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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:

cellmap

 

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.

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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.

4

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.

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Wonderful, Wonderful Wisconsin – Episode 1: Green Bay For a Day

Today was Sunday and since I didn’t have anything planned other than shopping and maybe homework, I thought I’d have an adventure.

So I went to Green Bay for the day.

It was pretty uneventful, but at least I got to see more of Fond du Lac County, and three other counties (Winnebago, Outagamie, and Brown) for the first time.

My first stop was Fond du Lac, mostly because I needed gas. But then I looked at the geocaching app and there were SO MANY caches in the area I had to at least pick up a few. My next stop was in Green Bay itself. I drove around the downtown area. It seemed like a small town. I saw Lake Michigan from the road. I called my dad, who was shocked to hear about where I was, and told me that the Packers were in San Francisco, so no game today. Also, it was a Sunday, so things were quiet anyway.

I found Lambeau Field, home of the Packers, and it was basically empty, so I drove right into the parking lot. I walked around taking a few pictures of things to prove I was there, and then found a geocache before heading home.

Next, I hit up Appleton to get a find in Outagamie County. All I saw of Appleton were suburbs, unless it’s just a city of suburbs, in which case, I saw everything. I had a croissant and iced coffee at THE Appleton Starbucks (okay, I think there were about four in the town) and spent too long reading there, and then looking for a place to get a quick bite as it was getting dark.

Having found none, I headed off to Oshkosh to get a find in Winnebago County. It was sunset, and I also wanted to hit up Target, so I found the Oshkosh Target right off the highway. I went in, realizing that a) I desperately needed the bathroom, b) I wasn’t quite sure what I needed, c) if I was going to look for a cache, I didn’t want a car full of stuff, and d) it was getting really, really dark. So I skipped out of Target after only using their bathroom, and looked on my phone for a close, easy geocache to round out the day. I found one in someone’s front yard, but it was a lock box and I looked awfully suspicious trying desperately to open the lock with my iPhone as a flashlight, in an unfamiliar neighborhood, in an unfamiliar city, after dark, and after a few tries went back to the car. I pointed myself towards the next nearest one, and it turned out to be a pretty standard micro in a very well-lit location (outside a rather quiet bar), which is what I wanted all along.

Then, of course my annoying GPS tells me to take a smaller road back to the highway, so I drive through some backwater Winnebago County for awhile, in the pitch-black, super scared. When I’m back on the highway, I get a phone call from a friend, and then my dad, which got me back to Madison, to the Super Target in Verona, actually, only to find out that it closed an hour ago. Damn. But the Metcalfe’s is open all night, so I went there instead and bought expensive groceries and still didn’t get home until 1 in the morning.

All in all, not the worst. I completed my mission of having finds in 3 new counties, and I even found a total of 10 caches, which was nice. Hopefully my schedule will allow me to do more adventures and see more of wonderful, wonderful Wisconsin.

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Geocaching Milestones: #600-#1000

Good morning from Omaha, Nebraska, where we’ve been for a couple days and hopefully only an hour or two more. Actually, it’s not so horrible here – the hotel I picked turned out to be pretty awesome, if not for the many guests under the age of 3. Omaha is pretty and full of hills, a welcome change from the flatness of Kansas and Missouri. 

I found my 1400th geocache a few days ago in Oklahoma City, so I thought I’d share some more geocaching adventures.

#600 Henry Woodfin Grady (Houston, Texas)

This one was pill bottle not far from my apartment. I remember having to rush to school afterwards so I just got a quick pic and left.

#700 Bellaire Nite Owl (Houston, Texas)

This one was a large protein powder container hidden in a tree in Bellaire. Again, nothing too out of the ordinary here.

#800 The Last Bodiddle! (Humble, Texas)

I hadn’t ever gotten any caches in Humble, a northern suburb of Houston, so I went to grab some, including this one. It was a nano on the grounds of an old high school. Not a fantastic hide, but it served its purpose.

#900 Sesquicentennial Summer (Austin, Texas)

This was probably one of the most memorable milestones. I had about 15 to go, and I went to Austin that day for an ill-fated research trip. All was going well for the first 10 or so caches, but then the skies opened up and it started to pour. The last few caches involved me running through the raindrops and probably angering people with my frantic cache-to-cache driving. Though the rain had just let up when I found my 900th cache, a tupperware outside of the Texas School for the Deaf, it was still pretty dreary. The sun came out somewhere on the ride home. I posted on Facebook something like “cold, wet, miserable, but I found my 900th cache.”

