An American Caching Adventure (Part 4) – Route66


Our final power trail for the trip was the famous Mother road, Route 66, running along about 100 miles of the highway between Barstow and Needles. There are 804 caches in the series with other caches in between. We set off from Barstow at about 6:15am and started caching at 7am! Our ambitious goal was to complete the whole series in a day, like many had done before. We weren’t sure if we would make it though, what with us grabbing around 400-500 each day on the ET and needing to get over 800 in a day to finish the Route66 series. I’d booked us a night in Needles at the east end of the series in case we needed to head there and finish the series on the second day.

Like the ET series, this power trail consisted of hundreds of film cans placed as close to each other as possible. Some of the caches in the series were placed right up against poles by the side of the road just a small step from where the car would pull up. These were obviously very easy to find. What with doing all of these power trails in the US we have learnt what a SPOR is, “Small Pile Of Rocks”. All of the Route 66 caches were hidden under these.

Your typical SPOR

Not all of the caches were like this though, and there was at least a little skill involved after a mad rush out of the car there were dozens of bushes to hunt around for the SPORs.

One of the other caches along the series, WHEELy Big Kaboom!, was hidden just off of the route at a Route 66 cafe. At this spot we also learnt that a railway had once passed through here between Tidewater and Tonopah to carry Borax between the mines. This plaque was a pleasant surprise because Tonopah was the place that we had stayed earlier on at the end of the ET Highway series!!!

Tonopah and Tidewater Railway Shops plaque

The mining carts outside the Cafe

In the Cafe window

The route was very quiet with very few cars passing along it so it was easy and safe to pull over for caches. Along the route, however was a very busy railroad. Huge cargo trains regularly passed along it whilst we were caching. We couldn’t believe the size of some of them.

The front of the train

The carriages passing by

Train crossing

At cache 400 we stopped for a quick lunch break and were greeted by piles of rocks that cachers had used to spell out the countries that they were from on the sand.

Country names in rocks

I was a little disappointed that we hadn’t see any snakes or scorpians during our escapades in the desert. We did however see plenty of lizards dotted all over. They were fast little creatures, however one was sitting right on top of one of the SPORs that a cache was under and he happily sat for his photo to be taken.

Posing!

Whilst I was retrieving one of the micros on the series I didn’t pay much attention to a guy who was cycling towards me. That was until he asked “Did you find it?” This was barberslinger a cacher who was cycling the Route 66 caches!!!! We stopped for a chat and he told us he was managing about 130 in a day. His RV was parked just up the road where his wife was waiting for him! We were so impressed with his method of transport for such a long series and wished him luck on his way.

Meeting barberslinger

Unexpectedly along the series there was a lot of lava. We learnt that there used to be a Volcano along the Route at Amboy crater. The crater is over 6,000 years old and it’s thought that it was formed in the in the Holocene geological period. There was also a traditional cache hidden in the lava field and an earthcache at the crater.

A cache was hidden amongst the lava rocks

The Lava field

Whilst doing the Route 66 series mel-ray reached there 11000th cache find. We had reached ours on the day before, but decided that the Route 66 painted road sign was a good spot to stop and pose for our milestone photo.

9000 finds!!!

11000 finds! Holy smoke!

As well as the Route66 series, which were all standard film cans, there were some more exciting hides too. Message In a Bottle was a “Route 66 Root Beer” bottle hidden at a gas station. Ray and I went hunting for the cache, but were a bit puzzled when the GPS zero’ed out at a gas pump. The cache couldn’t be there, could it? One of the gas station owners saw us through the window and pointed to the right place, just a few feet away. Sure enough, there was a bottle with a log book in it stashed next to one of the pumps.

Stopping for a drink

Just down the road from this was Kick Up Your Feet. A tree where everyone had thrown their shoes. I had a sudden fear that it’d be another “Sneaker cache” hidden in amongst them all, but thankfully I just followed the GPS to a much simpler spot.

The shoe tree

Pleased the cache wasn't in one of those sneakers!

Along this stretch of Route 66, it seemed like the popular thing to do was spell your name in rocks on the banks alongside the road. The names went on for miles. We were on a mission though, so there was no time to graffiti “cassandy”

Graffiti on the banks

At cache 725 we reached the little town of Essex, population 100! This was absolutely fabulous what with us all being Geocachers from Essex (a county in the UK) We just had to pose with the sign!

A very different kind of Essex!

Like with the ET Highway series we each took it in turns to find 25 caches before switching with the next person in line. I must have drawn the short straw because my stretch of caches 750 to 775 all seemed like miles from the road. It didn’t help that all of them were very far and right up the top of banks. The CO definitely had an evil plan to make us run that extra up hill stretch despite our weary legs! There was some consolation that I knew it was Andy’s turn to do caches 776 to 800… however as soon as it was his turn the ground became flat and the caches got closer! Just my luck, eh? There were some interesting cactuses growing along my stretch of 25 caches though, nowhere else on the series at all.

