If Frank Sinatra began crooning in your head when you read this blog title, you can stop him right now. Offer him a dry martini and invite him to sit down in the back of the room. The tender interlude in his song is not where my story will lead you.
Now, I can imagine that you’ve been sitting on the edge of your hot little seats, in orgasmic anticipation of the very first item in my yearlong ‘neverdone’ series. What would it be? Would I go off a freakish deep end and do something heretofore unimaginable, or would I somehow adapt one of my weirdly inane posts about the goings-on in my head?
(Yeah, yeah, I know. I have a really wacked-out imagination and an obviously elevated opinion of my own importance. I realize that any “orgasmic anticipation” you’ve experienced lately has nothing to do with me…..or at least I assume that is the case, since it hasn’t happened in my presence. But, hey…. I can create whatever universe I choose inside my own head. This week I have been feeling quite center-of-the-world-ish. And, as you’ve already discovered if you’ve done any scrolling down, pretty darn chatty.)
Last weekend was full of so many neverdone items that, if I used them all, I wouldn’t have to post another one until the summer!
I’ve never gotten into a van at night with 6 semi-strangers and headed to the mountains. I’ve never tromped around in the woods during the most obscene nighttime hours, beams from my flashlight reflecting gems off the surrounding dew. I’ve never met a huge, surprisingly cuddly-looking rat who’d made a comfy home in someone’s long-abandoned house. I’ve never felt the primal ….umm…”pleasure” of emptying my bladder in the woods. I’ve never been geocaching in a group larger than three people.
So I guess that last sentence gave it away, huh? I went night caching with some people from the Upstate SC Geocachers Association (USCGA).
Why did I go??
It is whompin’ leagues outside my comfort zone to invite myself on a road trip with people I barely know. And this, my friends, is a big reason why I did it. My comfort zone is too complacent, too ordinary, too safe. I don’t like my comfort zone anymore. It’s boring. I want to force myself out of that sleepy place…..in fact, I’m using my neverdones as a catalyst.
The other big reason is that I’ve been SOOOO starved for a good, decent cache run…..it’s been well over a year since I left the house with a geo-bud for an all-day adventure full of treasure hunts and hiking and fresh air and bushwhacking and exploration and inspiration and good old-fashioned stress-bustin’ fun. I’d been on a few afternoon trips, but those were just appetizers that made me crave a big, juicy, open-your-mouth-wide-and-bite-hard slab o’meat. Medium rare.
The original plan that a friend and I had on Saturday was to attend a USCGA coffee event after grabbing some yummy Asian fare. I read in the club’s online forum that a few people were planning to knock out a new series of night caches afterward, and I was pretty darn close to convincing my friend that we should go with them. I mean, it wouldn’t be weird if both of us went, right? But then she caught a nasty little bug which laid her up at home the whole weekend, and I wound up having to bring a ton of work home. Since I’d posted in the forum that we were probably in for the cache run, I called one of the geocachers to decline….and, instead, he ended up convincing me to join them. Honestly, though, it didn’t take much convincing. His excitement was lightspeed contagious!
Around 8:30 or so Saturday evening, I sat in my car in a Cracker Barrel parking lot, those telltale white wires trailing from my Shuffle to my eardrums. Cranking up the volume of a favorite running tune, Prince sang that he really does love me, but not like he loves his guitar. I wondered whether I might someday develop a special relationship with an inanimate object. But then I realized I already had–my Nikon and my Mac. Instruments of my creativity, just like Prince and his guitar. Well, maybe not just like Prince and his guitar, but….. My cell phone rang, signaling that the gang had arrived.
Cool! Let’s cram in the van and go!
Everyone was so nice that it wasn’t too supremely awkward that I didn’t know these people very well. There were five men, one of whom brought his wife. Most of them I’d spoken with via e-mail or the forums, but actual real-life conversations had been minimal. At one point early in the evening, my comfortzonometer’s alarm went off when I realized that most of them go caching together on a regular basis….but….then I mentally whacked that shy 5-year-old in my head ON her head. Geesh, won’t she ever grow up?
