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Featured Cacher For October 2009 - Benttandem

Benttandem of Houston, TX.
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What got you interested in caching?
Benttandem: Ralph: In 2005 we took a Bicycling and Barge tour thru Holland. Some friends from Austin were just starting to geocache and brought along a GPSr and some caches to find. Up to this time our main recreational past time was bicycling.Dixie: We walked all over Amsterdam before the tour started. We had several days of free time and we spent some of it geocaching with our friends.Ralph: We found our first three caches while exploring Amsterdam. When I was about 10 years old my father had hidden a small treasure. He fed us clues for several weeks while we hunted it. I guess I was predisposed to be a geocacher.Dixie: We got to see a lot of the city this way. It took us to some places and sights we would never have found.
How did you decide on your caching name?
Benttandem: Ralph: Since we were going to cache as a team and we bicycled, I was thrashing around trying to come up with a bicycle related name for us.Dixie: It occurred to me that we were already a team on our recumbent tandem. I got the idea to combine the two and came up with Benttandem.

When you cache, what equipment do you use? (PDA, Garmin, Magellan, software)
Benttandem: Ralph: At the start we had a Garmin etrex Legend. We used that for a year or so and then upgraded to a Garmin 60Cx. In the last year we got Dixie a Garmin 60CSx. Now we don’t get into arguments over who holds the unit when we are wandering around in circles at GZ. We have a HP iPaq but have not yet mastered the use of it for paperless caching. The paper producers probably love us. We are using GSAK and are getting better at doing pocket queries. We also have Cachemate but have yet to integrate all of the hardware and software.

What are your all-time favorite cache(s)?
Benttandem: Dixie: My favorite is “Bubbles, the Bayou Monster”. We have taken our grandkids back to see this one although our grandson wasn’t sure he wanted to see a monster. We had a lot of fun with some strollers down by the bayou. While they were watching the water we made the monster appear. The lady called her boy friend over and watched until the monster appeared again. They never figured out what was happening. Another favorite is “Is this the End or only the Beginning” in Austin. It is our daughter’s cache and she came up with a very clever container.Ralph: My all time favorite is probably our first. It was very clever and of course it was our first. It is “Lang Parkerem” in Amsterdam. It is now archived so I can’t give anything away. We were instructed to find a pond and the hint was ‘By the dashboard light’. We wandered thru Vondelpark in Amsterdan, past many ponds and right out the other side into a city street with no ponds in sight. At GZ we finally noticed the car with the top cut off and a small pond where the trunk would be. The cache was in the glove box. Meatloaf would have been proud. Two other favorites are puzzles in Austin. “Frodo goes to Athens” and “Sol Feud” convinced me early on that I was a great puzzle solver. Subsequent events have cast grave doubts on this assumption. Living in southwest Houston, I am surrounded by many excellent puzzle masters. I really enjoy puzzles and multi's but have found that solutions often involve a PAF.

Do you have any special caching adventures you want to tell us about?
Benttandem: Ralph: Piman314 put out a series of puzzles – “Orange”, “Blue”, “Green” and “Yellow”. These led to “Forget Lewis & Clark…Now Its Texas Dreamweaver”. “Yellow” was along the Brazos River. I went one day and would have had to wade thru water about ankle deep. I waited and came back the next day with mud shoes on and the water was nearer waist deep. I waded on in and beat my way back into a mud pit you could barely stand up in. The GPSr wanted to take me out into a slough full of water. I plunged in, waist deep again, and started searching. After slipping and sliding for about an hour, I gave up. When I got back to dry ground I finally remembered that alligators and cotton mouths really like this kind of habitat. That probably cured me of some of my dumber cache attempts. On the plus side I later found “Forget Lewis & Clark…..”.Dixie: We were in Austin caching with friends in one of the larger parks. We found one cache in a thicket of cedar trees. The next cache was only about two tenths of a mile away so we started over to get it. The cedar trees were dense and hard to get thru. About half way to the cache we had to go down a steep hill into one of the small canyons. Then, to get to the cache, we had to climb up another steep bank to a ledge where the cache was. The usual rule of caching applied. Just beside the ledge was a nice easy trail that we missed.

Have any "Most embarrassing Geo-moment" you would like to share? Details please!
Benttandem: Ralph: I’ll take up the slack for Dixie on this one. I have two moments. On “Riding the Rail” I came up with a solution to the puzzle – the wrong solution – but it sure looked good on Google Earth. It was in George Bush Park. I found a nice little dirt road that took me to about 200 feet from my calculated GZ. There was even a path of sorts leading close to where I thought I should go. Of course, I found nothing. I neglected to mark a waypoint on the way in, after all, how lost could you get in 200 feet. Well the answer is pretty lost. Here I am with one of the world's technological marvels that should keep you from ever getting lost (my son recognized this at once) and I am lost. After two hours, in the summer heat, without any water I was shot. Finally I bushwacked straight south and found the road I came in on. The A/C in the car was wonderful when I finally got back.
My next faux pas was in Sugarland Municipal Park at “Danger Island”. On the first attempt I was turned back by the water. I overlooked the No Swimming sign and decided I would come back and swim to the island. No one was around so I stripped down to my trunks and waded in. The wet clay down there is very soft. A couple of feet from shore I was buried knee deep in the very soft mud. It was also very sticky mud. I couldn’t get out. I ended up twisting around and laying down in the mud and water and wiggled my way out pretty much covered in mud. I got most of it off my torso and arms. I was trying to clean my running shoes in a little rocky stream. A small boy came up and I said “I guess I am a little old to play in the mud”. He said “Yes you are”.

