1

Before the Parade Passes By…

And happy hump day in another exhausting and confusing week in the life of That’s So Jacob. It’s December, and I do not know how that happened. I suspect it had something to do with November ending. Details forthcoming.

But it’s now been two and a half weeks since I saw Parade at The Temple in Atlanta, and I thought I should write down some thoughts on it before I completely forget about it.

Parade is a quandary of a musical. It’s the story of Leo Frank, of the National Pencil Company Incident that sparked the revival of the Ku Klux Klan and the birth of the Anti-Defamation League, but it’s also the story of his wife, Lucille; the other suspect in the case, Jim Conley; and the girl whose death started it all, Mary Phagan. Just as the case is still a mystery – even though it is almost certain that Frank had nothing to do with Phagan’s death, and that Conley probably had more to do with it than previously thought – the musical does not seek to give the audience any definitive answers. In a sense, everyone is innocent, whether a victim of racial discrimination, religious discrimination, thuggery, or the law, and everyone is guilty, whether by murder, association, or merely obstructing justice.

This performance was done concert-style in the sanctuary. I sat in the second row and watched as the story unfolded in front of me. The actors carried prompt books some of the time, but they maneuvered music stands and used props to their advantage, and at times it almost seemed apropos to have the entire cast seated in chairs behind the action; there were so many witnesses, but at the same time, so few, due to the palpable silence in coming forward to defend Leo Frank.

The voices were the highlight, of course. My friend Avery performed excellently as Lucille, hitting some beautiful notes, along with the portrayers of Leo Frank and of Jim Conley, who had a particularly jazzy side to his voice that almost made the audience sympathetic to his struggle. The chorus worked together well in layering in sound; something especially difficult in a space that did not lend itself to a traditional theatrical production. They sounded downright liturgical at points, especially in the powerful moments leading into the final song, which was sung a cappella for several measures.

One point of curiosity which did not go unnoticed by myself or the cast was the usage of the Confederate flag. Avery told me that the cast, whose racial makeup ranged from white to African American to Asian American, all had different reactions to the object; seeing it, feeling it, giving it significance. I, however, feel that the usage of the Confederate flag in Parade, especially in the production’s “stripped-down” format, allowed the performers to exert control over a symbol which, in the past, has been used to control thousands of people, and for a time, an independent nation. The flag was not only used as a flag, but also as a picnic blanket, a shroud, a bed spread, and a dust rag, among many things. This allowed the audience to focus more on the object’s usage over its substance and meaning. Taking away the meaning of a symbol also strips it of its power, and when seen used to clean a floor, cover a corpse, or for the purposes of sitting and eating, it transforms the object to one of utility that happens to show a symbol rather than a beacon of hatred. The pride of the people of the South to work hard and transform themselves was evinced in this way.

The talk-back afterwards was similarly illuminating. Many cast members offered their own personal thoughts, especially in connection with their characters. Overall, it was a very spiritual experience, and a performance for which I am glad to have flown halfway across the country to see.

0

Georgia on My Mind

Morning morning morning from Atlanta, Georgia. I’m sitting at the airport waiting to board my flight in about 20 minutes or so, but I wanted to get in another post from the Peach State.

I woke up at 6 this morning to order my uber from Kennesaw to the airport. Avery and Janna were pretty much dead asleep in the living room, so I snuck out quietly. I did whisper a quick goodbye to Avery and heard a “bye” back, although it could have been Janna or the cat or a ghost or imagination. Anyway, I allowed myself 2 hours to get to the airport, and fortunately it took only 45 minutes, and getting through security took only about 25 minutes, so I was in the terminal before 8:00 for my 10:30 am flight. And after a delicious breakfast I’m at the gate. 

