Friday, April 26, 2013

World Wide Flash Mob X: May The 4th!

Saturday, May the 4th is the day geocachers from around the world gather together at events, all at once, briefly.


For fun!

No really, why?

Oh you want a real answer?  OK fine... May 4th, or Star Wars Day (May the 4th be with you... get it? No? Dang, tough crowd) is the day for the 10th World Wide Flash Mob (WWFM).

A flash mob, in this case, is a geocaching event that lasts only 15 minutes (i.e. it happens in a flash).  It is designed to be the anti-mega event (where thousands of cachers meet in one spot for an entire day).  The idea is that you show up exactly at the specified time, form a (friendly) mob of people, do a fun activity for 15 minutes, then disperse just as quickly.  It is a quirky but fun way to spend 15 minutes.

As of this writing there are 547 flash mob events planned on May 4th, in over 41 countries, so there is likely one being hosted near you. To get a list of all the events planned, check out this bookmark list.  For a lot more information, the main WWFM site is here.

As a bonus, if you log a WWFM event you (yes you!) will receive a custom souvenir icon (pixels, yay!) for your profile.

So now you know all of the information about flash mobs, you have no excuse to not attend one (ok fine, you may have several excuses, but you can check 'I didn't know" off your list).  Go find a WWFM right now and log a 'Will Attend' log, then on Saturday join (briefly) your fellow geocachers for a fun event that you will not forget (unless you develop amnesia - my recommendation is not to do that.)

Just remember, the "flash" in flash mob means quick, not... um... this:

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Fundraising: Abigail Style

This is my daughter Abigail. She is just shy of one years old, but already she has figured out how to get money out of Daddy's wallet.

... at least she used it for a good cause - in this case her first taste of ice cream.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The CITO At Buffalo Cove

For a geocacher the world is our game board.

Cache In Trash Out (CITO) events were created to encourage geoachers to clean up their playgrounds, and make the world a shinier place for everyone.

To celebrate the 11th Annual CITO weekend, local cachers planned a CITO event to clean up a nature area on Buffalo Cove Rd in Caldwell County NC.  I like a clean place to play as much as the next cacher, so I planned to attend the moment the event was published (not to mention I was bribed by a shiny new souvenir for my geocaching profile - I can be bought, and I am not that expensive).

The area being targeted for clean-up is a nature area that runs beside a creek.  A few hundred feet down the creek is an old dam, which adds some dramatic backgrounds and character to the area. It really is a pleasant place to hang out for an afternoon.

The timing of the event( 1:30-4PM), normally corresponds to my kids normal nap times, so I had planned on attending alone (hence I'd face the wrath of sleep deprived, cranky kids).  Happily the kids decided to spontaneously go off schedule today and nap early, so both of my kids were well rested by CITO time, so my entire congregation could tag along.

We arrived at the event just in time for Abigails lunch, so my wife stopped at the main tent to feed her, while   I grabbed a couple bags and headed down the trail to start picking up garbage with Zeke:

Zeke likes to help (in fact when I mowed the lawn earlier in the day he cleaned up his toys from the lawn without me having to ask - awesomeness for a 3 year old), so he loved picking up trash and putting it into his bag.  I spent the first 30 minutes showing him what bits were trash and watched him picking them up and putting it into his bag.
The dam itself is about 8 ft high.  It is very old, and the local kids have painted a lot of graffiti on the walls, most of which is quite artistic.
There was a geocache hidden near the dam.  We picked up trash until we got close, then we stopped cleaning and starting searching.  It was well hidden so it took a while, but we finally managed to put our hands on the log sheet.  I got FTF, which was nice icing on a tasty cache cake (metaphorically speaking).

There were also many faces painted on the dam wall, including this guy:
While we were searching for the geocache, Zeke discovered some more trash, which he happily and excitedly picked up to put in his bag.  We managed to fill most of a large black garbage bag.  After that he spent a goodly amount of time running through the creek.
Once we finished at the dam we walked back to the main tent to hang out and chat with the local cachers.  Below are a couple pictures of some of the garbage that was picked up during the day.  There were also a lot of bags left on the sides of the road which will be picked up by the county administration for proper disposal.
Along the way several snakes were seen.  One of the people helping out is a Boy Scout leader, and a professional snake handler.  He, and his son, picked up one of the snakes - an eastern king snake - and showed it off to the group (don't worry, it is not venomous).
Finally a group pic of all the folks who helped out.  Some are cachers, but the local Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops also lent a valuable hand.  There were about 36 people who attended the event (some of which missed the photo).

When we were getting into the car, my son told my wife that he had a lot of fun - an unusually exuberant volunteer utterance for him so it make me think one could safely add "whole" to the front of "lot" in his sentence.  Not a bad outcome for what was basically forced labour for a toddler for an afternoon (CITOing has many hidden benefits).  I had a great deal of fun too, and I can't wait until the next geocaching event comes my way.

Did you CITO?  Let me know in the comments below.