What is your favorite type of cache (traditional, multi, puzzle) and why?
Benttandem: Ralph: My favorite is a good puzzle. Multis are also good. The challenge of a good puzzle is a lot of fun. I can’t always solve them but do enjoy the attempt. If anyone remembers how to solve an old archived cache, The Pefferminz Army”, I would sure like to hear from you.Dixie: I like any cache that takes you to an unusual place that you probably would never know about. The cache “kunst in een boom in Amsterdam” was like this. It was a virtual that took you to a vest pocket park with a very interesting finish. It is still active.

What is your favorite local cache?
Benttandem: Ralph: There are so many great ones. “FTFC#19 A Mean Old Acid” was one of my favorites. We went to dinner with our old neighbors, he works on the Human Genome Project in the Medical Center. He was the perfect person to help solve this over tacos, Spanish rice and refried beans. It has been archived but I enjoyed it. “Jurassic Park-Tyrannosaurus Rex” and “Geo Fast Food” were a lot of fun. The “Striders Journey Thru Middle Earth” series and the “House” series were great. The containers on the “House” series set a whole new standard.Dixie: The “Hudson Woods” event with lots of caches is a favorite. We took the grandkids and they had a great time. The only problem was who got to hold the GPSr. We only had one at the time. “Chopped…” was another one that was fun. This one was very wet and messy but I was able to find the first two waypoints and we got a FTF on the cache. Afterward I was convinced to buy some good, knee high rubber boots.

How about your favorite out of state cache?
Benttandem: Dixie: My favorite has to be “View Carre’ ” in New Orleans. If you are ever there, this is one you should not miss. We were told about it and it proved even better than described. The cache owners surrogate was most gracious and gave us a tour we won’t forget.
Ralph: I think a virtual in Washington, DC has to be my favorite. It is “Last stop for a weary traveler”. It managed to combine a solemn memorial with great humor. It was so unexpected that I was really surprised. We just got back from Wisconsin and “Cave Point” was a very scenic spot. It is an earthcache that is well worth doing if you are ever on the Door County peninsula above Green Bay. The water and cliffs make a pretty picture. On our trip we stopped in Chicago and did “Cloud Gate aka The Bean”. This was recommended on the HGCS forums a year or two ago. It is unusual and interesting.

Summer or Winter caching? Why?
Benttandem: Dixie: Winter. I don’t like the heat. I do much better in the winter. I can put on more clothes.Ralph: Summer. I grew up in a very hot part of West Texas. I hate being cold. On the days when the humidity is high and the temperature is bumping 100, I might have second thoughts. A nice fall day in the 60s is ideal.

When a new cache is listed, are you tempted to go for FTF?
Benttandem: Dixie: No.Ralph I am always tempted. I am not much of a night time cachers so that slows me down a lot. When one pops up a couple of miles from home I will usually try. I like the puzzles but I can never solve them fast enough to have a chance. I think in four or five years I have one FTF on a puzzle.

Tell us about your cache mobile.
Benttandem: Dixie: We have an old Honda Odyssey that gets good gas mileage and a slightly newer Toyota Pickup that doesn’t. Still we use the Pickup most of the time. It is much better if we get off on rough roads.

What other hobbies do you have?
Benttandem: Ralph: As mentioned earlier, we have been bicyclist since 1974. We have done bicycle touring and bicycle camping. I tried to restart a stamp collection a couple of years ago but that didn’t go anywhere. I like to read. Fiction and non-fiction. Everything from Harry Potter to the American Revolution. These days the best of all possible worlds is the combination of geocaching and bicycling.
Dixie: Like Ralph, I like to bicycle. We used to do camping tours where we carried our tents, sleeping bags, cooking gear and clothes. Now we much prefer to do a tour with a van to carry our luggage and to stay in nice lodges and motels. I enjoy playing Euchre, a card game, with a small group of friends. Grandkids are not quite a hobby but they can keep you very busy.

Do you currently have any caching goals that you are working towards?
Benttandem: Ralph: We are not chasing goals at the moment. I would like to get better at solving puzzles. I usually jump from one idea to another without keeping track of what I am doing. It makes it a lot harder to solve the things.

Is it all about the numbers?
Benttandem: Ralph: Sometimes. When we are approaching some break over number such as one or two thousand we tend to start looking for lots of fast finds. Mostly though, the fun of the hunt is what really makes it worthwhile. Trying to do lots of puzzles keeps our numbers down. I know this isn’t true for everybody but it is for us.Dixie: Ralph keeps up with the numbers. I just like to find the caches.

Thanks for this interview. Is there anything you would like to add?
Benttandem: Ralph: Since starting to cache we have made lots of new friends. Between the events and the caches it has kept us busy and entertained. It has been lots of fun and we want to thank everybody that has helped us along the way.