Rebecca (and Travis) P.'s Real-Life, True, CustardQuest III Adventure:

"From my (Travis') perspective... apologies in advance for the novel!

"I'll spare you the story of my puzzle and treasure hunting background. If you're interested, check out the details of my CQ III adventure. Suffice it to say that I probably inherited my treasure hunting skills from my mom. In her words, "I guess you could say that treasure hunting runs in our family."

"Our CQ I adventure started long before my CQ III solve. I found out about the hunt on and became particularly interested in the story's obvious coal mining theme given that I grew up in West Virginia. I didn't have much luck in deciphering the clues, but I picked up on what I thought were some subtle references to WV. Honestly, I thought I was grabbing at straws as most people will do when trying to solve a puzzle. You can make anything fit if you try hard enough.

"I have to give credit where credit is due. Awhile after the hunt started, a user on Tweleve named vaq45 posted what would turn out to be an important discovery. The phrase "Chucky eager" used in the story could refer to "Chuck Yeager," a famous pilot with roots (and an airport named after him) in WV. I thought this was a pretty clever find and it caused me to look at the hunt with renewed interest.

"By the time November rolled around, I was really starting to be thankful that my mom still lived in WV. You see, I thought the clues were leading to this statue located on the grounds of the West Virginia state Capitol in Charleston. Why? First of all, there were a number of things pointing me in the general direction of West Virginia:

-Chuck Yeager (born in WV and namesake of Charleston's airport)
-minor power (minor league baseball team in Charleston named the WV Power)
-"green briars" (Greenbrier is a county in WV and the name of a famous WV resort)
-"college football" and "Ollie" (there are no pro sports teams in WV so college football is the biggest sport. Ollie Luck is the athletic director at WVU)
-"quarrier" (the name of a street in Charleston)

"As you can see, some of the clues were tenuous at best. But I kept it up because I didn't want to miss out on another treasure hunt prize in my native state (e.g the Spider of "A Treasure's Trove" fame). Plus, I knew if I could get her in the general vicinity, my mom would find it. Several years ago, my family went to Harper's Ferry, WV to search for another treasure. Mom was fearless, sticking her hand into every insect-ridden nook and cranny looking for the hidden amulet. Thankfully, we didn't find it, although that's another story near and dear to some Twelevers!

"Ok, back to the statue. With the limited clues I had about West Virginia, I tried to hone in on a possible location. The first place that popped into my head was the Exhibition Coal Mine in Beckley. I had been there before as a kid and it seemed like a logical place to hide a token meant for the ghost of a miner. But wait... it has an admission fee and isn't open year-round. Cross that off the list.

"Eventually I came to the WV Coal Miner memorial statue on the State Capitol grounds. It's a coal miner. Check. It's a "Gray Man." Check. If you squint your eyes really hard, it looks like there's a man with a horse (or mule) and a cart on the right-hand plaque under the statue. Check! Check!
Time to put mom's treasure hunting skills to work.

"Mom was happy to make the short drive to Charleston and start searching. But she didn't have any luck. And it was cold. Perhaps the stone would be indoors? The West Virginia State Museum and Culture Center was nearby. I remembered that when I was a kid, they had a full-scale model of an old country store. Could it be the "company store" where Chucky went to quench his thirst in the story? So mom checked it out. And checked. And checked. She spent hours searching through the place looking for any sign of an out-of-place stone. Remember, at this point we had no idea what a stone from the CQ RKPL would look like. I was bummed. How could I send mom on a wild goose chase to search such a large area with relatively weak clues?

"A few weeks went by and I decided we were at a dead end. In the spirit of giving back to the community, I figured I should share our (lack of) progress. So one night, I grabbed the iPad and started furiously pecking away,crafting a forum post explaining all of the West Virginia references I had found in the CQ I story. It included all of the bullets above, plus a few more that I've since forgotten. Something distracted me and I switched to another app before I hit submit. When I came back, my pending post was gone. "$#%!," I did my best A.J. Clemente impression, closed the iPad and went to bed.

"Fast forward to March. I, er, my wife, had just found the CQ III stone and I was in the zone. I sat down with CQ I, determined to figure it out. I knew Custard would have to give a more specific location if there was any hope of solving it. I started focusing my attention on an odd part of the story: "$19.00 at Alva Hawk Antiques." There wasn't an actual Alva Hawk Antiques anywhere I could find. Hawk's Nest is a state park in WV, but that didn't fit either. Miraculously, I stumbled upon the street address of the WV State Museum my mom had searched in November: 1900 Kanawha Blvd. Rearranging the 7 consecutive letters "a Hawk An" spells Kanawha. Maybe there's more to the clue, but that told me we had the right spot.

"Still nothing was as precise as the CQ III solve. There had to be more. Reading the notes again, I looked for something that could be used to specifically describe the hiding place of the stone as was done in CQ III. Among many references to a "crib," these lines stood out:

"My detailed study of it through the crib slats revealed the box was made of individual wooden pieces, stacked in crisscrossing layers that alternated like a log-cabin. My eyes climbed seven of these wooden cross-members until they stopped cold at an unfastened metal clasp on the lid. "

"Something in the back of my puzzle-twisted mind hinted at an alternate meaning for the word crib. So I turned to every armchair hunter's best friend, Google, and typed in the following: "coal mine crib." I knew I was onto something when it auto-completed into "coal mine cribbing." Even more so when I saw the definition: "The construction of cribs or timbers laid at right angles to each other, sometimes filled with earth, as a roof support or as a support for machinery." An image search provided the icing on the cake. There were dozens of pictures of coal mine cribbing "stacked in crisscrossing layers that alternated like a log-cabin." Bingo. Now to find the right cribbing.

"During mom's first search of the museum, she discovered that in addition to the country store, there was also a relatively large coal mining exhibit. She searched it at the time, but like the country store, it was too large to find anything. Unfortunately, she was told photographs aren't allowed in the museum so we didn't have any more detail to go on. Enter our new best friend Google. The third image search result for "wv state history museum coal mine exhibit" is this photo of a miner, his mule, and his cart. It also shows a prominent column of cribbing composed of, you guessed it, seven wooden slats!

"Armed with this new intel, mom raced to the museum and asked a curator for directions straight to the coal mining exhibit. Unfortunately, he mistook her excitement for keen interest in the history of mining. She says he spent what seemed like an eternity explaining every detail of the exhibit while hovering nearby. I'm sure the curator was interesting, but mom wasn't about to rummage around for the stone in view of the museum staff!

"When he finally left, mom went over the cribbing as if with a fine toothed comb. The exhibit area was so dark, she had to use her cell phone as a flashlight. Still, no stone. Eventually, she climbed the cribbing to reach the top where the seventh slat would be. She says several museum patrons walked by at this point and she's sure they must have thought she was crazy. Undeterred, she eventually came upon the smooth white stone, not on the wooden slat, but in some sort of cutout behind it. Because of the no-photo policy, she doesn't have any pictures of the exact hiding place.

"My favorite part of the story is how I responded to mom's phone call after she pocketed the stone. She called me from the museum with apparently bad reception, and I could only hear every other word through the static. I was convinced she said she couldn't find it and was going to try outside one last time. "Oh well," I said dejectedly, and hung up. A few minutes later she called me from outside (with much better reception) and said "You sure don't sound very excited that I found the stone!"

"This is how I found out that I was bested once again in my quest to physically find a stone; this time by my treasure-hunting matriarch.

"P.S - A few other clues of note:

"The WV State Museum and Cultural Center happens to be very close to the intersection of Greenbrier and Quarrier streets.

" "Furse Family" - West Virginia's first family lives in the Governor's mansion directly across from the museum."