A tale from the GZ

When it’s called a Power Trail, there’s a reason


I know it’s been awhile since my last post, and I had promised to be better about that, but things have gotten away from me here lately and I apologize for that.  I had originally intended on adding a couple guest contributors to this blog, and that may still happen, but the 2 people I had approached for this have shied away.  So for now it’s still just our family blog and the frequency of posts will be, unfortunately, sporadic.  But as you can see, my posts are never wont for details, so I firmly believe in quality versus quantity.  Now, onto my post.

A few months back, several members in a Geocaching Facebook group had put together a group outing to seek Earthcaches in Kentucky.  I must admit, I have done few of these in the past as I am more into history than geology, and the requirements on several can be rather daunting for someone who has difficulty remembering to bring a pen along with them, let alone pages of notes from the cache description page, and various measuring equipment for some of the more involved Earthcaches.  But the idea of going along with a group of people made it more desirable as we would all find it together and I wouldn’t have to be solely responsible for figuring out the details.  So my brother (Team Duckman) and myself decided to tag along.

As the days grew closer to the outing, it became apparent that the weather might be against us.  Every day that passed brought with it an updated forecast that would fluctuate from partly sunny skies and temps in the upper 60s/lower 70s to showers and thunderstorms.  Since the area we were going to be Earthcaching in was off-trail and most likely treacherous during rainy weather, it was decided the day before the outing to cancel.  But if you know anything about me from this blog, you know I always plan ahead.

My brother and I had talked quite a lot about the possibility of breaking away from the group and doing a cache run of our own if we ended up getting bored with the Earthcaches or couldn’t handle the terrain difficulty (we’re both a bit on the heavy side so anything a normal person can do requires twice as much effort for us to accomplish).  As the conversations started to turn towards the possibility of canceling the outing, I had suggested possibly hitting a Power Trail that is in Kentucky.  For those that don’t know, a Power Trail is a stretch of road/rail trail that has a massive number of caches along the way, usually at the minimum distance of 529 ft between each cache.  There are several well known Power Trails in the United States, the largest and most popular being the Extraterrestrial Highway Power Trail, which will soon have 2,000 caches along the 98-mile stretch of Hwy 327 in Nevada.  These Power Trails are meant for those cachers who ARE about the numbers and are looking for the epic “# of caches in a day” milestones.  If you’re at an event and overhear someone making the bold statement of getting 1,000+ caches in a single 24-hour period, this is how they do it.

The HWY 127 Power Trail in Kentucky is nowhere near this saturated.  Along the ~92-mile stretch of HWY 127 between Glencoe (actually about 10 miles northeast of the town is the northern terminus of the Power Trail) and Danville (about 7 miles north of town for the southern terminus) are, at last official count, 270 caches.  As you can see from the map below, that’s a lot of caches.  The majority of the cache containers are 35mm film canisters, with some pill bottles and other containers of like size interspersed throughout.  These are definitely meant for quick grabs.

Prior to the cancellation of the Earthcache trek, I had decided to spend the night at my brother’s house as the breakfast event/meeting place for the group was in his area and I live about 20 miles away.  This made planning for the new outing much easier as I was able to load all my caches into the GPSr the night before and plot out our best plan of attack.  Our original intent was to grab every cache between I-71 in the north and Danville to the south, leaving about 20 or so north of I-71 not to be found.  We never had any preconceived notions that we’d find all of them (at the time of the trip there was only 262 available).  I spent the better part of two hours trying to figure out which caches were on the northbound side of the highway as the majority were obviously southbound but some caches were denoted as being northbound while others were not.  We had also decided at this point to give ourselves a team name for signing the logs as it would take a lot longer for each of us to write out our full caching names on the logs.  We settled on Team HoBros, which incorporates both our last names and the fact that we’re brothers.  We also agreed that to save even more time we could log finds as THB if we felt so inclined.  As we were taking his vehicle, that left me in the positions of navigator and gopher, so it would really come down to how tired I was of writing our team name.  Feeling comfortable that I had sorted everything out, I went to bed around 1am, anxious for our day ahead.

We awoke at 6am and left shortly thereafter.  We stopped at a convenience store to pick up some caffeine-laden drinks and headed for Kentucky.  It was rather foggy that morning and that gave us an ominous feeling that the day could end up very wet.  It took us about 2 hours to get down to the starting point, and as luck would have it, there was a little hole-in-the-wall greasy spoon right off the exit.  Since neither of us had eaten anything at this point, we figured it would be best to begin on full stomachs rather than hit the trail and get about 30 miles in and start having hunger pangs hit when we’re nowhere near any food options.  Since we’re in what can be considered “The South”, I knew there was a good chance for some old-fashioned biscuits and gravy, so it sounded like a plan to me.

About 20 minutes later, with our bellies full, we headed out.  As luck would have it, the first cache was in the parking lot of the restaurant.  I grabbed it, signed it, and we were off.  About a half-mile down the road was the next cache and it became apparent real quick what type of hides we would come across.  If it wasn’t on a guardrail, it was attached to a sign.  And if it wasn’t attached to a sign, it was hanging in some road-side tree.  Things were easy-going for the first 15 minutes, until I realized that my southbound GPX had northbound caches in them.  When I checked the northbound GPX, I saw that it had the same number of caches as the southbound.  It was then that I realized that all that hard work the night before had been for naught as I had accidentally duplicated the same original GPX and only renamed them, not edited them for cache placement.  So I had basically deprived myself of almost 2 hours of sleep for nothing….oh well, lesson learned.

Over the course of 4 hours we snagged just short of 100 caches along the ~45 mile section of 127 between I-71 and Frankfort.  During this time we both hit milestones, our 600th and his 700th find.

Find #600!!

I also learned something unexpected…Power Trails are hard work.  Looking at it on paper, it sounds like the easiest, most-convoluted method to score a find and pad your numbers.  You’re finding caches that had little thought put into their placement, no real effort put on their cache page descriptions (most are copy/paste from the lead cache page for the trail), and a lack of imagination on the container.  Everything would point to this being the worst caching experience ever, but I had a flipping blast and was tired when it was all said and done.  Not only do you have to work out logistics for the trip, planning out your route and, in this case, making sure you know which side of the road you need to be on, but then there’s the very physical toll this type of caching takes on you.  You don’t realize it when you’re on a normal cache run because you’re not in a rush to leave the GZ and move onto the next.  You’re taking your time, usually tens if not hundreds of feet away from the nearest road, with not a care in the world other than what you’re currently doing.  We wanted to make it so that we spent no more than a minute at each GZ.  That including getting out of the car, locating the cache, signing the log, re-hiding the cache, and getting back into the car.  That leaves very little wiggle room to enjoy the sights, take pictures, or even collect your bearings.  So all that getting in and out really becomes a bit of a workout.

