Monday, August 27, 2012

Clear Lake Area Paddling Series - CLAPS

Z.O.R.K.  Zombie Outbreak Response Kayak and my GeoJeepMobile

My Bride and I set out this morning on our first CLAPS geocaches.  She loves to kayak, but is not much for being shoved up in the bushes to sign a geocaching log, hence we had to let a couple of them pass by us, as she was adamant I didn't take her and the yak up in some of the overhanging foliage.  I haven't been happily married for 35 years for being stubborn when she is this serious.
Clear lake Paddling Series of geocaches allows anyone with a smartphone of GPSr to find the geocaches.
 We loved the area and put in Z.O.R.K. (zombie outbreak response kayak) at Big Island Slough with the floating ramp.  Our first cache was a DNF.  My Bride was very leery of the over-hanging foliage and I figured we would be back in the future so we moved on.  The weather was perfect, the slough was gorgeous, and we made find after find doing the series, with the exception of CLAPS #2, the Earth cache, the multi (we couldn’t find it) and CLAPS #3, 9, 11 &12.
My Bride was a real trooper as we slid the kayak up under the over-hanging foliage.
 We were getting pretty baked by the time we got to 11 & 12 and didn’t look real hard.

Some of the soda tubes were literally un-openable without a pair of channel locks and I cut my hand on one of them trying to get the lid to turn.  I signed the outside of the tube, as I did not bring pliers.  Take note - a little Vaseline around the threads of these tubes will keep this from happening.  Others opened easily, with just a slight twist of the top.
This was a very thick and snaky place she did not like and some of the caches were in much worse and thick foliage.
 We had a six-foot alligator launch itself off the bank around #4 and I think I peed my Speedos a little bit.  My Bride laughed at me and kept paddling.  We saw an osprey catching fish and had a 4-foot alligator gar roll in the water right beside me.  Again, I peed a little bit.   Again, an alligator popped up not too far from us, and sink again as silently as it appeared.
My Bride telling me who had signed the log before us.  On a number of the caches, we backed the kayak in for me to sign, as she flat refused to "go in there."  "Okay!"  I said, and maneuvered Z.O.R.K. like a pro.
 We made it all the way to Red Bluff Road on Spring Gully and hauled the Z.O.R.K. out on the bank and walked the half mile aback to the park to get my Jeep and trailer.  We were 3.5 hours on the water at this point and didn’t realize it was 5-6 hour round trip journey to return to the park, via the way we came. 
It sure beats sitting on the couch yelling at each other, now doesn't it?
 We are novice kayakers, so a more determined person could do it faster, but what fun would that be?  Kayaking and looking for geocaches is a blast, great exercise, and the alligators just bumped it out the foshizzle.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

ALPHA MIKE book launch!

Well, after about a year and a half of secret writing, I've came out of the author's closet with two published books.  Alpha Mike and Alpha Mike - Four To Six.
Two new novels about survival in America by Bert Marshall

I'm about halfway through book three of the continuing series and as excited as my readers to find out what is happening next.  The books are available to download for a very modest price HERE and HERE.  Smashwords, my publisher automatically offers the book in many formats after purchase and ten percent of both books can be previewed before purchase.  here is a short description of the first book:

Alpha Mike One follows a common man, David Perkins, through a post-apocalyptic United States after a series of events plunge the country into total anarchy. Perkins forms a small clan of fighters made up mostly of women with military experience. This is book one of a series.

In a post-apocalyptic United States David Perkins, a common man with an Air Force warehouseman background is plunged into a lawless environment fraught with danger. His only option is to surrender to the aggressors, or fight back and over time he forms bonds with the only available people he can find who are not being packaged and sent north - women.

Army and Marine Corps trained women have escaped the net and join forces with Perkins, finding him to be a brilliant unconventional thinker, capable of out-smarting the enemy.

Collectively, they live off the land and begin staging militant rescues of other prisoners and escapees.

