Day 5: St. Louis Vacation – Pink Elephants and Geocaching

When today started, we figured it would be our least active day of the week, considering we were taking a side road trip to Peoria. We ended up being really wrong about that. We got up, ate breakfast, and started our trip a couple hours past what I’d originally planned. The first time I woke up, I had a horrible headache. Had that headache stuck around, we would have stayed in the hotel room all day, but a couple ibuprofen and some more sleep got rid of it, so we were Illinois-bound.

We did some geocaching along the way, and one of our first stops was at the Pink Elephant Antique Store. Several months ago when I was planning our Michigan trip, I’d seen this roadside attraction on the Roadtrippers site, but we never ended up stopping there. We made it today to grab the cache and take some pictures of the fun statues on the lawn.

Well, hello there…

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I loved the pink elephant. There was one in my hometown, so I think it’s kind of cool to find another one in another part of the country.

When we finally got to the exit we were looking for, we wanted to grab something to eat. I love eating at little roadside diners, but the one that was there didn’t take credit cards. I know it’s a silly thing to be annoyed by, but come on…it’s almost 2014…how can you not take credit cards?? We ended up going across the street to the Subway, which was kind of dirty and super slow.  My sandwich tasted okay, despite the fact that the kid adding the ingredients didn’t change his nasty plastic gloves after handling Jon’s sandwich, so I got a wrapper covered in Sriracha sauce. I don’t like Sriracha.

At that point, I was in a bit of a crabby mood anyway, but food helped, and I was ready to tackle the geocache we’d gone to look for.

A little background on this geocache: we read about it shortly after we started geocaching and thought it was pretty cool. It’s a difficulty of five (the highest difficulty there is), and it’s only had one logged find. The other two hundred eighty something logs have been DNFs (did not finds). We knew we wanted to give it a shot, and since we were relatively close (way closer than we are in Kansas), we wanted to give it a try.

When traveling or geocaching, we often rely a little too heavily on our auto GPS, but in most cases, we question it and double check where it takes us. I don’t know why we didn’t do that today, but we didn’t. When he got to where the GPS took us, there were gates up, so we couldn’t drive into the park. It didn’t even occur to us that there might be a different entrance. We were just miffed that we’d made the drive and now couldn’t even get into the park.

At the same time we were there, there were two other groups of people going on. Both groups parked in the same area and started walking down the hill, past the closed gate. I almost think that’s why we did it…monkey see, monkey do…even though our phone GPS showed were still a mile away from the geocache. Normally, a mile doesn’t scare me (not anymore). When we walk the rec center, a mile is pretty standard. This mile, though, wasn’t the rec center. It was paved, which was good. It was up and down steep hills. That wasn’t so good. On the way down the first hill, we knew it was going to be a beast coming back up.  At first we thought maybe we’d go down and have flat walking until we got back, but just a short way into the walk, we were confronted with a hill.

Jon kept trying to find the silver lining in the walk, but I was feeling highly annoyed. I knew the silver linings were there. The first was that we were getting our exercise for the day, even though we hadn’t planned for it. The second was that as tough as it was, we were able to take that walk and scale those hills. I eventually got over my mood and tried to enjoy the walk.

After trying two false alarm areas, we finally found the shelter. It was around that time we saw vehicles parked there and realized that there had to in fact be another way in. Duh…it’s a state park. Of course there was. We felt like doofuses, but by then we were just rolling with it. We finally found the search area and spent about two hours poking around, trying to find that darn geocache. As expected, we never did, and so added our names to the almost three hundred other cachers who had no luck.

We were a little nervous on the return walk that we wouldn’t make it back to the car before dark. We also kept hearing noises in the woods. Sometimes they sounded like hunters. Other times they sounded like animals. For awhile, we talked about our game plan if we got attacked by a puma. Luckily, that didn’t happen (our game plane wasn’t great). As expected, that last hill was a challenge. I had to stop a few times, but I didn’t sit down. I just stood to catch my breath and let my legs rest a second from fighting gravity.

