Saturday, April 19, 2008

A Geocaching Anniversary

No it's not the anniversary of my geocaching career. It's my anniversary as Vice President of the Hick@Heart family. Yes, I was married on April 19, 1997. What other great events happened on this day, you ask? Let's see........

  • 1775: The shot heard 'round the world was fired, starting the American revolution.
  • 1897: The first Boston Marathon was run.
  • 1956: Grace Kelly married the prince of Monaco.
  • 2005: Pope Benedict was elected.
  • 1995: Oklahoma City Bombing.
  • 1993: Branch Dividian Compound in Waco, TX burns.
We are reminded of the last two every year as the news replays those horrible images. Columbine was one day later on April, 20th. So that gets plenty of airtime too.

Enough with the history lesson. Today also happened to be date night at the gym. You get to drop the kids off for four hours and do adult stuff. The adult stuff we chose was to look for Tupperware, hidden in the woods, with small toys in them. Yes, we went geocaching for our anniversary.

Date night began at 5:00 PM. The kids had their bags packed ready for a night of excitement in the gym. They had pizza and a movie and got to play in the gymnasium. Dropping them off was kind of funny. There were lots of parents dropping kids off for their "four hours of sanity". the parents all had their nice "go out" clothes on. Some were even wearing ties. Only two parents that we know of had jeans, hooded sweatshirts and hiking boots on. That would be us.

The kids were occupied and we headed down into Temecula. Into Wine country. I just had to stop at one cache because it contained a Minnesota Geocoin. If you haven't figured it out yet, Tonka_boy is my Dad and he lives in Minnesota. So this coin is practically family. Well maybe not, but it is a very cool coin and I just had to grab it.

We were traveling the back roads of wine country, through orange orchards and grape vines. The Geo-Prius was put to the test on some dirt roads for the first time. A resident stopped to see if we needed any help. He was very nice and told us about all the planned development in the area. It's sad to say that there will soon be many more houses along these beautifully empty roads.

We headed into the Redhawk area of Temecula and into the Santa Margarita Riverbed. It's a dry riverbed and had some nice trails. While we were walking, we saw lots of large insects. There were some huge ants, even more huge stinkbugs, and some kind of centipede. I was surprised to see these centipedes pay no attention to the ants. I would have thought the ants would devour them. As the centipedes scurried along in the sand, their bodies left a trail and their many feet made very interesting marks along the sides. It looks like tiny tire tracks all over in the sand. That's twice this week that I've taken pictures of tracks in the sand.

We found another cache near a neighborhood park that used a very clever container. It was one of those travel soap dishes. The hider put an excellent camouflage paint job on it and it was quite difficult to spot inside the chaparral. The log book was bone dry and had never been wet. There was plenty of room for small trackables and trade items. It was the first time I had seen a soap dish used as a geocache container. Nicely done.

The Wife and I enjoyed our time alone walking deserted trails and driving the back roads. We found 8 geocaches and we picked up two geocoins and one travel bug. It also seems that nothing too disastrous happened in the news today. Here's to a good wife. One that enjoys a walk in the woods on our anniversary. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

More San Diego Geocaching: Part II

As promised, here is Part II of of my geocaching adventure in Mission Bay San Diego. Don't forget to read up on Part I. (Click any image to enlarge)

After class I had Duncan's coordinates and I headed back out to the edge of Mission Bay Park. Everyone else in my class was headed home after a long day of regression analysis. Not me, I'm a lunatic. I finally got my hands on the cache that had eluded me earlier in the day. I dropped a geocoin that I had picked up over the weekend. Duncan's coordinates weren't too much better so I added mine to the log to add to the fun. Then I suggested loading all three sets of coordinates, putting your GPSr on a rock and looking under everything. These large rocks line the entire edge of the bay. They can make for some pretty tough searches. The large ugly spiders and stray cats don't help either.

My next move was over to Tecolote Canyon Park. There is an earthcache in the park and I have yet to log a find on one. Way out in the outfield of one of the many ball fields there is a sign explaining the Rose Canyon Fault Zone. It was interesting to learn about this fault and the extreme difference in ages of the material on either side. I blacked out a portion of the sign containing the information needed to log a find on this earthcache.

