Sleep deprivation is to epic cache run as water is to wet


This is the third and final part of a multi-part retelling of a cache run of epic proportions.  Click here to read part one and here to read part two.

After Mingo we continued heading west on I-70, stopping shortly after at a rest stop to empty bladders and grab food from the back of the van for snacks and lunch.  We had decided at this point to skip driving into Denver and caching, then heading to Pikes Peak.  We were running pretty far behind schedule at this point and, by cutting going to Denver first and instead driving straight to Pikes Peak, which would shave almost 90 miles off our trip and save us about 3 hours by skipping the caches along the way.  This would give us plenty of time to get up to the summit and do the caches.  This was the jolt we needed to stay on target, time-wise.  This was never going to be a numbers run to begin with so, while sad to be missing out on a few caches that are well-regarded, we would still get our other goal for the trip.  After we entered Colorado, Chutch1035 stopped at the nearest gas station to gas up and switch from driving.  Since I had yet to drive any during this trip, I volunteered to take over.  I am most at ease when I am behind the wheel.  With everyone situated and Chutch now reclined in the middle row to take a nap, I put on my headphones, cranked up the tunes, and headed towards the ever-higher horizon ahead.

One of the reasons why I chose to go on this trip was to travel to places I had never been before.  Even before Pikes Peak was in the picture, the original map had us routed through Denver and up to Cheyenne, WY before heading back towards home.  These are places I have never had the chance to say I’ve been to and to pass up an opportunity to do that would be a regret I’d have to live with for a long time.  I am forever grateful that my loving wife let me go on this trip.  Her work affords her the opportunity to travel every so often and has gone to places like Austin and San Antonio, TX and San Diego without us.  Sure, it was for business, but it’s not like she was stuck indoors the entire time.  So it felt good for me to be the one to say I went somewhere this time.  But I sure did miss her during the trip and would have loved for her to be there with me.  If anything, we might just have to make this trip ourselves (although we’ll be stopping to sleep in hotels along the way :P).

For anyone who has never made it out west in a car, I have to say that some of the most beautiful landscapes are in Colorado.  After the unbelievably dull views from Kansas, it was a refreshing change of pace to see the vast prairies of eastern Colorado, and as we headed down US24 towards Colorado Springs, seeing the foothills of the Rockies begin to rise from the ground and then, the Rockies themselves, was a true sight to behold.

We were greeted by some rain

Even with the ominous clouds and torrential downpours, the landscape is breathtaking

We were monitoring our elevation on the dashboard GPS at this point and noticed an almost 3,000 foot jump in elevation in the distance from I-70 to Colorado Springs.  Since it was gradual, we didn’t notice any ill-effects from rising to over a mile above sea level.  At least I wasn’t feeling it….yet.

We rolled into Colorado Springs shortly after 4:00pm local time, which meant we were now only about 90 minutes behind schedule from where we needed to be.  This was a great relief to me because that mean we had time to get to the summit and do what we came to do.  We had read up on battling altitude sickness and some of the common suggestions was to make sure you drank plenty of water and had a fairly full stomach of carbohydrate-rich food.  So we decided to stop at a Burger King and have a quick bite to eat.  Since I was still a bit funky from the previous night’s fail cocktail, I wasn’t feeling very hungry, but I still managed to force myself to eat a Whopper Jr.  I really should have done that sooner because within 20 minutes I was feeling great.  My brother, Team Duckman, volunteered to drive us up and down the mountain as he has the most experience on these sort of trips, so I handed him the keys and took a look towards the west and saw our target.

I think something’s back there

Oh there it is, all enshrouded in clouds and looking formidable

The road to Pikes Peak is probably the most visually-stunning stretch I have ever been on.  I was going through some serious information overload as we passed massive rock formations, deep rock-lined ravines, and huge houses built into the sides of the mountains we were passing through.  The pictures don’t do it justice at all.

I wish my commute to work looked like this

Looks like something straight out of The Flintstones

It’s hard to see, but there’s a house in the middle of all that

Just gorgeous

It took about 30 minutes to get to the entrance to Pikes Peak Highway from the Burger King we stopped at, but it flew by with all the stuff we could look at.  There is a cost to get onto the Highway and after we paid we pulled over to wait for the other van to get in.  During this we noticed that the guards were closing off the entrance to any more visitors so to say we made it in by the skin of our teeth is an understatement.  Good fortune was smiling upon us.  The road is about 19 miles in length and, because of some serious switchbacks and steep grades, it takes roughly an hour to reach the summit.  But as you can see, it’s not like we were in a rush with so much to gawk at.

Entrance signage

We passed this lake pretty early on our trip up

Pikes Peak looming over us

Well now isn’t that special

I love how the clouds just roll off the mountain peaks

Getting ready to pass the tree line

Breathtaking

Quite the winding road down there

There’s just a tiny amount of snow left up here, but with the temperature dropping nearly 50 degrees, it’s not surprising

Ugh…that’s enough to make my stomach flip

One of the big switchbacks you have to make heading up the mountain

Just as we were starting to approach the summit, we rolled right into a huge, thick thunder cloud

This is not a placeholder image. This is what it looked like the second I stepped out of the van once we reached the top

Once we reached the top of Pikes Peak, the visibility was very low.  At times it was completely white everywhere you looked while at other times you could make out things maybe 100 feet away.  Clouds move very fast up here and the wind can be unforgiving and brutal.  Oh…and it’s cold.  We are currently going through the hottest, driest summer in 50+ years back in Indiana so any temperatures under 80 are pretty chilly.  Try 38 degrees at the summit.  And we’re all wearing totally inappropriate clothing…some in flip-flops no less.  We’re such noobs.  There are several caches up here, 2 traditionals, a multi (that requires a multi-mile hike), a virtual, and an Earthcache.  Since the weather wasn’t really cooperating (I mean, there’s thunder coming from below and right next to us for crying out loud) and we could barely see in front of us, we decided to just go for the EC and the virt.  So I have even more incentive to head back to Pikes Peak in the future.

Now, remember that altitude sickness I mentioned earlier.  I totally thought that the sandwich I had helped as I didn’t feel any weirdness the whole way up.  However, the minute I stepped out of the van and opened the back to grab my GPSr, I became so dizzy I almost fell over.  The best way I can possibly describe this feeling is being drunk.  It was a chore just to walk, and even at a very slow pace I was finding it hard not to fall over.  We congregated to the spot for the virtual picture and got a few of those in.  It was sleeting and very windy so the pictures look painful for obvious reasons.  We are such boneheads.

I thought I was being cool but I almost bit the dust and fell over…serves me right

The qualifying group shot. It was way too chilly for shorts and flip-flops. I think we were all banking on sunshine and maybe 50 degrees. This winter weather stuff is for the snow bunnies!!

Ahhh…that looks warm and full of oxygen!!

Me and my brother, Team Duckman, outside the summit house and next to the Cog Railway Train

About 30 feet from the sign is this harrowing site….I wish the clouds weren’t there so I could see how far this goes down

This says I’m really high!

Walked into the summit house and came across DynamicDs and TeamAdorkable engaged in a little snogfest with some dummy. I think the altitude sickness has gotten to them.

After buying souvenirs, we stepped outside to snag a picture for the EC. The wind almost knocked the camera over as it started gusting to about 35MPH and the sleet really started coming.

Unfortunately because we got here so late, the “world famous” donuts were no longer available and once the Cog train passengers left, the place was pretty much deserted.  Taking that as our cue, we headed back to our vans and made our way back down the mountain.

