A Post Within A Post Within A Post

At the moment: I’m lying in bed at my hostel in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. The train had limited wi-fi, and I spent most of the trip asleep, so I couldn’t post what I wanted to post there from where I wanted to post it. So here’s the post-within-a-post:

Post-within-a-post: As I start this entry, I’m still technically in the province of Quebec. I think. It’s just after midnight, Eastern Time, on Thursday, August 6, and I’m on a train barreling toward Eastern Canada. I just spent way too long putting off writing down anything because I was busy with the all too important task of beating my too-smart-for-its-own-darn-good computer at Five-in-a-Row on the normal level.

Picking up from where I left off… (post-within-a-post-within-a-post)

Sunday (after ATHE ended): I decided to head out for some geocaching and exploring of various places. At my first geocache, I stopped for a moment only to see two other geocachers finding the same cache on the other side of the sign.

From there, I headed uphill to Mount Royal Park, walking up the inclined street that cuts through McGill University (Rue McGill, je pense pas?) and man, that incline is no joke. It was almost vertical. I can’t imagine climbing that every day. Anyway, Mount Royal Park is a pretty oasis of green in an already pretty city. For a park at the top of a hill, it sure has a lot of steps. Of course, I could have taken the serpentine path around the hill to the top, but it was then that I realized that I was not wearing the correct shoes for dirt-walking, so up the shortcut stairs it was. Even though it was a shortcut, my dogs were barking and I was drenched in sweat by the time I got up to the top. After an ill-fated geocache search halfway up, I made it to the top, and the view was not to be missed. Atop the mountain was a chalet with food, drinks, and (thankfully) water fountains and bathrooms, which I made use of before enjoying the fantastic view of the city and taking fun panorama pictures. The walk down was less eventful, although I did get a little turned around, as I wanted to exit on the northwest side of the park, on Rue Rachel Ouest, rather than walk down the same incline again. Eventually, I found the right exit, but I probably looked like a complete idiot, lugging a backpack with a computer in it past all the joggers and bikers.

Eventually, I ended up walking towards my intended goal: Fairmount Bagel. Before I got there, I stopped for a quick Starbucks on Park and Laurier, where I ordered almost entirely in French (go me!) and sat for about an hour. Only a block or two away was Fairmount Bagel, which was different than I thought it would be. I had heard so much about Montreal bagels, and had tried one on the culinary tour, but instead of a real restaurant, Fairmount was basically a food stand inside a storefront. The line was long, but not as long as the ice cream shop next door. Eventually, I got three bagels, a muesli, a multi-grain, and a pumpernickel, none of which lasted until I got to the Laurier metro station, which is deceptively far from Fairmount bagels.

Back at the hostel, I met up with my newly changed slate of roommates. Ariana had gone home and Colton and Andrea were planning to head back to Saskatchewan the next day. Three newbies showed up to occupy the remaining beds: in Neal’s bed (the one above mine) was Vernon, a student and mailman from Melbourne, Australia; in Ariana’s bed, Faith, a retail manager from London, and above her, some guy who was only there for that one night and barely said a word to any of us. I was a little hungry, so Vernon offered to go out for some food with me. I ended up having “salad in a jar” which was exactly as it sounded, and pretty tasty for what it’s worth.

Monday: my first non-conference day. It was strange not waking up and needing to immediately rush off somewhere, but I ended up getting dressed anyway to see Colton and Andrea off. Faith had been traveling across the USA and Canada for several weeks and was planning on leaving Montreal the same day as me, and as we were both new to the city, we agreed to spend Tuesday doing something fun together, as it was supposed to rain all day, and even though the sky was somewhat gray, there was barely any rain.

Around 11-ish I left the hotel and wandered down to Vieux Port, the old port of Montreal, walking through some of the same streets I’d seen on the culinary tour. Once at the port, I saw a zip line park and an indoor labyrinth. The indoor labyrinth sounded interesting, the line was not long, and it was only $18, so what the hey. It was kind of a schlocky thing where you got a card and had to find your way through different areas to find four different stations. It probably would have been more fun had it been a little harder, but it was still $18 well spent. They told me at the beginning that it would take 45-60 minutes to complete, and even though I was constantly lost, I ended up making it out in 27 minutes. So I felt smart for a little while there.

