The whole time Howard and I were traveling up north, I did my best to stay away from the news. After all, this was vacation in rather remote places. I had no desire to have the news of shootings, protests, and ugly politics intrude.
One rather whimsical bit of news, however, was inescapable – the massive success of the phone-based augmented reality game Pokémon Go. You all know about Pokémon, yes? Strange little creatures that started out as a Japanese trading card game in the 1990s that grew into a popular series of video games on both portable and console systems. The pocket monsters were also made into popular animated TV series and movie series.
Pokémon had such a big influence on popular culture that 2012 Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain quoted from a song from the movie Pokémon 2000 in his campaign:
In the fifth edition of my textbook Mass Communication: Living in a Media World, I even write about a pet fish named Grayson who played the Pokémon Red game using sensor array that detected where he was swimming in his tank.
The goal of all these games and shows was for the player, a Pokémon trainer, to try to catch, train and evolve as many Pokémon as possible under the slogan “Gotta Catch ‘Em All!” With the new Pokémon Go augmented reality game, would-be trainers can travel around in the real world, finding and catching animated Pokémon with their Apple and Android phones in a sort of electronic/real life-hybrid scavenger hunt..
As I mentioned earlier, this new game has been insanely popular, with many of my allegedly adult friends chasing around outside trying to find the next little monster. While we were in Prince George, British Columbia, when the desk clerk at our hotel got off work at 11 p.m., he pulled out his giant Samsung phone and headed out into the northern Canadian twilight to try to catch a few.
So… What does all this have to do with my trip north? I have actually been participating in a couple of long-distance motorcycle-based scavenger hunts on this trip – scavenger hunts that actually started before this trip and will extend on for much of the rest of the year.
The first of these is an Iron Butt Association National Parks Tour. The goal is to collect national park passport stamps from at least 50 parks located in at least 25 different states and provinces over the course of a year. I completed one of these back in 2011-2012, and I’ve been working on another one this year. For example, among many others, I picked up a stamp at Teddy Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota:
And also from the Canadian Fort Battleford National Historic Site in Saskatchewan.
The second of my scavenger hunts is the Team Strange 2016 Strange Election Grand Tour. The goal for this one is to take a photo of your bike and your tour flag in front of the Welcome sign for as many US states as possible. You use a red flag if you think the state will go Republican in the upcoming presidential election, and a blue flag if you think the state will go Democratic.
When the grand tour is scored after the election, you will earn points for every state you called correctly. Each state is worth the number of electoral votes it has times the number of square miles for the state.
I’ve gone to a number of states this year and am scheduled to go to several more. So I should do reasonably well, especially with Alaska in my quiver. Not a very big number of electoral votes, but lots and lots of square miles.
I got all the way to Hyder, Alaska and forget to take pictures with my Strange Election Grand Tour flags.
Didn’t catch ’em all.