Sunday, September 18, 2016

That's Edgy Man

One of Eli's friends has adopted as his personal catch phrase "That's Edgy Man".  He really came into ownership of it at a church camp this summer.  So, when Eli was invited to his birthday party he knew just the gift to make for him, an Edgy Button.

So, on a Friday night when the girls were off at a church lock-in, we put on our Maker hats and got to work.

The first thought was that a Staples Easy Button would be the perfect starting point.  Wonder if anyone's managed to change the message it says.  Off to Instructables.com we go.  Doesn't look like it but there are several people who have replaced the internal guts so we went that route.


First stop, Staples to get an Easy Button to see how much room we had to work with.  If anyone's curious, this is what the inside of your Easy Button looks like.
 

The black dot in the top left is the "brain" of the whole operation and looks fairly impenetrable and unmodifiable.

I found the voice module we needed on Amazon.  Prime shipping could have it to me by Sunday, but we didn't have that kind of time.  Time to check and see if Radio Shack happens to have what we need.

Surprise surprise, they do (no seriously, I was shocked when we walked in, they asked if they could help, I told them what I was looking for and they said, we used to, yup, right here)..  For those not in the know, Radio Shack used to be a tinker's goto spot.  Emphasis on used to be.  Now they mostly sell popular electronics, phone accessories, etc.  Not so much for us tinkerers.  Tinkerers in Little Rock are pretty much in a black hole as far as sourcing stuff.  Honestly that's probably a good thing for my wallet.

Now it's time to break out the Dremal and soldering iron and so some adjusting.




I didn't take too many "in progress" pictures unfortunately.  But we had to (desolder the existing circuit board, enlarge the battery "cage" since the new voice module runs off of a 9 volt, adjust the button to allow the bigger internal button to be pushed, adjust the button to fit around the battery, grind off the raised "Easy" from the button).

Use a paint pen to add EDGY to the top and voila, you've got an Edgy Button.


video


Reports are that he loved it!

Monday, September 05, 2016

4 days, 2.5 tanks of gas, 834 miles, 10 State Parks, and 10 caches

Another long weekend means another opportunity to visit State Parks and collect geocaches. We found a cabin available at Village Creek State Park, just outside of Wynn. One of the best parts? No wifi and spotty cell service (double win, though it makes planning the next day's journey a bit more challenging).

 Friday afternoon we loaded up and headed out towards Village Creek State Park, arriving at our cabin by 6. After unloading we jumped on our bikes to explore the park and fetch the cache as well as the requisite park sign picture. One interesting feature is a giant Arkansas Flag. The flag poles on each of the 4 central stars have the appropriate flags on them for Arkansas' "owners"; the United States, France, Spain, and the Confederacy. Lots to do in this park, miles of trails to bike and hike on, a couple of lakes to play in.

Saturday saw us heading out on a 230 mile circuit to retrieve 5 Caches. First stop, Jacksonport State Park. This town was the county seat for a short while until it was bypassed by the railroad in favor of Newport. The railroad offered to build a spur for $25,000. The town refused and died shortly thereafter.

Next up, Lake Charles State Park. On the western shore of the Arkansas Fish and Wildlife Management's Lake Charles the State Park is mostly a fishing park. The Mockernut trail takes you alongside the lake and is a nice walk.

Down the road a short 5 minutes is Powhatan State Park. Took a while to find this cache and had to get the magic numbers from the staff. Folks keep stealing their cache.

Moving on down the road we next stopped at Lake Poinsett State Park. This trail wasn't nearly as scenic as the one at Lake Charles but it was nice to stretch out legs.

Load'em up, move'em out, back on the road to Parkin Archaeological State Park. Former home of the Mississippians, watched a very interesting movie and had a great conversation with the interpreter. By the time we left it was obvious the kids were done. Fortunately, this was the last stop for the day.

Saturday's tally is 5 caches, 230 miles, 8 hours. We headed back into Wynn for dinner at a local Mexican place, then back to the cabin for showers and bed.

Sunday found us on the road again after sleeping in a bit, this time heading South. Our first stop was Mississippi River State Park. One of the newest parks it has a really neat visitor center. It is a joint venture between the State Park system and the US Forest Service since its in the St. Francis National Forest.

Next stop was just down the road to Delta Heritage Trail State Park. Union Pacific donated 73 miles of right away from the abandoned Delta Eagle route. The Park Service is turning into a biking and hiking trail. We road about 4 miles down and back. Right now about 27 miles are open. Eventually you'll be able to ride from Lexa to McGehee including crossing over the White and Arkansas rivers on the old trestles.

