Fox Hunt

LOCATION:  United States, Mid-Atlantic

CHALLENGE:  3.5 stars

DATE/NUMBER:  02-Dec-2001/42

MAP: 

You miss too much these days if you stop to think - U2

You know where it ends, yo, it usually depends on where you start - Everlast

The wasabi is running a bit hot tonite, thought McBrae, as he gazed out the restaurant window and watched a hot air balloon with a "Safeway" logo drift lazily thru the gap between Mounts Misery and Joy to the north. "The coldest sushi platter", McBrae overheard the red-bearded man in the Armani suit at the next table mutter, as the waitress approached his table.

Jeremiah Fox had just been released from Graterford Prison, and McBrae had been observing his every move since that time, which, up until now, had consisted of nothing more than driving here and getting a table. McBrae was right -- he knew Fox would make for the dough even before visiting his own mother. McBrae was kicking himself -- in the five years that Fox was in the joint, he had come up empty on the loot himself, despite his possession of a purloined, tattered copy of Fox's cryptic directions and half a dozen tries. It seemed easy enough, follow Fox's footsteps, and dig up the dough while Fox rotted away.

But he always seemed to end up not quite sure of himself, several yards southeast of a huge oak tree on a hill's northern spur, puzzling out "where the tool and barrel maker be", befuddled. Even though his copy of the riddle was illegible and incomplete in a few places, he still felt like the idiots in Its a Mad Mad Mad Mad World must have felt as they walked by the "Big W" for the thousandth time, unseeing, while the audience laughs to itself -- "how can those morons not see that?".

Now McBrae was in the unenviable position of following and carefully observing every move the man made in order to figure the missing pieces. He had no idea how he was going to come away with it at the end -- Fox was bigger, stronger, and probably packing. But a quitter McBrae was not; he would get a lucky break, as he always did. Hell, he recently managed to trick the Panda into figuring out the last riddle he was stuck on.

McBrae paid his check and cracked open his chocolate-covered fortune cookie while Fox was gathering himself to leave. "Its the journey, not the destination", McBrae chuckled aloud. "Where do they find this inane tripe?".

McBrae followed Fox out and watched him get behind the wheel of a small U-Haul rental truck, as he fired up his 911 Carrera convertible. "Treasure hunting has been good to me", he mused. The U-Haul turned left out of the parking lot, then right onto the semi-main road, where it eventually eased into the left turn lane at a light. McBrae followed it under the underpass, and down this road for a while 'till it turned off to cross a creek. McBrae knew this area well: though you couldn't tell from the surroundings, it was the only place in his life where he ever found religion, not to mention the end of another similarly baffling quest.

McBrae grabbed his shades from the glove box, but the evening sun didn't bother him too much as he followed the truck down the road, about two and a half miles, where Fox pulled off at the old one-room school house. As Fox got out to check the numbers engraved on the wall, McBrae, without stopping the Carrera, deftly grabbed the info with his Nikon Coolpix Digital Zoom and turned up the hill, Fox none the wiser. McBrae took it slow, allowing him to make sure Fox maneuvered his truck up the hill behind him. McBrae took a quick peek at the digital photo and recalled from the riddle that the top number reversed and divided by 781.226, was the map's X coordinate.

Fox would start to get suspicious, McBrae feared, if he kept hanging around. As he crested the hill and smoothly shifted into high gear on the downside, he decided this would be a good time to make himself scarce. He was pretty sure of the next part anyway -- once Fox finally caught up to where he was, McBrae figured he would go straight, turn left at the carpet place, drive a ways, turning right at the stop sign, past the ostentatious display of success (and excess), then thru the tunnel, north, then pretty soon onto a short, cleverly-named road, then down to the old town hall at the T, then record the date it was built, reverse the digits, add 14, then divide by 185 to get the page number.

Meanwhile, McBrae cruised directly over to the movie studio where Steve McQueen made his starring-role feature film debut, and walked around the little village waiting for Fox to arrive. He figured Fox might get there by making a quick left past the town hall, pass the old graveyard, go right at the T intersection and up the hill, then left onto the road named for one of McBrae's favorite mysteries, then right onto the road General Washington and his men most likely used to get to this village as well, well over 200 years ago.

