Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Poohsticks

    
Poohsticks is a game where you drop sticks on the upstream side of a bridge, and the winner is the one who's stick appears on the downstream side first.  It was invented by A. A. Milne, the auther of Winnie The Pooh

Today the kids, my wife and I went for a bike ride on the local greenway, and ended up playing poohsticks.  The kids liked it so much we played until we ran out of sticks.

These are the things childhood memories are made of.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Cheltenham Badlands

Sometimes geocaching makes an excellent tour guide.

A case in point:

In June, while we were driving home from the COG mega event, my wife and I decided to avoid the highways and cut across country to see what we could see.  About 30 minutes into our drive along Ontario we crested a hill and landed in the middle of a geology lesson.

On the side of the road was several acres of barren red rocks.  If you've never been to central Ontario, the landscape is basically rolling hills of green fields, green trees, or water. Barren rock like this is rare, so naturally we were intrigued.  However we had no idea what, exactly, we were looking at.  I didn't have data on my phone, so I couldn't search the internet for the answer.

I decided to see if there were any geocaches in the area that may provide some nuggets of information. As luck would have it, there was an earth cache at this very location, complete with all sorts of useful information about the badlands.  I shall relay some of that information to you, cause thats just the type of service we provide here at Only Googlebot Reads This Blog.

According to the earth cache description, this area used to be an inland sea back in ancient times, which covered the land in a very soft rock called shale.  When the land was cleared for cattle grazing back in 1900, the dirt eroded away exposing the shale. Once the shale was exposed it also eroded away, leaving the much harder sand stone, limestone, and dolomite bedrock exposed. The result is the badlands seen today.

What surprises me is how quickly it happened.  One normally thinks of geological events happening over thousands of years, but this all happened over a relatively short 100ish years.  Just goes to show that messing with mother nature can have unforeseen (tho sometimes awesome) consequences.

It was really great discovering that these badlands existed very near the place I grew up, all thanks to this quirky little hobby we call geocaching.  Gotta love it.

Have you had a similar experience where a geocache acted like a tour guide?  Tell me about it in the comments below.

The Tale Of The Wayward Travel Bug

Sometimes you seek out a story, and sometimes they fall into your lap. This is the re-telling of the second type of story.  It begins with a seemingly unrelated road trip.

On May 15th of this year. My family and I had just started on a week long road trip I called the Long Way Round.  We were not in the car for more than 45 minutes before we stopped at a rest area heading south on I40 so I could grab a geocache that was published only a few days before.

One never knows what one will find when they open up a geocache.  So I was not overly surprised to find a fished themed travel bug in the cache we found.  Then I took a closer look at the travel bugs tag.

It was at this point that sharp eared travelers would have heard "You gotta be kidding me!" coming from the woods lining the edge of the rest area.

You see, the tag said the bugs mission was to go to Fifty Point Conservation Area in southern Ontario.

This may not mean a lot to you, or to most people, but I happened to already have plans to Canada a couple months later, and our plans would bring us right past Fifty Point on several days during our trip.

Naturally I grabbed the bug, feeling excited and fortuitous that I could help this bug get back home.  When I got back to the Geovan of Destiny my wife was also tickled at the coincidence of it all.

It was when I got back to the hotel that evening and looked up the details of the TB that things started to get a little surreal.  The TB was released in the Yukon in July 2013.   There was exactly one discover log two days later stating that it was headed to Arizona. After that the logs went silent until I picked it out of a cache in North Carolina 10 months and many thousand miles later.

I have no idea how the TB got there, or what chain of events was required for this TB to land in my hands at the exact moment when I would be driving by (in the wrong direction, no less), in a cache that was less than a week old.  The odds seem remarkably small that this bug would find its way into the hands of, likely, the only person for 100 miles, who was in a position to bring the TB directly home.

Which I was, naturally, more than happy to do.
On June 30th I stopped by Fifty Point and dropped the bug off in one of the many caches in the park.  It is a beautiful park on the western shore of Lake Ontario, so I took a few hours to explore the area, and grab some more caches, and to check out the views:

So that is my story of a wayward travel bug that made it back home, despite the odds being against it.  Call it a story of fate, or coincidence, but I am glad I was in the right place at the right time for me to play a part in getting this TB back home.  In the grand scheme of life this is such a trivial event, but its fun when life tosses you into the middle of a story.

Have you had a similar experience?  Drop me a note in the comments below.

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Comfort Maple


This tree is one of the oldest living things in Canada. At an approximate 500 years of age, this single sugar maple tree is 3 times older than the nation it now resides in, and was almost 100 years old when the pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock.

It is a gentle giant at 80ft in height, and branches that sprawl out 125ft in circumference.  The trunk itself is 20ft in circumference.  Due to age, and at least one lightening strike, the tree is reinforced with guy wires, and some brickwork in the main trunk.

The Comfort Maple, named after family who purchased the land in 1816, now resides on a one acre public accessible plot of land surrounded by a farm in Pelham Ontario.

It is also home to a geocache, that has been missing the last few times I've been to Canada - I finally put my name on the log in July.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

CN Tower

I have always said a day spent at a Wonder Of The World doesn't suck, so the last time I was in Toronto I checked out the CN Tower, which is one of the seven Wonders Of The Modern World.

The CN tower is a 1815ft high communications tower situated in downtown Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

When built in 1968 it was the tallest free standing structure... in the world (it was finally surpassed by the Burj Khalifa in 2010).  It also defines the unique Toronto skyline.

2/3rds(ish) of the way up the tower, at 1150ft(ish) is an bubble called the Main Pod that contains several observation decks, and two (count em!) restaurants.