Next time I’ll make sure to taste those donuts and will be the judge of how great they really are.

As we headed back onto Hwy 24, we noticed a lot of banners hanging up along the highway.  They were thanking the firefighters for putting the wildfire out and saving the city.  It was then that we saw just how close the fire came to this area, as you can see below.

All that up there was on fire less than a week ago

Banners of gratitude

It was really moving to see these touching signs thanking the firefighters lining the street

Now that Pikes Peak was behind us, it was time to head north to Denver.  It has been decided that we would have a big meal at Casa Bonita in Lakewood, a suburb of Denver.  Casa Bonita is a massive Mexican restaurant that is known for their all-you-can-eat deluxe meals, diving shows, roving Mariachi band, and arcade.  It’s like a Mexican Chuck-E-Cheese on speed.  The food isn’t anything to write home about, but the ambiance is something you’ll never forget.  We stopped on the way to change clothes and cleanup a bit because, by this time, we were all a little funky.  Since there aren’t any rest areas on I-25 between Colorado Springs and Denver, we had to stop at a town park and use their bathrooms.  Don’t judge…at least we WANTED to be clean.  Better than than traipsing in smelling of armpits and feet.

The entrance to Casa Bonita, the best mediocre Mexican restaurant in the world

The dive show during dinner was entertaining

We had to cross a bridge to get to our table

A post-dinner celebratory photo at the Casa Bonita fountain out front

There was a cache out in the parking lot of Casa Bonita that we naturally had to grab.  Yes, it wasn’t that great of a hide, but at least it wasn’t a LPC.  After everyone was back in the vans, we headed into downtown Denver to a travel bug hotel to drop off our travel bugs that we have set to race back home.  Unfortunately we chose the wrong time to do this as the cache is located in the middle of their bar scene and the place was packed with people.  There was no way to be stealthy at this point so we just did what we had to do and got out of there.  It was coming up on 11pm at this point and we were heading north into Cheyenne.  TeamAdorkable was at the wheel at this point with DynamicDs as the navigator while TeamDuckman, Lucky Chavez, and myself tried to grab some shut eye.  This would be the first time the entire trip that I felt ready to sleep, despite being a little woozy from motion sickness as well as dinner not quite agreeing with me (I told you it wasn’t very good).  Cheyenne is about 90 minutes north of Denver and I’d say I got about an hour’s worth of sleep during that time.  We stopped for a virtual cache just outside of town that was at a GPS calibration area and benchmark.  It was located on a hill just off the exit and was actually an interesting educational moment on the trip.  I will admit that I am not too aware of this whole benchmarking business that Chutch1035 and The Lawson Family are nuts over, but to have someone prolific like them explaining what the site was used for and how this stuff works was really interesting…even if I was half-asleep and it was almost 1am.

Since we are still running about 2.5 hours behind where we needed to be, and everyone was feeling pretty rough at this point, we decided to forgo any of the caches between the virtual and Amber’s Revenge II in Lincoln, NE.  While this was only 5 caches, most of them were well off I-80 and required quite a bit of driving to reach them.  With most of us sleeping and it being pitch black out here in the middle of nowhere, the caches wouldn’t really have much impact for us anyway and it would likely take even longer to find them since we’d only have a flashlight to guide us.  So eastward we traveled, on through the night.  Without a moon to light the sky, it was the darkest that we had encountered the entire trip, and I think this really helped with sleep.  Now this wasn’t uninterrupted sleep by any means.  During the night we had to make several stops to swap out drivers and get gas, so each time we stopped or pulled off the road I would wake up.  But I can say that I did get some sleep for once on this trip.

It was at the break of dawn that I woke up.  DynamicDs had taken over driving duties during the night and she couldn’t drive anymore so we stopped at a rest area about 160 miles into Nebraska and I agreed to take over.  I went to the restroom and splashed some cold water on my face to wake myself up, got a Coke out of the vending machine, and then waited in the van while everyone else finished getting up and readjusting themselves.  A group decided to grab the 2 caches at the rest area while we were there so we got to make up some of the numbers we skipped between Cheyenne and here.  My brother woke up and rode shotgun with me to navigate, but as I’ve said before, I am best behind the wheel when I put on my earbuds and crank out the jams, which is exactly what I did.  We were scheduled to be at the next cache by 9:40am and I was hellbent on getting as close to that time as possible.  The dashboard GPS was telling me that we would be arriving, barring any stops, at 10:04am.  I knew I could shave some more time off if I did 83MPH, so I set cruise control to that and we were off.

On the way towards Lincoln we passed under this thing. I had no clue what it was. Google tells me it’s “The Great Platte River Road Archway” and is a museum covering the Oregon Trail, nearby Fort Kearny, and the Mormon Trail. Very interesting stuff.

I was setting the pace for this leg of the trip and we were making good time, but unfortunately I didn’t take into consideration the rotation of drivers in the other van.  While DynamicDs did the bulk of the driving overnight, the other van rotated out several drivers, so they didn’t get nearly as much sleep as I did.  So while I was set to drive the entire 4 hour leg with no stops, the same couldn’t be said for the other van so stops were needed for them.  What really sucked was that, because we were in the middle of nowhere Nebraska, cellphone reception wasn’t the greatest so we weren’t finding out they were stopping until we were miles away from their stopping point.  So by the time we reached Lincoln, NE and the next cache, the rest of the group was still about 30 miles behind us.  I will admit I have never been very good at leading a convoy because I always tend to lose them.  Luckily we were able to use this extra time to find a way to reach the GZ and a place to park.

It was originally decided that DynamicDs and Yodaboyz were going to concur this cache together, but upon arriving at the GZ and realizing what was going to be needed, DynamicDs decided that there was no way more than one person could do this at a time.  So as the rest of the group was walking towards us, DynamicDs began her assault on the cache, which you can see was quite the undertaking in the pictures below.

What the hell is that?

There she is….holy cow that’s quite a fall

She’s almost there

 

Good job DynamicDs!!

After that daunting find, we left to fill-up our gas tanks and then headed to one more cache in town, this time a webcam cache.  This one was a fun cache.  Located at a roundabout in town, there is a traffic cam pointed at the road and your job is to get yourself perfectly positioned and wait for the cam’s website to update with your photo.  Luckily the site is able to be viewed from an iPhone and we were able to quickly get positioned (and repositioned) for the picture.  I’m sure it must have looked weird to all those passing us.  Here’s a group of 11 people, staring up at the sky, hands raised.  I bet to some it looked like the Rapture.

Once that was done, my brother took over driving and we headed off towards Iowa.  We just need one cache to claim the state, and Chutch1035 picked us quite the winner to finish off our trip.  The cache has the extremely rare distinction of being 9 years old, having over 600 finds and only 1 DNF.  It has never been muggled, and it is a regular-size container.  Yes, the cache is in the tiny town of Hamburg, IA, across the river from Nebraska and near the Missouri border.  Yes, it is located on private property.  BUT, it has still seen a LOT more cachers than most urban hides, and the fact that is has never been muggled and only one person has ever DNFed it they were very new to the game, only have 14 finds to their name, and quit playing shortly after not finding it) speaks loudly in favor of the cache.  Yes, it wasn’t anything remarkable and the hide wasn’t difficult at all, but it still capped off an amazing cache run and gave us the opportunity for one more group photo.

