Friday, April 22, 2016

Hyperspeed PB&J in NYC, CLT USNWC, and Stint at Home

I had a layover in Newark on my way home, so I visited my sister for a couple of hours.


1. Cooked dinner (shrimp scampi over zucchini noodles)

2. Grabbed a geocache in Harlem

3. Shared a bottle of beer while watching Destinations on Netflix (a show about 2 guys who took a year off to travel the world.  It's interesting to hear about others' approach to traveling.  One guy embraced culture, tried to learn the language a bit, and he was trying to help this other guy, who was the opposite, to see the light)
4. Went to Times Square to catch the Midnight Moment, where they synch up several of the monitors to show something special and interactive.  This one was about a jungle, with inverted colors, so you had to look at it through your phone to change it back to normal colors.  It was pretty cool.  Also browsed/shopped at the M&M store, Disney Store, and Sanrio store.

 (we're suckers for cute things and for Disney)

5. Slept for a couple of hours

Sunday, April 17
I landed in Charlotte, where I went to the USNWC for SUP, rafting, and a 6.2 mi run.

The 40 min SUP session was relaxing and fun.  Rafting was better than I expected.  We got to do the loop a few times, which was more than I expected.  I did 6.2 in 10:20 average on the trail, a green one.  In the evening, it was beautiful there.  A section had something that looked like blue bonnet flowers, although they grew down from trees.  Different sections of the trail had different moods.  After 10 days in the metropolis of Tokyo, going back and forth from the tiny hotel room to the office, it was good to be back out in nature again.

That week, my parents visited, and we got to go to an advanced screening of the Huntsman: Winter's War, which exceeded my expectations and was great.  I will buy the DVD when it comes out.  I recommend it.

 Friday, April 22
7.6 in 1:05:33, 8:33 average.  Run at the park before my flight.  Relaxing to be outside again.  I did a Zombies run.  It was good for me to get a bit of speed in.  I can feel that my fitness has declined.  I haven't been too concerned, since I'm not really training for any goal races.  And it's good for the body to have periods of rest.  The run was long and was hard towards the end.  It felt good afterwards, though, and makes you wish you could do it every day.  My lungs feel so much more flexible afterwards.

Jeally Bear in Japan

My sister and I have long had thing thing about bears.  She made up a human stick-figure character called Pooky-a when she was little.  I started calling her Pooky Bear at some point, maybe in HS.  Pooky Bear became Poo, which sometimes becomes Poop because it's funny.  And I found a Paddington Bear mini stuffed animal with a suitcase that said "P.B." on it at Heathrow Airport.  I bought it for her, but like a couple other stuffed animals that I've bought for her in my life, I ended up keeping it, and it travels with me now.  So she became Paddington Bear, as well.  And then we made a foil character to Paddington Bear, who's lucky and gets to travel everywhere.  That foil character's name is Jeally Bear.  PB & Jeally.  You're Jeally Bear when you end up in some undesireable position. 

Anyway, I was off to Japan again.  I call it Jeally Bear just because this was a tougher, lower-energy trip, and not much exercise has been happening.

On the bright side, I did see a stunning Mt. Fuji at a worksite that I visited.  It was far away, but it's huge, so it still looked huge.  One day, I hope, I'll get to climb it.

 (You can barely see the snow-capped triangle top of Mt. Fuji in this picture.  The peak is just a little bit higher than the peaks of the dark mountains in the foreground.  I got to see it much better late in the afternoon, but I regretfully didn't get my phone to take a picture then.)

Thursday, April 7:
Did a 50 min strength session in the hotel room.  Hotel rooms are very small in Japan.

On one night (don't remember which), we visited Roppongi, which is supposed to have lots of restaurants and ex-pats, since it's close to a military base.  Maybe.  But I did see Tokyo Tower, which was cool.

Saturday, April 9:
Went to the Imperial Palace again for a catch-up run.  My hotel this time was farther away, so I took a metro there, then ran 4 laps plus a bit.  It would've been nice to metro back, but I walked instead, to not offend the pristine metro-goers.  My knee had been a bit wonky right before the last 3-mi lap, but I ended up going for it, anyway.  The cherry blossoms were out in full force, so I'm fortunate to be here this time of year.

Did some geocaching afterwards, in the "electric city" Akihabara, which used to sell a bunch of electronics, back when it wasn't so easy just to go online to get them.  Now, they sell a bunch of Manga and teen toys.  It was a place full of loud sounds and bright colors.

The caching was cool... I found the biggest ammo can that I've encountered, in a residential area that I hiked to (through the urban jungle).  There were probably about 20 different trackables in there!  You have to be an appealing one, to get picked up!  I picked up three.

I also got a Letterbox Hybrid Geocache, which I really wanted to get for my stamp book.

It was at an out-of-the-way shrine that was a cool surprise, where I got to take some pics with my new traveling companions.

(only the 3rd geocoin that I've encountered out in the wild)

 The next day, I was pooped... after church, I just stayed in, maybe took a nap, and did my taxes.

Saturday, Apr 16:
Another strength session in the hotel room.  Didn't have the energy to go out for a run.

So... looking back, maybe it was a decent trip overall.  Got stuff done at work, got to see Mt. Fuji, had some good geocaching.


Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Going Geo-crazy

This was an epic week of geocaching, and a not-at-all big of running.

The day after the New South Half Marathon, I was still super-tired and super-unmotivated to get out at all.  Recovering, I suppose.