#1000 Landman Lounge (Columbus, Texas)

Turning into the big four digits was something that I wanted to share with friends, and it couldn’t have happened at a better time. One of my good friends, Julie, is based in Arlington, TX, but comes from Columbus, about 45 minutes outside of Houston. She was visiting her parents that weekend with her husband and kids, and as a new geocacher, she invited me to spend the day with her geocaching. I had a job fair in Katy to go to that morning, so I picked up about 10 or so there before heading out to Columbus, where this was the first cache we found together along with her daughter and brother. I actually got the pleasure of finding it, which was even better. Even though it was just a magnet attached to a fence post, it was in a pretty garden and the fact that I was with friends made it a sweet victory.

Back to the hotel room to finish packing up I go – next stop, Iowa, then on Monday, Wisconsin.

2

Geocaching Milestones: #100-#500

Today was one of those days where the skies played hide-and-seek. After finding eight geocaches in the morning, I took a break for lunch, and by the time I came out of the Starbucks, it decided to monsoon. I managed to find four as the rain got progressively worse. Then, I had no cohice but to head home. Just as it was letting up, I decided to pull over to get a quick P&G and of course, the moment I open the door, the monsoon decides to return. At least I got twelve.

Nothing much else happened today, so I’ll share some stories of geocaching milestones I’ve gotten.

#100: BROKEN AND HOLEY, Ma & Pa Trail, Baltimore County, Maryland

The owners of this cache made it Premium Only so I can’t read my log, which I’m sure was completely off-the-wall. I was with my dad and some other geocachers, and we kept running into others as we walked along the trail finding geocaches. It was a huge pretzel container that was standard size back then but would be ENORMOUS by today’s geocaching standards. I got my dad to take a picture of me with it, sitting on a log in my Virgin Orlando T-shirt, scrubs, and green Israeli Army hat (that disappeared, unfortunately, along the years). Joining the Century Club (100 caches) was probably something big back then (maybe I got a certificate from MGS?), but when CCCooperAgency said that after 500, the charm would wear off, she was right.

#200: Woods of Woodholme, Baltimore, Maryland

This one, hidden by my friends not far from my house, was my 200th find. I found it the day after we got back from the Chicago trip (where I’d hoped to have gotten #200 but was just one short) and it was just a tupperware. I was wearing my red Chicago shirt that I’d just gotten a few days earlier.

#300: Meltdown 2004, Columbia, Maryland.

This was a tupperware under a rock in Columbia. All I remember was that I was with my dad, it was winter, and I was in my big black coat.

#400: DARWINIAN DAYDREAMS, Baltimore, Maryland.

I don’t remember this one at all. I was probably with my dad, and the picture shows it was a pill bottle and I was wearing a brown shirt.

#500: Spice Market, Kansas City, Missouri.

This was a nano cache in downtown Kansas City, and one of the last caches from that trip, which we found a few hours before getting on the plane. It was a button attached to a sign at this deserted market with a big water wheel where I bought a T-shirt. Unfortunately, I have no pictures of myself at this cache, thanks to what happened to my camera on that trip.

0

Today

Was hoping that I could actually get it together today and post something before midnight, but I have to say that I had a pretty productive day today, otherwise, so I’m not perfect. It actually started pretty early as I woke up at 7:45 AM and ended up being relatively busy, with exercising, gym, geocaching, social interactions, all built in. And – check it – there was one thing today I wasn’t late for. Success.

I have a lot of nervousness settling in for no good reason. For some reason, while driving my car today, I kept feeling like I was being watched – maybe by God, maybe by a distant police scanner – I don’t know.

What I do know:

  • Get stuff done for BLT
  • Talk to YF
  • Start reading some plays
  • Start reading some more stuff
  • Take out the recycling
  • Clean up the apartment
  • Go to the post office
  • Generally stop being useless, even though I’m actually not so useless these days
  • Check in with J in a few days to see what’s up
  • Get some more ideas about blog posts
  • Finish some recaps
  • Write about my trips to Chicago and KC
  • Write about more geocache adventures

Aaaannndddd…that’ll probably last me for the rest of the year. I’m such a lost cause. But at least I got it all written down today.

Oh, and I watched the second episode of Siberia tonight, and most of what happened, I predicted! I am loving this show.