31 December 2008

Dry bones

"The Lord took hold of me, and I was carried away by the Spirit of the Lord to a valley filled with bones. He led me all around among the bones that covered the valley floor. They were scattered everywhere across the ground and were completely dried out. Then he asked me, “Son of man, can these bones become living people again?”

“O Sovereign Lord,” I replied, “you alone know the answer to that.”

Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to these bones and say, ‘Dry bones, listen to the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Look! I am going to put breath into you and make you live again! I will put flesh and muscles on you and cover you with skin. I will put breath into you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’” Ezekiel 37:1-6 NLT

Can these dry bones live again? If they listen to the Word of the Lord, yes. But without that Word, they will remain dry...lifeless...useless. Disconnected and broken. A testimony of nothing but the desiccating power of the wind.

Thus passes 2008.

Will 2009 be different? Definitely. Better? See me in a year.

15 December 2008

Nola Spencer Campbell 1923-2008

"Weep not, she is not dead, she is resting in the bosom of Jesus"

I love you, Mom. I'll see you soon.

11 December 2008

This is Grace

This is what patriotism looks like
By Michelle Malkin • December 9, 2008 10:44 PM

A naturalized American from Korea loses his entire family in the military jet crash that wrecked his house and killed his infant daughter, toddler daughter, wife, and mother-in-law. But he refuses to blame the pilot or bash the military. Reader Mitch in San Diego e-mails: “I’m not even religious and I’ll say a prayer for this man. He has my utmost admiration. Truly an amazing gesture of forgiveness and patriotism on his part. There would be no discussion about immigration, illegal or otherwise, if this was the caliber of most coming here. Amazing.”

Keep Dong Yun Yoon in your prayers:

A Korean immigrant who lost his wife, two children and mother-in-law when a Marine Corps jet slammed into the family’s house said Tuesday he did not blame the pilot, who ejected and survived.

“Please pray for him not to suffer from this accident,” a distraught Dong Yun Yoon told reporters gathered near the site of Monday’s crash of an F/A-18D jet in San Diego’s University City community.

“He is one of our treasures for the country,” Yoon said in accented English punctuated by long pauses while he tried to maintain his composure.

“I don’t blame him. I don’t have any hard feelings. I know he did everything he could,” said Yoon, flanked by members of San Diego’s Korean community, relatives and members from the family’s church.

Authorities said four people died when the jet crashed into the Yoon family’s house while the pilot was trying to reach nearby Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. Another, unoccupied house also was destroyed.

Yoon named the victims as his infant daughter Rachel, who was born less than two months ago; his 15-month-old daughter Grace; his wife, Young Mi Yoon, 36; and her 60-year-old mother, Suk Im Kim, who he said had come to the United States from Korea recently to help take care of the children.

Fighting back tears, he said of his daughters: “I cannot believe that they are not here right now.”
“I know there are many people who have experienced more terrible things,” Yoon said. “But, please, tell me how to do it. I don’t know what to do.”

… Yoon’s wife came to the United States about four years ago, Shin said.

Yoon spoke softly when he talked about his wife.

“It was God’s blessing that I met her about four years ago. She was a lovely wife and mother,” he said.

His voice fading, he added: “She loves me and babies. I just miss her so much.”

23 November 2008

Gimme a revelation

My life has led me down the
road that's so uncertain
Now I am left alone and I am broken
Trying to find my way
Trying to find the faith that's gone

This time I know that you are
holding all the answers
I'm tired of losing hope and taking chances
On roads that never seem
To be the ones that bring me home

Give me a revelation
Show me what to do
'Cause I've been trying to find my way
I haven't got a clue
Tell me should I stay here
Or do I need to move
Give me a revelation
I've got nothing without you
I've got nothing without you

My life has led me down this
path that's ever winding
Through every twist and turn, I'm always finding
That I am lost again
Tell me when this road will ever end

I don't know where I can turn
Tell me, when will I learn
Won't you show me where I need to go
Let me follow your lead
I know that it's the only way
that I can get back home

21 October 2008

Author, Pastor, and Seminary President Chuck Swindoll had this to say in today's devotional from Insight for Living [emphasis added]

"John Pollock, in his splendid book The Apostle, states, "The irony was not lost on him that the mighty Paul, who had originally approached Damascus with all the panoply of the high priest's representative, should make his last exit in a fish basket, helped by the very people he had come to hurt."

That about says it all, doesn't it?

Just to set the record straight, our lives are not caught "in the fell clutch of circumstance." Our heads are not to be "bloodied, but unbowed." You and I are neither the "masters of our fate" nor are we the "captains of our souls."* We are to be wholly, continually, and completely dependent on the mercy of God, if we want to do the Lord's work the Lord's way. Paul had to learn that. My question is: Are you learning that? If not, today would be a good day to start. Now is the time to humble yourself under His mighty hand. If you don't, eventually He will do it for you. And it will hurt. In His time, in His way, He will conquer your stubborn independence.

God is never pleased with a spiritually independent spirit."

At a difficult time today, I needed a bit of encouragement. I asked God to help me refocus my mind on Him and off my circumstances. I went to lunch, planning to read a little from my latest issue of Civil War Times Illustrated. Once in the lunchroom, I found I couldn't concentrate on my magazine. I thought to myself, "I need something more productive than this, God" As I was walking past a co-worker, I noticed he, too, was reading...a Bible. I have never seen this man reading a Bible before. He and I have never talked about anything remotely religious before. But there he was, with God's word on the table, not 30 seconds after I'd prayed my prayer. I then recalled that I had a couple of books in my truck. I'd planned last week to sell them at a used book store as part of a forced downsizing I'm undergoing, but never got by there to do it. I had no idea what books I had, but I thought at least one of them was by Max Lucado, who is always good for an encouraging word. It turned out to be Six Hours One Friday. And there I found the encouragement I was looking for:
Your life is not futile.

