What’s in a name?


Way back in March, in my first topical blog post, I mentioned that while at the GZ of our first find we became stumped on what to call ourselves and quickly named our team Howard_Family.  I can’t tell you enough how much it irked me that we didn’t think up some awesome name for our team PRIOR to our first find.  Not that I’m upset or embarrassed by our team name, it has served us very well these past 13 months and 421 finds.  But during the GeoBash, every time we introduced ourselves, I felt a pang of regret in our name.  Here I am, meeting people with names like Pink Pearl The Eraser, Flash_Burn, StepNFetchIt, and countless others, Howard_Family just wasn’t cutting it.  It lacks pizazz, creativity, and wittiness.  It’s Go-Bots compared to Transformers.  Toasted Rice compared to Rice Crispies.  Deep Impact compared to Armageddon.

Cyndi must have been feeling it, too.  During a cache run, she mentioned to me that we should think about changing our name.  I guess for a while the girls have been complaining about not really feeling like a part of the team because their last names are different than ours (I’m their stepfather for those who don’t follow).  I’ve never wanted to have them feel excluded, so this obviously broke my heart.  So the brainstorming sessions began.

One of the “traditions” that we have established since geocaching is a little phrase we mutter when we find a cache.  Since shouting “Found it!!” would arouse suspicion from nearby muggles, we’ve co-opted the celebratory “gotcha” phrase “Bazinga!”, uttered by Dr. Sheldon Cooper on ‘The Big Bang Theory’, our favorite show.  In some of the pictures you’ll find on our site you’ll see me in a Bazinga! shirt in the style of The Flash.  So our initial idea was to name our team with some sort of reference to Bazinga.  Unfortunately, we’re not the only ones who have thought of this as there are currently over 30 names with some sort of Bazinga amalgamation.  One of my main requirements for our new name was to keep it as short as possible.  Howard_Family is already a stretch and on some logs becomes rather burdensome to write on some of the nano logs, so I wanted our name to be easier to write in either of our shorthands.  None of the team names using Bazinga that wasn’t already taken did much for me.  Bazinga Cachers runs into the territory of being too long.  GeoBazinga just sounds silly and would more likely require an explanation to those unfamiliar with the show.

So after some back and forth, and several weeks to stew on it, the topic of changing the name came back up on our way to meet Cyndi’s mother and boyfriend (hoosier hooligan) for lunch.  We had the girls with us this time so we were able to get their input.  During this brainstorming session we all started settling on the theme of the Minions from Despicable Me.  I am a huge fan of this movie.  I didn’t expect it to be very good but it has a lot of funny parts and is quite quotable.  The Minions make the movie in my opinion as they add a cute slapstick element to it.  Plus, you can’t go wrong with alien creatures who speak in gibberish.  The girls really liked this so we started tossing out ideas on this.  Naturally our avatar would be a picture of Minions and we could possibly have some fun with it, taking pictures of Minion figures at the GZs and posting them with our ‘Found It’ logs.  Then it came to the name.  While Minions are a more-common-than-we-thought theme, we were able to secure a name.  Ladies and gentlemen, please allow me to introduce our new team name:

Geo Minions

I’ll admit it’s not the flashiest of team names, but it is unique and it gives us a lot more room to do more fun things with it.  Plus, the girls now feel they are a part of the team and since they came up with the Minions theme, they have a real personalized mark on the team.  And already we have several things coming up to celebrate the new name.  First, as I mentioned before, we’re working on acquiring some Minion figures that we can then customize to include in the logs of our finds.  They will also become our mascots that will travel with us to the different events we’ll be attending in the future.  There is a cacher in our area that is known as CECIL-EGCM that caches with a stuffed monkey who’s sole mission in life is to conquer the world, one Geocache at a time.  So why can’t we do something similar and have some fun and make a name for ourselves in this game?  The next thing I plan on doing is sending out a TB with a Minion attached to make the world aware of our name change (not really but whatever…just need an excuse to launch a trackable, really).  And the final plan is to hide a cache in memory of our old team name.  I can’t think of a more fitting tribute to our former name than to hide our first cache as a memorial to it.

Categories: Random talking | 2 Comments

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.

Categories: A tale from the GZ | Leave a comment

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

Struggling to stay active


Those are words I never thought I’d utter.  After a relatively active Winter, I thought for sure that this would easily eclipse that and we’d be well onto 500 or even 600 Smileys by now.  But alas, we’ve hit a bit of a brick wall.  Since I started this blog, we’ve logged a total of 60 finds, a respectable feat for a family that includes a couple tweens.  However, looking at that number and comparing it to this past winter, where we logged 113 finds (with 80 of those coming from December alone), I’m rather saddened and a little discouraged by it.  Surely we can do better than this.

How did this happen?