Once we got into Frankfort around 1:30, we were beginning to get a little hungry so we decided to stop for lunch in town and take a break.  We had been on the trail for just over 4 hours and at 92 finds we were making tremendous time.  We figured we could go another 2 hours or so before we needed to make our way back north so we continued south after lunch.  This is where things get dicey.  Up until Frankfort, 127 is a 2-lane highway meandering through the hills of the Ohio Valley.  South of Frankfort and I-64, however, 127 becomes a 4-lane divided highway that gets an awful lot of semi traffic.  The hides were the same, attached to road signs, guardrails, and other roadside landmarks, but with the hustle and bustle of the midday weekend traffic and the increased speed limit, it became decidedly more treacherous.  Also, the entire first half of our trip we saw absolutely no law enforcement at all, lending us to feel comfortable about our caching.  In a 3-mile stretch since leaving Frankfort, we saw 4 police cars, including a pull-over.

We managed to snag 7 finds heading south of town before a run-in with an angry driver decided to make us turn tail and head back north.  The GZ for this particular cache was at the end of a guardrail next to the driveway of a mobile home located on a hill a ways ahead of us.  I had just jumped out, grabbed the log, and had put pen to paper when I heard the blast of a car horn right in front of me.  The owner of the house or a visitor had somehow managed to pull up behind us and laid on the horn as we were unfortunately blocking the entrance to the driveway without us seeing her.  I had left the car door open when I jumped out and watched in horror as my brother quickly pulled away in fright.  I freaked out, replaced the log as quickly as possible, all while hearing the person in the car shout an expletive at me.  I jumped into the car and we quickly left, having a good laugh in the process.  But this left us both shaken and we decided it was just way too busy to continue our trek south.  We knew we had missed a lot of northbound caches on the first leg so we decided we’d grab a few caches in downtown Frankfort before heading back towards home and collecting the balance of northbound caches.

Since I had not planned for this deviation, and because we were finally within good 3G data range, I whipped out my iPhone, pulled up the geocaching app, and began searching for nearby caches.  Because I am unfamiliar with the city, I didn’t want to just chance doing an impromptu cache run that could cause us grief in finding caches down one-way roads we didn’t know about, I decided to look for a park or nature preserve that had several caches within that we could park and walk to.  Leslie Morris Park on Fort Hill fit the bill nicely.  Located on a hill overlooking the Kentucky River and downtown Frankfort, there were 4 caches there just waiting to be found.  So we headed to the park (which is very cumbersome to get to) and grabbed our walking sticks, and headed out.  We ended up grabbing 3 of the 4 caches as one of them was just too far of a walk for us to make as we were running low on time.  Two of the caches made the side trip worth it.  GC1JNWG – Hole in a Hill is located near a sinkhole/cave that provided quite the harrowing view…if it weren’t for the grate covering the hole.

GC1JNWG – Hole in a Hill

About .2 of a mile away from that was another cache overlooking the Kentucky River, GC3051K – Kentucky River View Cache.  While there wasn’t anything remarkable about the cache itself, the surroundings were gorgeous and provided us with a great view.

GC3051K – Kentucky River View Cache

Unfortunately, this park is fairly neglected and there was a lot of trash around.  I tried to perform a little CITO but found out that nowhere in the area of the park we were in was a trashcan to be found.  So I packed in my random bits of trash and we headed back towards 127, picking up another 48 caches as we headed back the way we came.  In the end, we managed to find 140 caches.  We started our run at 9:10am, took our lunch at 1:30pm, and grabbed our last cache at 5:43pm.  Definitely not a record cache run, but it has been our best single-day run yet.  We are short 130 caches from completing the entire trail, and on the leg that we did do, we still managed to leave 46 caches un-found, either because they were located in shrubbery off the road that would have cost us precious minutes, or we blew past them too fast as my GPSr would lock up for a minute before updating our location well past the GZ.  We have both vowed that we would return in the fall to pick up the balance of caches we left behind…I, personally, cannot wait.

Oh, and the weather that day….partly sunny and 72, with a stray sprinkle that lasted about 30 seconds.

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Should I have taken the hint?


As a geocacher, do you ever have one of those days where you feel like maybe you should just pack it in for the day? Today was one of those days for me.

During the week between Christmas and New Year’s I accidentally broke my glasses. How this happened is beyond me because I think I am the only person in the history of the world to split their frames just by cleaning the lenses. But regardless, I broke them. Gorilla Glue has helped keep the lens in place during this time, but I’ve had to re-glue them four times now, and I decided it was high time to replace them. So off I went to the local 1-hour eyeglass emporium. After the testing and picking out the frames and all, I was given a 90-minute window for them to be done. Considering I was by myself, I knew the only thing to do was cache. I fired up Geosphere and looked for some nearby caches, which in this area is plentiful.

I noticed I had a couple solved puzzle caches just waiting for me to find, so I set my sites on the one I felt I had the best chance of grabbing and headed off. Of course, this was not meant to be. The weather recently has been very Winter-like for once so the area where I could normally park was completely snowed over and the next closest parking area was a good 2/10ths of a mile away. Considering the snow on the ground leading to the GZ, not to mention the nip in the air and the possibility of slipping and getting soaked, I decided to ditch it without trying and head to the next puzzle cache a short distance down the road.

I had success at this cache, at first. I pulled up to an empty parking lot and was able to make my way to what I thought was the GZ and immediately spotted the container. Upon opening, I discovered nothing more than a laminated piece of paper with the words “Final Stage” and coordinates written on it. I quickly snapped a pic of the paper, replaced the container, and went back to the car to input the new coordinates in the app. The location resolved itself to be in another parking lot about 700 feet away. At this time I noticed a security vehicle headed my way so I quickly drove off and made myself scarce. I then tried to approach the GZ from a different direction, but the same security guard showed up so I quickly left the area. I then went to another, traditional LPC cache that is part of a massive series of caches that have just been hidden in our city.

After redeeming myself with a find I found out there was another of the series nearby so I went to find that one. As I got into the area, however, I saw another security guard parked some 30 feet from what I perceived to be the GZ. I thought I’d just pull up and wait it out but it appeared he may have just chased someone else away because he locked eyes on me and began to follow. I drove out of the parking lot and then began a little game of cat and mouse with him. Being a busy shopping mall, I was shocked it took me as long as it did to finally shake him, but once I lost sight I went back to the GZ and made the find. There was a trail of several sets of footprints in the snow and the log showed at least 3 teams had made the find so it appears the guard got wise to this area and was scoping it out. As I left the lot I saw the guard, who quickly got on my tail and followed me until I left on the main road and headed towards my glasses store.

