Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Long Road to 300 Finds

After three exhausting months post-surgery, Brian and I decided to take a much-needed mini vacation. I booked a super cheap room on Hotwire (highly recommend it). We ended up in a 7th story ocean-front balcony at the Doubletree on Indialantic beach. My first indication that we were going to have a good time was when the front desk person complimented my True Blood tee. The second was the free cookie (even though it was over-cooked). Oh yeah, I believe in signs.

The next morning, I woke up early in anticipation of a fantastic day. While Brian slept in, I started mapping out caches. Not that it did much good, the first few were duds. We encountered a veritable sea of muggles, plus, I made the mistake of heading south. This meant I was contstantly making lefts and u-turns; not an easy feat on a busy road near the beach. I resolved to drive south aimlessly and then cache our way back.

We drove for about 30 minutes and soon found ourselves far from the sunscreen-slathered beaches of Melbourne. I pulled over at the Barrier Island Sanctuary to run a new list of caches. Lo and behold, there was one nearby on a trail maintained by the Sanctuary.

Our first find of the day almost didn't happen when I spotted this banana spider. Despite their relative harmlessness, the mere sight of one practically induces an aneurism.

Luckily, the cache wasn't over there.

This cache container was one I had never seen before. It was a green/gray jar about a foot tall with measurements listed on the side. Whatever it is, it's well-suited for geocaching. In the photo below you can see the cache, and the Sanctuary in the background.

Next, we headed a litte further south for some caches in/around Long Point recreation area. This cache took us a while to pinpoint due to bad reception. Turned out it was also hung in such a way that it was only visible from one angle - very clever.

I'm not really sure what the container is, though. It was a bit bigger than a 35mm, but the cap had these swirls of plastic. It reminded me of the bottles of soap bubbles I played with as a kid.

The next complication due to bad reception lead us past the next "planned" cache and onto the Isle of Redneck. Let's just say my European car wasn't exactly welcome. Luckily, there was a cache nearby, so we grabbed that one.

I might not have been able to find this cache if some d-bag hadn't defaced it with a gold sticker. As it was originally intended, the cache was a small silver ziplock, stuck to a piece of metal via a magnet. Retrieval was further complicated by the location's natural shadow AND the wasp sentry guarding it. Snagging the cache wasn't too hard, but replacing it (lining up the magnets) attacted the attention of said wasps and I narrowly escaped without a sting.

On our way out of the recreation area, we stopped to look for the cache we'd passed earlier. The coords weren't particularly accurate, so it took a while, but I was pretty impressed once I found it. The design was simple - a waterproof match container with some leaves glued to it. What made it tough was it's placement beneath a branch. You would expect the leaves there to be a bit darker, which is why it blends reasonably well.

The next cache I attempted was only difficult because I was not dressed appropriately. Shorts and flip flops were not the best choice for a sandy hill riddled with cactus, century plants, and cabbage palms. Case in point - whilst I scuttled up that particular hill, one of my flip flops shifted in the sand, I lost my balance, and left a blood sample on the leftmost plant. Yeah, I found the cache, but it wasn't worth blood loss.

What happened next, I am not proud of. It's a period of my life I would like to forget. And it all started with those simplest of phrases, "are you hungry?" The answer was yes. Ravenously hungry. Deliriously hungry. Hungry enough for us to spend the next 90 minutes driving in circles and screaming at each other. Actually, most of that was me, but Brian snuck a few zingers in there. After checking out several places and finding them closed at weird times or just not to our liking, we finally settled on Bunky's Raw Bar. The food wasn't amazing, but it was good, and cheap, and the restaurant was filled with a variety of saltwater tanks. We sat next to one with a puking eel and hermit crabs well-versed in the art of futility. Seriously. It was cool.

Gastronomically satisfied, we continued the pursuit of 300 finds. Before Bunky's we stood at 298. I wish I'd found just one more cache before this one, making this one #300, because it will be on my top 10 for a while. This cache was a deceptively easy 4/1. The first step was searching this walkway for the cache, which I found in about 2 minutes. Since locating the cache is the easy part, I will momentarily break my policy of not naming caches. This one is called Frogger, aptly named because of how it feels to dart back and forth on the walkway.