Our drive to the first geocache took about an hour, I think, and we (well, mostly they) filled the vehicle with random chitchat. I got the impression that my particular brand of humor might not be fully appreciated, so I did not snicker in the least when someone posed the question, “Would you like one with a creamy center?” I did share with them, however, the freakish little OCD way in which I like to eat Smarties. One person asked me if any of my friends ever compared me to Monk. Ha! :)
(I know I’ve described this to some of you, but probably not everyone. You see, the orange Smarties taste WAY better than the other colors. So I want to savor them, and I want get a lot of them in my mouth at the same time so that my tastebuds can concentrate on the yummy orangey-ness. I’ll take apart 3-4 rolls, restacking the pieces on a table in front of me, each color forming its own tiny candy tower. Then I’ll eat them, one color-stack at a time, saving the orange ones for last. It makes beautiful, perfect sense to me. And if it makes you feel better–it certainly does me, now that it’s many days later–I didn’t go into quite that much detail with the caching crowd.)
(There I go, off on a tangent again…..)
We had eleven caches ahead of us–135 miles on winding mountain roads. The series, called “Fright Night,” was designed so that you would find a single clue in each of the first ten. If you figured everything out correctly, the clues–based on horror-flick trivia–would provide you with the coordinates to the eleventh “bonus” cache. I would’ve been SOL myself, but with everyone’s brains enlisted, as well as one guy’s cell phone internet access, the group had no prob.
The general premise behind night caching is that reflective items are strategically placed so that, with the aid of a bright flashlight, you are led to the physical cache. It turned out that most of the Fright Night caches were not placed with that concept in mind. A lot of them were just 35mm film containers hidden on or near roadside signs, random trees, or manmade structures.
(By the way, if you’d like a quick primer on geocaching in general, click here.)
Remember many paragraphs back, when I told you I’d never been caching in a larger group? Well, one thing I discovered is that you’d better be superhero fast if you want to be the person who actually finds something first. I was sitting in the very back of the vehicle, so by the time I’d scrambled out and determined which way my GPS receiver was leading me, one of the fast boys had, especially on the easy roadside caches, already found it. Ahhhhh, well….
But, make no mistake, the advantages of the group totally rocked the pants off the disadvantages. Mainly because I wouldn’t have done the night series at all without a few testosterone-types around–which is something that’s not in my geo-world of late.
There were times when the walk to the cache was longer, so I had time to catch up and actually help look. One of the first ones we found (not me….alas, that night it was never me) was in a park in Walhalla. Despite assurances in the online cache description that it was OK to be there, we saw signs which conveyed that the place was closed after dark. So I felt like one of the “bad kids” in high school, breaking-and-entering to do n’er-do-well sorts of stuff. What fun! This cache was hidden at a gazebo. I’m sure it would have been amusing to passers-by to see seven flashlight-wielding adults scrambling all over it…..some on their backs looking under benches, some standing on the benches examining the interior rafters, some kneeling to poke their heads underneath the structure, some on the nearby grass kicking around in the vegetation….. Ha!
(It may not surprise you that breaking-and-entering did not make my neverdone list because–you guessed it–I’ve done it. But you may not have imagined this scenario: It’s about 1am on a crisp, clear, autumn night. A 20-year-old Lisa, dressed in skinnyleg Levi’s and a tight turtleneck underneath a pink button-down oxford shirt, is being walked back to her dorm on the Clemson campus by a similarly-dressed frat-guy type–let’s call him Dumass. I’d met this character through friends about an hour earlier, on the way out of one bar and into another. Well, Dumass decides to take a detour through Death Valley. He talks me into slipping through the gates with him–I am so inebriated I have no idea how that loud clank of a sound helps him get in–but I firmly draw the line at breaking into the VIP box. So he tells me to wait for him, he disappears behind a wall, and is gone FOR-freakin’-EVER. I sober up, gradually, sitting against the fence and all too aware that I am somewhere I should definitely not be. He finally shows up carrying a seat cushion he stole from the box, and–this is the kicker–bleeding profusely from his right hand. MF’ing geesh, man. We continue the walk to my dorm, talk the security guard into allowing Dumass upstairs, I bandage his hand, and he promptly passes out on my floor. After he skulks away the next morning, I never, ever, ever see Dumass again. A good thing, don’t you think?)
(Auuuuugh!! Back to the story at hand. Sorry, sorry, sorry…..)
By midnight, we’d found four caches out of eleven.
Hey, if Eric Clapton is rockin’ happily in your head right now, let him sing. Not because the party-lyrics are so appropriate, but because I like his song much better than Sinatra’s.
