Monday, April 28, 2008

Requiem For a Bookstore

For those of you who've done letterboxing in my hometown of San Luis Obispo, most of you seem to gravitate to my Bookstore Box. The really hardy among you go so far as nabbing the Walking Tour letterbox, hidden in the same bookstore though you wouldn't necessarily know it unless you started working out the clue.

Last week, I learned, much to my sorry, that Leons is going out of business. Shutting the doors for good. It's very sad for me--I've haunted those aisles of books since I was a kid. I don't remember a time when that bookstore wasn't there.

The doors will close for the last time in mid-May, but I'm leaving town tomorrow and won't be around again before then, so I retired the two boxes from that store yesterday.

Terribly sad, because both of the boxes are two of my favorite plants ever. =) Daring, dashing, and planted entirely without permission. (Not that I recommend doing so, but it is exciting!)

Let me introduce you to the boxes.

The original Bookstore Box was in a film cannister, but it didn't "stick" very well using magnets and after the stamp broke, I replaced it with a new (and improved!) stamp with a magnet in it and removed the logbook. Kind of wish people were able to make comments on that box online, the irony being I implemented that very feature just days ago. (Complete coincidence.) So the last dozen people or so I have no saved record of their messages. That's the stamp you see below the book. You can't really see the stamp image well in this picture, but it's a book with the name of the store written in it.

The second box was actually planted with the knowledge and help of one of the employees there (who has long since moved on to other life pursuits), and is the only "letterbook" box I've ever created. It's a pretty slick design, I thought. I bought a book that fit my specifications--in an area of the store that got little traffic, high on shelf where people would be less likely to browse, that was large enough to hollow out, and was non-descript and boring enough that nobody would ever consider picking up.

I spent that evening and the next day hollowing out the book, sewing together the pages, embedding magnets into the pages and washers into the cover so the book would stay closed if it were moved around, then covering up the mess with page I printed about what letterboxing is about. Not only is the page informative in case someone accidentally found the box (a very real possibility since it was literally in plain view), but it hid all that sewing, magnets, and washers quite well.

About 24 hours after I purchased the book, I returned to the bookstore and smuggled in my altered book. =)

While I cannot be 100% certain that nobody ever discovered that letterbox by accident, in the five or so years it had been there, nobody has ever been known to find the box who wasn't actually looking for it. Nobody has ever signed into the logbook who didn't have a signature stamp of some sort with them. Not even any of the employees there ever discovered it by accident. Pretty amazing for a box in plain view for the last five years!

And of course, the Walking Tour box was the original walking tour box. I later created the Portland Walking Tour, Seattle Walking Tour, and Boston Walking Tour, but the original walking tour was here in San Luis Obispo and at the time of its creating was the only one, and thus is not called the San Luis Obispo Walking Tour.

I can't replace either box anywhere else. The Bookstore Box was a stamp specifically designed for this particular bookstore while the letterbook was custom chosen for exactly where in the store I wanted it--it wouldn't be in an ideal location in any other bookstore. So both boxes will be retired.

I'd like to create a new walking tour of San Luis Obispo, but I need to carve stamps, find plaques (new ones, just to keep things interesting!), and find a hiding place for the box. Not sure when that'll happen, but someday....

So yesterday, I walked into the bookstore and smuggled out my boxes. Kind of felt like shoplifting, being all sneaky like that, but technically speaking, I had bought the book already and the other was just a stamp. =)

And alas, the boxes are now officially retired--permanently.

I would like to share some of the comments people wrote in the logbook for the Walking Tour box. I'll keep names anonymous in case someone doesn't want credit for what they wrote, but I enjoyed many of the comments that were written and now that the box is retired, I feel like it's safe to share some of my favorites. =)

"Consider this your warning, Ryan!"

"I never imagined I would sign into a letterbox while sitting on a toilet. Hahaha."

"Ryan, you have the mind of a criminal." (Also noted that they too, were stamping in in the loo.)

"I stamped in in the Nancy Drew section! =)" (Okay, you can probably figure out who wrote that one!)

"You're an evil mastermind, Ryan."

"Lovely day for walk!"

"We needed all three lifeline for this one!"

Rest in peace, boxes. Rest in peace.....

Sunday, April 27, 2008

So Much to Talk About!

Given the fact that I finished my thru-hike from Key West to Springer Mountain just over a week ago, I've been a busy little bee working on a number updates for Atlas Quest--some minor, some significant (thought not necessarily what I would call "major").

Some of the more notable changes.....

