for "lightning raids" on Union soldiers).  In 1865 he left the Rangers and worked his way through Virginia to Baltimore, where he came upon a boarding house owned by the family of a woman he'd met at the Union hospital.  Small world, isn't it? 

While in Baltimore he met a Confederate operative, John Harrison Surrat, Jr., who later introduced him to John Wilkes Booth.  The merry bunch devised a plan for kidnapping President Lincoln and using him to force the release of Confederate soldiers.  Their plan didn't play out, so they took it up a notch.  We all know what happened at Ford's Theater, but many people don't know that Lincoln's assassination was part of a bigger plot to take out several of the higher-ups in one night: Secretary of State William Seward and Vice President Andrew Jackson.  Powell's assignment was to assassinate Seward.  The plan was to sneak in with "medicine" that would "help" Seward's recovery from a recent carriage accident, and then murder him.  Seward's son saw through the ruse and attempted to intervene.  Powell tried to shoot Seward's son, but the gun misfired, so he beat him with it instead.  Duh.  This bought Powell enough time to stab Seward and a few others who tried to help. 

Photo Credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:FSewardLPaine.jpg
Powell fled and hid in the woods, but eventually (1-3 days later, depends on who you ask) he ended up back at Surrat's mother's boarding house, where he was arrested. He and three of the other conspirators were hung on July 7, 1865.  Seward recovered from his injuries.  Lincoln did not.

Powell was buried in the penitentiary courtyard where he was hung, though his body was re-interred on several occasions.  In, his skull was discovered in the Smithsonian Anthropology Dept., mixed in among some Native American remains.  No one knows where the body ended up.  The skull was sent back to Geneva in 1994 and buried near Powell's mother.  (http://www.usgennet.org/usa/fl/county/seminole/Geneva/Powell.htm)

Foreground: Powell's headstone.  Background: His mother's headstone.
Finding this headstone wasn't actually part of the mystery cache.  After I'd found what I needed (dates on other headstones that completed a short story from the CO's family history), I remembered that EyeoftheSeeker had mentioned this story about the Lincoln conspirators and the Geneva Cemetery.  A few minutes of googling provided the name (thank you, iPhone), and a few more minutes of plain old searching led me to the grave.  Come to think of it, I'm surprised this wasn't part of the challenge, but I'm glad took that extra step.

Having completed the first three caches in the series, I now had the coordinates to the final stage.  We drove to the area, but I still had about a mile to go to the cache.  I told Brian I would be quick, and the walk would probably take about 30 minutes round trip.  I promised him a visit to Sonny's upon my return.

I set out on the trails a little blind because the satellite photo on my phone didn't show the paths.  I decided to just head in the general direction and about 15 minutes later I was leaving the path to do a tiny bit of bushwhacking.  I found the cache right away.


As if a genie had popped out of the cache, I found myself with three rewards.  The first was being STF behind Parkhoppers, two months after publishing.  This wasn't intentional, but the cache takes so much time and effort that it just doesn't get a lot of visits (to date: 13 finders, over a year after publication).  My second reward was a few photocopies of Confederate money, provided by the CO as a reward for solving the puzzles.  Third, I got to trade for a civil war bullet, donated by Parkhoppers.  I googled an approximate value and left several things (first aid kits, I think) to make an even trade.

The urge for sweet tea growing, I texted Brian and started to make my way back.  In my delirium, I took a wrong turn.  I was never really lost, but I took much longer to get back than I anticipated.  His panic was intensified by autocorrect, which corrected "fine" to "gone," changing the whole context of the situation.  You can read the text exchange below.


I did get back about 10 minutes later, but Brian was a wreck.  I would like to say I apologized, but I'm pretty sure that I didn't.  We were both tired and hangry (sic), so the next stop was for barbeque and cornbread.  A satisfyingly sticky end to a savory trip through local history.

Sources
http://www.usgennet.org/usa/fl/county/seminole/Geneva/civil_war_soldiers_buried_in_gen.htm
http://www.usgennet.org/usa/fl/county/seminole/Geneva/Powell.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geneva,_Florida
http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2002-09-08/news/0209060565_1_orange-culture-pottery-clay
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_H._Seward#Assassination_Attempt

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Evelev is not retired

Just tired, I suppose.  It started with a pretty grueling, if productive and successful, period at work that basically took over my life.  I stopped running, cooking, vacuuming, and geocaching.  Add to that some personal / family drama, and a once active Evelev (remember when I used to post every week?) turned into a carboloading, couch potatoing, workaholicking Ev.  Pour one out for your homie.

