Truck Camper Magazine goes truck camping with two White’s metal detectors, three old houses, our 2012 Travel Lite 1000 SLRX, and visions of gold and silver. Beep beep. Dig it!
Turn on the way back machine to 1987. I was fifteen years old and somehow got the idea that metal detecting would be cool. This is perhaps the most clear evidence that my sense of cool was not only broken in my teen years, but hopelessly stuck in nerd mode. It still is.
Undeterred (and probably unaware) of my serious case of nerd-dom, I convinced my wonderful grandmother to buy me a White’s Eagle II metal detector. At that time, the Eagle II was the state of the art in metal detecting technology, a real treasure hunter’s dream.
It must also be noted that my grandmother had a habit of buying me stuff that got me into trouble, mostly with my mother. First there was the classic BB-gun. I didn’t shoot my eye out, but I did manage to break a front tooth after one too many compression pumps thrust the rifle barrel into my face. My mother was so mad that she made me go to school the next day before going to the dentist.
Kids: “Did you get into a fight?”
Me: “Yeah, and you should see the other guy.”
In the following years, I took my White’s Eagle II metal detector everywhere. I metal detected at the homes of family and friends. I metal detected on New Jersey and Delaware beaches during summer vacations. I knocked on the doors of old Pennsylvania houses and asked permission to metal detect their properties. When my father and I went to Montana to see my cousins, I brought my metal detector. I was obsessed. I was also finding some really cool stuff.
Check out come of my treasures from that time period (1987-1990):
Above: Left to right there’s a silver spoon, a Navy button, a dog tag from “Lucky”, a corroded pocket watch, a sterling silver lighter, a lion bottle cap, a gold bead, a belt buckle, a silver quarter, a toy soldier, an Indian Head penny, a toothpaste container, a love pendent, my first Ford car key, a round metal thing, an iron nail, another key, and another metal thing.
Then, as often happens, other interests took hold and the metal detector went into storage for about fifteen years. It’s not that I lost my interest, far from it. I held onto my precious detector knowing that someday, somehow, I would reclaim my nerd fueled youth, and go treasure hunting again. Angela will tell you that every time I saw an old house, I would say, “That would be a great place to go metal detecting”. Treasure hunting is one of those hobbies that gets under your skin, and stays there.
Fast forward to 2005 when Angela and I first loaded a truck and camper and hit the road on a six-month cross country adventure. Out came the trusty White’s Eagle II packed in an under dinette storage compartment for the trip. Surely I would have the time and opportunity to go treasure hunting somewhere in the United States, or Canada.
Well, the trip didn’t exactly go as I had envisioned. It was better, way better. We were visiting friends and family that I hadn’t seen in decades. We were exploring national and state parks that completely rewrote our understanding of nature and our country. We were having the time of our lives and catching a severe case of truck camper fever.
I was having so much fun exploring that I didn’t even think about metal detecting until we reached Napa Valley, California. We stayed at the campground at the Napa Valley Fairgrounds. When we pulled in, the campground manager apologized for the condition of the campground and explained that they were about to dig the whole place up for renovations.
Above: My December, 2005 treasure finds from Napa Valley.
Immediately I asked, “If you’re going to dig the place up anyway, do you mind if I do a little metal detecting while I’m here?” He didn’t mind, and I spent the next two days pulling up coins and other metal things all over the property. It was so much fun I couldn’t stand it. I can’t say that I was finding a fortune, but the experience of finding and digging up coins and other “treasures” just makes me giddy. If I were a millionaire with the freedom to whatever I wanted, metal detecting would be on the list. For me, it’s that fun.
Once we left Napa, the metal detector went back into the storage compartment and didn’t come out until we got home. There it returned to storage awaiting the next trip. When the next trip did come, I put the metal detector under the dinette again and there it stayed for the entire cross country trip. We were in factories by day, writing by night, with nary a moment to do more than sleep in between.
Above: This picture of Harley just happens to show my detector coil just under him. Harley loves to get into camper cabinets if you leave them open.
After hauling the metal detector cross country for six months without use, it again went back into storage. I was a little heartbroken over it, but realized that the magazine had to take priority and the metal detector would wait.
In the three years that followed, the detector stayed in storage as we went truck camping again and again. Still, the seemingly endless parade of old houses and other potential metal detecting bonanzas would taunt me. Then we met some new friends in our hometown of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Our new friends had old houses.
My brewing urge to go metal detecting hit unbearable levels when I overheard a friend of a new friend say that he owned an old school house dating back to the late 1800s. That’s it! I’m getting the metal detector out and going treasure hunting.
About this time, I went online to check out the latest and greatest in metal detecting technology. Surely there had been some advancements in the twenty five years since I got my Eagle II. As it turned out, White’s had some really interesting, dare I say cool, new metal detectors.