I’m not going to lie or make an excuse….we’ve been lazy.  Yes, there have been times where we had a lot going on, be it family functions or Girl Scout events, and these have taken a lot of time away from Geocaching.  But more often than not, I just can’t motivate myself to do it.  It’s not the obscene amount of planning I do that demotivates me because I actually get off on that.  It’s not the hatred of DNFs because those just drive my resolve.  I can’t pinpoint what it is other than I sometimes just don’t WANT to do anything.  Hell, I’ve even been struggling to keep up with this blog, which is nothing more than me spewing words into the ether, hoping that the 9 or 10 people who casually read it will find something interesting.  I’ll think about it, get a topic to discuss, even roughly outline what I want to say in my head, and then…..zzzzzz.  I downloaded the WordPress app onto my iPhone just so that I could update the blog from pretty much anywhere.  On the road or on the toilet, there should be no excuses.  And yet, here I am, writing to you several WEEKS after my last post, and this time it’s more of a rant about my wanton laziness than the joy of Geocaching.  What the hell?!?!

What am I going to do about it?

The first step in a 12-step program is to admit you have a problem.  This is my first step.  I can’t be lazy anymore.  I have to man up and do this right.  I know this isn’t supposed to be a contest to see who can get the most finds in a year.  It’s not even supposed to be about the numbers, but instead a game of high-tech hide and seek.  I set lofty goals and now I’m struggling to make the one that I’ve modified twice since I started….the anniversary goal.  I wanted 1000 finds when we started.  By December I was dropping that to 500.  After that productive month, I thought that would be a piece of cake.  Once April hit and it became painfully obvious that 500 was just too far away at that point, so I revised it to 400.  If you look to the right sidebar you’ll see that we’re currently at 338 finds.  So as it stands we currently have 20 days to find 62 caches.  And while 3 caches a day doesn’t sound that bad, you need to take into account the fact that we have exhausted pretty much all the quick and easy caches in a 6-mile radius of our neighborhood and the ones that are left are ones hidden in wooded areas and on one of the local reservoirs in our area.  So while I’m sure we’ll snag a few of these, it’s not going to be a walk-in-the-park like we’re used to.

Having said that, this weekend we are heading to Holiday World and Splashin’ Safari in Santa Claus, IN.  As such, we have the opportunity to grab caches in areas we aren’t normally in, so this affords us the opportunity to get as close to, if not surpass, our goal.  And in typical OCD-fashion, I have already made a few PQs to show us what we’re working with.  Between our home and Santa Claus, there are 111 active caches that are within a mile of the interstate that have a maximum difficulty of 2 (to minimize the amount of time to search for each) AND have either been found or updated in the past week.  Broadening that search, there is almost 600 to choose from.  I have handpicked 64 that are near exits along our route so we won’t have to do any backwoods trekking to find them.  And if we still cannot hit 400, we still have 4th of July weekend.  I feel good about hitting the goal…I just wish it was the original 1000 we planned on 11 months ago.

Categories: Random talking | Leave a comment

A rant about “muggled” caches and those who don’t log their DNFs


This is something that I’ve wanted to speak on for a while but kept putting off as just being whiny and not necessary to voice.  Well, I can’t hold my tongue (or should I say fingers) any longer.  This is something that annoys the crap out of me and I want my voice to be added to the countless thousands who have no less also made the same proclamation.

I HATE MUGGLED CACHES

I couldn’t have made that any more blunt.  This past weekend, I had a chance to grab a few caches while out and about.  So I opened the Geocaching app and did a search of nearby caches.  I also had a puzzle cache I had solved back in November that I wanted to wait for better weather before attempting.  The area where the cache was hidden has quite a few caches that normally don’t come up in my PQs (pocket queries) because I set the parameters to only return caches that have been found in the last seven days.  Call me a wimp, but like to know that what I’m attempting to spend a chunk of my time on (and sometimes skin, hair, and clothing depending on the terrain difficulty and the amount of briers and shrubbery I have to stomp through) is not for naught.  So I decided I might as well try to knock out a few of these.

I headed to the GZ for the puzzle cache that I have verified using the GeoChecker site that they linked on the cache page, so I know the coordinates are correct.  However, after about 20 minutes of clearing dead leaves and underbrush, as well as tending to a couple scrapes and cuts, I turned up no cache.  Now, the thing about these Puzzle/Mystery Caches (for those who either haven’t been playing very long, haven’t played at all, or don’t do anything other than traditionals) is that you aren’t given the coordinates to the cache.  You actually have to solve a puzzle, ranging from solving a very easy cipher all the way to an extensive, exhaustive series of puzzles that usually require a huge grasp for puzzle-solving, logic, and sometimes plain old trial-and-error tactics.  Once you’ve figured out the puzzle, it provides you the coordinates to the final GZ where it is located.  So this means you have to be a Geocacher to come up with the coordinates and find the cache.  Either that, or you watch someone go to the coordinates and then follow shortly thereafter.  This is sometimes how a cache is muggled.  Most of the time it is someone happening upon it and thinking it weird to find a tupperware container out in the middle of nowhere with a bunch of what they perceive to be crap stuffed inside.  They will then take it and throw it away.  And yet there is still a small minority of Geocachers who, for whatever reason, have gone rogue and have decided to be anti-cachers and are systematically destroying caches they find.