Your failures are not fatal.

Your death is not final.
"Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke fits perfectly, and the burden I give you is light."
Matthew 11:28-30 (NLT)

I shouldn't have even had that book anymore. I'd tossed it in the truck to sell last week. But there it was. Because last week, God had known I'd need it this week. I thought I'd gotten busy and not sold it. I thought it was still there by accident. God doesn't deal in accidents.

Recently, I read Psalm 50:14-15:
"Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God, and keep the vows you have made to the Most High. Then call on Me when you are in trouble and I will rescue you, and you will give Me glory."

I'm trying to do more "thanking." I'm doing it now. And there's a certain vow that I will be keeping, as long as it is mine to keep. And I have called on Him many times lately. And I, right here, right now, give Him glory.

29 August 2008

So let me get this straight...

Senator Schumer, you're uncomfortable with the "inexperienced" being a "heartbeat away from the presidency," but if you remove the "heartbeat" part, your okay with it?

25 August 2008


A friend back home was sharing some wisdom with me today and gave me an illustration. He’d been talking to an insurance adjuster who said many cars that are wrecked are declared totaled simply because it’s easier than actually figuring out how to fix them. Rather than go to all the trouble to list all the parts and procedures necessary to repair the car, they simply toss it to the junkyard. It would never be the car it once was anyway. Oh it might look fine and drive fine if you spent hours fixing it, but it will never be “like new” again. Even if it’s fully repaired, in the back of your mind, you’ll never forget that it was once almost totaled. So let’s just toss it out and buy a new one. Never mind the cost, it’s just part of the game.

But what if it could be repaired. What if there was a body shop that could, quite literally, work “miracles,” and make the car, not just repaired, but better than ever? But this car has two owners and requires two keys. The body shop has to have both keys in order to get to work on it. One owner is willing to give the body shop a try, and offers their key. The other owner refuses to give up their key. Not actively refuses, mind you. They just won’t DO anything to get the key into the hands of the body shop. What happens to the car? It’s not totaled, but it’s not being fixed either. It just sits there. Unrepaired, rusting and deteriorating. Not only is the damage not being fixed, it’s getting worse. Now, this body shop is not going to grab the owners, hold them up by their ankles, and shake them until their keys fall out. No, this body shop is run by the consummate Gentleman. He’ll joyfully fix your car…IF you give Him the keys.

If not, you’re only option is to find someone willing to declare the car “totaled.” Unfortunately, in our society, that’s very easy to get done.

29 July 2008


At some point in your life, you realize your childhood dreams won’t come true. You’ll never be (in my case) Roger Staubach or Johnny Rutherford. You realize that those dreams, the ones that filled your head when you were 8, the ones you thought would just happen because someone had told you “this is America! You can be anything you want to be!” were never realistic to begin with. You don’t have the God-given talent or physique for football or buckets of money and connections to drive racecars. I suppose I reached that point a long time ago. I don’t recall an epiphany or anything, it just never happened and it seemed natural that it never happened.

Other times in life, you realize that your smaller, slightly more realistic dreams won’t come true, but you have no one to blame but yourself. I was never possessed with great physical size, but I had good hands and speed, and could have been a pretty good wide receiver. Not NFL good, or maybe not even NCAA good, but I could have played in Jr. High and High School. In fact, I tried out in 8th grade, assured that at my small school, anyone who tried out would at least “make the team.” I went to the first practice, 4 hours of sheer hell in the hot Memphis in July heat, and when I got up the next morning, I couldn’t move! I mean literally couldn’t walk! Remember those old Army commercials: “I’m hurtin in places I didn’t know I had?” Well at 13, there were a LOT of places I hadn’t found yet, but I found many of them that morning and they all HURT! Looking back, it’s my own fault that I didn’t force myself back and work through the soreness. Genetically, I’d never have been a 6’6” wrestler, but I could have been bigger than I am if I’d followed through with the weights and training and stuff that would have gone along with being on the football team. Or when I was in my early 20s and thought about joining the Army. If one desired to do one’s duty and perform at least one stint of military service, it would have been the perfect time to do so. It was after Vietnam but before Desert Storm. The biggest thing we invaded was the island of Grenada, which I think required a bass boat, four riflemen and a squad of cooks. But alas, I had already discovered the allure of making just enough money to spend it all, and the military don’t pay SQUAT (a fact I will rectify one day when I’m President), so I started college, started working at the bank, and began what for most of us is the normal path of life. It is a path you really don’t think about going down, you just kind of wake up one day and realize you’re on it, and you’ve been on it for a long time, and you’ve got a long way left to go on it. You’ll ease into something called a “career” doing something that you (hopefully) don’t loathe and that (maybe) pays the bills, and you’ll work for 45 years or so, hopefully get your kids out of the house, into college and out on their own, then maybe get to enjoy a few years of retirement. Although, with the stock market the way it is right now, I pity any bank employee retiring right now! Thank God I sold all of my Regions stock when I quit, I sold at about $34 and it’s trading today at around $9.50. Of course, giving up on the concept of retirement takes a lot of the pressure off. If you just resign yourself to the fact that you’ll have to work until you die, it’s not so disappointing to look at your 401(k). Retirement planning becomes a matter of managing the timing of your first heart attack. (Hillshire! GO MEAT!) But as I said, this is where your dreams become more manageable because you realize the semi-realistic ones ain’t gonna happen, but it’s your own darn fault! I got there maybe a few years ago. Again, no “Light on the Damascus road,” but I can narrow that one down a little more.

