Florida was our family vacation trip: something called Disney World & Universal Studios (geocaches) was taking us from Washington state across the country for a week of warmth, a refuge from Spokane's winter grip. Geocachers usually have ulterior motives on such trips, adding as many geocaching finds in as many places as they can possibly fit in while still enjoying Mickey Mouse.
First priority was selecting how to get there, 2,807 miles, 38 hours driving without traffic, 172 hours driving while finding geocaches, I was out voted ... we're flying. While checking flights online, one must consider many important factors; cost, departure, arrival time and layovers which may facilitate the finding of geocaches near the airport. We had 2 layovers. Unfortunately they was only one hour each at Salt Lake City and Cincinnati, which had a nearby virtual cache (GCB6FD). I could only hope for a delayed flight if I wanted to pick up any of these states as finds.
The weeks that led up to the trip were filled comparing prices at the parks, where to stay and of course what caches to find. I knew a visit to the only other brick and mortar geocaching store in the nation was a given, Space Coast Geocaching on Merritt Island, Fl near the warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
As the departure date neared, there were many evenings of repeated "pocket query" searches & making "Geocaching Lists" - favorite points, olds, virts, & earth caches. As I copied and printed all the requirements for the virtual geocaches so they would be easily accessible on a few sheets of paper, it brought back the memories of geocaching with my old Garmin HCX. Ahh ... the paper days of geocaching, no description or hints in the GPS.
I had my plan laid out well. The night before departure I'd run final "Pocket queries" and set up future "Pocket queries" to run automatically thru the trip so I would simply access Geocaching.com and load them via my laptop while in Florida. My plan was perfect until a storm packing near hurricane-force winds slammed into the Inland Northwest knocking out trees and power to over 200,000 customers including us. The PQ's would have to wait until we arrived in Florida.
As we left the storm ravaged area we arrived at our first layover. No delays, but I got a window seat and took some pictures of caches that lay below outside of Salt Lake City, Maple Mountain High, (GC8106) a 1x4 2002, 12-hour hiking cache, soon after came Denver and a super view of the site for upcoming GeoWoodstock 14er - 2016 (GC5Q1ET). I was looking forward to attending this event & hadn't even completed this trip yet. Cincinnati offered no cache finding...where's a delay when you need one? I need Ohio on my geo map!
We arrived safely in Orlando and I deployed my first weapon, a Garmin Nuvi I brought from home. No extra fees from the car rental company and I did manage to previously load it with geocaches, a great tool in a new area which shows the roads and the best way to get there. My Nuvi version showed where the toll roads were so that was a bonus in this area.
Once morning came we were off to the Disney Parks. These are not only some of the best theme parks on earth but each themed world has a virtual geocache (EPCOT has 2 virtuals!) These are probably the most expensive caches I've ever found (but well worth it) as you must buy a ticket to enter, with the exception of one at a Disney resort. The Magic Kingdom cache (GC10FB) is the oldest in these parks, July 2001 with over 900 favorite points, it's the most favorite pointed cache in Florida. The other virtuals are from 2002 so it was nice to add numbers to my Jasmer challenge.
The next day it was more parks then I got the golden ticket, I got a free day to geocache on my own! I dropped the kids at Disney and headed to Crockett's Wilderness Adventure (GCA402), a 2002 virt that included several waypoints. I got thru security at the main gate then found WP1, however the trails were closed for remodel for the next WP. I wasn't giving up and continued searching the grounds for another way to WP2, eventually finding another trail and set off with a successful find but I had paid dearly in time finding an alternate way.
I headed south & found a few traditional caches, including a 4.5 x 1.5 cache, Evil - Tribute to the Master of Stress (GC54MDA) - it has over 50 finds and nearly as many DNF's. Once I found GZ, I began the search, palm trees & some tropical bush bigger than a fir tree, I widened my search and got lucky by just a glimpse of something out of place, a cool 5 minutes had passed by from start to finish. I can usually find a nano in the woods but not a small or regular geocache! I headed north as I hadn't planned on the many freeways causing such havoc on getting from location to location in this area.
I was in a newer area of Orlando and most the caches were just outside gated communities. I'd park the car just out the gate and make a made dash to the cache. I found one ammo can and that was cool.
