CacheCrazy.Com: GUEST BLOG - Jeff from NUCCI6 - The Mystery of the Speckled Hen

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

GUEST BLOG - Jeff from NUCCI6 - The Mystery of the Speckled Hen

Join me for a special treat and a great story as told by Jeff from nucci6. He shares with us an interesting adventure and a twist that still has question marks all over it.

The Mystery of the Speckled Hen
 A summer vacation story from the 2010

Part 1: In the Middle


"Dead zone.... nothing but a giant dead zone" I mumbled under my breath as my friend Tom hurled us at a mile a minute towards our destination, a small park in a small town plopped almost in the middle of nowhere. Certainly a wireless dead zone. Neither of us had bothered to preload our GPS units with the coordinates of our destination. Tom forgot to press save, I relied too much on technology. In the dead zone, there was no way were getting the coordinates over the air. We were going to have to rely on Tom's memory and geo-senses, having found dozens of geocaches like this in the past.

Having located this particular cache before, Tom recognized the park but not GZ, ground zero, the holy grail of any cache hunt. I eyed up the park gazebo, the usual suspect for these little park caches. There would be no such luck as neither the construction or the landscaping gave any cues. I wandered about with the Pre held high in the air desperately looking for signal while Tom wandered about with his GPS. No signal, no coordinates, not even a description of what we were looking for. Oh to have had pencil and paper and have written this all down when we were back in the so-called civilized world of too much technology.

A couple of teenagers and the park groundskeeper were about. I wandered over to a bench surrounding a tree thinking it was a likely cache hiding spot, having given up on 21st century technology in lieu of common sense. Imagine that. Not seeing any metal on the wooden bench, I wandered over to some nearby electrical equipment -- a likely place for any magnetic key holder to be hidden, the most likely cache type to be located in a park hide like this.

By now we attracted the attention of the groundskeeper who was looking for a break from the back and forth motions of his grass cutting. "You guys geocachers?", he shouted from atop his industrial mower. Busted. "You were a lot warmer over by that tree than over there" he smiled as he motioned towards the electrical boxes. Busted. At least now though I stood a chance of finding the cache, a high tech treasure hunt using low tech knowledge and a friendly municipal employee.

With the log signed and a new smiley on the map Tom and I set off for a local micro-brewery. Eschewing technology for an old-fashioned map we did our best to either get further lost or towards our destination, trying to correlate squiggles on the map to what road we were on, roads with no names and no proper signage, no sense of north or south. Why bother? The locals knew where they were. After a few false leads around the town square we were just about on the correct road. I was on the lookout for the highway signs. That's when I spotted it, a little square blue and white sign with a picture of a chicken on it, with the works 'The Speckled Hen' and an arrow imploring us to go in that direction.

Part 2: In the Beginning

"Chick-CAAAAAAAAAN" the kids shouted from the cramped back seat of my little blue coupe, putting an extra emphasis and drawing out the second syllable, "Chick-CAAAAAAAAAAN!!!!" "Don't worry, daddy!", they shouted in unison, "every time we see the sign we'll shout out Chick-CAAAAAAAANN!!!! and you'll know to make a turn!!". It was mid-August, 2006, and the kids and I were on vacation while my wife remained home as she unhappily lacked the vacation time to join us. She was furious and let me know at every turn. Going out on an adventure, even if it was just for dinner, was almost a means to an escape as we headed out of cell phone coverage. Being alone with the kids for a week I thought it would be a treat to try out 'all you can eat pasta night' at a restaurant that advertised heavily in the free newspaper. My only GPS was a primitive hand-held unit that lacked any mapping function other than to let us know we hadn't yet driven off a main road. I called ahead to get directions, was told 'it was complicated', and to just look for the blue signs guiding the way. Relying on paper maps in these pre-dashboard navigation GPS days I had not much else to go on to span the 14 or so miles we needed to cover until we got close to those blue signs I was beginning to wish I never mentioned.
Paper maps and two over-enthused children shouting "Chick-CAAAAAAAAN!!!" and how they were going to guide me to our destination. Paper maps, road signs, and dead reckoning. And kids in the back seat shouting "Chick-CAAAAAAAAAAAAN!!!" every time they were going to see the blue and white road signs with the picture of a chicken and an arrow. My 'back seat GPS units'. "Chick-CAAAAAAAAAN!!!" the kids again shouted, reminding me over and over that whenever they see a sign they'll be SURE to let me know. We passed at least 3 Speckled Hen signs, none of which they saw, all the while reminding me of their plans to diminish whatever hearing I had left by shouting "Chick-CAAAAAAAAAAAN!!!". They never once did either see ANY sign or call out a proper direction change. But by now had my ears ringing with the sound of "Chick-CAAAAAAN!!".