The sky got a little grayer, so I ducked into a café for lunch, after which I found some more geocaches and ended up in Montreal’s Chinatown. Even though there was an impressive arch, the area encompassed maybe two blocks. The stores had some beautiful mementos; fans, teacups, and Chinese-style shirts that I was so tempted to buy (prices ranged from $15-$25 for men’s shirts) but I knew I had very limited space, so I regrettably didn’t buy anything. I then looked for a street fair that was supposed to be happening, but I guess I must have missed it. Anyway, I went and had a pastry and iced cappuccino in Tim Hortons at Place des Artes before heading back to the hostel for nighttime activities.

Our hostel had a “sister hostel” (can hostels have sisters? Isn’t family a human construct? Can inanimate objects have relatives?) with a bar a few blocks down Sainte-Catherine AKA pink balloons street, so Faith, Vernon, and I headed over for the karaoke they offered on Monday nights. Once there, I felt like a real backpacker; the bar was teeming with hostel guests in their 20s. Faith introduced me to a friend of hers from Japan whom she’d met in a hostel in Vancouver a few weeks earlier. Before the night was through, I had met travelers from the USA (oddly, most were from Maryland), Canada, France, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. Faith and I beat Vernon and Brad, a Canadian, at a rapid-fire game of foosball, and I managed to get 2 karaoke songs in: my go-to tune (Stacie Orrico, “Stuck”) which is always fun to sing, and later Tina Turner’s “The Best,” which most of the bar sang along with, which was fun. Most of the song choices were completely tuneless rap songs, which was no fun, or this French girl who seemed to sing every ten minutes and chose mostly Amy Winehouse songs.

Tuesday: Up and at ‘em at…11-ish for a fun day with Faith. Vernon said goodbye as he was heading back to Australia, and of course, he left his coat behind, so guess who was a good friend and mailed it back to him the next day? (hint: it was me) We had originally planned to go to an archaeology museum, but the weather was so nice and sunny that we headed to St. Helen’s Island instead to see what was there.

St. Helen’s Island, or Ile Sainte-Helene, is a tiny island in the middle of the river with a surprising amount of attractions, and fortunately, we were only one metro stop away from it. Once there, I introduced Faith to geocaching, and we found her first four geocaches. She seemed to be really into it, which was cool of her. Our first stop was the Biosphere.

Built for Expo ’67, the Biosphere is a giant latticed dome that now hosts a science museum. It was honestly one of the best museums I have ever been to. The 360-degree opening show, about the environment, featured actual rain and snow falling on our heads. One of the most fascinating exhibits was the recycled fashion exhibit, one giant room full of mannequins dressed up in haute-couture outfits made completely of recycled materials. It was like being inside an episode of Project Runway. There was a dress made of melted-down plastic pill bottles, another made from aluminum cans, and tons more. One dress was made entirely out of car parts. I could’ve probably passed on seeing the dress made out of swept-up human hair, though. Ouch. The top floor had even more science exhibits and a great lookout point. I could go on and on about how fun much the Biosphere was but according to Microsoft Word, I’m on three pages single spaced so I better move ahead.

Next stop for me and Faith was Fort Stewart, a history museum on the other side of the island, less than a kilometer away. The building was beautiful, and there was a costumed soldier greeting us out front, which was promising. Even though the museum’s collection of artifacts was extensive, we agreed that the Biosphere was much better in layout and content. I have to say, though, that I have never seen so many maps in one place before. The collection of objects they had was truly impressive, from weapons to spice boxes to children’s toys from 15h-18th century Canada. They also had a great diorama of the city, with little videos you could watch featuring different sites in the town. The temporary exhibition was one about modern-day cinema and TV that was interesting, but seemed a little “out of place.”