I had to be careful not to crash into these whilst sprinting to the caches!

Route66 800, the final cache was a lovely regular ammo box and “800” was spelled in rocks on the sand. A lovely way to finish the day. It didn’t quite end there however, as there were 25 tribute caches that other cachers had placed at the end of the series. We carried on and grabbed all of those too.

The 800 ammo box

So, we did it! Starting at 7am and finishing at 7:10pm we had completed the Route 66 series, finding 856 caches in a single day. Wow! And boy did we know about it. Our feet were tired, our legs were stiff and we were well ready for bed! That’s certainly an unbeatable personal best. We headed to our hotel in Needles knowing we had achieved our caching goals, completed all of the series that we wanted to and were ready for some sight seeing in Vegas to end our holiday.

I just have to mention one last cache that we found at a service area on the way back to Vegas. It was I gotta go. We thought it’d be just your average cache, but it was hidden at the side of the services where there was a dummy of a man sitting on the loo. The cache was inside the loo. It was so strange, but very amusing!!!

Excuse me sir, have you finished yet???

Me grabbing the cache... don't think he noticed! hehe!

The last thing to do was to give the car a good clean. We weren’t too concerned about the outside, but the inside was absolutely full of dust. We wanted to return the car in a half decent condition, so we managed to find a proper car wash in Needles and give it a good wash and vacuum. The dust that was inside was unbelievable!!!

Trying to get the dust out of the car mats

Finishing touches!

The end of our Adventure

All good things come to an end, but as I write this blog entry I’m thinking about all of the lovely places I could visit next time I’m in America! 😀 It won’t be for a while to come, but at least there’s plenty of time to plan it! 😉

Out of the 3 cities we visited I have to say that San Francisco was my absolute favourite. Vegas was bold and big with plenty of caches surrounding it, but for me once you’ve been up and down the strip a few times you’ve done it all. The city of LA wasn’t much more than a tourist hot spot, but the caches in Los Padres national park on the outskirts were absolutely brilliant. San Francisco seemed quite quaint in comparison. Pier 39 with the sea lions, shops, and great fish restaurants was a real highlight, and the cable car ride was very unique! SF is the place I would return to so that I could grab the virtual and earthcache on Alcatraz, cycle around Angel Island getting the caches there, and finally try and finish finding the caches in Golden Gate Park. It definitely was an adventure that I’ll never forget.

Some stats…

What big Geocaching trip would be complete without a few statistics? 🙂

Miles driven: About 2300
Total number of caches found: 3316
States cached in: California and Nevada
Favourite caches: An ode to nudecacher, Rose Valley Falls–In The Cave, The Cave of Rose Valley Falls, The Presidential Suite, QUARK’S, At the Pier, Lombard Street.
Most caches found in a day: 857 (12th April 2012)