I found the bison tube hanging from a piece of fishing wire in the triangularish space between two metal pipes and the concrete wall. I figured all I needed was to snag it with a pair of tweezers and I would be home free, but it wasn't that easy. Turns out, the bison tube was too large to fit between the wall and the pipes, which meant that my only option was to lift it out through the top.

Oh, not so fast. The way out was blocked by rocks clerverly wedged in spots where chunks of concrete were missing. I say cleverly because the rocks were not actually removable, just shift-able. Armed with tweezers in one hand and a pen in the other, I had to scoot the rocks into the right positions using a motion that I call "fruious knitting."

Once I had done all that (a good 20 minutes later) I was finally able to snake the cache out from it's hiding spot. I was pretty freakin' proud of myself.

Finally, we reached the ominous #300. The first candidate didn't work out. As I stood at the edge of some trees assessing the best way in, I heard someone behind me say "There's a cache is in there." I ignored it, for fear, this muggle would go find the cache for me, which has happened before. And then they said it again. I turned around to see a scruffy homeless (presumably) guy, who now said, "Cats! There's ferral cats in there." Oh.

So we moved on to the next cache. Following suit with what seemed to be a huge problem in this area, a muggle was hanging out at a table near GZ and a group was setting up for some kind of party. The set-up crew was totally occupied, but the guy was in a position to block by 300th find. We sat in the car for a few minutes assessing the situation, watching this guy shift in his seat, hunched over something. We narrowed the something down to a book or a can of beer. Whatever it was, he seemed pretty focused on it, so I decided to head for the trees behind him.

I was successful, I suppose. My plan was to walk confidently and acknowledge him with a smile or a hello or something when he looked up...which he totally did not. Nope, that book was way more interesting than the chick scurrying towards the trees. He also didn't notice when I darted in and out of the trees avoiding spider webs. I can only assume this happens all the time.

Anyway, I found the cache, pushing me out of the 200's forever. It was not as satisfying a moment as I had hoped.

Needless to say, I was...sweaty and Brian was in desperate need of a pool, but there was there was still time for one last cache. On the way back to the hotel was a cache that has great potential, but is in need of a little fine tuning.

With a fresh coat of red paint and a little more thought put into the camo (chunks of concrete just don't cut it), this cache could really blend in with it's surroundings.

The only thing that made this cache a tiny bit difficult was that I wasn't expecting it. Upon seeing a large, red, metal structure, I immediately whipped out my mirror and started looking for a magnano. I was wrong. *Gasp!*

After what was arguably my crankiest cache session yet, we went back to the hotel, and we relaxed. We watched some TV, hung out on our balcony and watched the ocean, and swam in the hotel pool. I was so relaxed that when some bratty little kid walked around the pool kicking water at people, I said, "Cut that out, you're being very rude," instead of tripping her.

One of the highlights of our little trip was seeing the sea turtle mounds on the beach and u-shaped turtle tracks in the sand. I can't even tell you how much I wished we would get to see a hatching. Can you imagine how amazing it would be to fling baby turtles to the freedom of the ocean? Maybe fling is the wrong word. Maybe, stand-guard-and-shoo-birds-away is a better plan. Either way, I want it.

The morning of our departure, I took the opportunity to do another kind of seeking: metal detecting on the beach (a special shoutout to EyeoftheSeeker and his lovely wife for this super awesome Christmas gift). I neglected to bring any "tools", so I made do with a glass from our room (for digging) and a plastic bag (for booty). Despite getting up before sunrise, there was a surprising number of people milling around on the beach. The thought of almost-certain embarassment almost sent me back to the hotel room, but then I looked up and saw Brian pointing the camera at me from our balcony. I took a deep breath, readjusted the headphones, and set about waving the metal detector evenly and slowly above the sand. My finds included many blank stares, several bottle caps, and a rusty fondue fork. I can say with some confidence that I saved someone from a nasty bout with tetanus.

Sadly, my finds ended there. We hit a few caches on the way back to the mainland, but with no luck.

We almost came home with a new cat, though. We found him in a park doing the most adorable stretches near where a cache should have been. You may have noticed that his ear is a little ragged. That means he's been fixed and "marked" by the county. Our cat was born feral and has the same clipped ear. It reminds me of the thug-wannabes who shave a line in their eyebrow to signify allegiance to something.

Thus concludes my quest to 300. 400 feels a lifetime away.

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