In the Geocaching world there is a be MEGA-Event going on this weekend. It is MOGA, or Midwest Outdoor Geocaching Adventure, is a yearly geocaching competition. With both individual, partnered, and team based courses, it challenges you to find as many caches on your list in a given amount of time. That may not seem too hard for some of you hardcore cachers, but throw in varying terrain in the woods and you have the makings of one epic challenge
I have been to MOGA once before, back in 2009. You can actually read about some of those adventures HERE. It really is a lot of fun, but can be overwhelming to a MOGA newbie. I haven’t been back since due to a combination of timing and money. It is an event that every geocacher should experience, either at MOGA or at one of a variety of geocaching competitions held around the world.
However, today I am a MogaNot, a term several of us locals came up with after hearing all the Facebook posts from our friends who were able to go. We joked about having a MogaNot event next year. Then we heard that a Night Cache would be getting published Friday night. PERFECT! A cache that some of us MogaNots could go after while all the Moganites (Moga attendees) were gone. So a group of us arranged to meet up at the parking lot nearest where the cache started so that when it published, we would be ready to go. How did we know to meet there? The owner was nice enough to give us the information. He even joined us. The cache? It is Trailer Park Boys: Bubbles.
I go through my day and hit the road around 6:00 PM. I made it to the park a bit early to find two friends, PAX42 and awhsom already there. We were soon joined by the owner, jjbarretts2 and his son, kcsmiths, bowfam96, and BYoung93. We only needed to wait for it to get darker so that the tacks were easier to see.
After some hanging out, with awhsom thankfully keeping us up to date on the weather we heard might hit us, we decide to go ahead and get out to the starting location. It was getting dark enough to potentially get started. So I grabbed some gear and followed everyone. Along the way, I attached my GPSr to my belt loop, as usual, while I walked. Not terribly far past that I reached for it to make sure it was on. I discovered the lanyard had fallen off…AGAIN! This happens and usually I catch it quickly enough. This time, I didn’t see it around where I pulled the GPSr off my belt loop so figured it happened when I attached it. I decided to wait and look on my way back (I found it later).
We eventually made it to the starting location. It was still a bit light out, but we actually were able to spot the first tack. So we moved along and discovered that the tacks used were bright enough that they could be spotted while it was getting dark instead of after it got dark. We moved along the trail, noting that in the dark, this terrain would not be so forgiving. Roots, rocks, exposed bedrock, and narrow trails. Definitely worth having a good flashlight with you. Finally, someone found the detour for stage one. Then stage one was found. Inside was a QR code! We were warned to have smartphones with us and thinking that a QR code might be why, I downloaded a reader earlier in the day.
Now using a QR codes in caching is picking up steam. I’ve seen them link to pictures and videos, but this one did something different. It linked to a fake, private Facebook account. Within the information and details were hidden clues to the cache itself, including a combination for the lock on the final container. A few of us went through the listing and finally found the information needed so we could move on. By this point, it was getting dark enough that flashlights were almost needed to move around. By the time we made it to the final, they were needed.
The final was well done, with a nice big ammo can inside a mini-shopping cart. That was different and got a few chuckles from the group. Here is a picture of me with the final (which the owner said I could post as it doesn’t give away anything about the location):
The final was chained to the tree for protection, but is far enough from the trial that hopefully nobody stumbles upon it.
The owner was nice enough to put tacks up to lead us back out of the woods instead of having to backtrack our way to the beginning. Once there, we looked and found my lanyard. I was hot by this time so I dropped some stuff off at my car before we went after another nearby night cache called Bombs in the night. That one left me rather unimpressed, especially when you consider that you start with a few tacks that point which direction to go. Then you have to wander at least a quarter mile away with no tacks, hoping to take the right path to where the next tack is located. I’m not sure if a few tacks have gone missing, but this could cause some people to wander for a while. We did end up finding the cache though, thanks to having a few previous finders with us to get us in the right direction.
After all this was done, and I was back in my car, I began the drive home. I was hungry and planned on stopping at one venue. As I got close, I spotted another place I hadn’t been in a while and decided to stop at Five Guys a Burger and Fries, a fast food style diner that serves large portions of burgers and fries. I ordered and went to get a drink. That’s when I spotted what has to be the coolest soda machine EVER!
I saw this and started trying to think of what I wanted. I noticed that this all seemed to come out of one soda spout (look at the machine image above). First things first, I got some ice. Then I decided I was going to have some Diet Coke. Before you all start throwing a hissy fit that I’m going with diet soda, remind yourselfs that everyone has different tastes. I put my cup in place and touched Diet Coke. I expected to see it fill my cup. Instead, it opened ANOTHER menu. This is where things got interesting.
It seems that this machine has a variety of flavor shots that it can inject into the drink. If the flavors of cherry and vanilla come to mind, you would be correct. Though you would also be ignoring some other flavors. Like Orange Diet Coke or Raspberry Diet Coke. So I started looking through the menus and found that while you can get every flavor with every drink, there is still a significant combination of different drinks you can get. Especially when you consider that if desired, you could have an Orange-Raspberry-Vanilla Diet Coke. Here is a picture of one menu that had a lot of flavor options:
In order, you are seeing Cherry, Orange, Vanilla, Strawberry, Raspberry, Grape, and Peach. So how does this all work? If you have never worked in the restaurant or fast food industry, soda’s are usually produced by hooking up packages of concentrated syrup to a system that injects the syrup into water. The combination is then sent to a machine that dispenses the drink. This is why fountain drinks will often have a slightly different taste to them than their canned versions. It is also why customers will notice a more watery taste to their drinks on occasion (it usually means that syrup is running low and an employee needs to hook the hose up to a new container).
Usually the collection of syrups are found in a back room. A stack of boxes with hoses sticking out of them that run through the walls to the dispenser. This machine actually keeps ALL of the syrups in the base of the machine. The makes the machine more maneuverable, allowing the owner to set it where they want instead of where the building designer ran the hoses. One of the employees offered to show me what this looks like (sorry for the blurriness…I didn’t realize I had a bad shot until after I left):
The top two rows are the drinks themselves. You’ll notice that some of the labels seem split in two (look at the two rightmost labels on top). Those indicate regular and diet versions of the same drink. My guess is that either the difference between them is such that its the same syrup, but different amounts of them, OR that because they aren’t used as much there are actually two syrups in one container. That was another interesting thing. The bottom row is all of the flavored shots and the employee just reached down and pulled one out like it was a print catridge. And that is exactly what it looked like too!
One other cool feature that the guy mentioned too me involved ice. Normally, when someone spills out ice into the bottom of a dispenser, maybe because they want to get a different drink or they got too much ice, then the ice slowly melts. Lots of redo’s and the ice can build up. This machine has a built in heater where you dump the ice, helping to melt it and avoid the buildup. Smart idea.
Overall, they cost about $50K a machine, not including the redesign work that the store went through to fit them in. They had to rip out an old counter and added tile work while fixing the wall. It is one cool machine and one person could spend an hour going through all the different flavors. Then you could probably spend several days considering all the combinations as you can mix and combine different drinks AND flavors.
It seems a bit gimmicky, but when you consider that it is a self contained unit (no hoses through the walls to a backroom full of boxes) that allows customers to tailor make their favorite drinks, it seems like a good investment if you use a lot of soda in your venue. Their business already has it installed in six of their stores. They’ve also had other stores asking them about it too. So while I don’t see everyone switching to these, it seems like other businesses are seeing the potential and placing orders themselves.
One funny end to the story…a month after these were installed a customer canceled his food order and demanded a refund. The reason why? He didn’t like the new soda machines. Some people are weird.