After successfully detailing my first earthcache I headed over to the Tecolote Canyon Natural Park Trails to find some regular geocaches. Click on the trail map image to open a PDF trail map that you can print out before you visit this area.

The trails here are great. They are gravel/dirt trails that are very wide. There is plenty of room for the muggles on bikes to pass safely. As I walked along the trail I had a great view of USD (University of San Diego) up on the bluff. I found a nice cache along the trail. It was a pretzel type container covered with camouflage duct tape. The clock tower at USD rang out it's announcement of 6:30 PM. I thought, "Wow, I was geocaching 12 hours ago." More evidence that I may be certifiable.

My Garmin GPS was telling me that the next cache was 100 feet off of the trail. As you can see in the photos, the brush is thick. And as I promised in my last post, there were signs of rattlesnakes. (This may be borderline deceptive advertisement on my part because the only sign of rattlesnakes were the signs warning of rattlesnakes. Signs nonetheless!) Combining these signs with several others telling you to stay out of certain areas, I thought better of bushwhacking at this point and headed to the next geocache.

This was another pretzel type container under a cool old tree. I spotted the container from one side and circled around to retrieve it. When I got to the other side, I couldn't find it. Pushing a few branches around revealed that I was almost kneeling on the cache. That Duct tape works well! I decided that was enough for the day. I was already going to end up getting home at nearly 8:00.

As I was headed back over to the trail I noticed a baseball laying in the weeds. Not a very odd find since I had passed 10 ball fields to reach the trail head. I picked up the ball and headed back towards the car. I was tossing the ball in the air and noticed it had been signed. Upon closer examination I realized that this baseball had been signed by QDman. HA! If you don't know, QDman has an excellent photo blog called Geocaching Pics. I've been reading his blog and enjoying his pictures for a while. There is also a link in my sidebar to his site. Add it to your subscriptions, it will not disappoint. I'm not sure how the ball got in the weeds, but it's a pretty cool memento.

I got a couple of photos of a nice walkway and of the cool staircase leading into this great park. There are a bunch more geocaches in this area and the park is a must do if you are looking for quality hiking trails in San Diego.

I ended up finding 7 regular geocaches and 1 earth cache. On the way home I snapped a picture of my favorite stretch of my daily commute up the North 15. the view is actually better before you drive all the way down into the valley but I couldn't get my camera out of my Camelback in time. I had a great day. Oh yeah, I was in training for 9 hours in there. I love this game!

On a side note, My Google Reader is telling me that I have 36 blog posts to catch up on. That's all from various geocaching blogs that I subscribe to. Looks like geocaching season is heating up in the rest of the country! And it looks like I have some reading to do.

More San Diego Geocaching: Part I

This week is week 3 of my 6 Sigma Black Belt training. Once again I am down on Mission Bay for the week. My geocaching day was in two parts, before class and after class. I'll break down the story into two posts to make it easier for everyone. I like to ramble on with my long winded stories and I have a lot of pictures to share. Bear with me. (Click any image to enlarge)

Part I: There have been some new caches added since my last trip to Fiesta Island. I arrived at the island around 6:30 in the morning and the sun was just barely ready to peek out above the hills. I quickly found my first cache of the day. It's nice when you find a lock and lock in such a public place. Walking back to my car, I was humbled by the beautiful sunrise seen above.

As I approached Ground zero of the second cache, I was stopped 80 feet short of pay dirt by a chain link fence. I walked a little ways each way but did not see an entrance. I wasn't going to jump the fence and the clock was ticking so I was off to the next cache. When I found the decon container hiding in a bush, I saw the entrance to the inside of the fence that I was looking for earlier. Nice! Let's go!

As I was walking the quarter mile to my third find, I started noticing very strange patterns in the sand. It looked like some sort of worms were leaving very erratic trails. I thought sand worms only existed in Dune. I snapped a photo as evidence they really exist! I found the camouflaged M&M tube and was on my way.

