Sunday, April 26, 2009

Urban Jungle Road Trip

The Tadpole and I went on a road trip Saturday, ostensibly to grab some virtual flags in the Los Angeles Basin. The flags were stretched all the way from Thousand Oaks to the west of us, down to San Clemente south of us. Six of them lay waiting for us to drive up and claim the flags, and thus, the points for the flags. We were successful in getting all six flags. The red dots on the map are the different locations we went to get the flags. We ended up getting only one geocache, one that happened to be near the flag in Thousand Oaks. We weren't sure if the Tadpole had found a cache in Ventura County yet, so we stopped there to get this cache to be sure. We remembered later that we had cached together in Ventura County, so in reality, the cache was just a bonus, not fulfilling any kind of challenge, but just there for the fun of finding it.

The thing I love about GeoVexilla is each flag can be worth different points to different people playing the game. For example, we "found" flags of Nigeria, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, St Vincent and the Grenadines (shown below), Nicaragua, Poland and the United States. When a flag is found, the website computer generates a five flag set. The first flag in the set is worth 1 point. Any other flag found for that set would be worth 2 points for the second flag, 4 points for the third, 8 points for the fourth and 16 points for the fifth. Each set is worth a possible 31 points. I could be finding a flag with a friend of mine which might open a new set up for him, but could be worth 8 points to me, because it's already in an existent set. When flags appear on the web site, you have to be ready, because they have a limited lifespan. Most tend to last about two weeks, but I've seen some come and go in just over a week.

It's also possible to move flags around. If you look at my flag sets and scroll down to the bottom, you'll find several sets that are empty. That's because I've moved some flags that could fill in other sets. I enjoy it, because I enjoy going to places where the possibility of getting the flag could be suspect. Not all flags can be grabbed, due to property laws, or terrain, whereas, technically, all geocaches should be able to be grabbed, since another human being has been there already to place the cache.

The GeoVexilla game site is another way to use my GPSr. My son likes finding virtual flags, if nothing more than he gets to see the flags up on my flag sets. I noticed a flag in the hills south of Thousand Oaks. I hadn't ever seen that particular flag design before, so I looked up the island of Niue. I learned it's one of the largest coral islands in the world.

The other thing the site allows me to do is expand my geocaching area. Yesterday wasn't a geocaching type of day for us, with each of us preferring to just grab the virtual flags. Other times, with fewer flags in an area, we might pinpoint a flag, grab it, then find some caches in the general location. I've discovered a couple of nice trails this way and have plans to go back into Riverside County, south of us this fall when it gets cooler to hike this trail that we found because of the virtual flags.

Now that we have our vacation plans formulated for this summer, he and I can start looking at our route to check on geocaching possibilities. Scouting for flags will have to wait until close to our camping trip since they have a limited lifespan on the site. Overall, finding the virtual flags has been a pleasant addition to our GPS using experience. Much, like geocaching, it gets us out and about, gets us to explore new territory and helps us enjoy the outdoors and each other. Try it, you might like it.

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