Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Road Trip

I graduated from college with a degree in geography, so I love maps. I’ve always loved getting out the atlas and pour over the individual state maps and see where I might want to go next on a vacation. Where was our next road trip going to take us? Should we take this road, or that one? I wonder what this town is like? Next month, I’m planning a road trip to Stockton, CA, ostensibly to listen to my daughter sing in a concert with her college choir. But we all know that the real reason for road trips is to go caching and this one is no exception.

There is a mystery cache in Southern California called Discovering & Logging California's 58 Counties. The requirements to find that cache is to first find a cache in all 58 counties in California. It’s similar to the DeLorme challenge caches that have been set up in several states across the country. As of this writing, I have a paltry 22 counties with cache finds in them. I figure if I plan this road trip correctly, I can knock a couple more counties off the list. Next summer, we’re planning a camping trip in Northern California, which will also help, so my county map will be more colorful by the end of the summer. Anyway, this series of articles is just designed the document the road trip.

This particular road trip took some advanced planning. I decided that this one was going to take the scenic route, so I’m going to be traveling on a lot of back roads this time, which is fine with me, but making the route queries for this one took a little bit longer. After searching the geocaching data base, I was only able to find this one route that fit my needs for any part of the trip. All the other routes, I had to create. In the end, I have 8 different route queries that I’m going to have to run right before I take off on my road trip. That also is going to take some planning since I can only run five per day. I need to remember to run at least three of them two days before I leave, otherwise I’m screwed.

My next step has been to go through each route and check out the mystery/puzzle caches to see if I can solve some of the puzzles and get those. Interestingly, there don’t seem to be a whole lot of puzzle caches, but I have gone through and solved 12 puzzles for the upcoming road trip. Several of them are right along county lines and involved looking up local history for each county. Right now, I’m a little bit more knowledgeable about Calaveras, Amador, Madera and Tulare Counties. Of those four, I have already found caches in two, Amador and Calaveras being the non found ones in that list. What’s even more interesting is Amador County is the only county that I have not traveled through in California during my life span on earth. I plan to change that on this trip.

There was a puzzle cache that used Pig Latin, one that used the symbols from a computer keyboard, one that had me investigating a certain government agency within Kern County and two cipher puzzles. All of these puzzles have been solved, now my next step is probably going to be to whittle down the list. I have over 500 caches right now, and since my GPSr doesn’t have a memory card slot, I need to get that down to under 500 waypoints for them to all fit in the unit. Once I load all the queries into GSAK I’ll start by eliminating the puzzles that I haven’t solved. That will probably do the trick, but if it doesn’t I’ll then probably drop the multi-caches. I like multi-caches, but they tend to take a little bit longer to find than regular caches and I do have some time constraints so it makes sense to drop them next.

Ok. Now as I look over my check list, I see that I have my routes planned and I have puzzles solved. I still need to run the queries and then reduce the size of the queries down to under 500 caches. Then I need to upload them into my GPSr and my PDA and I’m then set. If all goes well, I should add 6 new counties (San Benito, Sacramento, Amador, Calaveras, Tuolumne, and Mariposa) to my found list for the 58 county challenge. That will leave me just one county short of being halfway to the County Challenge goal. Since there are three basic legs to this trip, I’ll make separate posts on each leg. For now, it’s just a process of waiting.

Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick.

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Ben said...

I'm doing the county challenge also. I have the chance to get a lot of counties driving back and forth to sacramento to visit the family.

Here's how i'm looking currently:

Benh57's CA map


I also like to go for the puzzle and virtual caches first, then I look for other interesting ones. I've gotten very good at using caches along a route. I have a nice 2-day (from sacramento) route planned out for the entire top half that i'm missing.

Ben said...

Also - for complicated back roads routes - here is the easiest way to do it--- (from my post on forums)

HOWTO: Convert from Google Maps (with easy routing) to Google Earth KML for

By benh57.

0. Create your route on Google Maps - Use the slick route-dragging feature to create the perfect route. Make sure it is under 500 miles - the distance is displayed on the left.
1. Once you have a route, click 'Link to this page'. That will give you a direct link to the route.
2. 'Copy' the direct link. Paste the link into your browser location bar. Don't hit return yet.
3. Add the parameter: &output=kml to the URL. Including the & character.
4. Hit return. Google Maps will create a KML file of your route to open in google earth. (but not!)
5. Once you are in google earth, click on the little triangle next to the route on the left sidebar.
6. Find the 'Route' - usually at the bottom of the 'directions' - little triangle icon
7. Right click the little triangle icon and save as KML
8. Upload your KML to


Now, this would be much easier if was able to import the KML from directly - or if they could integrate a google maps widget with road routing right into the site. But this works wonderfully.

Webfoot said...

Great follow up information. Your map looks a little bit more filled in than mine. I'm hitting Northern California in the summer, so I might be able to fill in the entire coast on that trip.