I like a town that can welcome you to it and point you in the direction of businesses all in one fell swoop!

Well spotted, Chutch!!

The last cache of the trip!

We left Hamburg just as quickly as we came, but not before stopping for another restroom break at a local gas station.  With nothing but road between us and home, it was at this point that we realized it was almost over.  Sure, there was still about another 10 hours and 2.5 states worth of driving left, but this marked the last time our group would do something together.  Along the way we’d stop once more for gas and for a quick bite, but not everyone ate and by the time we rolled into Indy, several members had already been dropped off at another location beforehand.  I know it’s lame to get all sentimental about something like that, but in this short period of time, I have grown closer to my travel companions.  I have laughed with them, complained with them, even learned a few things that probably had better be left unsaid :P.  In the end we traveled just under 2,500 miles.  We covered 8 states and netted 25 cache finds.  We did all this in just over 52 hours.  We never stopped to sleep, and only had one REAL meal together.  There were some tensions at times caused by sleepiness, but all-in-all, it was about as good a trip as you could ask for.  My only regret was not riding some in the other van.  While I forged a good relationship with everybody involved, I’d be lying if I didn’t say I bonded just a little bit more with those who were closely around me.  I can’t thank everyone enough for letting me be a part of this and for their participation.  These memories will last forever, and I am grateful that they are a part of them.  This blog series is dedicated to my fellow members:

Central Indiana Adventurers

Chutch1035 and his wife Amber
The Lawson Family
ScrappyT
Yodaboyz
Kemtek
TeamAdorkable
Team Duckman
DynamicDs
Lucky Chavez
Geo Minions

Categories: A tale from the GZ | 3 Comments

On the road to Mingo


This is part two of a multi-part retelling of a cache run of epic proportions.  Click here to read part one.

The day of departure had arrived.  We had agreed on a meeting place and a time of 6pm.  Our cache list was finalized and we laid it out to allow one of our group to hit her 800th find milestone at Mingo. Below is the list of caches we set out to find during our trip and the time estimates I had made:

GC# and Cache name Estimated arrival Estimated departure
Leave Indianapolis 6:00pm
GC3EWXM – Whitch Cemetery Is This? 6:41pm 6:46pm
Enter Central Daylight Time
GC2D2WM – The Cross!!!!!! 7:40pm 7:45pm
GCHWFZ – Great Kaskaskia Dragon 8:29pm 8:34pm
GCEBC8 – Firefighters Memorial 11:19pm 11:24pm
Gas stop 15 minutes
GC20NN1 – Supercache 1:50am 1:55am
GC37 – Missouri’s First – Watts Mill 2:18am 2:23am
GC698E – Atomic Cannon on I-70 Virtual 4:29am 4:34am
GC1W28C – Rimrock Park 4:45am 4:50am
GCBB05 – I Like Ike 5:20am 5:25am
GC57FC – Cathedral of the Plains 7:13am 7:18am
GC30 – Mingo 8:59am 9:10am
GCZ230 – The Big Picture 9:53am 9:58am
Gas stop 15 minutes
Enter Mountain Daylight Time
GCQTWK – Thrilla in Manilla 11:48am 11:53am
GCND0E – Garden of the Gods Earthcache 1:28pm 1:33pm
Multiple Pikes Peak Caches 2:43pm 3:43pm
GC8811 – 168 Virtual Cache 4:53pm 4:58pm
GC1T2Z9 – KJKlock’s Farewell Seed Cache 5:20pm 5:25pm
Gas stop 15 minutes
GC2KCRP – LoDo TB & Geocoin Hotel 6:39pm 6:44pm
GC32FDE – Odd Boxes 6:52pm 6:57pm
GC52E2 – Denver Benchmark 7:05pm 7:10pm
GC30C82 – The Geocacher’s Guide to the Galaxy 7:20pm 7:25pm
GC2TD8M – Head Case 7:53pm 7:58pm
GCHHJY – Northglenn Veterans Memorial 8:23pm 8:28pm
GC20V75 – G&K’s Still Lost 9:06pm 9:11pm
GCG0E3 – Swetsville Zoo 9:28pm 9:33pm
GC1ME6T – Hoodoo Hideout 10:16pm 10:21pm
GC946E – Cheyenne GPS Calibration 10:49pm 10:54pm
GC6D47 – An Original 11:02pm 11:07pm
GC502A – Wyoming Wind 11:30pm 11:35pm
GC93C2 – Tri-State Corner 12:46am 12:51am
Enter Central Daylight Time
Gas stop 15 minutes
GCB989 – Where the Handle Meets the Pan 4:35am 4:40am
GCKVDB – Saving Private Ryan 6:01am 6:06am
GCHRB3 – Amber’s Revenge II 9:40am 9:45am
GCB88C – A Song in His Heart 9:55am 10:00am
GCP5GZ – You be da’ nose! 10:08am 10:13am
GCGJJG – L&C “Chauvin”-Hamburg-McKissock 11:26am 11:31am
Gas stop 15 minutes
GCE32C – Tom ‘n’ Huck Cache 4:21pm 4:26pm
GCA8E6 – Mark Twain 4:32pm 4:37pm
Enter Eastern Daylight Time
Arrive Indianapolis 10:36pm

As you can see, I went ahead and set some lofty goals for how much time we’d spend at each cache, as well as stops for gas.  The caches we chose for this trip ran the gamut of types of hides.  We tried to focus mainly on regular and large-sized containers, as well as hides with high Favorite Point counts, an earthcache, virtuals, a letterbox hybrid, and webcam caches.  Noticeably absent are LPCs and guard rail hides, although we did end up doing a couple to help pad our numbers, as you will see that things didn’t quite go as planned.

As 6:00pm came and passed, everyone who was scheduled to be at the designated pickup point was there…except the 2 drivers of the minivans, Chutch1035 and his wife.  With it being rush hour, on a Friday, we weren’t too concerned at first.  Well, some of us weren’t.  I was nervous as all get out.  Being the one who ultimately set the route for our trip based on the caches we wanted to grab, I knew that each minute we weren’t leaving meant an extra minute was added to our arrival time at the end.  As you can see, after factoring in the amount of time it should take to retrieve each cache or take our pictures/answer questions, our trip time had increased from 43 hours to 52.5 hours.  Since we were leaving in the late afternoon, we were looking at a late-evening arrival, which would hurt for those of us having to wake up early the next day.  But I wasn’t panicking.  We already had a contingency to drop caches along the way to make up the time, so as long as we got underway shortly, we shouldn’t be in too bad a shape.  Unfortunately things weren’t working out for us in this department.  Our rides didn’t make it to our location until almost 7:00.  It was like everything was conspiring against us.  There was only one person at the rental place working the counter so it was slow as molasses in January.  Once they got the vans, one of them was low on fuel so they went to fill-up and noticed on the way there that the brakes were atrocious.  When you’re planning on ascending and descending one of the highest peaks in the lower 48-states, good brakes are an absolute must.  So they had to return the van to the rental company and get a replacement van, which they thankfully had available.  We finally headed out around 7:15, so we really only lost about 75 minutes.  “We’ll make it up on the road”, I assured myself.

