Hindsight is a great thing. In early October I wasn't all that sure about representing Cache Advance by myself at Geocoinfest 2015. I'm pretty sure Cache Advance was even less assured ...
As Custom Trackable Project Manager for Cache Advance, my mission was to let everyone (who didn’t already) know that yes, you can create a Geocoin or CachekinzTM of your own design through Cache Advance and our Custom Design Services. Consequently I came armed with samples from recent projects as well the merchandise from our biggest (literally!) project ever – the Dutch Windmill. It is often debated if the Windmill is a coin or piece of art but one thing is for sure, it’s a custom trackable! The limited edition created for this event was the final of 6 versions created as homage to the European Geocoinfest held in Eindhoven, The Netherlands a couple of weeks earlier. The image below from our friend Michael Baker (BakerGeckos) represents a rare thing – all six versions in the same room.
Ashland, Nebraska -1,132 (.1 to be exact) miles from my home location turned out to be the site of some of the best times I have had caching/vending. Really, my fun is what's important right? Well that might not be true but the gang who put on this event thought it to be and they delivered.
The trip started Thursday, October 1st (from Spokane, WA naturally). The flight to Denver was uneventful. I had plenty of time until my connection to Omaha so I scooted from terminal C to terminal B and found what I needed to find for the cleverly named "Denver International Airport Earthcache" (GC57BR8). This one I heard about from my buddy Steven Donovan (SirCatNip) during his Podcacher interview (www.podcacher.com). It was easy for him but I still have some research to do.
The flight to Omaha was uneventful, except I landed in Iowa. Things are different in the midwest. It was very late at this time zone when I got off the plane. Everything in the airport was shut down including my designated car rental place or so I thought. I was able to secure the rental car with only one "what the heck do I do now?" call back home to Lisa. This was a new record. The car was (and I kid you not) the absolute furthest distance away from the counter that it could be. I persevered, hiked the distance and placed my magnetic trackable on the car when I found it.
With my trusty Galaxy S5 Sport set to navigation I was off to my awesome room at the Peter Kiewit Lodge in the Eugene Mahoney State Park! (http://outdoornebraska.gov/parks/park_pages/Mahoney_SP/)
The first possible event for the trip was the unofficial "Calm Before The Storm" (GC633AE) breakfast meet and greet in Ashland on October 2. However it was held way too early Friday morning for me to attend. I did get to Ashland about 10:00 that morning to clear the vector after picking up the Dutch Windmills from the park's main building. The first cache I tried ended up being an aborted attempt. Someone who appeared to be living out of his pickup was parked on top of GZ. I just scooted up the road to "Out of Bounds" (GLK3MY3Q), a nice small in the woods. Just like that and Nebraska is on my map.
I went back to the center of town to pick up a Lab Cache set up for the weekend and met up with fellow Washingtonian and founder of the U.S. Geocoinfest (and brain child designer of the Windmill) Mark Clemens (Avroair). We ducked into a little place called Cheri O's (http://www.cherioscoffee.com/) for some breakfast and to talk shop. Of course in this time zone, breakfast was over so we had to eat from the lunch menu.
After our visit I picked up the other lab cache in town and then scooted down state Highway 6 to get the 3rd lab cache, a lighthouse. Yep, a lighthouse in Nebraska (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linoma_Beach)
The balance of the afternoon consisted dropping the windmills off back at my lodge room and zipping into Lincoln to pick up some bubble wrap I would need later for packing the windmills for safe transport for the customers who will be purchasing them on Saturday. On the way I picked up the 4th lab cache called "Wildlife Safari Park" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lee_G._Simmons_Conservation_Park_and_Wildlife…). While in Lincoln I went over to the house of an old friend from Spokane, Mike Church (dodgerfanmc), for a great visit. It had been five years since I had last seen him.
On the way back I picked up the final lab cache that was not inside the Strategic Air and Space Museum - the I80 Rest Stop. I thought that to be an odd place for a lab cache until I did it and found a nice tribute/historical plaque. (I couldn't find a link as to the plaque but here is the rest stop - which almost shows the plaque - http://www.schemmer.com/portfolio-item/ndor-platte-river-rest-area/). I had just enough time to take in the virtual "Holy Family Shrine" (GLK3MY4Q) before getting back to the lodge to clean up for the next event. Full disclosure: a current Spokane area friend Robert Shepler (CDAgeogeek) lived in the Omaha/Lincoln area for a while and gave me the 'Geocacher Things To Do' list. This was on it, LOL!
