I am a proud

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Gymkana Urbana

Let me tell you about an urban cache in Santiago, Chile.  It's a little different from the previous caches I've described because it is a multi-cache.  These have several stages and can be a fun challenge as you go from place to place in a relatively not-to-distant area.  Earlier this year I had some free time while on a trip to Sanitago.  I headed out early one morning before my meetings started to get some exercise and caching in.  I came to the coordinates but the park was all closed.  I jogged back to where I was staying and decided to come back after my meetings.  It was summer in Santiago so the days were longer.  When I went back the first stage called for me to find find a statue and take down some information and incert it into an equation to find the coordinates of the next location.  I entered the park at the main gate and climbed the hill and down the other side. The first location turned out to be outside the park.  I could have done that stage of the hunt during the morning but didn't know it.  Now that I had the coordinates to the second stage of the hunt, off I went, back into the park.  I climbed the hill again.  This hill is natural, not man-made.  It sits near the historic center of Santiago and is known as Cerro Santa Lucia.  It is where the first Spanish conquerers set up camp to protect themselves from the Mapuche Indians who then lived in the area.  I climbed to the coordinates and found myself looking for a micro-sized container in a wall.  There were lots of muggles (non-geocachers who have no clue what you are doing and generally think you are a lunatic feeling all the rocks in a wall) in the area.  Finally I found it behind a small stone stuck in the join between stone blocks in the wall.  Another equation but this time I have to incert the Mapuche name for something (to give this away would be a spoiler) into the equation.  I check with a vendor on top of the hill and get my answer.  There is a nice view of that part of town from on top.  Off I went again, this time tracking to the coordinates.  Another stone wall.  This time there's a park bench pretty much in front of where the cache is supposed to be.  Muggles are everywhere.  There is a couple and the guy is teaching the girl to juggle balls about 50 feet in one direction.  Are they watching me? About the time I think they are absorbed in their lessons, along come seven traffic policemen on their motorcycles riding the trail and then stop to have a cigarette break about 50 feet down the trail and in plain sight of me.  So I sit there pretending to be writing something.  I actually wrote a stupid poem while waiting.  Don't ask, I've lost the poem since.  These guys get long breaks. They like to have never left.  Between writing lines of the poem I was studying the wall from the bench.  Where can it be?  At last I spotted a very small rounded pebble stuck in a joint between stones in the wall.  Now, how do I get to this without the policemen, who are joking around, seeing me and thinking that I'm stashing drugs or something there?  Finally I am able to lean forward on the bench and snatch away the stone.  I could just see a small 35 mm container in the join.  It took some probing to finally get it out.  By now I didn't really care what the police would think.  Fortunately they were not paying me much attention.  At last, the logbook and the find! This cache took me several hours of sealthy observation and searching but it paid of in the end. Geocaching is a way to reduce stress.  After a day of stressful indoor meetings, this was a great way to end the day!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Trantulla Alley Cache, New Mexico

I had a wonderful visit to a really different part of the US, namely, New Mexico two hours west of Amarillo. I've been to Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Glorietta, all in New Mexico. Boy was this different. Actually the terrain was more interesting as I moved into New Mexico. It was pretty much flat and dusty in the Texas panhandle. In New Mexico there was some terrain relief along historic route 66. As I drove along I could see the plateau rising to the south. This plateau just continues on to the south. Not but about 20 miles into New Mexico I came to the small ranching community and town of San Jon. This is where my friends live. I called to get specific directions while at the visitor center and told them I'd be about two hours more before arriving. There was a cache calling my name. From San Jon I went about five miles south on a straight road to where I climbed up on the plateau. As I approached I could see the wind farm on top. There must have been 30 giant windmills turning in the sunny and strong wind. My GPSr brought me up to the top and then into a large public park area. I parked the car and followed the needle. I came to a large canyon running out to the east. The embankment was too steep to get down so I had to back track and find an easier and safer way down. The cache was down in the canyon. It is called Tarantulla Alley (GCH4VZ), a fitting name as the area has its share. The climb was interrupted only by the occasional sound of a small rodent moving in the brush and the constant swishing sound as the giant blades of the windmills on the hill above me kept pace with each other. Down in the canyon there was little wind. The climb down took about 15 minutes. I found a gully wash carved by snow run off which made the descent easier. Sure enough, the cache was right where the coords predicted. What a vista all the way down the canyon. The eastern end opens up to the great plain leading back towards Texas. In no time I was noticing that my hands were drying up due to the lack of moisture. I'd take care of that later, for now I wanted to take in all the beauty of this strange place. Had it not been for geocaching I'd have near known about this place, much less come stumbled upon it. I like caching in groups but today was a great day to be alone and enjoy the beauty of God's creation.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Travel Bug Hotel

