The day started off early (as I suppose most days do) and we were out of house at 6:30 and on our way to Nashville. Nothing too terribly eventful occurred on the way up, but we did get to see the hot-air balloons floating northward from Decatur as part of the Alabama Jubilee Hot-Air Classic.
For geocachers that have wondered, this is part of the inspiration for the Alabama State Souvenir that you are awarded for finding a geocache anywhere in Alabama.
After a couple of hours of interstate driving we arrived at the Adventure Science Center and congregated near the entrance with the crowd of other geocachers. There was a quick introductory speech from both a representative of the Center and Jeremy Irish, the founder and Chief Executive hamster wrangler at Groundspeak, the folks that keep geocaching.com up and running.
Also present were about a bagillion cicadas. For those of you that think the cicadas are thick in the Huntsville area, you need only visit Nashville to gain some perspective. About every fourth cacher waiting in line at the entrance had a cicada along for the ride. Here's one that was hanging out on Chan's finger.
Once inside we wandered over to the GPS Adventures Maze Exhibit. The maze is set up to teach you about the hobby of geocaching as well as the science behind the satellites that allow us to use our hand-held and car GPS units. At the entrance to the maze you are given a card with the four different themes of the maze on its corners. There are four corresponding rooms hidden in the maze that each contain a puzzle for you to solve in order to gain access to a stamping device that will allow you to stamp a number on the matching corner of the card. Confused? It was much better explained at the exhibit. Once you have solved the puzzles and collected your stamp you can find actual GPS coordinates that match your card based on the color of the card, a compass "code" (ours was SW) and the arrangement of the four numbers on your card. From these coordinates you find a city on a map. You can then check your work and see if you identified the correct city. For the record, ours was Karachi.
The maze itself was very well put together and has weathered being moved across the country very well. With the exception of one of the puzzles we were able to make sense of them and figure them out. Luckily for us there is an optional "spoiler" panel on the locked doors to the stamp room that will give you the code you need to progress.
Here's Jake outside one of the locked stamp rooms. Throughout the maze there were facts and examples of GPS units, tidbits about the history of geocaching, and interactive displays about things like backpack selection.
One of the rooms had a display of several Trackables, including Travel Bugs and Geocoins. (All the ones in the display were unactivated and not trackable... I checked.)
After running the maze we took some time to re-visit the rest of the Center. When we lived in the Nashville area we had a membership and would come here all the time, but it's been about seven years since I've been and at least a year for most of the kids. Some of the installations were familiar but most of the updates were new to me. Among them, "Body Battle" that the kids wanted to head to first. It's a "point your laser gun at various targets" sort of thing. The participants are split into two teams- one fighting for the immune system and the other on the side of the pathogens.
We played around on a few things here and there. Most of it targeted towards kids much younger than mine, but we still had fun. They have a "moon walk" low-gravity simulation rig that the kids were pretty excited about. Chan and Ben were up first...
...followed by Jake and me. Chan took some pictures of us on the rig itself, but here is Jake being suited up by the cute attendant girl.
I'm actually a little glad that I don't have any pictures of me in the rig. It was snug in places that I generally don't like to be snug in. There was a small flock of snickering mommies that had been amused by one of the dads that went up in the air before me, so I made a conscious effort to turn away from them when I was jerked up by the crotch loops. Yeeouch.
One thing that we all wanted to do was climb to the top of the Pinnacle- the very top of the central structure in the Center. Here are the kids at the very tippy-top, towering above everybody in the building.
You can see the Batman building from here!
The view looking back down the tower.
Before leaving we had to do one more thing. MINDBALL. Father vs. son in a battle of BRAIN POWER. You strap on the headbands that are equipped with contact points and supposedly you can make a little ball move across the table by increasing your brain waves. After a couple of matches with Jake (that I refuse to acknowledge as valid) we spent about ten minutes trying to out Professor X each other. It doesn't look like much in this picture, but I assure you, there's a battle going on here. A battle of MINDS.
Chan and Ben duked it out as well. Here we see Chan nearing an unconscious zen-state. Or possibly just falling asleep.
We left the Science Center and walked through Fort Negley next door. For some reason we had never visited the fort while we lived here. Also there were two geocaches hidden on the grounds.
If the cicadas were turned up to "10" at the Science Center, they were on "11" at the fort. We found the two caches and left while our senses were still intact.
Next stop, KO's Pizza. This is a pizza place/greek deli that we used to eat at two or three times a week when we lived in Lebanon. Omar's pizza and gyros are two of the five things we miss most about living in this area. Seven years since we last met and Omar recognized when I came through the door. The four of us split a large pepperoni pizza and I grabbed a falafel to go for "Boss Lady".
One last sight from our Tennessee years as we drove down the 840 towards home. The Castell Gwynn in Triune.
A ton more pictures (Wildflowers! Names not known!) of our day can be found here. Have a look.