Yesterday was probably one of the most fun and uplifting experiences I’ve ever had. We got up at 10 am to catch a ride with Becca to the Temple in Atlanta for their final rehearsal. The Temple was built in 1867 and is the oldest synagogue in Georgia. It’s absolutely gorgeous, and the actual shooting location for Driving Miss Daisy. It was most definitely filled with the spirits of congregants past, including Leo and Lucille Frank, whose wedding photo is featured on the wall. I watched the first hour or two of rehearsal, then took a walk, came back, and sat in the dressing room finishing a paper until showtime. I sat with Avery’s friend Jennifer for the incredible 2 hour concert performance in the front row of a packed house. The performance deserves its own post so I’ll skip it for now. Afterwards, there was a talkback with the cast and director. One of the audience members revealed that she was friends with Lucille Frank as well as acquainted with Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, you know just like you do.

After the show we went back to the house with Avery’s friends Avery (yes, another Avery but a male Avery), Becca, and Janna to change and to Kroger to buy some drinks to take to the cast party.

The cast party was at the apartment of some of the cast members. It was fun to drink a little and pretend to be an undergrad for a little while with the cast. Everyone was so nice. The night ended with a little craziness, but we all got home safely at around 12:30 am, and I stayed up talking and jamming with Avery, Avery, and Janna for another two hours.

Here’s hoping I get back to Madison with enough time to get ready for class. It really was a perfect weekend getaway, and I hope to return in the spring. I am still in disbelief that I managed to pull it off almost flawlessly and enjoy the last bit of 60 degree weather I’ll experience until May. Avery and her friends are such warm and welcoming people, showing me true southern hospitality.

See y’all sooner rather than later. 

3

Hey, Minnesota

Well hello there, and greetings from Northfield, Minnesota, home of St. Olaf College and, more importantly, the APO Region IX Conference. Rather than stay home this weekend and grade papers or compete in ballroom, or go to ASTR in Portland, I am here with a fun bunch of brothers and pledges from around the region. They are all staying at a hotel, while I am snuggled up in a lovely, soft bed at a local AirBnb, which I am trying for the first time.

This morning I managed to get a little done. I probably have to redo at least half the PechaKucha, though. But other than that, I thought about grading, packed for the trip, and did some desperately-needed apartment cleaning, so that I could leave a clean apartment by 1 PM when I was set to head out to Northfield with Melissa and Joni from the chapter in tow. We managed to leave only about 5 minutes after 1, which is amazing for APO time, and other than stopping for Dunkin Donuts in Wisconsin Dells and me almost hitting a deer (but ultimately avoiding it…the key word there is “almost”) it was a pretty uneventful four and a half hours. It did take just about a whole tank of gas, so sometime tomorrow, I will need to fill up for the trip back on Sunday. We arrived at St. Olaf at 6 PM, and then…pretty much just waited for everyone else…the next group showed up at 8, with the others trickling in after. Around 9:30, all the brothers had arrived, so I said goodbye to the other advisors and drove Melissa and Joni to their hotel with the other brothers and made sure nobody was left behind or anything, and then I headed back to this place, and got here about an hour ago. Tomorrow, wake-up is 7 AM, so I can help shuttle brothers over from their hotel to the conference site.

So, how am I feeling right now? Honestly…still stressed. Very. I should be more tired, especially after driving for four and a half hours, but after learning that I probably have to redo half of my PechaKucha in addition to getting started on my lesson plans for this week’s classes and working on the mini-reports, it’s just looming over me like a monster hiding in the little closet in the corner of this bedroom, or a deer waiting in the dark only to jump in front of my car. I told myself I would get stuff done, and have a happy, fun time here, but I feel like I should probably sneak away from at least some of the conference tomorrow and get some kind of work done hiding in a corner somewhere. Probably not grading, but maybe doing a redo of some of the PechaKucha or research for lesson plans or something.

Okay, I just yawned twice, so that’s probably some kind of cue to get to sleep.

2

Charlottetown, Day 3: Green Gables and Graveyards

I can’t believe that tomorrow marks two full weeks since I experienced Charlottetown. I’m hopeless in my attempts to catch up on all my recollections, but here’s Day 3.

