George’s Birthday Adventure: E.T. Highway

Dear readers, you’ve made it. Finally here at Episode 5 of George’s Birthday Adventure, we get to the main event, the reason for trekking across the U.S., the big kahuna…the E.T. Highway.

This is where it all begins…

Fast-forward…

…or the part where I gloss over the boring details of getting to Alamo, NV via the armpit of Nevada…Las Vegas. Many readers are howling with displeasure at the moment I know. But let’s face it…Vegas is the antithesis of granola so it shouldn’t surprise you in the least that I couldn’t bring myself to actually stay there even as an wifi, laptop charging, shower, and laundry lay-over.

That was the original plan since we were due to stay at Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge which has none of those amenities and we’d be there for about five days. Instead, through a variety of odd decision-making we opted for cabins at Windmill Ridge in Alamo for the duration of the geocaching portion of George’s Birthday Adventure. More on that later though. Let’s get to the good stuff.
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The scene…

Ok, the E.T. Highway stretches through the Nevada desert with little more than cows to keep you company. Fuel options are sparse to non-existent so you have to think ahead. The caches are usually about 1/10 of a mile apart along Highway 375, Highway 6, and a remote Forest Service road. They’re mostly film canisters hidden off the road a little bit. Given the exposed and open nature of the desert, they’re typically hidden in a small rock cairn, otherwise they’d just be floating about as cow entertainment.

The first cache. Yes, that’s a giant alien in the background. It’s a theme around here.

How this goes down…

So what you need to envision is us blitzing (courtesy of Blubaru of course) from cache-to-cache every tenth of a mile along the dusty Nevada desert roads. One person hops/jumps/runs/sprints out to grab the canister, replaces it with an extra pre-signed one, and dives back into the car. While the driver blitzes to the next location, the passenger stamps the log with our team name and replaces the log in the container…just in time for the next cache. The fetcher makes the next grab and the logger logs while driver drives. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat… Do that 1,500 times. Occasionally switch up driver, logger, and fetcher.

et highway - val in real life
A relatively clean Blubaru at #1. Yes, that says open range for the next 110 miles…and they mean it.

Honesty time…

You probably noticed I said 1,500 times. That’s a lot of times. At the outset when George got his heart set on doing this, my inner geocacher groaned. These are easy caches. It’s not about the challenge of finding clever, unique hides. It just sounded tedious. I wasn’t sure the boys would be able to stick with it and see it through.

But I didn’t let on that I had my doubts. I didn’t want to inadvertently sabotage the effort with a sour attitude.

Surprises and lemonade…

As I mentioned in the Mojave post, we were suffering from car fatigue by the time we got there and we hadn’t quite recovered yet. We were now facing many days back in the car for the most part. Groan. For my part I chose to make lemonade by practicing sprints to the caches for several reasons: time (so we could actually get this done in a few days), stimulation (break up the monotony), and prep for my upcoming Zombie Stomp (I needed to get sprint training in anyway).

Yours truly at the halfway point. And I’m still smiling!

Obviously we were successful and finished the entire series. It took us three full, grueling days. We even resorted to ten-minute lunch stops where we slapped sandwiches together and chucked them at the boys in the backseat while we continued with the caches. To say it was fast and furious doesn’t quite do this expedition justice. In the quicker sections we managed two caches a minute. That’s two rounds of drive, fetch, & log each minute. We were really good at it by the end!

In all this I had many pleasant surprises.

    • Turns out there is a challenge to be had on a series of caches like this. It’s stamina and Camp Granola’s got it in spades baby!
Fred and George (sporting an alien mask) feeling victorious at #1500.
  • George is one determined little dude. He went at this with all of his heart throughout the the series. He wanted this and he did it. That’s my boy! *sniff*
  • I can’t sell Fred short here. He did a lot of fetching too and with a great attitude even though this really wasn’t his idea of mega-fun. He gets high marks for cooperation…which is a big deal since he is a tween.
  • My car rocks! Blubaru handled the off-road conditions, constant sliding stops, and the abuse of careening up embankments like a champ. She was coated inside and out with Nevada grunge and will probably never be truly clean again but it was worth it. She earned her stripes…or whatever cars earn for a job well done.
  • Biggest surprise? It was fun. It was demanding in ways I hadn’t expected and giving George the chance to accomplish it was very satisfying.
  • Oh…and we discovered Dobby finds cows upsetting or possibly fancies himself a cow-dog of sorts. Ever been in a small car with a howling beagle? Can’t say I recommend it. I have to give him his due though. One cache had cows standing just about on top of it and Dobby’s howls of protest chased them off. He was exceedingly proud of himself.

Fin…

We did it. It was such an taxing undertaking I actually had a few moments of stunned disbelief at the end. That and pure exhaustion. Sadly, we still had to drive all the way back to Alamo…two hours away.

My poor Blubaru at #1500. The inside was actually dustier than the outside.

And thus ends days 6 through 9 of George’s Birthday Adventure. I would be remiss if I didn’t give a huge shout-out to the cache owners who put this together. As grueling as it is, imagine what it took to organize and execute this feat. And from what I hear, they’re adding 500 more this summer.

So unofficial poll…how many of you might want to give it a go and how many of you think we’re just bat-shit crazy?

And now for your moment of green…

In between caches, we got to be amazed by Nevada’s deserts and mountains.

Comments

  1. That’s amazing! I don’t know how you do it! Literally, I don’t know how to do it (geocaching). I have been wanting to go geocaching for quite some time. So on one of our camping trips I got everything together for us to give it a try. My kids and I were excited. We didn’t want to spend a lot of money on a GPS, but I found the GoGeocaching App for my hubby’s iPhone. I talked hubby into going to Dausett Trails to see the animals, feed the ducks and find the 2 “easy” caches there. We could not find the cache by the barn anywhere. It was just found a couple days before and everyone was saying it was an easy cache to find. Well… not for us. We have yet to find our first cache:( What do you use for your GPS?

    We are still trying to find our first cache, and ya’ll are finding tons (combined with sprints). Sounds fun (and exhausting)!

    1. Sounds like you need us to show you the ropes! We need to meet up for a lesson. Email me (val@valinreallife.com) and let’s see if we can get something going.

      You can also check out Georgia Geocachers. They meet every 2nd Saturday of the month all over the state. We won’t be able to make a meeting until at least July but you guys should try to make one. http://www.ggaonline.org/gga_home.php

      We use a combination of smartphone & a DeLorme PN-40 which is pretty outdated at this point but still usable. You seem to have enough to get started equipment-wise, you just need a hunting lesson.
      V

  2. That sounds exhausting! But fun. We used to do a lot of letterboxing in Virginia. Same idea as geocaching minus the GPS. Loved it. Just thinking about it makes me want to go get our old log book out….

    1. It was quite exhausting yet surprisingly satisfying. Definitely get out that old logbook. Love the places we discover because of it.

  3. […] we’re nuts for geocaching, even going so far as to drive across the country to geocache the E.T. Highway. Sometimes I sound like a broken record, always talking about the benefits of using geocaching to […]

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