As I walked back to my car, the sun was shining, the crew teams were out practicing and I was at the edge of the Pacific Ocean. My race Prius looked as if it were posing for a Toyota commercial. I stood on the berm at the edge of the road and just enjoyed the views. I could see SeaWorld and I was glad I live in Southern California.

I grabbed the cache I had forgotten to look for last time I was here and I had just enough time to get over to the conference center, change my shoes, get a cup of coffee and set up my laptop for class. On my lunch break I walked the half mile to a new cache that had been placed since my last time down here. Some of the logs mentioned the coordinates being a bit off and most geocachers were finding it using the coordinates provided by Duncan, the FTF. I looked a bit too long and the half mile back to class took a little more than the four minutes I alloted! I'd have to come back with Duncan's numbers. As I was walking back I saw this large sail boat in dry dock. I like the image on the side. It's hard to see just how tall this ship is, but the street light helps put a little perspective on it.

Something rather strange happened at 1:30 in the afternoon. All of the sudden, the fog rolled in off the ocean. It got very windy and the temperature cooled down about 10 degrees. I snapped a picture from just outside the classroom looking out in the marina. (It can be hard to focus on statistics when you have a view like that out the window.) An hour later the fog was gone and it was sunny again. Mystery fog. Just enough to scare a GPS purchase into an unsuspecting novice boater!

Geocaching around Mission Bay was a great way to start my day. Here's a new geocaching slogan for you; "Geocachers, we turn over more rocks before 7:00 am than most people do all day!" Stay tuned for part II where there are signs of rattle snakes!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Morning Geocaching and Another FTF

I woke up around 6:00 this morning and booted up the computer to see if there were any new caches published. As my 8th grade history teacher, Mr. McKinley would say, "Well lookie lookie, the dog pooped a cookie." There was a new geocache published about 9 miles from home. I loaded up the GPS, grabbed some travel bugs, filled up my coffee mug and was on the road.

The roads in Temecula were empty this morning, however, the traffic lights were turning red just to spite me. I got through the phantom traffic and was quickly ascending the road that leads into the hills just West of town. As I was rounding one corner, two coyotes were just entering the bush after having just crossed ahead of me. I was thankful they were safely in the greenery and not tattooed to my bumper.

I pulled onto a side road and then off into the dirt just as my GPS beeped the announcement of my arrival to the cache area. The arrow on my Garmin Etrex Vista was pointing to a tree just off the road. It wasn't long before I had the small mint container in my hands. I opened the log to reveal an unsigned empty page. It was my first opportunity to put my new signature first to find log entry down on paper. "Hick@Heart was first to paint this blank canvas. FTF!!!" The FTF prize was a $1 casino chip from nearby Pechanga Casino. I think I'll make a travel bug out of it. There was also a geocoin that I picked up and I left a travel bug dog tag. This cache was just off of my favorite kind of road. The type of road that I don't know where it goes, but it looks like it would be really fun to go find out.

There were a couple of other caches up here that I needed to grab and I had another travel bug that I needed to drop off. I was soon thumbing through the contents of an ammo can named Pam's Betty Boop. I grabbed a couple of bugs from here to take down to San Diego geocaching next week. This cache boasted a spectacular view of the Temecula Valley. The sun had risen above the mountains to the East and the entire valley was awash in it's power. There were hot air balloons carrying passengers over Temecula's wine country and I felt like a giant peering down over a miniature city. I cold also see the 10,834 foot peak of Mount San Jacinto and the 11,499 foot peak of San Gorgonio. The fact that I have not climbed these mountains will not stay true for long as I am planning to summit San Jacinto later this year. I stayed and enjoyed the view and enjoyed the feeling of finally being HUGE!

From there, I moved to another cache that was a camouflage ammo can hiding in the bushes. I picked up another travel bug which turned out to be only half of a travel bug. I'll post about that as I get more information from the owner.

It was really nice to be out in the hills before the heat of the day. It's been in the 90's and a welcomed cool down is on it's way. I picked up four caches, a geocoin and 3 travel bugs. I love being out in nature. I guess the moniker "Hick@Heart" is pretty fitting.