The funny thing is, I can see why people run marathons. Once you achieve something you didn’t think you could do, you get a rush and a sense of satisfaction that you want to recreate. I’m not comparing our hike to a marathon, but as a personal achievement, it was pretty huge. We talked about how that walk would have gone three months ago (not as well), six months ago (a lot of crying on my part), and a year ago (it wouldn’t have even happened). The fact that we did the whole hike with minimal rest stops and very quick breathing recovery (I had my breath back within about ten seconds of being on flat ground) was awesome.

Our biggest mistake may have been to follow up that walk with a long drive back without any rest stops. It was late and we wanted to get back to the hotel, but we both knew it was going to catch up with us. Sure enough, when we got out to grab something to eat (just down the road from our hotel), our muscles were stiff and sore, and some of them seized up, making walking tough for a short while.

After dinner, I told Jon I wanted to do some active recovery, and we walked across the street to get some Gatorade and a banana. Part of my whole active recovery thing was that I wanted to hit 15,000 steps for the day on my Fitbit. Though I’ve had one for several years, I’ve never gotten that badge, so I decided that with just over 13,000 steps for the day, I was closer to that goal than I normally get. When we got back to the hotel room, I was about 700 steps shy, so I went for a walk around the hotel parking lot.

I got my badge!

In hindsight, the hike was worth it. I’ll be taking a warm shower, and tomorrow we’ll have to make a few stops on the way back to Kansas so my muscles can stay loose.  Tomorrow will likely be a legitimate rest day, but Monday we’ll be back in the gym and at the rec center, because if this past week has taught us anything, it’s that the almost daily exercise has paid off big time!

On that note, I’d better start getting ready for the shower. I’m really sleepy. I didn’t work on my Nanowrimo any further. I ended up finishing my second story, but only clocked in with that one at about 40,000 words. I was trying to make a go of winning Marissa Meyer’s contest, but I don’t think I did. I didn’t even make 100,000 words. Oh well….I can’t be too upset. I won Nanowrimo and finished two novels. That’s a pretty huge accomplishment.

It’s back to Kansas tomorrow and then back to work on Monday! I’m going to miss vacation, but I’m also really looking forward to getting back into my routine.



Clever Caches and Pumpkin Patches

Even though we slept in this morning, we still got up in time to find some geocaches before meeting friends at the pumpkin patch out at Britt’s Farm.  I’d planned the trip to Britt’s a few weeks ago, and originally, Jon and I were going to use the morning to walk the zoo and visit the Flint Hills Discovery Center to see the new exhibit. However, with the late night we had, we decided sleep was more important.

Our first stop was a cache that we just couldn’t find. It was hidden in a tree that had a lot of thick, low hanging branches. We basically wrestled with the thing. I came away with a few scratches, but Jon’s legs and shirt got tore up. We might go back and try in the winter when the leaves have fallen off. The park itself was pretty cool. It has a game course for something called disc golf.  I’d never heard of it, but I thought it was neat to find something like that. Seemed pretty unique.

We went to Subway for lunch, then started towards town to hit a few more caches. Today’s cache theme was “clever hides.” Almost all the containers looked like something else and were in plan view because they looked like part of the environment.  At the first one, I even told Jon not to mess with it because it seriously looked like part of a big mechanical box. He finally just went for it and sure enough, it was the cache.  He managed to find the other tricky ones as well.

One of them wasn’t tricky in how it was hid, but it still had a clever theme.  It was called “Flash Gordon’s Trial of the Wood Beast.” This meant nothing to me since I never really watched Flash Gordon, but Jon is a fan and so had a good idea of what we were looking for before we set off to find it. One thing I did know about this geocache was that we looked at it when we first started caching and had decided against trying to find it because at that time, it seemed too hard. It’s not a difficult cache. The difficulty for me was having to make a hike that was almost a half mile round trip.

