I hit the jackpot in the kid department. I mean, I know I’m a bit biased, but my kid is awesome. He’s funny and kind. He’s sweet and caring and even sometimes a little bit bossy. But what I love most about him is that he shares the same sense of adventure that I have. And he loves geocaching adventures.
So when it’s a holiday here in the US, and he has no school and I’m fortunate enough to have a government job that closes on most bank holidays, bigmac06 (kiddo’s geocaching name) and I love to head out on an adventure. A few weeks ago, I asked him what he wanted to do on Presidents Day, our day off. His response? “Go to Indiana.” That wasn’t exactly the answer I was expecting, nor was it something I especially wanted to do. But this was his request. We live in the north shore of the Chicago suburbs. Indiana isn’t exactly a quick drive, but it’s easily doable as a day trip.
One thing I’ve learned over the past seven years of geocaching is that other geocachers will take you to the some interesting places by hiding caches there. So when bigmac06 said he wanted to go to Indiana, the first thing I did was check the geocaching map.
Valparaiso seemed to have a nice cluster of caches, including a virtual cache and a Wherigo that looked promising. Plus it’s a college town, home of Valparaiso University, which usually means there will be good restaurants and shops.
I made a list of a few caches that I definitely wanted to find, mentally noted a few others that had a lot of favorite points, and then did some research on restaurants for lunch. By the night before, I had a loose plan in place.
Side note – I worked at a record store for several years in the 1990’s, and as you can imagine, I had a rather large CD collection. I still have a few thousand boxed up and bigmac06 loves to go through them and listen to the “oldies.” I’m so glad that he also shares in my love of music. We had some great tunes for the drive. Bigmac06 had picked out four CDs to listen to on the way: three Guns N Roses albums – Appetite for Destruction, Use Your Illusion I, and Use Your Illusion II – and Nirvana’s Nevermind. Want to reminisce too but don’t have a CD player? All of these albums (plus tens of millions more!) are available on Amazon Music Unlimited, and you can grab yourself a free trial so you can listen anytime.
We headed out about mid-morning to avoid the rush hour traffic. Even though it’s a US holiday, most people still had to work. It was about an hour and a half drive, so we arrived by lunchtime. The temperature was warm for February, in the mid 50’s, but it poured rain off and on most of the day. There was still snow on the ground in the morning, creating a foggy landscape, which made for a beautiful scenic drive.
Our first stop upon arriving in Valparaiso was for lunch at a theme restaurant called Industrial Revolution Eatery & Grille. If you ever find yourself in or driving through Valparaiso, this is a must stop! From the famous high-rise steel workers sitting along the top of the exterior of the building to the train circling above the tables inside, the upscale industrial decor contributes to the atmosphere that pays tribute to the American spirit of innovation and greatness. The food was tasty and the service was friendly and welcoming. I would definitely go back if ever in the area again.
After lunch, it was time to find some geocaches! We started with a very nicely executed Wherigo – A Peek Into The Past – that took us on a short historic tour of some of the older buildings of downtown. Bigmac06 especially loves these types of small downtown areas and was able to spot the next stop and find the answers quickly to keep us moving along. Thankfully, the rain had let up for a short time, which allowed us to do quite a bit of the tour by foot.
After finding the final to the Wherigo, our next stop was a virtual geocache – Former Porter County Sheriff’s House & Jail – which is obviously at the location of the former sheriff’s house and county jail. The building currently houses the Porter County Museum, but sadly it is not open on Mondays so we were unable to check it out.
Those two caches were the must-dos for the day, and we still had some time before we had to head back to Illinois, so we took the opportunity to grab a few other caches in the area as well. I awarded quite a few favorites, including a couple of very clever and nicely crafted bird house style containers and a front yard geocache.
There were a few frustrating DNFs (did not find) on the day, including driving about seven miles each way specifically for three caches, none of which were found. One was likely there, but it was supposedly a tricky hide and it was pouring down rain and my patience was short. I feel like DNFs are more likely to happen when you want to find the cache quickly and are feeling pressured. After reading through descriptions and past logs, the other two in that town were obviously missing. But that’s all part of the game. We did stop and find a nice cemetery hide along the way, so the extra miles weren’t for naught.
In total, we found eight geocaches and I awarded five favorite points for the day. But better than any geocaching find was the fact that I got to spend the day with my awesome eleven-year-old son. I know it won’t be long before he wants nothing to do with his mom, so I’ll take this kind of day any chance I get.