I’m not sure which of these instances occurred, but what I do know is that it happened within the last 5 months because the last find was in December.  After that, nothing.  No DNFs, Needs Maintenance, or Needs Archived logs.  Aggravated, I move onto the closest cache.  This one was last found in early April and the log was wet, so I was a little worried what I’d find.  Imagine my surprise when, after another 15 minutes of looking I came up with nothing.  The same happened at the next cache I looked for as well.  Last find was in March.  Surely they couldn’t all have gone missing in the past several days and no one attempted to find them in that short window of time.  Which brings me to my next big pet peeve.

LOG YOUR DNFs JERKS

I understand that there is something undesirable about having a frown face on your profile.  It’s ugly and means that you were unsuccessful.  But that doesn’t mean that it’s not valuable information to others.  Without a DNF, I, and I’m sure others, were unaware that this is potentially missing.  I know it can be embarrassing to be the first person to state they can’t find something when the last 50 had no problems.  That’s when you put out a Needs Maintenance log.  Chances are the cache has gone missing and needs to be replaced.  It’s the cache-owner’s responsibility to make sure the cache is available to find and in good shape…unfortunately they can’t do this if they have no clue something is wrong.  The CO is notified whenever someone logs any activity on their cache, be it a Note, Found, DNF, Needs Maintenance, or Needs Archived log.  Unless the CO is no longer active with Geocaching.com, they will receive the notification via email and will then be put to task to resolve the issue, if necessary.  After a period of time (usually 3 months), the reviewer(s) responsible for the area the cache is hidden in will make a comment on the cache page if nothing’s been done, letting them know that if they don’t respond or replace the cache, that it will be archived.  They are very good at this, but it can’t be done if everyone isn’t doing their part.

In the end, I logged DNFs on all of them but I made sure to put in a Needs Maintenance log for the Puzzle Cache.  I then added the cache to my Watch list so I would receive notification as soon as it is responded to.  Already I have received an email stating that the owner has verified the cache is gone and is working on replacing it within the next 2 weeks.  See….that’s all it takes, people.

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I’m not dead (not yet, at least)


I swear I’m not dead.  As I had eluded to in a previous post, Spring is an extremely busy time for us as a family with the school year ending and massive amounts of Girl Scout events seemingly stacked on top of each other.  There is light at the end of the tunnel, though.  As we approach Memorial Day things are beginning to slow up.  Tonight is the girls’ Bridging ceremony.  Mouse is moving on up from Brownies to Juniors and Pinto is going from Juniors to Cadettes.  Both troops have had their Spring camping trips and after tonight there isn’t anything outside of their Summer sleepovers and a week of resident camp, each.

As far as Geocaching goes, this Summer is shaping up to be a busy one.  Aside from the usual boredom-killing cache runs, we have several trips planned this year that will incorporate Geocaching along the way.

First up, in mid-June, we have our annual trip to Holiday World.  We spend several nights at the campgrounds next to the park and proved last year that caching while on the road is not only possible, but makes the return trip home more fun.   I haven’t begun to map out our potential caches, but that’s only because I want to wait to make sure that I do it close enough to the trip that any new caches that are placed close to our trip will be accounted for.

A couple weeks after that we have the 4th of July weekend which will mark our 1-year anniversary of Geocaching.  It is at that time that we will hide our first cache to mark the occasion.  We’re still trying to figure out exactly where we’re going to hide the cache and what type it will be, but I assure you once we’ve figured it out I’ll let you know.  While it’s looking like my goal to hit 500 finds by our 1-year anniversary is fast becoming a pipe dream, I KNOW we’ll hit 400 by then.

The last week of July we’re heading up to northern Ohio for the Midwest GeoBash.  This annual MegaEvent was all the talk at our first flashmob event and I vowed to get more information when we got home.  It’s a weekend-long event that focuses on all things Geocaching.  Apparently there are a lot of geocaches in the area that groups of people will band together to find.  I am hoping we can convince my mom-in-law and her boyfriend to come along, but even if it ends up being just us 2 I am sure it’ll be a blast.

Throughout the Summer there are a multitude of events and gatherings that we can attend, and we still need to do the Indy Parks 100 years challenge.  I won’t say we’ll do them all….but I will say we’ll at least make an effort.  There won’t be any 30-day lulls for us.

