US Trip 2014 – The quest to Mingo

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After Yellowstone, the next part of our trip was from Wapiti to Perryton, Texas. This was going to be the part where we logged caches in several new states, set a new personal record in number of US states logged in one day (4) and visit the worlds oldest active geocache – GC30 Mingo. We had planned to use three days on this part:

  • Tuesday: Wapiti, WY to Spearfish, SD – Devils Tower
  • Spearfish, SD to Ogallala, NE – Mt. Rushmore and Carhenge
  • Ogallala, NE to Perryton, TX – Four states in one day, and GC30 Mingo!

On the first day, we had nothing big planned before Devils Tower, besides from a webcam cache in Sheridan. But the drive to Sheridan was anything but boring! When driving through Cody, we were just going to stop by to get the answers to a virtual cache, GC67F6 R U. Getting the necessary answer didn’t take much more than a few seconds, but there was no way we could leave this place without thoroughly exploring it! We took lots of photos!

Virtual cache

When driving through the town of Greybull, WY, I suddenly noticed a huge amount of used license plates on a old school bus. Last year we got a license plate for each state we had visited, and we want to do the same this year. So we had to stop, and see if they were for sale. There was plenty of cool stuff to buy here, but the owner was nowhere to be seen. A group of non-English speaking French people, suddenly appeared from nowhere. They also wanted license plates.

License plate bus

We gave the owner a call, and got instructions on how to pay. Then, we just had to find the plates we wanted. Apparently, the French people wanted some of the same plates as us, but luckily, there was plenty of plates to pick from! We got all the states we wanted, and paid what we had agreed with the owner. Awesome!

During the rest of our trip towards Sheridan, we got to enjoy lots of beautiful scenery! We drove through a mountain pass, and did 4 earthcaches in a row! The geology in the area are simply amazing. The last earthcache turned out to be a bit harder than the rest, but with some help from a ranger (with a degree in geology) and a lot of studying, we got the answers we needed.

One of the earthcaches

In Sheridan, we found a virtual cache, and did the webcam with some help from back home.

We like to find at least one cache in each county we visit, but there wasn’t many caches to find along the road from Sheridan to Devils Tower. So we really needed to find the cache we had planned for Johnson County. But we couldn’t find it! To make it worse, two muggles appeared from nowhere, and decided to hang around. I really don’t understand why they where there, in the end of a parking lot, in a place filled with trash. The only reason I can think for anyone to be there, was if they were going to find this cache! (they were not)

So, we had to find another cache.
Luckily, we managed to do that, only a few miles further into the town we had stopped in.

We stopped to find a cache in Gilette, GC12TXB Muggle Proof travel bug hotel. In the cache we found a tiny lady bug, wishing us good luck. We had to do a trade! We kept the tiny lady bug prominently displayed in the car for the rest of this trip.

Tiny Lady Bug

The next big stop was Devils Tower, and after a few stops along the road, we arrived! Only with minutes to spare until dusk. We hadn’t planned to walk around the tower, but the virtual cache located on the back side was way to tempting for us to resist it. Once we got there, we were halfway already, so no reason to stop then! By the time we got back, it was really dark! We decided to try to take a few long exposure photographs, but with cars coming and going, it wasn’t easy. But it gave us a kinda cool photo.

Devils Tower

By the time we made it across the South Dakota border, it was completely dark! But we still managed to stop for a cache. When we arrived at the hotel, at around half past 10pm, we were exhausted. In fact, we arrived just by pure luck. I didn’t know which direction to chose at the last intersection, so I drove straight ahead to stop at a empty parking lot, to get orientated.

We were quite surprised when we discovered that the empty parking lot, was the parking lot of our hotel! The hotel we had booked and prepaid several months ago. As a joke, I said something like this: “It’s empty, it looks almost like it’s closed!”.

I did not expect to be right.

On the door we found a note stating that the hotel was closed until further notice. What to do? We asked at the pizza place located in the same building as the closed hotel. Apparently, they had a fire and closed a week ago. We found another hotel just across the interstate, and got a room there. Now, we have to fight to get our money back…

The next day, we had to drive back (0.2 mi) to get a photo.

Closed...

We started with a webcam, once again with help from home, and a virtual in Rapid City. The virtual, GC824E The Wall, was located at a piece of the Berlin wall. This is the third piece of the Berlin wall we visit on this trip, did not expect that when we left home!

Before leaving Rapid City, and heading towards Mt. Rushmore, we took a short detour to Chapel in the Hills. Chapel in the Hills is a replica stave church, built after the original plans for Borgund stave church in Norway. Since I’ve been to Borgund (and found a cache there), this was an interesting stop! Unfortunately, the cache that used to be here at this replica, is archived.

It was a bit funny to walk into the gift shop, and see Norwegian phrases all over. It was easy to tell that not all of the souvenirs were made by people who actually understand Norwegian. But still funny! We took some photos, and had a nice chat with the people there. We even got to see their Norwegian museum. I’m glad we did this stop, this was a small piece of Norway in South Dakota.

Chapel in the Hills

The next stop, was Mount Rushmore! We had no idea how close we had to get before we were actually able to see the monument, but the moment when it happened was simply magnificent! This is a really impressive monument, and as with almost everything else we’ve visited on this trip, you have to be here in person to fully understand the magnitude.

Mount Rushmore

After spending some time at Mount Rushmore, we continued towards the Nebraska border. We try to take photos of all the state signs, as some of them are really beautiful (and some are plain boring). So we stopped at the Nebraska border, and got some photos.

