From that day in 1971 when my younger sister broke the world record for pogo stick jumping, I knew I wanted a record for myself. But in what? I tried cycling, archery, adventure racing, and triathlons. I achieved some success, but nothing to write home about. There has to be a sport for me out there somewhere. Where, oh, where can it be?
Enter geocaching. I was hooked from my first cache. What a joy it is to go out and find treasure! Near the end of my first year, I pushed to make 100 finds. Near the end of my second year, I pushed to make 200. Then, something snapped. I had a 25 find day and the rest was all about numbers! First 25, then 50...where would it end?
I’ll tell you where...with three crazy firefighters from Florida going all out, non-stop, for 24 hours. How many caches could we get? Is there a world record for this insanity?
I have known Dave Tozzo, aka Luke 11.9 and Dan Clifford, aka CaptDC52 for over 12 years. Together we formed "Team Rebellion". We work for the same fire department in Ocala, Florida and use GPSr technology as part of our Search & Rescue efforts. Our friendship played a key role in our record attempt. That, along with our determination and our ability to work for long hours straight without a break. Oh, and we’re a little nuts...let’s not forget.
After talking about this for months, we started getting serious in September. We planned a 50 cache day in the Tampa area to test our fortitude. It took 14 hours to hit our goal. Many, many caches had been blown away, literally, thanks to the back-to-back effects of Hurricanes Charley, Frances, Ivan & Jeanne.
So, in early October, we set the date for the 24th. Cooler weather, low rainfall this time of year, and no major events planned for the Jacksonville area.
The previous caching record of 240 finds in 24 hours was set by carleenp and The Leprechauns during the GeoWoodstock II event in Nashville. The hardest and most vital part of this was the preparation. In and around Duval County, there are over 2000 caches. The weeding process began by eliminating multi-caches, mystery caches, webcams and so on. Any cache with a difficulty rating of 3 or higher was eliminated automatically. This brought the count down to over 900. We then looked at cache density and geography. Entire areas were eliminated based on road access or traffic considerations, such as downtown. Now we are down to 450 possibilities. Eliminate the anomalies, like caches way out in a park, those with low tide-only access, or caches that have multiple recent DNFs, and the count came down to 385.
Okay, 385 is a number we can work with. Using MapSource 5.4, we plotted the best possible route. We traveled to Jacksonville the night before to have a full night’s rest and began at 6:00 a.m. Sunday, the 24th of October. We arrived at cache #1 at 0545. Booted up the laptop, turned on all four GPS units, and took a couple of pictures.
What kind of omen is it when the police arrive and ask what you’re doing? Hey, we have not even started yet. “No, officer we’re okay. Trust us, we’re geocachers.” “All right, guys, be safe”...and he was off.
We were raring to go so we started one minute early. Our first find was at 0559 a.m. Grab, stamp and go. We had an ink stamp made to cut down on signing time. Cache #2? DNF. That’s going to happen. But our average quickly improved. Within an hour, we had 11 finds. A record pace. In fact, things continued well until we decided to stop for breakfast. NOTE: Do not stop at McD’s on a Sunday morning. Not only did it take 16 minutes, but they shorted us half our order! By the time we discovered the mistake, we could not return. Okay, we’ll get over it. Snacks and drinks are in the cooler in the back.
For the rest of the morning, everything went more or less according to plan. Our cache pace was still around the 300 mark by lunch. Danny landed knee deep in muddy water trying to get to a cache. Then we made mistake #2. NOTE: Do not stop at Krystal’s on a Sunday afternoon. 18 minutes to get a sack of burgers. We were about to go in the back and cook the things ourselves. We had t-shirts that read "Team Rebellion 24-hour World Record". A customer behind Dave asked if we were setting the world record for standing in line the longest. Funny, but we were on a mission.
Our pace slowed a little during the afternoon. The DNFs were killing our count. Of the 302 caches we attempted, we only found 81%. We had 5 DNFs in a row at one point. But, we kept going. We were still on a record breaking pace.