After I picked up my glasses and picked up a few items at a craft store for my wife, I decided to give the multi/puzzle cache one more go. Over an hour had passed since my last attempt so surely the guard wouldn’t still be on the hunt for me there. Fate, as it seems, had other plans as several fire trucks were in the area near the GZ and there was a bunch of activity in and around the place that would have made it very difficult to get in and out without looking suspicious. Oh well…Meatloaf said it best when he sang “…don’t be sad ’cause two out of three ain’t bad.”. Still, I wonder if I should have just heeded the first omen, because surely my license plate is sitting in some database now and an APB to be on the lookout for me. The trouble I get myself into just to write my name on a piece of paper…sheesh!

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Making some changes (to the site and to myself)


It has been quite some time since I’ve last updated this blog.  I wish I could say that I got really super busy with work or that we won the lottery and spent the past 4 months traversing the world on a massive geocaching adventure.  Alas, I cannot lie.  The fact is I’ve just not really had enough to say to compel me to write.  One thing I hate about blogs is that some people needlessly update them with fluff just to maintain their posting frequency.  So instead of a fun, informative blog, you end up with a bunch of posts that could be characterized as a step-above a tweet or FB status update.  That’s not me.  As you can tell, my average word count for a blog post is well over 700 words, so I am way too long-winded to settle for a post like this:

“Went caching today.  Found 3 and didn’t find 5.  Stubbed my toe and dropped my phone/GPSr twice.”

See that?  I just can’t bring myself to do that.  It might make this blog look more active, but it’ll also look like I’m half-assing it.  Anything worth doing is worth giving the full ass, I say.  So, I’m making some changes.

First, you may have noticed a change in the web address.  I decided to purchase the domain and bring this blog one step closer to legitimacy.  WordPress.com is a great FREE host, but it made me lazy.  There’s not accountability for my usage of this blog if it costs me nothing to use it.  So, I plunked down the $17 and purchased the domain through them.  Now I have a $17 annual fee that, while not breaking the bank, does mean that there is a real loss of money if I just let it sit here and do nothing with it.  So a kick in the ass via my wallet is the order of the day.

The next logical step is to leave WordPress.com completely and begin hosting the site independently, which will then allow me even more freedom to update the site, putting my CSS talents to good use and removing the “cookie-cutter” feel of the themes they offer to better give this site an identity.  This is a much more cost-prohibitive venture, however, and will be more dependent on readership and my increased frequency of posts.  I cannot see myself paying the $120 to have the WordPress team transfer my blog to my host of choice, then pay the monthly fee to have it hosted if only the same 6 people read it whenever they get an announcement on FB/Twitter that I’ve updated my blog.  I need to get this blog out there to my fellow geocachers and make it a source of entertainment AND information about our beloved hobby.

And one of the first steps to this is to add contributing cachers to the mix.  We’ve made a lot of friends in our 18-months as geocachers and they all have some great tales to share too.  So I am entertaining the notion of adding some contributors to this blog and transforming the blog from one about our family’s adventures to multiple cachers’ adventures.  If you’ve ever attended a geocaching event you’ll know that the majority of the time people are sharing stories from their own outings.  Getting stopped by the police.  Being chased by wild animals.  Falling into a deep pile of mud.  There are a plethora of stories out there that get told on a small level but could have a real voice on the Internet.  So in the coming months, watch for information regarding this change.

I know that this all seems silly and that I am dedicating way too much thought into a blog…but to me, this is more about promoting the game.  We LOVE geocaching, and much like those who bleed Twilight or their favorite football team, we want the world to know it.  We want to share this love and make people take note of our dedication to it.  But above all else, we want to bring awareness to the game.  There are almost 7-billion people in this world, but only 5-million registered geocachers.  We can do SO MUCH BETTER than that.

 

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Success at the Bash!!


Here it took me only 9 days since the MidWest GeoBash ended for me to finally update the site…and of course it’s also been almost a month.  What can I say…it’s been a rather busy month for us.  What with all the planning for the Bash, Cyndi’s business trip to San Diego, and the girls’ resident camps, I’ve had my mind on other things than updating this blog.  Besides, I wanted to make sure I had everything gathered for this epic post.  So, without further adieu…

WE HIT 400 FINDS!!!!

That’s right.  After many promising, but failed attempts to hit this milestone, we finally broke the 400th find mark.  And our 400th?  The Bash itself.  Yes, if you go to the site and look at our milestones it’ll say it’s a different cache, but that’s because the app I used for whatever reason put the caches in a different order than the way they were entered.  Grrr.  But whatever, we know which one was 400, and that’s all that matters.  We had a blast.  Granted I would have liked to find a few more caches than we did (ended up with 27 for the weekend), it was a fantastic time.  We met so many great people and picked up quite a few ideas for next year’s Bash.  In the end, the only thing I would have changed would be purchasing bikes so we wouldn’t have had to walk around everywhere…next year!!!

This post is going to be a bit of a photoblog entry.  Instead of just using a bunch of words to paint the picture, I’ll just post some pictures and narrate a little.  So here it goes…our trip the 2011 MidWest GeoBash.

Since Cyndi didn’t get back from her trip to San Diego (which netted us 2 California finds and 2 TBs to be moved) until Thursday evening, we didn’t leave for the Bash until Friday.  We stopped off in Ft. Wayne to drop the girls off at grandma’s for the weekend before heading to Wauseon, OH, right off of the Ohio Turnpike.

Toll Booth on Ohio Turnpike - Cyndi snagged this just as we got onto it.

We spent about 20 minutes on the Turnpike before we got off at the Wauseon exit.  After paying the $2.25 toll we turned north and there was the fairgrounds.

Fulton County Fairgrounds entrance

Welcome to the MidWest GeoBash!!!

After we checked in and got our lanyards and event schedule/brochure, we made our way back to the campgrounds, taking in all the festivities that were unfolding around us.  The campsite was far enough away from the Turnpike to not disturb us at night, but close enough to the bathroom/showers that it wouldn’t be a major hassle to get up at night if you have to go.  I had purchased a brand new tent several weeks prior that turned out to be flipping massive.  Usually when a tent boasts a sleeping capacity, you can usually deduct 2-3 from that estimate to get your real world capacity.  This tent boasts 12…if everyone slept on the ground in sleeping bags, I would definitely agree with that assessment.

I'd set it up once before, but still am in awe at it's size

We ended up not needing the rain fly the entire weekend.

Massive, I tell you!!!

We only had about 30 minutes to setup the tent as we were running short on time before the Event Store closed at 5.  So we quickly put up the tent and then headed to grab our swag, which included Event T-Shirts, a MWGB geocoin, and a silk-screened day bag with the logo on it.  We then walked across the way into the Spangler Arena, which plays host to the vendors/flea market.  We purchased a couple trinkets, as well as some Geocaching window decals for the Caravan, including a Travel Bug to make it trackable.  After that we were both hungry so we headed out into town for a quick bite of dinner and grab a couple caches, because this town is crawling with an extra 2,000 people who all happen to be doing the exact same thing.

