Sunday, October 30, 2016

Haunted Hides, a Souvenir

I heard gripes that Groundspeak is giving away souvenirs like it was candy. More like Halloween candy (groan).

Received this email several weeks ago that a special souvenir would be available if you find a cache or attend an event over the Halloween weekend. Out with TaGeez and WikidKriket in Richmond, MI when we earned ours.

Following instructions, we earned our souvenir, decoded the puzzle on the front, and entered the code word into the appropriate site. Voila! Another badge for my profile.

I am bummed they didn't put that cute ghost on a geocoin - I kept checking I consoled myself with my new 2" Virtual Ghost megacoin! 

He glows in the dark!


Thursday, October 27, 2016

Outer Banks Adventure: The Cemeteries

You can't visit North Carolina and Virginia without detouring for the historic cemeteries, from the burying grounds in seaside towns to the capital of the Confederacy. Each one included the most fascinating funerary art, almost forgotten tales, and, of course, geocaches. Now normally I include geocache names and GC codes, but many of these are Virtuals. So, in an effort not to spoil, I've left out the cache names and any spoiler answers. You'll just have to find them for yourself.

Old Burying Ground - Beaufort, NC

First cemetery on the adventure is the Old Burying Ground. Of all the cemeteries we've visited across the Eastern U.S., this one seemed to have more stories per square foot.

They have a brochure for sale (drop your coins in the tin box at the gate) and walk among the markers.

There are three that I found most intriguing.

#19: British Officer (1700’s) — The grave of an officer in His Majesty’s Navy who died on board ship in the port of Beaufort. Not wanting to be buried “with his boots off” he was buried standing up in full uniform:
“Resting ‘neath a foreign ground,
Here stands a sailor of Mad George’s crown
Name unknown, and all alone,
Standing the Rebel’s Ground.”  (Brantley)

#20 “Crissie Wright” Common Grave — “Cold as the night the ‘Crissie Wright’ went ashore” is still heard around Beaufort. The sailors who froze to death after the wreck of that ship in January, 1886 are buried together in this grave. It is said this tragedy led to the establishment of the Cape Lookout Lifesaving Station in 1887

#24 Girl in Barrel of Rum — Here is the grave of a girl buried in a barrel of rum. In the 1700s an English family, including an infant daughter, came to Beaufort. The girl grew up with a desire to see her homeland, and finally persuaded her mother to allow her to make the voyage. Her father promised his wife he would return the girl safely. The girl enjoyed her visit to London, but died on the voyage home. She would have been buried at sea, but her father could not bear to break his promise. He purchased a barrel of rum from the captain, placed her body in it, and brought it to Beaufort for burial.

Look at the mementos left behind for the little girl. So sad.

St. Paul's Episcopal Church Cemetery - Norfolk, VA

After a brief stay on the Outer Banks, we stayed the night in Chesapeake. St. Paul's was the first place you see after crossing over the bridge into Norfolk.

St. Paul's claim to fame is a cannonball in the wall.
Following his defeat at the Battle of Great Bridge, Lord Dunmore attacked Norfolk from the sea as he fled Virginia on January 1, 1776. In retaliation, patriots set fire to the homes of loyalists; however, the fire became unmanageable, and nearly the entire town was destroyed by the flames. The church was the only major building in the city to escape substantial damage in the assault, though a cannonball (purportedly fired by the Liverpool) did strike its wall. By the 1830s, the cannonball was no longer embedded in the wall. However, it was discovered buried in the yard of the church, and returned to its original resting place in the 1840s, and remains there today.

TaGeez and I enjoyed our quiet morning walking around the Church grounds. Sinking into the soft ground, moss embedded into the stonework. This was my favorite headstone with the skull - notice the date.

Hollywood Cemetery - Richmond, VA

Saturday afternoon found us in Richmond, VA. Hollywood Cemetery has been on my bucket list since I read the 15 Must-See Historic Cemeteries Across the U.S. We visited Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta, GA the year before - amazing!

