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Featured Cacher For October 2006 - HoustonControl

HoustonControl of Baytown, TX.
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How did you learn about caching?
Houston Control: You know, what amazes me is how long it took for me to discover caching. I’ve always been somewhat of a techy guy – not to the degree that some of these computer techs/IM folks on this site are, but pretty savvy for an old guy. I had a laptop, with DeLorme mapping software installed, to which I attached an external GPS receiver and used for navigation. I think I first used it on a motorhome vacation my wife and I took in the summer of 2000 with my Dad. We used it for several other car trips, but the laptop and all the wires got cumbersome to deal with, so I started shopping for a standalone GPS unit I could use in the car. In February of 2005, I ordered a Garmin iQue M5 PDA-style GPS just for that purpose. After I ordered it (but before it came in), I was surfing the net one night at work and a post about GPS use on the Baytown Sun (newspaper) online forum caught my eye. Someone was asking if anyone knew anything about geocaching. I started reading, went to geocaching.com, and the rest, as they say, is history.
It's funny, years ago, when I was just out of high school, I bought a friend of mine a Christmas gift. I think it was a couple of 8-track tapes (that ought to date me). But instead of giving him the gift, I locked it in a strongbox and told him in order to get the key, he had to follow some instructions. I had a series of clues directing him to locations all around town -- ""look above the door in the phone booth at the bus station"", ""Look under the 3rd picnic table at XYZ park"", stuff like that. I had him criss-crossing town for a couple of hours. When he finally got to the last clue, it said, ""The key is in your backseat ashtray"". Boy was he pi**ed! So, I guess you could say I placed my first multi-cache in about 1976.

What kind of equipment used (PDA, Garmin, Magellan, software)?
Houston Control: I use the aforementioned iQue M5 for in-the-car navigation. I used it for a while in the field to find the actual cache location, but it is somewhat fragile for that use and hard to read in direct sunlight. So I purchased a bare-bones Garmin GPS60 that I use in the field. My only regret is that it only holds about 500 waypoints, so I have to be selective in what I download to it. Of course, with the iQue being a PDA, I can load all the cache pages into it for paperless caching. I use GPXSonar to view the cache descriptions and also have the Dreamcacherware suite installed for those in-the-field navigation and puzzle cache solutions. I use the Garmin-supplied Mapsource maps for the iQue and on my desktop. I use GSAK to manipulate my PQ's before uploading to the GPSr's. I also make frequent use of GeoCalc, GoogleEarth and Windows Live Local for figuring out cache locations before hitting the road.

What are your all-time favorite cache/s and or adventure whilecaching?
Houston Control: My wife and I did a little caching on a trip we took to Europe last year. One of the most memorable caches we did was Rab (GC76C1) on the island of Rab, Croatia. The cache is located at one the highest point of the island with stunning views of the Adriatic. You can almost see Italy! We rented a scooter and rode it to the trailhead, then hiked the last 50 minutes or so up the mountain through the sheep and goat pens. I've posted some pictures in my log. It's a great cache to do.
I've done the Four Cache Loop twice now and it is another of my favorites -- I think because of the camaraderie of the groups I have done it with more than anything else. It's always fun to do a cache like that with a big group.
I don't know if I would qualify it as an adventure, but not long after I started caching, I completed a daylong roundtrip caching odyssey through the East Texas piney woods. I was on the lookout for new caches, but had trouble getting any FTF's in the Houston area, when I noticed a bunch of unfound caches in the Lake Sam Rayburn area being placed by The Pastor & Pastor's Wife (the GBNF series), along with a handful of nearby Chance Encounter caches still awaiting their first finder. I mapped out a course of only unfound caches and hit the road. 14 hours and 450 miles later, I returned home with 13 finds and 11 FTF's. The two where I was STF had not been logged when I left the house. I also had 3 DNF's on the day. If it hadn't gotten dark, I probably could have had a half-dozen more FTF's. A lot of fun, but I'm not sure I'd do it again at today's gas prices.

Do you have any other hobbies?
Houston Control: I've been playing golf for almost 30 years and still enjoy hitting the links. Sometimes I'll map out a few caches in the vicinity of a golf course I'm going to play and try to grab a few smileys while I'm in the area. Usually, though, I'm carpooling with other golfers and they don't understand why I want to stop on the side of the road and head off into the underbrush.
I'm a licensed private pilot, though I haven't flown in about 10 years. I keep thinking I'll get my medical certificate up-to-date and go flying again, but the wife isn't too crazy about it. So I get my fix by playing with Microsoft Flight Simulator and other aviation related stuff. I used to fly radio controlled airplanes, but that also takes up a lot of time I don't seem to have right now.
My wife and I bought a 1964 Cadillac convertible about 10 years ago for driving on nice days with the top down. We joined the local Cadillac club and go on occasional driving tours and club events with them. Two years ago we traded ""up"" to a 4 year older car, so now we are cruising around in a red 1960 Cadillac convertible. I'm not much of a mechanic, but I do like to tinker on it in my spare time. There's a picture of it on my GC.com profile page.

Have any "Most embarrassing Geo-moment" you would like to share? Details please!
Houston Control: I had close encounter of the law enforcement kind once in El Franco Lee Park. I had parked at the front and walked to the back, heading for You're So Vain (now called Honey, I Shrunk the Cache). When I got back to the trees, I realized I was going to need my rubber boots, which were back at the cachemobile. After walking the 1/2 mile back to the parking lot, I decided to save myself a bunch more walking, started the car, drove around the barrier chain and followed the road all the way back to where the mud started. After finishing a big loop through the park (4 finds, 2 DNF's) -- and passing through the area where I should have parked -- I finally got back to the cachemobile to find a couple of squad cars and two Harris County Deputies waiting for me. Gulp! I figured I was about to get a ticket, but they had just gotten a report about some kids running from a parked SUV and thought it might have been stolen or something. Nobody had actually messed with the vehicle (whew!). I told one of the officers that I was geocaching and he was familiar with it. He asked me if I had found any caches and what kind of swag I had traded. Then they just checked my ID and let me go. I thought later I should have gotten a picture of them with my GPS for that locationless, run-in-with-the-law cache.

How did you decide on your caching name?
Houston Control: My caching name is a nickname they gave me at work years ago. No, I don't work for NASA and have nothing to do with the space program. I operated a computer console controlling petrochemical units in a chemical plant. Keying off my last name, guys working in the field started calling me Houston Control. They'd call in on the radio and say things like, ""Houston, we have a problem"", stuff like that. When I'm signing the tiny log in some of those mini-micro and nano caches, I sometimes wish I had chosen a shorter caching name.

Do you currently have any caching goals that you are working towards?
Houston Control: Let's see, cache number 1000 is coming up in the not-so-distant future. That's one milestone I'm looking forward to. As the weather gets cooler (and gas prices come down), I'd like to pick up the pace finding terracaches in the area. A lot of them are on the west side and most require a significant hike to get to -- not fun in hot weather. I've cut way back on the geocoins I've been acquiring, but I'd like to save my geo-pennies and maybe have a personal coin designed and minted.