Our first cache on our journey took us to a secluded cemetery.  This was the be the meeting point for the final member of our group, Lucky Chavez.  Since they live out this way, it made more sense to just meet them at a cache nearby than to have them drive east for an hour if we’re just going to head back their way anyway.  See, we is smart!  The GZ was not a long distance from the road, but years of growth had all but completely obscured the cemetery from view and there was a bit of a climb to reach it.  As there were so many of us, we decided to let a handful tackle this one while the rest of us got situated and chatted briefly about the road ahead, to save time.  About 10 minutes later, with the cache found, we said goodbye to Lucky Chavez’s husband and children, and hit the road….but not before making an unscheduled stop to grab a phone booth cache at the exit onto I-70.  You know, why not?  It’s just sitting there, waiting to be found….it would be a shame to pass it when it’s so close.

For the first leg of the trip, the occupants for the vans were as follows:

Van 1 Van 2
Amber (Chutch1035’s wife) Chutch1035
Lucky Chavez The Lawson Family
Kemtek TeamAdorkable
ScrappyT Team Duckman
Yodaboyz DynamicDs
Geo Minions

While I would have preferred to been all in one vehicle, this was about as even a split as we could make it.  None of the vehicles were overloaded and we were able to sit in relative comfort.  The trip to the next cache was about 2 hours so we filled that time with idle chit-chat, joke telling, and various conversation.  I can’t speak for the other van, but ours was filled with excitement and humor.  As the afternoon turned to evening, anxiousness built as we neared our next cache, The Cross!!!!!! (exclamations are the fault of the CO, sorry).  For some of us, this is the furthest west we had traveled strictly for caching, so this was something extra special.

Just as twilight was beginning to give into darkness, we arrived at the GZ.  I’m not a religious person by any means at all, but I must say that the sight of this massive cross is something to behold.  It’s sheer size makes you feel miniscule in it’s presence, and I can only imagine what it must be like to stand in it’s shadow during the day.  We made quick work on finding the cache, then huddled for our first group photo.

We were actually a good 75-100 feet away, so the scale is even more awesome!

Unfortunately, not everyone made it into this first shot.  The Lawson Family was feeling a bit under the weather at the time, to the point that he almost decided to pull himself out of the trip and head home.  We were very concerned for him, but he didn’t want us to fuss too much.  We stopped at a gas station nearby to fill-up (yes, we’re early on filling up…the stops listed above were merely estimates), grab some gas station snacks/drinks, and use the restroom.  We got some pain reliever into Lawson to hopefully help him out and got back on the road.  The next cache was about 45 minutes away, and with night upon us, time was melting away.

The next cache, Great Kaskaskia Dragon, was definitely a favorite of mine.  Located across the street from a liquor store, this steel behemoth stands at the corner of a street, menacingly staring at everyone who passes by.  The dragon is really cool by itself, but there’s an extra special surprise that hides within it’s bowels that grabbed the pyrotechnic youth in me…

FIRE!!!!!!!

Yes, fire makes everything cooler, and the dark of night really made it pop for the picture.  With the picture snapped, we quickly got the log signed and then headed back to our vans, but before we left, an art project began.

Might as well announce to the world what we’re up to

So far smiles are still intact!

By this point we were running about 2.5 hours behind schedule, which I didn’t harp on too much because I didn’t want to stress anyone out, but of course I was a little nervous as the math alone told me that, if we met no obstacles and hit everything that we were scheduled to, we’d be getting home just after 1am Monday morning.  But that’s a small price to pay for the fun we were having so I left it at that and onward we went.  We stopped in St. Louis at a gas station (Chutch1035 would have you know that it was no ordinary gas station, but a QuikTrip) and it was here I made my big blunder of the trip.  I technically hadn’t eaten anything substantial since the morning before we left and since I have a bit of an issue with motion sickness when I ride anywhere but in front, I didn’t want to chance giving myself ammunition, if you know what I mean, so at this point I was only taking in water and ginger root pills to help contain my motion sickness.  While I’m happy to report that the pills did the trick, I should note that the 5-Hour Energy I downed with a 1-liter bottle of Mt. Dew without any food whatsoever in my belly was the dumbest thing I could have done.  I promised Lucky Chavez I would stay up to be her navigator and this seemed like the best way to do this, but within an hour of this oversight, I was doubled over with some of the worst stomach pain ever.  It literally felt like someone was kicking me in my stomach every 5 seconds.  It was so bad that I had to wave off grabbing the next several caches and wouldn’t be ready to attempt anything until we were well into Kansas, which is a shame because apparently while attempting to find Supercache the group were chased away by coyotes and they had to grab another cache nearby.  And while they were off having a blast, I was laying in the fetal position next to the van…all because someone locked the van up before I had a chance to get back in.  So for the next 4 hours of the trip, I tried to get some sort of semblance of rest, hoping that the pain would dull itself.  I probably should have tried to eat something to soak up the insane amount of caffeine ravaging my stomach, but for some reason food didn’t sound appetizing at all.  It’s a shame that I was trying to be dead to the world because apparently I missed some amazing views:

They look like those alien ships from the crappy War of the Worlds remake

What a lonely-looking church

It was about the time that we reached the Fort Riley area near Junction City, KS that I began to come out of my funk.  Luckily, this was the location of a virtual cache, Atomic Cannon on I-70 Virtual.  On top of a huge hill overlooking I-70 and Marshall Field across the interstate, this cannon is a reminder of the nuclear arms race and the lengths we went to in order to protect this nation.  There was a switchback path up the hill to the top, and I attempted to reach the top with several others, but I only managed to get about 3/4 the way up before the lack of sleep and food reared it’s ugly head and I was forced to turn back around.  But those who did make it up there grabbed some breathtaking shots:

The truncated group at the Atomic Cannon

Chutch1035 cheesing for the camera

Love the peace sign next to a decommissioned instrument of mass destruction.

Marshall Field and Fort Riley in the distance

It’s waaaayyy up there!

TeamDuckman and ScrappyT (with me in the background trying, and ultimately failing, to climb up the hill)

 

Some decommissioned artillery on the way up to the Atomic Cannon.

As you can see in the top of the picture, some of the hill had recently caught on fire. I wonder if this was the culprit. We have had burn and fireworks bans in Indiana since late June…surely they were in effect here as well. So sad!

 

Some info about the cannon

As we loaded up to head to our next destination, it was discovered that another cache had been hidden in the park we were at (Freedom Park).  DynamicDs grabbed a GPSr and a pen and was there and back within 2 minutes.  We then made a quick stop in neighboring Junction City to pick up a Letterbox Hybrid and then made a stop at a gas station so people could freshen up as we were about 4 hours from Mingo at this point.  It was here that I mentioned to Chutch1035 that we were seriously behind schedule and that we were now jeopardizing our chances of getting to Pikes Peak.  The road to the summit closes at 6pm and, if we kept at our current pace and attempted all the caches we had planned to grab, we would be rolling into Colorado Springs just as they were closing the road.  So we decided to skip the next 2 caches and head straight for Mingo.  Luckily we only had to skip one, as a gas stop took us to the exit where Cathedral of the Plains was located.

Chutch1035 and wife at Cathedral of the Plains

After our stops, there was nothing between us and Mingo but about 39 miles of corn fields and blue sky (pretty much the only things you’ll find in Kansas).  Even though we’re all bleary-eyed and looney with lack of sleep, to say we’re excited is an understatement.  The past month of planning was about to pay off in a big way.

