Frigid-er (sort of)

Today was my second really, really cold bike ride this week. Conditions today were a little different from Wednesday. The air temperature was a steady 10°F, slightly warmer than Wednesday. The real story was the wind, which was around 13mph when I left, and 17mph when I arrived, with gusts up around 25mph. The wind chill ranged from -5° to -8°, which was enough for the NWS to post a wind chill advisory. I decided to shorten my morning ride from my usual 12-14 miles down to around 8 miles.

I wore the same clothes that I wore Wednesday, except I added arm warmers as a base layer, and wore a winter cycling jersey instead of a thin athletic pullover. This turned out to be too much, as my chest and back were sweating by the time I finished the ride. My feet were comfortable for the first half of the ride, but when I turned upwind, my toes got uncomfortably cold. Still hoping to find a good solution for cold feet. My head stayed comfortable, but I was getting winded on uphill stretches that ordinarily are no problem for me. I think the balaclava was interfering with my breathing. I might want to consider getting a balaclava with a mouth vent.

On the plus side, the constant wind kept my glasses from fogging up so much. There’s a silver lining to everything.

I have to admit that the ride was getting a tiny bit unpleasant at the end, mainly because of the cold feet and the breathing issues. I think if I can solve those two problems, and remember not to go too overboard with the layers, I should be fine riding in these conditions in the future.

Top 10 Geocache Finds, 2017

Continuing my tradition from last year, I’ve compiled a list of my 10 favorite geocache finds of 2017. It was tough to whittle the list down to just 10, but that’s sort of the point, I guess. In a departure from last year, I’m including a short blurb about why each individual cache made the list. Once again, these are in no particular order. Trying to order them would make this even more difficult. So, here goes…

  • Ruined-Chicken Multicache (GC2BE4)
    This 6-stage multi-cache is located in Fair Hill NRMA in northeast Maryland. It is well done on many levels. I found it back in January with Alzarius. The cache name didn’t make sense until after we had found a few of the stages. A close runner-up is the nearby Fair Hill Multicache.
  • To Catch a Cacher (or Reverse THIS! #3) (GCTM39)
    This is a puzzle cache located near Warrenton, VA. It was published in 2006, and as of this writing, has been found a grand total of 5 times. In spite of some familiarity with the puzzle subject matter, it took me a long time to solve it, but it was quite a learning experience. I chose to make it my 3000th find. This cache also had a very close runner-up: The Digital Detective (or Reverse THIS! #2 ).
  • 91° (GC5BD60)
    This “extreme” cache is located in Gunpowder Falls State Park, in northeast Baltimore County, MD. It is a 3-stage puzzle involving a field puzzle, a tree climb, and a rappel. It’s noteworthy in that it’s the first truly “extreme” cache that I tackled on my own. I feel like I earned my stripes here. It was also a really fun outing with the kids (actually multiple outings, as it took us a couple of trips to complete it).
  • Maryland’s 5 Oldest Challenge (GC25W3Y)
    This cache is noteworthy not for the hide itself (which is just Tupperware in the woods) but for the challenge, which involves finding the 5 oldest active traditional, multi-, unknown, virtual, and letterbox hybrid caches in Maryland. That’s a total of 25 caches, and many of them are quite challenging, including long hikes and/or difficult finds, and they’re located in almost every corner of the state. It took me 2 or 3 years to complete the challenge.
  • The Cache of Wolfenstien Enigma (GC3YTTM)
    A puzzle cache located in Valley Garden Park, not far from Wilmington, DE. A very elegant and challenging puzzle, with a nicely-themed container, located in a beautiful park.
  • Geocache 612 (GC36)
    This is one of only 4 remaining active caches that were hidden in August, 2000. It’s located in Kalkaska County, MI, which is in the northern part of the lower peninsula. The cache is really in the middle of nowhere. It’s located off an unpaved logging road, about a mile from the nearest paved road. The hide itself is not all that remarkable, but the quest to find it was lots of fun. After flying into Detroit for a business trip, I drove 7 hours round-trip just to find this cache (although I did find a few others along the way). The weather was threatening the entire way, but the heavy rain held off until after I had found the cache. It was a long day, but it netted me the penultimate month I needed to complete the Jasmer Challenge. Still waiting for an opportunity to find a July 2000 hide, which is the final month I need.
  • Whiskey! Tango! Foxtrot! (GC3212W)
    This was an extreme cache in Pennsylvania (outside Wilkes-Barre), by the fabled keoki_eme, that is now archived. It had 8 or 9 stages, including an abandoned mine, an old mine shaft, several rappels, and about a 10 mile hike. I tackled it with a group of seasoned extreme cachers, some of whom remarked that it seemed easy for a keoki_eme cache, because it didn’t involve any 70′ tree climbs. Being my first, I didn’t have anything to compare it against; hopefully it won’t be my last, though. My kids came along, too, did a few rappels, and soldiered through the entire hike with minimal complaining. This cache makes the list partly for the time spent with friends, and also for one of the most fun rappels I have ever done (into a deep, narrow crevasse). Sadly, the cache was archived at the time (long story there), and we collected the stages as we went along. Too bad no one else will get to enjoy it.
  • Spice Creek small boat (GC4265)
    This is (to my knowledge) Maryland’s oldest “hydro” cache. It’s located in southern Prince Georges County, on in island in a small tributary of the Patuxent River. It doesn’t get many finds, because it’s not easy to get to GZ. The channel isn’t navigable at low tide, so you need to launch at or near high tide. To reach the closest launch point, you have to portage your kayak about a half mile through the woods, on a narrow trail. From there, it’s about a 3 mile round-trip paddle. The cache is worth the effort, though. The paddle is beautiful. The cache is an old-school ammo box hidden on the high point of the small island. After careful planning, I tackled it solo in mid-September.
  • Not Your Mother’s Multi (GC5MH6R)
    Another “extreme” cache (are you sensing a trend here?) that I tackled with my son. It’s a two-stage multi in a park near Middle River, MD. The first stage is a cleverly-hidden field puzzle. The second stage is about 30′ up in a tree. This was the first “real” tree climb I’ve tackled by myself (with gear), and it was a blast. I used a throw bag and line, and at first, wasn’t sure at all if we would succeed. But sure enough, after a few errant throws, we got the tree rigged. There’s always an extra sense of accomplishment when the outcome is in doubt. Great fun, and I also got to spend quality time with my teenage son. Doesn’t get much better than that!
  • Venona’s Box (GC2WP0R)
    This is a challenging puzzle cache located in Morgan Territory Regional Preserve, north of Livermore, CA. The puzzle solution required knowledge of computer graphics, programming, and linear algebra. I solved the puzzle in 2015, and had intended to find the cache later that year, but flight delays forced me to postpone the attempt until 2017. It was worth the wait, though. An absolutely beautiful hike, with stunning views at the cache location.

