Friday, March 20, 2015

Travel Bugs: A Personal Introduction

Geocaching is an international treasure hunt game. People hide a container with a log and mark the GPS coordinates. They upload those coordinates so others can find the container and sign the log. Often, the containers are big enough to contain trade items. I enjoy geocaching and one of my favorite things to find in a cache is a travel bug.

Travel bugs are not like other trade items; you don't have to leave something of equal value for them. But you do not keep them either. They can be in almost any form, but all have some kind of tracking number. Their owners assign them a goal or a mission which may just be to travel from cache to cache, or it may be something more specific, like visit all the states that start with the letter "A."

I enjoyed finding travel bugs and moving them along on their various quests so much that I soon decided to get my own. My first travel bug I made out of an old trophy and called it "Crown'em."

I gave it the goal to get to a cache in Palmdale, CA. And the following "About" section:

Along the way this bug would like to have its (and your) picture taken with appropriately kingly backgrounds, castles, suits of armor, the Queen of England, that sort of thing.

Experience geocachers had recommended giving it an interesting but not too difficult goal. They also advised making sure the travel bug didn't look like it was worth much and wasn't too cute. And they warned me to expect failure. So I was not sure it was ever going to get anywhere. The first person to find it posted a picture of it with her dog then did not visit another cache for months.

Thankfully, though she finally remembered the little hitchhiker, dropped it in another cache and started an interesting journey. The goal was to go west to Palmdale, California, so of course the first people to pick it up headed immediately east.

Once it was on it's way some neat things happened and people posted some cool pictures.

Then a cacher picked up Crown'em and asked if he could take it out of the country where it might have the opportunity to visit some real old world institutions.

I include this next picture with the qualifier that I don't actually believe the travel bug took two seperate trips to the southernmost point of South America. But that it how it was checked in, so it shows up in its map.

Now in Europe it continues to travel across borders, and cachers have been kind enough to send back pictures. Thankfully, it doesn't need a passport and as far as I know customs has had no problems clearing its passage.

As of March 13, 2015, with the different caches it has been checked into, the crown has traveled 18,841 miles.

Sadly, for every path of glory there is at least one tale of woe. Enter travel cat. Another bug we sent out into the wide world with what we thought was a satisfying and doable mission. "My goal for this one is to get to cache GC51T9E in Howard Florida. It would be great if you wanted to post pictures of your pet with this cat along the way." I also mentioned that it was made out of an old pair of pants.

It did make it to Florida in just 4 stops, but not quite to its destination. Then, it disappeared. We are pretty sure we traced the cacher who picked it up, but he did not log it and there is no sign he ever placed it again. If only our real cat could be disposed of so easily.

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