As you pull up to the GZ, you don’t really get a sense that something historic is nearby.  In a nondescript corn field in a nondescript part of western Kansas, it must have looked like a group of people had gone mad, congregating on this dirt-covered access road off of I-70, staring at the ground.  But once you near the actual hide, you really start to feel the importance of the cache.  We’ve heard and read the stories of the cache that would get muggled every couple hundred finds.  The near-archival of the cache after someone thought a dropped bison tube container would be an appropriate-enough hide to keep it going.  The actual cementing of the GZ that physically made it impossible to rehide the container the same way it was originally hidden.  Just 4 months prior things were looking very grim for this cache, and here we were, standing over it’s hiding place, about to become part of the relatively few to claim that we had found the oldest active geocache in the entire world.

I think we found something!

Yep, that sure does look like a cache!

DynamicDs doing her best Vanna White impression

Proof that we all signed it

Back row from left: Team Duckman, Geo Minions, TeamAdorkable, DynamicDs, Yodaboyz, ScrappyT, The Lawson Family, Lucky Chavez
Front row from left: Kemtek, Chutch1035 (and wife, who caches under the same name)

After we had signed the log and took our photos…things got fun.  The big inside joke for our group was always that we were going to Mingo not to find it, but to muggle it.  Since this thing is muggled so often, we thought it would be in incredibly bad taste to joke about muggling it…don’t judge!  So we took a series of pictures and posted them to the Indy Area Geocachers group letting everyone know what we had done.

First we have DynamicDs running away with Mingo.

Then we got Chutch1035 looking to hitch a ride after making off with Mingo.

Took container, left container, signed log….is that how this is supposed to work?

Luck Chavez really wanted to bring her family a souvenir

The window announces our intentions to the world

After all the fun and frivolity had died down, it was time to get serious.  We met our initial goal and found (and muggled) Mingo, but that was just the beginning.  We still had Pikes Peak to concur, and we were running low on time.  It was time to get back on the road.

To be concluded

Categories: A tale from the GZ | Leave a comment

…and Mingo was his name-o!


This is part one of a multi-part retelling of a cache run of epic proportions.

Yes, I KNOW that’s not how the song goes, but there’s an interesting story behind that play on the classic song “B-I-N-G-O”.  Obviously for those who play the game, Mingo is the oldest active geocache in the world.  Located near the small town of Mingo in western Kansas, the cache is a destination cache for many geocachers who want to be able to claim that they have found the oldest ACTIVE geocache, “active” being the key word here as it’s not necessarily the oldest ever hidden, just the oldest that can still be found and logged on GC.com.  The story of this cache is pretty lengthy and, in recent years, very interesting as the cache has been muggled multiple times and it got to the point where the reviewers were going to archive it as the location had been compromised and the hide, for a time, was no longer possible in its original position and the arguments ensued that, because the container and hide type would no longer be the same as the original hide that it could no longer claim the GC-code and would thus have to be archived and re-hidden as a new cache.  But as the argument grew more heated, the CO was able to create a new container that closely matched the original and managed to hide it in the same spot as before, thus retaining its GC-code and title of oldest active cache.

Now that I have gotten that little bit of background out of the way, I guess you’re probably wondering what this has to do with anything.  Well, let me get to that.  See, that parody was part of a post in our local area’s Facebook group.  One of the members had made a post that contained nothing but the rearranged lyrics of B-I-N-G-O that talked of a trip to find Mingo.  There wasn’t anything else to it, just the song lyrics.  Here is that post, in its entirety:

There was a cacher who hid a cache,
And Mingo was it’s name-o.
M-I-N-G-O
M-I-N-G-O
M-I-N-G-O
And Mingo was it’s name-o.

He hid the cache on May 11th of 2-0-0-0,
And Mingo is it’s name-o.
(clap)-I-N-G-O
(clap)-I-N-G-O
(clap)-I-N-G-O
And Mingo is it’s name-o.

The cache was numbered GC3-0,
And Mingo was it’s name-o.
(clap)-(clap)-N-G-O
(clap)-(clap)-N-G-O
(clap)-(clap)-N-G-O
And Mingo is it’s name-o.

The logged visits are nearing 3-0-0-0,
And Mingo is it’s name-o.
(clap)-(clap)-(clap)-G-O
(clap)-(clap)-(clap)-G-O
(clap)-(clap)-(clap)-G-O
And Mingo is it’s name-o.

The cache is the oldest active to go-o,
And Mingo is it’s name-o.
(clap)-(clap)-(clap)-(clap)-O
(clap)-(clap)-(clap)-(clap)-O
(clap)-(clap)-(clap)-(clap)-O
And Mingo is it’s name-o.

We are gonna get Coy to his # 1-0-0-0,
And Mingo will be his claim-o.
(clap)-(clap)-(clap)-(clap)-(clap)
(clap)-(clap)-(clap)-(clap)-(clap)
(clap)-(clap)-(clap)-(clap)-(clap)
And Mingo is our goal-o.

 

Yes, that was tedious, but the impact was made.  Almost immediately people we’re responding with their interest in tagging along.  Shortly thereafter, another cacher (the one mentioned in the song that is going to get his 1,000 find) posted the following image:

The map that started it all

Almost immediately there was major interest in this trip.   The post dominated the Facebook group to the point that we were politely asked to take the conversation to our dedicated planning group page that had been created to spitball details.  It was on this page that things really started moving.

The first order of business was to determine a time with which the most people could join in.  Several weekends in late June through mid July had been tossed out and, after some back-and-forth, it was agreed to do it the weekend of July 6th.  In total, 11 people “signed up” to go on this trip.  It was then decided that, instead of relying on our personal vehicles, we would rent.  While a costly endeavor, you have the peace-of-mind to know that if something were to happen to the vehicle, the rental company would take care of it and get us a replacement.  Not for nothing, but if my car broke down 1,000+ miles from home, I know I would be freaking out for sure.

As the days passed, more and more details we’re locked in.  We had modified our route to include a trip to Pikes Peak to snag the caches on the summit, as well as have dinner at the infamous Casa Bonita in Denver.  Being a numbers nerd, I started crunching the miles/time to get us an itinerary for caches along our route and to map out a realistic ETA to the caches as well as our return.  Since some of us had to be back at work the following Monday morning, we had to make sure that this trip was even doable.  While Google Maps would tell us the entire trip would only take 38 hours, that was straight driving with no stops at all, not even gas.  Naturally that’s unrealistic so I had to set some goals for each cache as well as map out stops for gas/food.  The only variable I did not take into account was rest stops because how can you expect to force people to go to the bathroom at specific stops…this isn’t Soviet Russia!  I even did a breakdown for what we’d most likely end up paying for gas during the trip, based on the average gas costs along our route during the time leading up to our departure.  I updated these numbers weekly and they maintained a pretty steady price.  Since our leader, Chutch1035, was taking point on car rental, we decided that instead of trying to rent out a large passenger van and paying out the nose in mileage , we would rent two minivans at a very generous rental rate that included unlimited mileage.  Sure, this meant we would have to split the group, but it saved us tremendously.  So at this point we were looking at a total trip time, with stops for gas and food, at just over 43 hours.  Keep that number in mind.

If you’re following at home, you’ll notice I said we were heading to Pikes Peak.  If you keep up with current events, you’ll realize pretty quickly that, during our time frame, there were several major wildfires in Colorado, the largest of which was the Waldo Canyon fire that threatened Colorado Springs and had actually closed Pikes Peak to all visitors.  There was also another very large fire north of Denver that was threatening to close portions of I-25 north, which is the route we’d take into Cheyenne, WY.  Scrambling, we had to quickly come up with backup plans.  We began planning a route that would take us to Mingo, and then we’d divert southwest to the southeastern corner of Colorado, northeastern corner of New Mexico, and then across the Texas panhandle, Oklahoma, Arkansas, into Tennessee, a quick trip across the border to Mississippi, then back north through Missouri, Illinois, and then finally home.  This trip added up to just under 49 hours, still doable, but obviously over the 2-day mark at this point.  Remember, this is a cache run so there’s no stops for sleep.  We’ll be rotating drivers for sleep so the quicker we complete, obviously the better for everyone.