After about 4 hours of sightseeing on Ile Sainte-Helene, it was definitely time for food, so Faith and I headed to the Underground City for sandwiches and a shared crepe. Overall, it was a pretty incredible day with beautiful weather.


So, at this point in my writing it was about 2:30 in the morning Eastern Time, so I decided to see if I could try and get some sleep. After a few false starts, I managed to fall asleep and woke up at around 11 AM Atlantic Time (10 AM Eastern Time), so I think I’ve gotten more uninterrupted sleep on this train than I have all of last week. I didn’t intend to sleep so long and miss so much of the scenery, but at least we only have an hour or so left until we get to Moncton. When I woke up, we were having a brief stop in Miramichi, which is in New Brunswick, apparently, and we just left Rogersville, a town so adorable and tiny that by the time I got my camera out to take pictures, as my phone is at capacity, we had passed it.

(Back to post-within-a-post-within-a-post)

That brings me to yesterday, Wednesday, which seems already like a long time ago. Nobody new moved into our room, so it was just me and Faith for the night in Room 16. It didn’t take too long to pack up, but we took our time and both checked out at 11 AM. We said our goodbyes and then headed off to enjoy our respective days; the hostel kindly allows guests to leave their bags in a luggage room if they have evening flights (or train rides, in my case). So, I set off in a different direction than normal, north, just to see where I would end up. Walking up one street led me to the Plateau-Mont-Royal neighborhood, which was a perfect spot to walk around and explore on this mostly sunny day. I say mostly sunny because in mid-afternoon, it was raining on every other block. And it was what I call “run-between-the-raindrops” rain, which might now have to be renamed “Montreal rain,” because it was so light and misty, and it kept stopping and starting. Honestly, it was refreshing to get a little cooler, even if it meant getting a little wet. I didn’t take a shower this morning (mistake) so at least I got a little rinse.

I found about 5 geocaches on my walk, including one of the weirdest ones I’ve ever found. It was called “Le Suppositoire Inn de Montreal,” which, if you couldn’t tell from the title, has something to do with suppositories. And sure enough, on the corner of Rue St. Denis and Rue, there was a large white sculpture which looked like an incredibly constipated person. The coordinates led right to his…um…posterieur…and there was indeed a hole, so…yeah. I stuck my head up the sculpture’s butt, then stuck my hand in to grab the geocache. And this was on a street corner, at about 1 in the afternoon, in broad daylight.

What is my life about?

At least it had a travel bug in it, a little navy blue elephant from Germany. I traded it for a gold Travel Ingot that I picked up awhile back in Eau Claire, WI, putting several hundred miles on that one. Then, across the street, I saw a sign on a door and I just had to go in.

Cat Café of Montreal.

So. There.

I wandered in, and it was exactly like it sounded: a café where people could eat and stuff, and eight cats just kind of hung out and slept and walked around you. And they had wifi. After putting on hand sanitizer and getting a menu, I set my bag down and explored. The cats were mostly sunning atop cat perches, on windowsills, or in baskets. The décor was not too silly; it actually looked like a regular café, except with a few more posters with quotes about cats than normal. Strangely, I was tempted to sit with a cat and watch some funny cat videos on YouTube, but for some reason, I just checked my email and got some reading done instead. As far as a drink, I wanted to get a “cat-puccino” but the waitress advised me to get a latte, because it was cheaper and she could draw a cat on the foam for me, which was tres jolie. After I finished my latte and petted all the cats (even getting a kiss from an adorable grey cat called Peace, which is a great name for a cat), I walked up the street and there was ANOTHER cat café. I ducked into a nearby vegetarian restaurant for a salad, and the woman there told me that the one I went to first was started by a husband and wife, and then when they separated, the other one opened the rival cat café, Coffee, Cats, and Happiness, just a few blocks away.

I don’t know about you, but I smell a musical about rival cat cafes and I think the world is just about ready.