**UPDATE**. According to the Water and Soil Conservation Office, there were 46 bags of garbage, which is about 1012lbs of garbage, as well as many truck tires and some swingset gear, and 45 signatures were on the sign-in sheet.  Not to shabby for a couple hours work.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

CITO at AnneSpringsClose Greenway

We are in the middle of the 11th Annual CITO weekend.

To celebrate the occasion I loaded the entire family (wife, kids, parents) into the Geo-Van of Destiny and headed 80 miles south across the state line to the AnneSpringsClose greenway.

The AnneSpringsClose greenway is more of a private plantation turned park than a simple path in the woods that "greenway" typically implies.  It is full of old buildings, horse pastures, creeks, and various other outdoor activities.

Today they held an Earth Day celebration so the place was hoping with activities, petting zoos, and lots of yummy food.

There were actually two geocaching events at the greenway today.  The first was a booth that YoGo (York County Geocaching Organization) had set up to promote geocaching.  They published four new caches in the park, and anyone who completed all four received a shiny pathtag.  The second event was at the end of the day, and was a CITO to help clean up the park after the festivities.

We spent the morning walking around the park, finding all of the caches and building up an appetite.  Once we earned our pathtags, we headed over to eat some food and relax until CITO time.

It was a fun way to kill a day, and I helped to clean up our playground a bit as well. Not a bad deal.  I have another local CITO event to attend tomorrow, but in the mean time, I have great memories of caching in South Carolina.  I leave you with this shot of three generations of geocachers in hot pursuit of tupperware.

Monday, April 15, 2013

District 12

You may not be aware of this but the movie The Hunger Games was filmed entirely in North Carolina, and the District 12 scenes were mostly filmed just south of Hildebran NC, just 20 miles or so south of my house.

On Sunday my father and I went to Hildebran NC to do some geocaching in Hildebran.  The last cache we did ended up being in the middle of District 12.

I am not normally a huge movie fanboy, but it was rather interesting to explore a location that featured so prominently in a blockbuster movie.

From what I can gather the location that became District 12 was a settlement for workers at an old mill that still stands nearby.  The place is a ghost town now, with perhaps 20 run down houses, some utility buildings, and a few out houses are all that remain.

Most of the village doesn't look like it has been touched in any significant way in many years.  The only signs that a film was produced here are the hand painted "pastries" and "cakes" on the large brick building that was the towns bakery in the film, and a sign advertising Hunger Games themed tours.

We didn't go on a tour, but our short walk through this abandoned village was enough to get a sense of what was once a charming little community, and is now the embodiment of a dystopian future.

 There have been reports from other cachers that they have been told they were trespassing while hunting for the geocache, so it has since been archived.  However you can see the buildings from the main road so if you are near the area, you may want to drop by and see for yourself.  In the mean time I'll leave you with some shots of District 12 in all of its dystopian glory.

May the odds be ever in your favour.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Take Me To Your Leader: Race Winner!

On June 5, 2012 I started a global travel bug race. I sent out 8 alien drone travel bugs to 4 countries on 3 continents, and the race was to see which bug would get back to my hometown of Lenoir NC first.

 Today, amazingly, the first drone bug arrived in Lenoir.  We have a winner!  Drone #8 was the first to complete its mission. Woohoo!

This bug had the farthest to go - literally around the world.  I had started this bug off on its journey down under in Canberra Australia, where an awesome cacher by the name dvixen sent him on his way. From there he travelled 10,840 miles on his journey back home.

From Canberra he hopped over to Los Angeles, then a quick jaunt across North America to Connecticut.  He then travelled around Maryland and Virginia, then jumped to South Carolina.  In South Carolina he was picked up by a cacher by the name of grassfinger, who dropped him off at a TB hotel near my house in Lenoir.

Of the original 8 drones to be released to the world, 4 have gone missing, and one arrived safe and sound.  This means there are 3 drones still out there that may still make it back home.  However I am absolutely stoked that even one made it back.

You can get the status on all of the bugs from the tracking page.

Several pictures of this bug were taken on the final journey for Drone #8, like the one on the right.  The rest can be seen on the drones status page here.

When I got notification that the travel bug was placed in the local cache, I immediately headed out the door with my wife to retrieve it (luckily my parents were in town to watch the kid :)  A few minutes later and I had the bug in hand, a winner declared, and a huge smile on my face.

Many thanks for dvixen for releasing this bug, and for grassfinger for going the extra last mile to him to the finish line.  This has been an awesome caching experience, and a great deal of fun, and really, isn't that the point?

Now you may be asking what the plans for this little drone are.  After travelling across the galaxy, and around the world, he is going to go into quiet retirement, spending the rest of his days at a TB retirement complex, sipping on Floovian Blue Juice, and listening to "just a little more Lynyrd Skynyrd".

