Friday, April 21, 2017

The Road To MOGA 2017

For weeks I had been looking forward to participating in MOGA. That enthusiasm was only partly dampened by catching a virus from my son, leaving me with fevers, chills, head-aches and loads of phlegm. I had warned my team-mates about my sickness, and we had a replacement ready to go, but I was still determined to make it out to Manhattan, Kansas, and compete again. So early Friday morning, I blearily said goodbye to my wife, quietly kissed the sleeping kids on their foreheads and hit the road.

As any geocacher will tell you, long road trips aren't all that bad. There are almost always opportunities to find some cool caches along the way. This trip was no exception. I would be traveling mostly on smaller state highways, through the Northeast corner of New Mexico, the panhandle of Oklahoma, and through a giant hypotenuse of Kansas. Most of New Mexico passed while it was still dark, but the sun finally rose as I was passing Springer, NM. This part of New Mexico is pretty flat, although not flat by Kansas standards I suppose. There are prairies and gentle rolling hills, and usually a taller butte off in the distance. I spotted several herds of antelope along the road, and the morning dew soon rose into the air creating a gentle fog that made for a pleasant driving ambiance. I made my first pit-stop in Clayton, NM, for gas, a little breakfast burrito, and of course a geocache. The geocache I found was part of the Santa Fe trail, and I was hoping I would be able to find more of this Geotour since my route followed it pretty closely.

My next stops came pretty soon after since there was an interesting Virtual cache located at the tristate marker between Oklahoma, NM and Texas. I also grabbed a nearby traditional where I picked up a TB that had been left by some other MOGA-2017-bound geocachers that I had met in Santa Fe just a few days before. I was definitely traveling in their tire-tracks. There are actually a number of other geocaching points of interest in this little corner of the country, including Black mesa, the high-point of Oklahoma, and Point of Rocks, KS, another interesting stop along the Santa Fe Trail. All of these interesting spots were many miles off my route though, and would have required hours of additional travel time. Since I still had a long ways to go, I left these detour trips for some other time (if ever). Perhaps if I was to make the same trip over 2 days, I would have hit up these other spots. Oh well.

Tri-state corner

I was only in Oklahoma for less than an hour. Kansas would be the majority of my drive, and Kansas was flat. Big and flat. The highway I was on was a small state highway, just two lanes going opposing directions. The towns were spread pretty far apart, and SW Kansas towns seemed to be extremely rural. Farms lined the road just about everywhere, and there wasn't a whole lot to look at most of the time. I burned through quite a few podcasts during this portion of my drive. I also eagerly looked forward to the handful of interesting geocaches I had tagged as being worthy stops along my way. one was at a massive wind-farm. Another at a rural sod-house museum at a town that claimed to be the mid-point of America. A third was at Pawnee Rock, which to someone from NM, seemed to be a rather unremarkable rock outcropping, but for West Kansas, was a pretty big deal as a landmark. Pawnee rock was also a stop along the Santa Fe Trail, and while I was there I ran across another NM geocacher team who were on their way to MOGA as well. All these little stops help make the long drive a little more bearable, providing milestone goals along the route, things to look forward to in the next 50-100 miles.

Midway America?

Pawnee Rock

At around 5pm I finally drove into the bustling little city of Manhattan, KS, and quickly found the event hotel. The place was packed and thrumming with geocachers, as the Packet pick-Up event had just started. I checked into my room, then stood in line for my packet. The number of geocachers i ran into that I recognized kind of surprised me. I'm not that much of a social geocacher, but there were loads of people from east Tennessee, and a fair number of NM cachers that I knew and I tried to say hi to everyone. I also ended up talking to some Groundspeak Lackeys, Moun10bike and RockChalk, which was pretty cool. I knew both of them by reputation only, and I tried my best to talk them into competing in the MOGA events.
Quieting down at the MOGA central

The folks I was really looking forward to seeing though were my team, TKO, and I had to leave the event and drive over to a local brewery to meet up with them. Nothing beats meeting up with good friends over drinks and hearty food. And the best part was, my flu symptoms seemed to be fading. I had been checking my temperature throughout the drive and was usually in the 100-102F range. But I was feeling better now that I was eating real food and hanging out with friends. I was still coughing a bit, and had gobs of phlegm. But what can you do. I was committed to race and that was that.

My team was up for some more geocaching that night, but I was wiped, so I said my goodbye and made a bee-line straight to my hotel bed, where I practically fell asleep in my clothes.