Sunday, July 30, 2017

NECT: Springford to Providence

The third day of our adventure was a mystery to us also. We weren't sure how long the North Central Massachusetts Cemetery Series would take the day before so we had blocked this one in case it was needed. With some quick planning, ShelleyJean and I decided to head West for some whimsy and wonderment.

Have I mentioned my kinship to a certain Doctor?


Welcome to the Amazing World of Dr. Seuss! I was a military wife in Springfield several years (decades?) earlier, and this is a most welcome addition downtown. Located next to the Library, you can immerse yourself into the technicolor tones and wonderful whimsy of Theodore Geisel's mind recreated by sculptor (and stepdaughter) Lark Grey Dimond-Cate.

Look at this big eyes <3

Roped off because the sun overheated the metal, making it a hazard

Do you see your favorite?
There is a rather fun multi/puzzle onsite which was rather fun to complete. Regretfully the final was not as fabulous, but the smiley is a good souvenir from this fun & fabulous place.

Seuss on the Loose GC7578R

Being on a cemetery tour means we had to stop at this one. Located in the Springfield Cemetery, this house-shaped stone memorializes Andrew Titus - a Victorian era real estate businessmen.
Andrew Titus (1823- 1896) was a successful real estate man in Springfield. His family grave site in Springfield Cemetery is marked with a solid white marble sculpture of a two story Victorian mansion. The front of the home is inscribed IN MANSIONS ABOVE. On the side and on the door is the family name TITUS. In front of the mansion are additional gravestones shaped as miniature house, for three Titus women - Louise, Mary and Pamela. []

Heading towards the exit we saw a series of stones with friendly faces, and SJ agreed to pull over so I could add them to my collection. Little did I know what was around the bend for us...

But first, DINOSAURS! 

As the most favorited cache in the area, SJ and I decided to stop. Not a fan of Earth Caches, but the premise seemed interesting. Were there really footprints?

Dinosaur Footprints Earthcache GCNP8D


And now we know the wonders of geocaching. I lived in New England for 6 years and lived within miles of this for 3, but no clue this existed. I wonder how many locals know what's in their backyards?

Afterwards I moseyed down to the river and stopped to test the artsy features on my new Olympus. Doesn't this make you itch for an adventure? I wonder if I road the rails in an earlier existence?

Tack on a misadventure trying to locate another Muffler Man, and we were done with Massachusetts for the day.


This close to Connecticut meant a run for the border. We made it as far as Black-eyed Sally's in Hartford. YUM! 

Southern cuisine in a bluesy atmosphere. Don't let the menu fool you, though. Southern-style spicy sauce is just Buffalo sauce everywhere else. The crab balls and corn bread were divine, though.

Our main goal was the Soldiers and Sailors Arch practically across the street. Can you see me below? Great shot by ShelleyJean.

Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch - Brownstone
Earth Cache GC5177R
My photo came out darker as I tried to shoot into the sun. Amazing structure and our second Earth Cache for the day. I have a weakness for EC's involving structures. I regret I missed out on the Quincy Quarry one in downtown Boston.

The day started frittering away. We figured since we already grabbed a souvenir for Connecticut it made sense to head over to Rhode Island, too. We made a few interesting stops along the way.

Are you old enough to recognize this?
No New England Cemetery Tour would be complete without visiting the Ancient Burying Ground in downtown Hartford. 

The oldest place in Hartford is a cemetery with thousands of bodies stacked beneath the grass. According to the site, gravediggers would poke poles in the ground looking for an open spot to inter a new body.

And more of my friendly, funny faces. This cemetery had a nifty brochure at the front gate that explained this change.

"Angel's Head"
Beginning around 1730,
death's heads became more
"human" in appearance,
more sophisticated in design
and execution. The fearsome
expression gradually
softened into a sober, even
smiling one. These "angel's
heads" are believed to symbolize
the soul's flight to
heaven, emphasizing the
blissful life everlasting that
awaited the righteous.

He was blown up?
"Hartford went wild with joy in May of 1766 at the news of the British Parliament's repeal of the despised Stamp Act, which taxed paper products used in the colonies, ranging from newspapers to legal documents. Thirty young men met in the brick school-house on May 23 to prepare a fireworks display in celebration. Gunpowder stored in the schoolhouse was accidentally ignited, causing an explosion that 'in an Instant reduced the Building to a Heap of Rubbish,' according to the Connecticut Courant newspaper. The blast killed Bernham and five other men."
After the cemetery we turned towards Rhode Island with a slight detour to this firefighter's memorial. 

For All Who Answered the Call GCB002
Who are you calling husky? Yep, remember that webcam I mentioned last post? Conveniently located between Hartford and Providence.  Fun times.

Connecticut's First WebCamCache GCH6AB
Note so self: rush hour in Connecticut traffic sucks. Worse yet? Connecticut rest stops that close their restrooms after 3pm! Connecticut lost some serious points over that one.