As the days drew closer, we buttoned up the specifics for our revised trip.  One of the toughest tasks ahead of us (that really shouldn’t have been) was what to call ourselves.  Instead of each person signing the log individually, we decided a group name would be most appropriate.  Since there was a good chance that members of our group would be asleep during a stop for a cache, we didn’t want to exclude them from the find all because they needed to grab a couple hours shuteye.  So after much back-and-forth, we settled on Central Indiana Adventurers, or CIA for short.  This group name serves two purposes.  Not only was it fitting for our trip, but we’ve essentially made ourselves a splinter group from the much-larger Indy Area Geocachers group so now ANY cache runs we choose to partake on that involves multiple members of our group can use the moniker.  We’re the Seal Team Six of IAG, so to speak.  And for this run, we dubbed it CIA-MA12, or Central Indiana Adventurers – Mingo Adventure 2012.  So for all log signatures, this is what we used (except for Mingo where we also individually signed since it’s such a historic cache).  We had a planning dinner the week before our trip to collect money, familiarize ourselves with those we had yet to meet, and do a little local caching, just to get a feel for everybody’s caching style.  I won’t lie, there was alcohol involved and some general silliness was achieved, but this ultimately proved that we could hang with each other.

The week of our trip, we got word that the wildfire, which was slated to be not only the worst in Colorado history, but also expected to devastate much of Colorado Springs and burn for weeks, had been almost fully contained.  They had a freak break in the weather that brought much-needed rain.  This, coupled with their containment fire lines, led to the fire stalling and then dying out.  They had announced that the Pikes Peak Highway had been opened as of the Tuesday before our trip.  Quickly we scrambled to reactivate our original trip plans and, by Friday, July 6th, we were ready to go.

To be continued

Categories: A tale from the GZ | 2 Comments

I’m not dead


Yes, I’m sure no one was thinking I was dead, but I know it has been relatively quiet in here since my declaration of more-frequent posting.  Well, this time I have a very good reason for being quiet.  I have been extremely busy.  Not just in life, but also geocaching-wise.  I am in the process of posting a most epic of posts and it’s going to make last year’s GeoBash post look like a picture book.  Not to mention that GeoBash is in 3 short days and I have to make sure we’re all prepared for that.  While my goal is to have my epic post up before we leave Thursday morning, I cannot promise it as there is still much to do before we leave.  But with most of it already written and just needing to button up a few things and upload a few more pictures, it won’t be long after the Bash before the post is up.
Patience, my geo-friends.  I promise to have many tales for you to read soon enough.

Categories: Random talking | Leave a comment

A brief conversation about Geocaching Etiquette


I have been working on this post for several months now but could never quite get it completed.  In a previous post I mentioned that I had several “sort of” run-ins with security at a couple GZs.  I had mentioned this also in a Facebook geocaching group and the feedback was shocking.  Almost everyone that I had spoken with had something negative to say about my adventures.  What I had thought was a rather comical, innocent moment had actually been deemed as damaging for the game as a whole and bad form.  I was quite shocked, to say the least, and was actually a little offended by the outrage I felt was misguided.  Nothing I did was what could be considered illegal or dangerous.  But I heard them out and had a couple conversations and realized what they were saying made a lot of sense.  So, as a testament to my willingness to learn, I present before you a rough guide to etiquette.  This is by no means complete, so if you have any other suggestions, please feel free to leave them in the comments.

1. Obey all laws and policies

I can’t stress this enough.  DO NOT BREAK THE LAW TO FIND A CACHE.  I know there are FTF hounds out there that make it their mission to get every FTF possible, but if the speed limit is 25, don’t do 50.  If the cache is in a city park or a cemetery and there are posted times when you cannot be there, do not ignore them.  The cache will be there tomorrow.  If cachers break the rules and are caught, and it is found out that it’s the cache itself that was the cause for this, chances are the property owners will decide they don’t want the temptation of a cache to have people sneak in when they shouldn’t and ask for it to be removed.  This hurts the game for everyone.

2. Do not run when approached by law enforcement/private security/property owner/management of property

This is the issue that got me into hot water with my fellow cachers.  While I feel what I did wasn’t really running away as I was never approached, it is no less suspicious.  If you’re approached by a LEO or security guard asking what you’re doing, jumping into your car and taking off will obviously draw attention to yourself that you’re possibly doing something illegal.  If the cache owners are doing their jobs properly, they have already sought out permission to have their cache there so you wouldn’t get into any trouble.  If it turns out the cache really shouldn’t be there or the officer asks you to remove the cache, you should comply with their direction and notify the cache owner immediately on the cache page as to what happened.  A lot of times it’s a simple misunderstanding where the officer had not been made aware of the cache placement and it’ll get worked out.  Other times, however, it’ll turn out that the cache was not properly placed and it’s archival is necessary.  At the same time, this also applies to either the owner of the property or, in the case of a business or public space, management of the property.  If they see you and question why you are there, don’t run or become combative.  This will only result in a call to the police and a whole lot more trouble for yourself.  And, once again, you’ve given geocaching a black eye that could have lasting repercussions if the particular owner/manager has a lot of properties that could be prime caching spots.

3. Practice CITO

It should already be a given that a cache in/trash out mentality should exist whenever we are at a GZ and there is a lot of trash around, but I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve happened upon a trashed GZ and there is proof of recent finds.  I’m not suggesting always carrying around a pair of latex gloves and trash bag whenever you do an impromptu cache run, but even if you grab 1 thing while you’re there, you’re making a difference.  PLUS, local property owners/managers may take kindly to your diligence to clean up the mess and reward us with more areas of caching becoming available.  There have been some CITO events setup here recently to cleanup various parks and green spaces, and the owners/managers have made it known that they appreciate the efforts made by us to keep the public spaces clean and safe, which only makes caching look that much more appealing.  So if you’re on the hunt and you see some trash, don’t just ignore it…pick it up!

4. Notify cache owners of any issues immediately

Cache owners rely on us to inform them of when a cache has gone missing or is destroyed/faulty.  Not every container can be 100% waterproof when it comes into contact with so many people.  All it takes is one time for someone to not properly secure a lid to cause damage to the contents of the cache.  I came across a container this past February that hadn’t been found since before the winter months and it had apparently not been properly sealed as the log and the swag had become encased in a block of ice.  Luckily the log was in a zip-lock bag and was spared the worst, but the various business cards and cardboard nicknacks had become a slurry of mush that had to be disposed of.  It turns out at some point one of the locks on the lock-n-lock had been damaged and would no longer properly close.  This meant that water was bound to enter this container once again, especially as our notoriously wet Spring was approaching. I notified the owners and they have since replaced the container.  Allowing it to be the next finder’s problem is poor form and, in my opinion, rather rude.  It takes but a moment to either post a note or a “Needs Maintenance” log on GC.com.  If you don’t feel comfortable doing that, you can always email the CO on the site itself and tell them of your discovery.  They’ll thank you for the courtesy and the container will be replaced, resulting in future quality finds for all the subsequent cachers after you.

