Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Geocaching in Southeastern Ohio - Part 2

We wake up to a beautiful July morning in Athens and get ready for the day. Unfortunately this is a quick adventure for us and we're packing our bags not to move to the next hotel but to go home after we finish our caching.  The breakfast at the hotel was very nice, especially for a Hampton Inn and I'm sure they regret letting our horde hit them hard.  :)

Today's plan will take us further east and a bit north before we'll head back to Central Ohio. Again, we've laid out our path to maximize counties + caches.  Our first cache is not too far away and everyone is in good spirits.  As we approach the cache we see it is near what looks like a small Ohio oil well and as luck would have it, there is a truck sitting there with someone in it. Here's a picture of the type of well I am talking about (not a big Texas or Oklahoma one).
We drive by, turn around and park along the road to see if he's just there for a quick check of things on a Sunday morning or not.  We wait a few minutes, check our phone (no signal....grrr) and discuss what to do.  We drive by again and it looks like the guy is just sitting there with no intent to leave so we scrub the cache.  Unfortunately without a cell signal to find a new cache in the county, we resign ourselves to making another trip to this county in the future to get a cache.

Undaunted, we proceed to the next county and a cache that sounds massively cool - The Dungeon by the Schoolhouse.  Dungeon Cache. I've added the URL if you are a fellow cacher and want to check it out.  if not, here's a quick picture.
We were exciting to search for this cache in a neat place with some history but after 30 minutes of looking in every nook and cranny, scratching our heads and discussing where it could be, we gave up on this one, too.Major bummer that we started the day with two Did Not Find (DNFs).  The upside is that we were in a city and our cell phone worked so we found a quick parking lot cache and our youngest daughter and I made the grab.  It's interesting to watch the sociological interaction of our kids and their competitive nature coming out - the oldest two run around in frantic cycles searching for the cache trying to beat the other one. This naturally leaves the youngest two out of the hunt so we frequently hear "But I haven't found one yet" so sometimes as parents we have to intercede.  ;)  This was one of those times.

Our next cache was pretty close and was at a old grist mill on Wolf Creek. We were excited for this one as it also claims to be where the local Boy Scout troop meets.  We knew we were deep in the sticks of Ohio when we saw the signs to the local "Mud Run" for 4x4 pickup trucks.  :)   This was a quick find for our expert team of cachers and our confidence in our searching skills was restored.  The next cache had the potential for a Geocaching first for us, a "First to Find" which as the name implies means we are the first people to log a find for it.

This cache was in a small town park in Noble county and was on a newly restored howitzer.  Sydney found the cache, I logged the FTF and then the kids asked if they could play on the cool stuff on the playground.  Who can resist slides, merry go rounds, swings and teeter-totters?  I even got in on the swinging and had fun.  After goofing around for a bit we loaded back into the car and were headed for the next exciting cache.

This next cache was in a cemetery and seemed like it'd be close-ish based on looking at the map.  This ended up being one of the most remote caches we've done so far.  We drove on twisty, winding 2 lane roads, down to 1.5 lane roads to eventually gravel roads before finish the remote church on the top of a hill with a great view.  An easy find that our youngest son made after reminding the older kids that they need to "share" the caches.  A unique opportunity was to use real outhouses by the church as it'd been a while since we were near restrooms.  
We loaded back in the car and plugged the coordinates for the next cache into the GPS when I noticed that the gas light was on.  Uh-oh.  We were in a remote area of Ohio that is very hilly and low on gas.  We told the GPS to find the closest gas station and were on our way. A few prayers that we would make it there as well as that it would be open were said! Our prayers were heard and answered as we made it to a Marathon with old school pumps with dials for the gas.  My pumping skills are still top notch and I hit $50.00 even with no problem.  :)

The gas crisis behind us, we realized we needed to eat and made a run for the border - Taco Bell to rescue!  We programmed the next cache into the GPS and hit the road.  This cache was placed by a Boy Scout troop and they also asked anyone to find it to log their Scouting rank.  We drove to the cache and the GPS was telling us to go onto private property.  This didn't seem appealing deep in the heart of southern OH so we circled it a few more times before realizing it was along an abandoned railroad bed.  As I am backing up in the all terrain Honda Odyssey I ended up in the ditch with the left front wheel off of the ground and unable to move.  I *wish* I had taken a picture but was more concerned with my stupidity and wanted to get out of the ditch.  I had Julie slide over to the driver's seat while I bounced up and down on the driver's side to get the wheel to touch down and get traction.  Thankfully this worked and we all had a collective sigh of relief and laugh at my expense.  We parked safely and walked down the track and made a quick grab of the cache.