Like many cemeteries, Hollywood Cemetery has an online interactive map (lucky for us since the office was closed). 

They also had handy arrows throughout the cemetery, directing you to the most popular stops. The biggest draw is the Monument to the Confederate War Dead, a memorial to the 18,000 Confederate dead buried at Hollywood Cemetery.

A horse thief from a nearby penitentiary performed the dangerous feet of placing the capstone atop the 90 foot tower.

Among the many famous residents, there are two US Presidents buried in the President's Circle.

 President John Taylor

President James Monroe, protected by his temporary cage
The famous "Birdcage" is undergoing restoration

One of the most remarkable features of Hollywood Cemetery is the view of the James River. As we were sitting in the river overlook, we watched kayakers riding the rapids beneath us.

It reads, "Erected by the little boys & girls of the Southern capital."

Speaking of which, there's a third President buried here. Meet Jefferson Davis, first (and last) President of the Confederacy.  There are a lot of Confederate insignia throughout this area. 

Shockoe Hill Cemetery - Richmond, VA

After Hollywood, TaGeez and I moseyed over to Historic Tredegar for another Virtual cache. Afterwards, we poked around the National Park's Civil War Museum and found an interesting reference to Shockoe Hill Cemetery in the exhibit... Back into the car we go....

Buried in Shockoe Cemetery is famed Union spy, Elizabeth Van Lew. who operated one of the largest spy-rings in the nation during the Civil War. She was supposedly buried vertically, positioned in eternity towards the North. Read this great history posted on The Memory Palace also did a great (short) podcast - Episode 40 called Crazy Bet -- told by Nate DiMeo - so enjoyable!

Shockoe is famous for being the final resting place for many of Edgar Allan Poe's loved ones (we visited his grave last April in Baltimore). We rested a few moments in front of "his Helen".  This Antebellum cemetery is also the final resting place of at least 661 deceased Prisoners of War, many who died in the attached Confederate General Hospital. These were Northern soldiers so far from home.

Just another dozen or so cemeteries left on our bucket list!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Outer Bank Adventure: The Webcams

As if 2,500 photos weren't enough, TaGeez and I posed for 5 special cameras on our trip.

Webcam Cache

These are geocaches that use existing web cameras that monitor various areas like parks or business complexes. The idea is to get yourself in front of the camera and save a screen capture from the website where the camera is displayed in order to log a find.
There were actually 8 within the vicinity but one was a little too far off the path, one was down and the final wasn't available on the weekends. The five remaining made for an interesting adventure.

Greensboro, North Carolina

This was a great camera as it updated real time and was live. Apparently, we were lucky to seek it out after the construction nearby had been completed.

After finding it, we decided it was a little late to drive to Raleigh for dinner so we sought sustenance nearby. How cool was this? Natty Greene's brewpub is located in a former Confederate Arms Factory! We had an amazing (and relaxing) dinner of Cajun pork over a Butternut squash-onion-pork belly hash. 

Apex, North Carolina

This webcam might possibly be the most expensive cache for us ever. Driving late at night from Raleigh to Wilmington, we followed the GPS towards Apex. As we were changing highways we saw the toll notice, and pulled out our wallets. It wasn't until we were committed that we realized this toll road is either paid by EZPass or "Bill by Mail". DOH! And we were in a rental car. Either way I'm not looking forward to that administrative fee.

TO LATE TIP: After that, we pulled over and changed the settings on our NUVI. From this point forward the navigation system will prompt us prior to selecting a toll route. The NUVI will offer an alternate route - in Maryland, the alternates saved us money but only added minutes to our drive time.

Kill Devil Hill, North Carolina

This one we tested before we left home. Imagine our disappointment when we arrived and discovered the Avalon Pier webcam hadn't updated in 5 days! We approached the man at the dock, hoping he could reset the camera since there was no contact information on the site. He said he couldn't reset it as Hurricane Matthew had wiped out their internet with no ETA for repair.

