Saturday, November 27, 2010

Houston Geocaching Society Featured Cacher Nov 2010

HGCS: What got you interested in caching?

BaytownBert: Back in 2003, I was introduced to the idea of geocaching by the famous Sam Morrow (UsMorrows). Sam was the Lab Super and since we are both computer nerds, we would share and compare each morning while I was passing by on my rounds. I found about 40 caches before I came to the conclusion my bride was not interested and since I had numerous other hobbies, I decided to drop geocaching in favor of continuing mutual interests. Now years later, I decided it was time I get back to hiking and well, geocaching gives me a reason to be on the trail, plus it’s a reward for the labor.

HGCS: How did you decide on your caching name?

BaytownBert: I’ve been BaytownBert online (300 bps) before Al Gore invented the Internet. I moved to Baytown in 1974 and put down roots. I do my best to promote the city and surrounding area on a daily basis and folks recognize my name for the proactive work I do here and my columns in the Baytown Sun and my blog.

HGCS: When you cache, what equipment do you use? (PDA, Garmin, Magellan, software)

BaytownBert: I use a Garmin Oregon 450 and a Tom-Tom for roads, plus I plot out my agenda/route on paper and print it. I have a love/hate relationship with technology you see and still like to hold paper in my hand. In an emergency, it sure beats leaves. Ever try that with a Smartphone? Sometimes I print out an aerial view of where I am going for reference also. If you walk the Huge Smile series in the near future, you may find one of my plastic sealed maps in a thorny bush area somewhere...feel free to use it (I dropped it - not the other!). I still research each cache and load them singly or update them before I go – I know, I should use pocket queries or GSAK, but I do not. I could use some help here I guess, but being mostly a lobo kind of guy, I just stumble happily through life and then make stupid videos of myself falling down with flatulence sounds.

HGCS: What are your all-time favorite cache(s)?

BaytownBert: I love the long endurance series best of all BBSPES (Brazos Bend State Park Endurance Series), Noble Road was very good, and the Alphabet Soups series was primo too. My other favorites are Aaron Barbee’s PUC’s and Houston Control’s caches, because they almost always draw attention to history or something interesting.

HGCS: Do you have any special caching adventures you want to tell us about?

BaytownBert: I was caching solo north of Liberty, Texas just the other day and trying to find a cache which I figured had dropped from its empty tether into a deep creek bed about 20 feet below. I attempted to get down there, but slid out of control and fell the last 8 feet into the bed. It was really stupid of me being 58 years old, but I have a lot of break-fall experience from years of martial arts training and all that happened was I drove my hand about 6 inches into the muck. Yuck. The cache was nowhere to be found after all of that, but I told myself I should think twice before I do something like that again (not likely).

HGCS: Have any "Most embarrassing Geo-moment" you would like to share? Details please!

BaytownBert: I have them all the time I guess, but since most of the time I am trekking solo, I reenact them for my videos. The reason I video me is because I don’t mind making fun of myself and I feel that what I post, others often can see themselves, both for the adventure we cachers experience and the limbs that smack all of us in the face when we are bushwhacking. The flatulent sounds just add…humor. You decide.

HGCS: What is your favorite type of cache (traditional, multi, puzzle) and why?

BaytownBert: I’m pretty much a traditional cacher, I guess. When I first began caching again after a 6 year lay-off, I couldn’t stand nanos or micros and now, due to being educated a bit, I realize there is a place for all sizes. Everyone is not as mobile as I am and some are downright physically challenged and a micro or nano in a parking lot is about all they can muster, so I added some park and grabs in my hides. However for the more adventurous types, I try to make them very physically challenging. I am guilty of hiding well-disguised preforms in hard to find places, like my Brawndo series in Baytown. It’s an endurance series after-all, designed to keep folks fighting brush and thorns in and out of the woods throughout the whole thing…with a few climbs and snakes and mossies for good measure. I love to place regular size caches with lots of goodies also and I religiously maintain my caches. On the opposite end, I hate micros and nanos in ligustrum bushes in high-muggle areas and won't do them, or close to private homes and businesses, especially if electricity is involved.

HGCS: What is your favorite local cache?

