Posts filed under ‘Geocaching’

Breach – What Espionage, Dr. Grips and Geocaching Have in Common

This evening Sean and I went to see the movie Breach.  It’s based on the true story of FBI agent Robert Hanssen who served as a spy for Russia and the Soviet Union for at least 15 years.  The movie covers how Hanssen (played by Chris Cooper) was finally caught with the help of a young, wanna-be FBI agent (played by Ryan Phillippe).

I was interested in the film mainly because I’m fond of Chris Cooper.  Little did I know, Cooper had a costar that I’ve been an even greater fan of for much longer.

Early on in the film, Cooper holds up and clicks a thick blue pen.  I recognized it instantly– I have a whole fleet of those pens in a variety of colors and inks.  And, keeping with my practice of selecting gifts based on my tastes, I’ve given a number of people those pens as gifts throughout the years.

“Look!” I whispered to Sean, “A Dr. Grip!”

Just then, Chris Cooper tells Ryan Phillippe, “Best pens in the world!  I never write with anything else.”  

Pilot must be so proud!  Dr. Grip – Writing utensil of choice for international espionage!

Chris Cooper and his esteemed co-star, the Ice Blue Dr. Grip

I was very pleased to see the Dr. Grip’s role to be more than a mere cameo.  In fact, it got a good amount of screen time.  Even though I only whispered once, the Dr. Grip’s prominence throughout the movie did not sneak by Sean.  He had a good quote on what he was thinking as the film progressed:

“Good gawd.  It is like Vicky wrote it and tried to sneak this crap in.”

The Dr. Grip wasn’t the only thing I found familiar during the movie.  Since the film is set in D.C., some key scenes took place on the same roads I take to visit my grandmother.  Rock Creek Park was featured and finally, another park caught my eye.

Near the end of the movie, when Hanssen was making a drop, the park and bridge looked very familiar.  I was, however, able to keep that observation to myself until the credits were rolling.

“That bridge looks very much like a geocache I found,” I told Sean as we exited the theatre.

At that point, Sean marveled at how the movie seemed like it was written just for me.  🙂

I consulted my account when I got home.  The drop scene was familiar for a reason.  Brian Nenninger and I did  find a geocache in September 2003 that was placed specifically with Robert Hanssen in mind (GCC562 The Dead Drop).  And now that my memory is reviving, I believe Brian picked out that cache because of its sorted history!

Anyway, since I’m still giddy at the Dr. Grip’s appearence and the geocache coincidence,  I think it is safe to say I enjoyed Breach.  And… I suspect it might even hold some appeal to those who do not write exclusively with Dr. Grips or who haven’t mucked around in the same mud as the main character.  🙂

February 27, 2007 at 11:19 pm 9 comments

Bill: Almost Assimilated

Well, I believe I can report that assimilation of Bill C to my hobbies is progressing.  Not only has he joined me on a few hikes this year (including Mt. Rogers and Butt Mountain), but tonight he returned from his three week vacation to Australia where he found his very first geocache

Not only that, he took the M-Memory travel bug all the way from Virginia and dropped it off in Australia.  That’s a lot of mileage for a humble little travel bug!  I can’t say I’ve progressed a travel bug that far (France is as far as I’ve gotten).  What a great first cache and travel bug experience!  Congrats to Bill!

As reward to Bill, I can advance his assimilation to the next phase…. Project Runway.  😉

All kidding aside, if you are interested in Bill’s Australia pictures, they are available on his Flickr site.

February 26, 2007 at 1:49 am 1 comment

Jimmie and Henry- On the Road to Geocaching Celebrity?

When I was twelve, I started playing contract bridge with my father.  That following March my father took me to my first National Tournament.  His thought was that it would be a fun trip and I would get some experience under my belt.  He didn’t have any expectations of winning.  Well it turned out he and I won the opening event of the tournament!  And fifteen minutes later, the clock struck midnight and I turned thirteen years old. 

Dad and I after winning the Charity Pairs at the Buffalo North American Bridge Championships

In duplicate bridge, the demographic of the competitors is very heavy in the senior citizen range.  To put it in perspective, USA Today reported in 2005 that the average age of American Contract Bridge League players is 67!  My father, with his prematurely white hair, blended right in.  But it is safe to say a little twelve year old girl stuck out in the crowd.  I was instantly recognizable. 

My father played bridge for 20 years before I ever realized “Notrump” was something other than the name of our dog.  If I had been a novice playing with a novice, I doubt I would have had any success.  But I was a novice playing with an aggressive bidder and a talented declarer with a fondness for No Trump contracts.  My father was the reason for my success.  Yet, even with all his experience and exposure, he often found himself in the backstage role of “Vicky’s Dad.”  People would approach us because they recognized the little girl, not the man.  And even though I haven’t played a physical game of bridge in about eight years, my father still reports being approached by strangers asking about me and how I am doing. 

