Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Big Adventure

Here are all the documents I'm using for The Big Adventure with Eli 6.7, and I'll walk you through everything as we go.

This afternoon, around five, I'm going to put a Fed Ex box (complete with airbill) on the doorstop and ring the bell (when Eli can't see me). Eli's used to Amazon deliveries and whatnot, so he'll hear the doorbell and tell Gloria that there's a package. She'll get the box and hand it to me, and this letter will be inside:
Dear Bill,
I’m sure you don’t remember me, but you did me a great favor once when we went to college together many years ago. I’ve always felt that I owed you a great favor in return, so when this curious document came into my possession, I felt that it was a chance to show my appreciation. I also remembered what a very clever fellow you are, and if anyone could solve this, it would be you. Best of luck and I hope you are rewarded many times over for the kindness you showed me.

I had a friend of mine at work write this by hand, and it looks great. After I read it to myself, muttering a few comments like "You've got to be kidding me" and "Holy cow," I'll hand it to Gloria and say "Read this." Then she'll do the same thing.

Eli will be driven crazy this whole time, because he'll be saying "What is it? What?" every five seconds--he can't stand to have something happening that he doesn't know about. After Gloria finishes, she'll say "That's really something," and then I'll read the letter out loud to Eli.

When I'm done, I'll look inside the package, and there will be a document inside a big zip lock bag. It's printed on 24 lb (high fiber) paper that looks like parchment, and as JC Fedorczyk mentioned, if you wad up this kind of high-fiber (and stomp on it a few times for a good measure), it softens and "weathers" the paper. So the document looks very old and very fragile.

First off, there's a two-page letter from "Pierre L'Orange" (boy, is that name fun to say). Here it is:

I'm hoping that he'll be close to passing out from excitement at this point, because it seems like a real letter from a real pirate.

And if he was excited at first, the mention of treausre should make his eyes pop out of his head.

But what would a treasure hunt be without danger?

(that's not a full page, which is why there's a gap here).

After he decides that he IS brave enough, there's this:

Conveniently, there's a full moon tonight, and Spring officially started this week. "Five days" is how long I'm guessing it might have taken to go from the Gulf Coast to Austin back in the eighteenth century, if there was a road.

"Water and wood" is a clue for the city north of us where the park is found--Wells Branch. These are sketches of buildings in the park that were supposedly recreated to resemble early settlers (boy, that's really convenient). I took pictures of both of these, created line drawings in Photoshop, then cleaned up the bitmaps manually.

When we're looking at this tonight, I'm going to mention that I'm almost certain I've seen these buildings before, and maybe I can remember if I think about it for a while. Then, when he's getting ready for bed, I'll take the "will" upstairs and tell him that I think these are the buildings in the park. He's seen them before, too, so he may recognize them after I say this.

What this means is that we do have a real treasure hunt, but we can't start until tomorrow morning, which should give him something to think about tonight.

So after we walk the hundred paces, there are five trees that are pretty distinct.

It's a dry creek bed, but that seems reasonable after almost three hundred years. And the trail is a park trail, but I'm going to say that many times, parks use trails that existed long before the park was created.

The "twins" on the next page are two very tall trees that stand well apart from everything else.

These pages aren't breaking up in the ideal way for me to describe them, but Redbeard is a truly awesome tree trunk about twenty feet tall. As we walk toward it on the trail, there are two knotholes up high that look like eyes, and on the back is a piece of wood that looks like a hook (it's not a peg, but I just noticed that--oops--and I'll wing it), plus a piece of wood on top that looks like a feather.

The pink lady and the grandfather are a small flowering tree (only in Spring, remember?) and a huge, ancient tree about forty yards further down.

Just past that, there are a few low palm trees (or something--they have palm leaves).

The "ears" are pretty amazing: two tree trunks, ground flat, that really do like like huge ear.

The "Foolish Guardians" are about eight trees lined up in the distance, and they really do look like sentries, with a little imagination. The "hand spyglass" is based on an idea from Shawn Wignall.

The paces will take us to the edge of a play area that has gravel instead of sand. It goes down about 12", and I dug another 6" earlier this week.

Another partial page, hence the space.

I'm hoping that Eli will be all fired up about digging now, but there's a blank page with nothing written on it at the end of the will. And I'm going to say that since this is a pirate, and since many others got this far and failed, that there must be a trick.

The trick, of course, is that there is writing on the page, but it's invisible (Meg McReynolds was the first to suggest invisible writing). I'm either going to have to take a match with me to make the lemon juice writing show up, or switch pages with some kind of subterfuge, but here's what the page says:

So that explains why everyone else failed: they only had five minutes, plus the youngest member of the party had to dig, and no one realized it because they were tricked by the blank page. I'm hoping it puts some real drama into the dig, knowing that he only has five minutes, and that I can't help him.

Oh, and "the shovel hits the mast" means that he should find a wooden box (made from the mast of the pirate ship). Here's what he'll find:

The flash made that box look much lighter in color--it's actually a ratty-looking piece of wood with plenty of knotholes. It's nailed shut, and after he pries it open, here's his treasure:

Those coins are replica pieces of eight, etc., and they're not plastic, so they feel like real treasure. The treasure chest is about 6" wide and a few inches deep, so those coins fill it up almost all the way.

I'm going tomorrow morning about 5:30 to bury the box, and I'll be back by the time he wakes up and starts bouncing off the walls (about 6:00, I'm guessing).

So that's it. I hope he has a great time and does this with his own son someday.

I've got the will in a Word file, so if any of you want a copy, just e-mail me.

I'll let you know on Monday how it all went. I may even have a few audio highlights.

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