On the off chance that I could talk them into sending me one to play with, I contacted White’s Metal Detectors. I must be one heck of a soothsayer because a brand new White’s MXT showed up at our door a few weeks later. It’s good to be the Publisher.
Above: Here’s how the White’s MXT metal detector arrived at our door.
With two White’s metal detectors and our 2012 Travel Lite 1000 SLRX Ultra, we were finally ready to go treasure camping. First up on our treasure camping list was one of our new friend’s old houses in downtown Lancaster. We took the camper as a base of operations because we like to take our truck camper out whenever possible. Sure we were close to home, but it’s more fun to be in our camper; kind of like kids tenting in the backyard, only for “grown ups”.
This was the first time Angela had ever gone metal detecting. I gave her the new White’s MXT, dialed in the settings, and showed her how to properly sweep the ground and hunt for targets. Metal detecting is not rocket science, but there are some basic techniques to ensure that you don’t miss something. For example, you want to slowly swing the detector coil in a semi-circle in front of you keeping the coil as close to the ground as possible. You also want to slightly overlap your swings so you don’t miss that gold ring or Spanish doubloon.
As Angela started hunting, I showed her how to look on the metal detector’s LCD display to see what a found object was. If the detector beeped and the display read “VDI = 87” each time she moved the coil over the target, it was likely a quarter. It would also tell you if it was something you might not want to dig up, like “IRON”. If you squeezed the trigger under the detector handle, the display would even tell you how deep in the ground the target was. With each passing moment, you could see the anticipation and excitement growing in Angela’s eyes.
For the next half hour or so I stayed with Angela and we found random pieces of junk metal. Finally, at long last, she got a good signal. It read, “VDI = 72” with each sweep of the metal detector coil. “It’s a penny Angela! Dig it up!” Sure enough, she dug up a penny, Angela’s first coin!
Well that was it. From her excitement you would have thought that Angela had hit the lottery. Angela was completely hooked and ready to go metal detecting here, there, and everywhere. Before I had filled in the hole from her penny find, Angela had already found another target to dig. That’s when I realized that she was the metal detector, and I was the metal detector’s assistant. I had hoped Angela would find metal detecting interesting. As the saying goes, be careful what you wish for.
The rest of the time at our friends house wasn’t all that great. We pulled up another Lincoln penny and more scrap metal for the trash can. Still, with two more cents to her name, Angela was ready for more metal detecting. In the back of our minds we both knew the old school house could be an amazing place to search. About two hours after we started, we loaded our detectors into the truck and headed to greener, or should I say gold’er and silver’er, pastures.
A few miles down the road, we pulled into the old school house. With Phil’s help, we surveyed his old school house property and guessed where the best places would be to hunt. This time, I broke out the Eagle II to give the old detector her chance at finding some treasure. About the time I had the Eagle II turned on and tuned in, Angela had already found something. As Angela’s official MDA (Metal Detecting Assistant) I helped her dig it up.
Call it beginner’s luck. I sure did when Angela had found a 1920 silver Mercury dime. In all the years I went metal detecting, I never once found a Mercury dime. I was impressed, and excited to learn that we were on the treasure.
In the two hours that followed, we didn’t find any more silver, but we did dig up three wheat pennies. Around 2:30pm, we finally stopped for a late lunch in the camper.
After digging in the dirt, we were both getting quite dirty and decided to call it a day. Real life and its weekend errands were calling, and there was some magazine to run the following week.
The next weekend we headed over to another friend’s house in Lancaster. Their house was built in the late 1800s and just looked like treasure central. This time our friends joined us for the hunt and Angela and I had a great time showing them how to use the two detectors.
We started in their back field and pulled up odd metal object after odd metal object. We were a little discouraged, but laughing and having a blast. Even when you dig up a pull tab, the anticipation, wonder, and excitement of digging something unknown out of the ground is thrilling. Sure you’re hoping it’s a gold coin, but it’s still fun when it’s a piece of junk.
Unfortunately, we kept pulling up junk metal at our friend’s house, even in areas around the house that we thought would be good. Soon we guessed that the property had been filled with metal pieces from upgraded windows and siding.
Ideally, you find an old house and property that has not been changed; no dirt brought in, no landscaping, and minimal house work that would leave nails and other metal debris in the yard. Our friend’s home looked the part, but obviously the ground had been changed leaving an ocean of annoying metal scraps for our hungry detectors. If you’ve ever gone fishing and caught nothing but tree limbs and seaweed, you know the feeling.
Metal detecting made me feel like a teenager again. I had so much fun and can’t wait for the next opportunity to go out detecting. I sent back the White’s MXT and hope to buy one soon so Angela and I can go out together again. It was great to share my hobby with her, and now with you.
If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to go treasure hunting, I highly recommend picking up a quality metal detector. You never know what you’ll find.
I want to thank White’s for the metal detector loan and for all the fun I had trying it out.