Cyndi fell in love with these the minute she saw them...we just had to get them.

We also got some iron-on trackables to add to the front of these shirts as they are bare....also got me a new hat

This guy has the ultimate TB forever attached to his calf. That's dedication!!

She made sure we represented ourselves for the local authorities...which were quite scarce the entire weekend.

While eating at Taco Bell, I discovered there was a cache just across the way behind Wendy's. Naturally we had to grab it. This was a unique take on the LPC.

There is a walking trail in town called the Wabash-Cannonball Trail. It stretches over 60 miles across Northwest Ohio and has hundreds of caches along it. This is a small nature trail that heads off of it that is maintained by the FFA. Naturally there was a cache at the end of it.

After spending about 90 minutes caching, it started to get dark so we made our way back to the GeoBash and decided to walk around the campgrounds.  They have a campsite decorating contest every year where the theme is based on that year’s Bash theme.  This year’s theme was “Pelican Beach Party.”  As you’ll see, some people got very creative.

When we got back to our tent to relax, I noticed something very familiar playing in the air just behind our campsite.  Sure the music was recognizable…but there was something else.  Something I am very familiar with…….the sound of someone missing notes on guitar while playing Rock Band.  I stuck my head out of my tent and saw something I never thought I’d see.

OMG!!!

These cats brought their entire Rock Band setup to the Bash.  And they were performing a concert for attendees.  I walked over to see what was up and noticed they had 3 mics not being used.  Naturally I couldn’t resist!!  I sang a 2 songs with the band, introduced myself, and told them that if they were going to play again the following evening I’d definitely be there.

The following morning we woke up and got an early start on the day.  We stopped at a place just down the street called Smith’s for breakfast.  This place came highly recommended but we were underwhelmed by the service and the quality of our breakfast….but they are very Geocaching-friendly and even have one on their premises so that’s puts them up there in my book….just stay away from the biscuits and gravy.

I'm not totally sure this sign makes sense....but it's the thought that counts.

We then had to run into town to Walmart to grab some poison ivy relief for Cyndi as she caught a bit of it the night before on the trail in a failed attempt to find a cache.  We then headed back to the fairgrounds to try to partake in some of the activities going on there.  This included a treasure hunt using metal detectors where everyone wins at least a trackable tag and 3 people could win GPSr devices from Garmin.

Treasure Hunt ticket = $5 each

Cyndi's first time using a metal detector.

Unfortunately we did not find the winning hides, but we got two trackables to call our own so that accounts for something.  After this we headed back out into town to look for some more caches before we had to be back by 6pm for the closing ceremonies and group photo.  During this time we stopped for lunch at a horrible Mexican restaurant that I won’t even give the satisfaction of naming…I’ll just say it’s directly south of the movie theater near Walmart.  It actually made Cyndi sick it was so bad.  But we didn’t let this get in the way of our hunt.  It was also during this time that I met quite a few cachers from other states, and even a couple from Australia.

A massive TB hotel located on an old access road along the Turnpike across the street from the Bash. This is the largest ammo can I have ever seen.

The guy who was leaving here when we arrived placed this inside. I had to get a picture as I had nothing of worth to possibly swap for this.

Ran into this group behind an Arby's. We ended up following each other on the next several caches.

The man in red is the manager and co-owner of the Arby's, and also happened to be the cache owner. He had just joined 2 weeks prior to hide the cache as he had learned about the GeoBash the previous year and wanted to contribute. He was a great guy and we ended up patronizing his store for dinner later that evening.

After a few more caches we headed back to the Bash to do a little more shopping in the vendor area before the closing ceremonies.  It was also at this time that we changed into our official GeoBash shirts.

The fairgrounds are absolutely gorgeous for such a middle-of-nowhere place!

It was so effin' hot that I had to take a break on the bleachers while Cyndi did some more looking around.

Heading back into the arena prior to closing ceremonies, Cyndi snagged this pic of the logo on the back of the official shirt.

We also got someone to take a picture of us together...too bad they couldn't be bothered to stand up to snap the pic. Also, as you can see, Cyndi decided to be a kid again and had the face painters do some arm painting.

After the closing ceremonies, prize announcements, and group photo, we headed back out to grab dinner and a few more caches around the fairgrounds before calling it a night.

This is probably the only "legal" picture taken in Area 51, an adult-friendly area that gets quite rowdy after 10pm with multiple bonfires, a tiki bar, DJ, and various other alcoholic refreshments being shared by the creatures of the night. We hung out for a few on Friday evening but it just isn't our scene.

Signing the final log of the night....located just outside the fence near our campsite.

Once we made it back to our campsite, we grabbed our chairs and headed to the Rock Band campsite, where the “band” TimeBomb were setting things up.  To get things going, I sang the first 3 songs…and I mean SANG.  I tore through Bon Jovi’s “Wanted Dead or Alive”, Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger”, and Foo Fighter’s “Everlong” before I destroyed my voice from being a little too exuberant.  Cyndi recorded a couple videos…….yeah, I may not have much shame when it comes to doing it in front of live people….but I totally have shame when it comes to posting it on YouTube for the whole world to see.  So, no, that won’t be on here.

They ended up having a problem with the subwoofer of their sound system overheating and, during Pearl Jam's "Jeremy' while I was on drums, it blew out completely and the set was cut short.

With that we called it an evening.  We helped pack clear things out and then went to bed, hoping to get enough sleep before having to tear down camp and head home.  The following morning I talked with the guys in TimeBomb about their plans for next year and I guess during some point the previous evening they decided to extend an invite to join their band, both for the Bash and online when at home.  What an honor!!!  So I already have something to look forward to for next year.  We also helped our neighbor, Lisa from Cache Advance, tear down her site and talked a great deal about her company (where the decals and iron on trackables came from) as well as other Mega Events she’s attended.  She is an awesome woman and her company makes some real quality gear.  I highly recommend Cache Advance to anyone looking for some swag.  Afterwards we packed up our van and headed to Ft. Wayne to get the girls and then home.

Until next year!!!!

For all those reading this on the fence about going to a Mega event like GeoBash, I strongly suggest giving it a shot.  We had so much fun and are already planning next year’s trip.  We had a blast…we know the girls will have a blast…and I know that you would have a blast too.  Thanks for reading this extremely long post.

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Getting pumped for the GeoBash (and an update on the hunt for our 400th find)


Yeah yeah, I know I know.  I have been slacking off once again.  Not updating in almost a month.  So sorry about that.  I have been rather preoccupied with things and every time I get a chance that could be used to send out an update, I use it for other things.  Hey, I’m only human!

