New England Trip – Days One and Two
- 1 limo ride
- 2 flights
- 180 miles driven
- 3.82 miles hiked
- 6 geocaches found
- 2 new state souvenirs earned
Our twenty-fifth anniversary New England tour started before dawn on Saturday, October 13. The alarm went off at 5:00 am and we left for the airport at 6:00 am to catch our 7:35 flight. We love our little Tri-Cities Airport, and remarked on the way for the hundredth or so time how nice it is to live so close to the airport.
We checked in, dropped off our luggage, and made our way through security. (Big shout out to the great TSA folks who keep us safe! What a thankless job that must be!) We were waiting at the gate when the gate attendant announced that the flight was overbooked and they were looking for three volunteers to take a later flight. They were offering $600 in compensation. We looked at each other, intrigued at the thought. A few minutes later he repeated the announcement, clarifying that this would be $600 cash – not Delta dollars. In other words, it could be used for anything – not just flights.
We decided to check it out, and Deban went up to inquire. He checked our tickets and told her that the earliest they could get us to Providence, RI (our destination) would be 11:30 pm. She came back with that info and we discussed it. That would be a long day, but it was tempting.
As time for the flight grew closer, he announced again that he still needed two more volunteers. It was very tempting. It would be a late arrival, but $1,200 would help pay for our vacation. I went to the desk this time, and he confirmed that it would be 11:30 when we arrived in Providence, and also that we would need to be driven to Knoxville to catch a flight from there to Atlanta. He also said, “I might be able to do more. Just wait until the flight has loaded and we will take care of you then.”
We nervously sat while everyone else boarded the plane, and then I went back up to the desk. He verified that he was definitely going to rebook us, and said, “For your patience we are going to give you $1,000 each instead of $600.” Uh… OK!
He got us rebooked and told us to go back upstairs and collect our luggage. By the time we got up there, he was rolling it out from behind the ticket counter, and took us right out the front door to climb into a stretch limo. Wait! A limo? Yep.
There were already three people in the limo. One was the third passenger who had volunteered with us to give up her seat. She was a retired educator who now raises llamas and alpacas on a little farm in Church Hill. The other two had apparently been bumped (involuntarily) from flights the day before. One was a very nice young man on his way to Alaska. The other was a woman who did nothing but complain the whole trip.
We pulled away from the airport at 8:10, and wondered how in the world we were going to make it to the Knoxville airport in time for our 10:10 flight to Atlanta. It didn’t really concern Deban and I too much since we were already facing a nine hour layover in Atlanta. But, our traveling companions had earlier flights from Atlanta and were concerned about making their connections.
Signal the Frog® was excited for his first limo ride. Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure this was my first ride in a limo as well. It was very festive, with party lights strobing the whole time. Plastic cups and napkins were in all the cup holders, but sadly there was nothing to put in them. I guess this was a BYOB kind of ride. Lucky for me, I had bought a Diet Dr. Pepper at the airport gift shop, so I was good to go.
As we traveled, I chatted with Llama Lady. Deban and I were busily loom-knitting hats for our friend Dori’s World Kindness Day Event for First Responders. Llama Lady was an experienced loom-knitter and offered us some handy tips which were much appreciated. We had just started our hats the night before and were learning as we went.
We seemed to be making good time, but soon after the I-81/I-40 interchange, the limo suddenly began to slow and the driver pulled over to the shoulder. We heard her talking on the phone, reporting where we were. Apparently, the engine had died. She was able to restart it, and soon pulled back into traffic, with all of us breathing a sigh of relief.
We made it through Knoxville, and were on the Alcoa Highway when she pulled over to the shoulder a second time. By now, it was about 9:45 and the natives were getting restless, wondering about making that 10:10 flight. Once again, she was able to restart the engine and get back on the highway. I assured everyone that we were only about five minutes away from the airport so there was still a chance we would make our flight.
We pulled up to the terminal, and everyone rushed in to the Delta ticket counter, only to learn that the flight was loaded and we would not be able to get on. The next flight was leaving a little after noon. Oh well. That just gave us time to eat a leisurely breakfast, using some of the food vouchers the nice gate agent in Tri-Cities had given us. Besides, it was either wait here or wait in Atlanta, so we were in no rush.