Then there are the dreams that you didn’t really think were dreams. Dreams that should have come true. Dreams that had to be actively shattered, by you or someone else, usually a little of both. Try as you might, you can’t put Humpty Dumpty together again because you don’t hold all the pieces. Our lives are intertwined with other people, all of whom hold small pieces of that shell. Some people hold more, or larger, pieces than others. I am responsible for my own pieces, and in some way for the pieces of certain others, all of whom will have to live with the scrambled egg (in Oregon, the sidewalks aren’t hot enough to instantly fry it like Memphis). Humpty can never be what he once was; a smooth, pristine white egg perched on a pedestal he never should have been sitting on to begin with. Maybe he was pushed. Maybe it wasn't realistic to expect him to balance on that wall to begin with. Unrealistic expectations are a recipe for disaster. Humpty will never be unbroken, but unlike the fairy tale, this dream Humpty could be pieced back together. With a lot of time and effort, he could be repaired. He’d be scarred, misshapen, a little dirty here and there, perhaps, but he’d be more or less whole. But no one person can do that. You can’t make each person contribute their pieces to the whole. And unless they do, everyone’s pieces stay where they are; broken, scrambled, and less than what they were made to be. Life goes on, but you move on with a handful of cracked eggshells that don't fit anymore. You can either contribute your pieces to the whole, or refuse to. Either way, each piece-holder can only contribute the pieces they have and pray for the others, especially the ones who, through no fault of their own, have to lived with their broken pieces.

I’ll contribute mine, what will you do with yours?

20 July 2008

"I've had all I can stands, I can't stands no more!"
- Popeye the Sailor Man

If only there was a spinach for this.

16 July 2008

"It is not enough to do our best, sometimes we must do what is required."
- Sir Winston Churchill

15 July 2008

He never said things wouldn't fall apart...

He said we'd be held when they did.

What do you do when you've done all you can do and it isn't enough?

You get held.

10 July 2008

Goin APE

On Sunday, 29 June, a few of my geocaching friends from Oregon drove up to North Bend, Washington for a special geocaching adventure. A little background will bring the uninitiated up to speed.

In 2001, about a year after geocaching was first invented, the producers of the remake of the film “Planet of the Apes” hid a series of 12 caches around the world as a publicity stunt. In each cache, a prop from the movie was placed. Over time, most of the caches went missing and were archived, some within months. Now, only two of the original 12 remain: one is a two day hike into the jungle in Brazil; the other is in North Bend, Washington. Along with a visit to Groundspeak HQ in Seattle, and the site of the Original Stash near Estacada, Oregon, the APE cache completes the “NW Trifecta,” a sort of geocaching Holy Grail, but without the promise of immortality.

My father-in-law is buried in North Bend. My mother in law lives about 45 minutes from there. We’re there several times a year, and yet, it never dawned on me just how close I was to this cache until a few months ago. My buddy Kensquach and I started trying to think of excuses to burn $150 worth of gas and a 14 hour day to make a run on this thing. As it worked out, it was much better for everyone. my ex-wife and the kids left on 23 June to go visit her mom for a couple of weeks. I took the Amtrak from Salem to Tacoma on Thursday the 26th to join them. Her and her mom attended the Women of Faith conference in Seattle on Friday and Saturday while I watched the kids, and I was going back on Sunday to go back to work (they were staying another week with mom). Instead of paying Amtrak to ride back on Sunday, I suggested to Ken that he gather a few friends, drive up, meet me in North Bend on Sunday, do the APE cache, then I could ride back with them, caching as we went. He got two other suckers, er, I mean, willing participants, and the plan was in motion!

I should digress a bit to tell you about my adventure in Thursday with Amtrak. I was supposed to leave Salem at 2:10. When I got to the station, they said the train was running an hour late. Oh well, gives me time to walk across the street and find a cache. When I got back, I was told that there was a freight train broken down north of Eugene, OR in front of our train. The plan now was to bus everyone to Portland at 4:15 to catch the 6:15 train to Tacoma. Instead of getting in at 7:11, I would arrive at 8:41. The bus made its way slowly thru downtown Portland rush hour traffic, to within about 10 blocks of the train station, when the drive pulls over and gets out. He announces that the bus’ brakes were smoking and he had to check it out. He comes back a couple minutes later to say the smoke is gone so he’s going to try to limp the rest of the way, which we did. We arrive at the Portland Union Station, which is like a trip back in time! Old style train station just like you see in the movies! My only complaints were a long line to get re-ticketed (though it moved fairly fast), and that the station’s only snack shop closed at 6PM, just as I got out of the re-ticketing line! The remainder of the trip was uneventful, though we were even late getting into Tacoma.

So, back to the subject: during the weekend, the kids and I visited several of the neighborhood parks in Auburn, along the White and Green rivers. The town has some very nice parks and greenways. We also visited an interesting little historical monument memorializing a couple of Indian massacres along a busy street, just another site I’d never have noticed if not for a fake rock with a piece of paper in it to sign!

On Sunday, Kensquach, Salmondan, and Doylefish left Salem about 7AM and we met at Twede’s Café in North Bend about 11. Twede’s is the site made famous by the “Twin Peaks” TV show. I had a mushroom cheeseburger that was outstanding! We hit the road and arrived at the parking lot start of our hike about 12:30. This is one section of the “Iron Horse Trail,” and includes a 2.3 mile abandoned railroad tunnel. Pitch darkness, water dripping (occasionally pouring) from the ceiling, and a delightful coolness on this hot summer day. I would have liked to hike it, but Ken talked me into biking it to save time and wear & tear on the legs (though our butts took a beating). I’ve only recently gotten back on a bike after blowing my knee out in September, but the ride was not difficult, and we stopped several times to hunt the two caches that are inside the tunnel itself. Once through the tunnel, we stopped for a few minutes to rest and find the almost 8 year old “Iron Horse” cache, a moderate little climb up a creek bed just outside the west tunnel entrance. While we were there, my cohorts helped a fellow trail rider perform some adjustments on his mount before he and his buddies continued on the length of the 20+ mile ride. We remounted and travelled the remaining .3 miles to the APE cache.