I have to use it or lose it when it comes to vacation. My vacation days don't roll over after the year ends. This usually results in me having to take a number of days of at the end of the year. Actually it has been great to have the days off. Since being laid up after shoulder surgery and then having several trips in December, I was still holding a number of Travel Bugs I'd brought back from the US. I was under conviction because I'd had these in my hands for about a month and they really needed to be placed. Finally, in the days between Christmas and New Years I was able to go drop half of these in Karen's Caper Travel Bug Hotel (GC182AC). But I had brought back a lot of TBs. The best solution was to create another Travel Bug Hotel. I don't know what you think and I am interested so please use the comment option to share your thoughts. I believe that if someone creates a Travel Bug Hotel that he or she should be willing to allow the travel bugs to flow freely in and out with no restrictions. I've come across a few TB hotels in the past that specified that you had to trade one TB for one TB. Now if we are talking about swag, that is a good rule. But if we are talking about trackables which have a misson to travel, then to place these restrictions is to limit the ability of the TB to complete its mission. If someone can take one or all of the TBs and help them on their way to complete their mission, then I'm for it! I once heard another blogger call these types of restrictive caches "prisons", not "hotels". He might be on to something. I made the decision to make my TB hotels open. Don't want anybody singing Hotel California around here ("you can check out... but you can never leave"). Anyway.... I took along a muggle who was interested in learning about geocaching and showed him how to do it all. He helped me hide a second TB Hotel named Brandon's Travel Bug Boarding House (GC1K4MD). The first hotel is named for my granddaughter so her brother was waiting his turn. Now I hope that given the freedom to move any and all these TBs along some of our tourist geocachers coming through Quito will help us out!

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Cadillac Ranch Cache, Amarillo, Texas

Recently I was blessed with the opportunity to visit some friends in the Dallas-Ft Worth area and in northern New Mexico. Naturally my GPSr went with me. I flew into DFW from Ecuador and drove west to Weatherford, TX. I used the last three hours of daylight to hunt caches along the way. I was saddened by the number of businesses that have closed down leaving vacant parking lots. Many of these have become the location of caches in a series about vacant parking lots. While in Weatherford I had meetings most of the day so I had to get up early to grab a few caches. My caching time was limited there. The next day I took an American flight up to Amarillo, arriving early in the morning. Wow! A whole day to cache in a place with lots of caches! Being from North Carolina originally and living in the Andes Mountains now this flat land is something to get used to. I found a series of caches headed out of town to the west. The weather was sunny, windy and cold. I could see for miles and miles. Probably the caching highlight on this leg of the trip was the Cadilla Ranch virtual cache (GCG71X). Just west of Amarillo on the south side of I-40. Here is the description from the actual cache page:

The Cadillac Ranch, located along the tatters of historic Route 66, was built in 1974, brainchild of Stanley Marsh 3, the helium millionaire who owns the dusty wheat field where it stands. Marsh and The Ant Farm, a San Francisco art collective, assembled used Cadillacs representing the "Golden Age" of American Automobiles (1949 through 1963). The ten graffiti-covered cars are half-buried, nose-down, facing west "at the same angle as the Cheops' pyramids.

I doubled back at the next exit and pulled onto the service road. I joined a group of several families who had stopped to check out this interesting piece of Americana. It seems that that the tradition is to spray paint something somewhere on or inside the shell of the Cadillac remains. There are ten buried there! I recommend this one to all that travel this way. I continued on my trek westward and found a few more interesting caches. In Vega, Texas I came across two nice caches. Both are historically significant. One was The Vega Magnolia Station Returns (GCPZH1). It is an old gas station that is being maintained in its 1930's look as a reminder of the way things were along historic Route 66. It is situated at the midway point between Chicago and Los Angeles. The cache was in the adjoining park. Just a little west but still in Vega I found the Plains Pioneers (GCP5BQ) cache. This small municipal museum of farm equipment is worth a stop. Both sites are free of charge and are reminder of recent American history.