Friday, October 24, 2008

2 Caches Nabbed Today

I work in a pretty stressful sales environment for an aerospace company--things with the kind of numbers attached that we only read about in the Wall Street Journal--so it's no surprise that I found diving back into caching a highly relaxing activity today. After getting the PDA (see picture) set up again with the proper software, and firing up the GPX files, I grabbed two nearby caches that had spring up within a mile or two of my house. I half-expected to see them all over the place, but I suppose it's nice that many of the geocaches in my town are hidden in areas that are notable spots to stop and appreciate.

The first cache was somewhat irritating due to the haphazard placement (and likely shotgun GPS reading of the placer) and unhelpful clue. I was seeking an eclipse gum tin that was hidden behind a piece of old wood. Sounds fairly easy enough save that the area was littered with old wood. Having turned over almost every piece of wood and bark in the area, I was actually retreating back to my car when I spotted the cache.. at the bottom of a fencepost. After signing the log and replacing the cache, I snagged a small piece of wood and placed it somewhat over the little box. At least now the clue would be helpful to the next cacher.

On the way back to the house for dinner I dropped by a cache placed in the parking lot of a local pub.. and discovered one of the most remarkable camouflages yet. Someone had purchase an entire electrical conduit box, painted it, affixed magnets and placed it at the electrical box outside. Wow. So I only found two on this trip.. so what? :) No DNF's, and that second cache was worth 10 in my book.

Paperless Caching in 2008

What's it been.. 2 hours? I think I just set a record for reinstalling my geocaching tools on the PDA using the few upgrades that have taken place in the past few years in hardware and software. First, I am no longer using the 512mb SG cards that used to be the norm. With 2,4,6 and 8gb cards now on the market my problems with available space have virtually disappeared. I have swapped in a 2gb Mini-SD card (using a full-size sleeve) allowing me to be more flexible in what can read it (many devices now accept only Mini-SD cards).

Software-wise, I fell back on the same old setup, albeit with the newer versions which are now available. CacheMate for paperless .gpx data, BeeLineGPS for on-site cache locating, TomTom Navigator software for global view of nearby caches and driving to them, and GSAK for the PC data compilation required to edit my .gpx files and convert them into .ov2 files for TomTom. Lastly, of Google Earth is the at-home viewer for the at-a-glance pre-planning of caches I want to hit. I'm entirely paperless, though I admit this really is a somewhat complicated setup. Once it's installed, it's very simple. I guess I've never been one to shy away from complicated procedures.

Getting the TomTom to display the caches was super-simple.. I just copied the .ov2 file (and .bmp file) to the maps folder on my TomTom installation (I hear this works in the same way on OEM TomTom devices in addition to TomTom PDA installs) and then just selected POIs from my settings. Viola! I'm GeoCaching again in just a few hours, using the same software with the updated versions and new SD hard hardware.. frankly I think it all runs much faster now on my PDA.

Rejoining the World of Geocaching

What is this, my third time rejoining this wonderful hobby? Two things to say about Geocaching: 1) It's highly addictive 2) Its something that often comes with peaks and valleys.

When I joined, I was shocked when I discovered that my PDA+GPSr combo was an ideal geocaching tool. 5 years later and I still have the same PDA and GPSr combo, but I've replaced Mapopolis. Mapopolis has sadly folded along with many companies in this economic turmoil, so I switched to TomTom. Having also taken a new career path, I'm travelling all over the USA meeting customers and my 1GB SD card fits all streets and highways for the entire continental United States without having to move maps from the PC > card and visa versa. Additionally, I find TomTom to be much more user friendly when it comes to finding what I need and getting where I need to go.

So goal: Now that we've brought our 2nd kid into the picture and he's old enough to get out and about, we plan to rename our Geocaching team (TraceAmigos doesn't work now, as Trace was a play on words for "tres = three," and we are now four) and get back out there. Having Mapopolis to help me visually identify nearby caches was a MUST.. I'm praying that a similar capabilty exists for TomTom as well.