Well, there you have it. I can’t wait to see what 2018 has in store!


My bike ride to work this morning was officially my coldest ever. I left home at 7:00am, rode approximately 12 miles (my phone battery died about 9 miles in, so I don’t have the exact figure), and arrived at work a little after 8. Official air temperature at BWI was 7°F at 6:54, and at 7:54, it had dropped to 5°F. I’ll average the two and call it 6°. There was no wind to speak of, so I didn’t break my wind chill record of 2°F, set back in 2009 (air temperature that morning was 14°). Based on the forecast, that record may fall on Friday, assuming I ride that day.

I rode my 1993 Specialized Rockhopper, which I’ve owned since it was new. I have it outfitted for winter, with Schwalbe Marathon Winter studded tires, Pedaling Innovations “Catalyst” flat pedals, and “Bar Mitts” handlebar mittens.

Clothing I wore:

  • Head: fleece balaclava, cycling helmet, glasses
  • Torso: merino wool t-shirt, polyester long-sleeve athletic pullover, polyester/nylon/spandex fleece pullover, hi-vis bike jacket/windbreaker
  • Legs: fleece-lined cycling pants (Performance “Triflex” brand)
  • Hands: Gore-Tex cycling gloves with inner liner
  • Feet: Wool socks, Altra “Superior” athletic shoes, Performance “toesties” toe covers, Planet Bike neoprene shoe covers

Overall, this setup was pretty comfortable, as long as I stayed under 20mph, at which point I would start to feel the wind underneath the balaclava. My fingers started off a little cold, and warmed up as I rode (can’t say enough good things about the Bar Mitts). My toes got slightly chilly about 30 minutes into the ride, as they always seem to, but not overly so. I’m a recent convert from clipless back to flat pedals, and I must say my feet stay a lot warmer in the winter than they used to with cleats. As always, the studded tires did their job keeping me upright through icy patches.

The only real issue I had this morning was one that has plagued me in the past: my glasses fog up really easily in this kind of cold, particularly when the balaclava is covering my nose and mouth. I haven’t found a really good fix for this. They clear up on their own, as long as I keep moving, but it’s still a pain, and potentially dangerous, when they fog up and obscure my vision. On climbs, I sometimes have to pull the glasses down so I can see. I may try out a product called “VisorGogs”, as they are cheap, and I have heard that they make good winter cycling glasses. If I do, I will report back here.

The ride home this afternoon looks like it’s going to be about 20°F warmer than this morning. It’s going to feel like summer!