We reached Providence later than we hoped so no attempt at the H.P. Lovecraft grave, but we did visit the memorial to the founder of Boston and first white settler in Rhode Island.  Cool.

William Blackstone Memorial GCDFBF
Our final stop was a Virtual of another nature. Look at that moon!

Stillhouse Cove GC4681
No spoilers were posted for Virtuals or Earth Caches.

The next part of our adventure included Salem, Portsmouth, Kittery, and Bennington.

Friday, July 28, 2017

NECT: The Webcams

The NCMCS was the main point and definitely a high point in the trip, but the entire trip was epic. Five days traveling from Niagara to Boston, Springfield to Providence via Hartford. Salem and Portsmouth and Kittery and Bennington. Our itinerary was a combination of webcams, high favorites, Roadside America and AtlasObscura. 

Our trip started early Friday as ShelleyJean and I departed from Detroit to Hudson, Massachusetts via Niagara Falls. To our delight, we found 2 Mountain Warehouses still had free promotional trackables and acquired a complete set on the way. On the down side, no stop at Niagara due to poor weather and huge holiday crowds. On the plus side, since everyone was at the falls, we had Power Vista to ourselves!

Power Vista - Niagara Falls, NY

Niagara Power Project Power Vista has 50 interactive exhibits about hydroelectricity and an observation deck perched 350 feet above the Niagara River Gorge.

It's a free museum that was as engrossing for adults as kids. If you are visiting Niagara and wish to get away from the crowds, it's a fascinating stop.

It also had a very unusual webcam. It all begins with a little card. When you walk into the museum, a volunteer shows you how to power up your Power Player card and setup your free account. You use this card to activate exhibits, score your stay, and...


It took us a bit to locate the camera. It took us longer to select a background and settle on a pose that we liked. Afterwards you visit a website and save your picture. Pretty cool concept and a new twist on the webcam cache!

We were actually pretty lucky - we crossed paths with five webcams and all of them were functioning! The twist here (for all but Power Vista) is the CO did not give you exact coordinates to stand. And, in some cases, didn't supply a webcam URL either. They made you hunt for it. Luckily there were plenty of earlier logs with clues.

University of Rochester - New York

Rochester was sorta-ish on our way to Massachusetts. It ate a lot more time than expected due to construction, but the campus was lovely.  Biggest surprise here is they had these neat 15 minute parking spots - just enough time to run over to a common, snap a webcam photo, and hoof it back.

And there we are! Now to make our way back to the main road and head East. We stopped at all the 'text stops' along the way for some extra caching and our Massachusetts souvenir!

Since I'm sharing webcam photos from the first day, I might as well include the remaining three. All of them were fun stops that allowed us to slow down and enjoy a brief silly break.

University of Connecticut - "Who are you calling Husky?!"

Day #3 of our trip found us in Hartford, Connecticut. Since we were so close and new we would collect additional states the next day, we decided to drop in on Rhode Island and collected this webcam on the way. The traffic cop must've thought we were screwballs with all our comings and goings. This was a prime example of a webcam with no specified coordinates or posted URL.

As they are the U-Conn Huskies, the CO asks for you to pose in the form of a Y. (Ok, not kidding. It took us TOO long to realize why. U-Conn Huskies =Yukon Huskies). For some reason, SJ decided to cheer on the Maryland Terrapins!

University of New Hampshire

Admittedly, if TaGeez had been there to share it with us (he, alas, had to work), this may've topped my all-time favorite webcam. I agree with SJ - the image is SO clear! Love hanging with the cat!

Added bonus? This webcam was just a few miles from Kittery, Maine and the Warren Lobster House!

Yankee Magazine - Dublin, NH

For such a small state, New Hampshire has 4 webcams, but two were too far North. Yankee Ingenuity is on the way to Bennington, Vermont. We were luck enough to arrive while it was still daylight. As we were standing there, refreshing our screens, an older gentleman walking into the Keene Fire Department shouted out, "Make sure you get your good side!"

Be very, very careful if you ever stop at this webcam. If you click the page supplied by the CO, there are actually 3 webcams here, two pointing at this same strip of grass. He is very insistent that you use the one he specifies (which, IMO, was a little hidden down on the page). I couldn't use this image above in my log (wrong camera), but luckily SJ grabbed a screenshot from the right one.

This makes 27 webcams for me. With each one, I keep thinking this may be the last. I see a good percentage of my webcam finds have been archived to date. I try not to dwell on the eventual demise of this cache type - it's so much fun! Instead, I'm hopeful that will one day create a new cache type that generates as much loyalty as Webcams and Virtuals do.

Next up is our Springfield > Hartford > Providence adventure. 

Monday, July 24, 2017

NECT: North Central Massachusetts Cemetery Series

Well, talk about a mystery.... Two weeks ago ShelleyJean and I wrapped up a 4-month long odyssey that ended in an amazing tour of old Massachusetts cemeteries and finding gold at the end of the tombstone.  How do you describe the experience that involved progressively harder puzzles plus many onsite twists and turns masterfully interwoven with a common theme that led to several more puzzles to find the final.... and not give anything away? Hyliston has a lot to answer for.