I love an ammo can in the weeds!

A view of the road that brought me up here.

Hot air balloons over the valley.
San Jacinto on the left.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Boy Scores an FTF!

I got an E-mail notification of a newly placed geocache only 4.5 miles from home. I wasn't able to go after it right away so The Boy and I headed out about two hours later. It was in a sports park and there were surprisingly few people near ground zero.

I didn't take the camera this time because I wanted to try videotaping our geocaching adventure and posting it here on the website. I was considering this to be an opportunity to practice video posting before the upcoming flash mob event.

The Boy made the find easily enough and we were pleasantly surprised to find what Webfoot would call a "Virgin Log." I got pretty good footage of the find and of The Boy opening the log and releasing "that smell"

I was all fired up about the idea of creating video geocaching posts. I even made another video. It is a "How to make a geocache" type video and was prepared to post that one as well.

I felt like a real Speilberg. Now time for some editing. This is where the trouble started. My Sony Digital camcorder does not have USB, it uses I Link. My computer doesn't have I'Link. They don't make adapters between the two because USB and firewire are two different technologies and are not compatible. (VHS vs. Beta maybe?)

Well, I'm smarter than silly electronic gadgets. I found an A/V out to RCA cable and plugged the camcorder in my recordable DVD player. I copied the movie clip onto a DVD-R as I laughed and pointed at the Sony. So, the genius pops the newly created DVD-R into my DVD drive in the computer and the computer says, "OK, genius, what do you want me to do with this blank DVD-R?"

It turns out I'm no genius.(big surprise!) The computer doesn't recognize the format the DVD player records in or something. I guess I need to find an A/V out to USB adapter????. If there are any techie readers out there, please offer up some suggestions. I don't want to buy a firewire hub for the computer because I no longer have money.

The Boy and I picked up a few more caches after the FTF. We got seven that day. Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures to help tell my story and to entertain those that don't actually read all of this. I have some great video of the whole thing though. As soon as I can claim victory over the Sony, I'll be able to share it. I really need to get it straightened out before the event in May. I would love to be able to share our fun with all of you.

I will tell the story of one of our other finds. We went after another cache in this very large sports park. I remembered a couple stories from the last event about this cache and the fact that it was up high. We approached a large solid metal gate that guarded some very important dumpsters. I figured it must be under the cap at the top of the fence post. They must have made this gate high so that people couldn't launch unauthorized trash over it. The post I was looking at was probably 12 feet off the ground.

I lifted The Boy over my head so he could search for it. It was difficult to maneuver him and he quickly said, "OK, let me down." I said, "You didn't even look for it." He opened his hand to reveal the cache. It was one of those nano caches that is about the size of a pencil eraser with a magnet in it. Good job, The Boy. I signed the log and it was time to replace the miniature treasure. This time up, The Boy decide to become very ticklish and did a lot of squirming and laughing. He finally stuck the thing back in it's hidey hole and we laughed our way back to the car.

That's what's great about geocaching with The Boy. He turns a nano in the park into a memorable experience.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

San Diego Flash Mob Event

Last month, Tonka_Boy posted about the upcoming WWFM III. World Wide Flash Mob. A flash mob is where a bunch of people gather at a predetermined place and time and snap a photo. The fun thing about this is all of the bystanders have no idea what's going on.

In May of 2007, Sonny and Sandy over at PodCacher had an idea. They enjoyed the idea of geocaching events and wanted to try something a bit different. Rather than a normal event, they wanted to host a micro or nano event. An event that would last only 15 minutes. As they talked about this on their show, people began to get really excited about it.

The first event drew over 1100 people worldwide to 20 different events. WWFM was born. Their listeners loved it and a second event happened in November, 2007. This time there were 83 events in 9 countries that drew over 4,300 people. A video montage of the 2007 event is available here. 2007 Montage.

There are currently 96 events scheduled to happen in 12 countries, 9 Canadian Provinces and 37 US states on May 10, 2008. Check out the growing bookmark list of events to find one near you.

