I don’t love Pokémon GO. I like it, but I don’t love it. Still, I put in an insane number of hours to reach Level 40, the final level.

How hard is it to reach Level 40 on Pokémon GO?

Reaching Level 40 on Pokémon GO is like finishing a 100,000-piece puzzle without a picture, working on a table the player had to whittle from a Myrtlewood trunk before prying open the box.

I even planned the final steps.

I orchestrated the steps so I would reach the final level at 12:01 am, 18 months and a few hours from the day I signed up. Then we messed it up because, as what often happens out here in the rural lands, we had GPS signal loss during a friendship activity which would given me and a local player “Best Friends” status, an achievement whose rewards would have given me the points to put me into Level 40. The game didn’t give me the proper day’s credit, treating it as a duplicate activity from the previous day.

With no other “Best Friends”-achieving activities ready to go, we – me & #TheDon – had to wait another long, frustrating day for me to hit Level 40.

That day was last Saturday. It was also a “Community Day” in Pokémon GO.

Specifically, Community Day: Swinub, which is essentially a 3-hour dash & grab for the specific Pokémon Swinub as it spawns almost everywhere during this time. The best part is the extra special game features, including:

  • Catching its rare form, known as a “Shiny”: Okay. I don’t care about event day shinys, but others do, and that makes them trade valuable
  • Evolving it to its top evolution – Mamoswine: Always liked Mastodon-looking things
  • Equipping Mamoswine with its best attack, “Ancient Power”: Which was only available during this event

If you prepared your account enough, getting your Swinub line of Pokémon in order, it will look a little like this when Community Day is done:


I still don’t know what “Ancient Power” is, but our resident expert, #TheDon, says it makes Mamoswine the best Ice-type attacker in the game. He says that’s awesome. I’m assuming that’s good.

After the event, a few of us met at the local Dairy Queen to account for our collective hauls and trade our excess.

I was a touch tired and a little sad, slumped in my seat and dreaming of a cherry Dilly Bar because I hoped this event would be my first at Level 40. I wouldn’t have to worry about optimizing every possible step to reach that coveted stage. Instead, I could go back to having fun and just hunting for Pokémon around Tillamook Bay. But now, not only wasn’t I at Level 40 before the event, I didn’t reach Level 40 during the event, falling a little short.

“Keep on, keepin’ on like a bird that flew /
Tangled up in blue.”

– Zimmy

I was still happy for the time but frustrated at my failure as we were about to leave and part ways for the day. I was about to refill and drown my melancholy in yet more Diet Dr. Pepper when, shockingly, I got a game notification telling me that a friend, who had been MIA for awhile, decided to do her part for us to reach the next level of our friendship, “Ultra Friends,” without contacting us so we could both get the extra bonus.

I accidentally taught the little girl in the corner some colorful metaphors.

The group asked what was wrong.

I told the group that I just got an “Ultra Friend” notice without coordinating.

With the extra bonus, “Ultra Friends” gets you half of what “Best Friends” gets in terms of points. Without the extra bonus, only 1/4th the the number of points you could get for maxing out “Best Friends,” aka our failure at 12:01 am.

The extreme difference is why we usually coordinate with one-another. That way no one loses out on a thick, juicy bump in points.

For an aspiring Level-40 player as myself, this notification sucked.

Just like a friend, even a Pokémon GO friend you couldn’t identify in a police lineup, to swoop in when you need them.

Then I did the quick tally in my head and realized that it didn’t matter because even without the extra bonus, the step was enough points to put me over the top.

I finally hit Level 40.

Here’s to hoping they don’t make a Level 50.

We celebrated by chair-dancing as Madonna’s “Vogue,” trickled in through the store’s PA system. Then I hunted for a cherry Dilly Bar, which didn’t stand a chance.

It was exciting and fun to achieve, and quite the accomplishment, but I still don’t have a first draft done to the new book.

It’s all a bit embarrassing, and the embarrassment spirals incessantly, conservatively proportioned to the fear of the books’ incompletion.

So, why would I keep playing a game I don’t love, and put in the hours to do it? Hours that could go into Books of Blues?

I think I got a few reasons why there are benefits to achieving Level 40 in Pokémon GO.

I like the people exponentially more than the game.

Our Tillamook / Oregon Coast Pokémon GO group is a lot like The Breakfast Club. Wanderers from all stages and stations of life who might otherwise never have crossed paths, shocking the man by bonding together, each sharing and contributing their perfectly complimenting skill sets to accomplish incredible mischief.

I like places and things I’ve discovered playing the game.

