Empowered By The Route 66 Geo-Trail

R6In desperate need of some stress relief, American Jon Racinskas (GC handle: The Razza) is driven to search for 800 geocaches along the legendary Mother Road. He tells It’s Not About The Numbers of his journey.

“This is the story of my recent solo geocaching trip through California’s Mojave Desert along the historic Route 66 highway. My goal was simple: To log 800 caches in under 80 hours.


Jon Racinskas

On the surface, this mission would appear to be “all about the numbers” and, thus, against the very precept for which this publication stands. But it wasn’t. The Route 66 series – starting at GC2J17A – was merely the thing that brought me here. I came looking for geocaches but what I found was myself.


It’s late June, and I’m barely functioning. An intense legal battle and my failure to launch the geocaching TV project I had been working on were weighing so heavily upon me that I was finding it nearly impossible to muster up the strength – or even the interest – to get out of bed most mornings. I live and work in Hollywood so, if I managed to leave the house, even a trip to the post office would remind me how much I hate this place.

I needed to get away for a few days to clear my head. I didn’t want to go on vacation; I just wanted to … go. I was desperate for a destination, and that’s when I remembered this series of 800 caches placed on January 1st, 2011 by Ginny & Stevecat.

I had done a power trail before – GC3DXWR Lone Star Trail in Texas was my 1000th cache – but I’d never attempted something this ridiculously massive. A long, long (long) stretch of desert highway appealed to me in this moment of need, so I packed up my gear and went to bed early.


Desert mirage: The township of Ludlow turned out to be a real lifesaver.

Desert mirage: The township of Ludlow turned out to be a real lifesaver.

My alarm goes off before dawn, and I’m cursing myself for picking such a godawful alarm tone. (Marimba? Seriously?) The day is off to a less than awesome start, and I’m tempted to go back to bed. I would have done so if I hadn’t checked my Twitter account and seen a request by It’s Not About The Numbers‘ kjwx for an article on my journey. I was committed to what suddenly seems like a terrible idea.

The first stop is for fuel, where I am reminded of what I will be leaving behind for a few days. A woman in a mini-van at the pump across from mine chooses me – seemingly at random (but I’m convinced it was fate just screwing with me) – to convince that she’s not crazy. I leave completely convinced she is. I get back on the highway and floor it, hoping to outpace the creeping bleakness of Los Angeles in my rearview mirror.

The drive is about 2½-hours from my house to the start of the trail. With every passing mile, I can feel myself relaxing a little more. I arrive calm and ready to work.

I find the first cache and sign the log. I try to ignore the fact I’m only 0.125 per cent of the way to the finish line. It’s quiet here. I see an average of about one car per hour travelling in either direction. The sky is clear and the air is dry. I decide to take my shirt off in the hope of getting a tan. I remind myself to put on some sunscreen. I figure SPF30 should do the trick, as I already have a bit of a base tan. I figured wrong.

By 2pm, I’m feeling a bit queasy. By 4pm, I’m faint and vomiting between caches. The backs of my arms turn the colour of ripe plums; I think I’m in trouble.


No cause for alarm: A Ludlow fire engine.

I drive past the town of Ludlow, California. There isn’t much to see, but it’s the first sign of humanity in quite a while. I want to stop but decide to soldier on. I don’t make it very far. Thirty minutes later, I’m fairly certain that if I don’t get a cold shower and some air-conditioning, this could very well be the end of the road.

I stop at the Ludlow Motel and hunt for the front desk. There isn’t one. A hand-painted sign informs me that if I want a room, I have to go to the Shell station across the street. I shrug as best I can manage with two melted shoulders and start walking. I am covered in sweat and grime, which is regarded with a smirk by the station attendant. I tell her I need a room. She says: “There’s no shampoo, but you can get all the fountain drinks you want for free. Even slushies.” I’m sold.

The room is small and smells a bit peculiar, but I don’t care – the A/C works. After my shower, I watch the local news, enjoying a bit of small-town scandal before I pass out. The sun is still shining.

Muggle-free zone: There's no need to be stealthy when the passing traffic averages one car an hour.

