Wednesday, 23 February 2005

Even when I wasn’t driving, Geocaching fascinated me. Now that I drive again, I can finally start.

It’s a “sport” where people go to a local park and place a cache, typically a Tupperware box or other small container, with a log file and possibly some trinkets in it. The loot is along the lines of trading cards, gumball machine toys, Matchbox cars, and the like. Once hidden, they use their GPS (Global Positioning System) receiver to take coordinates and post them to the Geocaching web site with a short description and perhaps a or clue or two.

Others, using their GPS receivers, go to the same coordinates and try to find the stash. If successful, they sign the log and trade baubles. It’s not as easy as it sounds because the coordinates aren’t exact, they only get you within 10 or 20 feet. The point is really in the adventure and the outdoors, rather than the hidden goodies. Along the way we try to pick up trash in the park and leave things better than we found them.

Not known for going into a hobby half-hearted, I went out and bought a GPS receiver, a car mount, and some additional map software for the GPS. Talking about it with a friend, he quipped, “Worried you’ll get lost on the way to the bathroom?”

No, but it did occur to me that now I actually know where I am.

Sure, I knew before. It’s not like the drive to work is a Lewis and Clark expedition. Just two highways and perhaps a half-dozen side streets. However, the world is much bigger than work and home; before this I never really had a a sense of where “here” actually was.

Say what you will, but for me it’s fun to know — even good to know. It gives me a better sense of place. I feel a little less disconnected from the world now that I can see, right in front of me, where I’m going and where I’ve been. And it doesn’t hurt to have satellite confirmation down to a handful of feet.

It’s probably just some geek thing, but the GPS goes with nearly everywhere I go. Maybe it’s never being satisfied unless the answer is accurate to 10 places, but I find myself fascinated by what this gadget tells me. Not only location, but altitude, max speed, average speed, and miles traveled. With the extra maps, it can even tell me how to get there, no matter where “there” is.

If only it could tell me why I’m here.