The Friday night meet and greet was held in the ball room of a nearby establishment called Round The Bend Steakhouse. (http://www.roundthebendsteakhouse.com/ordereze/default.aspx) One of their claims to fame is a "testicle festival" held every June. I will let you do your own research on that but it was a very nice hook for this event. Here we got our registration packages, had some drinks, talked with all sorts of friends new and old, and had some dinner. It was crowded, it was fun, and the venue was only 85% prepared for us. I believe my log for this event said something like "with a waitress on the dirty edge of going postal…" But in the end she did a fantastic job, and the food was great. After the event I headed back to the lodge. I had work to do getting all that new bubble wrap installed.
Saturday October 3 turned out to be bright and sunny for game day. I loaded up the car and drove the quarter mile to the venue. That venue was the awesome Strategic Air and Space Museum (http://www.sasmuseum.com). I was directed to the vendor parking around back where it was a mere 75 to 100 steps from Dale and Barb's Space Coast Geocaching Store booth (http://www.shop.spacecoastgeocachers.com). Space Coast is our excellent partner/reseller that carries many Cache Advance products, and for this event, the Limited Edition Windmill. It was in this booth where I set up the Cache Advance Geocoin display. Barb and Dale had the booth almost good to go when I got there so before you know it we were all set up and doing business with the other vendors and staff before the main gates opened.
Fun Fact: Space Coast Geocaching Store is the very first brick-and-mortar store in North America!
It was quite awesome when those main gates did open. This place was an airplane hangar after all and those "gates" were very huge doors. Their opening was accompanied by a very loud buzzing for safety's sake. It was quite a crowd that came streaming through. The people had so many choices you could see them trying to decide where to go to first while at the same time trying to look at the airplanes in the room... the giant room.
The morning was very busy for the vendors. People knew what they wanted and they flew to the booths that had it. (Flew - get it!) Then they wandered by everything else to check it out. I would razz the locals (We can see where everyone is from because it is on our name badge) on their long commute. They didn't see the humor until they noticed where I was from! I really wanted to explore this museum and get the 5 lab caches strewn about the building. About 11:00 Dale and Barb encouraged me to go explore. (Because they are gracious people and not because I was making their sales suffer….I hope…)
The Air and Space Museum was great. It took me 23 minutes to wander from our hangar A, through the lobby, and to the back side of hangar B. I was taking video the whole time with our Garmin Virb Elite. It was so fascinating to me that I lost track of time and missed Jon Stanley's (Moun10Bike) talk on Geocoins. Yeah... his claim to fame is inventing the Geocoin but I gotta tell you - there were cool planes everywhere!
I was able to find the speaking venue almost in time to not be late for Chris Mackey's (fox-and-the-hound) talk on the creation of the event coin for this year. I was awestruck last year in Houston (not knowing what to expect) as he explained how every little detail of the coin represented something. That event coin instantly became the favorite of my collection. I was ready for more of the same with this year’s awesome set sporting magnet technology, the two versions of the base (for the more basic registration package - which is me all the way! There are three bases if I am correct) and all the airplanes I get to attach to them. I wasn't disappointed, the event coin this year has tied the coin from Geocoinfest last year as a favorite in my collection for the exact same reason - every detail is important to the essence of the coin.
My phone notified me that my old Spokane friend was on the grounds. Too cool! After touring the museum for a bit, Mike and I zipped to Ashland for some late afternoon lunch.
Mike, being a semi newbie cacher, explained to me how he has a hard time actually finding caches. After lunch I navigated him to a nearby hide. After 20 minutes we found everything but the cache. We gave up and headed back to finish up at the venue. In the weeks that followed I had a chance to do some research and have been able to verify that my friend Mike suffers from Occultum Visibilium Dysmorphia. It is a rare affectation (1 in every 500,000 Geocachers - so basically around 12 people in all the world and he's one) that unknowingly projects a force field/invisibility cloak up the geocache being sought rendering it unfindable by the afflicted cacher or anyone in their party. Poor guy. Hope it clears up for him soon. At least he was able to find Signal and some Moun10Bike coins (thanks Joe McCoskey (JoeFriday)!) at the event.