I’d always pictured it being halfway down a hillside, maybe a few hundred yards from the main trail. No, it’s about 20 feet from the main trail, in a pile of stump, rocks, and planks the size of a small car! We spotted it from 100 yards away! I cannot believe this thing stays here, except to say that I guess thieves are too lazy to lug this big @$$ container outta here! We spent several minutes noting all the trackables and making some trades. I left a couple of geocoins, including one of my last three Spencersb coins, a couple of travel bugs, and a GOWT cap. I had brought my Moun10Bike coin with me to visit the cache he now maintains (heck of a nice guy, I’ve not met him in person, but traded coins and emails with him before). I picked up a travel bug that needed a little TLC; we packed the container away, and continued down the trail just a few hundred feet to view the waterfall we could hear from the cache site. The cache is in full sun, and the day was pretty hot (by Pac NW standards), so the cool breeze and shade of the waterfall were wonderful! It was amazing to take literally two steps and experience a 15-20 degree drop in ambient temperature. Back on the bikes, we stopped and grabbed “Micro Tomb Raider” because, well, it was there, and then set out to find the last cache in the tunnel, “Old Bald Bison.” Obviously, there’s no GPS reception in the tunnel, so we had to do some distance calculations using the waypoint projection from the cache page. I was proud that between my waypoint projection and Salmondan’s remarkably accurate distance estimate, we nabbed this tiny difficult little cache in almost no time! We paused again coming out of the tunnel, where it was like standing in front of an air conditioner! Back on the road, we stopped in North Bend to buy just enough $4.55 a gallon gas to get us back into an area with reasonable gas prices.

We stopped in Olympia, WA to find an Earthcache (an educational type of cache that has something to do with geology) called Water is Mightier Than Rock.” It is in a beautiful little park along a creek that used to be the site of an old mill. The concrete foundations are still visible, and parts of it have been turned into a fish ladder. It has several nice waterfall features, garden areas, and a couple of totem poles. We also found a gas station selling regular for $4.09, though I’d never have thought I’d consider that a great price for gas!

Knowing it was going to get late and having to get up and go to work the next morning, we hot-footed it back to Salem, arriving home a little after 10, tired, sore, but with some great memories and beautiful scenery still replaying in my mind.

26 May 2008

Grateful to remember, not BE remembered.

Edited 27 May 2008 1914 to add a wrenching story from Sunday's NY Times.

Joe Heller, Green Bay (Wis.) Press-Gazette

"People sleep peacefully in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on thier behalf." George Orwell

It's been a lazy day around the ole Spencer household. I'm still recuperating from a fall on a slick driveway Friday that tweaked my bad knee. Tim is watching TV and eating everything in sight. Elizabeth and William are picking at each other.

What I'm not doing is guarding our home with a rifle. I'm not worrying about getting shot sneaking down the road to get food or halfway clean drinking water. I'm not really worried about being killed by some moron who thinks blowing up grandmothers pushing strollers at the market makes him a "brave warrior." I'm not afraid of having to pass a military checkpoint if I drive my truck today (though someone did back into my fender a week ago). Gas may be expensive, but I'm free to drive up to any one of a hundred stations in town and buy all I can afford. In fact, here in Oregon, I don't even have to pump it (but don't get me started on that stupid make-work law).

I can do (or not do) all these things because someone else DID carry a rifle. Someone else killed that moron over there before he got over here. Someone else DID get shot at, and all too many times, didn't survive the encounter.

There's a saying: "All gave some: some gave all." I know a lot of guys (and girls) who gave some. This short post is to say thanks for your "some," and I'm glad you didn't have to give "all."

As you remember those who give all today, take a moment to remember those about whom we still aren't sure.

"War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself." John Stuart Mill

19 May 2008

Keeping an old geocache alive

Geocachers who know me will know that I have an affinity for older caches. I like to attribute it to a respect for the sport’s roots. One constant even since the sport began in 2000 is that some people will try it, and for them it just won’t catch on. They’ll find 10; hide two, then quit. Most of the time nowadays, the two they hide will be film cans.

In the early days, though, almost all of the caches were regular size, ammo cans, occasionally Tupperware, etc. One such cache is Memaloose Island View, in the Columbia River Gorge area of south central Washington State. It was hidden by someone who went by the name “DoubleB.” He (or she) joined in 2001 and has not logged onto the GC.com site since 2002. Amazingly, the cache has survived on autopilot for 7 years, until recently that is.

While cruising through the GC.com forums last month, I noticed that a Seattle area cacher that I knew had posted a note about this cache needing to be adopted. Unfortunately, GC.com must have had a bad experience with adopting out seemingly abandoned caches, because they now will NOT adopt a cache to anyone without written permission from the “owner.” I’ve tried to contact the owner, but to no avail. However, I don’t need permission to put the cache on my watchlist and do an occasional, unofficial maintenance check. I felt like this old cache, one of the first 900 listed and part of the Washington History Challenge, needed to be saved.