Tossing the maps aside and relying on the blue and white signs, back seat GPS notwithstanding, we managed to get onto a narrow and winding dirt road more akin to Children of the Corn than what I thought to be a popular place based on its heavy advertising.Certainly there would be a large crowd on all you can eat night. We pulled up alongside an old renovated farmhouse with a giant sign with a picture of a chicken on it, located next to a field with some old trucks and smokey and smelly trash fire burning. "Chick-CAAAAAAAAAAAAN" the back seat finally clucked properly, this time on target but too late to be useful. If I had relied on them we'd probably have been in Canada by now, still clucking. We had arrived at the pinnacle of our journey, something we were talking about all week, The Speckled Hen and its all you can eat pasta night. Counting the three derelict trucks, there were 4 vehicles there, including us, in the middle of God's country, at a small renovated farm house calling itself The Speckled Hen, along with a smokey stinky fire and a farm yard full of animals.

Inside I could hear spaghetti sauce bubbling on a stove and a local radio station softly playing. I felt more like I was inside someones house than an actual working restaurant. We sat down at a table overlooking the trash fire, got some menus, and found out how complicated it was going to be to order all you can eat pasta. We chatted, our food came, and we enjoyed the atmosphere of dad and two kids enjoying a special time together. We had to. The food was... ...OK. Not the best experience, not the worst, certainly the sauce was just not to my liking. After the anticipation, the build-up, the excited trip, the all you can eat part was simply anti-climatic.

Post-dinner we were invited to go outside and see the animals, something which my son and daughter enjoyed more than the meal. My son took to the goats, petting a more tame one, even bestowing upon it a named he held in reverence, 'Bitsy Thomas', a name he modelled after Thomas the Tank Engine. My daughter was more into the chickens, running back to the kitchen to obtain stale bread to feed to the fowl. We stayed for what seemed like hours, a magic time in a magic place that made me forget that I probably just ate what I considered to be the worst spaghetti sauce of my life. Two bowls of it at that.

The evening was soon sadly over. Somehow we made it using pencil, navigating there by map and pencil and paper and road signs. Road signs they somehow never saw while excitedly telling me how they would inform me of their presence. The 'back seat GPS' was giving about as useful directions, it would turn out, as my main GPS unit would years later on a return trip. Full and tired we navigated back by memory, nobody interested in the slightest peep of "chicken..." Instead we all simply chatted about the future of Bitsy Thomas and the hens in the barnyard and that we'll visit again next year. A visit that never happened later that year. Or the next. Or the next.....

Part 3: The End

Summer 2010 marked when we'd finally make a return visit to the Speckled Hen. As far as summers go it was not the best. The weather was not cooperative combined with generous amounts of life happening. On a sunny Wednesday afternoon we made a late start for a day's worth of activities that was to be capped off with dinner at the Hen.

The first mistake was trusting the Mio GPS because the damned thing would have us drive off a cliff if it had calculated doing so would save us .07 seconds off the trip. As we drove deeper into God's country it soon had us driving off paved roads and anything resembling civilization and on dusty gravel roads, with no buildings or power poles visible anywhere. I got the feeling this wasn't going to end good. Sure enough it was soon announcing we had arrived at our destination, the middle of nowhere, and likely with no human beings around for miles. We continued on our way hoping to end up SOMEPLACE. The collection of back roads took us to nowhere in particular although we did stumble back upon human civilization, but only after we encountered a lone cow leisurely walking along the road. Not coming to the Speckled Hen we backtracked, going past the point we turned onto the one road, thinking maybe the GPS meant RIGHT instead of LEFT when it was busy barking out its orders. Our hunch proved correct and we soon came upon a familiar looking building that had a big sign, YES WE ARE OPEN. Everybody missed the smaller FOR SALE sign, the unkempt bushes, the weeds, and the wreck of a barn yard.

As we pulled into what was left of the parking area the look and feel was all wrong. It was closed, and a look inside the windows revealed an empty shell, a sad reminder of what once was but is now no more.

The Speckled Hen was gone.

We returned the way we came, looking for another place to eat. The kids openly wondered about their animal friends, former residents of the now overgrown barnyard which lay a silent testimonial to that magic evening of a few years earlier.

Later on I turned to 21st century technology to learn more. The Hen's web site was useless, still listing a menu, giving an e-mail address, and some old reviews, a ghost ship luring us to come visit its apparitions of summers past. Frustrated by limitations of the present I went to the past, using 19th century technology, the telephone, to find out what was going on. I dialed the number but it turns out it was disconnected.

I found the property listing on an on-line real estate site, offering us the Hen for a mere $65,000. With its matter of fact coldness the web page offered us no clues to the mystery, just square footage, number of bathrooms, and a few other facts and figures. The remains of the Hen were reduced to just numbers someone could crunch and plug into a spreadsheet, its soul stripped away and tossed upon the winds.

I wonder if we'll every know whatever happened to The Speckled Hen.

1 comments:

BLOODHOUNDED said...

I've read this three times now and I like more each time! This is great work! Thanks for sharing with us at CacheCrazy.Com

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