One more planned cache to find so off we went with a goal in mind to crush it.  We arrived at the location which was another old cemetery and searched high and low to no avail. Another 30 minutes of searching and we called it missing and resigned ourselves to a DNF.  It was getting into the early evening and we were in the eastern part of Ohio so wanted to head home.  A stop for a restroom break was in order and as luck would have it, there was a cache across the street.  These things are *everywhere*!  A quick grab and we were able to mark off another county!

We snagged a quick cache at the Zane Grey museum outside of Zanesville just for kicks and grins to bring our day's total to 6 for the day!!!

Julie and I use the Whatsapp program instead of texting and made the executive decision to stop by Ye Olde Mill in Utica for some Velvet Ice Cream (so good!) as a reward for an awesome weekend of Geocaching and fun as a family.

We had a great time and can't wait to do it again and see ore of Ohio and have more adventures.  Amaziningly the tale of the tape with numbers is significant:
  • Over 700 miles driven
  • 15 caches found
  • 5 DNFs
  • Hundreds of laughs
  • Many quality hours of time as a family
Our updated map of Ohio now looks like this:

I hope you enjoyed it and can't wait to share more with you.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Geocaching - Tech + outdoors = fun for the entire family

This last weekend in the US was a holiday for the 4th of July (Independence Day - without aliens and Will Smith) which meant a long weekend to enjoy. Instead of lounging around, eating too much and the usual mass of yard work and other chores to do we decided to go Geocaching!

What is Geocaching, you ask? Well, according to the official website (www.geocaching.com) "Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location."  What this means to my family, we leave the usual electronics (tablets, handheld games, etc) and go outside use a multi-billion dollar satellite network and find plastic containers full of trinkets in the woods.

We have been Geocaching since 2004 and have had peaks and valleys in our Geocaching activities. Some years we've not done any at all, while other years we are very active.  I heard about Geocaching for the first time when I was in Raleigh at a Cisco lab and the lab engineer mentioned it. I immediately was interested and convinced my wife to spend a little over $100 to buy a Garmin eTrex to find hidden Tupperware in the woods.  :)   We've now found caches in multiple states and countries and have had a great time showing our kids how to use a GPS, read a map, avoid poison ivy, etc.

So on to this weekend.  We decided earlier this year that we wanted to get a cache in every county in Ohio. For those who aren't familiar with Ohio's layout, that's 88 counties across hundreds of miles.  Easy enough, huh?  That's what we thought until we started looking at the caches we've found and naturally most are close to home which left a lot of counties to be visited.   We started to lay out a plan and chose Athens, Ohio to be our base of operation for the weekend and we'd drive out from there to the various counties. We hoped to hit 12 counties over the two days of hardcore caching before driving home. It sounded aggressive and with 4 kids we didn't want to burn them out.  We cache as a family so need to keep the attention span of our youngest ones in mind as well.

I used Google Earth with the Geocaching KML file to locate caches in each county with a focus on county adjacency.  We wanted to hit as many counties with as little driving as we reasonable.  Below is an example showing caches in four Ohio counties.
Using this method, I was able to validate that the caches are still active and have been found recently and now we had a plan laid out.  A quick note on the equipment I use.  For most caching activities we are near metro areas where cell signal is decent so I use the c:geo app on my Samsung Galaxy S3.  Knowing that this part of Ohio is considered Appalachia (really it is!) and also home to some Bigfoot sightings I knew we couldn't depend on cell phone based GPS. I made sure I loaded our eTrex with the coordinates for each cache as well so we'd have options if the cell signal didn't work.  *So* glad I did this as most of these caches were in areas with no coverage.

We set out early Saturday with the plan to drive to our furthest cache and work our way back to Athens which meant we were headed toward Scioto county.  This was a classic cache out in the woods and took us to an old iron ore furnace area. Southeastern Ohio has dozens of these furnaces left over from early mining and smelting operations and now many of them have caches.  This was a tricky find and as our GPS had us running in circles.  We needed to remember to stop; use our "Geo-sense"; and see where it takes us.