The flight to Atlanta was uneventful, and once there we made our way to the Delta Sky Club. As a Gold Medallion member I can get discounted day passes, and we had decided it was worth it to be comfortable during our long wait. We found a quiet corner, and settled in for the day. We helped ourselves to snacks (I love their Palmetto Cheese which is pimento cheese with a spicy kick) and Deban pulled up the Tennessee/Auburn football game on her cell phone. We were thrilled that Tennessee beat Auburn, proving that miracles still happen. We also continued working on our hats.
As we worked, a woman sitting nearby apologized for staring and asked what we were doing. I explained that we were making hats and told her about Dori’s Knot for Sale Hats ministry and the upcoming kindness event where they would be distributed. She shared that she is a published author, and by the time we parted ways I had purchased her two books on Kindle, she had connected with Knot for Sale Hats on Facebook and made a donation, and we had become Facebook friends. Shout out to our new friend, Johnnie Bernhard. Go check out her website and buy her books!
Eventually, we gathered our things and headed to a restaurant to use our remaining food vouchers and have a good supper. Finally, it was time to go to our gate, board our flight, and fly to Providence, Rhode Island. Oh, did I mention they had given us seats in First Class? Just one more benefit for volunteering to give up our seats that morning.
We arrived in Providence at 11:40 pm. I headed to baggage claim to collect our luggage, while Deban went straight to the car rental desk to pick up our car before they closed at midnight. When I finally had the luggage, I started following signs to car rental pickup: up an elevator and into an enclosed, elevated walkway. This Skyway (as they call it) seemed to go on and on and on. I learned later it was 1200 feet long: the length of four football fields.
When I arrived at the car rental garage, Deban already had our vehicle, so I threw the luggage in the back and climbed in. we had reserved a small SUV but they were out so had upgraded us at no extra charge to a very nice Ford Explorer. Since we ended up driving over 1200 miles during the next week, we were happy for the comfort it afforded.
Our hotel was in Preston, Connecticut, about an hour drive from the airport. By the time we arrived we were tired puppies. In fact, I was tired enough that when we parked the car and I saw that there was a geocache only 100 feet away, easily accessible even in the wee hours of the morning, I told Deban that I would wait until tomorrow to find it. Or rather, later in the morning. For now, I was ready for a good night’s rest.
After a full day of travel, we had finally made it to bed at 1:30 am. We decided to sleep in, and did not fully rouse up until nearly 11:00 am! We rushed downstairs to take advantage of the free breakfast buffet before it closed.
Our plans for the day were for Deban to visit the nearby casino and for me to go geocaching. My first order of business was to log the geocache in the hotel parking lot that I had passed up when we arrived. I then dropped her off at the casino, grabbed another nearby geocache, and then headed back toward Rhode Island so that I could log at least one cache in that state.
On the drive over the night before, I had said I might just drive as far as the state line and find a cache, and then go down to visit Mystic, CT. But, there was a geocache in a state park near Providence that I really wanted to log, so I decided to make the hour drive there instead.
The cache I was seeking was a puzzle cache called “Finding Bigfoot RI – The Cache.” It was the type of puzzle cache that you had to solve ahead of time in order to learn the coordinates. In this case, I had watched a video, counting the number of times certain words were mentioned, and used those numbers to determine the final coordinates. The video was of the television show called “Finding Bigfoot” that airs on Animal Planet. The program follows a team of researchers who travel the world to investigate sightings of Sasquatch type figures. It is because of their visit to Norton, VA in 2011 to film an episode that the city erected a statue of the “Woodbooger” and designated the area a “Woodbooger Sanctuary.” I have made many geocaching visits to Norton, including attending the 2017 Woodbooger GeoTrail and 2018 Woodbooger GeoTour geocaching events.
The “Finding Bigfoot” team had also visited Rhode Island in search of the elusive creature, so a local geocacher had hidden this cache in honor of that episode. After going to the trouble of solving for the coordinates, I felt like I needed to drive the extra miles and hike out to find it.
