Racing Travel Bugs

Early on in my geocaching experience, I came across a travel bug attached to a Matchbox car. When I got online, I saw a unique idea. It was in a race with several other travel bugs. The race wasn’t based on getting from point A to point B the fastest, but on points. Points were awarded for distance, photos, visiting a specific type of cache, and various other goals.

Fast forward a few months and we were planning for our big trip through Wyoming. We had discussed releasing some new TB’s on the way, and I proposed the idea of doing a race, much like the one I had come across months before. 8601 and TC seemed to like the idea, and planning began. First, we had to figure out what we would use for the bugs. Second, we needed to decide on a point structure. Third, we needed to figure out the rules. Lastly, we needed to decide on a starting point.

The last one was the easiest to figure out. Why not start it in Jackson, WY. There is a travel bug hotel there, which not only means it’s large enough to handle three TB’s, but will also attract the attention of geocachers. It’s a popular tourist spot being so close to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. Plus, it was a stop on our big trip.

Figuring out the points and rules weren’t too hard. I borrowed a bit from the previous race I mentioned, but we changed things a bit. First, we had a set of goals that applied to all three travel bugs:

  • 1 point for every cache it visits (but we don’t count multiple visits to the same cache)
  • 1 point for every 50 miles traveled (as the bird flies…we used the mileage listed next to Tracking History on the travel bug page to determine this)
  • 2 points for every picture posted
  • 2 points for being placed during a FTF
  • 2 points for crossing state lines (this counts every time it crosses a state line)
  • 2 points for being exchanged for another trackable item (requires naming the other item in the log)
  • 3 points for attending an event cache

These points were common to all three items. However, to make it interesting, we had some additional point options that were unique to each item:

  • My TB, Husker Traveler, got 4 points for visiting an observatory (with picture) and 8 points for visiting a telescope larger than 30″ in diameter (with picture).
  • 8601’s TB, Newbies From Nebraska, got 4 points if the person in possession of the bug placed it in one of their own caches (only valid once per person) and 8 points if the person creates their first cache ever and places the bug in it (only allowed if the cache is created while in possession of the bug).
  • TC’s TB, Mr. Blinky, got 4 points if it meets characters from The Simpson’s (with picture), and 8 points for getting it’s picture taken with Blinky the Three-Eyed Fish.

Now picking the items to attach to the TB’s, that was a thinker. Eventually, 8601 and I decided on some Nebraska related items, and this happened by chance. We were in downtown Lincoln at a Husker shop when we saw some nice keychains. I picked a Husker keychain to represent my alma-mater. 8601 picked a Nebraska keychain to represent the state he was born and raised in. TC was a bit harder. We had thought of something Simpson’s related before, but at the last minute, he still hadn’t found something. Ready to bow out of the race, 8601 and I happened across a Simpson’s Fishing Kit that had a small Blinky the Three-Eyed Fish bobber. We both looked at each other and said “PERFECT!” and called TC before purchasing the kit. We were ready to go.

Fast forward to Jackson, WY, June 19th, 2007. Halfway through our trip, visiting town for the afternoon, we stopped at Jackson Hole Travel Bug Hostel, and exchanged our bugs for three different ones. Having already set up the pages online, the race officially began when we closed the lid. The ending date was set for June 23rd, 2008.  This picture was taken of the three contestants just before the race.  From left to right we have Newbies From Nebraska, Mr. Blinky, and Husker Traveler:

Fast forward to….today. The race ends tonight, so a brief recap of events is important as we declare the winner. The very first day, both Newbies and Husker were picked up. Mr. Blinky took a few days. Newbies took an early lead with a trip to Texas with it’s first stop, but it was Mr. Blinky who made the first big leap. Just over a month after starting, Mr. Blinky made a trip to GERMANY, catapulting himself into the lead. While mine picked up some steam, Mr. Blinky made small hops around Germany and Newbies stalled in Florida. That would later be Newbies downfall, as by October of 2007, it was discovered that Newbies wasn’t moving anymore. He was be declared MIA a few months later, still lost to this day. That narrowed the race to Husker and Mr. Blinky.

Husker got lucky with a pickup by a cacher who was doing some major travel, and within a week’s time, it had bounced around five different states, racking up miles, state crossings and caches. Pretty soon, the new year was rolling around and Mr. Blinky and Husker were pretty close to tied. Then Mr. Blinky took a turn for the worse, visiting only a few caches before sitting in one spot for several months while Husker moved to a few caches in California. Then, while Mr. Blinky rested, Husker took a major trip to Hawaii and back. Visiting an observatory and a large 36″ scope, among various pictures, Husker was sitting comfortably ahead of Mr. Blinky. Though Mr. Blinky had a chance to come back. All it needed was a large trip with plenty of mileage, maybe a trip back to the states. If it could make it back to Lincoln, Nebraska during the last two weeks of the race, it would even gain an additional 25 points.

Then, Mr. Blinky started showing some signs of life. Maybe something would happen. However, in the last month of the race, Husker would make two big trips. First from California to Texas, then Texas to Maryland. These two trips spelled the end for Mr. Blinky, as Husker jumped over 200 points ahead of Mr. Blinky. And today, as the race ends, the totals are:

1st Place: Husker Traveler with 378 points
2nd Place: Mr. Blinky with 165 points
3rd Place: Newbies From Nebraska with 83 points, plus an honorable mention as MIA

Personally, I thought it was a fun idea (of course, don’t forget I won). I think it would have been even more fun if Newbies hadn’t been lost. The most exciting part of the race was watching the maps of all three as they traveled. My map looks exciting as Husker bounced around the Pacific Northwest.

So are we going to do it again…at the moment probably not. It was an interesting idea though.


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