BaytownBert: I guess my favorite local cache is one of my own, because it was my 3rd attempt at a hide and it has stumped so many seasoned Vets (GC25TKG). I placed this one in an attempt to be sneaky and I was delighted when folks had trouble locating it. Between Woodpicker and Mudfrog they tally over 10,400 finds and could locate it in September. No Muggle with almost 4400 finds gave me a call and I swapped secret info for maintenance favors on another of mine they found lacking.

HGCS: How about your favorite out of state cache?

BaytownBert: Out of State? What’s that? I work about 500 hour’s overtime every year. LOL Seriously, I haven’t cached out of state since I returned to the sport.

HGCS: Summer or Winter caching? Why?

BaytownBert: Both have their advantages, however, I do not mind sweating and I love sunshine. If I hear about a physically challenging series or cache(s) and it is scalding hot and humid, I am drawn to it like a Democrat to a free hotdog lunch. If it's cold and windy and overcast, I'll find something else to do. Seasonal Affective Disorder.

HGCS: When a new cache is listed, are you tempted to go for FTF?

BaytownBert: Yes, but usually I can’t get to it for a myriad of reasons. If I am off-work and there is nothing stopping me, I burn out of there like a liberal going to an anti-Tea Party rally. I am going to make a humorous video about FTF in the future. I hope to catch the passion some folks experience.

HGCS: Tell us about your cache mobile.

BaytownBert: I’m almost embarrassed to say it is my 2007 KIA RIO 5 instead of my beloved 1997 lifted-Jeep Wrangler Sport which I drove for 5 years when I was President of the TX4X4 Cyber Club – Now morphed into The hatchback area is loaded with caching repair supplies, new cache containers, and a subwoofer.

HGCS: What other hobbies do you have?

BaytownBert: Off-roading (currently Jeep-less), photography, blogging, hiking, writing in general, and local history. I run 5 mailing lists,, and when I'm not working at the Chemical Plant by the San Jacinto monument.

HGCS: Do you currently have any caching goals that you are working towards?

BaytownBert: I am taking it one day at a time and trying not to become obsessed like I do in everything I "get into". Sound familiar? I have a feeling I'm in good company here.

HGCS: Is it all about the numbers?

BaytownBert: Yes and no. I’ve seen this argued both ways. For me it is about numbers to a certain extent, as it shows my skill level. When a person has 5000 finds behind their name and they have earned each number, they have Jedi status in my eyes. However, I want to earn each number and I want to remember to be in the moment while I’m earning them. When I go out for a day of caching, I want to be rewarded with a lot of total finds too, which adds up to bigger numbers, right?

HGCS: Thanks for this interview. Is there anything you would like to add?

BaytownBert: Yes there is. If you are out and about and come across one of my hides which needs repair, have at it. I am attempting to keep a ratio of hides to finds right at 10% and this means I will have a lot of hides eventually. It takes a village to support an idiot.

I've taken it upon myself to present creatively named hide pages and attempt to leave original and humorous write-ups with photographs when I leave log finds. Most people do not understand how important feedback is until you own some hides. Latitude_Attitude almost always leaves great feedback and I know there are others.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Local Artist helps Wheelers for the Wounded Project

Posted: Sunday, November 21, 2010 12:05 am   The Baytown Sun - Jane Howard Lee
*Photo Nicki Evans

What Baytown resident Jim McDonnel can do with pencils is pretty amazing.

What the pencils have done for him is perhaps more amazing still.

The walls of the home that McDonnel shares with wife Cindy are covered with art and much of it is his work.

A self-trained artist, he works in pen and ink and in acrylics, but his favorite medium is pencil.

Born in Alice, Texas, McDonnel spent his earliest years in south Texas, but moved to Barbers Hill when he was in high school. He graduated from Barbers Hill High School in 1974.

Life led him to work in a chemical plant. He was employed by Dow Chemical in Freeport for 23 years while he and Cindy raised a daughter. When he retired, they moved to Baytown, but retirement didn’t suit him for long. He soon went back to work full time in a Baytown chemical plant and works there still.

"I guess I started really drawing in junior high," McDonnel said. "I wasn’t paying much attention in class. Instead I was always drawing soldiers and such."

