Monday, August 26, 2013

Gadget Cache: Weights And Measures

A gadget cache is a geocache where one has to solve a physical puzzle of some sort to open the container, or get the next waypoint coordinates.

They are also, in my opinion (but then, who else's opinion would it be?), some of the most fun one can have while geocaching.

Case in point: I was out and about geocaching one day in the recent past when I came across a multi-cache.

At the first waypoint I found a nondescript box that contained the following bits and bobs:

- a bunch of PVC pieces,
- 3 large metal bolts of various sizes, each marked with a letter
- a bag of 10 or so small black bolts.
- an instruction booklet

By following the instructions in the booklet (in multiple languages no less), you end up constructing a set of scales, like so:
To get the coordinates for the next waypoint you need to weigh each large bolt to see how many smaller bolts it takes to balance the scales.  Then you plug in those numbers into a formula, the answer of which is the next coordinates.

Following the coordinates takes you to a nice ammo can.

I love these types of caches, and I really hope I get to do more of them in the future.  Definitely a lot better than any LPC or guard rail cache.  It just goes to show that a little creativity when creating your geocache hides can turn a typical hide into something really worth writing home about.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Geocaching Asheville

For reasons that I will not mention I have not been on a proper geocaching trip in over two weeks.

(OK fine, you talked me into mentioning it: I go geocaching mainly on weekends as my week days are filled with being an employee, a father, and a husband.  Last week my wife went camping and took the Geovan of Destiny, leaving me without a motorized vehicle.  I did have my bike, but there are no caches left nearby that are within biking distance of my house... all this means no caching trips. I've come to terms with this, and hopefully you will as well.)

Today I changed all that.  I woke up before dawn, piled into the Geovan of Destiny, and headed west to the mountains of North Carolina, and the town of Asheville contained within, a mere 1.5 hours drive away. I came armed with a list of the best caches in the town, and a rough plan on how to cover the city as much as possible. 

I spent the entire day exploring Asheville, but didn't even scratch the surface.

My day was dominated by three things:  beautiful mountain views,  urban art and sculptures, and Thomas Wolfe.  Thomas is an author and, (as near as I can tell based on the plethora of Thomas Wolfe stuff in the area), the personal Jesus to the town of Asheville.

The first cache I did was hidden on this sculpture made out of old auto parts.  It was the first of many caches to be based around artwork.  I made quick work of it, and it set me up for success for the rest of the day.

The next cache on my list was a cache hidden at Thomas Wolfe's old cabin.

As mentioned above, Thomas Wolfe is revered in Asheville (which is highly amusing as his novels so angered the locals that he was forced to leave the town for several years), and one of the historical artifacts that is being preserved is his old cabin.

The cabin is 1000ft up a trail in a nice clearing. As you can see the restoration work for the cabin is still on going.

Downtown Asheville is absolutely covered in art work, a lot of it really is interesting stuff.  There is, as you can probably guess, also a lot of Thomas Wolfe stuff.  In the downtown core there are 5 multi's and puzzles that have more than one stage - two have 6 stages, and all of the stages end up criss-crossing each other.  Before I left the house I mapped all of the stages so I could solve all of the multi-caches with one pass, avoiding back tracking all over downtown. I used the Android app, Locus, to do the mapping. The following is the map that I used.

I did manage to grab all of the caches without backtracking more than a block, which was awesome as I still did 3.5 miles of walking on hard surfaces, and by the end my dogs were barking.

Asheville is also full of old buildings, like this one.
These animals marked part of a trail.  There are several trails to guide visitors through downtown in order to see all of the artwork and other bits of history the place has to offer.
 Asheville is an arts town, and nothing marks an arts town like street musicians.  This fellow was playing some awesome sounding blues.
 More statues of cats, cause what would an Internet post be without cat pictures?
 Shopping ladies outside a book store.
No trip to the mountains would be complete without a walk down a trail that runs beside a nice mountain stream.  This one lead to a cache, which annoyingly was missing, but I still got an awesome hike out of it.
So my day ended up with 17 finds, and 3 DNFs.  Not to shabby considering all of the long multi's I did.  Asheville is a cool town to cache.  I'll definitely be back.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Scenes From A Geocaching Trip: Alternate Perspectives

Normally the pictures on my blog are taken by Yours Truly, so typically you all get the view from my perspective.