This will likely be his last public photo before becoming a recluse:

Saturday, April 13, 2013

NC Gravity Games 2013

Science.  Speed. Competition. Suspense. Drama. Gravitational force exploitation. Hotdogs. These are just some of the sites and sounds at the NC Gravity Games that were held in Lenoir NC today.

The Gravity Games is a downhill soapbox derby held for local kids groups.  Mostly schools, but the local police, fire department, and Girl Guides also had their own cars.

My parents are in town so we all headed downtown to watch some of the action.

Since it is likely you all in blogosphere land missed the live action, the following is some pictures from the day,  starting with a car racing down the track after leaving the starting gate.

Most of the racers went in groups of two.  The first to the finish line went to the next round.  The last went for popsicles.
Zekey and Papa watching all the action.

Appalachian State University had some telescopes set up so people could view sun flares and sunspots safely.  Debbie is looking for sunspots, and Abigail is looking for goldfish crackers.

The local PD set up a roadside radar speed sign so they can see how fast the cars were going.  Some topped 21 MPH, this one did 20. The finish line is in the background.

A modified car in the custom class.  Most cars in the races were unpowered, but this class was allowed a small electrical assist, such as an electric drill.

Monday, April 08, 2013

TB Race Entries Ready

I just put the finishing touches on 4 TBs that I am going to enter into the GeoGearHeads TB Race 2013. They are late entries, but I have high hopes for a first place finish.  A point is awarded for every unique geocacher that discovers them, so like any good race car driver, I am hoping for traction in the corners, and power in the straights.

These particular bugs are themed after the Top Gear(UK) presenters: Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, James May, and their tame racing driver, The Stig.  Despite not being a car guy Top Gear(UK) is one of my favourite shows of all time, so it seemed a fitting theme for a travel bug race (not to mention these cars were on sale at Wally World).

I am going to send these on their way soon.  If you see these bugs out in the wild please discover them online, and then pass them on to the next geocacher as fast as you can.

If you are curious, you can see the status of the race here...

... and on that bombshell, its time to end this post.  Good night everybody!

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Rendezvous Mountain State Forest

Some days it just seems criminally irresponsible not to go geocaching. Today was one of those days.  It was a perfect spring day (temps in the 70s, blue skies with white fluffy couds, low humidity).

I headed an hour north to Rendezvous Mountain State Forest, which is nestled on the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains near Wilkesboro NC.

I ran into the ranger, Calvin,  and we talked for a bit.  He mentioned that the park was a state park until 1984, when it became a state forest.

If you are like me you may be asking yourself "whats the difference?"

The answer is that state parks are all about preservation, and state forests are about conservation.  In other words the difference between letting nature do what it may vs managing the land to allow the existing flora and fauna to florish.

The difference for geocaching?  Huge.  Geocache containers are not allowed in state parks, but state forests are a different story altogether   This forest hosts 4 geocaches, including an earth cache.  Ranger Calvin is looking to get more caches placed in the park, so it looks like I may be heading back to place some more caches in the area.  Awesome.

Rendezvous had some other hidden treasures as well.  According to the maps there are just over a mile of trails in the forest.  However Ranger Calvin told me that a new trail had just opened up, a 4 mile hile past some waterfalls.

I wasn't expecting a 4 mile hike, but I figured what they hey - only live once, right?  So I headed around the loop.  Turns out it was a grind.  400ft elevation drops, and gains, rough trails, and a dozen or so creek crossings.  A true meat grinder for an overweight lazy man like myself, but the mountain streams and waterfalls were well worth it, and some of the views were downright spectacular.

Well worth the grief my legs are going to give me tomorrow.

I will leave you with some more sights of the day, starting with a view of a cabin and the fire tower.  The first cache of the day sits near its base.

 Mountain streams were the highlight of the 4 mile hike.  The cool water came in handy as a coolant - it was a tad warm after a while.
A solitary flower growing in the middle of the trail.
 One of the many small waterfalls flowing in the park.
 A panorama shot of the Yadkin Valley from the top of Rendezvous Mountain.  A fantastic way to end a day of mountain hiking in the Blue Ridge.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Yardwork Season Opener

Spring has officially arrived.

 Do you know how I know?  Today is the first day this year that I got to mow the entire lawn.

Yes, every week from here until November-ish, I will be out mowing my back yard instead of doing fun things like geocaching, or clipping my toe nails, or... pretty much anything else.

Ok, fine, lawn mowing isn't the worst thing in the world (that would be watching someone clip their toe nails), but it does mean I got to walk every inch of my back yard. It is 2.56 miles of walking to mow my lawn so at least I got a hike (of every decreasing concentric circles) in.

After the lawn mowing I put some more dirt into my raised vegetable beds in preparation for the seedlings in a few weeks, which are currently just starting to sprout in a little tray in my living room window.

To commemorate the start of yardwork season, I'll leave you with some photos of the day.  Starting with Zeke helping daddy mow.

Abigail getting in on some of the action.

Zekey helping Daddy rake in some of the new dirt.
 Not surprisingly, Zeke loves to play in the dirt.