This is the North Central Massachusetts Cemetery Series created in 2012 by Hyliston.

I believe Shelley first discovered this small series of 9 puzzles that led to a gold coin at the final (she has a thing about geotrails with rewards).  I became fixated after seeing Slamere72 and +Mo's geocoins at a local event. With its Edward Gorey/Masterpiece Mystery feel in an antique gold, the etching of a cemetery on the horizon behind a pair of cemetery gates, the rarity of only 100 coins produced and the need to pit your brain against progressively harder puzzles, the urgency was overwhelming. Add to that the road trip itch and the finals surrounding cemeteries near my old stomping grounds, there was no question we would be going.

Near mad with theories
I've passed each test
& completed this series
so here let it rest.
(Epitaph on the geocoin)

Now, here's the rub. The series is still ongoing and there are currently 4 precious coins left. So I can't give anything away. Not the brilliance and fun of each of the first 8 published puzzles. Not the work at each final. Not the twists and turns and head-scratching and crowing as each onsite puzzle was solved. Nor the surprises at the end. Nothing. Nada. No way. 

So what can I share? Shelley was brilliant and tenacious at solving the puzzles before we left. And, once we arrived, I really feel I stepped up to the plate and owned my end. The CO (plus a few sitting angels) was generous and patient with help. And the cache containers and locations were quality. 

I can also share the wonderful things we saw after a long drive across Canada and a good night's rest. This is day #2 on our adventure: completing the NCMCS and experiencing central Massachusetts.

First stop was in Gardner aka "Chair City".  They were everywhere! On the street signs, municipal garbage cans, streetlight banners. It was Shelley's favorite little town. We took our first break there after having a minor anxiety attack at the first NCMCS puzzle of the morning and the second find.

No stop in Gardner is complete without stopping at the Gardner Museum. Yes, that's a chair in front. It matches the contemporary chair facade at the local police station. Here, Shelley and I took a break for a rather fun puzzle involving several local landmarks. Can you guess what object they all centered around?

Sit Back and Relax GCXTGX
Roadside America at its best! Typical of us, we had poured over RA, AtlasObscura and before the trip commenced. Get ready for a lot of kitsch!

Famed Bicentennial Chair
Not giving anything away, but if you can find this little guy you are near the final of the Sit Back and Relax puzzle. You can thank me later.

We headed out to Fitchburg called "Rock City". Why? They have a big rock in their town center. In fact, it is so precious to them and they were so determined to preserve it, they blew it up. Yep. And put it back together again. The Rollstone Boulder is in a cute downtown on Boulder Drive, across from Boulder Realty and Boulder Antiques.

scrapcat calculating the circumference for the Earth Cache
Glacial Erratic GC16HW9
The fascinating part of the NCMCS finals were their proximity to some fascinating cemeteries. I've toured cemeteries from Detroit to Atlanta and Boston to Colorado Springs. This is the first time I've seen black slate headstones. So thin (and hard to photograph) and yet in pristine condition. 

With the sun beating down hard it actually made photographing these tall but thinly-etched headstones difficult, but Shelley can attest I made my best attempt! I came home with over 1700 photos on this trip. You will see quite the funeral art evolution over the next few posts.

OOH! This was cool! Meet Joseph Palmer! His marker is inscribed "Persecuted for wearing the beard". Funny side note: a friend posted later this same day that he was having a "bad beard day" so I shared this picture - Chef Curt lost.

Several more roadside stops!

Tomb of Johnny Appleseed - Leominster
Mary and her lamb actually lived in Sterling and her 1st grade classmate wrote the poem. Rub the lamb's ears for luck!

Mary Had a Little Lamb - Sterling

In case you were wondering, we did still find time to do the cemetery series. Look at this view!

Ok, whatever you do, don't show this to Portah. If my Mainah friend found out I had a Lobster Roll at McDonald's she would flip! But, damn, it was good! And we greatly needed a break at this point.

Ok, I've shared some interesting photos around the NCMCS series, but I'm going to blatantly admit it.... 4/10th of a mile down this trail in one of the eight finals. The reason for my look of panic is they were coming for me! Big, bad, biting flies! One so large it looked like a broach on my chest! #leastfavoritespot

Things got a little spacey when we pulled into one cemetery and spied these metal monuments. Cool, eh? Quite different from the slate ones, right?

Did you see one of the local Keepers of the Cache?

He can't read signs. He missed this one by 100 feet.

I think he was heading here...

Many more finds, many more puzzles, and mix in one more minor panic attack... and we had the final in hand. With so many intricacies, even with the final log, we were hesitant to hoot in celebration. Was there one more stop? Another clue? We even messaged the CO.

How do you celebrate the end of an awesome day? Selfie with the Mohawk Motors Indian (Muffler Man)! SCOOK would be so proud!

ShelleyJean and scrapcat
Thank you, Hyliston, for creating this fabulous experience! And thank you for the beautiful geocoin!

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