A few months ago, I found myself belly-crawling through the dirt under a merry-go-round.  Looking up at the underside of this playground staple, I reflected on how I willingly came to be in such a position for the first time in over thirty years.  I grunted, contorting my six-foot, four-inch,  42 year-old, slightly-heavier-than-it-should-be frame to better study the merry-go-round’s support structure. As I lay prostrate, hoping I wouldn’t knock my head on something, I spied my goal–a small metal case that had once held cigarettes but now held a tiny slip of paper and a pencil.  Victory! I found the Geocache.

Crawling under an old merry-go-round in Crete, NE.

Crawling under an old merry-go-round in Crete, NE.

Returning from the Mayo Clinic last fall, we got hungry for lunch.  We pulled off I-35 in northern Iowa into a “prairie area” we’d not yet explored hoping to find a quiet, pretty spot to enjoy a picnic lunch.  As Ann was preparing our sandwiches, I headed back to our car to grab something.  Suddenly, an older gentleman called me over to his car.  Let me pause in my storytelling here to go on record as saying that I don’t normally approach older men at rest areas on interstates.  I only went over because he called me and my Nebraska politeness kicked in before I could think.  Long story short, he told me to look at the left end of a sign near our picnic table.  He said there was a capsule there that I should look at, that it contained the names of people who’d found it before.

The Geocache was a small, pill bottle wrapped in tape and secured to the back of a sign with wire.

The Geocache was a small, pill bottle wrapped in tape and secured to the back of a sign with wire.

I said I’d look, and headed, intrigued, back to where Ann was and together, we looked behind the sign. There, hanging by a wire, was a plastic pill bottle wrapped in camouflage duct tape.  We opened it, and entered the world of Geocaching.

Geocaching started years ago when the U.S. government first allowed civilian use of GPS technology.  No sooner was the system turned on, than a guy went and hid something in the woods, challenging others to find it.  People did, and wrote on-line about their experiences.  Soon many more found the item, while others hid still more items for people to find.  They gave the practice the name “Geocaching” combining the idea that the world, “Geo,” is the playing field and you have to find the hidden “caches” of goods.

Back to our rest-stop pill bottle.  Inside, there were several tattered strips of paper filled with the names of people who’d already found this cache along with the date they were there.  We jotted “Postcardjar” and the date on the paper and were hooked.  Right after we got back in the car, we download the app to Ann’s phone so we could play, too.

Now as we drive down the road, we check to see if there are any caches nearby.  If there are, their location (latitude and longitude) are displayed along with information about the cache.  (The app even gives us a handy line to follow.)  Here’s the catch:  You are directed to the exact location of the cache, but then you have to find it.

A small Geocache made of an Altoids box.

A small Geocache made of an Altoids box.

Some caches are very small, others are big.  All are hidden to some degree…some better than others.  And you have to be discreet when looking, as geocachers don’t want “muggles” (non-geocachers) to know what they’re doing.

There are a lot of caches out there, somewhere in the neighborhood of 2.5 million.  They are hidden right out in public, sometimes in plain view.  Every day, hundreds or even thousands of people might pass by these caches without knowing they exist or giving them a second thought.  I guarantee you’ve gone by hundreds of them without knowing.  The best part is that anyone with a handheld GPS (or even a GPS equipped smartphone) can play along.  You just have to want to take a few minutes away from your car to explore someplace new–like the underside of a merry-go-round.

Have you tried Geocaching? Let us know about your experiences. We’d love to hear from you.

  • Perched high on a hill in Tuscany is the medieval village of Montepulciano. In the center of town is the piazza grande paved with bricks laid in a herringbone pattern in the 14th century. ⁣
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Standing in the piazza, looking at the bricks, we were filled with a sense of awe at the history these bricks have seen. They've been there for 700 years so have seen times of war and peace, celebration and sorrow. Generation after generation of townsfolk were born, lived and died, and all have walked on these bricks. ⁣
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This is one of the things we love most about traveling. It gives us an authentic feel for history, one we wouldn't have if we just stayed at home.
  • We were so tickled when @thechefandthedish reached out and asked us if we'd like to take a complimentary cooking class with them. They offer private cooking classes with chefs from all over the world that you can take right in your own kitchen. ⁣
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For this class, we Skyped with chef Paola who taught us to make strawberry risotto, traditional bruschetta, and a delicious poached pear dessert that blew our minds. ⁣
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Risotto always seemed like a difficult dish to make, but Chef Paola explained it so well that it wound up being pretty easy. We spent a great afternoon with friends, learned something new, and enjoyed a great meal after. A class with The Chef & The Dish is a great gift idea, as well. Follow the link in our bio, and you can read more about our class on our blog.
  • The world is a big place, and there's so much to discover. Go places, and see things. It doesn't matter if you don't have a detailed itinerary, either. Sometimes, it's more about the journey and what you see and experience along the way, than it is about the destination.
  • During our trip in Tuscany with @italyunfiltered, we stopped at a small family winery. After learning about the organic methods they use to produce high quality Chianti Clasico wines, we had a tasting. ⁣
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Wine tastings in Italy are nothing like those in the US. They are glorious affairs complete with delicious foods paired with the incredible wines. This particular winery brought us samples of homemade, organic jams made from fruits grown in the family's garden. We dabbed these on locally produced pecorino cheese. Yum!⁣
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We're so glad that we had a local driver and guide. Stopping here was a highlight of our Italian adventure, and we never would have found it on our own.
  • The village of Marsaxlokk, Malta, is famous for these brightly painted fishing boats. The design is rather ancient, possibly dating back to Phoenician times, though it's still used today because it is very strong and holds up well in rough weather. One feature of each boat's decorations, are eyes painted on the bow of the boat. These eyes are said to protect the people fishing while they are at sea.
  • The blue cobblestones of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, are actually part of a recycling project which started 500 years ago. Iron foundries in Spain produced huge piles of waste, called slag. Rather than throw these piles away, the slag was made into blocks which was placed into ships as ballast. The ballast was offloaded in Puerto Rico when they loaded products bound for Spain. The blocks were then used to pave the streets. ⁣
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Pretty good idea, and 500 years later, they are holding up well!
  • The Overseas Highway connects Key West and the Florida Keys to the mainland U.S. While the entire road is a marvel of engineering, the centerpiece is the Seven Mile Bridge, which runs over water for, well, seven miles.⁣
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The next time you're driving, reset your trip odometer and wait until it gets to seven miles. You'll see that's a pretty long distance. And then think about the fact that people built a bridge over water with no land to support them for that distance. Pretty incredible-especially since the first one was built in 1912.
  • We'd never heard of cannonball rocks before we drove past them at North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park and asked each other, "did you see that?" We'd never seen anything quite like these natural "concretions" created when water leaked into pockets of minerals in the ground. Now, as a hill erodes, these formations are exposed.⁣
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Seeing these rocks was such a cool experience because it reminded us of why we travel. We never know when we'll find something new, something that we never knew existed. We got along fine not knowing about cannonball rocks, yet now that we've seen them, our lives are a little richer. ⁣
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The world is a pretty cool place. Check it out.⁣
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@ndlegendary

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