The Alpha Mike series of books are harsh, adult, filled with disaster, contagion, weather events, killing, death, tragedy, and the realities of living in a country that has been plunged two hundred years into the past. 


My reviewers have been very positive and I am looking forward to continuing the series.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Baytown Trash Bash & Kayak Mash-Up!


Whew!  My abs feel like I did five hundred crunches after joining other members of the Baytown Photo club yesterday to pick up trash in our designated area on Tri-city Beach Road.  I think this is my fifth time to do this farthest stretch of road, which runs past Evergreen Road to the cow chute a third of a mile further on out and the worst of the five times, as far as the amount of trash I found.
Baytown Photo Club Grubbers on Tri-city Beach Road.
 The temp was “hot” to say the least with our normal humidity and what?  No wind?  I sweated buckets and it didn’t help that a bush-hog had mowed, shredding every bit of litter it encountered.  By far, the worst thing I saw was copious pieces of chopped Styrofoam coffee and cola drinks.
Gary Erwin working the back forty.  He was almost hit by a truck pulling a boat, that swerved over close by.
 People who drive this road appear to have a passion for McDonald’s and Burger King, Bud and Miller light – cans, not bottles, and cigarettes.  On one side of the road was an explicitly labeled porn DVD case and on the other, a page out of the King James Bible in the book of Luke.
A beautiful sunrise greeted us while we prepared to launch.

Kayaking geocachers prepare to launch at George White lake
The "Smilies" mark the location of the geocaches.  You get the smilies to appear after you find and log them.
 Today, I met with a good group of people on Highlands Shores Road at George White Lake, in the Kathryn J. Whitmire Preserve to go geocaching in kayaks and canoes.  We came from as far as Willis, Houston, Beaumont, and of course, Baytown.  Beaumont has a group of “cachers’ who love to travel all over and geocache and they are very pleasant people I enjoy bumping into.
Safety is paramount and we take safety very seriously.
 We launched a little after seven AM and were back to the starting point before ten, just as the sun really began to beat down.  It doesn’t sound like much, but my forearms are cramping as I write this Blog.  The series of caches, which number fourteen are “owned” by Bryan Wilpitz, with the exception of one and are not meant to be difficult to find.  The adventure part is paddling to find them and Bryan found the perfect place to put these “soda tube” type containers.  A soda tube is an unexpanded soda bottle and is very firm and water-tight.
The water was beautiful and my son-in-law, Cache'magnet drove our yak like a pro in his new Tilley hat.

I was sweating bullets (not literally) and loving every second of our adventure.
  One again my son-in-law and I were in the company of veteran cachers (and kayak'ers) who have a vast storehouse of experience under their geocaching belts and it was a real pleasure to join them.
"Blindzman" Jason Sosa paddling his awesome kayak.
BizzyB digs her paddle into the water and heads her canoe toward the next cache.
Elisa (Georeyna) in her new kayak dubbed "Salty" by an "expert" geocacher.
 I think our next mash-up will be on bicycles in north Harris County and since I bought a new helmet and bracket to carry my GPSr unit, I am really looking forward to it.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Geocaching Kayak-Style on Tabbs Bay!

Geocaching in kayaks.  What could be more fun?
 A group of us “mashed-up” to paddle out into the Houston Ship Channel to find six geocaches this past Saturday, August 4th.  Baytown’s own son, Larry Houston, better known in geocaching circles as HoustonControl was in attendance and he is always great to have along, as he has found over 5500 geocaches and can talk like Hank Hill.  Heckski, he even looks like him!.

“What in the world is a geocache, Baytown Bert?”
Baytown Bert explains geocaching.

Geocaching is an outdoor sporting activity in which the participants use a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver or mobile device and other navigational techniques to hide and seek containers, called "geocaches" or "caches", anywhere in the world.

A typical cache is a small waterproof container containing a logbook where the geocacher enters the date they found it and signs it with their established code name. Larger containers such as plastic storage containers (Tupperware or similar) or ammunition boxes can also contain items for trading, usually toys or trinkets of little value.