It was the Vietnam era, after all.

Those schoolboy drawings evolved over the years. McDonnel discovered that he really loved creating art. He tried painting, found that he really likes working with acrylics but always returned to what got him started … drawing with a pencil.

Of course the pencils he uses today aren’t the No. 2 Ticonderoga he probably used in junior high and he’s not doodling on the edges of notebook paper. But the works he’s created with art pencils and paper are a natural progression from those early works.

About two years ago, McDonnel was diagnosed with cancer, an advanced case that required chemotherapy, followed by surgery.

He is doing well now, but went through a very rough time.

"It’s been tough, but my art gave me something to focus on besides being sick," he said. "When I was too sick to do much of anything else, I could still pick up a pencil."

With that ordeal behind him, he is back at work and enjoying time spent with his three granddaughters. He especially enjoys working on art projects with them and has discovered that they seem to share not only his enthusiasm for art but also some of his artistic talent.

He recently taught a couple of art classes (as a visiting artist) at his granddaughters’ school and enjoyed that immensely, he said.

He shuffled through stacks of his drawings and pointed out favorites on the walls of his home, expressing regret that he doesn’t have too many examples of the work he did in his younger days.

"I gave so much of my early artwork away and I wish I at least had copies of some of them," he said.

Nowadays, he does make and keep copies or prints, whether it is a drawing he does on commission, something he creates for a nonprofit group to auction (he does a lot of that) or drawings he does for himself or family members.

He’s been drawing a lot of beloved pets for people, often people he connects with on Internet forums that he frequents.

"I put a couple examples of my work on there and people will get in touch," he said. "A lot of them want pictures of their pets … you know for a lot of people, their pets are like their kids. They especially want a special portrait of their pets after those pets have died. They send me a photo and I’ll work from that."

McDonnel likes that his art can make those people happy, but he especially likes it when his art can help out a good cause.

One of his drawings recently brought in about $4,000 at an auction for the nonprofit organization Wheelers for the Wounded, whose primary mission is providing a weekend of off-roading, camping and sometimes fishing to the people who were wounded or injured while serving in the U.S. military.

A fan of off-road driving himself, McDonnel was a founding member of Wheelers 4 Wishes, a local four-wheeling group that participates in the annual U.S. Marine Corps Toys For Tots Toy Run/Ride that features motorcycle enthusiasts and four-wheeler fans and takes place at the Pasadena Fairgrounds each year. This year marks the 17th annual toy run and takes place on Dec. 11. McDonnel created the art that will grace the event’s T-shirt this year, as he has done for four of the last five years.

"It’s neat to see all those bikers wearing my art," he said.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Prints for Sale -Wheelers for the Wounded


One of Kind prints available. These prints were drawn by fellow Wheeler and artist Jim McDonnel. They are numbered 1-150 and are signed by Jim. This print was given to Wheelers for the Wounded and all proceeds will go to help fund the 2011 main event. This is a quality print, not a copy. It is done a quality 100# paper. It is suitable for framing and should last many lifetimes. It would make a great gift for any soldier. Jim has expressed an interested in doing a series, every year. This would make it very collectible.

The price is $25 per print and $5 for shipping and handling. I can ship up to 5 prints for that price. For example, if you wanted 3 prints the price would be $75 plus $5 for shipping. Below is a picture of the print.

Contact info: Bodanno at

Saturday, November 20, 2010

WWII War Hero Passes Quietly - Lindsey "Zeb" Wilcox

On November 18th, 2010, one week after Veterans Day, Mr. Lindsey “Zeb” Wilcox made his final goodbyes and passed on to Davy Jones’ locker to join his lost USS Indianapolis shipmates, albeit via DeQuincy, Louisiana - his birth place. I like to think Baytown, Texas was his hometown though.

On November 17, the evening before, I sat in the parlor at Navarre’s funeral home and watched the procession of family friends, Masons, his fellow Lion’s Club members, and church folks form a line to condole their prayers, support, and warmth on Mr. Wilcox’s daughter and grandson, his lone survivors.

I was in no hurry, so I sat for about an hour and simply watched the line grow.

This was a man who was loved and I know why. He was a good man.

