I combined my need to cross-train and the adventure theme of P’s Not Your Average Adventure virtual race into a 13-mile bike ride earlier this evening.
Have you heard of geocaching? Geocaching is a high-tech treasure hunt. Hiders place little caches of goodies all over the world and post the GPS coordinates online for seekers to find. You use your GPS to find a cache, sign your name to a log, swap trade items (optional), and restash the cache for the next seeker to find. Capisci?
It’s not always as easy as it sounds! There are puzzle caches, caches requiring specialized equipment (rock climbing gear, SCUBA gear, etc.), virtual caches, clever cache containers, travel bugs that need to move from cache to cache, muggles to thwart (why that’s non-geocaching folk, of course!), and so on. It’s a cheap fun family-friendly activity with plenty of opportunity for creativity.
I planned a biking route that covered 13 miles with a handful of geocaches along the way.
Onto the adventure!
The weather in Illinois has been gorgeous for the past few days with sun-filled record-tying temperatures. Imagine my disappointment when I woke to chilly rain this morning. The day never quite warmed up, and it seems we might not see 70s again until April. I headed out around 3:30 with the sun still somewhere in the sky behind the clouds and BRRRR 43 degree.
I headed with A to our first stop: a geocache at a golf course north of town. We were in town for the first mile. It was chilly but not too windy. Once we left the protection of town we felt the full force of the wind for a second mile. Owww! Not to be discouraged we set out looking for the first geocache: “Welcome to Brookhill”. Can you guess where it is?
We actually had no clue! The coordinates point to the middle of the drive behind this sign, so based on the name we figured it was somewhere around this sign. When you’re looking for geocaches you typically look for things that look out of place, oddly arrange branches, metallic surfaces that might have a magnetic box, or fake-looking rocks.
We poked around this sign for about 10 minutes and decided to call it a DNF. DNF, in this case, stands for “Did Not Find”, not “Did Not Finish” like in the running world. There’s no shame in not finding a cache! Sometimes your sanity and warmth is worth it! Plus, it’s not uncommon for caches to get “muggled”. I don’t think that was the case with this cache since someone recorded finding it the day before but we were too cold to find out!
On the way back we hit an area where we had to bike uphill against very strong wind (18 mph gusts). We both switched down to our lowest gears but were barely crawling along! When we got close to the house A decided he’d had enough. He’s getting over a cold so we decided it’d be better for him not to push his limits. He had only intended on doing the first 8 miles with me anyway, so he just cut out a little bit early.
I headed south through town and out into the country again. The wind wasn’t so bad this time but it was coming from the west where I was headed next so I knew the peaceful part of the ride would soon come to an end.
I traveled east a little bit to the next geocache coordinates and parked my bike on the side of the road. At this point it was getting dark and I had to use the front light of my bike to find the cache. While I was poking around in the bushes a car full of muggles drove past. They drove very slowly. I didn’t want to alarm anybody but I really didn’t think I’d see anyone out there. I think they were checking out my bike so I walked back out to it so they knew it wasn’t abandoned. Once they saw me they drove off. If they had asked questions I would have either explained what I was doing (“it’s an online treasure hunt with a GPS!”) or said I lost something when I was biking past. Thankfully they didn’t stop so it wasn’t an issue.
AND check it out! First cache of the night!
Do you spot the cache? It’s the little bison tube in the center of the photo. Caches can be all sizes. I’ve seen geocaches smaller than my thumbnail to 120mm rocket ammo cans and larger.
After this cache I headed west, straight into that wind! It was also now completely dark out. I forget how much sooner the sun sets now!
I struggled against the wind for a while until I got to the next cache location. This one was located on a drainage ditch bridge near an intersection. I inspected the railing along the bridge but didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. I suspected the cache may be down in the ditch so I decided to move along with another DNF considering the darkness and slick ground from the morning’s rain. I did see a skunk scurrying across the field and the wind blew over my bike (suck) so this cache stop was not without event!
I continued on and pushed hard again the strong wind. I looked down at the GPS and I saw I was biking at around 7 mph. That wind was no joke. 7! I can RUN 7 mph at a sprint! I reminded myself over and over during this stretch that much of running (and life!) is about mental toughness. I thought about that a lot and, though I was tempted to cut my ride short, I stuck it out.
Next I crossed US-45 to get to the next cache. I was a little bit worried about crossing this road because there was no crosswalk or walk signal. Fortunately, traffic was light so I was able to walk my bike across with plenty of time between cars in both directions.
After I crossed 45 I whipped out the GPS to find this guy! This was in a similar location to the last geocache, but ended quite differently! I found this cache: a magnetic key holder hiding on a railing.
I headed north at this intersection and enjoyed very smooth pavement, zero traffic, and minimal headwind. I got back into town and regained my speed. I sped through a hilly residential area and biked up to the final cache location.
It was dark.
Do you remember this commercial?
My favorite part is when the guy behind the counter says to his buddy “Show ’em where we’ve been losing emails,” and the other guy responds “Here,” indicating half the map. THAT’s where this cache is.
(this is the same pic as the last one previous, just with the contrast cranked WAY up – impressive, huh?)
Sadly, that’s all the further I can tell you because AGAIN I DNFed this cache at this gorgeous park! It was time to head back, write up my report, and reveal the best part of today’s adventure:
Don’t see it?
In honor of P’s birthday, this adventure brought to you by the letter P!
I hope this little taste of geocaching was informative if not entertaining. I’m always happy to de-muggle those not in the know!
PS – Remember biking? I forgot how much I love it!!