I’m writing this in this forum because it’s for travel bugs. It’s a story with a happy ending that takes place on Easter Sunday, 2014. I hope you will agree.
I have been teaching for a long time and it’s always nice to learn that something a teacher does for a student had a positive impact on their life, even if that good news arrives almost a decade after the teacher met the student, then for only a few days. (!)
It was in the summer of 2005. I was teaching a “geocaching” class. We would need to use geocaching.com (GC.com) for sure. My handful of students was around 10 – 13 years old. They had registered for a summer enrichment program held at the Marshalltown Community College. It was coordinated through Area Education Agency 267.
In that class I taught the basics of geocaching as well as how GPS works. For the group I designed and built a really neat physical puzzle geocache (cache) to place back in Waterloo, Iowa, my place. It was made for the travel-bugs the students would setup and own.
I was afraid the TB idea would be problematic because the kids would need to register a free account with geocaching.com using an e-mail address - most didn’t have one - get a toy that they could attach the serial numbered dog-tag to and then most importantly (!) activate their TB tag number at GC.com. As you all know, once activated the students would still need to electronically “drop” the TB off in the geocache (Bugs R-4 "Kids" Habitat GCP7RV) I made for them. After that process was verified I would place the actual TB in the cache and away they would go.
My TB fears came to pass. Sure enough, I ended up with a bunch of them that the owners never registered. They were little kids. I know. Fortunately, in the case of a few, I myself had the activation code and could register them from home. However, those bugs I had to claim as mine.
I e-mailed the TB real owners and even called some of their homes to try to get all the bugs going and to explain how the real owners could follow the travels even though I “owned” them. I received no responses via e-mail and the personal calls were not well received. They were interpreted as a “who is this guy” call - embarrassing.
I did launch the few from the geocache. I kept the tagged TB toys that I myself could not register in a drawer for 8+ years, hoping that someday the owner might contact me to find out what happened. Now…..fast forward to Sunday, March 23, 2014 at 11:50 AM. I got an e-mail from a geocacher that goes by Balogna.
Here is the message:
“Hello Iowa Tom!
My name is Toni, and I took a class with you through the Kids in College program at MCC in the summer of 2005. After a long hiatus of not logging any caches I found with my family, I have been caching up a storm. Geocaching is my favorite hobby, and I owe it much to you. I still remember that class fondly and am so grateful to have been able to take it. I was 12 years old when I took the class and am 21 now. Thank you so much for inspiring children to get outdoors and keep finding wonder in the world. I still am.
One question I've had all these years is whatever became of the travel bug I started in your class. It's called Meowth, and is a small toy Pokemon. The tracking code is TBKF9Q. You don't still have it by any chance, do you?
I thought it was worth asking.
Thank you so much.
After some digging through that drawer I mentioned above, and after doing some research about the number on the attached dog-tag, I not only found her Pokemon, we even discovered that it had indeed been registered! I didn’t know. It was never deposited in the cache electronically because the young geocacher did not understand what needed to be done. So there it sat, in a drawer next to my computer for 8 years, 9 months and 8 days.
I asked Balogna’s permission to place it my reinforced, locked, premium members only, “travel bug hotel” called the WRBA TB VAULT (GCR677). It's attached to a fence 100 feet behind my house along a cemetery (Balogna said great and changed the TB goal online to travel to her hometown first before it leaves for the world. She would like to see it again and take its picture. Cool.
For me that little toy has become a link to a new geocacher and a new Facebook friend (who is majoring in biology, what I majored in too). It has special meaning in how long it has waited to move. Just goes to prove that hanging onto some things might have its reward someday. I’ll have to tell that to my wife.
I resurrected the long sleeping Meowth by placing in my geocache on Easter Sunday, April 20, 2014. Let's see who gets to it first. :)