Categories: Random talking | 2 Comments

Geocaching and scouting – a perfect match


I don’t think I’ve mentioned it (or maybe I did but didn’t really talk about it much) but Cyndi is a Girl Scout troop leader…and a damn good one at that.  Actually she’s the leader of 2 troops, one for each daughter.  And like a good troop leader, Cyndi is always looking for fun and exciting activities for the girls to try.  And we’re not just talking arts and crafts.  She tries to engage their individual interests and plan activities that aren’t just your typical “go here, look at this, and get a patch” affair.  And one such activity she has planned for them is an introduction to Geocaching.

Cyndi’s Junior troop (Pinto’s troop) was actually a guinea pig for this last summer.  Every summer Cyndi plans a backyard camping trip with this troop.  They do a lot of activities and then on the following morning they go swimming before going home.  But Cyndi had a little time to kill this time.  See, the pool opens at 10am, but they were leaving at 9.  What to do!!!  Well, why not have them try their hands at geocaching?  That would kill some time and teach them a little about the sport.  So the day before, Mouse and I went out and scouted several caches on a route to the swimming pool and made sure that the caches were there and able to be found.  I reported back my findings (after logging my finds of course :P) and the next morning I accompanied the troop as they sought out the caches.  Naturally I was there to point them in the right direction if they strayed away.  It’s hard keeping 9 girls in one area, especially when they’re all trying to find a secret “treasure” and their only map is a 3.5″ iPhone screen that they can look at but not touch.

At the end of the trip, they had found all of them, only needing my help once.  The girls seemed to enjoy themselves and it proved to be quite an eye-opener for one of the parents that accompanied us and they have since started Geocaching too.  But there was much room for improvement.  Pre-finding caches for the sake of making sure DNFs weren’t possible is not what the game is about.  So, we’re rectifying that.  This weekend is the annual Fishers Service Unit Spring Camporee.  It’s being held at McCormick’s Creek State Park once again this year and I have it on good authority that there are a few good caches to find.  Mouse’s troop is Cyndi’s only troop attending this year and we’ll have 9 girls and 4 adults, of which only 3 have actually Geocached before.  So we’re going into this the same as before, the only difference this time is that while some fellow Geocachers have confirmed that they exist, we have no clue where they are save for the coordinates on our app.  So this will be a PROPER outing, with one exciting addition….a patch!

Cyndi and I found a patch for the girls of both troops (they will get their proper outing at a different time) to earn for learning about Geocaching and actually doing.  I have been working on the “curriculum” for the instructional portion of our outing and have mapped out the caches we should be able to do (there has been a massive amount of flooding in recent weeks so several of the caches requiring us to go into McCormick’s Creek might not be able to be done as the water can become very treacherous for a little creek (I have pictures from last year to prove it).  So after we go through a brief introduction to geocaching and explain the fundamentals of the game and how to play, we’re going to hike it to the various GZs and hopefully net a few smileys in the process.  The reward for this outing (aside from hopefully wanting to play the game with their families) will be this:

Girl Scout Geocaching Adventures Fun Patch

How awesome is that?  When I was a Cub Scout, the coolest patch we got was the Haunted House patch from the Indianapolis Children’s Museum.  This couldn’t be any better unless it was a computer repair patch or Introduction to Visual Basic merit badge…but I digress.

Since I have the WordPress app on my phone, I am going to try to post our outing results that evening after everyone has retired to their cabin (don’t get me started).  Of course, that’s all depending on the phone reception.  I don’t think they have 3G in the wilderness.

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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

Excuse the mess while I renovate


I must apologize to those who are reading this blog (even though you don’t subscribe or comment, I know you’re lurking…I see the site stats jump) and thinking that I must be some kind of OCD control freak, changing the theme every other day and what not.  I’m still tweaking and trying to find something that feels like the right look.  I want it to invoke the outdoor spirit, but I don’t want some hokey faux-nature feel, like this is some Greenpeace-inspired hippy blog.  I want to make the site as easy on the eyes while still invoking the techie nature of my personality, all the while capturing the feeling of the game, which is all about the outdoors.  I chose WordPress.com as my launching point because of the extensive collection of themes that aren’t just variants each other like some of the other free blog sites out there (I’m looking at you, Blogger/Blogspot).  Plus, when I decide I want to put some money into this blog and take over everything myself (hosting and all), I would use WordPress over Moveable Type or any of the other blogging technologies.  So please, I beg you, don’t get annoyed with the constant updating, changes, and tweaks.  If you like something, let me know.  If not, please feel free to voice your opinion.  I want this to be as enjoyable for you to read as it is for me to type.

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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.

Categories: A tale from the GZ | Leave a comment

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