Wandering in Las Vegas

After being busy with virtual conferences and hackathons, I finally got some time to return to my virtual travels. This week I'm going to Las Vegas, the entertainment capital of the world.

Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign, 2013-12-17

Am I in Las Vegas?

Christmas 2011, after visiting San Diego and Los Angeles theme parks, two schoolmates and I drove 6 hours to Las Vegas. We walked around the vicinity of our hotel, and saw what appears to be Statue of Liberty in front of a hotel. From what I remember from watching The Amazing Race (paid link), this statue should be in New York. Although my geographic knowledge was limited at the time, I knew we were not in New York. Instead, we were in front of New York-New York Hotel and Casino, designed to evoke the New York City skyline. This Statue of Liberty is a smaller replica of the real thing.

Statue of Liberty replica in front of New York-New York Hotel and Casino, 2011-12-26

Wandering in Los Angeles

This week, I virtually travel to Los Angeles, California, a city that I visited many times.

The Airport

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is one of the busiest airports in the United States. At a distance of 90 minutes flight time, LAX is the nearest major international airport from Tucson where I attended grad school. Therefore, I often find myself transiting in LAX.

LAX sign, 2019-03-06

Since I entered United States for the first time nine year ago, I transited through LAX 10 times, including 8 flights to/from China and 2 flights to/from Honolulu, Hawaii. Occasionally I have a long connection time. During that time,

Wandering in San Diego

I have wanderlust but the Coronavirus lockdown is preventing me from traveling this year. It would be fun to dig out old photos and look back on my past travels. Let me start with one of my favorite cities: San Diego, California.

December 2011

My first time in San Diego was a road trip with a few Chinese students I met during my first days in Tucson. We visited SeaWord San Diego, where I enjoyed their famous Shamu show, in which I got splashed by the killer whales.

whale performance in SeaWorld San Diego, 2011-12-22

During the same trip, we also visited USS Midway Museum, an aircraft carrier docked in San Diego harbor. I learned how these little planes take off, and more importantly how they can land safely with the help of arresting gear.

Thought Provoker #3

The title comes from a geocache named Thought Provoker #3. Inside the container there is a thought provoking question:

If you could travel across the United States of America (and had no other obligations, financial or time constraints) what mode of transportation would you use and why? Walk/run, ride a bike, ride a motorcycle, hitchhike, drive a car, drive a RV/motorhome, take trains, or something else?

Here are my answers.

First Choice: Geocaching Express 6000

The Geocaching Express 6000 GPS Receiver is a powerful GPS receiver, as shown in Geocaching International Film Festival (GIFF) 2019:

Geo-snatching

Geo-snatching is the act of finding loopholes instead of geocaches.

This includes:

  • armchair geocaching;
  • hacking your smartphone's location so you can log Adventure Labs or solve Whereigo cartridges without visiting the location;
  • logging an FTF on a friend's cache that you helped place;
  • finding your own caches by adopting it to a sock puppet account (aka rule 52612);
  • other general tomfoolery.

The term geo-snatching was invented by gsmX2 on this Facebook post. This article explains what geo-snatching or geosnatching means in geocaching, and how a geo-snatcher or geosnatcher differs from an honest geocacher. Content of this article does not necessarily reflect blog owner's views.

Mystery at the Museum - Plan a Trip

Geocaching.com's newest promotion, Mystery at the Museum, is online today. To qualify for the first three souvenirs, you must find and log a number of geocaches, in a certain order.

Geocaching.com offers a filter function that shows which geocaches to find and log next. However, it only allows me to select the clue tiers that I currently qualify for. Since I haven't found any geocaches since the promotion started, I can only search for the Detective clue, but cannot search for any other clue types.

CLUES filter disabled except for Detective

This is inconvenient for me, because I prefer to go geocaching offline. I usually download a number of geocaches to my phone, go out to find them, and then log them at end of the day. I want to be able to search for clue types beyond Detective, even if I don't currently qualify for them. Then, I can go out, find enough geocaches to complete two or three souvenirs together, and then log them into the correct order.

I poked around the URI parameters in the address bar, and found two methods. I thought I'd share them, in case anyone needs it.