During our recent road trip east my wife took some shots of me geocaching with the kids.  So this is some scenes of me and the kids geocaching from my wife's camera's perspective.

The first shot was taken at the Manassas Battlefield in Virginia (near Washington DC). We were looking for answers for a virtual cache.
Taking a walk on the ocean floor at the Bay Of Fundy, in New Brunswick, going after an earth cache.
Found a cache under a boardwalk along the river in Moncton NB.
A nano at Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia.
 Somewhere in these rocks along the Cabot Trail is a geocache... hint:  "among the rocks". No kidding!
 This small cache was found on the north shore of Prince Edward Island.
Zekey, brdad, and Yours Truly hunting a stage of a mutli-cache in Bangor Maine.
Zekey getting a ride while we explored the National Mall in Washington DC.
Hunting answers for a virtual cache at the Smithsonian in Washington DC.  Note how enthusiastic Abigail is... sweet right?  Yeah, but NO help finding answers!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Kayak Cache

Last week, on a Tuesday, I went on a work offsite to the US National Whitewater Center near Charlote NC.

The USNWC is the training area for the US Olympic team, but they are open for the public for a wide range of activities: mountain biking, rock climbing, ziplines, and of course, whitewater rafting.

They also have flatwater kayaking on the nearby Catawba river.

Being a dedicated cacher I checked out the center for geocaches beforehand.

There were two caches nearby.  One in the middle of the center, and the other on an island on the catawba. The island cache looked particularly interesting, and I immediately planned to grab it via kayak.

I mentioned that I wanted to grab a cache via kayak to a co-worker, and he told some others.  Pretty soon I had a group of 10 or so folks who wanted to come kayaking with me.

When we arrived at the center we headed over to the kayak place and got set up.  Pretty soon we were in the water and paddling.

I had never been in a kayak before, and it took me a bit to get used to paddling.  The kayaks also had no back support so my back immediately started hurting.

Nevertheless I pressed on and lead the group around an island to the closest landfall to the cache.

When we got there we discovered that the shoreline was covered in thick muck.  Stepping it in meant sinking in deep, sometimes past your ankles.  As a result only two of us made landfall and hiked the 100ft or so to the cache site.  Especially difficult as I was wearing sandals, and not my normal hiking boots.

This is a pic of the group heading towards the cache location.
Needless to say we found the cache.  I managed to get back into my kayak without flipping it, and we paddled the rest of the way around the island to the docks.
 Kayaking is one of the hardest things I have done in a long time.  I bike a lot, but kayaking uses the exact opposite group of muscles, so I was not in shape for all the paddling.  Needless to say I made it to shore, and was very thankful for lunch.

After lunch I just hung around and took some photos of the rafters, like this one:
And this one.

So that is my first kayak cache. Oh, about that other cache at the center... I found that immediately after arriving at the center.  I also used it later to show a co-worker all about geocaching.  She enjoyed it so hopefully I have a new recruit to the crazy hobby called geocaching.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Bears Go East: The Final Countdown

The following event happened on July 20th, 2013
For the past three weeks I have been on an epic road trip to explore the eastern seaboard of North America.  We have gone from our home in North Carolina up to Newfoundland, and are headed back.

We're close to the end. In fact today is our very last day on the road.  We are driving the exact same roads we drove on our first day, so a lot of the scenery looks familiar.  Despite this, we still managed to get in some adventures.

The first thing we did, after packing up the car and checking out of the hotel for the last time, was to drive over to the Iwo Jima memorial near Arlington Cemetery.
We then turned the Geovan of Destiny out of town, but before we got there we stopped at one more location.  This is the marker that used to be the most western edge of Washington DC.  Originally DC was a square, however for reasons I forget,  the land on the Virginia was returned to the state of Virginia.

We then hit the Interstate for a while, until we saw signs for the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library.

I happen to be a distant relative of Woodrow (great great nephew or something like that), so I figured I might as well stop by and have a little impromptu family reunion. Woody says hi.

After saying farewell to Woodrow, we drove pretty much straight home.  We arrived home around 6PM.

This has been an epic adventure.  Over the past 3 weeks we have travelled through 11 states, 4 provinces, and 1 district.  We have travelled by car, ferry, bus, subway, boat, and foot. We have seen parts of the world we have never experienced before, made new friends, and hung out with old ones.