Last Saturday, I loaded up a new ammo can and set out from Salem about 7AM. I knew it was a pretty long trip, but it turned out to be even longer than I figured. But the area is one of the prettiest I’ve ever encountered! Heading up I-5, I stopped briefly at a scenic overlook to grab a cache that was just too easy not to grab. I’d stopped here several times before, but the area is usually crawling with watchful eyes. This morning, there was only one car, and he was nowhere near the cache, so I grabbed it, then hit the road again.I took the I-84 exit toward The Dalles. The highway winds its way along the river, with enormous mountains on the other side of the road. It was tough to keep my eyes on the road and not on the spectacular views! One of the best was when I rounded a corner and came face to face with Multnomah Falls! It’s literally right off to the side of the interstate!

I stopped briefly for a Pepsi and to hunt a TB hotel in Hood River. I made my way up a rocky hillside, only to reach the top and find a dirt road leading to the truck stop sign at the top of the hill! I spent about 30 minutes looking in the million crevices around boulders weighing hundreds, if not thousands of pounds, but even with the hint I couldn’t find anything. The place was teeming with poison oak, though. Fortunately, I’m not allergic, but as I understand it, if I keep exposing myself to it, I will almost certainly develop an allergy.

So I finally give up and figure I’m just letting the sun get hotter and higher in the sky. I made my way back down the way I came (the easy way was too long of a walk), and jumped back in the truck for the remaining 10 miles of my trip. Crossing the Columbia at Hood River is done via a $.75 toll bridge. It’s one of those metal deck bridges that makes you feel like your tires are wandering from side to side. Personally, I think they should have made the toll $1 and made the bridge 3 feet wider!

I finally get to the parking lot .83 from the cache. There are two other caches nearby, but I figured I’d better accomplish the mission, then if I had time I could hunt the other two. I set out from the trailhead at 11:11, with my GPS reading 256 feet of elevation. I could see even from below that this “2.5*” terrain rating was likely to be on the low side. Seems to me that cachers used to rate things lower than we do now. The trail starts off in a wide open slope. You don’t even encounter trees for about the first few hundred feet. The terrain is mostly small rocks with a thin covering of scrub grass and a few trees, some Douglas fir and white oak. But the real star of the hike is the wildflowers, which were quite prevalent, although from reading the pervious logs on the cache, the abundant moisture that made them bloom so much may already be gone for the “dry season.” The grass was crunchy except in the shade of the few trees. Even the moss was dry and brown.

At about the 350 foot level, I encountered a couple that was taking pictures, complete with a tripod. They were curious about the box I had in my hands, thinking I was headed the wrong way to be fishing. I told them about geocaching and remarkably they had heard of it. I told them about the cache, figuring that no one would hike another 500 feet up the hill just to get a box full of toys. They said it was their first visit to the area and wanted to know how much higher it was. I guessed at 500 feet, and I was off by about 100.

By this time, I was huffin and puffin pretty good! I started stopping at each large tree, resting in the shade each time. The ammo can made a pretty good portable seat. At one stop, I checked my pulse, which was 133. According to the American Heart Association, my target heart rate for aerobic exercise is 90-153. “If you can talk and walk at the same time, you aren't working too hard. If you can sing and maintain your level of effort, you're probably not working hard enough. If you get out of breath quickly, you're probably working too hard — especially if you have to stop and catch your breath.” Since I was getting out of breath I decided to stop and rest to get my hr down a little. Had I been a little more comfortable on the ground, it would have been a perfect place for a nap! Mildly warm in the shade, the gentle breeze made it quite nice, and the filtered sunlight would have made it just warm enough to doze off quite easily. The clear, cloudless day yielded a spectacular view of Mount Hood to the southwest and the island to the southeast.
“Memaloose” is an Indian word for the dead, and supposedly, there are grave on the island, but I wasn’t going to swim out to find them. I was more concerned about making sure there wasn’t an impromptu grave up HERE! Oh, did I mention I did this on the second hottest day of the year? In a black t-shirt and jeans? And I forgot sunscreen?

As I reached the area of “ground zero,” my energy level increased in preparation for the search. Funny how that happens! In very short order I found a Ziploc bag which contained a printout of the cache page and all prior logs, which another cacher had left in the logical place for a container to be hidden in the area. It quickly became apparent that my GPS and DoubleB’s did not agree. MY ground zero was 60 feet east, and nowhere near anything taller than a blade of grass. After setting my GPS down to get a new reading, I made a thorough search of the surrounding area to make sure the old cache really was gone. I marked the new waypoint and placed the printouts in the new ammo can hiding it in something resembling the hint. At least, I hope that’s what that plant was. Not being allergic to poison oak, I tend to ignore it.

I glanced at my GPS to get an elevation reading before heading back down the mountain (979 feet). This was the first significant hike I’d taken without a knee brace since I blew my right knee out in September. As you’ll know if you hike steep terrain, going down is easier on the heart but harder on the legs. Going downhill is no problem. Going downhill and staying on your feet is a problem. My legs were quivering pretty good by the time I reached 400 feet or so. I stopped fewer times than on the trip up, but still stopped every now and then to catch some shade and a drink (note to self: take more water next time). The views going down were even better than going up, since on the way up I was pretty much looking right at my feet the whole way. The trail has some twists and turned to watch out for, though. The western edge has a nice 200-300 foot drop in places!

Never have I been so glad to see my truck again! Even the luke-warm Gatorade was a welcome sight! I was bushed and decided I just didn’t have another hunt in me that day. It was 1343 (1:43PM), and I still had a nice long drive back home. About this time I realized that I had not put a “geocache” label on the ammo can! D’oh!

I didn’t get an official smilie for the find, since I don’t believe you can find something that you hid yourself. But I got lots of smiles for the incredible views, the fresh air and exercise, and giving something back to Washington for the fun I’ve had hunting caches up there.