With a find under our belts, we headed towards Lawrence county and a cemetery. Cemeteries are popular locations for caches and many have some really neat historical significance if you take the time to look. This was an old cemetery and had graves from the late 1800s.  Another find and we were on the road headed deeper into Lawrence county.  I've not been here before so wanted see more of the far-flung area. The next cache was located near a supposed Bigfoot sighting and we searched but suspect it was carried away in flood waters from all of the rain we have been getting.  It was getting close to lunch and the "towns" I saw on the map that I thought might contain food were not much more than a small grouping of homes. 

With that in mind we headed back north to Jackson county to our next cache location. This was in a park in the city of Oak Hill and as luck would have it, the park was a huge yard sale this weekend.  There were too many "muggles" (non-Geocaching people - stolen from Harry Potter) so we searched for another nearby cache and found one in another cemetery.  This was near a nice family mausoleum at the top of a hill.  We headed back to the "big city" and found a Subway, tanked up on gas and Ski.  For those not familiar with Ski, it's a soft drink similar to Mountain Dew but locally made and not available even as close as central Ohio.  I found they had a Red Ski (Code Red wannabe) and grabbed one of those, too.

Our next county was Gallia and we were headed to Rio Grande (not pronounced like the river - it's an Ohio thing I guess).  A quick magnetic grab on an abandoned guardrail of old St Rt 35 and we decided to hit the original Bob Evans Farm. This is where the Bob Evans restaurant chain started and as luck would have it, a smaller version of the Vietnam Memorial Wall was there as well (http://travelingwall.us/ ).  It seemed very appropriate being the 4th of July weekend and the kids learned a bit about history and sacrifice.

While in Gallia county we hit Bidwell, a small town that was once significant due to the train and now with the tracks gone, is a single stop single kind of place. A quick park and grab and we were back on the road with two more caches to grab.The drive from Bidwell to Vinton was very pretty, scenic rolling hills. One of the best parts of this trip was the opportunity to take the back roads and those less traveled.

We stopped for a restroom break in Vinton county at a gas station next to a huge AEP electricity generation plant.  The restrooms were locked so we had to get the keys from the staff.  (Why do I mention this?  Keep reading).  Some more Snapple and we were on our way.  The last two caches for the day were admittedly not very exciting as they were magnetic caches placed next to stop signs in Vinton and Meigs county but I had planned that we'd be dragging by now and just wanted to get a quick cache to tag the county. These last two caches in the books and were were headed back to Athens and an Indian feast. Julie and I love Indian food, the kids do well at tolerating it.  ;)

On the drive back Julie commented about the restoroom keys which is when I realized I still had them in my pocket.  Begrudgingly we made a U-turn and headed back to the gas station to return their keys.  We laughed about the line of people that might be waiting to get into the locked restrooms.  Now you know why some places chain the key to a brick or big stick.  It's easy to pocket the keys and forget.  That task done we finally hit Athens, went to mass at Christ the King next to Ohio University. (OU is known for being a party school and as we pulled up, it was wading pool and beer drinking time in our bikinis across the street from the church).  LOL.

After mass we hit the only Indian restaurant in town, Star of India, which happened to be owned by the same people who owned a place in Columbus called "Sitar of India" that Julie and I used to visit all the time before they moved.  Small world, eh?  Back to our hotel for showers and dinner and a night of needed sleep with dream of more counties and caches in our heads.

For those keeping count, we cached in Athens, Scioto, Lawrence, Gallia, Vinton and Meigs counties.  :)

Stay tuned for part 2.

Monday, July 7, 2014

OTV Discussion - Video

When I was in San Francisco in May of 2014 an opportunity to film a video with one of the NX-OS book's co-authors, David Jansen (@ccie5952) with the team from CiscoPress came up.  Naturally I jumped at this and what you see below is the end result.  We were really impressed with the facilities at the PeachPit offices where the CiscoPress LiveLessons are recorded.  Here's a picture of where we sat during the discussion - note it had a real green screen like a TV news station.  Very cool (or maybe I am easily impressed)  ;)

David and I and I did some planning on what we'd talk about but the live video was all unscripted. Both of us have been working with OTV since before it was released to customers and can just ramble on about it for as much time as you give us.  Let me know what you think about the adjacency server/DLSw analogy.  I take crap from people every time I mention it, but it works for me. 

We had a great time and I think it shows in the video. Hopefully this is the first of many video sessions we'll be working on.  It was a great experience and a big thank you to the CiscoPress team for making it happen!
I hope you find it helpful. URL below:

A Tour of Cisco Data Center Interconnect with OTV