Oh no! What to do? We scoured the internet and discovered there was an alternate webcam covering the Avalon Pier parking lot! 

Unfortunately, it panned both sides of the parking lot at odd intervals, and we couldn't seem to be in the frame at the same time. We each covered a different part of the lot and was able to take a photo of the other. We both used the same website, but look how different the photos came out!

The pier administrator did allow us to go out on the pier and take a selfie, too. Wow! Was that thing rickety!

Cape Hatteras, North Carolina

Driving south from Avalon Pier, we entered the Hatteras National Seashore. Lovely drive with lighthouses, sandy dunes, and yet another webcam! This one was tricky as our first attempts came out so dark - there was a large cloud blocking the sun so you could barely see us in the images. After driving further south and then turning around, we mad a second stop with this one much more successful. 

Looks almost like a watercolor, doesn't it? Several people had claimed the camera was down recently - they were trying to use the outdated webcam URL in the cache description, but I found better links in the recent logs.  Preparation is the key: this one was a little too far not to nab the first time.

Richmond, Virginia

So far each webcam has been some kind of adventure so we decided, upon arriving in Richmond, to go for this last one before heading over to Hollywood Cemetery. Something should've clued us in when we approached the campus gate and had to drive past a line of police officers.

We heard drums playing. We saw parking lots manned by volunteers. We wound our way to "one of the last six parking spots on campus!" We pulled in across from a group of tailgaters. What the heck? Oh, no! We stopped for this webcam during Homecoming!

Congratulations to the University of Richmond Spiders for beating Villanova during your Homecoming! Woot! Woot! With everyone distracted by pregame, we had the quad to ourselves for this final webcam find!


  • Locate the links before the trip. I saved mine in an Evernote file and also added a shortcut to each on my iPhone screen. In my Evernote file, I will note special instructions like "Park closes at dusk", "campus webcam not available on weekends", "hold your GPS aloft like Thor". 
  • If the links from the cache description do not work, scroll through recent logs. We have been able to find mobile-friendly URLs in the logs.
  • Make sure the webcams are viewable on your phone. If it doesn't work on mine, TaGeez will try it on his Android. His phone has several alternate browsers and can typically find one to work. We've even downloaded special apps if the webcam requires JAVA.
  • To save frustration, determine how long it takes for the camera to refresh. Some are live feeds and some can refresh every 15 minutes. One mentioned it refreshed hourly after 9 pm. 
  • Have a back-up plan. On each trip we've sent the links to a friend back home in case we're in an area with low cellular capabilities.
  • Tap your local geocaching Facebook group when in a pinch. We've received urgent pleas on the Southeastern Michigan Geocaching Facebook group for help.
  • Read the recent logs to make sure the camera is working. If not, check with the CO to confirm if selfies are allowed. We carry a mini tripod in our caching bag and will set it up on the car trunk.
  • Clothing choices can make a difference. View the live image beforehand and determine the best color choices so you'll stand out in the picture.  
  • Stand in open spots or under street lights. If it's night and there is no bright light about, bring your own. 

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Outer Banks Adventure

You know when I've been quiet awhile, it means we've been off on an adventure. The map above is a 2,508 miles of adventure through North Carolina's Mountain area, Crystal Coast and Outer Banks. TaGeez and I topped it off with a march on Richmond and DC's National Mall at night. It was an amazing adventure!

Originally, we were supposed to be in Central Park this week, but that didn't pan out. TaGeez and I talked about it and decided after a crazy summer taking care of family concerns, maybe a quiet road trip would be just the ticket. Charleston was our first choice, but Hurricane Matthew arrived first so we headed further north. It's been 20+ years since I've lived on the Crystal Coast, and I really looked forward to sharing it with my love.

Our first night found us in Knoxville - this time in a hotel much more habitable then the last. With the exception of the first and last night, we didn't book any rooms in between. We let the road and the sun determine our nightly stops - the made it so easy and never disappointed us.

