Monday, August 27, 2007

Buffalo? What Buffalo?

This past weekend, I snuck off to Buffalo, NY. Why they call it Buffalo, I never did figure out. I never once saw a single Buffalo the entire weekend. I saw a giraffe.

I found a turtle, which I lassoed and rode into the gathering with style.

Chadams, unfortunately, tried to tackle a giant Amazonian woman with disastrous results:

And a large number of shady, assorted characters were found crawling through the forests:

But one thing I never did see was a Buffalo. Makes you think, huh? =)

My arrival into Buffalo almost didn't happen. A flight out of Seattle was canceled at the last minute and disappointed passengers overflowed the rest of the flights out of Seattle the rest of the day. I slipped into the last flight to Charlotte with no extra seats to spare. Definitely the scenic route to Buffalo, but it got me out of Seattle which was looking unlikely at the time.

Then I caught a connecting flight to Philly, where Amanda was waiting for me at the gate. She flew out of Seattle at the same time I did, but was working the flight from Seattle direct to Philly--which was full which is why I ended up on the Charlotte flight instead.

I, however, got to sleep on my flight. Amanda did not since she was working. No sultry announcements for me this time around. She ended up leaving me to take a nap in the crew room as I tried to catch flights to Buffalo. It didn't look good with all flights until fairly late that night overbooked.

The first flight was overbooked by five people, and four of us didn't get on. Miraculously, despite the next flight being overbooked as well, we all got on the second available flight to Buffalo. I didn't think I'd succeed getting into Buffalo until 10:00 that night, so I was rather happy to arrive at 2:30 in the afternoon!

At the airport, I called Amanda to let her know I wasn't in Philly anymore. She was actually looking for me at the gate for the next flight to Buffalo when I called. =)

I picked up my rental car from Alamo. A Dodge Charger or something like that, in a pretty blue color. (Can you tell I'm not all too familiar with cars?)

I printed out directions to the camping event and the day event. The day event wasn't until Saturday, but it was on the way and I stopped to check out the scene before continuing on to the campsite.

Except the directions I printed stopped before I reached the campground. It had to be around there somewhere, though, because I did spot a sign for Sprague Brook Park suggesting a left turn at a five-way intersection was in order. Unfortunately, I wasn't entirely sure which left the sign wanted me to take. I tried the larger one first and drove about ten miles before giving up. The park couldn't have been that far away! Then I drove down the other left road another five or ten miles before giving up. That wasn't it.

Then I drove on the straight road. I was pretty sure the campground wasn't in that direction since left is definitely NOT straight, but maybe I'd find some food. I was starting to get hungry. I drove for another five miles and didn't see any suggestion of a campground nor food--it just seemed to become even more remote than ever. How does an enormous campground just disappear?!

I was becoming quite familiar with this five-way intersection, though, now having tried four of the five spokes coming out from it. It seemed symmetrical to try the last one as well, which I did. It went a couple of miles before reaching the small town of Springville and a pizza place on the corner. Excellent. I now knew where I could go for food if this elusive campground did not show itself soon.

Back at the five-way intersection once again, I parked, got out and took a closer look at the sign saying to turn left at Sprague Brook Park. It was a solid 90 degree turn from the look of the sign, to the left. Sprite's written description of the campground said it was just off of highway 240, which was the main left turn I first followed and a 90 degree turn at that. I would try it again. Maybe I just missed it the first time I went that direction. Maybe I didn't go far enough?

I drove and I drove. The sun scraped the horizon. It seemed like hours had passed since I arrived at the airport, and this letterboxer, I hate to admit, couldn't even find an entire campground much less a letterbox.

I drove a few miles down 240, whistling past an intersection, when, from the corner of my eye, I saw a large, dark sign that I thought had the word 'Sprague' written on it. It's a large sign, but it's a dark sign, hidden near trees as if it were shy and not really wanting to be seen. I slammed on the breaks, tires screeching. What did I care? I was driving a rental. =) And turned around to look at the sign again. Sprague Brook Park, down that rode. Damn! I drove past that sign TWICE and never even saw it. Almost drove past it a third time too! Well, technically, I DID drive past the sign a third time, but I didn't drive past it very far that last time. =)

At the campground, I drove around a bit hoping to spot some suspicious looking characters lurking around, but alas, I did not. In fact, it was an imposingly large campground, and my random driving around didn't seem like a productive way of finding the rest of the letterboxers, so I went back to the main office and asked....