Team Hick@Heart will have the A-Team at the San Diego Flash Mob Event on Coronado Island. This is a great spot due to the beautiful views of the ocean and Downtown San Diego. It's also great because of the high amount of confused bystanders that will be in the area. Here is a recon video of the 2008 event. Look how beautiful it is even on a cloudy day.

It would be great for our blog friends living in or near Southern California to come join us at the flash mob event in San Diego. If you can't make to the greatest city on Earth, find one near you and let us hear all about it.

We have been fascinated by flash mobs ever since reading about them on Tonka_boy's post last November and are looking forward to attending our first event in May. What a great idea by the folks over at PodCacher to put this together. If you haven't been to their site, I would encourage you to go subscribe to their weekly geocaching podcasts. Also, thank you to PodCacher for making these great videos available and thanks for your great content.

At PodCacher you will find:

  • Geocaching News
  • Tips and Tricks
  • Tools of the trade
  • Interviews
  • Opinions … lots of opinions
  • Cache stories and experiences
  • “Live�? on-the-field tours and hunts
  • AND podcaches: MP3 audio clues that will lead you to hidden caches!

  • If you want some more flash mob entertainment, Go to YouTube and search for flash mob.

    Here is a video of the November, 2007 Flash Mob Event in San Diego, California.

    Wednesday, April 2, 2008

    Going Green Geocaching

    Traffic was horrible on my way to work today. There had been an accident on the 15 South and it was blocking lanes. I was in the middle of it in Escondido. I started smell a horrible smell. It smelled like burning plastic and metal. I used to be a mechanic for Peterbilt, and I can recognize the smell of something going wrong electrically. So, I rolled up my window and continued going no where on the freeway. I soon noticed smoke coming from under my hood. While I have the nose to recognize something going wrong, I apparently don't have the ability to know when it's me. I was able to exit the freeway quickly. It's funny how California drivers that are trying to cut you off will suddenly change their mind and let you off the road when they see your car is on fire. Thanks, Californians.

    The battery light was flickering as I pulled into the Del Taco parking lot. I popped the hood to see a small fire on the power cables leading to the alternator. Thankfully I was able to blow the fire out with no problem. I called AAA and had the car and myself deliverd to A-1 Auto here in Temecula. A-1 had just installed that alternator last November. They took my info and I was off to the car dealer.

    I drive 120 miles a day. 60 miles each way to and from work. I went to Toyota and looked at the new Prius. A salesman quickly greeted me and he showed me all of the great features of this vehicle. Now, I've been to negotiation training. I read books on negotiation tactics. I know how to play this game. I mentioned recent reports on Toyota's falling quality levels. I acted not that interested. I asked how negotiable the price was. He said it was not negotiable. He went as far as to say that they were one of the few Toyota dealers that were not marking the price up on this car. I know how this works. I went to a class. I know this guy isn't going to let me walk away. I thank him for his time and I walk away. HE LET ME WALK AWAY!

    I got home and researched other dealers. I looked at used ones. I am against buying new vehicles. Thomas Stanley and Dave Ramsey have taught me this. The used ones are just as expensive as the new ones. Some were more expensive. It turns out I loose in this negotiation because of good old capitalism. Beat out by supply and demand. With gas prices nearly $4.00 a gallon. These cars are in high demand. I was looking at the cheapest Toyota Prius within 100 miles of my house.

    I return to the dealer and after much more time exploring this car and driving it around, I bought the Prius. This is a cool car. It has a backup camera. Yeah, I like that. It is also a very safe car. It has all the side curtain air bags and anti lock brakes. It even has a screen that shows you, among other things, weather you are using the gas engine or the electric motor.

    The best thing about this car is the gas mileage. It averages 48 MPG . So, now my geocaching adventures will be that much better for the environment. I was going to post a picture of The Wife laying on the hood, but it doesn't really have a hood and I don't want to scratch it all up. So too bad.

    A-1 Auto also assured me that the repairs would be made at no charge and they will reimburse me for the tow. They said apparently the re manufactured alternator failed. I have been going to this shop for years and I have gotten nothing but the best service from them. I will continue to use and promote A-1 Auto. They are proud of their integrity and have demonstrated that again and again.

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