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.

  • One of our favorite stops on our hosted food tour of @visitkansascityks was the @403club. Sure, they offer a great selection of locally crafted and larger production domestic beers. But they also have pinball machines. In fact, they even have a pinball league.⁣
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We spent about an hour in this fun spot, sipping, playing, and enjoying the relaxed atmosphere. It will definitely be on our list of places to go again, someday. Beer and pinball are a pretty good mix.
  • On our visit to Italy, we visited the Prosecco region. While we toured a number of wineries, we actually stayed at an inn run by the Roccat winery. ⁣
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Prosecco is a sparkling wine, and people often see it as intergangeable with champagne. This isn't the case at all. Champagne is made from the Chardonnay grape, while Prosecco comes from Glara. Because of this, the two wines are completely different.⁣
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We enjoyed a tasting at Roccat, where they served us glasses of crisp, clear, delicious wine alongside some crunchy breadsticks that were just the right thing to enjoy with the wine.⁣
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If you ever have the opportunity to go to Italy, make sure you include time to head to Valdobbiandene and try some Prosecco.
  • Located in @clearlakeiowa, the historic Surf Ballroom has hosted some of the biggest names in music. It was on this stage that Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and JP "The Big Bopper" Richardson performed their final show on February 3, 1959. After the concert, they boarded a plane for their next town on their tour. That plane crashed shortly after takeoff, and the date has been remembered ever since as "the day the music died."⁣
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@traveliowa
  • Set in Millennium Park in Chicago is one of the city's most iconic art installations. It's a giant, shiny bean which reflects everything in sight. It's fun to walk around (and under) the bean and see how the shape distorts what it reflects.⁣
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Folks come from all over to see this art installation and take it in. Children love running around it and gazing into it, not realizing they are learning about convex and concave shapes. ⁣
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Standing here you'll hear a multitude of languages and see people from all walks of life there to enjoy the art. And that's why we love public art so much--it brings people together.
  • On our cruise from Italy to Greece, we made a stop in Mykonos. There, we had the chance to take part in a Greek cooking class in a woman's home learning from her.⁣
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We spent an afternoon with lessons about Greek cuisine, and how they waste nothing, not even excess juice from a cucumber. We also saw how to make incredible dishes like this spanakopita, or spinach pie. Sitting in her dining room, enjoying the light, flaky crust and delicious filling is an experience we won't soon forget. ⁣
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While traveling, we try to find opportunities to experience local culture. It's amazing how similar people in the world really are if you just take some time to see what life is like.
  • Do you remember that song from "The Music Man" about trouble? You know the one about the kids in the knickerbockers, shirt-tail young ones, peekin' in the pool hall window after school. ⁣
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Well, we got to peek in a replica of that pool hall on a recent visit to The Music Man Square on our hosted to Mason City, Iowa. It's the town where "The Music Man" creator Meredith Willson was born and raised and his legacy lives on. ⁣
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Before you go see @thehughjackman and @suttonlenore in this Broadway favorite, consider a visit to the real River City.⁣
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Click on the link in our bio to see our latest blog post about why fans of "The Music Man" need to visit Mason City, Iowa. ⁣
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@themusicmanbway
  • When we heard that there was a community garden in Clear Lake, Iowa, we figured we'd stop and check it out. We've seen small town community gardens before, and were expecting a few flower patches, some paving stones, and maybe a bench or two. After all, it was built and is maintained by volunteers in a small Iowa town. ⁣
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What we found, though, was simply astounding! First, the entire garden had been designed beautifully; a small stream even meandered through the gardens, pausing in small lily-filled pools before continuing on its path. But the flowers took the cake. So many varieties, each more beautiful than the last. And the entire space had been planned out to take advantage of the spring, summer, and autumn species. ⁣
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if you enjoy gardens, put the Central Gardens of North Iowa on your list of places to visit.
  • Calmar, Iowa, near Decorah, is home to Pivo Brewery and Blepta Studios. There you'll find high quality craft beers, in a relaxed, fun environment. Upstairs from the taproom are the studios, where you can try your hand at art while sipping your beer.

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