Aug 26, 2008

Busted in the Panhandle

On Saturday, my wife and I decided to replace our "PC Road Trip" Geocache at a local park. The old cache was a combination sudoku puzzle / driving trip around Panama City, and it hasn't exactly been a hotbed of activity. We also received a recent comment that the puzzles were gone, and the cache container was wet. So, we decided to do some re-vamping.

Due to the high cost of gas, we scrapped the whole 'road trip' idea, and instead settled on a 3-stage multi-cache (each destination gives you the coords to the next stage). We took the ammo cans home to be cleaned and dried out.

At this same time, Tropical Storm Fay was beginning to move into the area. Premium Geocaching members always get an email as soon as a new cache is placed, and they race to see who can be the "first to find". Knowing this, we thought it would be a great idea to place the cache ASAP, and try to get it published before the storm left the area (each cache has to be approved by an independant reviewer). That way, the FTF winner would get drenched! We aren't premium members (it costs $30.00 per year) and we thought it would be a good way to torture them a little bit. All in fun, of course. This was around 9:00 pm. So, we updated the swag in the ammo can, grabbed some hide-a-key containers for the first two stages, and headed to the park.

It was already drizzling, so when we got to the park I opted not to park in the lot, but off the road in between some bushes instead. That way we would be closer to the final stage, and I wouldn't have to carry the container as far. We hopped out of the car with our umbrella, flashlight, ammo can and hide-a-keys. We got about 10 feet before we saw another car pull into the park. And stop behind our car. We pretended not to notice, and then the whole area was flooded with a spotlight. We still continued walking, though we both knew that a cop had totally busted us. We agreed to keep walking and pretend we didn't notice him, and for the love of Pete DON'T TURN AROUND. I was expecting to hear a "Halt!" over the loudspeaker any moment, but it never came.

We agreed not to attempt to place the cache in the wooded area nearby (that would look too suspicious) so we just walked on. No plan. No idea what to do. Just keep waling. We walked around the baseball field and could still see the cop sitting there with his spotlight on our car. We decided to stash the ammo can because it would be difficult enough to diffuse the situation without holding a camoflauged box that looked an awful lot like a bomb. We also had no official Geocaching paraphanelia, no GPS unit, and we knew it would be difficult to explain the whole Geocaching idea. So we stashed the box under a bench and continued walking.

By this time, we were pretty wet and we had reached the opposite end of the park, so we started back. We could still see the cop's light on our car. He wasn't leaving. My wife wanted to go back and try to prevent him from writing us a ticket, and I agreed. Okay. Now it's time to get our stories straight.

We settled on this: "We were out for a walk, and didn't want to park in the parking lot because it looked muddy. Now that the rain had started falling harder, we decided to leave. We didn't notice the cop car or the spotlight." Lame, I know. But it was the best we could do on short notice. And it took us a while...we were almost back and I distinctly remember saying, "What are we doing out here? What are we going to say?" We were cutting across the grass now, headed directly toward our car. There were some bushes blocking the cop, so we couldn't see what he was doing.

A few paces later, my wife noticed the blue lights were on. Great. OK. Here we go. Show time!

We cautiously stepped out from behind the bushes. My wife was like, "Hello?" No answer. "Hello?" She wanted to make sure he knew we were approaching so there wouldn't be some kind of awful shootout. Well, we weren't carrying guns, so I guess it would be a shooting, not a shootout. Anywho, I realized what she was doing, and in the same moment also noted that I was still holding the thick Maglite Flashlight. I raised both arms slowly and walked forward.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, he stepped out of the car. "Is this your car?" Yes, we said. Are you the registered owner? Yes, I said. I handed him my driver's license. We soon heard over the radio "Silver 2004 Ford Focus registerd to..." and then my wife's name. Oops. Oh well, show him your ID, honey.

She didn't have it. We hastily rattled off the story, and I interjected with, "it's such a cool night, y'know, not like the hot ones we've been having". Yeah, that'll convince him. He eyeballed us for a moment, then asked why we didn't park in the lot. "Oh, it looks muddy", I told him. He looked at the soggy ground where we were parked, and said, "It's pretty muddy here." I pretended to notice for the first time...oh, yeah. Hmm.

Then he told us that sometimes "not-so-nice" people park in these same bushes and do drug deals and stuff. I'm thinking, 'we've got drug dealers in the neighborhood? Great. ' Anyway, he told us to park in the lot next time, and we wholeheartedly agreed. Then we both got in our car and waited. He turned off the blue lights, then the spotlight, and left. Whew! That was a close one.

But the cache still needed to be placed. We drove the car over to the lot, and discussed what to do. It was decided that we would both walk to stage 2 and place the hide-a-key. Then, my wife would return to the car, and I would continue to stage 1, place the hide-a-key, pick up the container and go into the woods to hide it. This seemed like a good idea in theory, but upon execution it contained a couple of flaws. First, my wife was left in the car all alone - what if the cop came back with more quesitons? Second, I would have to walk the ammo can under some streetlights near the road to get it back to the right side of the park. Third, we didn't get our stories straight before we seperated.

As I walked, it started raining harder. I placed the hide-a-key, and picked up the ammo box. My story was going to be that my doctor told me I had to walk twice as far as my wife, so that's why I was walking alone. In the dark. In the rain. Carrying a bomb.

Unbeknownst to me, my wife was facing the same dilemma, but came up with a more convincing story - I went off to look for something that I thought I lost while we were walking the first time. That was good. Way better than mine!

Luckily, we didn't need it. The cop didn't come back, we didn't get hauled off to City Hall (which was like 2 blocks away), we didn't get seperated and questioned individually, so no one found out that our stories didn't match.

After I left the woods, I could barely see. My glasses were all wet and there was no way for me to dry them. But when I got to the parking lot I could make out a person running at me - my wife. We embraced, and she told me she was glad nothing happened to me. We got in the car and headed home to dry off.

Our cache was published the next morning, and some brave premium members found it. Coincidentally, the rain wasn't that bad, and they didn't get very wet. Well, that's karma for you.

I love Geocaching.

2 comments:

dude mobile said...

very nice! hahahahaha

Jeanette said...

omg, you guys are a hoot!! Thanks for the great story