If you've spent any time in Eastern Iowa chasing geocaches and attending events, you may have had an opportunity to meet and chat with a man in yellow "measuring tape" suspenders, and who often totes along his favorite TOTT, a 3-tined pitchfork. Jim Clark is known to all in the geocaching world as JDLC1936. He has been chasing caches since July of 2009 and has amassed an impressive total of 15,156 finds. He was also instrumental in establishing a series of hides in Seminole Valley (in Cedar Rapids) that cachers are still enjoying today.
I have been fortunate enough to not only meet Jim, but I spent several days out in the woods and on the trails caching with him. We talked about anything and everything. He has an incredible memory for caches that he found in the past and tells a story about as well as anyone I know. Over the last few weeks he and I have participated in an email interview. I want to share with you excerpts from my time spent with Jim. Because of its length and depth, I will be publishing the interview in installments. I hope you enjoy learning a little more about one of Cedar Rapid's geocaching stars.
Okay, Jim. Let's start with a couple questions about the days of your youth. I'm guessing that JDLC1936 means you were born in 1936, correct? Did you grow up in Cedar Rapids? How many siblings in your family?
I was born in 1936 in my maternal grandparent’s farm house, in the living room. It was located on the east side of South River in White Oak Twp. of Warren County, Ia. about 2 miles west of Indianola, Ia and 2 miles south. I had three younger brothers, I was five years older than my youngest brother so we were a tight knit group of trouble makers. With our rat terrier nothing was safe: bumble bee nests, bull snakes, ground hogs.
We moved to several different farms but I spent most of my summers at my grandmother’s. She raised chickens to butcher for sale and she also had a large flock of chickens for the eggs. One of my chores was to feed and water the hens and gather the eggs. She had an egg route and dressed chickens for customers in Des Moines, east of the capitol. She took me on her route so I saw the seat of Iowa Government at an early age.
My grandmother was an industrious person. She worked on the farm, keep a big garden and 100 years ago she hatched baby chicks in a big brooder in her bedroom. She had customers that bought the newly hatched chicks. It’s predictable when chicks are going to hatch so customers would arrive on the appointed date to get their newly hatched chicks.
I started school in a one room country school. It was called Lawrenceburg. Lawrenceburg was plotted on the county maps during the pioneer days but was never developed. A girl was my only kindergarten class mate. In March of 1941 we moved to a new place. People moved in March. Renter’s leases were up and you moved. The new school was Social Plains. I only had one classmate here too. Her name was Lucy. I saw her last summer at our 60th high school class reunion.
My teacher was Mrs. Duncan. She went to Indianola a year before we moved to town. She was the grade school principal and 6th grade home room teacher and taught math. She was a favorite and a big influence.
My grandfather bought a new threshing machine in 1936. He did the threshing for the neighborhood. But he died in 1939 and my uncle took over the threshing run. Though barely out of his teans. But threshing machines ran in the family. My grandmother’s dad and brother were thresher men.
WWII came along and soon most of the old machines wore out and young men were at war. When I was about 8 years old my uncle started taking me on the threshing runs as his helper. Machinery captured my attention. I liked everything mechanical. I have ever since.
In 1945 we moved to Indianola. I got a newspaper route (route 9) carrying the Des Moines Tribune and Sunday Register. The agency manager was A. (Alvin) C. Luckstead. He was from Clinton, Iowa. He kept me on the straight and narrow and made sure I paid for my papers before I went on a spending spree. I also got the job of getting to the paper office in the middle of the night on Sunday mornings to count out the paper routes when the truck got there from Des Moines. Then after I had delivered my papers I went back to the paper office and got to ride with AC in his new Oldsmobile when he delivered his news counter papers.
Yes, still living in the house I built. When we bought the lot my wife wasn’t too keen about it. It was a new subdivision with only one other house on the block. Several other houses on other blocks. The lots were one acre or larger. The roads were barely gravel in good weather. There wasn’t Edgewood Road to cross the river. To get to the other side of the river you had to go downtown. That determined where I bid the building materials. The lumber yard I got my lumber also sold all the plumbing supplies including pipe that normally had to come from a licensed plumbers supply.
Your career at Collins - are we talking about Rockwell-Collins? I wasn't sure about that. Sounds like your aptitude for all things mechanical led to a terrific career...
Collins was Collins Radio. This was before Collins/Rockwell. Art Collins was a radio genius. In the 60’s Art Collins started building large computers to digitally process all engineering designs, airline reservations, etc. As you may know computers are digital animals. They only count 1s and zeros. Before microprocessors the 1s and 0s were switched on small electro magnetic coils, individually wired. Thousands of coils and wires going every which way. Art got so wound up in developing the computer that he about broke the the company. Rockwell bought the company. I think Rockwell had “big eyes” on profiting on the Collins reputation. But Collins won out-It is still Rockwell/Collins.