Wonder of wonders, I don’t set my alarm, yet wake up bright and early, actually on time for breakfast. Avery joins the group eventually, and we plan our day. Side note: one of the reasons Avery has come to Prince Edward Island, by car, all the way from Atlanta, is to find the graves of her great-great-great (and possibly great-great-great-great grandparents), who immigrated to PEI from Scotland in the 19th century. The night before, with a little bit of research on my laptop and one of the computers in the living room, we discover that not only is the cemetery where she believes that they’re buried indeed in existence and on PEI (St. Columba), but it’s also in the town of Marshfield, which is only twelve minutes outside of Charlottetown (even though PEI is Canada’s smallest province, it does take about seven hours to get across the island, and it very well could have been a day trip rather than an hour-trip). I suggested we get some crayons at an art shop and some drawing paper so that Avery could take home some rubbings of the gravestones for herself and her family, and she loved the idea. First, we found the cemetery, then we backtracked to Charlottetown for art supplies, and then returned. We saw a lot of McLeod/MacLeod (Avery’s ancestors’ names) gravestones, but were losing hope when none of the first names matched the information Avery had. Of course, the very last gravestone we looked at turned out to be that of John and Mary MacLeod, whose names and dates matched Avery’s records. Even though I had only met Avery less than 24 hours ago and I’m not related to her in any way, I too got emotional when we finally found the elaborate gravestone, which was a remarkably well-kept and beautiful white obelisk with not only their names but poetry. After a big, excited hug, we set to clearing away the few cobwebs, and set up crayons and paper for gravestone rubbings. I had peeled all the crayons in the car, so we were good to go. Even though the indentations in the obelisk were not especially deep, they were enough to make some good impressions on the paper after a few tries, and it was great fun to experiment with different colors and different parts of the gravestone; for example, a carved leaf at the top came our beautifully, but the poem ended up just being blobs. We made several copies of both names and dates in different colors, so Avery could keep a few and give some to her cousins and grandmother as souvenirs. After I left a few rocks at the gravestone, I took a short walk around the cemetery to let Avery have some alone time to communicate with her ancestors. After a few minutes, I came and gathered up our stuff while Avery wrote a letter to her ancestors and stuck it in a crevice in the gravestone.

After a snack break at Tim Hortons (they really are everywhere in Canada!) we returned to CBI to pick up Katherine, a Quebecer who was interested in joining us for the drive to Cavendish and Green Gables. She had gone to the beach with some other people, but that was fine because we met Leanne from Ontario, who had just checked in, and she hopped along for the ride.

The trip to Cavendish took about 35 minutes, and it was one of the most beautiful drives I’ve ever been on. Much like Iris and I imagined the pioneers hiking in Wyoming, I imagined Anne (well, Lucy Maud Montgomery, really) traveling along these idyllic island roads, which really were as red as her hair. Driving through PEI is like driving through a series of primary color paintings: red roads, blue skies, and yellow or green fields, with the occasional white house. Every turn provided us with a view of either a hill or a flat meadow.

We finally arrived in the town of Cavendish and at the Anne of Green Gables Visitor Center, and even though it was 11 dollars to get in, it was absolutely worth it. First, we explored a mock-up of Green Gables, laid out with rooms for Anne, Matthew, and Marilla, as well as other rooms as described in the novel.  Of course, “Anne” was there for photo ops, in character. We took turns sitting and taking pictures in the horse-drawn carriage, and visited exhibits about Lucy Maud Montgomery’s life there; she never actually lived at Green Gables proper – it was the home of her cousins – but many of the books were written on the property. We walked through the Lovers Lane Trail, which was, again, gorgeous around every corner, and not too overrun with tourists. We found an apple tree and helped ourselves. A Japanese family with selfie sticks (one of many) came up to us quizzically, and once we explained what we were doing, they tried the apples too. After we continued back down the trail, I looked back to see them collecting handfuls for later…heh.