All in all, it was an amazing trip.

Total geocaches found: 167

Status with Choice Hotels after staying with them for 19 nights: Platinum Elite.

Total mileage:

So that was our trip. Thanks for coming along with me! Hopefully it won't be too long before I go on another epic adventure. Until then... cheers!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Bears Go East: A Small Piece Of Canada In America

The following event happened (briefly) on July 19th, 2013
Frequent readers of this blog may be expecting this post to be about the last day of our road trip.  This is to be expected given the last post promised details about the last day of our road trip.  However I wanted to take a moment to share a short story about some place I visited while caching solo in DC. I thank you for your patience.

Readers of this blog may alsorecall that, while I live in North Carolina, I am a loud and proud Canadian citizen.

As a result, while I was exploring Washington DC I decided to hop over to Canada for a few minutes.

More specifically I visited the Canadian Embassy.

(semi)Interesting fact: the Canadian embassy is the closest embassy to the Capitol Building - not sure if this means anything except the symbolic meaning that we are the closest embassy to the Capitol building. (That fact may get you a pie slice in Trivia Pursuit some day. You are welcome).

As any proper American knows, it is always winter in Canada, so it should come as no surprise that the first things I saw when I went to Canada was this:
Actually I lied, The above was a photo hanging on the wall of an art gallery inside the Embassy.  The real first view is (appropriately) an inukshuk:

I didn't take a lot of photos inside cause: security.  So I went back outside.  The outside of the embassy has lots of raised gardens, and water falls. It is kinda nice actually, and a bit secluded from the hustle and bustle of the big city.

 No visit to Canada would be complete without some native art.
I did manage to meet the ambassador briefly while he was on his way to attend to some national business on the hill. That was kinda cool.

I then stepped back onto US soil and continued my day.  Thanks for allowing me a quick tangental story, and tomorrow I'll return you back to the final day of our epic road trip - for reals this time!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Bears Go East: The Nations Virtuals

The following events happened on July 19th, 2013
We are on the last days of an epicroad trip that has taken me and my family from our home in North Carolina, up the east coast of North America to Newfoundland, and back.

Well, almost back.  We still have two days left.  Yesterday we spent exploring the National Mall in Washington DC, and today we're spending it exploring the rest of the city.

I am using all of the virtual caches in the city as a tour guide, and it is working out amazingly well.

Yesterday we bought tickets to a hop-on/hop-off tour bus which were valid for 48 hours, and today we used that to full effect.  We started by taking the subway to the closest bus stop for the tour  (Arlington National Cemetery) and rode it until we got close to the White House:

It was evil hot (104f-ish) and no breeze, so we spent some time cooling off in a park.

This is the family waiting for the next bus.

Included in the bus tour was a cruise on the Potomac River, so we ate lunch on a boat, and watched the city as we floated by. This is the Watergate Hotel, the place that sunk Nixon.
Along the way I am pretty sure I saw Marine One, the helicopter that transports the President around.

After the boat ride my wife took the kids back to the hotel to beat the heat and get some nap times in, so I headed out on my own to explore the city solo.  I, of course, did some more virtuals. I mean, why not?  They are there, I am there... seems like everyone wins.  I like winning... makes me feel like a winner. Winning is good.

Anyway, the first virtual to come my way was at the Navy Memorial. This sculpture is called The Lone Sailor.

This sculpture is outside the Federal Trade Commission building.  I am sure it is meant to be symbolic of the struggle of something... I assume its the struggle of the world dealing with US trade policy.

After I stopped by Canada (nope, not a typo), I went to check out Fords Theatre.  Those of you who have paid any attention to US history may recall that President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth at Fords Theatre. The box in question was where the deed was done.

He was shot in this balcony.  True story! I heard it on Fox News!

The final place of the day was a stroll back around the White House and passed the Old Executive Office Building.  Its really just an old office building (and kinda ugly), but I've watched too much West Wing not to want to take some interest in the ol' OEOB.

After this I headed back to the hotel to get some food and sleep.  Tomorrow is our last day on this trip.  We still have a lot of miles to put on before we get home, and some more adventures to get into.  Stay tuned for the stunning conclusion of this epic road trip.