At this point, I had to think. What name would the reservation be under? "Sprite and Highlander" didn't seem like the right answer. I dredged my memories, and finally came up with their first names, but the lady behind the counter would have none of it. "I need a last name, sir," she explained, seemingly impatient with my not knowing the names of my good friends. I stuttered a bit, thinking hard, and finally pulled out Burke! Yes! That was it!

The woman suddenly seemed warm and friendly now. Perhaps she realized I wasn't a nutcase after all, but fit in with the others from the group. She gave me a map, circling all of the campsites Sprite had reserved, and asked if I could pass on a message that someone called saying they had to cancel at the last minute but there were no refunds at this late stage. Sure, no problem.

I drove on to the campground where I spotted Celtic Quinn, sitting on the back of a car, apparently alone and a hint of melancholy. Those weird spiral eyes glazing out to the forest ahead.

At long last, I found my weekend home.

Some people knew I was coming. Some people knew I might be coming. But most people, I think, had no idea the Green Tortuga was in the campground until they met me. Celtic Quinn seemed to enjoy telling people, "Hey, this is Ryan." Then he'd pause to let that digest a bit before jumping on them with, "The Green Tortuga!" and laugh at their shock. He's an evil little man, but if you've ever looked into his strangely hypnotic eyes, you already know that. =)

We set up camp, Highlander cooked some burgers on the grill, and Chadams and Lady Lilac built a nice little campfire we gathered around where I amazed them with a recital of the best campfire story ever told: The Cremation of Sam McGee.

The next morning, we drove to Chestnut Ridge where the day portion of the event was to take place. Mostly, I stayed in the shelter all afternoon meeting people because, hey, I can letterbox anywhere at any time. I can't meet these people every day, however!

Trekkie Gal in particular I was happy to meet since I knew her name well from the message boards and it's always fun to meet those people you "know". Quite a number of people I didn't know at all--sorry about that, but I really don't know everything!--but they still had interesting stories to tell. Happy Hour in particular seemed like a good fellow, but blast it, I totally forgot to exchange with him. I suspect I might be the only person that doesn't have a Happy Hour exchange, which for those of you who were there, you might find that surprising, but it's true. He donated his signature stamp to Chadams to plant at a later date, so maybe I can get it on a future visit.

Trekkie Gal, I might add, was wearing what is known as a skort--a combination of a skirt and shorts. At least that's what she claims, but I think it's a term invented by women for women. In fact, my spell checker here doesn't even know the term, so it can't really exist. So I heckled her about that for the rest of the afternoon. In case you wonder about those passing references about skorts. Must.... make.... letterbox.....

At the end of the day, several of us headed out to dinner at the Ponderosa, a chain of restaurants that apparently I was the only person who'd never heard of them. Really! I don't know everything! It just seems that way sometimes. =) We laughed, we stamped, we ate. Somehow, laminated testicles became the main topic of discussion and continued to be a running joke the rest of the night. Side conversations included thoughtful discussions about rabbits on fire and man boobs with some R-rated stamps being passed around. I have little doubt the employees there are still talking about us. "Last Saturday, this group came in...."

Back at the campground, we went off to find a few night boxes. Glow sticks marked the location of the eight boxes, and we went out in a series of groups to get the boxes. It went downhill when Eidolon started to heckle me about not rehiding boxes better than I found them. I found them sitting in front of the glow sticks, and he thought I should do a better job of hiding them. So the next one I hid behind a tree that was behind the glow stick, which pleased him greatly.

Then the next one I planted a couple of feet off the ground in a tree.

By the next one, the last group was quickly catching up to us. They were walking up just as I finished stamping in, so I walked quickly past the glow stick and literally threw the letterbox into the grass behind the glow stick without even slowing down. I used my body to cover the throw, and hoped the group behind us didn't see the plastic bag hurtling into the grass.

"You just threw it into the grass?!" Everyone else in my group seemed astounded.

"Well," I explained. "You said I had to hide it better than we found it. Trust me, it's hid better than we found it."

We stamped into the last box quickly, trying to get it done before the last group finally caught up to us. Hopefully that search through the grass might slow them down, but it wasn't enough. I had just finished stamping my book when they walked up behind us. I tucked the box into my pocket, we wished them luck finding the box, and we left.