One of my favorite stops of the night was in a spooky-fun location. There was a short-but-steep drop-off from the road which led quickly into thick woods. There was a creek. And an abandoned house. We searched the area for 45 minutes–the darkness made the find way harder than it would have been in daylight. I kept losing my bearings, not able to tell where I’d searched and where I hadn’t. My fingers and toes were going numb, but I was NOT going to cave and go back to the van for warmth. No way! I’m no wussy girl. At one point I heard a huge crash coming from the abandoned house, and I found out later that one of the men had gone upstairs only to fall through the floor. He came out of it with a nasty bruise, I think, but no one mentioned blood.
This was where I met the aforementioned rodent. Everyone had converged upon the house to search, and someone had disturbed the burly rat-fella in his warm, comfy rat-lair. One of the men urged me over, and I was hesitant to go look, but I’m glad I did. I’d expected one of those dark grey, nasty sewer-rat-looking rats. But when I peeked into the soft pillowish mound of pink insulation near the basement ceiling, I saw a tannish-colored, cute mousey thing with whiskers. Looked like a pretty little Jerry-like house mouse…..only twenty times bigger. He’d retreated toward the back of his nest, sniffing the air as he struggled to see beyond the flashlights shining in his face. Poor thing. I’ll bet he would’ve chewed our fingers off, given half a chance.
This was also where I started to feel a slight nudge in my kidneys….just a tiny one. Barely there at all.
Only once during the night did I allow Lisa to come through. You guys know her. The woman whose sense of humor is a somewhat uncomfortable marriage between a pubescent boy and a horny longshoreman. Or perhaps a threesome among Beavis, Butthead, and Mae West. I probably should’ve kept my mouth shut, I know…..but the setup was so perfect…..so EASY.
We were all standing around a newly-found cache, the finder kneeling near the container, signing the log for all. Everyone’s flashlights combined to give a faint glow to the group. I don’t remember the entire sentence, but one man off to my right uttered this phrase as part of a completely innocent statement:
“…I’m going to touch myself…” (Or was it “hold myself”? I forget. Oh well, same thing.)
Even though I stood there knowing it might not be a good idea to utter one of those typical-Lisa comments, I very deliberately took a breath, parted my lips, and said, “Well, give me a heads-up so I can look the other way.”
Now, that’s actually pretty tame for me. Worse–a LOT worse–has come out of my mouth. But I hadn’t seen any evidence of like minds all evening, so it was a big-risk punch line.
There was silence.
In retrospect, it was probably only a nanosecond or two, but, in the moment, the dead air held a cavernous void….into which I wanted to crawl head-first. But then I heard a few quiet, obligatory chuckles. And then…..there was a weirdly palpable light-bulb moment where suddenly they realized what I said. And that I said it on purpose. It was a relief to hear the hearty laughs I’d been trying for. Whew! No awkward ride home after all.
And of course–of course–I discovered the next day, as I read his geo-profile, that the man who made the “touch” comment is an associate pastor. Of course.
(Since tangents seem to be enmeshed in this post’s prosaic style, here’s another one. This story involves a Lisa-comment and a pastor. At a work party a year or so ago, a group of us were standing around, and one man was wearing a pair of those new-style dress shoes with the longer toes. My observation: “Hey, you know what they say about men with big feet.” I got a laugh, a snicker, a chuckle…..it should’ve died there. Well, a few minutes later someone told me that a coworker’s husband–a Lutheran minister–had been standing right behind me, and had probably heard me. Well, I was mortified! Everyone got their funny-bones tickled at my embarrassment, and one woman, good friends with Mr. Lutheran Minister’s wife, shared the story with Mrs. Lutheran Minister. Who thought it was a riot and, of course, shared the story with Mr. Lutheran Minister. Who, of course, decided to try and make me feel better–or was he just messing with me?–by coming over to tell me a story involving a penis. Well, now. If I knew a stronger word for ‘mortified,’ I would use it here. This was a different brand of minister from the ones I’d known in the past, let me tell you. I was so horror-struck after hearing the word ‘penis’ from him that it was difficult to pay attention to the story he told. Something about losing weight and growing an inch.)
Finally, we arrived at our last cache before the bonus. It was a quick find for the fast boys again, and everyone piled back into the van so that the keepers of the clues could determine the coordinates to the bonus cache. You should’ve heard the groans when they realized we’d have to go ALL the way back to an area which we’d long ago abandoned…..back near the whiskery-cute rat and his cozy pink nest. It was 3am-ish, and the drive, according to the vehicle’s Garmin nav device, would take about an hour. But we’d come too far to give up!