Oregon Vacation: Looking Back and Looking Forward

My 7-day Oregon vacation is over. It took even longer for me to blog about this experience:

  1. Planning and Departure explains why I chose Oregon, how I planned the trip, and a personal record I set on the departure day.
  2. GC12 and GC17 follows my adventure to Oregon's oldest geocache.
  3. Birthplace of Geocaching introduces a landmark that started one of my favorite sports.
  4. Hillsboro and Outlets tells how I met a Twitter friend in real life, how I contributed to American economy, and a painful DNF story.
  5. Eight Waterfalls, Two Beaches, and a Webcam takes me outdoors to the scenic Multnomah Falls recreation area.
  6. Portland calms me down in the peaceful Portland Japanese Garden, and gets me running around in Portland State University.
  7. Breakfast and Laundry Solutions discusses some logistic issues during my travels.
  8. GC16 in Molalla River makes me huff and puff in seek of a 19-year-old plastic jar.
  9. Oregon City lifts me up along the only vertical street in North America.
  10. Last Day brings me from the peak of Portland to the other side of the state line, and then back to the normal life.

Schedule

My vacation did not have a planned day-to-day schedule, but adopted a semi-flexible strategy. This differs from my previous vacations such as the Yuma Mega trip, where the planning covered exactly where to exit the highway and take a rest. Being flexible allowed me to spontaneously decide where to go next, based on weather, mood, and other factors. It enabled me to add destinations that I did not know before departure, such as Multnomah Falls and Oregon City, as well as fulfill friend's request of an IRL meet up. This strategy did backfire once, when I went to a museum only to find it closed.

Eventually, my trip achieved an interleaved structure between rural and urban environments:

Oregon Vacation (10) Last Day

By the time I finished my Oregon City tour, I'm 22 miles from the Portland International Airport and I have 8 hours remaining before scheduled flight departure. There are still places worth visiting.

Portland's Highest Point

Council Crest Park is the highest point in Portland at 327-meter elevation. It is also the location of Portland's oldest geocache, hidden in February 2001.

rusty statue and signal tower atop Council Crest

The park was easy to locate. The geocache, on the other hand, was difficult for me. Its location is specified as a vector offset from the hilltop, at "185 meters in the direction of 285° from magnetic north". I've seen "magnetic north" once and looked up some scientific references, but I don't know a practical way to convert magnetic north to true north that is accepted in mobile apps.

Oregon Vacation (9) Oregon City

Driving around the highways south of Milwaukie, I repeatedly saw an End of Oregon Trail sign. I vaguely remember having played a game called The Oregon Trail (paid link), but I don't know exactly what "Oregon Trail" is, so I looked it up. Oregon Trail is a 2170-mile wagon route between Independence, MO and Oregon City, OR, traveled by some of the earlier pioneers that settled in the west. Given its historic importance, after completing my geocaching mission, I decided to spend part of my last two days to visit Oregon City.

Elevator, Artwork, and Oddities

My evening tour of Oregon City was entirely guided by three geocaches:

selfie with Oregon City Municipal Elevator

Oregon Vacation (8) GC16 in Molalla River

My primary goal in Oregon is to find some of the world's oldest geocaches. I've found GC12, GC17, and the Original Stash tribute early on, but there's one more: GC16, hidden in June 2000. Wednesday, June 12, after a breakfast at Hitchin' Post, I started my quest into the BLM lands along Molalla River.

GC16

Just like other historical caches in Oregon, GC16 does not have parking coordinates in its listing. Once again, Google Maps tells me that I can drive straight to it. I know it can't be so easy, so I did my planning and identified two potential trailhead / parking locations:

  • Annie's Cabin trailhead, N 45°01.015 W 122°29.001, 3.0 km hike.
  • Hardy Creek trailhead, N 45°02.382 W 122°29.348, 2.3 km hike.

I looked over the "Old Oregon Coast Cache Access" document that I received at GEOregon event, and it suggests the first parking area. I'd better listen. It's a half-hour drive from Molalla on a wide, well-maintained road. I saw several logging trucks passing by, which explain the necessity of good roads.