I’ve come a long way, because the walk was really nice today. It was down part of the linear trail and then off into a wooded path along the river, another beautiful part of our area that I never would have seen if it hadn’t been for geocaching.

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We found this abandoned car in the woods. Kind of cool, kind of creepy.
We found this abandoned car in the woods. Kind of cool, kind of creepy.

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We finally got to the hiding spot and were met by two hornets guarding the cache. They weren’t flying and were really slow moving, but they freaked me out a little bit, as do most bugs with a stinger.  At first, we weren’t even going to attempt to get the cache. Jon was close to one of them and it didn’t sting him though, so we tried to edge over and grab it without making either of them mad. Luckily, they were mud daubers and not yellow jackets. One of the things I learned from a fellow BOW woman was that mud daubers tend to be pretty mellow and keep to themselves, while yellow jackets are the aggressive guys.

As Jon put it, had they been yellow jackets, they would have stung us, killed us, then probably buried our bodies. Those guys are jerks. Since these were not them,  we moved slow and kind of stared the mud daubers down, and they let us grab the cache without stinging us.  Between geocaching and BOW, I feel like I’ve developed a better appreciation for nature. A few months ago, I doubt if I would have even stuck around to watch a couple hornets the way we did today.

After grabbing a few more in the area, we went out to the farm. During the fall, they host a “pumpkin patch” with all kinds of activities, many geared towards children. I’m an adult and I still thought it was cool. There was an area that I think was supposed to be the petting zoo but seemed more like a chase area for kids to go after the animals. The geese and chickens there were pretty good sports about it.  They didn’t bite anyone.

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We met up with my friends there, but we decided to go ahead and tackle the corn maze early. It sounds silly, but walking a corn maze is on my Day Zero list, so I was pretty excited to finally be able to do it.  There were two mazes, an easy one that  would take about five minutes to complete, and a hard one that would take about a half hour (according to the signs posted outside of the entrances).  I already had it in my head that we were going to do the hard corn maze.

There was definitely a creepy vibe here, likely from watching "Children of the Corn" at an early age.
There was definitely a creepy vibe here, likely from watching “Children of the Corn” at an early age.

Though my goal was to walk in a corn maze, it wasn’t to get lost in one, so Jon and I kept to the right through the whole thing, which inevitably lead us around some needless loops and a dead end. Maybe getting lost is part of the fun, but that’s the part that would have made me panic. As it was, I had a little panic towards the end anyway. The terrain was rough, a fact that was to be expected but never landed on my radar, so my feet were pretty sore by the end. We’d walked out pretty far and I started to feel disoriented. I probably would have kept my cool, but I hit a divot and popped my knee. The pain and the heat and the fact that I was ready to be out of that maze made me cry a little. Luckily, we turned the corner and there was the end.

I have no regrets. I’m actually happy I could do it and proud of myself for finishing. But to be honest, now that the maze is off my list, I doubt if I’ll ever need to do another one.  That walk took a lot out of us, so we caught up to the others to see how they were doing and to say our good-byes. I was hurting, we were both exhausted, and I don’t think there was anything else there we really could have done. Except maybe the potato gun. That might have been fun.

We picked up some apple cider on the way out, and once I’m done here, I’m getting mine for an evening snack. We had a good day, but I definitely need a shower and maybe some more ibuprofen (my friend Forsh gave me a couple when we got out of the maze). The knee swelling seems to have gone down, but my upper back could use something.  Maybe some Biofreeze.

Not sure what tomorrow is going to bring. We have gaming in the afternoon, and the plan is to get our third gym day done for the week.  If we’re feeling ambitious, we might do our zoo walk, but I think we’re going to play it by ear and plan our day based on how we feel in the morning. It was a fun day, and I’m going to cap it off with a shower, some horror movies, and some knitting.


Day 2: Mission to 100 Geocaches

I normally split these multi-day excursions up and only post one a day, but since these are just two of these, I’m kicking them both out tonight.