Most cachers are fascinated to discover how others have found this amazing game.Can you tell me how you discovered geocaching?
I found Geocaching when I was benchmarking. They are both on the Geocaching web site. I was on the Linn County Democratic Party Central Committee. A guy named Gary Hart was running for my district’s state representative. His district ran clear over to the Anamosa area. He was a track supervisor for the UPRR in the area around Stanwood/Lowden. A really nice guy. You go about a mile south of where he lives north of 64, south of Center Junction, up along the ridge. N42 4.767 W91 7.117. if you are going through Wyoming. You have found caches near his place. Gary has a brother Bill that geocaches. Because Gary saw a lot of benchmarks along the railroads he was a benchmarker. They located a dislodged bench mark and got permission to place it at the end of his driveway in Madison Twp. That’s how I found out about logging them. I knew about benchmarks from years ago. There was one on the Simpson College campus at Indianola. I started using Google Earth to find them. Then I saw the connection between caches and benchmarks on the same web site. There is a prime benchmark at Morris.
7/18/2009 By JDLC1936
This could be "catching". My first cache found. Guess I need to get a GPSr. Just signed the log
I couldn't say how long I looked for benchmarks before I started finding geocaches. The first cache was along a rural road/street in Hiawatha. Now it’s a paved street with industrial buildings. There was a row of popular or similar trees along the road and a soybean field by the trees. I believe the cache was a larger PNJ and it was filled with starter cache film cans or pill bottles. You were supposed to take a container and place it for a new cache. I had the location by using Google Earth. I used Google Earth to locate other caches and I still do. I may use the coordinates and the Geo map and still use Google to locate GZ. You may think this is funny. The 3rd cache I found was in Seminole Valley Park. It was only a day or so after my first find that I ordered a GPSr from Amazon. It's a Garmin GPS 60 and I have it in my lap right now. I just reached over and took it off my computer desk. Almost like new. I think it has about 5000 finds on it before I got my GPSmap 62st. I'm holding it. I have 15156 finds.
Your gps choices are inspired. You picked ones with some really nice features which allowed you to grow along with the game. Do you remember approximately how many caches were active in the Cedar Rapids area when you first began versus today? When was the first time you made contact with another geocacher? Who was it?
I can't find any reference of meeting another cacher until 11/14/2009 at a Flash Mob turkey bowling put on by Busterbabe. All the biggies were there, even BGT. Busterbabe was my backyard neighbor's granddaughter. But I didn't know that at the time. I don't know how many caches were in the CR area. Must have been in the thousands.
Here's another meeting of a cacher. You will like this one. The temperature was near zero, the snow was between ankle and knee deep and the cache was way back in a bend of the Wapsi on the Matsell Bridge Access side of the Wapsi about 2 miles from parking, 3 miles SE of Waubeek. The cache was an ammo box in the crotch of a tree, about eye level.
GC21HBE H.A.C -Horsemanship
1/3/2010 By JDLC1936
FTF 3:19:12 PM After getting "H.A.C The History of Camp Waubeek and Camp Wakonda" I headed over to try this one. I had the route plotted and knew this was going to be a trek. I parked and took my 4 tined walking stick (garden tiller). It makes a good walking stick and leaves an unique mark in the snow so I can pick my route out of the confusion when I backtrack. Most of the trail was already marked by cross country skier's tracks and they were going my way and that was a bonus. After a long hike, most of it following my plot, I arrived at GZ. Finding the cache couldn't have been easier. I used my walking stick to break the frosty grip the hide had on the cache. Another blank logbook!! I signed the log less than 2 hours after the other one, TNLN, re-hid the cache and started back toward the parking. I had only gone a little ways when I saw somebody wearing winter garb and a back pack headed toward me. You don't suppose? Yes it was-Supergoober on the trail. We meet again. LOL. We had a short talk and then had to get moving on our way as sundown wasn't long in coming. I think Supergoober beat me out of the park. I get milage for taking a longer way. The day ended with a fantastic red/rose sundown afterglow. TFTC.
I noticed from your profile that most of your finds are right here in Iowa. Did you ever do any travelling to find caches that involved an overnight stay? Ever have the compunction to, say.... fill your county grid? or find caches in every state?
I know I have had a few meetings with John Q Law. How about you? Ever have to explain yourself to the authorities?