03 May 2008


In the fall of 1984, I enrolled at then “Memphis State University.” As near as I recall, my first class was an 8 o’clock English class. This afternoon, a mere 24 years after that first class, I graduated with a Bachelor of Professional Studies in Organizational Management (a fancy term for an online business degree). Of course, being in Salem, Oregon now, I didn’t attend graduation ceremonies. My degree will be mailed to me in July.

My grades won’t be official until Thursday, but my professor already gave me my grade on my final project, a 95 A. I had a 93 average for the class. The so called “Culminating Project” is a required class, which for me meant a 32 page research paper. My subject was “A History of Geocaching and Geocachers of West Tennessee.” I examined the organizational issues faced by anyone forming an organization from scratch., and the psychology of group dynamics.

How did I manage to cram 4 years of college into 24? Well, I went to Memphis State for one year, then took a short cut at State Tech, graduating with an Associate’s in 1987. By that time, I was working for a bank, making pretty good money for someone with no degree, and I laid out of college for about 5 years. After I got married, I realized if I never started back, I’d never finish, so I started taking one or two classes a semester, and spent one year commuting one or two nights a week to Blue Mountain College, in Blue Mountain Mississippi. By that time, we had two kids and it was hard to physically go to class, so I took one semester at Trinity College in their online program. Then the Tennessee Board of Regents established their Regents Online Degree Program, and I started working on this degree. College had gotten really expensive by then, and I was paying as much for a single class as I used to pay for a semester! Heck I was paying nearly as much for one BOOK as I used to pay for a semester! Ironically, my first spring semester, the Tigers made the NCAA Final Four. My last spring semester...the Tigers made the NCAA Final Four.

So what will I do with my new degree? Nothing I’m not already doing. I got where I am as a trust officer by working hard and learning on the job. I’ve gone to school long enough to see a lot of fellow students who BOUGHT degrees, but don’t have sense enough to come in out of the rain. A degree gets you an interview. In my years of banking, the few times I’ve tried to move around, the lack of a degree got my resume put in the wrong pile. Employers would look at my resume, see I didn’t have a degree, and toss it. Fortunately, my current employer looked past that. Of course, now that I have my degree, I’m working for a place I can’t imagine leaving!

I have three great regrets in life: one is too personal to share here; two is that I didn’t do at least one hitch of some sort of military service; and three is that I didn’t finish my degree when I was young, unmarried, and working part time. But I can finally say that what I started so long ago, I finished! Maybe someday, I’ll be able to say that about my student LOANS!!

15 April 2008

Sand and Snow in 24

When we moved to Salem back in July, one of the few things I knew about it was its proximity to the entire spectrum of geography. You can literally be at the mountains or the beach in an hour and a half, and in the high desert in another hour. This past weekend, I did both sand and snow in 24 hours!

Saturday we got up early to head over to Lincoln City for the Community Days geocaching event. We got started about 8:30 and by 10 AM we were in the community center parking lot. Lincoln City is one of the most geocaching friendly towns you’ll ever meet, due in large part to the efforts of Parks and Recs Supervisor BostonMangum. On this day, he hosted a Geocaching 101 class from 10 to 12, then a three hour “Tour de Lincoln City” with a list of about 20 virtual stops to visit, most of which were near physical caches, where participants had to collect quiz answers in order to earn the event coin. Lincoln City also has a separate coin challenge, which can be earned anytime by visiting twenty specific LC caches to earn the coin on the link page.

The day started off with a surprise. As soon as I got out of the van, this fella I didn’t recognize walks up and says “Hi, Steve.” You know what that’s like. Someone obviously knows you, but you can’t remember their name! That’s why Baptists call each other “Brother” and “Sister,” we can’t remember each other’s names!

So anyway, I reply and start looking for clues as to who this dude is. Obviously a geocacher…hmmm…t-shirt says “Stop picturing me naked.” “Jim?” Holy Smokes! “Geogold!" With no beard and short hair!!

After the shock wore off and we decided to forego the GC 101 class in favor of hunting these things, we picked up our “passport” and headed out. By this time, our friends The Kensquaches and BeaverBeliever had arrived, and we began planning how to tackle these challenges. The first two were within walking distance of the community center; one beside the building and another across the parking lot at the huge Abraham Lincoln statue. Apparently, Ole Abe was offered the governorship of the Oregon Territory but declined. He must have been pretty nice about the rejection, because they named the city after him anyway!

With those two down, we tore out of the parking lot to find as many of the caches as we could before 12. Ever been “speed caching?” It’s interesting! It’s sort of a cross between Dave Ulmer and Joie Chitwood! Don’t take your eyes of that white Avalanche, or you might hit it! And when you arrive at the site, GET OUT OF THE VAN IMMEDIATELY if you want to actually “see” the cache, or they’ll have it found, signed, replaced, and be driving away before you set the parking brake! They had already found many of the caches on the list, but had to go back to get the “code word” to earn the coin.

We found about 7 or 8 before lunch, including one near a HUGE tree! We don’t have trees like this back in West Tennessee! It must have been 10 feet across. But we’re speed caching, so it’s run to the cache, ooolookitthebigtree, run back to the van!

We got back to the event a little after noon and discovered that the remainder of the event was to be spent out finding the caches! So we split with the Squaches for lunch and made plans to hook back up later. We had to be back by 3PM to claim our event coins, so we set off at a feverish pace. I forgot to mention the weather. This is the Oregon coast…in April. Standard fare would be windy…rainy…about 40 degrees…and deserted. Today, it was sunny, 65 degrees, light breeze, not a cloud in the sky, and everybody and their brother was in town! Made finding a couple of these caches interesting. At Taft Waterfront, we must have circled the parking lot a dozen times, just trying to find a parking place!