Day 2 was a little bit harder because we were tired from the first day and from staying up later than usual.  We slept in until 9 and didn’t get out of the house until 10, then dawdled some more getting breakfast.  Based on our energy level and Jon’s headache, we decided to stick to caches that had lower ratings for difficulty and terrain.

Our first stop was City Park, where we scored five caches to start the day off. The park is big from the outside, but being on the inside, it seems even larger. It has a splash park and sports fields and water slides…it’s a pretty busy area of MHK. Being that it was early, there weren’t many people out, so we were able to make some stealthy finds.

Johnny Kaw
a  Johnny Kaw

Manhattan started getting busy, so we headed out into the outlying areas to hunt. One of the finds took us down a two-trail type of road that made us feel like we should have a jeep, not an Impala.  The scenery was great though, and the cache was worth the trip.

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Another cool cache we found was at an old church and cemetery, but coming upon it from the road, the top looks like a castle tower.

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One of the cool things about this cache was that the owners had placed a disposable camera in there for people to take their picture with. I’m pretty sure Jon snapped us before I was ready and was licking my lips or something, so I have a feeling that’s going to be a pretty silly picture.

After finding a few more off the highway, we decided to go to Ogden.  It wasn’t in our original plan, but it seemed like a good way to finish off our finds for the day. Before we resumed hunting, we grabbed lunch at Subway. It was very much needed. We were losing steam and still had a few to go to make sure we both had 100.

One of the caches in Ogden looked like it had been muggled, but the log was intact, so we signed and put it back together. Another one sounded like it was going to be a difficult one, an ode to DNFs, but instead, it ended up being a fun park and grab with a travel bug to discover.


At the end of the day, we’d made our goal to break 100 caches and grabbed a few bonus ones.  The weekend total was 31 found and 0 DNFs. The weather was great, the driving was relaxing, and we just had a good time hanging out together.

This trip also gave us the chance to compare our endurance and stamina levels from when we first started. The first geocaches we found (a few months ago when we first started) that involved walking across uneven terrain were pretty tough. This weekend, we found them challenging, but nothing that kicked our butt completely.  The first time we tried to do a full day of caching, we made it four hours before we went home, sore and needing to crash.  This time we went two days and cached for 7-8 hours each day. Granted, a good portion of that was spent driving, but there is still a decent level of physical activity taking place on these hunts. Jon even ran up a short hill today without getting winded.

I think we’re doing awesome, and it’s exciting to think that at some point in the future, we’re going to be able to find some that are rated at a more difficult terrain level.  Our next big goal is to hit 250, but we’ll probably plan a couple more weekend cache trips before that.

Once we got home, I took a shower and some ibuprofen so I wouldn’t be too sore for the work week. I did some photo editing and uploading to FB, finished the blog posts, and kept half an eye on a couple movies, Clue and Vanilla Sky (which is still in progress and will be watched with both eyes when this is done, because it’s one of my favorites).  We didn’t make it to the gym, but I’m not going to stress on it. It means we missed our gym goal this past week, but I think we made our walking goal, plus some.

I still anticipate being able to sleep well tonight.



Climbing to the Top

I was so glad when I woke up this morning to the feels of no back pain and a high level of energy.  We got out of the house early to beat the heat and traffic for geocaching.  Our original plan involved going to Manhattan to run a few errands, do some caching, and maybe play a round of mini golf. But we never made it that far, deciding to hit some caches going the opposite way instead.

Most of the caches were fairly easy, yet highly adventurous today. We drove a lot of dirt boards. We found most of them, so that was nice, and we were able to leave some treasures in the non-micro caches we found. We even sent our found geocoin back into the wild.

The first highlight was a cache near an old abandoned bus out on the plains.


The land is private, so the bus itself isn’t explorable, but the scenery is pretty and somewhat haunting. I feel I could write horror stories about that bus.  Jon braved the bees to find this one, which probably gave him the advantage since he ended up finding more than I did.