The coolest thing for me at this event was to hook up with some friends who finished our Spokane History Geotour. (https://www.geocaching.com/play/geotours/spokane) Turns out, we didn't take their picture at the finish (like we have done for everybody else). Well, Ryan Semmels (Semmels123) and Lynn Worley Litherland (LadyCache) happened to have their Geotour coin with them so we took advantage and had some fun. This is what amazes me about this community - Spokane, Omaha, Boonsboro, Carnation, Rome, Houston, or Warren - doesn't matter, we are friends wherever we may be.
Geocoinfest 2015 came to a close right on time. Attendees filed out leaving vendors to pack up. I had very few things to pack as most of the windmills sold. I got it all into one box which was going with Barb and Dale anyway. But even then, they had their booth all but packed in the same time and they had much more table space to cover! They have it down to such a science that even though I felt bad I didn't contribute more I had a feeling if I had I would've only slowed them up.
From there it was off to the sports pub in Omaha for the Geocoinfest Poker Tournament (GC5QPNH). That event got started late because of a college football game on the big screens. I'm no detective but I could soon tell the crowd was pulling for the Nebraska Corn Something-or-others. We got started as soon as the game ended and the sports fans departed. My goal this year was to finish better than my 14th place showing last year. Just like last year though, I had no clue what I was doing. And just like last year those at the table who were knowledgeable were willing to help. My strategy of fold early and fold often proved worthy as I muddled through to a 12th place finish. Mission accomplished! Sometime during all this hubbub a birthday cake (and required singing of the song) happened for Jason Judt (Geojudt), a Geocoinfest 2015 Committee member. Not too shabby. Once I was out of the tourney I said my goodbyes to the remaining attendees and headed with Mike deeper into (and the more sketchier part of I assume but it was dark) Omaha to a billiard hall to play some games and catch up. Got back to my lodge room around midnight. A great day indeed.
Sunday morning found me checked out of the lodge and back in Omaha for the Farewell Breakfast (GC5QPPC). Yet another chance to visit with friends from what seemed like everywhere. Soon enough a small band of us had figured out that we all had time on our hands until we needed to hit the road or be at the airport. With that Marlin01, Avroair, Joengps, and yours truly KidVegas19 hunted some virtuals, a challenge cache, and some Earth Caches. My favorites were "Road to Recovery" (GC8146 virt), "Social Butterfly" (GC4ZW13 Mystery/Challenge), and "Heron Haven Wetland" (GC2DFPX Earth).
Soon it was Avroair and myself catching some more of his most favorite kinds of finds - Earthcaches, virts, and Web Cams. We somehow worked our way from Heron Haven to Creighton University to capture our image on our phones from the GCP9FF "Creighton Web Cam" web cam.
We then went down to the riverside for an Octoberfest style lunch (http://storzbrewing.com/oktoberfest/) and a virt (GCCA9B "L & C Landing"). Avroair picked up another Earthcache (GC1XHG1 "Missouri River of Hope and Change Earthcache" because he's good at that kind of stuff). Mark's flight was earlier than mine so after we said our goodbyes I went over to Council Bluffs to grab some super-favorited hides GC1DTXV "Cuckoo" and GC3P29E "Here they be pirates". Then it was off to the airport.
The flight from Omaha to Las Vegas was eventful, sorta. I was looking forward to the 2 hour layover in Vegas (being KidVegas19 it is mandatory that I look forward to Vegas layovers…) but the 'check engine' light came on as the plane pushed away from the gate. It took about an hour and a half before they figured out how to put a piece of electrical tape over the light. This left me enough time when I landed in Vegas to dash from the landing gate to the designated boarding gate. The flight home to Spokane was indeed, uneventful.
It was good to be home, but it was great to attend Geocoinfest 2015.
European Geocoinfest 2016: http://coord.info/GC60A2F
US Geocoinfest 2016: http://coord.info/GC631BQ
JD Parkman is the Custom Trackable Project Manager for Cache Advance.