”Sonny and Sandy from sunny San Diego”, as they present themselves, share their adventures to the rest of the world – through audio recordings. Now they reveal everything about how the show started, how Sonny proposed to Sandy through geocaching, and how their son has grown up in the background of the home-built studio.
Sonny and Sandy started their caching career in 2001 and 2004 respectively. He, a tech guy and part time teacher at a university. She, a housewife and business woman all in one. The business she runs: Podcacher.
– We love geocaching… and podcasting, says Sandy.
Podcacher the Podcast
Podcasting is the term for talkshow-like audio recordings that are available online. A bit like radio, but you can play it whenever you want to. Or a blog, but in the form of sound. Podcacher is Sonny and Sandy’s contribution to the geocaching community, where they share their experience as well as tips and tricks from listeners from all over the world, in episodes of 40-60 minutes.
– We actually expected a huge success, but that never happened. I thought it would kick off and make us billionaires, Sonny jokes.
Podcacher started out as a creative idea for a cache: to give clues about where to go next in the form of recordings.
– Ipods were popular back then. Wouldn’t it be cool if people walked around with their mp3-players, listened to your directions, you describe where you stand, what statue you’re looking at, count the windows in the building to your left, stuff like that? So we walked around San Diego recording clues, says Sonny.
– Sonny heard about podcasting and knew that all that was needed was something to record with. So he said: “We can do this… what should we talk about?”
Geocaching was a given subject.
From Couch to Studio
– If you listen to the first few shows you’ll notice that the sound quality sucks. It sounds like we don’t know what we’re doing. We sat on a couch with a microphone that we passed back and forth between us, says Sandy.
Today, Podcacher, which first started in 2005, has listeners from all over the world. The shows are recorded in Sonny and Sandy’s own home and the recordings are later edited in their computer.
– We have two MXL90 microphones, a simple mix table and a compressor from Samsung. Those are the things we have in the studio right now. We have built a very small studio, says Sonny.
– When Sonny says built we mean that he has put up a roof over a bookshelf on one side and a rack on the wall on the other. And then there are blankets hanging on the sides.
Inspired by the Listeners
With an ambitious work place there’s no problem with the quality any longer. But where do they get inspiration from for new episodes?
– It has really developed content-wise. When we first started we were wondering “what will we talk about in the fifth show?” Now we have tons of material and of course our listeners, says Sandy.
Closing in on their 400th show it’s hard not to be surprised about how they have done it. But many of the ideas come from the listeners.
The time as hosts has led to quite a few interviews, but picking any highlights proves hard.
– We have interviewed a lot of cool people. Of the hundreds of amazing stories that we’ve heard it’s hard just to pick one. But the geocacher who was also a sword fighter was a highlight, says Sonny.
– Yeah, or the guy who took a cache using a hot air balloon. I don’t remember which episode that was in, but it was cool, Sandy continues.
Proposed Through Geocaching
After a few years together the couple wanted to take the next step. When Sonny proposed to Sandy he wanted to do something creative. The first thought was to take Sandy up on stage when Sonny and his band were playing. But instead, he went with a fake geocache.
– In the cache there were two hundred plastic rings and one real diamond one. A friend placed the cache as we were approaching, walked away and hid. He was also there to photograph the event.
– Sonny had always hinted that the question would be popped on a different day. Back then, we brought printed cache descriptions with us whenever we were geocaching and he had put a lot of effort into making something that looked like it actually came from geocaching.com.
You can hear more about the proposal in Podcacher shows 20 and 21.
Sean the Geocacher, 4 Years Old
A few years after the start of Podcacher the couple had their son, Sean. Those who followed the shows at that time also got to follow Sean’s development. And at one point, the newly founded family almost put an end to Podcacher entirely.
– It has happened that we have thought about quitting. Could we continue and still function as a family? says Sandy.
– Yeah, we used to record with him sleeping in a laundry basket by our feet.
But the worries proved unnecessary.
Has he been on the show a lot?
– Not in the beginning. We had a contest once when he was very small, “guess what Sean said”. It was funny because he was so hard to understand.
– We got a lot of questions from people about how Sean was doing. So we had “The Sean Update” at the end of each show, says Sandy.
– Yeah, because then you could turn it off before we got there, if you didn’t want to listen.
As Sean has gotten older, his voice has been used to record many of the segment intros, the couple tells. And when they are travelling he has often been included in the stories.
Almost Arrested by Border Patrol
Any memorable experiences of their own? Loads!
– We were almost arrested or shot! says Sonny.
– It wasn’t that extreme, Sandy laughs.
Sonny and Sandy had a visit from Spindoc Bob, an Australian geocacher who runs his own podcast about geocaching, Geotalk. The three went across the border to Mexico to log a cache there.
– It was dark and we walked around in the bushes by the border, searching. Suddenly a jeep approached us. “What are you doing here in the middle of the night?” The man who stepped out of the jeep was armed, Sonny reveals.
The first thought was to lie, but they didn’t.
– “Show me your GPS”, the man said as he apparently knew what it was. We did, and he turned and walked. “So we can stay?” I asked. “Yeah, we’re looking for some people who are trying to cross illegally, so I have to continue. We thought you might be them.” But then we didn’t feel like staying so the cache was never logged, says Sonny.
No End in Sight
Do they see any end to their podcasts? No. As long as it’s fun making new shows there’s no end in sight.
– If our listeners start sending hate mail and sticky stuff in the post we might say that it’s time to quit. It’s hard work and takes a lot of time, but it’s fun, says Sonny.
If you haven’t already, go to podcacher.com to hear more from Sonny and Sandy and their adventures.