At some point we figured out that we had to have the event answers by 3, but could get the challenge coin anytime, so we concentrated on those answers, got our coin, then backtracked a little to get the remaining 5 or so caches. We visited the beach for a little while, at extremely low tide, which revealed some normally underwater treasures like the several huge starfish in this photo! We stopped at “Kids and Seniors” and let the kids play a little while we ate a bite and I grabbed the cache. Then we went to our last required cache, and maybe my favorite of the day: Sand Point. It is a secluded little 50 foot by 15 foot stretch of sand on the east side of Devil’s Lake, pictured in the first pic of this post. We got there about 5, and it’s the kind of place you could just sit for hours in the quiet and let the sun go down! On the way out, we stopped and picked up a flyer for a non-descript little 1,500sqft house on the road leading to Sand Point. Drop this same house in Memphis and you might get $100K for it. It’s only special feature was a small stretch of lake access with a rudimentary “dock” (which looked like two pieces of plywood on some large Styrofoam blocks). The asking price? REDUCED…to $600,000!!!!

On the way back to Salem, we stopped at “ProntoPups,” a little diner in Otis, Oregon that serves…you guessed it, Prontopups!

No, not THAT Prontopup,

THESE prontopups!

Now, any good southerner is going to knows Prontopups, but I was stunned to learn that this little establishment is NOT a transplanted franchise, these things were invented right here in Oregon! That’s right, this little bit of deep fried crunchy goodness is NOT a southern invention. I thought we were the purveyors of all things deep fried! I was positively mortified when I found out that deep fried Twinkies were invented in (cue Pace Picante Sauce commercial) NEW YORK CITY!?!? Anyway, back to the pups, I can verify that they are authentic, crunchy, and entirely devourable; you can almost feel your arteries clog!

We stopped at a couple more caches on the way back home, including one 30 feet up in a tree that I decided to leave for another day, and made it back home about 8:30. A twelve hour day that we’ll remember for a long time!

And that was just Saturday!

On Sunday, after church, I met up with Ken to head east, specifically to hunt Lavascaler XXXL. It was a rare combination of difficulty and terrain that both of us needed for the Oregon Fizzy Challenge. An hour and a half drive later, we’d gone from sea level to 4,800 at Santiam Pass in the Cascades. On the way, Ken pointed out a cache that he had already found and was kind enough to let me stop to get it. Actually, I think he just wanted a cigarette, but I got a smiley, so it’s all good! I “rescued” a travel bug that I was sure had been sitting in this remote cache for ages, only to find out that our good friend Salmondan had just left it there yesterday!

We arrived at the side of the road parking for the cache and quickly sized up the situation, or so we thought! The pass is clear…on the road. There’s still snow on the lava fields. I’m in jeans and tennis shoes, Ken at least has boots, with cute neon blue laces, I might add. But we’re here, we drove a long way, and we need this for our fizzy, so we ain’t giving up without trying. Let me interject here that this was NOT the dumbest thing I’ve ever done…but that’s kind of a sad statement when you think about it!

We headed off into the snow and quickly found it to be ankle deep…then knee deep, then deep enough to sink my 5 foot walking stick!! Ken’s about 6’9” and 375lbs, so he was sinking even deeper than I was! But we’re here, we need this, yada yada. I spot a trail that someone (who didn’t log a DNF) had made recently, so I tried to follow it. By stepping in his (her?)partially compacted boot prints, I managed to never sink past my waist! 700 feet later, I get to what seems by my GPS to be ground zero and start an arduous search. If you’ve never been in terrain like this, the snow melts at the bases of the large trees, creating icy funnels around them. I climbed in and out of these things looking for telltale rocks or parallel sticks covering an average size container. Finally, I decided to use my cell phone to check the cache page to see what kind of container I’m looking for and check the hint. “A 55 GALLON DRUM?!?!?!?” You gotta be #%@#%me!! Alas, this means that it is definitely UNDER to snow, and now, after looking at the pictures from the last finders in October, I’m not even sure I was looking in the right spot. With frozen, soggy feet, discretion finally won out and I headed back, meeting Ken about halfway back to the road. After an arduous 10 or 15 minutes, I could see the road and started just sloggin through the snow, determined to get out as fast as possible, not caring about sinking anymore. I finally reached the last two steps before reaching the mound of piled up lava rocks at the edge of the road. I could see that the snow was only about a foot deep at the last step. Unfortunately, the NEXT to the last step was about four feet deep! I stepped with my left leg and sunk immediately. My right leg, which includes my previously reported injured right knee, did NOT sink! It folded! In half! My knee almost hit me in the chin! See, this knee brace I have prevent hyperextension, not hyperflexion. I howled in pain and flopped backwards, trying to straighten my knee to relieve the pressure as quickly as possible! After a few moments, I realized it hurt, but was not re-injured, and angrily clambered out of the snow.

A few minutes later, Ken arrived back at the roadside, and it’s a good thing to, because if he hadn’t been able to get out of the snow, about all I could have done for him is mark a waypoint for the rescue team to recover the body! We sat for a few minutes on the tailgate of my truck, letting out feet thaw in the sun and out socks dry on my bedrails! I could literally pour water out of my shoes!

Since we were already up there, we tried for another difficult terrain cache relatively nearby. It was one of those where you have to drive 5 miles of gravel road to get to the other side of a ravine to get a cache 300 feet away. Up and up we travelled, about downed trees that thankfully had been at least sawed in half. About two miles in, though, we hit deep snow, and had to turn around and head back. Now four hours into our hunt, and we hadn’t found a thing (except the one Ken gave me on the way here)!

We spent the next 3 hours heading back toward Salem, picking off a few caches that just happened to get in our way. We stopped by one of Ken’s caches in a cemetery, which was a Letterbox Hybrid (meaning it had a stamp in it like a letterbox). The key word in parentheses is HAD a stamp, as it was apparently gone. It had been glued to the lid. Folks, if it is permanently attached, IT”S NOT A TRADE ITEM!! “Oooo, look! A stamp glued to the lid! I think I’ll pry it loose and trade a marble for it!!”