Geocaches are currently placed in over 200 countries around the world and on all seven continents, including Antarctica, and the International Space Station. After more than 12 years of activity there are over 1.7 million active geocaches published on various websites. There are over 5 million geocaches worldwide.

We rowed out at 0700 and the temperature rapidly rose into the 90's!

In our group were the flowery and imaginative names geocachers adopt: CacheStacker, HoustonControl, Kirbydox, Rich & Lola, BaytownBert and Cache'Magnet.  We launched at Bayland Park in Baytown at 0700 sharp and began paddling out toward the first cache.
The water looks deep, but is probably less than four feet deep!

It was a “soda tube” and was an old pumpjack platform.  Sodatube is a term common amongst geocachers and usually contain only a sheet of paper called a logbook.  They are unexpanded soda plastic bottles with lids.  Geocacher’s sign the logbook to prove they found it.  All six caches on this adventure were waterproof soda tubes, incidentally. Some of us forgot an ink pen, to sign the log - a common tool needed and one that is often forgotten.  We carry so much high-tech gear and stuff when we go out on the water or trail, it is common to forget something.  One of us signed the logbooks for all though, saving the day.
Kirbydox and Cachestacker sign the logbook!

Cache'Magnet, better known as ex-hand model Michael Sievers my son-in-law, and I were in very good company.  Kirbydox, a retired engineer and avid geocacher has found over 12,800 caches, Rich and Lola – a husband and wife team who travel in separate kayaks to "preserve their marriage", have found over 12,390 caches, and the Clear Lake Area Paddling Series (CLAPS) maestro – Kevin Biekert, better known as CacheStacker has found in excess of 4880 caches and hidden or “owns” 157 geocaches.
Larry Houston "HoustonControl" signs the log book, located on the the Tabbs Bay Causeway.

If you own a cache, you are responsible for “maintaining” it.  It’s all about commitment and integrity.  Some geocachers owners are very good at maintaining their caches and some aren’t.  This group are in the good group of responsible cache owners.  Larry Houston owns 119 and at any time he is out keeping them in pristine condition.  He makes Baytown look as good as Kevin Biekert does Clear Lake City. 
Baytown Bert getting cooked in the sun on Tabbs Bay, Baytown, Texas.

People actually come to Baytown exclusively to geocache; there are so many quality caches here.  There is a large group of geocachers from the Beaumont area that regularly glean caches here and then they eat at our restaurants.  They spend money here because they geocache here.  The same can be said for north, west, and south Houston and further out.
Lola, Cachestacker, and Kirbydox arrive at the island ahead of us.

We arrived on Hog Island, which if rumors are true, has many rattlesnakes.  We didn’t see any, but we did cross a three-foot giant hyacinth bean patch and those beans, also known as Indian beans, are quite edible.  We located all four caches on the island fairly quickly, as the adventure was not in the caches being tricky, but simply to get people to come on the adventure.  The cache owner is Bryan Wilpitz.  He lives in the Highlands area and has many tricky “hides” to his credit.  Our hat is off to him for bringing us out there.
Eagle Scout Michael Sievers sports a patriotic patch on the back of his shirt, showing support for our military. 

On the paddle back, Mseivers09 and I got in a two hundred yard sprint against the seasoned kayaker’s Kirbydox and Cachestacker and I’m not bragging (very much), but we went by them so fast, I got out of the kayak and began swimming to keep them from giving up altogether.
Kevin Beikert takes a photo out towards Morgan's point.

The bottom line is if you haven’t used one of our seven bays, Goose Creek Stream, or Cedar Bayou to enjoy Baytown waterways, you are simply missing out.
Larry Houston (HoustonControl) leads the way back to Bayland Park.  Mission accomplished!.


Customer service is not what it used to be

I was called by a local business today to pay for a maintenance service on my in-ground pool. My debit card on file had expired. ...