"You TOOK the box?!"

"Hey, you said to hide it better than it was found, and darn it, I guarantee, it's hidden MUCH better than we found it!"

At the trailhead, we discussed what to do with the box. Take it back to the campsite? Leave it in their car? We tried the doors, but they were locked. Eidolon decided to wrap it around the windshield wiper instead. We were in the parking lot for at least five to ten minutes, and the last group never returned, obviously doing a very thorough search for that letterbox that was now on their windshield. =)

We drove back to camp and told Sprite what we did, who accused us of being pure evil or something to that effect. Everyone blamed me, but it was Eidolon, I tell you. He's the one that first started heckling me about not rehiding boxes better than I found them. Rehiding them, in fact, in PLAIN VIEW! And everyone else agreed with them. I'm an example to letterboxers everywhere, so I had to do it. I had to rehide the boxes better than I found it.

A few minutes later, the last group drove into camp, one person saying it looked like we just threw the boxes into the grass. (As a matter of fact....) They thought we accidentally took the last box with us, which I was perfectly happy to let them think, but everyone wanted to point their fingers at me instead. *shaking head* Traitors, the bunch of you!

Then we stayed up until 2:00 in the morning, crowded around the campfire telling mental puzzles and stories. Good times, indeed. *nodding*

The next day, we broke up camp and scattered to the four corners of the world. Chadams and I headed out on our own adventures, finding a couple of boxes at Griffis Sculpture Park (where the photos of the giraffe, turtle, and giant woman were take), then to Little Rock City which is strange since the smallest rocks I saw were about the size of a small house. We discussed the possibilities of a night event at that place, though, because it's pretty darned creepy in the daylight. It would be wonderfully creepy at night. =)

Chadams left to go get a nap before having to work that night, and I drove out to to the airport where I spent the night. My flight was scheduled to leave early, early that morning, and I didn't want to pay for another day with the rental car when I'd only have it for all of three or four hours that morning, so I made sure to return it before midnight then slept on a nice bench under the screens with arrivals and departures listed.

The flight out of Buffalo was overbooked, but I managed to get on the flight anyhow and left Buffalo, never once having spotted one during my entire visit. Thanks to all who attended and kept me fed! Thanks for the laughs, and thanks for the very good time.

I missed Niagara Falls, though, so I guess I'll have to come back again someday. =)


Anonymous said...

Oh, you will definetly have to come back. There are some Buffaloes on the way to the Falls.

Unknown said...

You do realize that you'll have to chastise that Happy Hour fellow...most unsavory! ;-) And Eidolon is in for a BIG chastising, too. BAD biscuit!

As for the naming of Buffalo itself, check the info here:

Eidolon said...

Chastise Eidolon?!? I can't believe Ryan tried to blame this one on me. Well, maybe I can but anyway... I just commented, repeatedly, with much exasperation in my voice, that I could SEE the "rehidden" boxes and everyone knows that is never a good thing. Heck, I think Sprite should thank me for my diligence as they boxes might even have been muggled had someone managed to run down the trail between our group and the next!!! I was simply trying to keep the boxes safe.


P.S. I saw no Buffalo either, though I did see a hammer shaped mailbox right at the park which was strangely interesting...

Anonymous said...

You have to drive on Route 90 to see the buffalo. They are grazing right on the side of the road.

Larva Lady/Zelie Zips

Krafty Kat said...

For another fun Buffalo challenge, try finding Buffalo wings. We spent an hour asking everyone on the street where to get wings one night. The basic answer was, "Wings? No idea."
--aka as karmakat on the trails

Anonymous said...

Happy hour was a very odd fellow- i kept catching him writing GREEN TORTUGA SMELLS in others logbooks! I cant believe his gall!

It was incredibly wonderful to talk to you again- but you didnt surprise us as much as we surprised you!
I still cant believe you took that last stamp...

kitten without mittens

Anonymous said...

I wonder how that Happy Hour fellow returned to his home...*in deep thought*

-kiwi foamie

Anonymous said...

If no one's told you yet, the name Buffalo is from the french, who saw the Niagara Falls, and called them "Beau Flow", or something to that effect. And when brittish settelers came around, they *Kinda* kept the name.

-S. D. Quinn

Anonymous said...

Your posting is making me think that maybe there's a new series out there for me . . . The Purloined Letterbox!

T1 of The Travelers 4