So as the title suggests, I am getting myself pumped up for the Midwest GeoBash that takes place on the 28th of this month.  Granted we’re technically not going to arrive until the 29th, but that’s not the point.  This will be our first Mega Event and I have heard wonderful things about it since our first event back on 10/10/10 when we were told stories of 100+ and midnight cache runs, tons of swag swapping, prizes, and a bunch of drunken silliness in a place they call Area 51.  I had been interested since that day and when they opened registration for it back in March I had to get us registered.  So, let me give you a brief rundown of this thing:

The GeoBash in and of itself is a free event held over 4 days during the summer.  It used to be a traveling event that would move to different locations in the midwest but it appears they have found a permanent home at the Fulton County Fairgrounds in Wauseon, OH.  It is located just north of the Ohio Turnpike (I-80/90) about 30 miles west of Toledo, OH.  They offer camping on-site for both tents and RVs.  Obviously there’s showers and restrooms provided.  There’s several motels/hotels within a short distance from the location that people can also stay at if they’re not fans of camping (but if you’re a Geocacher, how can you NOT like camping??) and they also offer the option of day tripping for those who just want to come for a day and leave.  The camping costs $35 for the entire event and with that price you receive a coupon for a free bundle of wood for a campfire.  More is $3.50/bundle so you got yourself at least one night’s worth of s’mores right there.  During the course of the event, you are free to leave and explore the surrounding area and attempt any one of the over 400 caches that have been hidden within a 15-mile radius of the fairgrounds.  According to chatter on the forums at the Bash’s web site, a bunch of caches are usually activated just before and sometimes during the event to ensure some FTFs.  A lot of the businesses around the area have become quite Geocacher-friendly from what I understand so it’s exciting to know we can walk into a restaurant covered in dirt/dust with a GPSr hanging from our neck and be greeted warmly instead of regarded as trouble.  They also have a number of different events during the Bash to keep you there, ranging from a Texas Hold ‘Em tournament, several seminars, a treasure hunt with GPSr’s as some of the top prizes, a campsite decorating contest, and travel bug/pathtag/geocoin trading.  And that Area 51 I mentioned?  While most is kept kinda hush hush, from what I can gather it is an adult-focused area where alcohol is welcome and children really aren’t.  They have some weird traditions they talk about, such as Thursday Night is Tinfoil Hat Night.  Interesting….very interesting.

Needless to say, the GeoBash sounds like it will be some serious fun and I’ll make sure to get a ton of pictures and post them on here.

Now, for what I’m sure 3 of you reading this actually cares about…did we hit our goal of 400 caches by our 1-year anniversary of caching?

No

I was pretty torn up about it, too.  In the end, we just didn’t get out enough this summer to make a fair go at it.  Sure we had a few runs here and there that would net us a decent number for a couple hours worth of caching, but we were facing an uphill battle, needing to find 62 caches in 20 days.  I THOUGHT I had a good, solid planning for achieving that, going so far as to map out cache runs during our family trip to Holiday World, locating 64 caches that I felt were attainable within the 3 days we’d be gone.  Well, let’s see how well that went:

6/17 – 10 finds
6/18 – 1 find
6/19 – 9 finds

Now, 20 finds in 3 days isn’t bad.  That is actually a fairly good outing.  But considering I had mapped everything out and mapped the caches out in the direction we were traveling and planned it to take us 4 hours go get there, it ended up taking us about 6 hours with the pitiful amount we did grab.  Part of that was because we stopped for lunch and made several other stops along the way that weren’t scheduled because someone either forgot something or they really needed to go to the restroom.  When we ended up doing some, it took us forever with the Friday rush hour traffic beginning to build.  I didn’t expect us to do any caching the following day as we were supposed to be at the park all day, but I ended up not feeling good with the lack of sleep I got the night before due to some seriously wicked storms rolling through and the cool, rainy weather we endured for a good portion of our day.  After we left I needed to get out of the RV for a while so Hoosier Hooligan and I went and tried to find a couple caches.  One of them was missing, but the other one, after throwing us for a bit of a loop because of the lack of a strong data connection resulting in no satellite mapping, was finally found to grab HH a find in the county.  The following day we made a quick detour to Kentucky to grab a Mystery Cache and an EarthCache (our first) and to claim a find in another state, and then we had a Father’s Day lunch at Outback in Jeffersonville before grabbing a few more caches in the area.  All in all it wasn’t a bad day, but with the rain storms we kept hitting on our way home, there was just NO WAY we could get any more caching done.  And that is how it continued to happen as the days drew closer.

We ended up not caching at all until July 3rd.  We were up in Ft. Wayne visiting Cyndi’s family and Hoosier Hooligan and I ended up going out on a cache run.  Together we found 12 (he had found several of them previously) and had a run-in with the police that wasn’t nearly as fun as the last time.  Basically we were told we were on private property and told to leave.  A second police officer was pulling in as we left.  Something tells me they were expecting us to be doing something unsavory to one another.  Anyway, I was hoping to have grabbed more than 12 so after our barbecue dinner, I went on a solo run to try to boost our numbers.  I ended up grabbing 7 by myself in the 90 minutes I was out before it got too dark.  On the 4th, the actual day of our anniversary, we went out and found 6 more, to bring our total to 383 finds for the year.  We’ve since added 5 more to that number.  We’ve decided we shouldn’t focus so much on the number of finds within a year and instead just keep trying our best to find all that we attempt.  I guess I can live with that…..not having our anniversary cache hidden….now that I am upset about.  But that isn’t entirely our fault.  I am having quite the difficult time with finding a good place to hide a cache that I can get permission to hide it at.  There is one in particular that I want to use but I have no idea who owns the land, can’t find it on any of the land deeds for the area, and my searches have so all hit brick walls.  But diligence is the key and I WILL find this out.

 

Categories: A tale from the GZ, Random talking | Leave a comment

A weekend of firsts and adding another to the ranks


As I have mentioned before, we’re fast approaching our 1-year anniversary as geocachers.  As I reflect back on the past year, combing through memories for something that would make an interesting blog post, I am reminded of the day we accidentally got my mother-in-law’s boyfriend addicted to geocaching.

It was an unseasonably warm October weekend.  I’m talking middle 80s when usually you’re lucky to get 70 by this time.  We went up to Ft. Wayne to visit Cyndi’s mom and grandma for the weekend.  We try to do these trips every few months as the kids (and Cyndi for the matter) miss seeing them after a few weeks.  This was to be our first trip up since we began geocaching and I had already found that they had a lot of caches in the area to try for.