I guess what goes around comes around!  Now it’s me playing the tag-along role!  Twice recently, I was contacted by geocachers who recognized not me, the one who actually holds and interprets the GPS, but Jimmie and Henry from my profile picture! 

Geocaching profile picture– Henry, Me and Jimmie at War Spur near Mountain Lake

One group of cachers recognized us coming down the Blacksburg’s Gateway Trail to Heritage Park.  Meanwhile another cacher spotted a limping beagle at a trailhead in Catawba and thoughtfully contacted me to make sure Henry was accounted for (he was).  I bet I could have matched my father’s “pre-Vicky” bridge career of 20 years without drawing much notice.  But apparently, the two dogs stick out.

My father never minded the extra attention I brought to the bridge table.  And you know what?  I really can’t say I mind that it is the dogs who are drawing the second glances.

Actually, it’s sorta neat.

February 10, 2007 at 12:45 am 1 comment

Vicky’s Business Travel Essentials

Tomorrow afternoon, I leave for a business trip.  I’ve traveled quite a bit for business the last three years.  Since I’ve had a lot of practice, I’m very adept at my packing procedure.  For example, my Bowman Handbags Travel Cosmetic Bag is always perched in a basket on my sink.  All I have to do when I leave, is put in my deodorant and toothpaste and I’m off.  Everything else has a permanent residence inside the bag.

But it isn’t toiletries and clothing the help me make business trips personal.  For this post, I thought I would highlight some of the items I carry with me that provide fulfilling trips with memories besides conference rooms and server closets:

  • Rollerblades – It is my policy to travel with my rollerblades.  I have a business trip to Traverse City, Michigan in 2001 to thank for this.  On that trip I spent an evening walking the beautiful TART trail.  It was a lovely walk, but it was marred by envy.  A number of rollerbladers whizzed by me and each time I cringed and longed for my own skates.  Now they come with me (even overseas) and I make it a point to skate in new states as I go.  With Massachusetts in October, I’m up to 17 states. (Related Post: Rollerblading – 16th State)
  • Journal – This is an absolute must.  Waiting at gates, riding on trains, and spending evenings alone at hotel rooms is the perfect time for me to catch up on journal entries.  London is near and dear to my heart and I wonder if it is the city I love… or the fact that I get so much writing and introspection done there. 🙂  (Related Post – Travel as a Learning Tool in Journal Excerpt: An Evening with Talib Kweli)
  • GPS – Rollerblading is my priority, but I also like to take my GPS with me on business trips.  It allows me to explore the area and find some off-the-beaten-path parks and novel areas while searching for geocaches.
  • Dramamine – I started using this stuff when I was in the throws of emetophobia.  It would give me the comfort of knowing I wouldn’t get motion sickness.  That is no longer a worry of mine, but much like Viagra was originally envisioned as a treatment for hypertension, I found a side effect of dramamine to be much more valuable.  I’ve come to appreciate the ability of guaranteed sleep.  I pretty much sleep on planes regardless, but the dramamine ensures a timely decline and a restful slumber.  Delays, turbulence, uncomfortable seats and bad entertainment don’t bother me when I’m in my own induced hypersleep.  And when we land, I’m typically ready to go and start my adventures.  When I am only in town for 25 hours and I want to rollerblade, geocache and explore– being rested and ready to go is a wonderful thing.  Of course, my practice may bother the other passengers.  When we went to Las Vegas in 2005, my colleague, Mark Duncan, reported that he could hear me snoring even though he was seated numerous rows away! 🙂
  • Cell Phone and Cell Phone Charger – I rarely call my husband on trips anymore.  Instead we text message.  When I travel a lot, even when I’m discovering a lot and seeing great scenery, there are still points where my mood is dampened and I miss home.  My husband seems to have uncanny timing during those times.  I’ll suddenly receive a text message or picture from Sean, usually some kind of inside joke or reference, that is just downright hilarious.  I crack up and I’ll feel connected to home. 
  • Address Book and Stamps – I love letter writing and for the girl on the go, what better means than post cards?  You have no choice to keep your message short and quick, but you still get to reach out to the people you’ve been thinking of.  I’ve also taken advantage of hotel time to catch up on full blown letters.  I specifically remember writing Kevin Dublin from a hotel in Michigan and writing Emily Hackett from Kentucky.
  • Running Shoes and Workout Clothes – I like to take advantage of the free gyms facilities in hotels– particularly the eliptical machines and the stationary bikes.  There are exceptions, but for most business trips, I’m exercising every night– be it geocaching, rollerblading, walking or taking advantage of the gym.  I find exercise to be absolutely essential. 
  • Eugene Sheffer Crosswords – I’ll print out a series of Eugene Sheffer crosswords to work on during my trip.  I’ll work on them at the gate, on the plane and most importantly, I’ll work on them when I go to dinner alone and am waiting for my food.  (Related Post – Crossword Coincidences)

When I look back, I’ve seen so many neat places and have gone on so many great adventures.  Some of this I do have to attribute to my company– as they chose to send me and they took care of the bill.  Some of it, I have to attribute to the customers– they welcome me to their facilities and treat me so very well. 

