The Five-Minute Fiasco

If you needed any more proof that this treasure hunt has gotten out of control, witness the last week.

As you may already know from the posts below, we were in a mad scramble last week to get the second of the Treasure Trove tokens that had come into play (by we, by the way, I mean myself, Andy, and my brother Doug). We had deciphered the location of the snail token to be a park in Iowa, only an hour’s drive from my college buddy Craig. Alas, Craig didn’t make the drive, the token was found that night, and Andy’s brother arrived at the park around 2am to find the tree already looted.

So, you’d think that with two tokens found, maybe things would calm down. I was certainly hoping so, given that I was planning a Memorial-day weekend trip to Vermont, starting a new job the next week, and moving to Westchester. Well, when the treasure hunt rains it pours.

Almost the minute snail was discovered, the Internet boards starting chattering about the next tokens. On my last day of work at Penn Press, the caterpillar code was cracked. Then later that Friday, on the drive to Vermont, my cell phone was ringing off the hook with news that bee and butterfly were all but confirmed, too. Suddenly this hunt, which seemed interminable, had been cracked wide open.

Dinner in DorsetWe spent the first day in Vermont relaxing with friends. Andy and I felt the constant urge to check the treasure-hunter websites and work on the book, but we resisted, knowing that our wives were already on a short fuse. If a nearby location was discovered, we’d need our women to be as sympathetic as possible.

Then, on Sunday morning, I got up an hour early, headed straight to the computer, and there it was: The grasshopper location. JBAIRDSP. James Baird State Park, New York. Some nudnik from the west coast had basically posted the solution because, as I think he put it, “I can’t get a plane flight, so good luck. Go and get it! Last one to the token is a rotten egg.” This for the fourth most valuable jewel, valued at about $50k!

Whatever his reasons, I quickly deciphered the solution method, called Doug (who lives only an hour from that park), and mobilized the troops. The wives were predictably annoyed, but when my friend Matt decided to come along (not because he thought we’d find anything, I believe, but just because he was amused at how worked up Andy and I were), they agreed to let us go for it. The girls would get to spend the day shopping in Manchester, sans naysaying husbands; the guys would get to search for a gold token, sans whining wives. The only odd person out was my mom, but she decided to come along for the ride — to ratchet up my level of anxiety and frustration, I suppose. The one thing I distinctly remember, before departing, was that I doubled back for some coffee. As I walked in to fill my travel mug, Ana said, “Ted, you know that if you’re five minutes too late, it’ll be because of your coffee addiction.”

Doug got to the park around noon and immediately got to work. He found a map, matched the vine fragment to one of its trails, and began searching for a tree in that general area. The map was a perfect match, but the trees in that area didn’t seem to match any of the ones pictured in the book. Doug got really antsy when he ran into not one, not two, but about four other groups of people searching for the token. One family was from Louisiana; another guy had flown in the day before from Seattle, and he’d been searching ever since. Knotholes were being shredded, every inch of the nearby forest was inspected, people began to give up their searches.

All of this was relayed to me through about 20 cut-off cell phone calls. Doug’s reception at the park was weak, and our service driving from Vermont and down the Taconic was even worse. Even Andy’s trusty GPS companion, who goes by the name Lauren, kept getting thrown off course. We stopped for a map of the park, but couldn’t find one; we took a wrong turn down a dirt road, foolishly ignoring Lauren; and we kept hitting traffic. Everything took longer than it should have, and by the time we exited for the park, Doug said he’d meet us at the parking lot and turn over the search (he had an annoyed wife of his own waiting at home, along with two screaming babies).

True to his word, Doug was waiting for us next to the parking lot. I’d expected him to be disappointed, but his appearance was downright crestfallen. As we walked towards the park’s rest area, he said, “You’re five minutes too late.” I shook my head in confusion. “They just found it,” he said.

Then I looked beyond him, towards the women’s bathroom where a young couple was jumping and cheering in a delirious dance. As we soon learned, jurzeyfresh (as I know him from and his girlfriend Kristin had arrived at the park just like Doug. They’d gotten a tip from another Twelever named Packimocity (coincidentally, the first person to decipher the dragonfly token location, but not the person to find the token), who had also checked the message board that morning. They’d all driven to the park ASAP and just as they were about to pack it in, like Doug, Kristen noticed a tree right outside the women’s rest area. It didn’t look obviously like one from the book, but she saw a knothole about seven feet up. Worth a look, right? Sure enough, the grasshopper token was there for the taking.

Grasshopper TokenWe stumbled around the park for a few minutes, consoling ourselves with the thought that at least we hadn’t flown across the country or driven all this distance with our disgruntled wives in tow. Doug drove back to White Plains dejected, bracing himself for the tongue lashing Tara was sure to give him. We stopped for lunch, and while dining, my mom ran out to a jewelry store so that, even if we didn’t have a emerald-encrusted grasshopper, at least we could give our wives a cheap substitute. Ana got a turtle pin, Gwynne got a pill box with rabbits on top, and Katie got a ceramic butterfly (which at least had the advantage of being an actual Treasure Trove creature).

The girls were in a relatively good mood when we got back, and aside from a few angry outbursts the next day, Ana forgave me the trip. I’m not sure I’ll be able to forgive her that comment, though. Unless the spider or beetle solutions miraculously come to me in the next day or so, this will have been my only decent shot at claiming a token (and jewel). And even if they do, plane flights will be necessary. That line will forever ring in my treasure-tormented head: “If you’re five minutes too late … five minutes too late … five minutes.”

A not so flattering picture of me and the lucky girl who found the token.

Andy’s rendering of the crime scene. Click for an enlarged version. (That dude to the right of me is the one that flew from Seattle.)