And if you’re having the same idea…

In case anyone else is thinking of jetting off to do some of the US power trails I’ll end this big blog entry with a bit of advice…
Rent a hire car with a sliding door – Opening the door 1500 times for the ET highway really isn’t practical. With a sliding door you can leave it open as you drive along and then quickly hop out and grab each cache. Having a 4×4 would have been a big advantage for doing the caches along the dirt roads, however there don’t seem to be any with sliding doors. We had a Dodge Mini Van which was a 7 people carrier, but realistically with our luggage in the back only seated 4 people. There was plenty of room in the back though for all of our bags with the other 3 seats folded down though, despite the guy at the hire place telling us it’d be too small and trying to get us to upgrade!
Rent a hire car, don’t use your own! – By the time we had finished the car was covered in dust… and I mean COVERED! Inside and out. The last 500 of the ET series are all along a dirt road, as were a few of the other trails we did. Route66 was also pretty dusty too. We traveled about 2300 miles and stopped for about 2700 caches along roads. Think what that did to the brake pads! 😉 We cleaned the car twice, including once with a vacuum. That barely touched the dust that we had accumulated from the dirt roads. We rented our car through Alamo and they didn’t seem very strict with checking the inside. They just gave the outside a very quick check over for scratches and dents and then we were on our way. We felt more comfortable knowing that we had returned it clean though knowing it was an absolutely brand new car.
Bring old sheets and bandanas – Bring the sheets to cover over your luggage in the car to stop it getting covered in dust, and the bandanas for over your nose and mouth. You will be eating dust! Lol!
Ladies, cut your nails! – I lost all of my lovely finger nails (Yes, I know they are impractical for caching anyway) on the first day of the ET Highway. Picking up all of the rocks just chipped them all instantly! 😦
Wrap up warm – I definitely should have packed more jumpers and fewer shorts. Although there was brilliant sunshine for all of our caching days the wind was harsh and we were absolutely freezing on some of the days so just be prepared for all weathers.
Bring a chap stick and moisturiser – The climate completely dried out all of our skin and badly chapped our lips.
Get a stamp made – Particularly if you’re going for the rolling log method, it’s much quicker. You’ll see from the logbooks that about 90% of the signings are with a stamp.
Bring some replacement film cans – We replaced about 10 caches in total along all of the power trails we did, but you should probably take more than that just in case. Some had simply just blown away. We found that some cachers hadn’t replaced the stones on top of caches so the caches easily flew off (Or were abducted by aliens! ;).
Take plenty of water – A lot of the caches we picked up were in desert areas so having plenty of water was absolutely vital.
Buy a cool bag (or bring one with you) – We found a huge Walmart store. They must have had about 30 varieties of cool bags/boxes and we picked up a great bag for $10. Take some resealable bags with you as pretty much all hotels have ice dispensers and most that we stayed at had fridges so we were able to make ice bags or refreeze them. This is perfect for keeping drinks and food cool as you travel between hotels or when you’re out doing the series.
Be aware of where the gas stations and grocery stores are – A lot of the trails we did were in the middle of nowhere. We always made sure we kept the tank full before heading off and we were always fine for gas. It’s cheapest in Vegas, LA seemed to be the most expensive place for gas.
Take insect repellent – I gained a friend whilst we were in America. I think it was from the hike to the waterfall. It was a little tick that attached itself to me. I managed to remove it with tweezers, but it was a bit freaky. If I were to do any more hiking trails there I would cover myself with insect repellent.
Eat at the Little Ale Inn – We thought the food there was absolutely brilliant. It’s also the most convenient place to stay if you’re planning to do the ET Highway. Try not to expect too much from the rooms, they are clean and homely though. There’s also a big section of Area 51/alien-related merchandise there.

I think that’s everything, but if you want to know anything as always, you know where I am! Drop a comment below! 🙂

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12 Responses to “An American Caching Adventure (Part 4) – Route66”

  1. Clubmud1 aka CM1 aka Bob Says:

    Really enjoyed reading your latest blogs, found you while reading your GSAK blog, I’m hooked!

  2. Annemarie Halls Says:

    Thanks for sharing your amazing adventures with us. I am soooo jealous and have been itching to “do” ET Highway for months. It’s lovely to read your blog again; we missed it! 🙂

    • geocass Says:

      Don’t worry Annie, there’ll be plenty of blog entries to come soon now I’m not so busy at work anymore. Hadn’t realised how long it’d been. If all goes to plan there’ll be a nice blog for our 10,000th milestone too. I think you should definitely head out and do the ET Highway. Perhaps the next trip out for Team SOS? Hehe!

  3. ErikaJean Says:

    I’m lovving the blogs about ur US trip!!

  4. oldweeb Says:

    Wow – what a trip! It was great to read about many of the same caches that I’ve recently visited, from the UK perspective…also to see my stamp pictured and to be mentioned by name!! If I’d known that you were coming, I could’ve arranged a day of guided caching to the best local caches and dinner with some San Fernando Valley geocachers. Our usual meeting spot is in Calabassas, where you stayed. Next time.

    • geocass Says:

      Ah that really sucks! Would have loved to meet up. Next time I’ll mention when/where we’re going. I’ve already started planning the next trip, although it won’t be for quite a while…

  5. omilosandjuktas Says:

    I enjoyed your blogs from U.S.A trail caching tour. In one day I really like to go there, but probably not for power trails, but I am happy to reading your storyis.

    • geocass Says:

      Glad you enjoyed. I have been enjoying reading your blog today having recently found it. I absolutely loved your picture of Marmara beach!!! It looks truly magical! And the metal ladders through the boulders looks like great fun.

  6. geolibby Says:

    Marvelous piece of work! A techie who can write! We are planning to do the ET caches this summer. The three of us are over 70 years old so doubt we will set any records. We have such a good time together that the numbers fade in importance.

    I like your notion that four is the perfect number for a smooth working team. We will have to find an able bodied soul to come along with us. I appreciate all the recommendations for items needed to make life a bit easier out there. I would not have thought of the problem with dust.

    While I am at it, thanks for the GSAK tutorial. It helped immensely.

    geolibby.

  7. Happileigh Says:

    Really enjoyed that- thanks!

  8. Geocaching with Tru2Cntry Says:

    Welcome – and Congratulations on doing Route 66 – its a fun Power Trail!! I love your pictures!!!! Tru2Cntry


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