Everyone hates when their travel bug goes missing. Even more so when it is in a race such as this. Last year, roughly 50% of all of the travel bugs participating in the race went missing. A variety of reasons lead to these losses, including muggled caches, forgotten pick-ups, rouge cachers, and in one case, snatched by the cops. Some of these were unavoidable. Some of them could have been prevented.  So, as the beginning of Christmas Day looms only 3 hours away, we are going to look at some simple tips that you can employ to help reduce the possible loss of your bug.

1. Track Your Bug

This is probably the most important thing you can do, and it would seem to be the most obvious one too.  Keep track of your bug.  Some of the bugs that went missing were simply a result of cachers forgetting about the bug they picked up or dropped.  Groundspeak recommends moving travel bugs within two weeks.  I’m not recommending that you go out and start e-mailing anyone who doesn’t place your bug within two weeks.  But if a two weeks have passed and that person’s retrieval log says that they are going to place it within a few days, you might want to make contact.  Give it another week and keep contact polite.  For example:

I noticed that you picked up XXXX back on XXXX.  Thank you for helping move my bug as it is part of a race for prizes.  I noticed you mentioned possibly getting it out a few days later.  I understand delays happen and was wondering if you still have the bug in your possession.  At least if it’s in your hands I know it is still safe.  Also, there are several ways you can help the bug listed on the attached tag.  If you have any questions about them, I’d be happy to help.

Thank you,

XXXX

I regularly sent out simple messages like this to people who had last year’s entries in their hands and almost always got  kind responses back (a few were neutral, none were negative).  And, like expected, almost 1/2 of them had forgotten they had it.  Others hadn’t been back out caching yet but were planning to soon.  Some had dropped and forgotten to log the drop.  And sometimes, I never heard back from the people.

This tip also involves cache pages.   It is just as important to check up with your travel bug while it’s resting in a cache.  Visit the cache page for whatever cache it is in if you don’t see activity within two weeks.  If it isn’t a well visited cache, then you have your answer.  But if you see five or six logs since it was dropped, it’s either been passed up or it’s been picked up and not logged.  Give it until that night or the next day in case it was picked up that day before you start trying to figure out what happened.  Then start looking through the logs for clues.  This is where Tip #3 and #4 come into play.

2. Travel Bug Page

An informative travel bug page can do wonders to help cachers who pick up your bug.  Many cachers will pick up the bug one day, go home and log the retrieval, then place it another day.  The attached race tag will help alert cachers to the mission and many will take the opportunity to see how they could help it.  Your travel bug page can serve as a reminder that this particular travel bug isn’t just another bug.  And an important part of this is the information about NOT DIPPING THE BUGS.  This causes delays in tallying points as the mileage and map on your travel bug’s page aren’t accurate.  This will require extra work to recalculate those items.  It seems like this is merely a way to save work, but it also helps prevent one person from racking up a huge amount of points in one run.

Having a link to this site helps direct cachers here if they are interested in more information, and more importantly, the monthly bonus goals.  Then, including a table of the points only serves to remind cachers of the different ways they can help the bug.  If your travel bug page just says “I am in a race.  Please keep me moving.”, it does nothing towards helping you win the race.  Another way to enhance the page is through colors.  Adding colored text to the travel bug page helps to catch the attention of readers.  If you have some knowledge of HTML, this will help.

3. Cache Pages

Your racer will visit caches and not get picked up by several people.  It’s going to happen and it will happen more than once.  Being aware of when this happens it important.  In the process of regularly keeping up with your bugs, remember to check the logs on the cache pages for clues.  Someone could have picked it up but didn’t log it online.  If it is a travel bug hotel that has multiple items in it, it’s going to get passed up a few times.  No matter what the situation, if your travel bug is getting passed up on multiple occasions, starting paying more attention.  If it is the only bug in the cache and over two weeks it’s been passed up five or six times without any mention of the travel bug, then get proactive.  One way to do this is to post a note on the cache.

My travel bug XXXX is listed as in this cache.  It is part of a year long race for prizes and was dropped on XXXX.  I was wondering if an upcoming cache visitor could verify if the item is still there.  It will be the travel bug with a laminated card about The Great TB Race attached.  If gone, could you see if the logbook mentions who picked it up. Thank you.

Another way to get the same results is to email the previous visitor (especially if it was within the previous few days).  Explain that you just wanted to see if they remember seeing it in the cache or not.  Again, be polite.  Sometimes, they won’t remember.  This leads to the next tip.

4. Finding a Lost Bug

Once in a while, after seeing your bug getting passed up, you’ll see a note that says someone didn’t see it in the cache.  Or, while following Tip #3, you learn that it is gone.  At this point, you know when it was dropped and you know when it was reported missing.  Who visited between those dates (this number drops if you keep up with your racer)?  Look at their profiles.  Does it look like they regularly handle travel bugs?  If so, maybe they forgot to log it.  Are they a new cacher?  Sometimes new cachers don’t know how to properly handle travel bugs and geocoins.  Either way, your best bet is e-mailing the cachers who visited in between those two dates.  Start with the most recent.  Remember to be polite about it.  For example:

I wanted to get your help with something.  I have a travel bug that is in a race for prizes and it was last seen in XXXX, a cache you recently visited.  It has been reported missing but I don’t know when exactly it was picked up.  I was wondering if you remember seeing it in the cache when you visited.  It would have been a travel bug with a laminated tag about The Great TB Race attached.  Your assistance can help to narrow down the window of when it went missing.  Any help is greatly appreciated.

Make sure to e-mail each person who visited the cache between the two dates you are aware of to maximize coverage.  Somebody has it.

5. Friendly Emails

Obviously, all of your e-mails should be friendly, but this is something else.  A few cachers last year posted notes on their travel bug pages as commentary, thanking people for helping move the item, cheering for their item, etc.  Another step is to contact cachers as they pick up your bug.  This is entirely up to you (I didn’t do this one), but some of you may enjoy doing this.  For example:

I noticed you picked up my XXXX travel bug.  Thank you for helping move my travel bug.  It is part of a race for prizes, earning points for meeting goals.  There are also monthly bonus goals available at the website listed on the tag.  Every move helps further my chances at winning.   If you have any questions about the goal tag, I’d be happy to provide assistance.   Thanks again and have a nice day.

Summary

Keeping track of your bugs movements and contact with cachers is a valuable tool in helping keep your entry alive.  The above tips are some thoughts about the various situations I saw occur this past year and how to handle them.  It seems like nothing more than extra work.  It is just that, extra work.  You don’t have to do them, but some of them only take minutes to do.  And sometimes, nothing you do will make any difference.  But speaking from experience gained this last year, these actions will often save a travel bug.

One last tip.  When sending any e-mail to a cacher, remember to put a check in the box on the e-mail page that sends a copy to your own e-mail.  This helps serve as a reminder for who you contacted and when.  You can include your e-mail if you so desire, making it easier for them to respond.

If any of last year’s contestants have some other tips to share, feel free to contribute by posting your tips in the comment section below.

TripCyclone

Advertisements