But the financial backing of my company and the hospitality of my customers alone is not what made the trips great.  I’d like to think it’s the choices I make on how to use the downtime, that really makes the trips shine.

Here’s hoping for another shining trip! 🙂

December 17, 2006 at 9:27 pm 7 comments

You Must Assimilate to My Hobbies – Part II

Well, it looks like I don’t have to make the actual product selection to corral people into my hobbies.  A few weeks ago, some co-workers and I pooled our money together to get a gift certificate for one of our buddies’ birthday.  We got this thank you email from him.  With complete freedom to buy what he wanted, he chose to equip himself with a GPS for…. geocaching!

From: James I
Sent: Mon 12/4/2006 10:56 AM
To: Alex H; Vicky H; Tim K; Kevin L
Subject: REI GIF Certificate Presents
I would like to let you guys know that I have made a purchase with the B-day present you so thoughtfully gave me. I have made an order for an GPS unit that will allow me to get into a hobby that I have never been able to do before…….GEOCACHING! I would like to thank each one of you again for such an awesome gift and I am sure me, Annie and Jason will have hours of fun getting lost in the woods 🙂http://www.geocaching.comThank You,James

P.S.  Ann reports Penn has been wearing his rollerskates around the house and he took them to his day care’s Show and Share.  

P.S.S.  If I continue to get 1 person to adopt 1 of my hobbies each week, in a mere 5,687,194 years every person in the United States will be rollerblading, geocaching, hiking, letter writing or journal writing! 🙂

December 9, 2006 at 10:17 am 3 comments

Travel Journal: Newark, Notthinghamshire

Excerpts from my personal journals from a trip to Newark, Notthinghamshire in the United Kingdom.  This trip took place January of 2005.

January 22, 2005
U.S. Airways
Flight 4173

My fourth trip to Europe has begun.  Right now I’m flying from Roanoke, VA to Charlotte, NC.

That in itself is a victory.  We had snow yesterday & today & most flights in and out of Roanoke were cancelled.

I believe I flew in winter before– I remember Dad and I were at Buffalo, NY.  So we might have had winter weather when we flew– but I don’t remember it.

This is the first time I can recall flying in a snowstorm.  It was a weird feeling as we taxied down the runway and it was completely white.

Don’t worry, the meaningful runways were plowed and salted.  Actually I felt sorry for the snow plows.  They were constantly plowing a couple of runways.  All afternoon they plowed to make sure incremental accumulation was scurried away.  They were doing all that work for just three (from what I can tell) planes– two arrivals and one departure.

But I suppose I should not complain– it’s my safety being assured by their efforts.

When I traveled to Europe for work in 2001– I recall being surprised when I found myself missing Sean.  I didn’t expect to.

3-4 years makes a difference.  This time around I got a little melancoly – I had a lump in my throat and a couple of tears threatened to take over my eyes, just thinking about leaving Sean.

I have a scapegoat!  In a recent entry I discussed the phrase “cell” phone.  This might be a case there a mobile phone is a cell, a prison.

It’s that damn text messaging.  I’ve grown so accustomed to it.  My cell phone won’t work overseas – so I will not be able to make daily calls to Sean and even worse, I can’t text message!

I’ve had a handful of business trips in 2004 and Sean had at least one.  Each of those times, we were able to use text messaging to keep in touch.

Knowing I won’t have text ability on this trip leaves me feeling a little naked, a little alone.

Well, it’s not fully the cell phone’s fault (just like it’s not a gun’s fault someone got shot).

I remember I had that same feeling twice in 2001:

  1. When I left the internet cafe the first day

  2. When I finished up all my stationary.

This related to ANOTHER journal entry from a while back.  I proposed technology makes us lonely.  Even though it increased the ease and opportunities of communication it also significantly altered our expectations.  We expect things to be instant and immediately readable.  It’s caused us to have patience for little else.

These latest trips I’ve been taking — it feels like they aren’t real — they feel like a dream.  Why?  Because I have no anxiety.  It still doesn’t feel like a trip if I don’t have a horrid ado in my head for weeks beforehand.

