Friday, August 29, 2008

Ireland In Two Days or Less

I already posted a brief notice of Amanda and myself in Ireland. Little did I know, Amanda brought the little cord for our cameras, so I actually have some pictures to post this time around. =) First, let's examine the view out of our hotel window. We're on the sixth floors (or rather, the seventh, if you count floors American style), overlooking the Shannon River (or "the River Shannon" as locals like to call it). We also have an incredible view of a huge pile of scrap metal. =)

Since this photo was taken, a ship has since arrived and they've been moving the scrap metal onto the ship. It's still an impressive little pile, however.

Then we headed off to see a little of town. The castle below is King John's Castle in Limerick. It was built about 800 years ago and had been attacked numerous times over the years, both above ground and below it through the use of tunnel warfare.

This next photo is from inside the castle. It has a nice museum in a building (not visible in this photo) and an underground area they've been excavating that us tourists can visit (again, not visible in this photo). That's Amanda in the foreground. You can recognize her from all the patches on her pack. =)

And that was pretty much it for us. We crashed particularly early, absolutely exhausted from the long flight from Seattle. The next photo is of our hotel the next morning (which is today, actually). It's the tallest hotel in Ireland if their claims are to be believed. *nodding* Our room is on the other side of the building. These people have the "pretty views" rather than the junkyard views we got.

We headed off to the bus and rail station for a bus tour of the area. We met up with a small group of people, piled into a small bus, and headed out to Bunratty Castle.
I always like to take pictures of flags when I'm in foreign countries, and Ireland is no exception. This particular flag flies over Bunratty Castle. =)

I saw Amanda taking a picture of this window--part of a "village" recreated next to the castle--and thought it looked particularly scenic and followed suit. Then she admitted--she saw it used on postcards! The cheat! It is a nice photo, however. =)

There was even some wildlife sightings.

They were in an enclosure, however, which makes spotting them particularly easy. =) Then Amanda decided to become friends with one of the donkeys.

From there, we headed out towards the Cliffs of Mohar, but the weather, alas, was not cooperating. You may recognize these cliffs as those used in the movie The Princess Bride. Upon our arrival, however, I can't say I recognized anything.

A peek of the Atlantic Ocean was there, but the cliffs were infuriatingly surrounded in fog. But alas! It started to clear!

And by the time we left, it was almost entirely clear! The weather, my friends, can change in an instant! So we were rather delighted to see the cliffs in all their glory, towering hundreds of feet out of the ocean.

The last major stop was to a desolate rocky area known as the Burren.

In case you're wondering what any of this has to do with letterboxing, I planted a letterbox there under that rock in that last photo where Amanda is standing. Amanda also planted one at Bunratty Castle. Look for the clues soon!

And once again, we are back in the hotel room at Limerick, waiting for daylight to head back to the Shannon airport and the end of our two-day whirl-wind adventure.

Carpe diem!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Where the heck are you, Ryan?

Has anyone even noticed that I'm not around anymore? Yep, it's true. At this particular moment, I'm at an Internet cafe in Limerick. That's in Ireland for those of you not up on world geography. Amanda worked a flight out to here that has a TWO day layover--so I kind of tagged along to enjoy the dirt cheap flight and free hotel room, and two days of soaking up the local sights. I've never been to Ireland before.

I've been in the country for about five hours now, practically a walking zombie from being so tired, but darn it, I only have two days here and I'm going to make the best of it!

We took a short van ride to our hotel in Limerick--learning along the way that Limerick is the third largest city in Ireland (who knew?!) and our hotel, the Clarion, is the tallest hotel in Ireland! Woo-who! Alas, we have a sixth room floor with a view over the largest pile of scrap metal I ever have seen and the river Shannon. Actually, it's kind of cool. =) I guess once they collect enough of the scrap metal, they ship it off to wherever scrap metal goes to die or get recycled.

Amanda and I visited King John's Castle this afternoon, which has been the highlight of the day. Fascinating stories of battles fought, both on the surface and through underground tunnels. We've book a bus tour for tomorrow, so hopefully I'll have some interesting stories about that later.

Now we're wandering around town rather vaguely looking for any promising locations for letterboxes. In town, though, it's not looking good.

So that's what's going on on my side of the world. =) I'm ready to get some sleep, though. I think I've had all of about six hours sleep in the last 48 hours, and it's catching up to me. *yawn*

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Submit Your Photos... NOW!

It's that time of year again. Summer is coming to an end, back to school sales are in full motion, and another year of Project X is upon us. What is Project X? It's the annual letterboxing calendar, full of beautiful photos taken by letterboxers, while letterboxing. (Okay, usually while letterboxing.)

You can read more about the letterboxing calendar and what kind of photos we're looking for on the Project X link under the Toolbox menubar option, or just follow this link. =)

The deadline for photo submissions is the August 31st--less than a week away!--so if you want to be in the 2009 letterboxing calendar, get your submissions in now! All winners get a free calendar with their photo in it!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Be Careful Out There!