The second cache of note was actually one we didn’t find, but it took us hiking up Mount Mitchell, a local area just outside Wamego. The term “Mount” scared me a little after our last climbing expedition, but I wanted to tackle it anyway. The log said the cache was halfway up but that if you climbed to the top, the view was gorgeous.

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At the point where the actual cache was supposed to be, we rested and debated whether to go up the rest of the hill. This little hike had been difficult in the fact that I had to avoid small muddy areas and watch where I was going, but it wasn’t that taxing, so we went the rest of the way up to take in the view.

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Kansas has a reputation for having ugly flat lands, and I’ve heard that parts of Western Kansas live up to that. But I believe the area where we live, near the Flint Hills and tallgrass prairie, is beautiful. Climbing the summit of this “mountain” was well worth it, not only to see this awesome angle, but as an affirmation of just being able to physically do this.

We noticed that red stone from one side of the hill (last picture, bottom right), so we went back down and took the trail the other way to see it from a closer view.


The picture doesn’t show the writing well, but this stone was in memory of a soldier, “Dodge.”  He died in action on April 30, 1945 (my birthdate, though a couple decades before I came around) in the Philippine Islands, incidentally in the same area that Jon was born (a few decades earlier as well).  Interesting coincidence.

The other caches were fun too, but the last place we stopped for the day just did me in. I couldn’t tell where the thing was, and I walked through the brush and ended up covered in little fuzzy plant seeds. It irritated me, and I figure when irritation sets in, it’s time to call it a day. We may go back to that one, though there were chickens in the area, and I feel the chickens kind of made it a little awkward.  Silly chickens.

We came home, showered, and plan on spending the rest of the evening chilling, possibly getting a few things done around the house, but taking it easy for the most part.

Since I promised some pics from last night’s cache in the pretty hidden garden we found, here you have them.

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I’m happy to see that my camera took decent pictures so I can use it more at Gen Con to save my phone’s battery life. We talked about doing more caching tomorrow, but we’ll have to play it by ear. The goal for tomorrow is to have everything packed and ready for Tuesday’s drive. Also, we’re planning to dog-sit for my friend during the day tomorrow, which means laundry and probably some much needed rest. I’m thinking I might hit the gym for a lighter workout, just to keep moving.

But for now, it’s off to find something on Netflix.


Sunday Treks

I posted on FB this morning that we weren’t going to go geocaching today. It rained all night and we assumed things would be muddy and gross.  We figured we’d walk the zoo instead and then do some grocery shopping.  The mistake we made, however, was in saying “Let’s just find one geocache before going to the zoo.” Which then lead to no zoo and a full day of hunting.

There were several we didn’t find, including one that asked hunters to look casual around the general populace so people wouldn’t see the cache when you found it (to deter thievery, I believe). Yeah, I’m sure we looked real casual strolling up and down the sidewalk by Wal-Mart and studying the trees a little more than a normal person would or should. After awhile, we just gave up, and that’s partially because I was a little uncomfortable there.

But there were a few we did find, and another few that we just decided to hold off on until the ground dries up and/or winter gets here.  We were right on the ground being wet and mushy. I came home with wet feet. I may need to invest in a good pair of hiking boots one of these days. We hiked through a nature trail in the woods and made our way through plenty of trees.

In our searching, we found a new trail to walk and saw some really pretty scenery.

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It wasn’t too hot today, and I really wanted to get out and move to prove I could after yesterday’s excursion. It wasn’t that difficult. Ibuprofen and rest work miracles on a sore body.

I’m not sure if geocaching will be a long term thing or if we’re going to gorge on it for a couple weeks and then be done, but fair warning: until we get tired of it, it may feature heavily on this blog. Of course, then again, it may not.  I just want you to be prepared and understand that I already understand the ways my little obsessions take form, and this may be one of them.