Ah well, you know what?  I’d rather have the worry-free trips! 🙂

Man, after takeoff– Roanoke covered with snow was just so beautiful.  Absolutely beautiful.

I do not think God could look down at our snowy land and doubt his creation.  It is just so gorgeous.

Driving to the airport had its good views too.  I passed a mountain that contained bare trees – so you could see the snow covered ground and the contrasting dark bark.  But there were large patches of evergreens.  The evergreens’ boughs caught a lot of the snow- so those sections would appear more dense and white than the others.  It was just lovely.

Well we are 50 miles from Charlotte, I best be going.

23 Jan 2005
London King’s Cross
Rail Station

Today I spent most of the day with Jason Pitt.  We ate lunch at a Turkish restaurant and then we went geocaching at Greenwich Park.

Get this– one of the caches was right on 00 00.000 E – it was right on the Greenwich Mean Line!

Vicky at Greenwich Park

Jason Pitt was crucial to both finds.  The first one, I was ready to climb up a very thick bush to go after a piece of trash!  The second one, the GPS misled me.  I was searching the wrong bench, rubbish bin and leafy bush.  It was Jason who contradicted the GPS saying, “Well that spot is so much better.”  We took a look and sure enough there it was.

Most things in Europe are smaller than they are in the wasteful U.S.  Geocaches follow suit.  Both containers [we found] were too small for me to put our travel bug (a plastic hamburger) in.  So I will take it back to the U.S. with me.

It is not as cold here as I expected.  No snow – a tiny remnant in a field that we flew over is the only I’ve seen.  It’s all perspective though – Jason thought it was very cold.  Though there were some people who didn’t think it was even chilly.  Jason and I were passed by three runners in shorts.  I also saw some people playing tennis in short sleeves AND shorts.  It’s definitely not that warm!

Jason & I disagreed about a couple of other things.  As we drove through the city Jason would comment how ugly a certain section was – but I thought it was still pretty.

Jason Pitt, Chauffer 

We also disagreed on trains.  I commented on how much I love the trains here.

“Here?” Jason asked, “the British trains?!  You mean the European trains.”

I corrected him- I was talking about the British trains.

He told me to wait until I got a really old train that was late & such.

Well– he may have gotten his wish.  I was trying to make a 17:30 train.  I bought my ticket but could not find the train, so I asked someone.  It turns out some of the track is being engineered so they didn’t have the 17:30 departure anymore.  Instead I have to take a 19:00 – not only that but because of construction I have to get off at one station and take a bus to the next station, then recatch the train and continue on to Newark.  What fun!

I had a mini-geocache mishap.  Jason and I were trying to find one near the deer enclosure.  We got really close according to the GPS, but when we consulted a map, we saw we were exactly on the wrong corner of the park.  It turned out I never changed the coordinates from WEST to EAST.  Hehe- bad habit.  One thing that’s cool is this is one of the very few places in the world where that mistake would not be caught [sooner]!  If E & W were confused in the States, you’d know something was off when you looked at the distance.  But when you are around 00 00.000 – the distance looks reasonable.  The difference between 37.808 E and 37.808 W is a lot different than 00.413 E and 00.413 W.

They have rhododendrums here!  And one of them was blooming – in January!  I also saw what looked like early daffodils poking through the soil and I think I saw some chrysanthia blooming too.  There were a number of other pink, white and purple flowers blooming which I can’t identify.

Jason stopped at a bathroom in the park.  It was quite an ornate building.  The weather vane on top of the steeple had a little tiny brass sail ship on it.  I took a picture- it reminded me of [Becky and Vic].  Vic got a big sailship model for Christmas.  He said, “I’m going to put it on such and such shelf.”  To which Becky replied, “You most certainly will not!”


I’m surprised I’m still up and going.  I don’t think I got much sleep on the plane last night.  It’s hard to say– I had no access to a clock so I couldn’t tell how long I was snoozing.  It’s funny – I felt like I couldn’t tell if I had got enough sleep unless I had a watch.  Really it shouldn’t matter about time one bit.  We should let our bodies tell us if we got enough sleep, not our watches.

Turkish food is quite good– Very much like Greek food.  Jason and I got a mixture plate – where  they bring all sorts of dishes to [sample].  Some of the Greek-like items were stuffed grape leaves, falafel and hummus.  They also had a delicious potato salad, great “broad” beans and a pretty good chicken dish.  One more dish I didn’t adore or hate was some kind of chopped parsley.

Well hopefully I’m able to board my train shortly – I’m going to run to the TOILET (that’s what the sign says!) now.


March 15, 2006 at 10:50 pm 6 comments

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