After a few more geocaches up and down Rue Saint-Laurent, it was getting close to 4 PM so it was time to catch the Metro and head back. I must have walked in almost a complete circle, because the station where I ended up after my 5 hours of walking, Saint-Laurent, was exactly ONE stop away from my stop, Berri/UQAM, on the green line. After realizing that I had lost all the postcards I bought at some souvenir shop in Old Montreal for 50 cents each, I made a mad dash around Rue Sainte-Catherine to find somewhere with a few postcards to buy and send quickly. The first store I went to had postcards for a dollar, the next store had them cheaper but they looked like they’d been sitting there collecting dust for five years, so I ducked into a pharmacy and bought some dollar postcards and got in line at the post office inside Pharmaprix, the same one from where I sent Vernon’s jacket off to him in Australia earlier in the day, and hastily scribbled a message to Aunt Ruth and bought a stamp; barely made it by 4:55 PM. But at least it got done.

From there, it was off to pick up my bag from the hostel and head to the train station. I was pleasantly surprised to see Faith there, doing the same; she had done some sightseeing as well and her flight back home to London was leaving about two hours after my train, so we came back at literally the same time. After another hug goodbye, I gathered my bag and hit the road (well…the Metro) to le gare centrale (central train station) which was conveniently located at Bonaventure, the same station where the conference hotel was. I arrived and picked up my ticket at around 6 PM, and after getting a final muffin and iced cappuccino at Tim Hortons, I joined the incredibly long line near the end, but still managed to get a pretty good seat, and I’ve been camped out here pretty much ever since. The cars have two seats on one side and one on the other, and I was lucky enough to get a one-seat side, so I’m in Seat 11S.

(Back to post-within-a-post)

The ride has been pretty uneventful so far. I thought the train might have wifi, and it does, but it’s restricted to the car with the food stand, which is two cars back. Fortunately, I can walk in between them. I sat on the floor of that car for a while last night as the scenery faded to black, and got to know two girls going back home from Osheaga, Catherine from New Brunswick and Emma from Prince Edward Island, who assured me that I’d have a good time there. I don’t know anyone there, so I hope I do. I missed a lot of the morning scenery, but as I’ve been typing, we’ve being rolling through forests and marshland with interesting-looking green and yellow islands of reeds. The sky is beautiful and blue and I just want to get out and enjoy the sunshine. Fortunately, it’s 12:43 Atlantic Time, so that means we have maybe a half hour left go to until we arrive in Moncton.


Good night.


Geocaching Milestones: 1600-2000

Today, I scored my 2000th geocache. How weird is that? It seems like only yesterday I was back with Julie and co in Texas getting my 1000th. A lot has changed since then. But I guess I must be doing something right.

So here are my last 5 milestone caches:

1600: District 13 (Madison, WI)

A puzzle cache involving The Hunger Games. Led me to a Tupperware hidden behind a Willy Street Co-op. 

1700: Tardis: The Key to Time Travel (Madison, WI)

One of my all time favorites: a Tardis in the Verona woods.

1800: Water Tower View (Beaver Dam, WI)

This was an unremarkable cache as part of Cache and Release. WeKache was with me at least. 

1900: Castlevania (Madison, WI)

Another unremarkable micro but WeKache was also there. 

2000: LFT – Queen’s Landing (Chicago, IL)

Finally!!! A magnetic key holder along Chicago’s beautiful Lakefront Trail. A gorgeous day too. Of course, the minute I go to take a picture of myself with it, my phone died, so a nice lady nearby took one with her phone and texted it to me. 

Still in Chicago right now, having sashimi and pretending it’s sushi. 


How Geocaching Prepares You For Real Life

Some have said that my geocaching hobby is a pointless one, or at least one with no practical skills. (Sidenote: if you do not know what geocaching is, click here. And then come back and continue reading.) Today, however, it saved me a lot of grief.

As usual, I went to rehearsal, which was in the big theater today. The big theater, by the way, has a habit of eating my things. I can’t tell you how many things have come in there with me and have not come out. It’s like a vortex. Anyway, I put my stuff down, and after moving it around a few times while doing various things, I returned home, only to discover what the theater ate today…

My wallet.


Anyone who has ever lost a wallet knows the pain, not only of whatever money you had it or phone numbers, or emotional attachment, but replacing all the cards in it, from the difficult ones like the driver’s license and the credit/debit cards to the bus pass and the student ID, which are just additional, time-consuming trips to some office God-knows-where. Anyway, I noticed I didn’t have it the second I got home, so I ran back out into the cold, hoping that a) the building was still open and b) it was anywhere in the vicinity of where I was. Fortunately, it was open, and I was able to get back to the spot where I was sitting. I remembered it exactly, because the seat was number 10, a lucky number of mine, and one I look for often while geocaching. I looked high and low for about ten minutes, and when I was about to give up, I looked down into the space between the red plush seats 10 and 11, and wedged in a little gap between the leather-brown armrests, there it was.

A huge sigh of relief as I pulled it out, thanking my skills in looking for heavily camouflaged objects in the wild, or in Target parking lots. I was so happy that I even introduced myself nicely to a potential MFA student on a tour.

And even happier, six continents visited me again today: North America (Canada and USA), South America (Brazil and Argentina), Europe (UK, France, and Italy), Asia (Israel, Japan, Singapore and Philippines), Africa (South Africa) and Oceania (Australia).


The Last Night of Winter Break…

In approximately 14 hours, my first class of the semester will begin, thus commencing the first day of the semester, my fourth semester at UW-Madison, my eighth semester of graduate school, and my sixteenth semester of college.

Such nice square numbers.

WeKache came over at around 2 PM, and just left about thirty minutes ago, after a day of lunch (at Doolittle’s), geocaching (found my 1900th!), dinner (a la me) and a movie (The Grand Budapest Hotel; highly recommended). Now, my choices are:

A) Be a responsible adult and go to sleep.

B) Clean dinner dishes and apartment, then go to sleep.

C) Read the PowerPoint my professor sent out for tomorrow’s class, take notes, then go to sleep.

D) Read as much as I can for pleasure, because at my current rate, I will not finish my two current reads until May.

E) Start a load of laundry, then do all of the above in the time it takes to complete it, then go to sleep.

F) Computer games, Facebook, Buzzfeed, Music, sleep when it happens.

Decisions, decisions.

Oh, and yay for yet another six-continent day! North America: Canada, USA, Guatemala. South America: Brazil. Europe: Finland, UK, France, Germany, Poland, Czech Republic. Asia: Kuwait. Africa: The Gambia (first visitor ever, welcome, whoever you are!).

Wait…no Oceania. Darn it all.


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!


Wonderful, Wonderful Wisconsin: Czech Slovak Fest

Finally, almost a week after returning, I have a moment to compress and express my thoughts on the Czech Slovak Fest in an episode of…

That’s So Jacob Presents: Wonderful, Wonderful Wisconsin

Episode 4: Czech-Slovak Fest


Official proof I was there.

Official proof I was there.

One day this past semester, I mentioned to an APO friend, Liz, that I was part Slovak. I don’t know how the topic came up – I think we were talking about languages – and she mentioned Phillips and the Czech Slovak Fest happening in June.

My first thought: “Awesome! I wanna go!”

My second thought: “Wait. Where’s Phillips?”

I asked my mom’s friend, who lives in the central part of the state, about two hours away, where Phillips was, and she said that it was “a small town, somewhere north of us, I think.” I looked it up on the map, and little did I know, but it is four hours north of Madison. That’s a lot of driving for one day. My parents said that I could spent the night there if I got tired, but after looking up info on the town – population 343 – it didn’t seem like the most fun place to spend the night. Plus, through the three days of the festival, the only interesting things were happening on Saturday, so I set out relatively early in the morning to make the trek up to northern Wisconsin.