Danny is actually certified as an automotive stunt man. So having him behind the wheel was a mixed blessing. Good, because he can get us where we are going fast. Bad, because it was my car. Did I make that appointment yet with the transmission shop? Were any traffic laws fractured? Well, let’s just say "admit nothing, deny everything". NOTE: Next time, we’ll rent a mini-van.
By mid-afternoon, we were definitely forming opinions about certain cachers. We were learning their particular style and getting better ourselves. We began to rename these cachers based on their style or difficulty. But the DNFs continued. I honestly believe that many of the DNFs were hurricane losses. No way to weed those out except to try caching in Vegas. Maybe next year. Road trip!
Dave comes out of the woods and smacks Dan in the face with a branch. Dan jumps in the car and throws the clipboard into the back seat, or, rather into Dave’s head. Did I mention how important aspirin was on this adventure? Never leave home without it. Dave loses his Nextel. Dan’s allergies are kicking in. All three of us have holes in our hands and arms from palm fronds and thorns.
We received several calls from well-wishers during the day. They were motivating, but the callers must have thought we were nuts. As I’m talking to the caller, I’m calling out directions to Dan. "Turn right." "Our count is 125." "Dan, 400 feet on the right." "We’re on pace." "200 feet." "Wish you were here with us." "Dan, it’s next to the telephone pole." "Heading for dinner soon." Very manic pace.
By nightfall, we were still on a record pace, although we were behind where we wanted to be by this time. Everyone’s energy and motivation remained high. We were confident that we could break the record, but it would be close. However, by midnight, as our DNFs climbed, we began to get serious and knew that the clock was ticking.
Between 2 and 3 a.m., we had to do some scrambling. Which caches ahead did we feel confident about? Which ones weren’t we sure about? We began passing several caches in favor of caches we felt confident of finding. Based not so much on difficulty, but more on who hid them.
Well, at 510 a.m., we did it! With less than an hour to go, we finally found cache #241...Choose Wisely Grasshopper, by Marine Biologist. We took a picture and decided to try and grab as many more as we could in the remaining 49 minutes.
Our final cache was #246; With Mayo Please, by IceCreamMan. 0550 a.m. And a beautiful spot to end our night; a gazebo tucked inside a pond surrounded by trees. We gave each other a high five. I finally got a decent smoke break. Now for the 90 mile drive home. NOTE: Do not try and drive home after breaking a world record. Fog. Traffic. Fatigue. We made it. I don’t know how, but we got home.
Key to our success were several factors:
- Friendship. Dave Dan & I have known each other for over 12 years. We are all firefighters with Marion County Fire-Rescue. Being used to working long hours without a break made it relatively easy for us to press on at times.
- Preparation. The cache screening process could have been better, but was good enough to get the record. Most of the man hours involved in preparation were related to routing and screening.
- Determination. We knew at times we had to hustle, but we knew from the beginning that we could break the record. The thought of coming up short never seriously crossed our minds.
Some stats from the day:
TOTAL CACHES FOUND - 246
TOTAL DNFs - 56
TOTAL PASSES - 50
TOTAL DISTANCE TRAVELED - 224.5 miles
DISTANCE BETWEEN CACHES (ALL) - average .746 miles
AVERAGE FINDS PER HOUR - 10.25 caches
FIND PERCENTAGE ON SEARCH - 81.45%
AVERAGE TIME PER FIND - one cache every five minutes and 51 seconds
AVERAGE CACHE TIME (ALL) - one every four minutes and 46 seconds
TRAVEL BUGS FOUND - 9
MOST DNFs IN A ROW - 5
LONGEST BREAK - 18 minutes
Our favorite series of the run were "Wizard of Oz", by Marine Biologist, and "Barbequed..." by legna & soulbait. Both series were reliable and fun.
Estimated expenses - $800 PLUS
Estimated man-hours of preparation & admin - 150 PLUS
Estimated man-hours TOTAL - 240 PLUS
Geowoodstock III is going to be held in Jacksonville next May. We have been asked if we will go back and defend our record. Dan, Dave, what do you think? YES!!! We will be there. Back for more. Did I mention we were a little bit crazy?