Friday, October 31, 2008

My First International Geocaches

My travels recently took me to Alberta, Canada. I stayed in a city called Grande Prairie. This part of the country looks a lot like The Midwest of the US. It was very flat and all that was missing were the water towers announcing the town's name.

I had a bit of trouble with customs while I was trying to enter the country. They actually sent me into the immigration office to have me better explain my reasons for visiting Canada. The immigration officer was looking me up in whatever database and asked if I had ever been fingerprinted. I replied that I had. He ask why and I told him I had been in the Marine Corps. I guess that's why they were worried. It would only take one motivated Marine to take over the entire country of Canada.

As usual, I didn't have a lot of free time to go geocaching but I did manage to squeeze a few in. I found several within a mile or so from my hotel so I went for a walk one afternoon. My GPS was a bit jumpy and I did a lot of walking in circles.

I found myself in a little forest looking for a small geocache. The trouble with my GPS turned out to be too much for me and I had to DNF one. I then went for a travel bug hotel near "The World's Largest Sundial". It was hidden near the edge of a little pond. Again, I went the long and difficult way but eventually made the find. There were no travel bugs inside but I was able to drop off Flat Oprah that I had picked up in Massachusetts.

I've since found out that several places around the world claim to have the worlds largest sundial. Since I have friends in Canada, I'll trust that this is, in fact, THE largest.

A local cacher named Tons of Fun saw my find on one of his caches and offered to show me around some local geocaches. Unfortunately, I had spent all of my caching time. He had some geocoins that he wanted to travel back to the US so I did meet up with him. We talked caching for bit and we walked over to mystery cache he owned that the final was a couple hundred feet from my hotel. It was nice to meet him and wish I would have had more time to geocache.

On my last day in Canada, I noticed that someone had dropped a bunch of travel bugs in that TB hotel I had been to. I went back and grabbed my first yellow Jeep and a few geocoins.

Canada was good. It was a bit cold for this California boy. (Yes I know I'm from Illinois, but you loose your resistance to cold quickly, trust me.) It got below freezing and while it was fun to experience, it was nice to come home.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Miramar Airshow in San Diego

On Sunday, The Boy and I went to the Miramar Airshow in San Diego. We got there pretty early and had no problem with traffic or getting on the Marine base. Rather than wait in line for a shuttle bus to drive us the mile and a half to the tarmac, we got a pedi cab. Brody thought riding on the back of that three wheeled bike was one if the most fun things he's ever done. (Funny, we were just at Disney last week)

Once on the tarmac, there were tons of things to do and see. There were also plenty of ways to spend your money. We spent some time exploring the static displays. We saw lots of aircraft. We got to walk all the way through a C-5 Galaxy. We checked out the helicopters, UAV's and many many aircraft.

We made our way over to the fence protecting the runway from hoards of crowding fans and set up our chairs. The first act we saw was a bi plane doing stunts that would have made me pass out. They had some stunt parachute guys and a tactical assault by the Marines on a completely unsuspecting patch of grass along the runway.

The Marines showed off the impressive maneuverability of the F-18 Super Hornets. They did multiple low altitude, high speed pass by's. They seemed to be only 100 feet off the ground and on the verge of breaking through the sound barrier. As they passes you could see a cylinder of condensation forming around the center of the aircraft. It was impressive and it was loud. The F-18 also displayed the ability to maintain control at speeds below 100 miles per hour.

My favorite part of the event had to be the F-22 raptor. This is the newest addition to the United State's arsenal of military aircraft. The first thing I noticed about the F-22 was it's size. This is a big jet! It's noticeably larger than the F-18 and Much larger than the F-16. The next thing I noticed was how loud it was. This thing puts out some serious noise. The vectored thrust allows the F-22 to be as nimble as a ballerina. This ballerina just happens to have stealth technology and be armed to the teeth.

The Boy's favorite was the Blue Angels. They put on a spectacular show, as usual. It's amazing to see 6 F-18's flying at high speed and have only 18 inches of clearance between their cockpits and wing tips. The Boy kept screaming, "Awesome!" the entire time.

The end of the Blue Angels marked the end of the Airshow. By this time the San Diego sun had been beating down on us for several hours and we were tired. We joined the thousands of people in the march back to the parking areas. As we were walking, the pedi cab driver passed us with no fare and a flat tire. The lack of a repair kit had to have cost him a couple hundred dollars. The lines for the shuttles was out of control, so we walked the 1.5 miles back to the car.

It took The Boy about 2.7 seconds to fall asleep once we were in the comfort of the air conditioned car. I had to stay awake the 45 minutes back home. The Airshow in San Diego is fantastic. The Boy is already talking about plans for next year. I got a bunch of pictures printed to make a display in The Boy's room.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

My New Geocaching Style

When I first started geocaching I wanted to try and get as many geocaches as possible every time I went out. I've settled into a new style of geocaching that I think works better for me. I kind of figured this out during my recent trip to Massachusetts. Instead of loading a ton of geocaches in an area and focusing on finding them all, I like to find a couple of caches in an area that I'm visiting and focus on the area rather than the caches. This worked out nicely last weekend when my brother came to visit from Illinois.

We spent the first day at Disneyland. I think there's a cache or two there but I forgot to look and we go to Disney all the time anyway. The next day we went to Point Loma in San Diego. Geocaching in San Diego is always a great time, however I wanted to enjoy the area rather than race around looking for caches. We had my two kids and my brother's wife and daughter.

We started out by visiting Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery. There is a regular sized geocache just outside the cemetery walls. We spent some time paying our respects to the many fallen heroes laid to rest in one of the most beautiful places on Earth. We walked over and found the geocache and signed the log. Then we walked across the street to a memorial to the USS St Lo. My Grandfather was on the St Lo in WWII when it was struck by a Kamikaze. Grandpa made it off, however many men did not make it to safety before the ship went down.

Next we headed down the hill to the Tide Pools. We took off our shoes and walked around looking for sea life. The weather was perfect. The Boy and I were first to walk to a nearby beach area which gave many others the inspiration they needed to do the same.

We put our shoes back on and went back up the hill to the Cabrillo National Monument. I was pleasantly surprised to find the 10 dollar entrance fee was waived for the day in honor of newly naturalized citizens. The view is breathtaking. The monument is at the very end of the upper portion of Point Loma. You stand and look out at the great Pacific Ocean. To the South is a great view of the San Diego Bay, Downtown San Diego, and Coronado/North Island. To the North you see fantastic beaches lined with cliffs.

We walked from the Monument up to the Old Point Loma Lighthouse. The Light sits 422 feet above the water. That must have seemed like a good place for a light when it first began operating in 1855. 36 years later they decided that the low clouds and fog were often too dense and a new lighthouse was opened closer to the water. The Old light has been restored by the National Park Service and is still and iconic symbol representing San Diego. There is a virtual cache in the area which I had to answer a few questions to claim the find.
We finished the day with dinner at the Fish Market in Seaport Village. If you're ever in San Diego, make sure to stop by this great restaurant at least once.

It was a great trip and I enjoyed spending the majority of our time viewing the attractions with a few geocaches sprinkled in. There are tons of new caches popping up around home and I suppose I'll go after them eventually. For the most part, I'll go after caches that are near places I'll be visiting for reasons other than geocaching.

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