My life as a geocacher has moved into a new phase. 

I'm over PnG's.  They're fun sometimes, but I don't get the thrill anymore.  If I have to spend more than 5 minutes looking for a 1/1 (especially if it's in a shrub or palm), I walk away.  I just don't care enough to waste my time.

FTFs are a load of bullshit.  I was never a hound, but I experienced my share of excitement.  The burbly feeling in my stomach when I approached GZ.  The bitter defeat when someone beat me to it.  On more than one occasion I ran out of the house without make-up or proper undergarments.  I shuffled through weeds and dirt in heels and a skirt.  So that I could be the first one to sign my name on a blank sheet of paper?  I just turned off my new cache notifications.  It occured to me last night, when I received one such notification 0.6 miles from my house, that I just don't care.  I shall happy-dance no more.

Challenging and otherwise-creative caches are the only things keeping me in it.  They are the soul of geocaching. Why waste my time lifting up spidery light skirts when I could be crossing log bridges like a stocky (but pretty) Indiana Jones?  Why?

I've recently turned my attention to puzzle caches.  I've always enjoyed puzzles (pre-geocaching), but having a little prize to go seek afterward?  Yes, please.  In fact, just recently I spent a few days with my Dad.  We only get to see each other once every few years, but we spent hours (HOURS!) almost every day working on a 4.5 difficulty puzzle.  Never did solve it.   In the interest of full disclosure, the cache still hasn't been found.  There was a little FTF-glory driving my efforts, but I was more motivated by being the first one to solve the puzzle, as opposed to being the first one to find the cache.

I still have plenty to write about, just haven't gotten to it yet.  Stories and photos are forthcoming.

In sum, meh. 

Sunday, September 25, 2011

TFTC...SLTN...NASA

This will be the first in a series of 'catch-up' posts, which are a direct result of my recent writer's block/laziness.  I'm trying to be better.

Warning:  A lot of this is not about geocaching.  I don't really care.  It's my blog and I'm certainly not forcing you to read it.

But please do.  I like the attention.

...

A few months back, I was brewing a cup of coffee at work when my manager walked in, presumably to do the same thing.  To paraphrase, she said to me, "You deserve an extra vacation day, why don't you take Monday off?"  Somewhere in the middle of my brain, surges of paranoia and bliss collided to produce a tiny mushroom cloud.  Certainly the Germans have a word to more accurately describe this feeling.  After some careful prodding to determine why this was happening, I convinced myself that I probably wasn't losing my job and accepted the offer.

A short time later, I realized that the Space Shuttle Endeavor just so happened to be launching for the final time on this day that would now be vacation.  After Endeavor, there was only one Space Shuttle mission left.  Ever, which really saddened me.  One of the few things I truly enjoy about living in Orlando is our close proximity to NASA, which has allowed me to view (from 50ish miles away) almost every launch over the last 8 years.  I know it's geeky, but there's something about seeing $450 million worth of metal, jet fuel, and raw, scientific badass that really gives me a sense of American pride. 

Shuttle launches are a big-enough deal that you have to commit 8-12 hours of your time.  You must arrive super early, find a place to ditch your car, find a place to plant yourself, be patient, pray that the launch doesn't get scrubbed, and then be part of the road-busting exodus that lasts for hours.  The damndest thing is: launches get scrubbed a lot.  In fact, this was not the first scheduled launch for Endeavor's final mission.  Could I bear the frustration of so much effort for nothing?  Is that really how I wanted to waste this gift of a vacation day?  No, but that wasn't a good reason not to.

The launch was scheduled for 8:58 a.m.  My research online indicated that I should arrive no less than 6 hours early.  I talked to some people who'd done it and they told me that since it was a morning launch, crowds shouldn't be as bad, and to get there around 5 a.m.  Lest I remind you, I live about an hour's drive from the Cape.  Here's how it went down.

3 am: Wake-up. 

3-3:15 am: Think about going back to sleep.  Argue with self that this is going to be totally epic.

4:15 am: Leave the house with camera, zoom lens, book (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, on-loan from EyeoftheSeeker), iPad, and snacks.  I'd heard that sometimes traffic is so bad that people have to watch from the highway, so to avoid traffic I took the not-so-main roads.  They were dark and scary, but deserted.

5:15 am: Arrive in Titusville, FL, which as close to Cape Canaveral as I was going to get without a pass (sold out months ago).

5:17 am: Stop at McDonald's...think about whether coffee is a good idea since I won't see a bathroom for several hours...get it anyway.

5:30 am:  Arrive at first choice on list of viewing points, Parrish Park.  The reason I made a list is that I was afraid my first choice wouldn't be available, which was smart, because it wasn't.  Parrish Park is located just off the A Max Brewer Memorial Parkway bridge.  I noticed that people were setting up to watch from the bridge, so I decided to find the closest parking and do the same.

5:35 am: Take the LAST parking spot in a lot that isn't charging for parking.  That's how I knew this was meant to be.

5:45 am:  Arrive at my chosen spot on the bridge.  This was my view.


5:45 - 7 am: I don't really remember what I did.  It was cold.  I think I munched some snacks and played on my iPhone.  Oh, I downloaded the NASA app, which made me a very cool person later.
When the sun started to rise I took a photo of myself.  That little point of light to the right of the top of my ear is the launch pad.  I know it looks super far, it's about 12 miles, but seriously, it's the closest you can get without admittance to Cape Canaveral.


7 - 8 am:  Once the sun was up I alternated between reading and taking test shots.  I was terrified that it would finally happen I would be too busy fumbling with the camera to even see the launch, let alone take good photos.  But then I started to panic that I would take so many test shots that I would drain the battery...so I put the camera away.


8 - 8:45 am:  This is when things got interesting.  People began to flood in and I finally realized why they tell you to arrive 6 hours in advance.  This is also when I started talking to the people around me.  An older man and his son camped out nearby and were speculating about whether the clouds would be a problem.  Being the nosey spaz that I am, I jumped in with, "NASA just tweeted that the clouds shouldn't be a problem."  The look I got back was shock swirled with admiration.  Someone next to me asked how I was following NASA on Twitter, and that's when I got to bust out the NASA app.  Oh yeah, who's the cool kid now?  We watched videos of launch prep, listened to the feed from Mission Control, and for a while we didn't feel like a bunch of dweebs freezing on a bridge at 8 in the morning.  From then on I was the source for news from the Cape, at least until a million other people had the same thought and brought the app to a crawl.  Then I wasn't so cool any more. 


I also bought this neat souvenir coin.  There were lots of people hocking crap, but this was actually cool.  By the way, the name Kelly refers to astronaut Mark Kelly, husband to congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who had just been released from the hospital after being shot earlier this year.  She watched the launch from somewhere at the Cape.  This is probably the closest I'll ever be to either one of them.  Not that I care, it's just interesting to note.

8:45 - 8:56 am: Everyone starts shuffling.  And speculating.  Specuating and shuffling.  I turn on the camera and take several more test shots, confident that I could not possibly drain the battery in 11 minutes.  The NASA app has become absolutely useless, so we wait.

8:57 am: Deserves it's own line because it felt like forever.

8:58 am: Almost wasn't expecting it, but we have liftoff.  I begin taking as many picures as I possibly can.


8:58:30 am:  And it's gone. 


The clouds didn't prevent liftoff, but they did prevent the 2 minutes or so we should have been able to see the Shuttle.  Oh well.  It was certainly better than nothing.

8:59 am: Let the stampede begin.


This is when my real smartness kicked in.  Rather than sit in gridlock with rude people for 3 hours, I decided to do some geocaching.  There were several within a mile radius, so I settled on a starting point and began walking.

The first one should have been super easy, but on this particular day it was...difficult, because there was always a single muggle nearby.  And when they would leave, another would arrive.  Between one such changing-of-the-muggles, I was able to snag the cache from the bushes, but as soon as I signed the log, new muggle!  At that point I had to camp out, cache resting next to me, and wait for them to leave.  By now the urge to pee was iminent, and I seriously considered taking the cache to a nearby port-o-potty, but it just seemed wrong.  I passed the time with stories of a vamp-murdering Honest Abe until the muggles left and I could replace the cache.

Next I headed to Space View Park, which is THE viewing spot for launches.  That's why I decided to stay as far away from there as possible.  Now that the launch was over, the place was a ghost town.  I spent a while looking at the many memorials and tributes to the persuit of space travel.  There is also a cache there, which I wasn't able to grab because the one person in the park had chosen that settle down right there.  I took some photos, used the restroom (hallelujiah for flushing toilets!), and moved on.

Next I wandered around Sand Point Park, where I left my car, now the only car in the lot.  Sand Point Park is also a dedication-park.  It used to be the home to a cache that has since been muggled.  Maybe by this guy...


I wandered some more, found a few more caches.  Here's one that isn't particularly interesting, but definitely different.  It worked very well with it's hiding spot.


My last cache of the day turned out to be very fitting.  It was challenging, but not frustrating, even though it was hidden under a rock among many rocks on a rocky shore.  I had to use some geosense to pointpoint the location. 


It also had a TB that had met it's goal.  I'm not sure of the proper ettiquette when you find a TB in this condition.  I've heard that you should email the owner, but if they care, they should already know it's reached it's goal.  Plus, this one has other options - It could go to Houston, or somewhere near Edwards Air Force Base in California, or any of the other plan B landing sites.  So, I decided to leave the bug and let it continue it's journey. 


I actually have this TB (not this exact one, but one of the Space Shuttle TBs), I wish I'd thought to bring it along to set it free.  Also, that bridge in the background is the one I stood on to watch the launch.  If you look real close you can see a crane on the bridge, I was near that. 

At this point it was about noon and I was hungry; it was time to end my journey on the Spacecoast.  This was one of those awesome days made extra awesome because it almost didn't happen.  I honestly didn't think I would ever have the chance to see a Shuttle launch from the coast.  If I ever have grandchildren, I can tell them about how Grammy Ev got to see Endeavor launch into space.  To which they will reply, "That's nice, Grammy," and zoom off in their personal hovercraft.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Team Evelev's 500th Find

I'm going to make this really easy for you...it was uneventful.  If it wasn't my 500th find, I probably wouldn't even write about it.  This milestone actually occured two months ago and I've been trying to avoid this inevitable blog post.

I've never chosen a cache to be my milestone before.  Usually I just go out caching for the day and try to take note of the one that was the milestone.  But for my 500th, well, it had to be good.  The morning of, I started scoping out candidates.  I didn't have any good puzzles waiting to be sought, because, honestly, once the puzzle is solved, I must search for the cache immediately.  In fact, I avoid working on puzzles at night, because I spend the pre-dawn hours twisted in my bed sheets, posed like a dead bug and just as rigid.

I settled on two multi caches.  The second was a back-up in case I had to DNF the first.  And that's exactly what happened, but not until Brian and I exhausted ourselves wandering around a muggy park in 102 degree heat.  I did, however, stumble across this waterproof match container. 


At first I thought it might be one of the stages to the cache we were looking for, but then I saw the Storyseeking.com label.  Inside I found a sticker with a single word, which it turns out is a password.  To "play",  you go on the website and find a QuestCache in your area.  Each one starts with a few parahraphs of a story.  To get the rest of the story, you go to the posted coordinates and find the cache, which contains a password to get another part of the story and coordinates to the next password.  The idea is that you follow the path and eventually complete the story.  The one that I stumbled upon is called Katarina, in Kraft Azalea Park in Winter Park.  I tried to use the password I found on the website, but it didn't work.  Not sure if the website is down, or if it somehow knows I want to make fun of it on my blog.

I kid, I kid...I don't want to make fun of it.  It could be fun if you're a slut for literature and enjoy having bugs gnaw at your flesh.  It's kind of like National Treasure or the DaVinci Code, except that you're putting together a short story instead of reassembling history, discovering priceless artifacts, and "getting" some girl (plucky sidekick: optional).  I don't know, I guess it has a better payoff than geocaching, because you have a goal and are guaranteed to get something other than your name on a moldy log. Meh.  To each their own.
Actually, I just noticed that there is a "I couldn't find it, continue anyway" button that moves you through the story without the password.  Lame. 

After that little discovery I DNF'd the cache and moved onto the next.  The cache that ended up being our 500th is called Pingy Head South and claims itself to be Central Florida's first geocache.  It was placed on August 12, 2001, which certainly puts it among the oldest of all caches.  The first few years were uneventful, but recently it's had more attention.  In 2008 it was archived after being flooded by hurricane Fay. The owner feared it would float away, but when the water receded it was still there, ready to be reactivated.  Last year it was muggled by a City of Winter Park employee.  He gave it to his wife, who took it upon herself to figure out why there was an ammo can full of chotchkis in Mead Gardens.  She kindly returned it to the owner.  But most importantly, it was found 368 times before me and has played a significant role in Central Florida's geocaching history.

It wasn't my favorite cache, but it was just challenging enough to qualify as memorable.  Challenging really isn't the right word, all I had to do was look up a few numbers on a sign and do some basic math.  It was better than your average PnG.  After I figured out the coordinates, we made our way to GZ, where we found a hoard of ravenous mosquitos - is there any other kind?  The tall grasses weren't easily navigable for Brian, but you could say it's handicap-accessible for the stouthearted.  He really didn't have a choice in the matter.  Walker be damned, I needed someone to take my picture.


The reason I'm holding up the logbook is that I wrote #500 is big letters...but Brian failed to tell me that this wasn't visible in the pic.  He pretended he didn't notice. I think it was some kind of payback for dragging him out into the wilderness.

We spent the rest of our afternoon looking for other caches, and later, looking for food.  On a side note, I fought off a huge spider for the rights to a cache. 

It felt like this: 

 It was actually more like this:

Wouldn't you know it?  I forgot my Light of EƤrendil.  I nudged the cache with my foot, thinking any intelligent creature would realize my vast superiority and flee.  No, it reared back like it was going to attack me.  I responded to the challenge with reason.  I said, "Look spider, I don't want anyone to get hurt here, I just want you to go about your business."  Then I kicked the cache again.  This time it scuttled off like an embarassed crab. 

Thus concludes the tale of Team Evelev's 500th find, an extremely average geocaching day.  I suppose it could have been worse.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Geocachers Search for a Different Kind of Smiley

In July 2011, Central Florida Area Geocachers (CFLAG) banded together for a good cause.  On July 17th, familycachefinders' 17-year-old daughter went missing.  In addition to contacting authorities and the media, the they turned to Facebook as a means of getting the word out.  Within 24 hours, Facebook pages of local geocachers lit up with links to information about the case.  A Facebook group was also created with the purpose of spreading news of her disappearance and giving supporters a place to check in.  In a few days the group had over 1500 members.  Many posted flyers about the missing girl at their work places and in their own communities all over Florida.  Friend of the family, Jarrod88, went so far as to organize a group to distribute flyers to local businesses.  Several of the volunteers were geocachers I am honored to know personally. 
  
Most importantly, this story has a happy ending.  Less than a week after her disappearance, the girl was found "safe and sound," according to a police statement published in the Orlando Sentinel.   Familycachefinders credit the assistance of the CUE Center for Missing Persons for getting the attention of law enforcement and the media.  CUE also created the flyers that friends, family, geocachers, and other supporters spread through various communities.  Here's an interesting tidbit: CUE has a personal connection to CFLAG.  The organization was founded by the sister of a local geocacher (Mimi of War1manandMimi). 

This reminded me of another case of a missing Central Florida girl.  In April 2010, 11-year-old Nadia Bloom's disappearance made national headlines.  A search party was organized, including a few geocachers who added their own time and watercraft to law enforcement's efforts.  Despite spending a few days in the swamp, she was found dehydrated and covered in bug bites, but otherwise in good condition.  Even though it wasn't a geocacher who actually found Nadia, their efforts were selfless and helpful to the cause. 

There are now two caches dedicated to this moment in time when a geocacher's gear and knowledge of Florida's murky, buggy swamps was worth more than a tupperware in the woods.  But if you feel the need to visit the area and get a smiley for your troubles, check out GC26RD8 and GC26QJF.   

We all joke that geocachers know the best places to hide a dead body (a t-shirt to that effect can be purchased online), but the bottom line is that we like to find stuff, or help find stuff in some cases.  It might seem a little pointless to the average muggle, but every once in a while the willingness to search is all that matters. 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Ascending the Queen's Staircase

Brian and I recently had the opportunity to travel to Nassau via cruise ship.  There are few caches near the port, so like Highlander, there could be only one.