First, you'll notice when you read a message that you can now mark it as interesting, educational, funny, agree, disagree, or hug. 'Tis a little trick I learned from the folks over on the Knitting board of all places, and I was absolutely fascinated and enchanted with the idea. =)

Second, for you LTC'ers out there, you'll find several new attributes to choose from. Update yours if you so choose to. =)

Third, for those of you who want to restrict boxes, you are now permitted to do so for any box except those hosted on LbNA. (Nothing personal against LbNA, but it really makes no sense to restrict a box on AQ when the clue is hosted on LbNA.) Boxes without clues or those hosted on personal sites can now be restricted, however.

Fourth, when you record a find, you'll have a new option to send your comment privately (which has always been the case until now) or have it posted publicly. If you do not want people to be able to post comments about your box publicly, you can choose to opt-out. There's also an option to allow you to moderate any comment before it goes public as well.

Fifth, there's a new user group on AQ called "Pin-ups." You can choose to opt-in to that group. AQ has been and continues to be what I consider a PG-13 website, but some material really is PG-13 and it sometimes comes as a surprise to some folks who assume the site is rated G. Yes, it really is a PG-13 website, and for those folks who are concerned about accidentally offending someone expecting a G-rated site, you can now join the pin-ups group. It will allow you to restrict boxes only to other people who've opted into this group, and it will allow you to see boxes that others have restricted to this group in your searches. But remember, folks, it's still rated PG-13. If you have something even more explicit, it should not be listed on AQ.

Sixth.... yes, there's more. =) For traditional boxes, you now have the option to mark them as bonus boxes or WOM boxes. If you've listed any of these, you might want to edit the boxes to change their subtype to the appropriate value.

Next up, for those of you that do searches for trackers.... The search for "all types" will NOT include trackers anymore. You must explicitly choose trackers to search for them. There's a reason for this, but it won't be readily apparent until my next big update. ;o) In any case, just know that if you use the default box of "all" types, it no longer includes trackers in the search results. Change the search type to tracker to search for trackers.

Hmm...... That's all I can think of off the top of my head. You might find some other changes along the way that I've forgotten to mention, but those are the most notable ones for the time being. =)

Happy trails!

-- Ryan

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Free Listing Day!

To celebrate my completion of the Key West to Springer Mountain (it was Wassa's suggestion) and keep you all guessing when Free Listing Day happens, everyone will be able to list all of their finds on April 16th, Pacific time. Just use the Record Find/Attempt page, and if the box you're trying to list a find for is not listed on Atlas Quest, you'll be able to record the find anyhow in the unlisted box section.

Happy trails! =)

-- Ryan, who's done with trails.... for the most part, at least. ;o)

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

April Fools!

I hope you all enjoyed this year's April Fools gag. I haven't actually been able to see the results yet--why they don't install computers with Internet access in the backcountry continues to mystify me--so I left Wassa in charge of pulling it off. I hope at least a few of your were fooled by the joke. It was months in the making--my part (including the creation of the theme, buying the domain name, and such) had to be done before I left for the trail.

As for McBoxer, all I can say is that I'm so glad I had Wassamatta_u on my team, because sheeze, I'd probably have wanted to strangle the guy myself had I thought he was real. Wassa really took the gag to a whole new level I had never envisioned when I first proposed the 'selling out to McDonalds' joke to him with that McBoxer persona.

He also lobbied for the website. I liked the idea but wrote it off as too time consuming and I had bigger fish to fry. He wouldn't let the idea die, however, and enlisted a few folks to help create the website and give the caper a certain legitimacy that otherwise wouldn't have been there.

I'm not sure if the other folks who helped pulled off the joke want to remain anonymous or not, so I won't say their names here. I'll let them introduce themselves (assuming they haven't already on the message boards--like I said before, I can't read them myself at the moment).

Now we must hatch another caper.... Hmmmm.... *ideas twirling in the head*

*evil, sinister laugh*

Special kudos to wassa for helping me to pull off the best April Fools joke in AQ's history.

I know a lot of you like the random themes theme from a couple of years back, so I set that to run on April 2nd. Figured if it ran on April 1, it would spoil the McJoke gag. Not to worry, though, the random themes will only last one day and AQ hasn't flipped out. (At least that's the way I had set it to work.)

Last year's April Fool joke is still available for your viewing pleasure at

Just in case you missed it last year or wanted to relive it this year. =)

I have been able to read my AQ mail, and I got three absolutely scathing messages about what a horrible thing I'd done and how ashamed I should be by ruining letterboxing. One person even told me now I could trade in my Payless Shoes for clown shoes, which I thought pretty funny (even if I'm actually wearing shoes from Sears at the moment).

Happy trails!