As his Pastor reminisced about his life and her personal experiences with him, I couldn’t help but smile. I do not claim to have known him well. Rev. Carol Turner talked about folks knowing him as “Zeb” and “Lindsey”, but I simply knew him as Mr. Wilcox. We talked many times both in person and on the phone and out of respect and deference, I always addressed him this way and he never corrected me, knowing my preference.

Three years ago, almost to the day, I sat down with Mr. Wilcox at his home to hear not only about the infamous sinking of the USS Indianapolis, but also to learn about the man and chronicle his life for such a day as today. We struck up a friendship which lasted and have had many conversations, some of which I videoed and or sound recorded for posterity. I’ve turned this material over to Heather Mills Parker, a senior at Texas A&M Galveston for her to publish in a term paper. She also interviewed Mr. Wilcox for additional information and literally fell in love with the man.
Sitting beside me at the funeral was my friend Claudius Joseph, himself a survivor of a US Navy disaster, the explosion on the gun turret of the USS Iowa and a friend too, of Mr. Wilcox. Claude was on duty that day and had been relieved of his place in the turret minutes before the explosion.

Mr. Wilcox’s shipmate, bugle master Glenn Morgan blew “Taps” and I know that was very difficult for him. Claude and I sat in silence through-out the funeral feeling a sense of deep loss. My own father had passed just days before and he too was a WWII Navy Veteran.  I had delighted in introducing Mr. Wilcox to my Dad and vice versa at my own son’s military funeral last year.

It’s been a rough couple of years for us Vets and sending Mr. Wilcox off to sea along with my Dad made me see my own mortality that much more. One by one, our WWII Vets are leaving us and the saddest thing of all is the almost total lack of fanfare most of them receive, Mr. Wilcox included. In his case, two lone enlisted-grade sailors folded a flag for him and then marched away. He should have been sent off by officer-grade sailors at the very least, but that may not have followed military protocol, I realize, but just the same.  Sometimes, the rules should be ignored and this was one of those times.

Both Claude and I were dismayed at the small amount of pomp and circumstance offered by his country and the US Navy. The man received precious little at the end for the service he endured and the great educational effort he performed in the community to keep the memory of the USS Indianapolis alive for Veterans and future generations.

We can do better than this and the man certainly deserved it. His funeral should have filled an auditorium instead of the 150 who attended and most of them should have been active and retired military and Veterans.

Hi Bert,

My name is Sara and I recently came across your article about USS Indianapolis survivor Linsey WIlcox, or Zeb, as I came to know him.

I have been working with the survivors of the organization for many years to tell their story.  Recently, I've put together a documentary; which I'm proud to say has been chosen as an official selection at the upcoming GI Film Festival in Washington DC.  Zeb was one of the 104 people we interviewed for this project.  

The reason I'm contacting you is because I'm also putting together information on Zeb's life after the war.  I have some information about the time he met and spent with Captain McVay, but I was hoping he spoke to you more about this in his final days, and that you could share any information with me about it.  Any notes or details you might have in this respect would be greatly appreciated.  I'm doing my very best to keep the Indianapolis legacy alive, and thank you, in advance, for any assistance you may be able to help me with.

And just in case you're interested, here's a link to our trailer. 

All the best,

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

American Fighting Man Code of Conduct

I serve in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense. I will never surrender of my own free will. If in command I will never surrender my men while they still have the means to resist. If I am captured I will continue to resist by all means available. I will make every effort to escape and aid others to escape. I will accept neither parole nor special favors from the enemy. If I become a prisoner of war, I will keep faith with my fellow prisoners. I will give no information or take part in any action which might be harmful to my comrades. If I am senior, I will take command. If not I will obey the lawful orders of those appointed over me and will back them up in every way. When questioned, should I become a prisoner of war, I am required to give name, rank, service number, and date of birth. I will evade answering further questions to the utmost of my ability. I will make no written statements disloyal to my country and its allies or harmful to their cause. I will never forget that I am an American fighting man, responsible for my actions, and dedicated to the principles which made my country free. I will trust in my God and in the United States of America.

Please remember our Vets tomorrow and our active military and say a prayer.

Sgt Bert Marshall

USAF 70-74

654 days SEA

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