We debarked the ship and wandered towards Bay Street, the main strip in Nassau. Bay Street is a lively place, to say the least. Sunscreen-saturated tourists pack the sidewalks.  Busses, taxis, and delapidated cars jam the streets. Pedestrians dart through traffic, but everyone yields when they have to. Normally, all of this busy-ness would make me heave, but Nassau redeems itself with aging, Colonial-style buildings and twisted banyan trees that grow in the least hospitable of conditions. 


Our first stop was at Athena Cafe, a quaint Greek restaurant located above one of Nassau's many jewelry shops.  We sat out on the balcony and watched the activity below while munching on hummus, pita wedges, calimari, and baklava.  Aside from the nourishment, it gave us a chance to get our bearings before venturing off to find the cache.


The Queen's Staircase is located about a mile from the port, as a crow flies.  I remembered from my previous visits that this trip would be mostly uphill, but I did not prepare myself for, well, anything else.  Brian's surgery last year left his legs pretty weak, so we decided it would be best for him to make this trip with the wheelchair.  This would have worked out quite well, had it not been for the horrendous condition of the sidewalks.  That is, when we had the luxury of sidewalks. 


On several occasions we just walked on the street, as far from traffic as possible (4 inches at most).  I was betting on two things: 1) The drivers here were used to tourists doing stupid things, and 2) they would feel some sympathy towards a person in a wheelchair and his trusty companion.  Number two was a serious gamble, being that there was clearly no ADA to regulate the condition of the walkways.  You know who else chose not to build sidewalks?  Spartans.  Their ADA was called the Baby Inspector.


A few near-death-experiences later, I saw what I was looking for - a huge white tower that I presumed was the Queen's Staircase.  It was actually the tower at Fort Fincastle, but I spent about 30 minutes wandering around and taking pictures.

Here's the thing, I forgot my GPSr.  I set it out the morning of our departure and left it in the drawer where I keep marshmallows.  I don't know why.  I found it there two weeks after we got home.  So, when I went to look for this cache, I was using the "save for offline use" maps and photos, which are only helpful when you have a really clear satellite photo.  Not so much in this particular situation.  Location feedback would have saved me a lot of time.


Eventually, I peeked over a stone wall and saw the real staircase.  After much dawdling, we wandered towards the staircase, visually scoping out possible locations and trying really hard to avoid all of the vendors.  I considered my options and decided to start at the staircase and work my way back.  But before I had the chance, a couple of tourists and a Bahamian tour guide were standing a few feet away.  I stared at my iPhone, trying to come up with a plan when the tour guide says, "Are you looking for the geocache?"


I looked up and grudgingly confirmed the apparently obvious.  He told me that he would finish his story and then show me where it was.  When I told him that I didn't want him to tell me where, he responded, "Look, I've seen a lot of geocachers destroy the plantlife here.  I am the custodian of this site and I cannot allow you to do that.  After I finish my story, I will tell you where it is without showing you." 

Oh.

I put my phone back in my pocket and politely listened to him tell the story of the staircase and it's connection to Queen Victoria.  And when he was done, I tipped him, more for my guilt than for the quality of his story-telling.

The hint made reference to a banyan tree, and in true tour guide fashion, he told us a story about them as he lead us along.  It was totally worth it.  Something about him shielded us from the hoards of women offering to destroy "braid" my hair.  I imagine they regard him as some of kind of Godfather.

Then he took us to the cache.  I didn't really get the satisfaction of finding it, but I did get to lift a big rock.  Small victories.  Much to my surprise, the log isn't that old.  I guess this is a pretty popular one with the cruisers and the cacher who owns it keeps up with the maintenance. 


Here's another thing - I forgot to bring a pen.  Really.   I was getting ready to smash my finger with the big rock and leave a bloody finger print, but the tour guide noticed my predicament and produced a purple ballpoint. 


Then I signed the log, climbed the staircase (couldn't pass up the photo op), and we began the harrowing jounrney back to the ship.



I decided to go a different route, hoping the sidewalks would in better condition.  No such luck, although I suppose something can't be in disrepair if it doesn't exist.  I would like to say I was surprised, but by then I saw it as a badge of honor. 


Dehydrated and maybe a little sunburned, we made it back to our ship in one piece.  We left Nassau with our bellies full, a cache found, and a story worth blogging about.