Thursday, May 29, 2008

If you had told me a month ago I would have a GPS, I would have said "Why?". I commute 80 miles to work everyday, but I've done the route for close to 20 years. I think I have it down by now and I can read a map. I'll admit those Tom-Tom things look pretty cool but I don't need it. Then one of my students mention Geocaching in one of my classes. I looked up the site and bookmarked it for later viewing.

The High Priestess has been talking about doing some more "family fun" stuff over the Memorial weekend. OK, I remember this site and suggest "Treasure Hunting" with Geocaching. I always do a dry run with new things just so it goes smoothly. My experience has taught me that exposing the kids to a new activity, the more wrinkle and problem free the activity is the better the chance that the kids and the wife will like it. So I figure instead of blowing my summer budget on gas I can get some cool stuff and play close to home.

I run out to my favorite electronics store (Best Buy) and pick one of these: Etrex-Legend GPS. I take it home and set it up. Very Cool, I got something that talks with satellites in space. I know my cell phone and some of my other toys sort do this , but this is sooooo much cooler. I find my house. I walk around the house. I walk down the block. Ok...this could be fun.

Technowitch is the only one really excited about hunting for treasures. Probably because I always get the rolling eye when I hatch one of my scheme. HP kinda wants to go, but Technowiz is way behind on his school work and needs a parent to use the cattleprod on him.

I prep by downloading some cache site coordinates and maps. I find there a lot of caches close by. I could walk or bike there, but remember the "Make This Fun" rule. I pile Technowitch into the van and off we go. The first couple of site are a wash, and after some time looking we call it quits and move to another place. We come to a park I've seen dozens of times but have never entered. Technowitch takes off, I follow the GPS. We find a "Hidden" entrance to the park, and start looking when the coordinates on the GPS match our notes. No luck. Technowitch decodes the hint on the computer printout.

Bingo! We find it. Dang that cache is small. I bet you would never see it unless someone points it out. The cache is like a dead drop from a Cold War spy novel. It's exciting. I've always love hiding secret message as a child, exploring and finding hidden places. The only thing in this micro-cache is a log. Just a small strip of paper you sign to prove to everyone else you were here. We sign it and put it back.

Ok, Technowitch and I have the bug now. She calls her mom and talks her ear off. She want to go again after dinner. This time the whole crew and I go out. We look for another cache in the same park. We find it, and move to a new locations. We find two more, all places we have driven or walk by a dozen times before. This is a lot like orienteering I did in Boy Scouts and summer camp. These things are all over the place! There are close to half a million of these cache all over the world.

I won't call Geocaching a sport, but it is fun. I go buy books, a compass, and upgrade my GPS with maps for all of North America. There are plugins for Google Earth that mark geocaches, the state of Iowa lights up like a Christmas tree. I'm in heaven!

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