Mountain and Piedmont

We were planning on a coastal adventure, but my friend George loves Asheville. After sending us some of his recent mountain biking adventure along the Blue Ridge Parkway, we knew a detour was in order. So lovely curving around the mountains. Wednesday morning found us driving through low-lying clouds, too -- exhilarating and a little frightening. 

The colors were stunning - it was peak color change on the BRP, but our cameras just couldn't capture it. 


Asheville was a surprise. It was chic and hippy and hipster. We found ourselves walking around art downtown, standing on the last cobbled road in Asheville and on the steps of Thomas Wolfe's Dixieland. 

Paley's Passion GCJKC9

Thomas Wolfe's Dixieland
After a quick detour to the grounds of Biltmore, off to the Blue Ridge Parkway at noon. We were told the 90 mile stretch between Asheville and Blowing Rock is the loveliest in North Carolina...

Unfortunately, TaGeez wussed out after about 10 miles (around 4,000 feet). He said he couldn't handle me screaming hysterically (afraid of heights) for 80 more miles so we turned around and went the long way to the Piedmont. What I did see over clenched fists on the steering wheel was stunning. Definitely God's country.

Next up were stops right out of Roadside America and Atlas Obscura. What a hoot!

Last Shell Gas Station GC1165J  

World Largest Chest of Drawers - High Point

Dinner at a Confederate Arms Factory - Greensboro

Crystal Coast

Our first night in North Carolina was in lovely Wilmington. It was also our first sight of the hurricane aftermath. Water levels were so high that roads were flooded over and the rivers flowing over small islands.

The waters were so bad that visitors couldn't reach the Visitor Center at the USS North Carolina for the tour. That okay, our geocache was in the parking lot. Note the sign.

Many Gallons of Prop Wash GCJ0J2
Time to turn our car North - we planned on reaching the Outer Banks by nightfall.

Wrightsville Beach - TaGeez's first visit to the Atlantic Ocean!

USMC War Memorial - Jacksonville
They Came in Peace GC12ZHW

Old Burying Ground - Beaufort
Fort Macon - Atlantic Beach
Ol' Grandpappy GCGEM0

Nags Head

We were literally booking the First Colony Inn on Nags Head while on-ramping onto the highway! We figured what harm could it do for a night? Oh, how lovely! We aren't normally people to stay in an area too long, but we're considering booking for an entire vacation next year!

First Colony Inn - Nags Head, NC
As we pulled in around 9pm, the charming clerk was packing up the desk. "Are you Elisa?" How sweet - they had been waiting for us, writing us a note. "We have left your room unlocked and the keys on the bedside." That was the entirety of the check-in.

Charming room with a heated towel rack and pedestal sink - two doors to the outside. Rocking chairs under our window. The next morning TaGeez and I moseyed down the private path to the beach entrance.   

The sweetest new couple walked by and offered to take our pictures. What a lovely way to be greeted in the morning.

We watched as the sun rose and peaked outside the clouds. Hunger set in so we moseyed back to the breakfast nook (served on real plates!) with quiche and fresh fruit and conversations with perfectly friendly strangers.

Outer Banks and Hatteras

Saturday morning meant a 15 minute drive to Kill Devil Hill and the Wright Brothers Memorial at Kitty Hawk. We arrived just as the hourly tour started, but we moseyed at our own pace. We walked the length of all 4 flight attempts and then moseyed up to the monument on Kill Devil Hill. TaGeez messaged the family that the climb up this hill was another attempt on his life - it was payback for the BRP!

Dawn of Aviation GCB57D

Wilbur has an amazing view of the Atlantic Ocean
The Outer Banks were stunning. The lighthouses, the houses on stilts, the Inn at Rodanth, the sand dunes lining the water, parasailing. I can't imagine how busy US 12 is during the summer, but for now we were able to take it at a cruise. 

Weather in the 70's and a lovely breeze off the water. Picture postcard perfect weather.

The aliens loved it, too! After the find, the cache owners emailed us with a thank you. They were wondering how their cache fared during the hurricane. They said the UFO owner will typically greet customers in costume and exiting the ship in a swirl of smoke this time of year - regretfully, he must've been napping that day.

