Saturday, October 25, 2014

Going Caching: Chariot Races

One of the great things about the Going Caching Mega event is that there is always something else going on.

Yesterday I covered the majority of the details of the main event, however I left off a significant activity - mainly because it deserved its own post.

That event was the Chariot Race.

Yes, you read that right.

Chariots actually fit the Roman theme of the event.  Its also one of the coolest concepts I've seen for an event activity.

Each team (I think there were 8, not sure tho) build their own chariots.  Each chariot carries one person, who acts as a navigator, and two other people pulling it along the course.

Some of the chariots were very well detailed, including this one from the Upstate South Carolina Geocaching Association.  The dry ice used when the chariot was unveiled was an awesome touch.
The racers went two at a time around the course.  The fastest time went to the next round.
The most interesting thing about this race is that no one ran the same course.... at least not at the same time.  Each team was given a series of waypoints, and the navigator in the chariot told the pullers where to go.  The only consistent thing about each course was that they were all 500ft long.

You can see the navigator with her GPSr in this next photo.
This dramatic shot is the team rushing back across the finish line.
I didn't catch every race, but I did catch the final.  This is the two finalists racing off the line.
Rushing around the course, and making there way back...
... and across the line.
So that was the chariot race.  The winners got money prizes, we call got some fun times.

At this point I've covered the main points of the Mega, but remember the character of this event: there is always something else going on.  This means there are plenty of details left to cover, but that is going to have to wait until the next post.

Stay tuned.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Going Caching: The Mega Event

Thinking of Going Caching as just another Mega would be a huge mistake. It is, in reality, a super long weekend of awesome geocaching events and activities.

Having said that, one of the events of that weekend is an official Mega event. This post covers the details of that event.

The event happened in Ridge Ferry Park in Rome Georgia on Saturday October 18, 2014. The weather was 70s, and sunny.  One couldn't ask for a better day.

With Going Caching there is always more going on that meets the eye, and there is always something odd and unique going on.  Having said that, this event had many of the standard things found at any Mega event I have ever been too.  For example, there were many vendors selling geocaching related merchandise.
The Georgia Geocaching Association hosted Geo-Bingo.  The card is 20 squares with various descriptions in it i.e. "Has 10,000 finds", "Has only been caching for a year", "Has cached in a foreign country", etc.  The idea is to talk to other geocachers to find folks who match the descriptions, and if they do, get them to sign a square.  Once all 20 squares are full, the cacher is entered into a drawing.  It only took me 30 minutes to fill my card.
The log was a nicely done scroll, which fit into the Roman theme quite nicely. I got an action shot of Yours Truly signing it.
There was a silent auction, featuring custom made geocaches.  The caches were judged by Jeremy Irish (of Groundspeak fame), and the winner got a prize.  I won the middle spaceship cache in the auction.
Going Caching is famous for its creative caches, and this year was no exception.  This year had the Five Senses challenge.  The challenge involved finding and solving 5 in-field puzzle caches themed after the five human senses: sight, sound, taste, touch, smell.  Each cache has a stamp, that is recorded on a passport.  Once one has all 5 stamps, one can solve a puzzle on the passport which leads them to a 6th cache.
The 6th cache was actually on the main stage at the Mega event.  It involved going thru 4 rooms. Each room required one to solve a puzzle to get thru to the next.  It required team work.  Once the 4th room was accessed one got a 6th stamp, for the passport.  The completed passport could be traded in for a geocoin.  These are pics from the rooms.
The first 5 caches are published caches so I won't describe them.  The 6th was temporary, so I can give more details without giving spoilers.

The first room had a series of lights, and a throne.  To get through, several people (to get over 400lbs) had to sit on the throne.  When they did some of the lights went out.  These lights led to the code to the exit door, and the next room.

The next room was glowing with blacklight.  The walls were covered with glowing numbers and stars. Around the room had a bunch of doorbells.  All 5 doorbells had to be pressed at the same time, which caused a laser to shine on one of the numbers, revealing the code for the exit door.

The third room had a bowl of golf balls, and a series of holes in the wall.  One had to put the balls in the top row of holes, and watch which holes at the bottom the ball came out of.  Each hole was coded, and the order led to the exit code.

The final room had the stamp for the passport.

Coolest cache ever, right?

So my day was filled with a lot of fun activities.  At the end of the day we all gathered for a group photo.  I am in the back row, right in front of the brown awning on the left side.


So that was the Mega event in a nutshell, except... well... remember when I said there was always something else going on?  The Mega event had a whole other activity going on I haven't mentioned yet.  I left a couple clues in the previous post, however to get the true answer you'll have to wait until the next post.  Ain't I evil?