Muggle-free zone: There’s no need to be stealthy when the passing traffic averages one car an hour.


I awake before daybreak and decide to log a few more caches before breakfast. A hundred smileys later and I’m sitting in a booth at the Ludlow Cafe. The coffee is terrible but it doesn’t dampen my mood. I’m feeling confident. I scarf down two eggs plus biscuits and gravy, then hit the road.


Free-wheelin: The hours and tumbleweeds fly by.

The hours fly by. I’m trying not to think about the problems waiting patiently for me less than 200 miles away. Despite how massive they seem, ignoring them is fairly easy because I keep spotting sidewinder tracks in the sandy soil – I’m seriously allergic to snakebites and painful death. I keep one eye on the ground at all times.

Soon, I become a geocaching machine. I see the world only as a series of 528-foot clusters. When I’m closing in on a GZ, my right hand now instinctively extracts the ballpoint from the hip pocket of my cargo shorts while my left stashes the keys in another. Signing the log takes less than five seconds: Unroll,  uncap, ‘RZ’, roll. It’s not monotony, it’s just a process.

Feet first: The once-vertical Amboy Shoe Tree.

Sole food: The once-vertical Amboy Shoe Tree.

I’m driving past the town of Amboy, California when I see it: an immense hill of shoes tall enough to be visible from the highway. By the time this registers in my brain, I’ve passed it. No worries. I simply throw my car into reverse.

This is the Amboy ‘Shoe Tree’, a solitary and once-tall Palo Verde tree at which, for reasons that still seem unclear, people have long enjoyed throwing shoes at. It fell down a few years ago, and while it rots, these people, presumably all running out of closet space, must be content to simply stack their shoes on top of it.

A local informs me there’s a tree about two miles away that is covered in bras. (I’d love to know how that tradition got started.) But I decide to keep moving.

The desert is a great place to ponder. There are few distractions. My cellphone has been quiet all day – this may have something to do with the fact that I can’t recall the last time I saw a cell tower. I think about a recent failed relationship. I see what I did wrong. I consider my career and the choices I’ve been making. I make a few decisions, and then it’s dark and cold.


All that remains: One of the few distractions in the Mojave Desert.

All that remains: One of the few distractions in the Mojave Desert.

It’s still hours before dawn. I slept in the car, and my back is killing me. I ignore the pain and push on. The finish line is too close to think about anything else. I chug a Red Bull and recognise that the time for all of this healthy introspection is over – I’m only thinking about smileys now. This is automatic pilot, and it’s a subconscious survival mechanism. I keep going because I don’t have a choice.

My high school remedial math teacher would be proud – I’m computing numbers in my head like Rain Man so I can know exactly when I can go home. ‘If I’m averaging X logs per hour, and I have Y caches remaining, but accounting for variables A, B, and C…’ I guess we all become math majors when we’re exhausted.

Before I realise it, I’m done. Number 800 is in my hands. My signature has become little more than a scribble but it still counts. I return the cache to its home and take a final look around. I feel the need to set this moment firmly in my memory, but my brain seems to have given up on anything more complex than life-sustaining function.

I shrug as best I can with now leathery shoulders and turn the car west.


I DNF’d a few on this series and didn’t even bother with others. As a result, I only managed to log 755 of the 800 out there. Am I disappointed? No. For me, this wasn’t about the numbers. I desperately needed some time alone and a challenge to bolster my weakened sense of self-confidence. I found both here on Route 66. I return to LA ready to take on the world.

If you need it, she’s out there for you – nearly a hundred miles of self-therapy. Oh, and a few caches, too.”

*To follow more of Jon Racinskas’ adventures, check out his Twitter account, Facebook page, blog and First To Find clothing label.


  1. 2cachefinder

    wir haben den trail auch angefangen,haben aber nur 40 dosen gesammelt.
    da wir keine zeit hatten.

    grüße aus deutschland

  2. authorized users

    Been meaning to read this ever since it was posted, as we saw the Twitter confirmation between @kwjx and @BeFTF for the article! GREAT article!!! Route 66 is on our bucket list!

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