I may have napped a little during this long drive on curvy, mountainous, abandoned roads. The van was a lot quieter, and I’d look up now and then to see a couple heads nodding in front of me. The other female in the gang was out like a light beside me. At one point, we got lost…..the van’s Garmin kept telling the driver to turn down a nonexistent road. There was a lake where the road was supposed to be.
Now. At this point in my blog entry, I am faced with a creative challenge, folks. What is the best way to convey to you the feeling in my kidneys??
I’d had my eyes peeled since midnight-ish for any sort of roadside civilization that wasn’t someone’s home, dark inside with slumbering residents who were privileged with modern toilets mere steps from their warm beds. I’d asked the gang in the front of the van to keep their eyes peeled for a stopping place. No big deal, I said, because at the time I felt like I could hold it for awhile.
“Hey, didn’t we see a Citgo?” someone asked.
“Yeah, but it was closed,” another answered.
“Well…..you could still sit ‘n’ go.”
A great one-liner, don’t you think? Lots of laughter all around. But as the minutes ticked by, and then turned into hours, the pressure in my bladder changed from a slight, polite nudge to a raging, inevitable force of nature threatening to rupture with no more than a microscopic wisp of a disturbance in the air around me. I was certainly getting in my kegels.
Finally, yay! We arrived at the bonus cache coordinates! This 4am hike would be the sweet culmination of the evening’s activities.
I got out of the van a good bit slower than before, trying to judge what might happen within my bladder as I became more vertical. Might I be able to make it? Search for the cache, then get back into the van, and wait for the first available gas station on the ride home? I hung near the back of the group as everyone plunged into the darkness, and, not even 100 feet from the vehicle, the driver had to go back to the van to retrieve something he forgot. By this time, my bladder was cursing me as if possessed by 43 demons with tourettes. So I asked him for a kleenex, and, grateful for the napkin in my hand, I set off toward a loose clump of trees as he walked off to catch up with the others.
Yes, I grew up on a farm in the rural South–pastures edged with thick woods in which I played constantly–and I have never peed in the woods. No matter how unlikely that seems, it’s true.
I swung my flashlight to the left. I had an idea of the best mechanics for the situation, thanks to a friend’s vivid, entertaining tale involving a hunting trip, a stomach bug, a tree, and a very scary bear. So I look for a tree. Not too close to the road, but somewhere nearby–I didn’t want to lose sight of the flashlights in the distance. No leaves on the ground. Leaves cause splatter. I found a perfect little place–it didn’t meet my not-too-close-to-the-road requirement, but we hadn’t seen any other vehicles for a couple hours, at least. I ran over, turned the flashlight off, dropped it on the ground in front of me, exposed my girly privates to the cold night air, assumed the position, and……
In the middle of the act, I thought: Dammit. What if there’s a slight slope to the ground, and it’s inching toward my feet? What if it reaches my flashlight? Eww, freakin’ ewwwwww.
But I did not care, and wasn’t ABOUT to stop. It felt too good. Besides, that was just paranoia whispering in my ear.
Elation! I smiled a broad, fulfilled smile in the darkness as I quickly gathered myself, grabbed the flashlight, and ran toward the bouncing lights in the distance.
It turned out that a few of the cachers had graciously waited for me, so together we followed the reflective dots into the woods–finally, a real night cache. It was great! I loved the cold, I loved the obstacle-strewn walk, I loved the sparkly dew that looked like tiny diamonds all around me. I longed for my camera, for the chance to capture that image for posterity. Remember the dimwitted pixie-muse from my December 1st post? He showed up during the walk to the bonus cache. Perhaps my empty bladder sang a happy song to my imaginary spirit-friends out there, and the pixie showed up to see if there was any free booze.
Well, that’s about it. We piled in the van for the last time, and hit the road homeward. We rolled into the Cracker Barrel parking lot around 5:30, and I was home a little before 6am…..sleepy, exhausted, and content.
Will you forgive me?
From the bottom of my motormouthed heart, I apologize for the porn-star length of this post. Once in awhile, words come out of me in quite a diarrhea-like fashion.
Oh well. It gave me a valid reason to use the phrase ‘porn-star length.’