Stay tuned!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Going Caching: Cruising The Coosa

The City of Rome Georgia lies at the confluence of 3 rivers and 5 hills.

For a geocacher exploring 5 hills over a long weekend of caching is practically a foregone conclusion. However exploring the rivers is a different story entirely (especially for someone who doesn't own a boat of any kind, and arrived in town in a rented Mazda 2).

So I was stoked when one of the activities advertised for the Going Caching long weekend was a boat cruise along two of these rivers.

To top it off, they had placed a special cache that would only be available via a boat.

When I strategized my weekend I realized that the best time for me to go was the very first cruise, so on Friday at 10 AM I boarded the boat named Roman Holiday and headed out on a cruise.

The first stop was to grab the cache, which was magnetically attached to a bridge support.  Since this was the first cruise of the day, and this cache can only be found via a boat, First To Find honours were up for grabs.

To avoid the rush, the captain proclaimed that the person who had travelled the farthest to be here would get the honours.  That person happened to be Jeremy Irish (yes, *that* Jeremy Irish), as he hails from Seattle Washington, and most of the rest of the boat came from the southern states.
To save time they had two containers, one left behind, and one brought on board so folks could sign the log during the rest of the cruise (next cruise they are swapped out again for the next group, etc.). Here is Jeremy celebrating his FTF.
With the business of geocaching taken care of, we settled in for a leisurely 45 minute cruise down the Coosa and Oostanaula Rivers.
It was a bit chilly that day, but the waters were nice and calm, perfect for a selfie.
 As we worked our way thru town, some of the city landmarks made an appearance. All the while the captain gave us both an explanation of what we were seeing, and some of the history of the area.
Halfway thru the cruise the Captain started spinning a tale which he quite readily admitted was completely fake.  Then he mentioned that a famous character had a Rome GA citizen to thank for his popularity.  That character is...
Popeye the Sailor Man (toot toot). Yep, Popeye the Sailor Man (toot toot). He was strongs to the finich, cause he ates his spinach. He's Popeye the Sailor Man! (toot toot!)

(in case you are wondering, we really did sing the song - it was very geek nostalgic).

Then we had a bit more tour, and views of the rivers.
I'll leave you with one more picture of myself with Jeremy Irish, just to point out  the fact that while Jeremy may be one of the founders of Groundspeak and an elder statesman of geocaching, *I* am taller.




Thus concludes the tale of the time I found a T5 cache with the founder of geocaching.com.

Afterwards we docked and headed off to do some geocaching (remember geocaching?  This is a blog about geocaching). However that is going to have to wait for upcoming posts. Tho it may interest you to know that cars and boats were not the only types of transportation used this weekend...

Stay Tuned!


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Going Caching: Tempus Fugit Flash Mob

Going Caching, while technically a one-day Mega event held in Rome Georgia, is really 4.5 days packed with back-to-back events, with some great geocaching in between.

In total there were 10 events, including a coffee social, picnics, murder mystery night, comedy shows, tales from ancient Rome, a geocaching film festival, and a farewell breakfast.

One of the most memorable events, and one of the first, was the flash mob held on Thursday morning at Clock Tower Hill in the middle of town.

Since the theme of the Mega was ancient Rome, several of the events, including the flash mob, asked members to dress in togas, and various other roman themed costumes.
Music was played by select members of the Rome Symphony.  We all sang Thats Amore.  Seemed an odd choice at first.
We all milled around the base of the clock tower for a few minutes, checking out the various costumes, and singing a tune.
At one point one of the volunteers made a proclamation, then he made his way down the tower for a "surprise."
He then walked over to another cacher (Groundspeaks September Geocacher Of The Month, no less), and proposed to her.  Thats Amore makes a lot more sense now!
After the flash mob, the Rome-Floyd Visitors Center opened up the tower so we could all go up and check out the views.  Apparently the tower is only open to the public for an hour once a month, so going up the tower was quite an honour.  The views from up there were spectacular.
As it turned out, the city ended up doing a lot for the cachers over the weekend.  Over and over we were given special treatment, and waived parking fees for events.  I think we made a good impression on the town.

This was only the second of 10 events, and I had a whole lot of geocaching left to do.  However those stories will have to wait for future posts.

Stat tuned!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Going Caching: Stone Mountain

Now that I am back from my Going Caching road trip, I can resume telling the stories about my trip. I was so busy having fun I didn't have time to blog about it while I was there - which, really, is the best way to experience life, don'tcha think?.

My mission for this trip was to attend the Mega Event known as Going Caching, which this year was held in Rome Georgia.  Along the way I explored parts of Georgia I had never seen before, and got into various adventures and hi-jinxes.