The timing of this trip couldn’t have been more perfect.  Our visit would fall on 10/10/10, which was set to be the day that they wanted to set the record for most accounts logging found caches in a single day.  Cities around the world were having events to celebrate the day…which meant that even if the weather was horrible and no one did any caching that day, if they turned up for the event, they got to log 1 find.  As luck would have it, there was a Ft. Wayne event scheduled that day.  It was a Flash Mob event that took place at exactly 10:10:10am on 10/10/10.  Pretty neat, huh?  Anyway, since we were up in the area and we had never been to an event cache before, it was just icing on the cake….but back to the topic at hand.

The plan for the day we arrived was to go to a state park about 30 minutes north of town for a day of hiking and general fun with the family.  We had already planned on grabbing a couple caches on the way back but I got the sudden urge to head north a little bit further.  See, the state park, Pokagon, is about 4 miles from the Indiana/Michigan border.  We had yet to grab any out-of-state caches so we’d be fools not to.  Once we were done with our outing, I asked the rest if they’d have a problem with me just going north a little further to grab a couple quick caches.  Of course they didn’t mind as they just wanted to spend time with us as we don’t get up there as often as we’d like.  So we leave the park and head to Michigan.

The first cache that is off the interstate is at a rest stop/welcome center about 3 miles north of the border.  We stopped and got out to find it.  Obviously the team was going to search it out but mom and grandma were pretty beat from the hike so they stayed back at the main building while mom’s boyfriend tagged along to see what this was all about.  The cache was located in the woods behind the rest stop in an area meant for dog owners to let their pets stretch their legs after a long trip.  The GPS was bouncing pretty wildly in the cover and we took the most scenic, but out-of-the-way route to the GZ.  When we got within 20 feet we began to fan out and searched the grounds.  Upon arrival I had a fleeting suspicion that the cache was going to be either in a hollowed-out tree trunk or a downed tree.  Sure enough, my instincts were correct, and I found the cache.

Howard_Family and hoosier hooligan at the GZ

The cache was a retired ammo can and inside was just some various geoswag and a logbook, but for a n00b, it was treasure.  It was like watching a kid open a bike…that look of surprise and wonder across his face as he saw the contents splayed out for everyone to see.  Sure there weren’t any trackables or pathtags to snag, but it was just knowing that there are these tiny hidden wonders located just about anywhere in the world that really takes your breath and makes you want to find them all.  So obviously it wasn’t hard to convince him to allow us to try to find some more at the next populated exit we came to.  Of course, there was still the matter of convincing the others, but they were just along for the ride at this point.

We had to end up traveling a few more miles to get to the next populated exit, but we found 2 caches within a quarter mile of the exit no less.  The first one we found I actually stumbled upon it first but we wanted to let the n00b find it for himself.  Of course that meant steering him towards the correct GZ as it was actually about 25 feet west of the posted coordinates.  As he started to search I was just about to mention being quiet as there was a muggle sitting a few feet away when he blurts out a very boisterous “FOUND IT!!!”  Ah well, you can’t win them all.

We found one more cache that day but it was nothing major and only Cyndi and I went for it.  But the seed had been planted.  A couple weeks later we got word that he had purchased a GPSr (a Magellan  Explorist GC, a receiver designed explicitly for caching) and had registered an account.  He now goes by Hoosier Hooligan and has so far found 85 caches since last October.  Not bad!

As for the record event…we busted that previous record by over 15,000 finds.

Categories: A tale from the GZ | 1 Comment

No, officer, I swear we’re up to SOME good.


There are many a tale I’ve read where someone, at some point, has run into law enforcement while out geocaching. Most of the time it amounts to nothing but a little education and some time wasted….other times there are more disastrous results, such as stories you can read here and here. This tale from the GZ is from the former kind, thankfully.

It was July 6th, 2010.  This was our 3rd day as geocachers.  We had decided to go out and try a few caches around our neighborhood as it was a nice, warm summer evening.  We loaded the kids into the Grand Cachingvan and headed to a cache located pretty much behind our neighborhood in what has since become an abandoned field as the land is slated for a massive commercial development that has since stalled due to the economy.  For those who want to check it out, the cache I’m talking about is GC26Z7y – Book Series #2: Where the Sidewalk Ends (don’t worry, there aren’t any pictures of the GZ and I won’t be giving away any details that would spoil the hunt).

The GZ for this particular cache is at an abandoned property neighboring the commercial development.  The road that runs in front of this property was closed off as the land was procured for the development and terminates with a barricade right in front of the property.  The house and barn that stood here have since been destroyed, but by natural forces, not demolition.  It is uncertain if this land is owned by anyone at this point as the development is next to this property and there aren’t any “For Sale” or “No Trespassing” signs.  Chances are it’s still owned by someone who is waiting to see if he can get a bid from a company for it.  It’s a nice-sized parcel of land, but with all the cleanup and reconditioning of the land, I doubt it’ll grab much attention…..but look at me digressing.

Anyway, we head to the coordinates and notice that there really isn’t any place to park.  Like I said, this is a local 2-lane road that just dead-ends with a concrete barrier.  The “driveway” for the house has since been reclaimed by nature so there was only enough room to pull the van off the road a bit and hope I didn’t run over a nail or something.  At the time we were operating with the iPhone 3G, which was known for having a very weak GPS chip and no compass feature to speak of.  This becomes important in a bit.  Cyndi wasn’t feeling this cache as soon as we pulled up because of the suburban rural-ness of it all (basically, lots of bushwhacking was in order).  Pinto and Mouse were very excited, however, and since this looked like it would be fairly easy, I let them tag along.  At least, for a few minutes I did.

Remember how I mentioned the shortcomings of the 3G.  Yeah, well it became severely apparent to me as soon as I got any kind of cover.  My GPS was bouncing me everywhere, telling me sometimes I was within 10 feet and other times that I was 70 feet in the opposite direction.  It got to the point where it was telling me I was at the GZ while I was literally standing on top of the rubble that was once the house.  Because of this I instructed the girls to back to the van.  Frustrated, I started to think this was going to be a bust when my geosense kicked in.  For those who don’t know, this is a “6th sense” where you begin to think like the person who hid the cache, and you start to notice little cues in nature that would lead someone to the cache.  Now, my geosense was not very strong at this point, being that all the caches we had found up to this post were LPCs and Phone-a-Friends, but it doesn’t take much to start noticing trampled grass and weeds and unnaturally-moved geo rubble.  Looking back at the satellite map of the GZ, I noticed that the area labeled as the coordinates was near/under a large tree.  Using this I focused my efforts to the only place I assumed it could be.  I had already been searching for about 10 minutes when I spotted a geopile, which is nothing more than an unnaturally stacked pile of twigs, branches, or tree bark.  Moving towards it I caught a glimpse of a speck of a color you’ll never see naturally.  Excited I quickly moved the pile and found the cache.  SUCCESS!!!