Florida caches are surely different than the Pacific Northwest, its flatter than a pancake, there's sand, big plants and many strange bugs, I got tangled in several spider webs just waiting for a geocacher meal. I jumped around and swatted virtual creatures off me several times. Then there's the possibility of an alligator...I kind of wanted to see one and kind of didn't want to meet up with one.
After a long series of DNF's I headed east on another toll road. The closest thing to toll roads at home is a bridge 280 miles away in Seattle. I brought plenty of spare change with me and got pretty good at tossing my change into the cache (cash) tube.
I arrived at an old Orlando cemetery "Home of Very Distinguished Roots" cache GCGGT a 2003 virt. The warm Florida rain soon drizzled, then poured down to help me with my finds. There we're several other caches nearby and then another nearby 2003 virt and a few traditionals. The sun was setting and I needed to get back and call it a day.
We continued with Universal Studios where I logged another virt "Divided we fall" GC73A6, a section of the Berlin Wall, very historic and the 2nd piece of wall I've found, both having a geocache. The first was near Hope, Idaho "Fieldtrip of History" GCGRCF.
Another cache type I did pocket queries for was event caches. There were three nearby events three days before we arrived & a day after we left! It would have been fun to meet up with other cachers from around the world. I had also brought along my magnetic travel bug & stuck it to the back of our rental car hoping another geocacher would discover us along a busy road or parking lot. None discovered us but it was still fun to display.
Soon we were heading east to the Atlantic Ocean via Hwy 528 & a series of coin tossing cache toll booths - it was almost like doing a multi cache!
Space Coast was the first stop. It was awesome seeing another geocaching store and Dale & Barbs was similar to the Cache Advance store. They had quite a collection of geo goods and hospitality to boot! After looking at everything on the shelves & walls I even found a bottle of Cache Advance wine which I suggested we pop open! It was time to discover the many trackables they had to share with visiting geocachers. There was even a collection of Pathtags on a refrigerator door that had tags from cachers back home; Kidvegas19, Chumpo, Mtngoat50 & others.
I had brought some trackables from home to exchange too. I had already taken a few of the trackables into the Disney Parks and included them in part of the trip taking photos of them (minus the TB numbers) then posted them on the trackables log page.
I highly recommend anyone going to Florida to make sure they stop by and check out the big ammo can geocache and Dale & Barbs store which has the 2nd highest favorite points in Florida.
The warm waters of the Atlantic was our next quest & we got prime directions to a public beach complete with an earthcache "Molly Says Sand, do you dig it?" GC32Z0C. After some excavation in the sand and fulfilling the requirements I deployed my two meter parafoil stunt kite & buzzed the sky while standing in the warm ocean, pretty cool.
Cocoa Beach provided souvenir shops then we had "Chinese picnic" at a restaurant that specialized in take-out. The food was good, well-priced and we were starving! Chinese food with paper plates and plastic silverware, it was classic!
The last days we finished up the theme parks, the virtual caches. Then up early for a morning flight taking us to Minneapolis, Minnesota another one hour layover, there was a nearby virt "Falcon" GCJAHG, however the cache was disabled as the museum was closed for the season. There were a few other close traditional geocaches however a person can't get a delayed flight when they want one! We spent the extra time on the tarmac being de-iced for the return to Spokane.
Flying across the northern states crossing cache after cache, I'd been down there via Amtrak a few years ago and cached my way to Chicago, Los Angeles and back to Spokane. Altitude decreasing, I was recognizing these mountains in Idaho - hey I'd been on the top of that one, "4x4 series, Top of the World" GC5AVX3 & gotten FTF with BruhnWa, & there was the St. Joe River and Lake Coeur d'Alene. Gear lowering, flaps down, tires screeching, were back to snowy Spokane.
It was a great trip, I found 19 caches; 9 virtuals, 1 earthcache & a handful of DNF's.
Traveling is a great way to see the hidden unique places, away from the theme parks and the crowds.
If you geocache, prepare with "Pocket query searches", make geocaching "Lists," find the types and difficulty terrain caches you enjoy, and be familiar with how your GPS or phone operates while caching, and you will have a great trip too!