So to recap, on Tuesday I drove from my house in western North Carolina to mid Georgia.  I did some exploring along the way and ended the day strategically placed near my next days adventure:  Hiking up Stone Mountain.

Stone Mountain, located a smidge northeast of Atlanta, is a rather large dome of rock.  5 miles in circumference at its base, and over 800ft higher then the surrounding area.  They claim that it is the largest exposed piece of granite in the world (tho thats a mis-nomer as its also made up of other rocks like quartzy stuff, which, not being a geologist, ends up reading like "quartz-blah blahbitty blah bah", so I am sticking with "granite-ish".)

The top of the rock is quite large, and can be accessed via an areal tram, or by a 1.3 mile long pathway called Walk Up Trail.  My mission today was to hike up this trail.

As you would expect from something advertised as the largest piece of exposed granite(-ish) in the world, the "trail" was pretty much all stone and rock.
Tho, for a large hunk of rock there were a surprisingly large number of trees.   I love trees growing into rocks - and this was a whole forrest of it. It pleased me greatly to walk among such hardy survivors.
There are a surprisingly large number of caches on Stone Mountain, and even more in the large park that surrounds it.  On my hike up the mountain proper, I did 5 virtuals, 3 earth caches, and a handful of regular caches, including one at this old relic of a machine, just off the main path, but definitely not something the vast majority of hikers get to see.
I am not entirely sure what this old relic used to be.  I had thought some sort of water pump, but it may have also been a generator of some kind.  Either way, it is not in use anymore.

The last 1500ft or so along the trail is very steep.  At places there are railings to give hikers support while working their way up.  I took advantage of every extra bit I could get - not so much because of the physical effort, but to help maintain my balance.

Eventually I made it to the top, and was treated to amazing views like this. (I also took the time to take some selfies - thats me hiking in the next photo - thank you GorillaPod + camera timer setting!)
One nice thing about being on top of a gigantic granite(-ish) dome is that there are very few trees to obstruct your view.   This is fortunate, otherwise I'd not get this stunning view of the Atlanta skyline (approx. 10 miles away).
One of the earth caches is at the highest point on the mountain.  I met a lovely couple from Florida at the GZ for the earth cache, and we ended up doing that cache, and one of the virtuals near by together. They are the couple in this next photo:
I ended up wandering off to the far side of the tram pillar, where few visitors seem to tread.  I sat for a while, took some photos, ate a snack, and enjoyed the beautiful day, and some more of the amazing views:
Eventually it was time to head down the mountain.  I considered all of the options presented to me to exfiltrate myself off the rock, and decided to use the age old geocaching motto "hard way in, easy way out".  Yep, I took the tram.
Interesting fact I learned along the way.  See those puddles in the above photo of the tram? According to the informational signs, there are species of shrimp that live in those puddles.  Seems crazy to me, but signs never lie, right?

On the way down I got my first view of the largest stone carvings in the world.
The carving is a Confederate memorial featuring President Jefferson Davis, "Stonewall" Jackson, and in the middle,  Robert E. Lee.  The carving takes up an impressive 3 acres of space on the side of the mountain.  The space on the back of Lees horse can fit two full size school busses.  According to the tour guide lady on the tram the sculpture is taller than Mount Rushmore.

The word "impressive" doesn't do it justice.

Once I got back down the mountain, I hiked along the edge back to my car.  My next stop was Rome Georgia, and the beginning of an amazing geocaching experience known as Going Caching.

Stay tuned!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Contest: Win A Travel Bugs CD!

Four years ago The Travel Bugs released their first CD of geocaching themed music, called Found It!

Now they have started a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for their next album: Pimp Your Cache!

To celebrate this, the folks at The Travel Bugs have provided Only Googlebot Reads This Blog with an autographed album to give away via this blog to one of my lucky readers.

To win, simply drop your contact info in the form below, and you will be entered into the drawing.  If you are not familiar with The Travel Bugs, feel free to watch this brilliant music video first.


If you like what you hear, you can win the entire album by dropping your info in the form below.  

You may also consider contributing to their kickstarter campaign to help support their latest album: Pimp Your Cache!  If it ends up anything like the first album, you won't regret it.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Gone Caching

I am currently in Rome GA for the Going Caching Mega Event (extra long) weekend.  The first of 11 events starts tonight.  I am likely going to be too busy at the events to keep up this blog.  I will resume posts and coverage of the events (and resulting shenanigans) when I get back home.

If you are coming to Rome, I hope to see you soon! (there is still time to make it - the main event is Saturday).

I will likely post updates to my Google Plus profile, so you can follow me there. But for now, I'm hanging out my "Gone Caching" sign: