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Enter Velocache

Indigenous sport to the Boise bike scene: booty hide and seek

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The rain is coming down. I'm biking down the Greenbelt, eyeing the foliage for hiding places. I have a camera in my backpack and a cache of goods to hide. Robbing a bank and running from the cops? Turning landlocked pirate? Neither. It's just a round of velocache.

Essentially, velocache is an excuse to ride a bike, be with friends, find hidden treasure and, often drink a beer or two while you're at it. These are the ingredients for what velocache creators Brook Slee and Barton Kline thought would make a great new sport for the Boise community. The friends planned and developed the idea, creating and maintaining the blog that coordinates gameplay. Since the first-ever cache was hidden mere months ago on Jan. 30, a growing number of Boise bikers have rallied behind the idea. Now, with summer on the way and other cities putting together their own games, velocache is just beginning to take off.

Getting started with velocache is simple. All you need is a bicycle, a digital camera, an Internet connection and a little outside-the-box thinking. Your search begins by checking the velocache blog (boisevelocache.blogspot.com), where other velocachers post pictures of caches hidden around town. Based on your knowledge of Boise geography, it's up to you to identify the location and bike to it before another velocacher does the same, then grab the goods, take photos of your victory, and hide a new cache so that the game continues.

"Your cache should be planted in the same spot the picture was taken so when a velocache participant finds your cache, they will be sharing your unique perspective, secret spot, state of mind," reads instructions on the blog by Slee and Kline. While the traditional cache includes a beer opener and accompanying brew, anything from hot dog supplies to an Aldous Huxley novel to new bicycle parts might be waiting.

"We don't care what's in it, it's more just to find it," said Blackhappy, an avid velocacher who prefers to go by his blog handle, the pseudonym by which many people in the community refer to each other. "That was the point from day one: it's an excuse to ride. Nobody's keeping track," he said.

A cached beer, though, is never unwelcome. And like drinking, velocache can be done solo, but it's usually more fun to have some friends along. One group of velocachers, who call themselves Booty Quest 5, formed a cache-finding team.

"I feel like a pirate. It's by far my favorite activity," one of the Booty Questers said. "It's way fun to ride around, look for treasure, and drink beer with your friends. You get so many cool stories."

For riders with kids, there are specially designated kids only caches. No beer here, just a family-friendly activity on bikes.

"When you're a kid, you always want to find treasure. I wish this shit was around when I was a kid," said another Booty Quester.

The hub of the community is the blog, where velocachers share everything from newborn baby photos to special uncovered loot. While some players are acquainted with each other from alley cat races, and others are members of local bike clubs like the Band of Gypsies, the Warlocks and even Slee and Kline's own Bikes and Rec, many velocachers don't know each other outside of cyberspace and the online handles. This hasn't been a barrier in building camaraderie, however.

"Hardcore urban bikers cross with mountain bikers and the cruisers," said Blackhappy on the commingling of biker cliques. Mountain bikers might leave a cache in the Foothills, while the urban bikers might favor an obscure street corner. Where people choose to hide their caches all comes down to sharing perspective he said.

"You never know what people's experiences are. You'll think that you've hidden a cache in a really hard-to-find place, then somebody will find it right away and tell you, 'Oh, in my delinquent childhood, I used to go there all the time,'" said Blackhappy.

"It keeps me on my bike," said David Faught, a wine distributor. "There are times I get up and think I'll drive to work, but then I think, 'What if there is a velocache to find?' I've only driven to work once since February."

Astute velocachers are always on the lookout for the next great spot. Caches have been left across town and beyond, from the roof of Bar Gernika, to empty canals, to a street corner in Kuna, even outside the BW office.

"You have to be prepared. My bag always has a headlamp, gloves and a camera. I'm ready at all times," one player, alias Captain Fran, said.

"It makes you get to know your own back yard. You notice things you didn't see before," said Velovixen, another player. In tracking down caches, it's an asset to be tech savvy, too. Googlemaps is fair game. Hardcore velocachers even buy iPhones just to play the game with mobile Internet. The only forbidden fruit is the automobile.

For my first cache, I parked the bike and crossed a fallen log onto an island in the Boise River. Finding a spot in the thick undergrowth, I buried my cache, an assortment of BW goods and two Flicks tickets, under fallen leaves and sticks. Out of the way? Maybe not obscure, but off the beaten path, I thought. By the next afternoon, a trio of velocachers had made short work of it.

Because the game has been successful so far based on honesty among players, the velocache community is cautious about seeing their favorite sport expand. "Just follow the rules," is the unanimous advice veteran velocachers have for newcomers. Under-21 riders should leave the beer alone, and all riders should treat each other and the community with respect.

"We don't want weirdos to leave stuff," said the Booty Quest 5. Velocachers are encouraged to use common sense about where to hide caches as well, with the geocaching debacle that closed Rainbow Bridge—when a cache was mistaken for a bomb—still a recent memory.

"You'll be welcomed if you make yourself welcomed," advised Velovixen. "The spirit of competition is like elementary school T-ball; everyone gets a medal."

The sport continues to grow, too. A startup group in Monterrey, Calif., recently launched a velocache blog, and Portland, Ore., bikers have similar ambitions. Blackhappy tells of a business trip to Cleveland, Ohio, during which he hid a cache on a whim. Sure enough, an Ohioan tracked it down.

"It's going to become a global experience," speculates Blackhappy on the future of velocache.

To date, 351 caches have been hidden across Boise, with around 50 of them planted in the last week alone.

"Summer is going to be insane," predicted the Booty Quest 5. As the sport grows, Slee and Kline are getting ready for a new wave of velocachers.

"We want to promote riding bikes, loving this city, and just being outside," said Kline on what the future has in store for velocache.

For more information, check out boisevelocache.blogspot.com.