**BONUS – Be social**

This is a bit of a tough subject for me, seeing as I am fairly introverted, but it does go without saying that geocaching can be a very social game.  During the Midwest GeoBash we ran into a lot of cachers at various GZs and, if not for my wife, I most likely would have just sat in my car and waited from them to leave before scoring the find.  But by going out and socializing, we got to meet some very interesting people and actually managed to make a couple friends in the process.  While the game can be played solo, the social aspect can actually improve the experience.  In our area there are several notoriously difficult shelter hides.  I’m talking less finds than the number of years they have been hidden on some of them.  There are some cachers who have literally spent hours searching for the caches to no avail.  But, in recent weeks, several groups of cachers have joined up to tackle the hides and, usually within 90 minutes, are scoring the elusive finds. I’ll touch on this subject in another post as there are more examples of socializing helping your game as well as other rewards and ways to get connected with other cachers.

There are probably 20 more items that could be listed for caching etiquette, but what I’ve outlined is what I feel are the basics that everyone, from veteran to newbie, needs to know.  If you have a suggestion, feel free to post it in the comments.

Categories: Random talking | 2 Comments

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.

Categories: A tale from the GZ | 3 Comments

I’ve been a very busy geocacher


As if this blog wasn’t enough of a testament to my addiction, I have made some very crucial moves to solidify my existence in this game for the long term.  Some can be seen as necessities, but most should be viewed as a firm decision to continue playing and becoming more visible to our peers in the geocaching community.

The first step towards this was to purchase a real GPSr.  While the iPhones have been a great asset in our first 400+ finds, the nervousness of them getting destroyed has kept us from venturing off the beaten path (or should I say concrete path), not to mention its abysmal performance under any sort of canopy, be it trees or overcast skies.  While there are still a ton of caches in and around Indianapolis that are phone-friendly, it’s those caches hidden in the forests and marshlands outside of town and other states that has me excited and the phone just won’t cut it for these, if not for the fear of destruction, then definitely for the lack of data service, as was evidenced during the Geo Bash last year.  So after some feature comparisons, consulting several geocachers for opinions on the competing receivers, and some price shopping, I settled on the DeLorme Earthmate PN-60

DeLorme Earthmate PN-60

Ain't she a beaut?

This device, while smaller than most receivers on the market, is feature-packed and very accurate.  I have used it on several runs, a couple that have actually taken me into some wooded areas I have previous avoided, and I must say that it has performed admirably.  The learning curve on this one is pretty steep, even for the tech-savvy, and I am still trying to get my bearings on the mapping software, but so far I have managed to download maps and satellite imagery to it as well as load about 4,000 caches into it for the surrounding states.  Why?  Well, why not?  I still have a lot to learn and I’m sure it’ll be months before I feel confident enough to completely cut the iPhone umbilical cord, but I am absolutely enjoying this game a whole lot more now.

With the confidence of my new GPSr, I am now actively pursuing harder terrain caches.  And as a result, I have signed up to go on my first group cache outing.  We’re heading to eastern Kentucky to attempt a day of nothing but Earthcaches.  For those who don’t know, these are caches where the object is to go to the GZ while learning about the geology/history/scientific nature of the area and answer a set of questions where the answers are obtained through a mixture of the cache description and the area surrounding the GZ itself.  Most of the Earthcaches also require photographic evidence of you being there, especially those where the answers are easily obtained through the cache description or a quick Google search.  As you can imagine, a lot of Earthcaches are going to take you to locations that are considerably more difficult in terrain than your standard traditional hide.  I couldn’t resist the opportunity to test out the ruggedness and accuracy of my new toy so I jumped on it.  The outing is on 3/17 and it looks like I might be joined by my brother as well as several other members of the Indy Area Geocachers Facebook group.  So this will be my opportunity to prove my dedication and worth to the group.  I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited.

Remember that post I made where I suggested items to have for geocaching?  Yeah, I have a confession to make…I didn’t have most of any of that.  While everything I said holds true, the fact is that, of all the things listed, I only had 6, and even then those were just laying around in the Minion Mobile and not easy to get to.  With the idea of going on cache runs that would take us further from the van than ever before, we definitely needed to make sure we had our supplies with us at all times.  To that end, I purchased a canvas messenger bag to carry the vast assortment of items needed for our cache runs and am now happy to report that every single item I listed in the post is now in my possession.  I need to take a picture of the bag fully packed and update that post…better get on that.

The next thing I’ve been up to is prepping our first event as hosts.  While I am still failing at getting our first hide, I’ve decided to give back to the geocachers of Indianapolis by hosting a “Meet-n-Eat” event at a local restaurant.  Hoosiers, by their very nature, are a very friendly people, and the geocachers are doubly so.  I have never met a finer group of people in my life, and I wanted to try to do something to show my appreciation for them.  So I decided to host an event on the one day that a lot of them have yet to log a find on….Leap Day.  In the history of Geocaching, there has only been 2 Leap Days that have been available for cachers to log a find on.  For a growing portion of cachers, this is the last day they have to log to complete their caching calendar.  Groundspeak is marking the day by giving a virtual souvenir to anyone who logs a find/attended on any cache/event that day.  Since Leap Day falls on a Wednesday this time around, a lot of the working cachers will be hard pressed to go out and grab a find for the day, so I figured I would give the gift of an easy Smiley to anyone who needs it.  Leapin’ Lizards!!! It’s Leap Day is our event and I am totally excited to host this.  It should be an evening filled with good food, good stories, and good friends.  If you’re reading this, in the Indianapolis area, and haven’t committed to finding a cache, you should seriously stop by, if for nothing else than getting the Smiley and saying hello.

And lastly, Cyndi and I have been going back and forth for a while about a signature item.  Early in our adventures we used to have some Girl Scout SWAPS the wife and kids made to drop in caches, but those ran out very quickly and they didn’t really have anything to distinguish us or tell anyone who we were.  I had been looking at wooden nickels for some time and while we may still go that route, we decided we wanted to do a Pathtag.  A piece of rounded metal no larger than a nickel, a Pathtag is a customized signature item that can be left in caches or traded at events with other Pathtaggers.  Starter kits begin at $110 plus shipping for 50 tags and a 3-year mold that can be used to make more tags at roughly $1/tag afterwards.  All you do is create your desired artwork using the template they provide, upload it to their site and pay for the work, customizing what you want on the tag’s back, the material it is plated with, and so on, and they create a blueprint for you to sign-off on and then produce the tags.  The total process takes about 6 weeks but the end results are awesome.  We have a small collection of tags we’ve received from various caches and a couple events and felt it was high time we had some of our own.  So after several months of working and re-working a design that fit both our personalities as well as our team name, we ended up with what you see below.

Out first tag

So there you have it.  It’s been a pretty busy winter for our little troop.  While the actual caching hasn’t been as steady as I would like, there is a lot of behind-the-scenes type stuff being worked on to help us further along.  And this is just scratching the surface.  We are planning on making a return trip to the Midwest Geo Bash this summer, as well as attending GeoWoodstock X in southern Indiana this May.  There’s also the Indiana Spring Picnic the week before GWX that we are attending and will be camping for that.  I could continue for hours on this, but I’ve already made you sit through 1,400 words on this, no need to punish you more.  Thanks for reading, and we’ll see you on the trails.

Categories: Random talking | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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!

Categories: A tale from the GZ | Leave a comment

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.