Excitedly I opened the cache and saw a massive log rolled up inside.  This one wasn’t stuffed with any swag, however, so this was just going to be a quick log sign and rehide….only I realized I didn’t have a pen.  It was at this point that my phone rang.  It was Cyndi.  Excited I answered the phone but before I could get anything out I heard a very scared “There’s a cop pulling up behind us.”  My stomach dropped.  Was I breaking the law being here?  Why didn’t I park the car further off the road so no one could see us?  Did someone call them on us for suspicious activity?

My heart racing, I rushed back to the van to see an officer standing with my wife and kids, asking her a bunch of questions.  I quickly walked up and he asked me what I was doing.  I explained to him the game of geocaching, making sure to include information regarding the rules of hiding caches.  Since I still had the cache with me since I didn’t have a pen, I was able to show him the log as well as the container and the front sheet that explains geocaching to those who happen upon it without knowing what it is.  He asked me if I knew that permission had been granted for this cache and I told him that it must have as caches placed without proper permission are usually either not approved or they are archived as soon as a complaint is raised.  He seemed genuinely interested in what we were doing and I think we dispelled any suspicion that we were up to no good (why would I be with 2 little girls) but he stated that it would probably be for the best if we hurried up and moved along.  I agreed, signed the log, and quickly returned it to it’s hiding spot, expecting him to be there when I returned.  Alas he had left.

Hindsight being 20/20, I checked the logs that night to see that the cache had only been active for 3 months and it appears that a lot of people frequent this place for things other than caching (one log, from a police officer who caches no less, stated that when he went there shortly after it was published that there was a large group of teenagers there shooting a movie for school.  As for the legality of this caches’ location, I can’t say for certain if permission was ever obtained or if this land is private and no one is supposed to be there.  I can say this…the cache is still active and there has been 16 finds since ours.  But for the record….no, officer, I swear we’re up to some good.

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LPCs aren’t always bad


I know, I know….it’s been a while since I last updated the site.  What can I say, I’ve been a bit preoccupied.  I was off all last week for Spring Break with the kids and something always kept me away from the PC.  As I had mentioned in my last post, we went to Cincinnati for a little mini-getaway.  This is becoming a Howard Family tradition.  Because of our differing vacation policies at our employers, having a solid week of paid time off at this time of year is extremely hard.  Cyndi’s company doesn’t reset the PTO clock until July 1st, and mine is accrued as I work.  So for Cyndi to have 40 hours of PTO in early April, she would basically have to not miss any work in 9 months and hope that the mandatory down time her company imposes around Christmas will only take a few days off.  As for me, I just need to not take any time off for 18 weeks and I’ve got ~40 hours of PTO to play with.  So, if taking a weekend trip to a neighboring state is a vacation for us, so be it.  One day we’ll get that big family outing I’ve always dreamed about.  But I digress…

So, I had mentioned that I had planned a cache run for our trip.  I basically did a search for caches I thought were fairly attainable for our short stay, as well as some caches to do on the way down and back.  I had actually amassed a PQ of about 80 caches for us to work with.  Yes, that was quite the lofty goal to achieve, but I figured that if worse came to worse, at least we had a nice pool for which to work from.  So, how did we end up doing?

We found 14.  Yeah, I know.  That isn’t a very big number.  But you have to understand something…sometimes it’s not about the numbers.  Sometimes it’s just about having fun.  We had a lot of activities planned originally for this little trip and I think we may have over-killed it a little.  In the span of 36 hours we took in the Cincinnati Zoo, shoppped at IKEA, and hit up Jungle Jim’s International Market.  Any one of these destinations could easily consume 5 hours of our lives if we let it.  Also, our Sunday had to be cut short to make sure Cyndi made it back home in time for a 4:30 Girl Scout meeting.  Being that Cincinnati is about 2 hours away, that really cut down on our available caching time….which brings me to my topic.

LPCs are looked down upon in the geocaching community as like the ugly stepchild of caching.  They are unimaginative, intrusive, and, in some cases, in direct violation of Groundspeak’s Terms of Use.  But, they also are easy, plentiful, and excellent sources of fun in urban settings.  Because of our lack of time, we had to condense a day’s worth of caching into a window of about 2 hours.  There are caches that take that much time for just 1 find.  So, when it comes to times where I want my geocaching fix but I am either up against an unrealistic time frame or we’re in a densely-populated area, these little bastards prove to be quite the savior.  Plus it helps that literally hundreds of these little boogers could be located in a 10 mile area.  So, armed with a PQ filled with both LPCs and traditional caches alike, we sought out, and found, 12 withing 3 miles of our hotel.  All were nothing more than pill bottles and nano containers under lamp skirts or in guardrails.  Do I care?  Hell no….a find is a find.  Pinto and I did most of the seeking as Cyndi and Mouse sat in the van watching movies.  That’s fine, too.  This is good bonding time with Pinto.  She’s getting so big.  She won’t be my little girl much longer.  Plus I love the look on her face when she finds one….even something as easy as an LPC.  That makes them worthy of my time.

Categories: A tale from the GZ, Random talking | Leave a comment

See what a little planning will get ya?


So as I had mentioned in my last post, my OCD-like nature had left me staying up into the wee hours of the morning planning out a cache run for the following day.  My thought process behind the planning was to focus on an ultimate goal location and then work out a path leading to it that had plenty of caches to find.  All told, I ended up with a Pocket Query of 52 caches.  Now, to the less experienced that probably sounds like a lot, while the more experienced are probably balking at the low number.  I didn’t just pick a bunch of 1/1 caches.  I made sure we hit a very diverse amount of caches, some requiring a lot of walking on various terrains while others were as easy as parking next to the GZ and having one of the kids grab it.  I steered clear of anything other than traditional caches for this run, save for 2 Puzzle caches I solved several months back and needed decent weather to find.  Take a look at the map below and you’ll see what we were looking at for the day.

Ignore the smileys, they weren't there until we found them 😛

As you can see, our ultimate goal is at the bottom.  That blob of caches down there is actually Southeastway Park.  When I lived on the eastside of Indy I used to go there a lot with friends, one time even riding my bike there with several of them (a trip that took over an hour each way).  Anyway, that one park alone has 14 caches located within, with another 2 just outside the park’s boundaries to the north.  With such a heavy concentration of caches, naturally I wanted that to be our ultimate goal….where we could spend a good chunk of our day at and hopefully find them all.  Unfortunately, I picked quite a few caches that ended up sucking up a lot of our time so when all was said and done we only ended up finding 3 there.  But no matter, that just gives us the motivation to go back to grab the others.  So…what were the final totals for our run, you ask?  Well, out of the 52 caches I picked out, we ended up attempting 24.  So we got around to less than half.  Oh well.  Of those 24, we ended up finding 22 of them.  The 2 we couldn’t find we had good reason….one of them was located next to a Mexican restaurant that had a lot of Muggle traffic as we were nearing the dinner hour and couldn’t dedicate a lot of time to searching without drawing unwanted attention to ourselves.  The other?  A so-far impossible shelter cache with a 4.5/1.5 rating that was hid back on October 2009 that has 41 DNFs and 0 smileys.  To say I was expecting to find it is nothing but a bald-face lie.  I really just wanted to add my name to the growing list of Indy’s geocaching elite who have all failed at finding it.  We did spend a good 20 minutes or so going over the entire shelter, looking in pretty much every nook and cranny we could reach and even a few places that I thought would have been the perfect place to hid and all came up short.

