Sunday, November 29, 2009

Finding more than a good deal on Black Friday

Normally I don't leave the house on Black Friday. I'd rather pay a little extra than get up extra-early to stampede with a bunch of stuff-obsessed people like bovine-encephalitic cattle. I'd like to keep what faith I have left in humanity, thank you very much.

But this year I woke up and found myself alone (Brian had to work), with little homework and housework. I decided to fill the space by doing something I haven't done in a while - sit in a coffee house and read (Contact by Carl Sagan). I thought geocaching would be out of the question with muggles on high alert...but I knew of one recently-placed cache that I could grab on the way to the coffee house. Like a junkie, I said to myself, "just this one...I'm just going to get this one cache, then I'm going to read."

I arrived at the cache location and found it deserted. Beautiful.

I followed my iPhone to the coordinates and found...spider webs. So I started reading the recent logs and realized that the coords were off by 60-80 feet. Luckily, it's a boardwalk, so that narrowed down the possibilities, and after reading the description again, I expanded the search radius. When I finally found it, I was 92 feet away from the posted coordinates. How's that for geosenses?

Then I saw this thing. I'll entertain any guesses as to what it is. It's like a bird house designed by MC Escher.

By this time I had unashamedly decided to attempt the mystery cache nearby. I looked at the description and was completely baffled. So I cheated a little and started looking at the log photos for clues. One photo seemed promising, so I set out to find where it was taken. When I finally found that location, I was at the other end of the boardwalk. I realized that they must have parked on this end, and taken a picture before they started looking. Drat. I poked around for a bit, feeling utterly naked without my mirror. When some guy in a minivan asked if I needed a ride, I decided to get the eff out of there. As I walked back to my car I debated whether I should finish the morning drinking coffee and reading...or geocaching. I decided coffee.

When I got to the coffee shop, it was closed. Not closed-for-the-day closed, closed-forever closed. I considered driving to a Starbucks, but it felt like slapping god in the face. How could I ignore this obvious sign? I drove back to the house to plan some caches and charge my iPhone.

Over a bowl of Cheerios I made a list of caches, including a few mystery caches I recently solved. I also picked a multi. Up until now I've only done traditional caches. I wasn't ambitious enough to do a multi (remember I don't have a real GPSr), and not smart enough to solve a mystery. However, I recently got a boost of confidence from reading Digital Fortress (Dan Brown), which is kinda like DaVinci Code (only kinda), but with cryptography and the NSA. I don't know why, but all of a sudden some of the puzzles started making sense. I decoded the messages and ended up with logical I had to trust Motion-X (iPhone GPS app) to get me where I was going. I have grown quite accustomed to Groundspeak's app, so this was a little scary.

The first one was a bust. I drove up and down this one road 50 times. Every road I tried to turn down was gated or clearly posted "authorized vehicles only." I'm a wuss, I know. Again, I turned to the recent logs and found that others had experienced this problem...until they figured out the correct coordinates. My retardedness was confirmed. Smrt, just like Homer Simpson.

Not to be deterred, I headed in the direction of another mystery cache. I parked as close as I could, but soon realized I would need to go into the woods, which was really not cool considering I was already 0-1 for mystery caches. Luckily I didn't really have to do any bushwhacking, there was a clear path straight into the woods. I arrived at what I thought was the location and started snooping around. Not surprisingly, the tree cover messed with the signal, causing my GZ to bounce all over the place. After about 15 minutes, I was ready to walk away. But then I read the description again, which made reference to another cache I had already done, and suddenly it was clear. I found the cache a mere 30 seconds later.

Next I revisited a series of four caches I found a month ago. At the time I didn't realize that each held a clue to the coordinates of a fifth mystery cache. This process was relatively smooth until I grabbed the third cache and something was living in it. I don't know what it was, it moved quickly and had a I'm thinking spider. The coordinates took me to a location that would normally be crawling with muggles, so it worked out that I grabbed it when I did.

Full of ambition, I drove towards the multi-cache I had picked to be my first. I was looking forward to visiting all these different locations, but it didn't work out that way. The cache was a locked utility box mounted on a telephone pole. The key was hidden that's why it was a multi. I was under the impression that a multi was a string of caches where each cache had coordinates for the next. Apparently not.

About a million people saw me open up the cache, but I wasn't worried because if they came back they wouldn't be able to find the key. I'm just surprised some paranoid Progress Enegy employee hasn't reported this thing and had it blown up.

While the rest of America got killer deals on electronics and the latest hamptser toy, I got some cache glory. I'll do my Christmas shopping later. Don't be surprisd if your stocking is filled with swag.

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