I didn't exercise again until Thursday, when I did a 55 min strength session at 5am.  Strength sessions are great for loosening my body back up, and getting it ready for safe running.  Since the race had been so hard, this did its magic, as usual.


<<< Warning- spoilers! >>>

That night, I had to do something for work after 10pm but before 5am, and I wanted to be at the office for that, so I had some time to kill in the evening.  I decided to go for the Cowpens Geotrail.  A geotrail is a series of geocaches put out by a group, with a certain theme, and sometimes, a prize (like a geocoin).  To prove that you've visited, you sign your logs, as usual, but they also have a code or stamp or sticker at each geocache, which you record in a printable "passport", which you turn in at the end.  The summer days mean more daylight, so I figured I would get in as much as I could this day, and finish another day. 

Cowpens is a city at a historic site - the site of Battle of Cowpens from the Revolutionary War, which was a turning point when the Patriots had a surprise victory over the Red Coats.  The geotrail took me to various parts of the town, so it was a nice tour plus geocaching.

(As usual, geocaching takes you to surprising places that you never knew about, whether it's in your home town, or in a city that you're visiting, with a place that guide books wouldn't necessarily show.  There are places of significance all around.  You learn cool things about these places through the cache descriptions on the app or geocaching website, like at this cool mural.)

(One fun cache was this "Window Shopping" one, where you found clues to obtain various pieces of coordinates, based on pictures on the cache page.  I made 2 mistakes during the hunt, getting wrong numbers twice.  Thanks to Google maps satellite view, I could tell that I had made some kind of mistake, and re-checked my work a couple of times to figure out where I went wrong.)

(Caches that are not straightforward grabs are fun, too.)

(Drive-through caching)

(Surprise in a surprise in a surprise.)

To finish the Cowpens geo-trail, you had to find 12/16 of the caches.  I was able to finish the last couple a little after the sun set - not bad for an after-work evening!

While I was caching here, I found some geocaching trading cards from an event from last year.  Yes, geocaching trading cards.  There's a big event with more than 1,000 attendees in Georgia, and last year, participants got to create their personal trading card with their geocaching stats.  Some of these cards were put out by organizations, and one of them was for another geo-trail in Spartanburg county... an adventure for another day!

FTF #2

There are so many elements of geocaching that are fun:
- Trackables (items that you or others own, with serial#s, whose path from cache-to-cache around the world you can track, and help along various owner-designated missions)
- Signature Items (items that you make or have companies make, that you can trade/leave for others, with or without your geocaching handle... a personal way to interact with fellow cachers, and a way to be artsy)
- SWAG (trading small items/toys/mementos, in the caches)
- The "hunt" aspect (like an Easter egg hunt for people of all ages)
- Gadget Caches (figure out how to open up a cache, which has some kind of clever locking mechanism that may require you to do a series of things to the container, or use some kind of tool-of-the-trade)
- Earth Caches for nature lovers who want to learn about geological features, Puzzle Caches for people who like to solve some kind of puzzle to figure out coordinates, it goes on and on...
- FTF is a contest within a game, where people race to have the honors of being the first-to-find a cache after it's initially published.  Premium members who pay $10/month have an advantage of being able to set up queries and alerts when new caches around them are published.  I'm a basic free member, so my only hope of finding these is randomly scrolling through the pages of caches around me, seeing if I can happen to come across a newly published cache.

On Friday evening, I was looking, and I saw one!  It was a puzzle cache, published the day before.  The puzzle caches can sometimes be super enigmatic, like crazy that they could contain any type of clue, but it was worth a shot.  To up the ante, the cache owner had added a prize in the cache, for whoever found it... a trackable FTF item. 

The cache had a picture of a house, with a sign in front of it with some coded words.  Once you decoded this, you had three odd words.  I had to figure out what to do with those three random words, to turn them into coordinates.  I puzzled and puzzled, so eager to figure it out... then, I did!

I threw on some random clothes, not caring that they didn't match, and went out to the cache location.  My heart was pounding so hard as I drove.  I got there and there it was!  With the prize!  So excited.  I couldn't stop smiling.


After this, I got in a run - my only for the week.  It was 4.0 in 32:34, 8:09 average, at 2 degrees of incline.  My upper tummy was in a ton of pain during this run, for some odd reason.  It wasn't immediately after I ate.  Not sure what it was, but it made me feel like I was sweating from bearing the pain, more than I was from the run itself, and I was groaning with each step.  I counted down the last mile in 0.01 mi increments.  Oh well, best not to over-do running when my body was still recovering from last weekend's half, anyway. 


I decided to go for the Pacolet Geotrail that I had found out about through the Going Caching trading cards, the next weekend. 

It was a ways away, in a small town nestled by a river.  This is the best Geotrail I've done, in the three that I've done.  It was great because each cache in this series was stellar, with each offering something unique.


(Fun surprises around the town)

(Cute caches)

 (Puzzle cache)

(Ruins - always cool, like Indiana Jones)

(Pretty nature stroll with flowers, bamboo forests, and a beaver!)

(A gadget-y cache involving a beautiful and surprising waterfall)

(A cache hidden in a stone wall)

(An incredibly fun gadget cache, unlike anything I've seen before)

It was an awesome day, exploring a beautiful and nice town.


The fourth reason this week was epic was that I signed up for what may be the premier geocaching event of the year, Geowoodstock.  It's the 14th edition, and they were clever and decided to host it in Denver, Colorado, home of the 14er mountains.  I had been wanting to re-visit the 14ers, this time, with my dad, so it was a perfect opportunity to do that, while attending the event and feeding my hunger for geocaching.  Can't wait!