One last stop for the day, Arkansas Post Museum State Park. It was the territorial capital of Arkansas. From things I read later we probably should have gone around the bend to the National Monument where the post used to be but we didn't. That will have to wait until we're in the neighborhood again, which may be a while, it's not in our typical neck of the woods.

Then it was a long 2 hour drive back to Village Creek. The highlight of the trip back was probably the half-dozen dust devils we saw in the freshly harvested fields. We tried to go kayaking but the fellow who told us the lake was open until 7 was apparently mistaken.

Sunday's rally was only 3 caches, 220 miles, and another 8 hour day. Everyone was tired.

Monday meant time to head home, but why not pick up one more cache. Before heading out we managed to get an hour of kayaking in, the kids seemed to enjoy it. We headed home via Mt. View, home of the Ozark Folk Center (no, this is not the shortest route from Wynn to Little Rock, in fact it's several hours out of the way, but it was worth it.) We got to see an old printing press in operation, and the kids got to dip candles.

The final tally: 2.5 tanks of gas, 834 miles, 10 state parks, 10 caches and WAY too many hours in the car

#23: Village Creek
#24: Jacksonport
#25: Lake Charles
#26: Powhatan
#27: Lake Poinsett
#28: Parkin
#29: Mississippi River
#30: Delta Heritage
#31: Arkansas Post
#32: Ozark Folk Center

Saturday, August 06, 2016

Closing in on half way

With the addition of 2 more caches to our "collected" list we've picked up caches 21 and 22 so we're closing in on the 1/2 way mark (just need 4 more).

On our way back from picking the kids up from KC for their annual week with Oma and Opa we finally managed to get by Lake Dardanelle State Park.  We pass it frequently, just never when their open (or when we have 30 minutes to spare to go by).  They have a really cool set of fish tanks with fish from the lake (an impoundment on the Arkansas River formed by the Dardanelle Lock and Dam.  On the northeastern shore is the state's only nuclear power plant.  A storm was rolling in so we didn't have much time to take in the scenery.

The second cache was picked up on our way back from our annual Byrd family beach trip.  We've been planning to pickup Lake Chicot State Park on the way back from the beach for about a year.  Once again we were racing against a pretty serious storm but we managed to grab the cache and get back to the visitor center and car mostly dry.

That's probably it for a while until we find a weekend to head out and work on a bunch in southern Arkansas.

And our current collection status:

Monday, March 21, 2016

Mark another couple off the list

It's the beginning of Spring Break so must be time for another family campout.  The weather was supposed to be warm, until we booked our campsites, oh well.  This year's trip was to Bull Shoals-White River State Park, lovely park, though a bit windy.  I bet it's comfortable even in the middle of summer with the cool breeze blowing off of the White River.




We spent Saturday touring the park.  We tried our hand at Mountain Biking but do believe that trail is a bit above our experience and gear level.  So we quickly abandoned that plan and just went for a hike instead.  We also snagged the Park Cache.

Sunday morning we finally got breakfast cooked, cars loaded, and on the road for another couple of  parks in a circuitous trip home.  First up was Withrow Springs State Park.  We had a cool, windy picnic lunch then headed off to retrieve the Park Cache.  After a LONG walk through the woods we quickly grabbed that cache as well.  Emily and I picked up an extra cache while we were on the way back (she didn't make it all the way to the Park Cache).  A conversation ensued that some of the caches seem to be in out of the way places when they should be close to the Park's "main feature".



Next up was Hobbs State Park / Conservation Area.  During that drive (and close to the destination) the GPS app on the phone decided it liked listening to our book on tape too much to shout out directions.  Once we got turned around all was well.  Not such good luck getting that cache.  I'm 99% sure where it's supposed to be, but it wasn't there :(.


We had hopes of snagging 1 last park on the way home but it took us too long to get out of camp to make it practical.  It was kind of a pipe dream on my part anyway to grab it.  Oh well, it's just off of I-40, we'er through there enough that one day we'll go by a) when the visitor center is still open, b) when we're not in a hurry to get somewhere.

Any way, here's some Park signs from the trip, a map of our travels, and an updated map of what we've found.

