The Zandi Adventure began with a series of mysterious posts in the DRC Forums. The first post was in the DRC discussion forum, and read:
The gathered are known by their faces of stone.
His post and the profile that we found contained the following information:
Member title: !
Member number: #1.
Message topic: Billboard
Registration date: November 12, 1995
Zandi's second post was either in the DRC discussion forum or the Anticipating the Journey forum. In any case, it also read:
The gathered are known by their faces of stone.
Most of the other information from Zandi's post and member profile were the same, but some had changed:
Member number: #2.
Message topic: page (thanks to asa160 for supplying this)
Zandi's third appearance took a different form. His name appeared in place of Victor Laxman's in all of Victor's messages. And Zandi's customary message appeared in one of Victor's in the following form:
posted May 06, 2002 07:38 PM
I further secured the server.
We've all got so much to do. I can't believe we have to deal with this.
Most people didn't see it anyway. Why don't we just lose the "inappropriate" threads.
p.s. The gathered are known by their faces of stone.
This time, his member number, #71, was that of Victor's, but his email was firstname.lastname@example.org.
There was periodic debate in the forums on what these clues meant. Tink first suggested that Zandi's inital email address looked like a set of decimal geographic coordinates. At first we tried the coordinates as decimal degrees: (N32.17997, W104.16448), or alternatively (N32o 10' 48", W104o 9' 52"). If you plugged those coordinates into a geographic locator like MSN terraserver, you got a location 24 km south of Carlsbad, New Mexico. That point isn't really close to anything, so we didn't know what to make of it.
The breakthrough came when Adreitz noticed that Spyder's web page had changed, and in the source code of the web pages was a new puzzle. The solution to this puzzle brought us closer but left us still uncertain as to what Zandi was trying to tell us.
Finally, Scraper received a fax from a "J. Zandi" while attending Mysterium 2002 in Philadelphia. The fax included a picture of a GPS unit on a desert-like surface, with the latitude/longitude coordinates (N 32° 17.997', W 104° 16.448') displayed in the unit. The location the fax was sent from was "Billboard" and the fax number was 258-927-4373 -- an area code that is not yet in service. The last piece of the puzzle was in front of us: The correct format for the coordinates was a particular form of decimal lat/long coordinates: DD MM.MMM, where "D" is degrees and "M" is minutes. Finally, we had the location in sight!
That location was a spot along Highway 62 near Carlsbad -- National Park Highway, which goes from the city of Carlsbad out to Carlsbad Caverns National Park. (To map the spot, go here and enter the coordinates above.) phgreer came up with the idea of contacting the geocaching community to see if someone might help us locate Zandi Prime. Stealing a page from phgreer's book, I posted a message explaining our quest in the Yahoo New Mexico Geocaching forum and got several responses. One of them came from Joel Mozer, who said he was heading out to Carlsbad Cavern for some bat watching on July 27, and he would stop and take some pictures of Zandi Prime.
Joel came through, but at first his pictures only deepened the mystery. There is indeed a billboard at Zandi Prime: "Carlsbad Inn, 7 miles ahead" it says, with New Rooms, Microwaves/Fridges and a Pool, all for only $29.95 (single). On one post of the billboard is what appears to be a registration license place: 4672 NMSHD (New Mexico State Highway Department). Zandi Prime is several yards behind the billboard, near what appears to be a gatepost or some other kind of post. The area around the billboard is flat and dry; a short distance away is a group of buildings that may be the Lovejoy Ranch. What exactly was Zandi trying to tell us?
Another intrepid New Mexico geocacher, Jim of Team Ziacache, ventured to Carlsbad and got us one step closer to solving the mystery. Jim's first visit produced lots of pictures but nothing definitive in terms of a sloution. He decided, however, to return to Zandi Prime the next day. Here's his own account of what happened (from his post on the DRC Site under the name KM5BS).
As you have now seen from the prior posts, the clue no longer exists at the location. We spent quite a bit of time turning over rocks, examining and arguing over potential clues, photographing everything we could find and generally tearing our hair out before giving up and heading back to town for something to eat.
On a whim, we stopped by the Carlsbad Inn and visited with the manager. We told him of the scavenger hunt and what we thought might be under his sign. He immediately told us it was not under his sign, but rather on the back.
He described a fellow that came by last year and asked about putting a picture up on the back of the Carlsbad Inn sign. Apparently the fellow offered to pay well for the placement.
The Inn manager put him in contact with a local sign fellow. The sign fellow either painted the sign or at least hung it on a one year contract begining in June of 2001.
Well, come June 2002, nothing has been heard of the fellow that paid for the sign. So the sign man went out and took down the picture.
The Inn keeper was nice enough to call the sign guy and let me talk with him. He confirmed everything the inn keeper said. The sign/picture is currently stored in his barn.
The sign man did not want to meet me this evening for a number of reasons (not the least of which is I think he thinks this whole thing was a bit strange). He did offer to email me a copy of the picture (not sure if it will be an actual picture or a copy of the artwork).
Both the sign guy and the inn keeper described the picture as "space stuff" or "fantasy stuff".
Oh, by the way, the inn keeper could not remember the stranger's name. The sign guy did. He said the fellow with the strange picture was Jeff Zandi.
The excitement continued to build when Joel and Jim received a mysterious email pointing them to a picture gallery website, designed by none other than Zandi! The picture gallery has three pictures: an image of someone who attended Mysterium 2001 (in Carlsbad), wearing a t-shirt with a strange spiral design; a partial picture of what must be the sign that was on the back of the billboard, also showing evidence of a spiral design; and the entire spiral design on what appears to be some paper. We eventually connected these three images to Zandi's three email addresses.
Finally, after struggling with how to resurrect the information that we thought might have been on the billboard, netwatcher took the highly radical step of just calling the sign person in Carlsbad, who kindly relayed a vital piece of information: the back of the billboard also contained a set of coordinates! They are (N35 09.770, W106 43.084). As it turned out, Zandi had apparently intended to post a series of coordinates on the back of the billboard underneath the spiral. For whatever reason, this plan had fallen through back in 2001, but was now being resurrected in 2002. The billboard, then, is what I call Zandi Prime.
Some of the clues given in Zandi's initial set of messages remain unsolved. For example, Zandi's first message and profile gave his location as airstream and his registration date as November 12, 1995. We have yet to figure out what significance these and few other clues might have.
On to Zandi One