Recently I had the opportunity to celebrate my forty-fourth birthday, which seemed appropriate, since I am, in fact, forty-four. As is my custom whenever it falls on a weekday, I took the day off from work.

The day I turned seventeen, I was working at the local Holiday Inn as a bell-boy, where I had served for more than two years. Mostly, I performed the duties of a front desk clerk, but the crafty management paid me $3.25/hour as a bell-boy since I was so young (and looked even younger). At about 9:00 in the evening of my birthday, I found myself dissatisfied with the prospect of working on such a momentous day, and I resolved, forthwith, to resign. Half an hour later, I was unemployed, with more than $2000 in savings and my evenings suddenly free. Four months later, I was penniless, and forced to seek work as a fishmonger’s assistant. But that is another story.

No longer a Holiday Inn
My actual former workplace, no longer a Holiday Inn.

Since then, whenever I enjoy my job, I’m careful to take my birthday off, for fear that history may repeat itself. It would be a shame if I impulsively decided to quit, as a result of being forced to work on my birthday. And so, I found myself home on a Thursday, with the whole day stretching before me, full of promise and opportunity.

In July, we took up geocaching as a hobby, and continue to derive much enjoyment from this pastime. As a family, we’ve located more than 50 caches, and find ourselves ranging further and further afield for new challenges. On my birthday, while Kathy drove Joshua to his JNROTC class, I mobilized the rest of the kids to pack lunches. We piled into the van and got an early (11 am) start, once they returned.

Opening a Cache
The kids enjoy taking (and leaving) trinkets in some of the larger caches.

I loaded a chain of geocache coordinates into our GPS receiver, each 10-20 minutes apart, with the furthest about 90 minutes from our home, among the foothills of Mount Rainier. Bypassing the first one (there was no easy place to stop on the highway as we hurtled past), we came to the vicinity of the second cache, which we eventually located. It was concealed in a narrow crevice between an electrical utility box and the pole to which it was attached.

“Careful, kids, that’s 220 volts,” I cautioned, standing well back.

Geocaching is not a particularly dangerous sport, but it does take you into some strange places. Joshua found the cache (a micro, about the size of a dry-erase marker) and noted the additional hazard of a bee’s nest, just above the cache.

He didn't even get stung
No bees were harmed in the filming of this adventure.

After signing the log, I graciously allowed Joshua to replace it (usually a much-sought-after privilege), but for some reason he was less-than-excited:

“Thanks, Dad,” he sourly grumbled. “How great that I get to be the one stung by high-voltage bees.”

There’s just no pleasing some people.

Ye Olde Railroad Bridge
Sarah found this particularly-difficult cache hidden among the trestles of the bridge.

Eventually we found seven caches and discovered many scenic locales, including:

  • a geocache container disguised as an electrical transformer
  • an elaborate porta-potty enclosure
  • a railroad bridge with a bunch of dead salmon
  • a deep river gorge, spanned by a one-lane bridge
  • a monument for miners, killed in a series of mine disasters
  • an abandoned stone building, nearly overrun by forest growth

Porta-Potty Enclosure
Sarah and Rachel didn’t seem to appreciate the odor or lack of toilet paper.

A very high bridge
This bridge shook especially hard when a logging truck passed by …

It was a delightful day; warm, sunny, and almost cloudless. I spent it just the way I wanted, with the people I love best, laughing and exploring and enjoying each other. With a birthday like that, I can hardly wait to turn 45!

David and Kathy
David sure does love his Mama.

A romantic moment
Kathy and I have been married for 17.5 years, now, happier every year.

– Tim

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