Our trip:

And our current collection status:

Saturday, January 02, 2016

New Year's Trip

Usually on New Year's Day we climb Pinnacle Mountain.  This year we decided to go spend the night in a cabin at Crowley's Ridge.  And since we'd be passing several other state parks on the way we should visit and find their caches too, right?  So, the plan (pre-flood) was to get Hampson Archeological Museum, Herman Davis, Lake Frieson, and Crowley's Ridge on the way up.  Then Old Davidsonville, Lake Charles, Powhatan, and Mammoth Spring on the way back.  Reality turned out a little different.  Mother Nature again forgot to turn off the sprinklers so we had to modify some plans.  With the flooding there were concern we might not be able to get Lake Charles (the trail the cache is on is closed) so we added Jacksonport as an option.  We also weren't able to make it to Pawhatan (Hwy 25 was closed).  And, because of time (kids had fun exploring at Mammoth Spring) so we dropped Jacksonport too.  But, we still got 7 caches out of the trip.  So, 532 miles later, here's what we saw.

On the way up we decided to grab Lower White River Museum State Park, as we were passing by.  Lots of neat stuff in there from the bygone erra of steam boats and such.

Next up on our travels was the Hampson Archaeological State Park.  It contains the collection put together by Dr. Hampson as he excavated an ancient village he found on his property.  The village no longer exists lost to modern farming but it was extensively excavated by him and later the U of A and others.  We didn't stay long (both because there wasn't much to see and also we were keeping the superintendent from her lunch).

After grabbing lunch we moved onto the Herman Davis State Park.  It's a tiny (less than 1 acre) park dedicated to Herman Davis, a World War I veteran.  The park's sign sums it up better than I can, you'll need to click on this image to make it bigger.


We then headed on up the road to Lake Frierson State Park.  Took a nice little hike up the hill.  Not much else to do in the park if your not fishing in the lake.

And we ended the day at Crowley's Ridge State Park.  Took a nice hike over a swinging bridge as well as several other bridges.  Found the cache, but no clue :(.  Apparently when they rebuilt the cache after it was stolen they forgot to include the clue.  The park superintendent and the new park interpreter were both aware of the cache but didn't know the clue.  The interpreter's going to track it down and email me.  In the meantime I've reached out to the cacher network and think I have the values.


We spent the night in a fantastic cabin.


Friday morning we continued our trip.  As we were checking out we mentioned our plans and concerns about the road to Lake Charles and Powhatan possibly being closed and the superintendent confirmed it was indeed closed.  So, we marked them off our list and headed to Old Davidsonville Historic State Park.

Then it was WAY up the road to the Missouri border (which actually involved a jaunt through the bootheel of Missouri to Mammoth Spring State Park.  We all stood in the middle of "State Line Road" to be in 2 states at once.






And, here's our updated map, we're 1/3 of the way there.


Sunday, November 29, 2015

Tracking our progress

Well, we intended to pickup another 3 caches today on our return trip.  Alas, mother nature decided to water the lawn and seems to have forgotten to turn off the sprinklers.  So, we just came on home.  For some time now I've been wanting a better way to track where we've been and how we're doing on our journey.  So....I turned to my good friend Google to create a map.  It took a bit of grunt labor to build it, perhaps I'll eventually move it all into a database to build the KML file for me automatically using Geocaching.com's API to gather details on which caches we've been to and such.  But until then, here you go.

Oh, and I updated the template for the blog.  Good, bad?  I know I need a new header photo, but that's gonna have to wait until our annual trek up Pinnacle for New Year's (assuming we don't get iced out this year).

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

On the Road Again

School's out for Thanksgiving so must be time to visit more State Parks and grab a few more geocaches.  October was pretty busy so we didn't manage to collect any State Park Caches but now we should have a bit of time.

This trip it was time to hit a cluster of parks in North West Arkansas, and to visit the new niece/cousin.

First up was Lake Fort Smith State Park.  This is a new old park.  Back in 2002 they closed the old park to allow for the expansion of Lake Fort Smith.  They packed up and moved 2 miles north.  We hiked a bit of the Ozark Highland's Trail to get to the cache.


Next up was Devil's Den State Park, 9 miles as the crow flies, 32 as the car drives.  We've camped at this park before, it's a nice place to go "off the grid" since it's now in a hole that cell signals don't get to.  It's also unique in that it has both sandstone and limestone caves.  They are all closed right now to protect their resident bats from the White Nose Syndrome but there's still plenty of trails to hike.


The last stop was Prairie Grove Battlefield State Park, one of many Civil War parks in the State.  We learned a bit of history.  The park was flying 2 flags, the current US flag as well as another flag that took google to determine what was.  It was the official flag of the Confederate States.  Most people assume the Confederate Battle Flag was their flag, it wasn't.  It has 3 stripes (2 red, 1 white), a field of blue, and a circle of stars.  Lots more information here.


So, for those keeping score we've collected 11 of the 52.  Maybe we'll manage to grab another 3 next weekend to keep our streak alive.