There were a couple of others on the way home, but nothing could top those, both the finds and the no-finds! In two days, I’d gone west and hour and a half to the beach, and east an hour and a half to wade in 5-7 feet of snow! Gotta love a place like that!

10 February 2008


Haven't posted in a while, so I figured I'd update the three of you! ;^) Actually, I get about a dozen hits a day, and will soon cross 4,000. Not bad for a relative nobody!

I've graduated from the cane to just a limp now. The knee continues to get a little stronger. Just a matter of regaining strength and mobility. Not much to speak of relatively speaking. Compared to my friend Chibongo, this was a mosquito bite!

Thoughts this week are for my friends back in West Tennessee, who got hit hard last week with tornadoes. One fella I know from Bellevue lost his grandmother in one of the Jackson tornadoes. Really puts a lot of things in perspective.

Missed a couple of days of work last week with a cold that I'm finally shaking. I'd planned on posting a little historical of my journey to 1,000 caches, but spent the better part of the last three days in bed. Now the laptop has to be sent off for repair. The slightest bump causes it to lose power and shut off. Kinda defeats the purpose of a laptop! I'll try to get that story typed up and posted soon. Might also give a few paragraphs to my boy Mike Huckabee, who continues to prove the "conventional" press wrong. As the plastic politicians drop out, the choices become more clearly defined and easier to distinguish.

19 January 2008

Scoping things out

At long last yesterday, I entered Willamette Surgery Center at 1300 PST to have my knee scoped. The past few days have been eventful, beginning with our van breaking down last Sunday as I rode back from a short cache run. Turned out to be a "timing belt," which is Latin for "thirty dollar part that takes $500 worth of labor to get to."

The picture on the left is from the arthroscope, a view of the damaged area of the lateral epicondyle of my right femur. The "foreign body" noted in my previous entries was removed; a grisly little piece of bone and cartilage which may been seen in a mildly graphic photo here. (the scale is in centimeters) I wanted to encase it in lucite and make a travel bug out of it, but they wouldn't let me keep it.

I discussed foregoing general anesthesia in favor of just a local to shorten the recovery time, but the anesthesiologist assured me I'd come around in about an hour and everything would be fine. A few puffs of oxygen from the mask while they shot my IV with the knockout juice, and the next thing I knew I was startled awake in recovery. I've fought a headache and nausea ever since, so I kinda wish I'd opted for the local.

The doctor said he saw no significant damage other than the scraped bone noted above. The surgery went smoothly and the incisions (3) are small. I should be able to walk gingerly by tomorrow. I return for a followup visit in 10 days. Thanks to all who have prayed for us!

04 January 2008

Knee surgery and BBQ

First a brief update on my arthroscopic knee surgery. I am scheduled for 1 PM PST on Friday 18th January. I will have Monday off for the Martin Luther King Holiday, giving me an extra day to recover. If all goes well, I should be back to work on Tuesday and able to begin some rehab to regain mobility and strength in the knee and leg, and get back to normal.

In my Memphis Vacation entry, I discussed the delicious subject of barbeque. I finally had an opportunity to sample some local (to Salem) fare yesterday, and thought I’d give you an update on how Pacific Northwesterners do “Q.” First, you have to figure that “Q” would be an imported product to this area. It rains too much to keep a smoky, pit fire going outdoors! Second, this place advertises itself as serving “Texas Style Barbeque,” which ain't Memphis style bbq, so I knew right away it would be “good, but not quite right.” I was not disappointed.

Let me first say I am no food critic. My palate is not sophisticated enough to detect “subtle notes” of delicate spices and flavors. But, like most of you, I know what’s good and what isn’t. Knowing that this was an experimental visit, I ordered a standard sampling lunch: beef brisket and pulled pork, “barbeque” beans, and tater salad (no, not that "Tater Salad"). I sampled their “mild,” “sweet,” and “hot” sauces. Since the tea was (as I expected) not “sweet tea,” I opted for Barq’s root beer.

Texas BBQ is typically served without sauce, claiming the meat is so good it should stand on it’s own with nothing to hide. The beef brisket was good; tender, lean, and well-cooked (I hate raw meat!). But, without sauce, it was a little bland. It truly had “nothing to hide!” I expected more of a smoky-wood flavor. Maybe the fire went out. ;^) The pulled pork was lean and tasty, served with a nicely done sauce, presumably their “mild” sauce, and was very good, if just a tad sweet. The “sweet” sauce really was, and would have gone great on the beans! The “hot” sauce was less hot that I expected, but just right for me! I like a little heat without overpowering the food. So many “hot” sauces simply cauterize your taste buds with the first bite, and you can’t taste anything for three days.

The beans were hot, indeed, and better matched the description of “hot” in the paragraph above. But for their softness, they could have been coffee beans, and I wouldn’t have noticed under that sauce. I detected something with an edge to it, perhaps jalapeno. I went easy on them the rest of lunch.

The tater salad was also not what I expected. You’d have to let me watch you make it on-site to convince me it wasn’t "canned." I expect tater salad to be chunky, sometimes even not mixed all that well. Something that tells me it was work to prepare. This was more like tater salad paste, with a few hunks of potato thrown in. Too much vinegar, or maybe just pickle, gave it an overpowering tang. I’m more partial to mayo tater salad, with lots of boiled egg, so I’m kinda hard to please anyway. Corky's “twice-baked” tater salad is good!

All in all, a good lunch, a reasonable value (a little more than $10), and passable fare for this part of the country!