Usually I can shave some time off of my drive, but even I was worried when my GPS said I’d be in for four hours of driving, each way. There are two ways to get up there: taking the superhighway through Stevens Point/Wausau, or taking a more scenic route through the Dells and a few rural counties – Clark and Taylor – that I hadn’t been to. To my benefit, I loaded a few geocaches for each of those counties, plus Price (where Phillips is) in case I hit a dead zone.

I left a little later than I wanted and thought that I could make it at least halfway without stopping…but not so much. My eyes started drooping around Dells, so I pulled off for a Starbucks. This is the first time I’ve seen the Dells in the summer, and it was surprisingly crowded. Once armed with coffee, I hit the road again as the scenery got more and more rural. Surprisingly, outside of a small area near Necedah, I had great cell phone reception, even while stopped for a train in some little town I can’t remember. I don’t think I ever saw a sign for Clark County, but pretty soon I was in Taylor County, passing through the adorable town of Colby. In Medford, I made my first stop, to grab a nearby geocache so I could check Taylor County off my list; for some reason, I missed Clark. Oh well. When I saw the Price County sign, I knew I was getting close, and after four full hours, I arrived at Phillips High School and the festival.

My $2 entry fee got me a nifty button and a festival guide. They were selling Czech and Slovak treats in the cafeteria, but it was mostly pork and thereby uninteresting to me. I did, however, enjoy the display posters of Slovaks and Czechs in Wisconsin; I’m a sucker for posters.

As I was about to enter the gym, which held the craft fair, I saw my friend Liz, dressed in a traditional kroj, along with her mom. I got a cute picture with her, but unfortunately, I had missed her pageant performance. Those events had happened in the morning. Whoops. At least I got to enjoy the craft fair in the gym.

There were a surprising number of actual Czech and Slovak souvenirs in the craft fair. I was hoping to practice my Slovak, and I managed to overhear two ladies speaking it at one of the booths, so I greeted them in Slovak to their surprise. We had a short conversation in Slovak before switching over to English. I told them my story and they told me theirs. Before I left to see the other exhibits, one of the ladies pressed something into my hand, “here, take it. For being such a good Slovak speaker.”

I looked down, and it was Horalky, a delicious chocolate wafer cookie treat. YUM.

After that, I poked around some more, and went into the auditorium to watch some performers. It wasn’t too impressive, but the girl in the kroj playing the tuba wasn’t too bad; I’m just not too into tuba, so I left, to find the library. In the library, they had all these computers with Ancestry.com databases loaded up on them, and though it took awhile, I managed to find some really interesting stuff, including several census records with my family, and the names of my great-great-grandparents, Israel and Annie. I got ahold of my mom and dad later, who told me that they didn’t know his name, but they thought that her name was Bluma. However, people had English and Hebrew names at that time, so it’s very possible that Annie was her English name. I also found my great-grandfather’s army draft card. According to the physical description on the card, we looked a lot alike!

The school-part of the festival ended, so I gassed up the car, got a Subway sandwich (for a town of 343, the fact that they had a Subway is pretty impressive) and found a geocache, before heading to the VFW Post for some beer tasting and chatting with other townsfolk. I had a really nice conversation in Slovak and English with Ivan and Linda, a couple visiting from Neenah, about our trips to Slovakia, the things we saw, and the foods we ate. There was a polka band playing, and some older couples were dancing. It was cute. However, it was getting late, and I wanted to hit the road before dark, so I left after 7 hours of fun.

Coming back, I decided to take the highway route to see something different. I’m glad I did; even the highway wasn’t as well lit as I thought it was, and I couldn’t imagine how dark the countryside must have been. I stopped in Stevens Point for some food, and arrived home at about 1:00 in the morning.

In conclusion, though I didn’t have that many expectations for the festival, I think that it was probably worth the trip, just to see something different. I was hoping to speak more Slovak, but the fact that I spoke any was a bonus. It was a good excuse to get out of town for the day, even if my legs were exhausted for two whole days.


