Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Going Caching: Official Event Geocoin

Hold on to your hats, for I am about to show you a true piece of art.

The official geocoin of this years Going Caching was, in a work, remarkable.  First of all it was large - twice the diameter of a normal coin, and the middle swiveled:

Very impressive, right?

The markings on the coin were used as a key to solve a cypher as part of a large puzzle cache that took finders on a tour of Broad Street - the main street in Rome, Georgia.

One of the basic characteristics of Going Caching is that there is always more than meets the eye. This coin is no exception. The face on the back is removable, and can be repositioned.

Cool, right?  But we're not done yet.

The backing also removes to reveal a key.  This key is used to open the final cache.
This is, hands down, the coolest geocoin I have ever seen.  Don't you agree?

Phraseology

As I was drifting off to sleep, and thinking of a conversation I had on the Internet just before bedtime, I thought up the following phrase.  I am now officially submitting this to the unofficial Geocaching Dictionary:

Snuggle Muggle noun \ˈsnə-gəl mə-gəl\  The non-geocaching spouse, or "significant other", of a geocacher.



Sunday, October 26, 2014

Going Caching: Cachius Experimentus

The Going Caching Mega Event in Rome GA was home to some excellent geocaches placed specifically for the event.

This years lab caches were a shining example of that.

If you are not aware, lab caches are special caches placed around Mega events.  These caches are temporary, lasting only a few days, and are intended to give geocachers the flexibility and freedom to experiment with new hide styles.

To claim a lab cache one needs to enter a code into the cache listing for the website. i.e. there is no log book.  So this opens the door to a lot of possibilities.

Also, because lab caches are temporary, I can tell you all about them without giving away spoilers. 

The first lab cache I did was on a walking bridge over one of the rivers that runs through town. This bridge is also a place where people have placed love locks.  The code is finding two locks that spell a common geocaching phrase: TFTC.
Another lab cache required the finders to tune into a specific radio station to get the code word.

Rome Georgia is a town situated on 5 hills and three rivers. Several of the lab caches were used to bring cachers to some of these picturesque hills and rivers, like Myrtle Hill, pictured below.
Another pretty spot was this cemetery, which was located up a series of awesome stone stairs.  Pictured is the backs of FailedApparatus and HoosierSunshine, cacher friends who I ended up finding the majority of these caches with.  Most of these labs were solved simply by finding a word on a sign at GZ. Of the 10 lab caches, 6 were caches like this.


The remaining two caches were a different sort all together, and in my experience, utterly unique.
The first led us to a bench at the tourist bureau in town, and indicated one could see the code from the seat.
So we sat and looked.  We saw some words on signs etc, but nothing seemed to work as the code. Then we lifted the seat lid, and inside we found an ammo can.  Inside the ammo can where two boxes containing ViewMasters.  When I looked at the pictures, I saw that each picture was a landmark from the town, with the name spelled out, all in capital letters, except one letter per word.
We wrote out the small letters, and we came up with a word: tourist. Sure enough, that was the code.

The last lab cache was something truly remarkable. The coordinates lead you to the back of a building at a museum where you find a fenced off sandbox, about 8ft square. Hidden in the sand were shards of pottery. We started gathering up the shards, and ended up with bits from 4 different vases.
Some of the shards had some letters written on them. We theorized that the code word could be obtained by re-assembling the pottery shards, then reading the word from the completed pot.  It took us a long time to get this sorted out.  The word ended up being 'potitor', which according to Google Translate means "obtained."
The pottery lab cache is one of the most involved field puzzles I have ever seen, and I think it highlights the spirit of the lab caches:  experimenting with new caches or new cache ideas.  They definitely set a new high bar for lab caches at future Megas.  These are definitely the sort of caches that one walks away from with an overwhelming sense that they just experienced true genius at work. Very well done, indeed.

So, this ends the geocaching stories from Going Caching. There are a few more posts coming about the collectables from the event, of which there are quite a few, including an absolutely stunning geocoin.

Stay tuned!

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!