Next, we took a walk through Haunted Woods to the actual location of Green Gables, across a street, stopping in a wheat field for another snack, and then saw the foundation of where Green Gables once was (the house we toured previously was a replica). At the small bookstore, we got to meet Jennie MacNeill, a lovely lady who was actually first cousin once removed to L. M. Montgomery. That was a treat. After visiting Lucy Maud’s grave, we headed back to the car to find out that we had spent three hours there, when they told us at the visitor’s center that it would be around one hour. No regrets though.

Before heading back to Charlottetown, we stopped at Cavendish Beach to walk along the red sand and feel the water on our toes, and then stopped to buy some groceries. By the time we got back to Charlottetown, I had to run to make it to the theatre, but I got there just in time to slide into my front-row seat to Bittergirl. More on that in another entry.

After the show, I came back to the hostel to eat the leftovers from dinner, which included Leanne’s salad and Yurie’s potatoes. I think that also might have been the night where Kaj and I went out for drinks at the Merchantman, which unlike the night before, was packed and loud.

Next up, Sunday-Wednesday in Charlottetown, then a brief Boston recap, and then…back to the random! I guess time does fly when you’re having fun, or at least it wises up and taps its cigar in the ashtray and goes, “Jacob, ya gotta live a little.”

A bientot!

0

That’s So ::splash::

It’s a hot and sunny afternoon here in Charlottetown, and since I left my notebook upstairs, I completely forgot what I was going to write about originally, but I guess that gives me the best excuse to write about the here and now.

I am sitting in the living room of the hostel. It’s much more different than the last one; the Montreal Central was more Holiday Inn and business, and this place, CBI, is a little more Regency Lodge and put-your-feet-up. Benefits to both, definitely, but this leather couch is so comfortable I’d have to say that CBI wins. Sitting on the couch next to me are Jade and Heloise, two lovely students from Quebec, who are quiet with an occasional giggle at the movie they’re watching on their tablet. The three of us have been hanging out a lot and have done a lot of fun activities together, like the lame factory tour and the fringe festival; more on that later.

After a morning of geocaching solo, I met up with the aforementioned Jade and Heloise for two hours of paddleboarding. For those of you who can’t imagine it, paddleboarding is standing on a surfboard while propelling yourself with a paddle; a cross-breed of rowing and surfing. Anyone can do it, all you need is some balance and arm strength, both of which I like to think I have, but apparently do not have enough of.

I started out on my knees, then after a few minutes got to a kneel, then a squat, and finally, my own two feet. I managed to paddle out of the maze of boats in the marina while standing for ten minutes, then had a lovely fall into the water. The first of many. To my credit, I did spend about half of the two hours standing and paddling (or at least standing and trying not to fall; about 1/4 of the time on my knees or bottom frantically paddling to keep up with the girls; and then spent the rest of the time falling in the water (about six times, overall, including onto some rocks) and yelling “I’m fine!”


It was a good exercise for the arms and legs, and I think I might have gotten a blister or two, but it’s not something I wouldn’t do again. Even though while I was out there, I was like “why would anyone want to do this?” by the time I got back, I felt like I was just getting my groove on.

And every time I fell, I got back up, even if it took a few minutes.

And now I know I can do it.

And I raised my paddle in victory and triumph.

And then I landed on my bottom on the dock while Jade was helping to pull me in.

2

It’s Fossil Butte NOT Butt

Well hello there, you’ve caught me in a respite between bouts of nighttime sneezing, so here’s the lowdown on all the exciting things that happened on Day 3 of Summer Odyssey 2015.

The theme of the day: exploration! We got up bright and early, and were out of the apartment by 9 AM for a day of fun. I think I nodded off in the car for some of the trip, but two hours later and we had crossed into Wyoming, the 41st state I can say I’ve been in. We stopped off in Evanston for gas, snacks, and a bathroom break, but it wasn’t long before we found ourselves (well, we arrived, we knew where we were going) at Fossil Butte National Monument outside Kemmerer, WY. On the way, I taught the group the “We Call It Butte NOT Butt” song, and even though someone was always singing it, it never became unfunny. That’s the best.

Unlike yesterday’s national park adventure, today we practically had the place to ourselves. The weather was gorgeous; not too hot or cold, bright sunshine, blue skies, and a cool breeze. Walking along to the visitors center is a railing which is also a giant timeline denoting when certain things appeared, like sponges and bacteria, and when certain landforms came to be. It wrapped around the whole visitor center and was very informative. Human beings were only a tiny red arrow at the end; makes you feel so, so small.

Even though the visitors center is pretty small, we spent about an hour there looking at fossil imprints of everything from plants to seeds to bugs to animals to…fossilized poop. That was a crowd favorite. As we watched, a park ranger carved a fossil out of stone right before our eyes. It was incredible – the real deal – an ichthyologist at work. Ramona actually came up with some seriously interesting questions for a 4-year-old; she wanted to know where on the body of the fish do they start etching, the head or the tail, and how do they know how big it will be? The ranger, Andy, told her (and us) that they always start at the head, when they find it. Based on how the fish is facing, they work down the body to the tail, and usually it just tapers down. Important to know, or else they just be chipping away at empty stone all day. We also learned that they have found fossilized fish with other fossilized fish in their mouths; a sign that the bigger fish probably choked to death.

And that’s why you always chew your food, kids.

After learning that valuable lesson, getting some souvenirs, and Junior Ranger badges for the girls, we headed to the trail for a picnic lunch. You just can’t beat cheese sandwiches in a gazebo looking out over the wilderness. Then, we headed off on our post-lunch hike. It was not as strenuous as the hike up to Timpanogos, but just like yesterday, Iris and I played trailblazer and sped ahead of Julie and Nathan who were corralling Ramona and hoping she’d want to walk more instead of riding on her dad’s shoulders in the heat. They caught up to us at the halfway point, and just as we headed out, Julie told us to look out for black bears. Somehow, this ended up becoming a giant story about evil teddy bears, and Iris and I went back and forth creating an entire movie treatment complete with sound effects as we hiked, and before we knew it, we were back at the car. The other three came back, reporting that Julie had gotten stung by a bee, and that they saw a big rattlesnake in the path (which we probably missed because we were lost in our own world) and headed back home. On the way, we saw a huge herd of pronghorn deer, plenty of cows, and not much else. Still, the “not much else” of Wyoming was more beautiful in color than most other places. As the earth-tones of Wyoming faded into the Utah green, it was hard to believe that we’d been sitting in a car for almost three hours each way. With so much to see and fun conversations going on in the car, it was almost like no time at all.

Back in town, I treated everyone to all-you-can-eat sushi, which might have been a huge mistake for the tummy but it was so, so good after a tough day of hiking. I polished off four rolls so quickly it was like they were not even there.

Tomorrow: my last full day in Utah 😦 other than the altitude headaches and the constant sneezing/nose bleeds I’ve been enduring, it’s just so beautiful and fun here. This time tomorrow night, I’ll be spending the night on an uncomfortable plane from Salt Lake City to Philadelphia, then to Baltimore for Leg 2.

Better press publish before my computer clock rolls over to tomorrow even though it’s only 10:55 PM here.

6

Wonderful, Wonderful Wisconsin: It’s an Old, Old, Old, Old World

Another day of doing mostly nothing, but I found some brochures from my trip to Old World Wisconsin while cleaning out my car the other day, and realized that I never got around to updating my post from last July about my fun but exhausting day there, so here we go!

Theme Song! (Click Play):

That’s So Jacob Presents:

Wonderful, Wonderful Wisconsin

Episode 5: It’s an Old, Old, Old, Old World (Old World Wisconsin, Eagle)

Last July, WeKache and I were bored on a Sunday, so we decided to have an adventure at a place I found on the Internet: Old World Wisconsin. So, I left Madison, swung to pick him up in Milwaukee, and off we went.

We had to do a little backtracking as Old World Wisconsin is in the town of Eagle. Eagle is a tiny, tiny town in the southeastern portion of Wisconsin (population: 1,950, according to Wikipedia) yet is home to one of the largest and most impressive living history exhibits that I’ve ever seen. Opened in 1976 by the Wisconsin Historical Society, Old World Wisconsin gives you an idea of what life was like in the 19th and early 20th century Wisconsin from the points of view of German settlers, Finnish settlers, and more. Getting there was a drive down country roads that almost got us hopelessly lost; there is not a lot of signage until you get very close.

Once there, you can’t see that much from the road. We drove down a long path to the parking lot, from which you can only see the visitors’ center, the cafe, and the bike shop. Once you go inside and pay admission, you get to pick up a souvenir tag with the name of a person on it, and at one of the homesteads, you get to do chores. The little kid in me was so excited.

The park is large but easily walkable, yet for the lazy and tired there is a shuttle bus that goes between the various homesteads that make up the park’s grounds. It was a nice day, so WeKache and I alternated between walking the wooded paths and taking the lazy bus.

We began at Crossroads Village, the Yankee Area. This was just a general “old world” area with universal things like a pharmacy/general store where you could see things that they sold there; a blacksmith shop and cobbler shop with live demonstrations; an old church; and a house where you could try using a washboard and clothesline to wash some clothes. WeKache and I had fun doing that. There was also a grease pole. We did not do that.

Next, at the Finnish Homestead, we came just in time for an ice cream making demonstration. We got to taste some; it was a little bland but good on a warm day. They had chickens running all around, and we took some funny pictures with farm tools. We also saw the Finnish home, and WeKache got a very interesting picture of me that he put in black and white. With the period-dressed farmer’s wife in the foreground and me looking at some objects on the table in the background, it looked like I had fallen into a time slip. No photoshop needed.

After walking to the Danish Homestead, we got to tour their home, which had some delicious looking food on the table. They had a water pump outside which we got to try, and a strawberry patch out back where we were allowed to pick and eat the tiny fruits.

The walk to the Norwegian Homestead was long, but that was probably the coolest one. They had this awesome one-room schoolhouse, with a real period-dressed schoolmaster talking about what school was like. We frolicked around the beautiful farmhouse, where I used an old hand-powered sewing machine that I was probably not supposed to use, but in my defense, it was all threaded and had fabric ready, and there were no signs saying not to use it. Whoops. I think that was also where we saw a lady cooking bacon over a fire, but that might have been at the German place.

Next was the largest one, the German Homestead. There was cows, pigs, chickens galore, and even a pie-eating contest. The cool chores thing was at one of the farms; WeKache and I tried our hands at sewing, grinding corn into flour, and chopping wood. The guy at the wood-chopping booth was helping the little kids do it, and even one of the adults too. I made it look easy; I’ve never chopped wood before, but I managed to get it in one quick slice. WeKache said I looked very manly doing it. He stepped up to try it and found out that it was harder than it looked. At least for him.

We backtracked to the Polish Homestead, which was just a house and some chickens, and then took the bus around to the African American Homestead. It was mostly just a cemetery (a real one, I think, although WeKache thought it looked fake) and an old church. I guess the African Americans didn’t have houses.

It was getting later and we were getting tired, so we caught the bus back to near the visitors’ center, where we went to the newly-opened bike shop. There, you could try riding an old-fashioned giant-wheeled bicycle around a curvy dirt track. I suck at riding bikes – I haven’t owned one since I was nine, and when I tried to ride a friend’s bike in college I couldn’t even keep myself up – but these were surprisingly easy and fun to maneuver, at least for me. The trick that the guide told us was to lean back, even though it seemed antithetical, but it actually worked. Once you did that, I guess your center of gravity changed. WeKache grew up in China, where riding bikes is basically a prerequisite for life, but he had a hard time getting the hang of it, even with me telling him “Lean back! Further! I promise you won’t fall!” I would love to ride one again one day.

Overall, Old World Wisconsin was really like a step back in time. Only at the bike shop, which was near the parking lot, did we see any type of 21st century life, and even though everyone there was dressed up in period costumes, I was the one that felt weird, wearing a t-shirt and jeans and taking pictures with my iPhone and WeKache’s SLR camera. The guides all really committed to their roles, and kept it very chill; they answered questions, but weren’t overly cheerful and did a good job of not reacting to cameras. It wasn’t flashy or Disney-esque at all; the buildings looked old, but well-kept, the animals were real and cute, and it was all a very low-key operation, just like a little village in the woods. Each area was completely separate, and completely unique (take that, World Showcase!) with different types of architecture, artifacts, plants, and animals. There were plenty of people there, but there were times that it was just the two of us, especially on the walking paths and at the smaller homesteads, and not a lot of people with screaming kids or babies. If you’re in Madison/Milwaukee, have time to spare, and want to have a fun, chill, and educational off-the-beaten-path experience, I’d definitely recommend Old World Wisconsin.

Come on, who doesn’t need a break from technology every now and then?

0

Halfway Point For Some

Today is my dad’s half-birthday.

Half-birthdays are weird; it’s kind of funny to think that tomorrow you will officially be closer to your next age than your current one.

Speaking of halfway points, this past weekend I headed to Milwaukee to pick up WeKache, then to Beaver Dam for the 2014 Cache and Release Challenge. For this event, 30 brand new caches were planted in Beaver Dam. 63 teams from all over Wisconsin showed up for a chance to find them and win prizes. We arrived only minutes before the event started; by the time we had our map ready, everyone had scattered. With WeKache driving, we found 15 of the 30 caches before 5 PM, not too bad.

Most were relatively easy, but we attempted two of the three puzzles and came through victorious, with help. We met up with a father/daughter team and combined clues which took us to an empty parking lot. We were about to give up when we see them drive up, letting us know that they had gotten some numbers wrong and gave us the correct info. We followed them to the real site (or what we thought was the real site) and searched fruitlessly for 15 minutes when a team all in purple showed up, heading in a different direction. We followed them, and the daughter spotted the cache. The second puzzle involved a cryptogram, which we cracked pretty easily. We spent about 15 minutes searching on our own, before seeing another group arrive and joining with them. The coordinates that the cryptogram led to were in the middle of some slippery rocks in a small grove of trees. I was leery of climbing them, but as soon as we walked up to the grove of trees about four other cars full of teams showed up and all of a sudden there were no less than twenty pairs of eyes looking. I was tired, so I hung back and watched while someone else found it and passed it around. My 1800th find was our 12th find of the day, a bottle attached to a plank of wood in the ground with a decoy cache nearby. Heh.

By 4:30, we were tired and thirsty, so we called it quits and headed to the cafe for the prize raffle. We had each received a raffle ticket for attending, then 1 ticket for every 5 caches (we got 3 each; the max was 6 for all 30, which 7 teams got!). Even though I lost my original ticket, one of the first tickets called was one of mine, then moments later, one belonging to WeKache…and then it happened again! 40 prizes were given out, as well as several cash prizes. All told, 4 of our 7 tickets were prize winners, so much so that the prize table staffers started calling me by name. WeKache let me pick all 4 prizes to share between us, so we ended up with a starter geocaching kit (which went to me), an orange ID badge holder (me again), a beer stein painted with a panoramic view of the pavilion at Swan Park, where we had been earlier (that went to him), and a cookbook set, 2 books (which I took) and a recipe card box (which he took). We spent the rest of the afternoon getting to know a married couple team from Devil’s Lake and a family team from West Bend.

All in all, it was exhausting but fun. I told WeKache that it felt like we were tokens/avatars in a giant board game with the town of Beaver Dam as our map, and he agreed.

Finally, speaking of halfway, I half (whoops, I mean have) several half-finished posts to complete, which I will link here when I’m finished. Off I go!