As for our day, that’s really all that happened. We decided to procrastinate going  shopping until tomorrow night after the gym. We did make a drop off at Goodwill though. The rest of the world waited for the reveal of the new Doctor Who. I Googled it during a rest stop on our walk.  I can’t say I feel one way or the other about it. I’m sad that Matt Smith is leaving. He’s my favorite. But I trust Moffat and Crew to bring the awesome, and so shall reserve judgement until I see the new guy in action.

Monday comes early, so it’s shower, then reading, then bed time for this sleepy girl.


All Kinds of Treasures

I woke up this morning with the idea of going on a small adventure that might involve a little geocaching along the way. I’d seen some information about Paxico, KS and decided we should take a little drive there to be touristy. On the way, I wanted to stop and find a geocache at a place we’d passed a sign for on the highway several times and were always curious about; let’s face it – a rifle and bible church just sounds interesting.

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I’d like to note that at this point in time, I’m pretty sure Jon still wasn’t completely sold on the idea of geocaching. And it got a bit iffier when we had to take a detour due to one of the roads to our destination being closed.

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I half expect that a troll lives under there.

We finally found it, and even though we had to crawl through some brush, it was totally worth it. This was our first physical/traditional cache, and it really is an exciting moment when you spot the “treasure.”

We drove on toward Paxico, but as we were driving, our GPS and app alerted us to another one. So we stopped on the side of the road and found our second one of the day.

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Jon spotted this one, and by the time we drove away from this area, he was hooked.

We finally made it to Paxico, where we wandered around the antique mall and art gallery, both of which were really neat. There were some antique stoves that I adored, as well as several other things I could find a suitable home for if I ever win the lottery.

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We were going to grab a bite to eat and something to drink at the local bar, but they didn’t take credit or debit cards, and we had no cash. Instead, we rolled up the highway a few miles and got some water and a slice of pizza at a highway side gas station. Before we did that though, we found yet another cache. I didn’t take any pics for the third one. For awhile, we didn’t think we were going to find it because it was so well hidden, but we finally re-grouped, checked the logs, and scored another treasure!

Our last cache of the day was also our last stop, because even though we had plans to try to find a few more, this one took a lot out of us.  We knew from the start it was a hill, and the logs said it was a short hike. But a short hike for a hiker and a short hike for a person who hasn’t climbed a hill in about three years are two different things. We started out okay, but I had to stop and catch my breath several times.

We can do this...right?
We can do this…right?
About halfway up, and this hill just keeps going...
About halfway up, and this hill just keeps going…

The cache was called the Guard of the Plains. Incidentally, that is also what the trail led to.


Jon got the job of taking the pictures in the area, because while it really was beautiful at the top of that hill, I was busy getting sick. Not my best moment, but at least it was earned by hauling my butt up there.


And yes, we found the cache up there, so that made it even better!

When we got back down to the car, I got pretty emotional and cried a little. It wasn’t all bad crying though. I was really exhausted and sore from the hike, but I also felt really good about this accomplishment.  There had been a point, a little over halfway up, when I stopped and told Jon I didn’t think I could make it and that we should just go back down. He would have too, but I thought for a second and realized that I didn’t really want to quit. I wanted to make it up that hill because it was another accomplishment and another milestone.  So I kept going and made it, so getting sick because I pushed myself really wasn’t the worst thing ever.

In that emotional moment, there was some recent frustration over some negativity coming from people we thought were our friends mixed with the knowledge that in just five months, I’ve come really far with my mobility. And really, that fact, combined with the fun that Jon and I are having with this new hobby, kind of blows that negativity out of the water, making those other circumstances pretty inconsequential. I don’t know if geocaching is something we will do long term. We both enjoy it, but it could be something we do now and then let fall to the wayside. It’s the nature of hobbies for me. But for now, I’m going to enjoy it.

We made a quick trip to the IGA, then came home to rest and relax. We’re planning to go out again tomorrow if the weather holds, but right now, food, a shower, and some Biofreeze need to happen.