I was walking along the Alki waterfront yesterday afternoon, as I often do, admiring the snow-capped Olympic Mountains and the sun that was soon to set behind them. Very scenic, crowded with what seemed like hundreds of people enjoying the view, playing volleyball, and laying out on the beach.

Near the end of the beach, a concrete retaining wall comes up out of the water, and I like to walk on it. Right up close to the water. Especially at high tide, like it was then, and watch the water sloshing around the rocks at the base of it. It also gets me off the very crowded sidewalks this time of year. So I was walking up to this retaining wall, about to start walking on it, and I noticed a large, severely overweight man standing on the beach, back towards me, watching the sun set. He had no shirt on, and it might be politically incorrect, but the first thought that went through my head was, "Oh, I so don't want to see that."

Just as I was about to step onto the retaining wall, the rest of him came into view, and OH MY GOD! He had NO clothes on! And the second thought that immediately went through my head was, "I'M BLIND! I'M BLIND!"

Yes, I bumped into my second "naked hiker." The first one happened years ago while looking for some letterboxes along Denny Creek. I'd never seen a naked hiker before, and it was something of a shock at the time.

But this newest "naked hiker" incident is even more surprising--because it was in a VERY public place: Alki Beach! At least Denny Creek was mostly deserted. I saw him on a weekday and we two were probably the only two people hiking the trail that afternoon. This one was on a crowded beach with hundreds of people around. He was off at the very edge of the beach, mostly hidden by the retaining wall to passer-bys, but it was a shockingly public place to see a naked man loitering around.

I kept walking.....

If you think that was the end of the excitement, you'd be wrong. About ten minutes later, I passed by a small group of trees whose branches are growing out over the retaining wall which forces me off and back onto the sidewalk for a hundred feet or so, and while passing by them, I couldn't help but notice a group of five or six people who seemed to be searching for something. They looked mightily suspicious to me, but I doubted they were letterboxers since I knew of no letterboxes at this particular location. (I have caught letterboxers 'in the act' before along this walk, so I know they're out there--but this location wasn't where any were located.) Could they be.... geocachers? Hmm.....

So I asked them, "Are you guys looking for something?"

And the one replied, "No, not really." He paused and stammered, and they all had that deer in the headlights look. "Well, it's like a treasure hunt," he continued.

"Geocaching?" I asked, probing.

"Yeah! You know about it?"

They asked if I knew where the cache was located--and I waved them off, no, I'm not a geocacher. I didn't even know there was one nearby until I saw them acting suspicious. =) I did express some doubt, though, saying that the cache could be missing. It was an incredibly public location--the type that I wouldn't expect a letterbox to last for more than a week at--and I can't imagine that a geocache would do much better. So I suggested that it might be missing, but I really didn't know for sure since I knew nothing about the cache.

The man pulled out his cell phone or something, punched a couple of buttons, looked at it, and said, "It was found earlier today."

"Well, then," I said, "there's probably a good chance it really still is there." I wished them good luck and continued on my walk, wondering if I should have told them about letterboxing or about the letterboxes around Alki. They were probably puzzled why a non-cacher such as myself would know so much about geocaching in the first place.

But I couldn't help but be amused by the situation. They had absolutely no idea who I was. Not an inkling. In the letterboxing community, I'm rather famous (or infamous, depending on your point of view), and this family didn't have a clue I ever existed until I caught them geocaching. It was kind of fun being anonymous. =)

So if you head out to Alki to find a couple of boxes or meet me at Pegasus for pizza, I have two warnings for you: Watch out for naked men, and if you act suspicious while looking for a box, I might pounce on you. ;o)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

AQ Milestones

Did you hear about the chicken that tried to cross the road? Got run over by a herd of premium members chasing after a new hat. Poor thing never had a chance.... =)

But seriously..... I was looking at the AQ Stats page this morning and noticed a couple of particularly round numbers.

The first is the number of traditional letterboxers listed on Atlas Quest passed 50,000 sometime yesterday afternoon. As of 1:45 this morning (Pacific time), it was up to 50,020. Do you realize that when I first started letterboxing in 2001, there were under 1,000 letterboxes listed for all of North America on Now there are over 50,000 listed on Atlas Quest--and that's not even all the letterboxes out there!

Okay, yes, it includes boxes that are long retired and unavailable for whatever reason, but still.... 50,000 boxes had been out there at some point in time. And those are just the ones listed on Atlas Quest!

The other noticeably round number is the total number for all types of boxes, which just passed 100,000. Not really a particularly meaningful number, except that when I first started Atlas Quest, my intention was to design a database that could handle at least that many boxes quickly and efficiently. Guess I need to think bigger than that now. =) Plan for a million?!