We found a few caches along the road, but there was a lot less caches to find on this stretch. We logged a webcam in Hay Springs, where we were actually able to save our own image, thanks to the free WiFi provided by the webcam owner.

We arrived at Carhenge just a little after 6pm, and we had the whole place to ourselves. We walked around, taking lots of photos. This place is simply awesome!

Carhenge

Since the souvenir shop was closed, we took a detour and visited the museum in Alliance. We even got to find an extra cache there. After the stop in Alliance, we continued towards Ogallala. We did a few more stops along the road, but the most memorable are the one at GCXREM REDNECK REST STOP. Even though we did this after dark, we saw enough to get a good laugh! We also took the time to do some night photography here, and got some pretty good photos.

Redneck Rest Stop
Night Photography

We found a few more caches, and then got to the hotel – which fortunately, was open. We discovered that we had forgot to print one of the cache plans (where we have all the earthcache descriptions and etc.), so we had to use the business facilities at the hotel.

Even though there are one million active geocaches in the US at the time I’m writing this, there are plenty of space for more! There was not many caches to find along the road this day, so we only found a couple more before leaving Nebraska and entering Kansas. But before leaving Nebraska, we got to drive on the historic route 6!

Historic Route 6

Someone might say that it’s Route 66 that’s the one, but just look at the photo…

We didn’t have many stops planned before GC30 Mingo, but we did use some time to find a store that could sell us a prepaid data plan – we got tired of not having data connection on our phone! Got a bit surprised when Radio Shack couldn’t help us, but we got to visit Walmart for the first time instead. And Walmart had exactly what we needed, and a whole lot more! After some difficulty getting the phone working (we don’t like to read the user guide here in Norway), we continued towards Mingo.

Since I’ve seen a lot of pictures from this place, I instantly recognized the hiding spot when we arrived. It was easy to see that a lot of geocachers had walked this path before us, it’s almost like this cache has it’s own red carpet – only it’s dirt. Finding the cache didn’t take more than a second, but we had to sign the log, look through the contents, and take some photos!

Mingo

After visiting the Original Stash Plaque last year, it was nice to be able to visit the oldest active cache this year. As a fun fact, Mingo is located in a county with the same name as me!

We found a few other caches in this area, and then continued south towards the Oklahoma border, on amazingly straight roads! We’re definitively not used to roads that are this straight! After driving for a while, we suddenly saw this huge cloud in front of us. It was a bit strange, we’ve never seen a cloud this low, and with this color (gray) before.

Cloud

We did not expect to end up in the middle of a storm! It almost felt like the car was going to blow of the road. This was just scary, see for yourself in the video below:

Geocaching in Kansas… Driving through a storm

Shortly after stopping this video, we had to pull into a gas station and wait for the thunderstorm to pass. While waiting, the aircondition in the car suddenly stopped working! Somehow, the car thought the outside temperature was -40F. I can tell you, it wasn’t. It quickly got hot and humid in the car, just as it was outside. And there was no way we could open the windows! It didn’t take many seconds for the windshield to be completely covered in fog.

When the storm finally passed, we could get the windows open and get some fresh air. We could still see lightning bolts in the distance for a long time, but we had relatively nice weather for the rest of the day. After finding a few more caches in Kansas, it was time to cross over the Oklahoma border, into the third state of the day.

We only found a three caches in Oklahoma, but we found enough to get two counties lit up! At one of the caches, we found a tiny snake on a table. He didn’t look too much alive, we really hope someone didn’t do this to him!

Tiny snake

After the last cache in Oklahoma, we continued towards the Texas border. By the time we got there, it was dark outside. We parked right in front of the state sign, both to get photos and to find the cache directly behind it, GC50EZH Flightcap’s Nano Worth Stopping For. I’m not so sure it was worth stopping for…

Texas

Don’t let the photo trick you. Our eyes are not nearly as light sensitive as the camera sensor, so to us, it was dark! We brought a flashlight, and walked over to where the cache was supposed to be hiding. The only problem we had, the cache wasn’t the only thing hiding there!

When I shined the flashlight against where the cache was hiding (I’ve gotten the hiding place described by a previous finder, when telling him about what we saw), I spotted something else hiding there. I saw the biggest rattlesnake I’ve ever seen in the wild! The fact that it also was the first I’ve ever seen, didn’t help much – it was huge!

A bit earlier today we discussed that it would be nice to see and hear one, so we knew what it looked like. Well, we got to see one now! And we had no trouble hearing it either! Our only problem was that we didn’t see much in the dark, and had no idea if there were more snakes around. So, we didn’t find this cache. It didn’t take many seconds to get back to the car, and I might have said some words out loud, but we got out of there alive!

Since we had to find a cache in Texas before midnight, to be able to say that we did four states in one day, we had to find the last cache on our plan today. The last cache was in a tiny park-like place, a bit hard to tell in the dark. A couple of muggle-youngsters were sitting around 100ft away from GZ, eating fries. We decided to just go ahead and look for the cache, first we managed without them noticing.

But it took a while, and they eventually noticed us, and asked if we were looking for something. We gave them the usual answer about geocaching and hidden containers. And we got the usual question back, what did we get for doing this – and if there was any money in it for us. Why does almost every muggle expect us to earn money doing this? Does anyone else get money for doing their recreational activities? If so, please let me know!

When we eventually found the cache, we needed to get a TOTT from the car to be able to get it out of its hiding spot. Finally, we were able to say that we did it! We’ve logged the oldest active geocache in the world, and found caches in 4 different states in a day. I know that’s not a huge record compared to a lot of other people, but we’re very happy with it!

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