McBrae was walking around the iron spring when the U-Haul pulled up and parked along the side of the road, near an old gas pump. McBrae hid in the brambles a few feet to the south, and watched as Fox recorded the number of wooden planks covering the spring. McBrae calculated the bearing by multiplying that number by 10.

Fox got back in his truck and left the village in an easterly direction. McBrae followed, wishing he was driving something lame and boring, like the ubiquitous SUVs that kept trolling around here, while hoping Fox was too engrossed in his own activities to notice his car again. When the road hit a four-way intersection just past a bridge, Fox turned right, passed the horse doctor, then turned left and made a fairly quick right, crossed the stream for which the road was named, then passed thru a tiny village for which the cross road was named.

When the road crossed the stream again, Fox stopped on the bridge and noted the year the bridge was built. McBrae thought better of the tactic of angrily honking his horn to play the impatient commuter; the less attention he drew to himself, the better. He discreetly snapped the date with his Nikon as the U-Haul made its way down the road in the downstream direction. When they came to the fork in the road, he chuckled the famous Yogi Berra quote, then followed the truck as it headed north, then right on the first thru road, then north again when that road ended. He now had the Y coordinate as well -- the bridge date reversed divided by 195.402 -- that along with the pace count of 5 times the menu number of Fox's sushi order gave him all the numbers the riddle spoke of, so he figured. He was almost done.

McBrae remembered that the next direction from the riddle was a bit tricky, something like "cross the last creek you crossed at the first place you can", but as he followed Fox, it seemed obvious now. As he followed Fox past the township building, recalling the equally cryptic "cross the first creek you crossed at the last place you can", he wistfully wished he had the complete original. Perhaps he would be able to re-assemble it someday ...

Straight thru the light and up the hill they went, bearing left, past the place where a few years go, four threes seemed significant, but so not today. He followed as Fox followed the signs to the first road they originally passed under, and merged into the heavy northbound traffic of 18 wheelers and commuters, Sting appropriately belting out 'Packed like lemmings into shiny metal boxes / Contestants in a suicidal race' on the Carrera's 10 speaker Alpine sound system.

McBrae wasn't sure he could stomach the two and a half mile ride thru the pure surburban hell, but after what seemed like hours, Fox turned right at the four-way intersection, and after two-fifths of a mile, turned right again into the parking lot of a business McBrae knew very, very well. Fortunately it was Wednesday, the only day the place was open in the evening.

Fox got out of his truck and headed for the door, not showing any awareness of McBrae's presence. As Fox tossed a cigarette butt in the trash can and headed for the restroom, McBrae saw his chance and quickly went for the DeLorme atlas rack, picked up the state's topo atlas and leafed to the proper page. Then, just like Emma Finch in 'World, he finally saw his Big W. As he heard Fox coming back, he made a quick purchase and was gone. Thank god he had the Porche, he thought.

NOTE 1:  Some potential route choices take place on some beautiful roads. Bring your Carrera convertible or your horse, but since fox hunting is cruel, leave your "Tally Ho" horn at home.

NOTE 2:  Off-trail walking is involved.

NOTE 3:  Be wary of snakes and other wildlife when reaching into dark places. No need to dig for this box. All bearings magnetic unless otherwise noted. A pace is a long stride counted on a footfall of either foot, i.e. two paces are counted each time the right foot hits the ground. Be aware of if or when there is game hunting in the area.

NOTE 4:  Please re-hide the thing well just as you found it, and be discreet when stamping up.

DISCLAIMER & COPYRIGHT:  PERSONS USING THIS CLUE OR HUNTING THIS LETTERBOX DO SO AT THEIR OWN RISK. Do not hunt this letterbox without reading and agreeing to the waiver first. Children, do not hunt this letterbox without the supervision of an adult who has read and agreed to the waiver. Possession of this clue does not imply rights of access to particular lands and route choices, or the safety thereof, including the location of the box itself. Always observe current local regulations, signs, property rights, and customs; you are responsible for your actions. Clue not indended to be taken literally or to suggest route choices; route choices (and the choice to proceed at all), are your choice.
This clue, photographs, and associated stamp art are copyright © 2001, by Randy Hall. Permission to reproduce for personal use granted; all other rights reserved.

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