 

Categories: A tale from the GZ | Leave a comment

Only the essentials (while Geocaching)


So here’s a topic that I’ve been thinking on for a while now…what should I bring with me when I Geocache?  I’ve posed this with several veteran cachers and they all have told me pretty much the same thing…the essentials.  Now, this is subjective.  What would you classify as essential to Geocaching?  Being a bit of a novice still, I could argue that the essentials are a pen and a GPS.  And I would be correct, if you wanna make something of it.  If all I was wanting to do was play the game with the least amount of requirements, I would be all set with these 2 things.  But what fun is that?  This isn’t merely a game of hide and seek.  There is a massive community behind this game and for it to remain a successful game, it requires a lot more than just “the bare essentials”.

So I am amassing a Geocaching kit to take with us on our future runs.  After speaking with many cachers and consulting online guides, I have come up with the following list of items that I believe are essential to playing this game properly:

  • Bag – This can range in size from a fanny pack all the way up to a shoulder-slung satchel if you like.  We most likely will be using a backpack as it distributes the weight evenly on both shoulders, but I have fancied using a canvas messenger bag or even one of these.
  • GPSr – While I strictly use an iPhone 4 for my Geocaching purposes, I do want to purchase a real GPSr at some point as I am getting rather nervous caching with my $200 “Jesus Phone”.  After seeing the damage a teaspoon of water can inflict on this thing, I don’t want to chance dropping it in a puddle or stream/creek/river/lake.
  • Cell phone – At the bare minimum you should carry one of the feature phones you can get for free with a new contract from the carriers.  You never know what kind of emergency you may end up in and NOT having a phone handy could be a life or death proposition.  If you have a smartphone it could also be used for paperless caching (logging finds, dropping trackables, and solving puzzles) using one of the multitude of apps for Geocaching.
  • Digital Camera – This can be fulfilled by the inclusion of the cell phone.  All though virtuals and other caches regarding ALRs (alternate logging requirements) have been banned and a precious few virtuals still exist, there are some Earthcaches and the grandfathered virtuals that require a photo of you with your GPSr to prove you were there.  Also, with the inclusion of the new Challenges, more and more will require a camera to capture something.  Plus, you’ll come across some rare finds and breathtaking views on some caches and you’d be remiss not to capture it.
  • Pens AND Pencils – I strongly emphasize bringing both.  Sometimes you’ll come across of damp log that a pen just will not write well on.  I would suggest bringing at least 5 of each as they have a knack for getting lost.  It also goes without saying that you’ll want to have a pencil sharpener, too. Not just for your pencils, but also for those that might be in the cache that are dull or broken.  Just because you’re not using it doesn’t mean someone else won’t.  Along that same line of thought, bring some small golf pencils for caches you find that don’t have an included writing utensil.  These two things will definitely help with your caching karma.
  • Magnetic Pick Up tool – This is usually used by auto mechanics to retrieve metal tools and parts that have dropped into places in a car that are out of reach.  They are usually retractable and come in various strengths.  Here is the one we use.  It’s definitely handy for some of the trickier hides.
  • Claw Pick Up tool – Another mechanics tool that has been co-opted by Geocachers as a tool of the trade.  These tools have a button you press on the handle end that will cause a claw at the head of the tool to open, allowing you to grab an item that is out of reach.  They come in various sizes and some, like this one, have a flexible shaft so it can bend for easier reach.  You may need to use in conjunction with the magnetic pick up tool to avoid dropping the cache if it is in something like a bison tube that could slip out of the claw.
  • Retractable mirror tool – It’s almost like these tools were made for caching.  There will come a time when you will need to look somewhere that height or angle-of-view limitations will prevent you from seeing the cache.  In cases such as these, you’ll need one of these.  Say there is a hole in a tree about a foot higher than your head.  You can extend this mirror out and stick it into the hole, allowing you to see inside and determine if the cache is there or not without blindly shoving a hand into what could turn out to be a hornet nest and ruining the rest of your day.
  • Tweezers – You will come across a cache from time to time (typically a micro or nano cache) where the log will barely fit into the container and become quite the chore to remove.  Tweezers will be your best bet in removing these logs with minimal damage to the log.  They also double as a tool to pull the inevitable splinters out of your fingers during your cache run.
  • Flashlight – Not only for night caching, but also for looking into dark spaces that a cache could very well be hiding in.  I can think of 3 caches in particular that I marked as DNF because I couldn’t find it, only to find it later in the place I looked by using a flashlight.
  • Bug spray/sunscreen/anti-itch ointment – For obvious application reasons…you’re going to be out in the sun, there will be bugs, and there may be Poison Ivy/Oak/Sumac.
  • Band aids/antibiotic ointment/hand sanitizer or wipes/pain reliever – Because scrapes, cuts, bumps, and nicks happen.  I could keep going on with things like butterfly sutures, tourniquets, gauze, and other items but that would be a bit ridiculous to carry.

These next inclusions are all optional.  If you want to help contribute to the quality of the game and grab some extra caching karma for yourself, you’d be well-served to include these in your pack:

  • Extra log sheets – This is obviously an optional inclusion, but I can’t tell you how many times we’ve come across a cache where either the log was completely full or was destroyed by the elements.  Nothing will deflate you more than finding a 4+/4+ cache and having absolutely no way to log your find because the log is either full or destroyed and you have nothing to improvise a log with.  You can find log sheets of any size all over the Internet.  Here is a site that has a bunch.  Of course, make sure you note on the cache page that you’ve replaced the log.  You want to make sure that the CO is aware of your replacement as they could potentially invalidate your (and everyone who signed after you) log  if they were not aware of it the next time they perform maintenance.  It seems nitpicky, but there are some owners out there who are very particular about these things and have no qualms about removing logs if they feel threatened.
  • Zip-lock baggies – It helps to have a few sandwich-size zip-lock bags to protect the log books that are in the larger caches.  Also, a handful of mini zip-lock bags is good for the smaller log sheets found in the small/micro caches.  Again, we’re thinking about improving your caching karma.
  • Desiccant packets – These little packets of silica gel beads are used to absorb moisture in a variety of products you buy from the store, so naturally it should also work in a cache.  If you find a log that is a little damp from the elements, drop the log into a baggie as well as one of these and it’ll not only dry out the log, but it’ll prevent future issues with humidity.
  • Swag – These little trinkets help make the game fun.  While I wouldn’t recommend anything of value over dollar store or Happy Meal toys, there are also signature items that people find fun to collect, such as business cards, wooden nickels with your caching name, or even custom-designed Pathtags.  The sky really is the limit on what you choose as your signature item.  Cyndi had a handful of swaps she had made for her Girl Scout troops that were just collecting dust so we used those as swag.
  • Rolls of camo-tape – Sometimes the elements will ravage a camouflaged container to the point that it is no longer quite so camouflaged.  While this is optional, I think everyone should do this.  The guidelines of Geocaching state that you should rehide the cache in the same or better manner than before.  So if it’s a previously camouflaged Pringles can that is now just a can sticking out like a sore thumb amongst its surroundings, it would be much better if you helped restore it to its former condition.

This is by no means the definitive list of what to take with you when Geocaching.  This is merely a springboard for you to base your own bag contents on.  If there are any veterans lurking about who feel I’ve missed something or should have included something instead of what I have, please feel free to post your ideas in the comments.  Happy hunting, everyone!

Categories: Random talking | 2 Comments

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