I probably wouldn’t have ever gone to Kilchis Point Reserve (aka “KPR”) were it not for the game. KPR is a pleasant sequence of dog-friendly looping forest trails at the south end of Tillamook Bay. The only hitch, to me, is that to see the bay, you have to take the one outlier, linear “bird” trail all the way out to the shore. For the same effort, I could stumble out of our house, tumble down the hill, and walk the shore, even all the way to the ocean if I choose.
I wouldn’t have found all the backroads in Tillamook city were it not for the game. Not that there are many, but I didn’t grow up here. I’ve used the river loop roads to circumnavigate construction on the 101 just to make a raid on time. I found the side roads that parallel the 101 downtown that let me bypass all the stoplights to get to the south end.
I wouldn’t have found the Pacific Northwest’s best ribs & brisket were it not for the game. One of the players in Garibaldi is married to the sous chef at the bistro. The player, Spunky, got us to stop there for a lunch on a Friday last Spring after a raid, and I’ve been going weekly ever since.

This brisket sammich is straight from heaven.

And now we hang out together on the weekends, watching movies, making pizzas… A shrimp boil is in the works.
I wouldn’t have known that Idaville and Alderbrook were towns were it not for the game. I don’t think the maps know that.
I wouldn’t have spent a lovely sunny afternoon in Portland, bumbling along South Park Blocks with a thousand other players, discovering the architecture of old Portland, the food trucks, and the colorful two-story Mexican restaurant near the Target were it not for the game.

I wouldn’t have walked the Burnside St. Bridge, trekked along the Willamette River, or have found another 30 places to explore, from along the Columbia River in Vancouver, WA to Astoria back down to Manzanita and all the way down to Pacific City, places that don’t hit the blogs as much, were it not for the game.
And probably more things I wouldn’t have done were it not for the game, but I’m out of time to recall them because I took a break just now to do a couple more L5 Raids with my group friends.

“Because I needed Palkia #25 & #26,” I lied.

I even found the gym at the Gaezbo towards the mountain top at Tillamook State Forest, a marvel of modern mountainous cell phone reception issues.

Yeah, Poof. I last knocked you out of it. Something about a pink whale atop a mountain was too cool to ignore.

I found other local telecommuters and tech workers.

I found others who telecommute and live here in town. Now I officially know I’m not the only one. They’ll, too, time breaks with raids.

I like that I didn’t have to go to a bar or a networking event to make another whole new friends, again.

If I never see another Meetup or Tweetup again, it would be too soon. I enjoyed the time, but when I said I needed time away to work, I didn’t have the strength to say, ‘no,’ close the door to my room, and go to task till the end. I sorted a balance back home for like 6 weeks, then within a blur of a week, we decided to move to Bay Area.
It took longer to make proper friends in Bay Area, or wait for half of them to move here from back home. Once that balance was achieved and Katie & I started looking at proper meetups, we moved up here.
Now, with the game, I quickly found non-work friends, again. Fun-time friends. Friends who aren’t calculating the retail per square foot ROI or considering verticals while we hang out. Now I have to re-balance the other way, and start looking, again, for tech meetups in Portland. Or, Hell, even Seattle. I forget it’s now less than a gas tank away. Or Bay Area. It’s still in range, and still feels like a part of our home.
Speaking of home…

I can’t believe all the friends back home still playing, as well as their children.

When I connected Pokémon GO to my Facebook account, I friends back home who play, including some of my closest friends, along with their children. It’s a nominal task, pushing a button to send a free game gift, but it lets us know we’re thinking of each other.

And when I go back, we don’t always meet up at bars- though we still meet up at bars. We’ll actually go walking parks and other Pokémon-heavy areas, chatting and catching up.

My wife and her siblings love the game.

I originally kept with the game after my trainer friend introduced it to me in Bay Area because my wife and her siblings grew up with Pokémon. I still can’t get Katie to consistently play because, rightfully thinking, she already spends all day starting at screens. But, she’s supportive, and usually knows what or which Pokémon I’m hunting. And I got to give my brother-in-law a Mewtwo for Let’s GO Pikachu (Nintendo Switch game) while he was out here on Holiday break. So, there was bonding.

As I said in the last post, I will dial down the playing.

I left my Fifth First book in folders – with proper food, water, and sun – and the fucker didn’t write itself. So, I’ll have to train it more.

I feel like a weight is off my shoulders having reached Level 40.

I finished what I started. I hate not doing that. I’m learning more about myself, learning that I have a religious objection leaving something unfinished. So, I won’t start anything new till I finish a draft. That includes a book, a game, a cosmetic house project…I’ll devote too much time to them.

But, I’ll keep playing.

I still have a few left before I catch’em all. There’s more content coming. The best part of the game is still when you check your game radar to see a shadow where a Pokémon should be, meaning there’s something new out there you haven’t seen or caught.

Oh, look. Glameow.

Then the race is on to catch it before it disappears. It’s an adrenaline rush with a high that’ll keep you moving for hours. It’s pretty epic. And it’ll get me away from the screen so I don’t go full hermit. So it’s helpful.

Besides. We have more mischief to make.

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