I decided today would be a good day to get these new caches. I really appreciate the way you named these as each one has a unique name that appears first on the GPS which makes it easy to keep track of the caches as I did them. It is amazing how many names and terms are used in Geocaching. If you didn’t name them all, you came very close.
I had made the find and signed the log and I was back in the GeoCruze updating the GPS and my cache sheets when I saw a large white SUV heading toward me. It looked like shabs. The vehicle pulled along side. It was a completely unmarked, civilian licensed SUV with a fully uniformed Iowa County Deputy Sheriff with a non-uniformed guy riding shot-gun. Wanted to know what I was doing. I said "Geocaching". Got that sort of deer in the headlights look-"what is that?". I showed them the GPS and explained what Geocaching is. They approved of that, thought it was "cool". They were checking out some suspicious activity in the area that was reported. Some guy in a bright blue pickup climbing in and out of ditches, looking at power poles. I said, "oh, that must be tennishoe". "Who's he?" I said "another Geocacher. I just saw him back aways." The sheriff asked me if we climb in and out of ditches. I said "yes". They looked at each other and nodded. I must have solved their suspicious activity.
I looked up tennishoe's occupation before I wrote this. Oh boy! If they catch that firefighter and EMS that should be fun to watch.
A new cache came out after dark. It was in Jones Park...
I went looking for it. I was using my big Maglite, looking up in a crab apple tree. The beam from the Maglite was like an arc light at a used car lot. I was still legal on the park hours. A pair of headlights came down the drive. A police car stopped. Could I use some help? or what was I looking for? I said I was Geocaching. He knew what that was and left.
I don’t recall many run ins with Muggles but I did have a confrontation with the same guy that Supergoober told me about. This was before Supergoober’s. I was down at the end of Chain Lakes road, SE of Palo, near a Linn County conservation area. I was checking out the end off road barricade when the “grouch” drove up in his pick-up. Wanted to know if I was looking for a place to “take a crap?” I didn’t think he was funny, not a friendly type. I decided I wasn’t going to place a cache around there and subject cachers to this AH.
So, time goes by, and somewhere along the way, you decide to hide caches as well as find them. Your first hide was at your house, correct? Tell me a little about your design...
Yes, my first cache is at my house. I won an ammo box at an event. I wanted to place it where it would be relatively safe. Too many ammo boxes get muggled, even when they are placed where they should never be found except as premium caches so that trouble makers don’t find the location on the web site.
Then, there's Seminole Valley park. Wow!! That thing was incredible. How did you go about creating it? Did you just walk around the park, picking out spots? Or was there advance planning using Google Earth?
Seminole Valley Park had a few caches in it. Several were puzzles so you had to know where the finals were. For such a large area it didn’t have many caches. It wasn’t getting used and not many cachers were showing much interest. I stopped at the parks dept. headquarters which was down 42nd St. from me. The parks manager wasn’t there but I left my phone number. He is Dan Gibbons. He called a day or so later. I asked if I could place Geocaches in Seminole Valley Park. Sure! No problem. No permits, rules, etc. They want the parks to be used. That’s why they are there. Seminole Valley Park and the riverside above downtown is the water field for Cedar Rapid’s water supply.
Is there any one cache in Seminole that really worked well? If you're pre-picking the locations on the map before you ever walked in, then you had to make the cache fit the location, yes? I'm guessing there were a couple that "flopped" and a couple that were absolutely wonderful...
I can't think of a location that I couldn't create a cache. One was "The Remains of Davy Crockett." I came up with a name that fit the location or surroundings. As I approached this location that was a sand deposit along a ridge with few hiding places I found the remains of a raccoon hide. Thus the remains of Davy Crockett who wore a raccoon hide cap. I placed the hide with the cache. The hide is long gone but now I have a cemetery wooden cross at the cache. Another was A Cool Place For A Cache. I was at GZ for a cache on the flood plain in the wooded area between the river and the grassy plain near the old farmstead. There wasn't any really good unique hiding locations. I had walked by an old dehumidifier laying in the sand, not near GZ. I went back and looked at it. Looked like a "Cool Place For A Cache" if I could move it to GZ. But the dang thing must have weighted #100. I started moving it. Carried it a ways and set it down. Carried it some more and then set it down. Finally got it to GZ and placed a container in the box. Then last summer in one of the floods there must have been a wave of logs and trash that pushed the dehumidifier down river an nowhere to be found. Had to place a new container in a tree.
Another cache involves a little ornithology. A shrike is a bird that impales what it catches on thorns on trees for later consumption. There was a big honey locust with lots of large thorns at GZ. Perfect for placing the cache up in the tree so that it requried some way to reach it without getting gored by a thorn. A Shrike Tree Along The Cedar.