For the day, we spent almost 7 hours hunting.  We took an hour off each for lunch and dinner and didn’t get home until just after dusk.  We had a blast, and, with our final find of the night, we hit our 300th find.  My goal is to hit 500 by our one-year anniversary….which just so happens to be the day we plan to hide our first cache.  And with the upcoming trip to Cincinnati this weekend, I think we just may reach that lofty goal….so far I’ve mapped out 85 caches to attempt.  Geez, I’m a sick, sick man!!

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July 4th, 2010 — the start of something new and wonderful


Seeing as we’ve been caching for 9 months now and are at the tail end of a winter dry spell in regards to consistent caching, I figure we might as well catch everyone up to what we’ve done thus far.  So for the next few days we’ll be updating the blog with stories from previous cache outings.  And what better way to start then at the beginning.  I promise that the other tales won’t be so long-winded…this is our first, after all, and we have some ground to cover in getting there.

As I had previously mentioned, we technically attempted our first cache way back in 2008.  Because we lacked the proper tools (namely a GPSr), we failed spectacularly at a 1/1 cache.  Everything in the description told us it would be a quick and easy cache (affectionately labeled as a P&G).  Yeah, well when it’s your first time and you have no help, you’re pretty much up a creek without a paddle if you lack the proper tools and fail to grasp the terminology.  So we pretty much gave up before we ever began.

Fast-forward to July 3rd, 2010.  We are at my parents’ house for their annual 4th of July weekend barbecue.  Everyone is eating their hamburgers and hotdogs in the hot Indiana July sun, just enjoying the simple things.  I happen to overhear my mother asking my brother about geocaching.  Now, this is a term I had only uttered a couple times several years ago but quite suddenly my interest was piqued.  I listened as my brother and sister-in-law told a story of some of the caches they had done recently and the more I heard the more excited I got.  I needed to know more.

During the conversation he mentioned he was using his iPhone for geocaching.  I was floored.  Here I am, a member of IT who has had an iPhone for over a year, and I had heard NOTHING about geocaching on my iPhone.  I never even thought to have used my iPhone for caching, even though I knew it had GPS and mapping capabilities.  So I pulled him aside and asked him for more information.  He whipped out his phone and showed me the Geocaching for iPhone app.  I couldn’t believe it.  Here is the answer to all of my past wishes.  I had always chalked our failure up to not have the proper equipment, and here he is, telling me I’ve had all I needed for the past year.  Duuuuuuhhhhh!!!!!!

That night on our way home I excitedly told Cyndi everything I had learned.  I told her that the only problem was the app was $9.99.  This pretty much derailed the conversation then and there.  Seriously, there are apps that allow you to remotely access PCs that cost less than this.  But when we got home and I went on the App Store, we saw that there was a free app called Intro to Geocaching.  OH COME ON!!!!!  It’s spelled out for us….duh.  How did we not see this a year ago?  So we decided that we’d go out and try to find some caches the next day.

The following late afternoon we decided was the perfect time to go out.  The sun was waning in the western sky and the temperature, while still quite warm, wasn’t stifling.  We logged into the app and the 3 closest caches appeared.  There was one right down the street from our house!!  We loaded everyone into the van and headed towards our first GZ.  Little did we know that the reason this app is free is because you only get the minimal information about the cache.  Had we had the full app, we would have known right away that the last 10 people to attempt this cache all failed.  But, because we didn’t know, we went in blindly, expecting to have our first find in mere moments….20 minutes later we all climbed back into the van, heads low, frustration levels high, beginning to feel that old, familiar feeling of defeat.  BUT, not all could be like this.  Surely we’re bound to find an easy one to bolster our spirits.

Three DNFs later, and we’re beginning to feel like this just wasn’t meant to be.  Ready to throw in the towel, I begin looking for a place to turn around so we could head home.  Noticing we’re low on gas, I turn into a local Speedway.  At this point Cyndi points out that supposedly there is a cache at the payphone.  I pull up to a pump and get out, eyeballing the payphone in disgust.  Then I see it….underneath the phone box itself is a little black box, looking totally out-of-place.  I finish filling up the tank, get back in the van, and then drive over to the phone.  I don’t make it immediately known that I spotted it, as I wanted to see if anyone else would.  Both kids looked all around the phone and Cyndi checked the back, sides, and top, but no one came up with it.  I then put my hand underneath the phone and pulled the magnetic key holder loose.  There it was….our first cache.  I opened the box and we all stared at the little plastic zip-lock bag holding a folded and tattered piece of paper.  Pulling it out I saw a handful of witty names and dates going back almost a year.  I couldn’t believe it….we found our first geocache.  Now…what do we call ourselves?  Seeing all the names on the log made me yearn for something with a little more personality than Pdj79.  I mean, there were names like BuffaloBob!! and Geo Bratz on there.  Pdj79 just didn’t say anything.  I was stumped.  That’s when I decided, since all 4 of us were there, and we would obviously be doing this as a team, that we should call ourselves Team Howard Family.  Well, there wasn’t much space to write the name, so I dropped the Team and just called us Howard Family, on the log.  We then put the log back in the bag, placed that back in the box, and put it back under the phone booth.  And then the thrill of victory overtook.  We were ready for more.

All told we found 4 that evening.  And one of them required help from my brother.  Turns out there is this thing called a “LPC” cache that I just couldn’t figure out what it meant.  I was looking in bushes, trees, under rocks….I just couldn’t figure it out.  So a quick call to my bro quickly enlightened us that these are light pole caches and can be found by lifting up the aluminum, plastic, or steel skirts that surround the point where the light pole connects to the concrete base.  Hindsight being 20/20, that very first cache we ever attempted did happen to have a light pole right at the GZ…instant “Aha!” moment.  Unfortunately at some point between our hunt and that day the cache had been archived so we could never redeem ourselves.  But no matter….there’s literally millions of caches out there for us to redeem ourselves with.  I’m not gonna let one archived LPC bring me down!!

Categories: A tale from the GZ | Leave a comment

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