Welcome to the Dead Zone

So here I am, jollily making my way through several new counties (Ozaukee, Sheboygan, and Washington, to be precise), and racking up geocaches (admittedly, fewer than I would have wanted; I left too late and spent too long looking for a few). Most of the time, I have no problems with the geocaching app on my phone, or my phone in general.

Driving home, however, something happened around Horicon that I noticed on the way over, too.

I had entered…The Dead Zone.


A dead zone is an area where even though calls and texts may go through and the maps function may still work, other apps requiring GPS/network (Facebook, Email, Weather, Safari, Geocaching) are completely unusable.

And that sucks.

Since I’ve had a cell phone, I don’t recall ever being in an area without any service. On the East Coast, you’re never far from a large city, and in Texas, there are so many people and cell phone towers that even in nowheresvilles like Schulenberg and Flatonia, service is usually pretty top-notch. This is not the case, however, here in Wisconsin.


I first noticed it when I went to Perrot State Park. I can’t remember when I lost it, but I went through entire counties with no service at all. I got it sporadically across the border in Minnesota, but once we reentered Wisconsin, nothing until La Crosse. I didn’t stop in Horicon, but I checked online and there are plenty of geocaches in all of those places, and I wonder how people get to them without bars. I have AT&T; it’s quite possible that U.S. Cellular and Verizon are better, but probably not by much. Still…do geocachers in those places still do old-school geocaching with GPS units and packets of paper? Or is there something I’m missing?

Further research through att.com resulted in this lovely map:



Above is the map of Wisconsin. You can see that there is, indeed, a humongous dead zone that stretches across the southwestern part of the state and into Iowa and Minnesota. That’s a lot of dead air space; several counties’ worth. Oddly, even when I zoomed in on Horicon, there was no dead zone.

Call me a First-World-er, but being somewhere without cell phone service is scary. Suppose your car were to break down or veer off the road outside Richland Center or Prairie du Chien; how would you get help? Would you wait for someone to come find you? Would you hitchhike somewhere? Would you just walk somewhere? There are good reasons for being without cell phone service; if you’re camping, for instance, in a national park or something and want to be left alone, or if you’re with other people, but to be alone, in an unfamiliar place, without cell phone service is kind of freaky.

The 21st century may have crippled society, but cell phone service is a crutch that could potentially be life-saving.

I promise I’ll have a real entry about something relevant and not superficial tomorrow.

I hope.


Geocaching Milestones: #1100-#1500

After having no luck yesterday, I found my 1500th geocache at 2:57 this afternoon.

The last time I posted a geocaching milestones post was when I found my 1400th last year; now, I conclude this series with the stories of my five most recent milestones.

#1100: Who Needs Labels? (Katy, Texas)

This cache was on a hot and sunny day in Katy. It was a little hard to find, because it was near some train tracks, but it had a lot of favorite points. I felt stupid when I found it; it was an ammo box painted white and attached to something. I wore a tan shirt that day.

#1200: Sunset in the Far East (Houston, Texas)

This cache was decently sized and despite the name it was in the western part of Houston. It was at a dead end under some rocks, and ironically, I found it just after sunset in my gray Bookcrossing shirt.

#1300: I’d rather do the Texas Alphabet Chili Challenge (Shenandoah, Texas)

I hadn’t explored the wealth of caches in the northern suburbs of Houston, and so I decided to head to The Woodlands and Shenandoah that day. This challenge required a geocacher to have found a cache for every letter of the alphabet, somewhere in Texas. With over 500 Texas caches at this point, it was pretty simple to make a list. I saw a big turtle near the cache, which was a pot in a patch of woods next to a parking lot, about 100 feet from the car. I found it in my green Edward Gorey t-shirt.