The cache is hidden in Lincoln Woods State Park. When I arrived on this beautiful Sunday afternoon, the parking lot was full, but I found a spot along the road to park. I put Signal the Frog in the side pocket of my daypack, donned the pack, and headed into the woods. My trek took me along the park road, and then along a gated road leading through the camping area that is closed for the season. As I was walking along the road in the quiet forest, I suddenly heard a noise and jumped, wondering if it was Bigfoot. It was only a man on a mountain bike and his dog, riding the trails.
Realizing at this point that I probably shouldn’t be exploring these woods without some kind of security net, I texted my friend Ang back home in Tennessee, and asked him if he would watch my back. I’ve done this for him a few times when he was solo kayaking, so he was happy to oblige. I sent him a link so that he could “follow” me using the Find My Friends app.
I soon left the road and started following one of those trails. I could see from the map in my geocaching app that the trails wound through the whole area, intersecting each other in a seemingly random manner. I followed them as best I could, but ended up having to backtrack a couple of times before finding the right trail that took me toward the cache.
As my compass showed me drawing within a few hundred feet of the cache, I saw a disturbing sight. Bark had been stripped from some of the trees by some type of creature. Evidence of Bigfoot? I sent Ang a picture. He sent me a reassuring reply, “If he harms you, I can be there in 12 hours and 3 minutes, not including stops.”
I continued my quest, glancing around nervously, expecting him (her?) to appear from behind the next tree at every step. I finally reached the spot where my compass told me to look, and quickly found the cache. GASP! It was a “BIG FOOT!” What a great cache, and well worth the drive to get here. Signal the Frog liked it, so I spent some time taking pictures of him with the cache and some other trackables that were traveling with us. I then took a few minutes to enjoy the bagel and cream cheese I had brought with me.
But, since I was here, I decided that I might as well find some more of the caches in the park. I hiked on, quickly finding the next cache. I then moved on to another. I found it lying out in the open on top of the fallen tree that it should have been hidden in. The container was inside a plastic baggie that showed teeth marks. The lid to the container was missing and the log sheet was soaked and in pieces. The previous finder had mentioned putting the container inside the baggie, and I would say it was one that had contained a tasty snack. Wood varmints (or maybe Bigfoot) had probably smelled the remnants of that snack and dragged the cache out of its hidey-hole. I replaced the log sheet and then placed the container in its hiding spot in a way in which it would not collect water.
As I was preparing to leave, I made a terrifying discovery. Signal was missing! I remembered putting him back in the pocket of my pack before leaving the Bigfoot cache, but where could he be? I abandoned my search for geocaches, and retraced my steps in search of him. Halfway between the cache I had just found and the previous cache, I spotted him lying in the middle of the trail. The sneaky little frog had hopped out of my pack as I was passing a pond with lily pads. I guess he was planning to look for long lost relatives, but had forgotten that he is somewhat immobile without me. I scolded him, but he just sat there with the usual smirk on his face. Kids!
I went to investigate another cache site, but seeing that it required climbing some sketchy looking rocks, I decided I should not attempt that one alone. I started making my way back toward the car. I had noticed that there was one more cache along my route back, and decided I would stop off to look for it before leaving the park.
As I neared the cache location, I heard voices and looked up to see people near the rock formation where the cache was hidden. Wondering if they were geocachers, I continued in their direction, phone in hand. As I approached, the man said, “Are you geocaching?” He and his wife had been looking for the cache for about 20 minutes. Two young boys, who I believe were their grandchildren, had tired of looking and were playing on the rocks. I joined the hunt, and soon had found the tiny bison tube, hiding in a crevice of the rocks. I had looked at the cache page and noticed that it had a “flashlight required” attribute, so had pulled out my flashlight and began shining it in every nook and cranny I saw. I caught a glimpse of metal reflecting back, and that was it!
We signed the log sheet, and then I enjoyed chatting with them as we headed back to our cars. I then drove back to Connecticut, and picked Deban up at the casino. We found a restaurant for supper and then returned to the hotel, both happy to have spent the day doing what we love.