You Can't See The Cache For The Tree. GC38T4X
It was a length of PVC in the ground. I had to dig a hole and then drive the PVC in the ground. A smaller length of PVC was turned on a lathe for a slip fit in the buried PVC. Then I cut a sapling and shaved it down so the smaller PVC fit over it. That combination slipped in the PVC in the ground. The cache was fastened to the bottom end of the sapling.
The problem with it was when we got cold weather frost froze the two pipes together and the sapling couldn’t be pulled up. Also, that area was prone to flooding and the PVC would fill with water and the cache container would either take on water or the threads would jam. That was bad enough then a deep flood came along and wiped out the cache sapling and some of the cluster.
Had to do something different so I drilled a hole under a limb on a sapling at the joint and fit a bison liner in it. If you want to make a real evil cache find a pine tree with a limb almost at the ground and drill a hole under the limb where it joins the tree and put a Bison liner with the cap barely showing in it.
Your reputation and your appearance are well known among Iowa geocachers. Part of it has to do with two signature items that are always on your person - your pitchfork, and your classic tape measure suspenders. Tell about how they became a part of your caching gear...
I know that there have been a number of caches AND events placed/held in your honor.
Would you like to talk about any or all of those?
Congratulations JDLC1936 on your 5000th find! GC38JT4
This was in Seminole Valley Park -- JDLC1936's 10,000 Find Tribute Cache GC4HRAX
JDLC1936's 10,000 Accomplishment!! GC4D0K6 in the park.
All my Milestone Lane caches.
Not much embarrasses me anymore. My primary care doctor is a woman. The event was just a fun get-to-gather with most of the usual suspects in attendance. The logs lists them. Love them all.
Lets talk events in general. Were there any "never-miss" events that you always looked forward to attending? Did you go by yourself or team up with another (I'm sure there were plenty of people to chat up once you got there!)?
I think I attended every event up to 100 or more miles away. Some I went to to fill some seats. Went to yours several times. Waterloo, Keokuk, Nevada, Coralville, Ottumwa. If I didn’t go alone I went with RonTon and Sue. I knew about everybody so could visit with them all, share war stories.
Are Ron and Sue a source for help with caches, like tricky puzzles or caches you couldn't find? Who do you use as your phone-a-friend source? And speaking of phones, when did you FINALLY get a cell phone, because I remember hearing stories of you adventures deep into the woods with no way to contact anybody ;)
Ron is a puzzle solver. So is Rlowtek and The Weasel. We trade solutions. Rlowtek is the puzzel solver extra-orden-air. He has about every puzzle solved for several hundred miles out. More than once he will solve a puzzle and send me the solution before I’m even aware that the cache has been published. Ron and Tim sometimes do the same. I usually write in my log my on-line Geocache puzzle solver sent me the answer. Larry Darling –C4!, Keekle, Sunluver, DTCBears, BBB, The Zinger and many others I either share or cache with.
Has there ever been a caching day where everything seemed to go wrong? How about a day where everything clicked and worked out perfectly?
Not sure about a day when every thing went wrong. I’ve been thinking about “tape worm’s” (Parabola or Travis Dooley’s) caches. He did the scouting anniversary caches. H.A.C. He usually put out ammo boxes and had then scattered over 60-70 miles. Some were easy but his big trick was to place them as far back in a woods that the boundaries would allow and in terrible terrian.
I have to ask you about "the elephant in the room." Can you tell me about the days leading up to your current diagnosis and what's been going on with you healthwise?
I was thinking about this when the fire at Traer on Jan. 13th was mentioned on the news tonight. I went through Traer on the 13th. Must have been just before the fire because I went by where the fire was and it had to be before the fire. I was heading for some caches sw and west of Dike. I was feeling fine then. I started feeling weak and losing weight after that. I got bronchitis after that and as I was still feeling weak as I was getting over it. I get a checkup every 90 days for A1C, blood pressure and cholesterol plus blood tests for liver effects of the drugs I take. One of the liver readings was way out of spec. I always to the tests for signs of problems and never had anything. That’s when my doctor ordered more tests and they found what I had. I have liver cancer. It's advanced. There is a chemotherapy pill I can take that may help, but the oncologist left it up to me to decide if I want to or not. I completed my second round of it and am waiting for the test results to see if it helped or not.
Jim, I know I speak for the whole caching community when I say that you are in our thoughts and prayers. And I want to thank you for taking the time to answer all my questions for this interview, and giving us a little closer look into your life both as a geocacher and the history of who you are.
We are all thinking of you, my friend!