#1400: the Secret Garden (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma)

The journey to this cache was stressful. It was during the move from Houston to Madison, and I knew I was coming up on this number. I didn’t want my 1400th to just be a pill bottle or a skirt lifter; I wanted a real cache, and the morning we left Oklahoma City, I had 7 to go. We visited the Oklahoma City memorial, where I scored 3 virtuals, and nearby was a large hospital complex with 4 physical caches on its grounds. My dad was more interested in getting on the road, so he gave me 30 minutes to find the caches. I booked it through parking lots and grassy knolls, and as luck would have it, the first three were spot on. The last one was a nail-biter; I had only 5-10 minutes left and I was searching all through this little garden. Finally, I spotted it sitting in a small tree. I can’t remember what I was wearing, but I was very sweaty.

#1500 : District 13 (Madison, Wisconsin)

I really wanted my 1500th cache to be extra special. District 13, a mystery cache, was my initial choice. But then, I realized that I was at 1,494 and was going to Perrot State Park and potentially Minnesota the next day, so I could only find a maximum of five caches on that trip. I didn’t end up finding any, which was a bummer, but the next day, I just picked up where I left off. I looked for a few easy caches around town and found five out of seven of them, then headed to the coordinates I got after I solved the District 13 puzzle. Though it was a pain to find parking, the cache was an easy-to-find tupperware container hidden near a grocery store. As I took my victory picture, I realized that I was wearing my Virgin Records t-shirt – the exact same one I wore when I found my 100th cache. That’s either a very bad thing or a very good thing.


Finish This…

Wow, a daytime post! It’s been weird the past few days, I’ve woken up between 7-8 AM for no reason.

So, I was cruising through my Reader and noticed a writing challenge set up by a person I follow named Nicole. She set up a weekly writing challenge of finishing sentences based on prompts. I’m not sure about doing this every week, but I’m always up for a challenge and maybe it’ll inspire a future post, so here we go:

1. If I could make anything grow on trees, it would be…okay, I’ll admit it, my first answer was money, but come on, that was yours too. Hmm…what do I need that could conceivably grow on a tree? This is kind of out there, but suppose you could plant an odd sock in the ground and it would sprout even pairs of socks? That could be useful – I always seem to be running out of socks.

2. I can’t stop smiling…when someone says something nice to me. I’ve been subject to so many hurtful statements about me said to me to my face throughout my life (my personality, my habits, etc.) so receiving praise makes me smile. Especially after I’ve performed in a show or delivered a presentation in class/at a conference. Unexpected praise or just a general nice greeting, comment, or interested question work as well; I’m not a tough customer. I also find myself smiling when I’m in the department. Mostly it’s out of nervousness, but sometimes I just don’t want to be that person who makes everybody angry just by walking into a room; quite the opposite.

3. I get back to nature by…geocaching, duh. In my high school days when caches were not so plentiful, I remember days doing several hours of hiking through the woods to get one geocache, if we were lucky. Nowadays, give me a moderately tough or creative urban/suburban cache that doesn’t involve as much woods over a bushwhack/long hike any day. Easy-medium caches hidden at places with awesome scenic views are the best; WalMart parking lot light poles and guardrails get tiring after a little while. Some light hiking is good, but not like that time where I almost lost it in Baytown, or that time in Katy where I stupidly went caching by the side of a gravel road in triple-digit heat.

4. I dread washing…dishes. That was easy. My way of washing dishes involves letting them soak and then scrub (ugh, hate that word) clean in an “I-need-to-clean-all-the-things” frenzy. Dishwashers are useful for this purpose, even though my mom says that they’re basically just sterilizers and you need to clean them thoroughly before putting them in. The thing I dislike about the dishwasher is unloading it, especially in my current apartment where the cupboards are about one inch too high for me to reach unless I stand on my tiptoes, which I usually do, hoping I won’t cause an avalanche of dishes on my head. In fact, when I hosted those three swing dancers from Minnesota in my apartment, one of them happened to be unusually tall, and quite easily put my washed dishes away for me, which was one of the best hosting gifts I’ve gotten, ever.

So there you have it, my first Finish This. The challenge requires you to comment on three others’ lists, so I’ll be doing that now. But not before a ironic gif.