Greetings OBX Earthlings GC4G2HQ
Outer Banks Futuro House - Roadside America

We actually doubled back to Hatteras. We were going to take the ferry to Ocracoke Island, but the Sheriff's Department turned us back due to storm damage. We had seen areas underwater and piles of trash relating to Hurricane Matthew, but this was the first road closure. The first time we visited Hatteras, one lone ugly cloud blocked the sun; the second visit the sun was out in its glory.

Hatteras Light Cache-Cam GC2727
After Hatteras, we turned into a lot with a sign to the original lighthouse site. Instead of brickwork or a foundation, we found the loveliest of beaches with parasails and parasurfers.

I loved our time on the beach. I loved every moment experiencing the power and the majesty of the Atlantic Ocean. We recorded video of the ocean crashing on the breakfront, and I play it when I need a few minutes of peace. We could not have been blessed with better weather. 

Regretfully, we had to leave Nags Head and the Outer Banks. Sounds like a cliche but the sun set both on the day and on our time in North Carolina. Onto a less charming but still pleasant hotel in Chesapeake, Virginia.  

Chesapeake to Richmond, VA

We had a leisurely breakfast and decided to detour into Norfolk. Large ships along the wharf. The McArthur Memorial downtown. St Paul's Church with its cannonball. We enjoyed every little bit of history as we eventually marched onto Richmond.

Douglas's 5 Star Cache GC1CB0
Oh, we had a really cool experience here! After Norfolk, we headed to Richmond. We found ourselves on that bridge that turns into a tunnel under Chesapeake Bay! No way to get a photo of it for here, but there are several cool ones online.

We had several really cool and unexpected moments - like the urban art along our path. Make sure you look down every alley and building.

I had two bucket list items for this trip - visiting Hollywood Cemetery, home of 2 US Presidents and 1 Confederate President - was one of them. I decided to share our cemetery experiences in another post.

Home of 18,000 Confederate dead

The view from the President's Circle

US National Park - Historic Tredegar
Civil War Museum - Richmond
My second bucket list item is seeing the National Mall at night. Time to move onto McLean and then DC.

Washington DC

TaGeez and I visited DC in April, but, due to the stresses of my Dad's illness and the craziness of each day, we were too tired to visit the National Mall at night. I hadn't realized how much this bothered me until we were heading home. I'm grateful to TaGeez for putting up with my whims and his willingness to return just a few months later. Besides seeing the Mall at night, we saw the Capital Building without its scaffolding and the lawn replaced on the Mall. It's like they knew we were coming back.

We stayed at the Staybridge in McLean, Virginia. A hotel that we never could've afforded during the height of tourist season or during the weekday. We had a lovely large room on the third floor with a full kitched (stainless steel appliances including a full refrigerator and dishwasher), a large sitting area (situated so you could lookout onto McLean's night life), and a full hot and cold breakfast in the morning (with omelet bar).  It really was just minutes from downtown DC along the beautiful George Washington parkway.

After an extremely leisurely breakfast, we checked out and headed back to the National Mall again. This time we wanted to drive around the Mall in the day time, visit the Capital Building for pictures, and then finish with some virtuals in the Penn Quarter area. 

We finally made it to Ford's Theatre. We couldn't go into the theatre - they had an event - but we did take pictures outside....

The Actor Really Did Break a Leg GC880C
Including across the street where Lincoln died. The streets were packed with people - it really is a lovely time of year to be walking around DC.

Final stop, and Virtual, was in Chinatown. So many people, and the smell of food nearby was amazing. 

It was then that we realized it was time to head home, 6 days and 2,508 miles later. I think the mountains were even more colorful than when we came in, but, with dusk settling, the pictures just came out too dark and didn't do it justice.

This is our last sizable adventure for this year, but I can take consolation that the 2,500+ pictures and a dozen videos will help us make it through the Michigan winter.