On the outside deck, which is very windy in places, you can walk 360 degrees around the tower, and get views of the city, and up to 100KMs away.

There is also a glass floor you can stand on, and get real feel for how up off the ground you actually are.  This can be really cool if you are the adventurous sort, like Zeke:

Or a little intimidating if you are a more timid Abigail.
Of course the highlight is the view.  Between my cell phone camera's panoramic option, and the Google Plus AutoAwesome Panoramic View, I managed to get a couple decent shots of Toronto.  The first is looking west.
This shot is facing due north.
The CN tower is a bit expensive to visit, but if you have a few extra bucks to spend in your vacation budget, I highly recommend checking out the CN Tower the next time you're in Toronto.  

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Fort George

This year we found ourselves in Canada on Canada Day, so we celebrated with some friends by visiting the historical site known as Fort George.

For my non-Canadian readers, July 1st is Canada Day, which is a national holiday that commemorates the singing of the British North America Act in 1867 which united the three colonies and created Canada as a country.  Think of it as July 4th, but without the war.

Not that Canada's history is battle free. There were many battles and skirmishes during Canada's history before 1867. Many were between the colonies, but the most notable was with the United States during the war of 1812.

Fort George was one of the British forts used during the War of 1812.  It was captured by the US in 1813, and recaptured a few months later.

The fort is mainly made of earth works shored up with logs.

 The fort looks over the Niagara River, and is intended to make crossing the river as hard as possible.  This is a forward outpost used for monitoring the US side of the river.  There is a stone lined tunnel running from this post to the main fort.

Most of the volunteers manning the fort today were in period dress. There were several demonstrations about life in the fort, from how they made food, to how they conducted warfare.
The musket demonstrations were the most dramatic.  A fellow dressed up as a British soldier and a fellow dressed up as a Militiaman gave demonstrations on how the soldiers handled their weapons. One thing I learned is that the purpose of the brightly coloured uniforms were to keep track of each other.  Black powder muskets produce a surprisingly large amount of smoke, so when a battalion of soldiers fire their guns all at once they quickly get lost in a fog of smoke.  In the style of warfare of the time keeping track of your own forces was a lot more valuable than hiding from the opposing forces.
Another thing I learned is that the British muskets were not rifled, whereas the Militia used mainly rifled muskets.  The Militiamen had a much more accurate shot, but the British depended on a wall of lead.  The defense of Canada was lead by the British, but they were vastly outnumbered, and would have completely failed if not for a large militia force, as well as a lot of assistance from the local native indians. 
As it stood, I don't believe too many battles occurred when the Canadian defenders were not dramatically outnumbered (tho it didn't stop us from ultimately repelling the invaders, and setting fire to the White House - which is why its white - you are welcome.)

A visit to an historic military base would not be complete without a formation of soldiers. Fortunately they had one of those too!
One of the activities was for us civilians to get a chance firing a black powder musket.  The musket was loaded by one of the volunteers, which was handed to me to shoot.  I did an historically accurate (in my opinion) commemorative dance, then took my shot.

Note that I was dressed in a Sergeants uniform.  I like to think I deserved the promotion, but in reality it was due to that being the only uniform that fit the larger sized gentleman.
I got to take two shots, which I took while picturing a line of damn dirty Yankees standing in front of me. (Don't worry, my American friends, I shook my fist at the damned British empirical menace 3 days later on July 4th to make up for it - fair is fair).  I am pretty sure I got the guy third from the left.
So that was my experience at Fort George.  I have always found the history around 1812 to be fascinating - one of my child hood heroes was Sir. Isaac Brock, the British general who defended Canada at the beginning of 1812, before being killed at the battle of Queenston Heights.

It is always a good idea to reach out and touch history. It reminds us of where we've come from, and how good we have it today.  Fort George was a great way to touch a part of my heritage.  Thus today was a good day.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Road To Nowhere

Canada is a vast nation, and its population is relatively small.  This means that one often finds themselves a long way from anywhere.

So, metaphorically, you are often nowhere.

This does make one wonder, (philosophical question alert!) are you ever really, truly, nowhere?  I mean, what does that even mean, anyway?

My wife and I decided to go on a quest to see if we could officially find nowhere.

We started in the middle of the suburbs in Beeton Ontario (because if there ever was a candidate for soul sucking nothingness, it's the 'burbs).

To our left was a wide open expanse of wilderness of nothing but vegetation, and a little overgrown path. Since the 'burbs, while uninteresting, contain something, and logic dictates nowhere will have nothing, we turned left towards the promising emptiness of the wilderness.

It was at this point that I paused for a selfie:
Turns out this wilderness is full of vegetation growing over very soggy land, so I spent a good amount of time sloshing thru mud, whilst wading through tall grasses with lovely thistles.   Don't get me wrong, it smelled like an adventure, but it was still a tad bit dampish in the boots department.  My wife, ever the trooper, was gracious enough to let me find a trail thru the muck before she followed.  
We eventually came across some train tracks, which was odd cause trains are typically going somewhere, and we were not. We were not hunting for any random somewhere.  We were hunting for nowhere, in particular.
Then we looked across the tracks.

There it was. Staring back at us.

Nowhere!  It was there!
We were, officially, there.  We could have (if we thought of it at the time) had this witty exchange:

"Ask me where we are!"
"Where?"
"No."
"WHERE?!?"
"NO!"
"You're a jerk!"

We would then mentally change "nowhere" to "now here", and smirk at our own cleverness.  (In retrospect I suspect it was best we didn't have that witty moment).

So, ironically, nowhere is a real place, and philosophers world wide are now in search of new jobs. Mission accomplished.

Have you ever been nowhere? Tell me about it in the comments below.