Day Thirty-Two. Amazing Race.

April 19, 2011 § 3 Comments

When I was first thinking about doing this blog challenge, I googled events around my city that I had never been to before and could attend this year. One term I looked up was a scavenger hunt, and the Great Urban Race popped up in my search results. So on Day Thirty-Two, I dragged one Mr. Andre Jerome Castenell Jr. out in the city of Atlanta to participate with me.

The race began at noon, and we could pick up our numbers and packets from 11am at Side Bar, near our alma mater Georgia State University. Dre came to my house and we headed to Marta. We figured (rightly so) that we could buy a one day pass to get around the city and not have to try to find a parking spot near the race entrance.

Side Bar was packed when we arrived. Hundreds of people in matching pairs (one of the race requirements) milled around in front of a long table set up out front. We picked up our numbers and waited for the clues to be distributed. And when they were handed out, it went nuts. Designated citizens held up a stack of clues throughout the crowd. I managed to get the last envelope from one such person as others ran around trying to find their packet. When given the signal, we tore open the white paper and stared at an orange photocopied list of clues. There were twelve activities, and in order to finish you had to complete eleven. The locations were spread across Atlanta, from Midtown to Buckhead. We headed off to Marta with our already paid for passes as we tried to read the riddles, passing several teams huddled together with their maps and smart phones plotting their route.

We decided to go to the Fox Theater first, partly because it was the first clue, but mostly because we knew it was the answer to the question and how to get there. Along the way we had our photo taken with a stranger in uniform, one part of a tic-tac-toe game encompassing another activity on our list.

As we got off the train to get to the Fox, we were passed by dozens of other racers, sprinting to get to the theater first. Andre starting running and hollering at the participants. “Hell yeah, son! Get there! We’re gonna be first!” I caught up to him and we slowed down to trek up a hill. Running is fine, but up hill running is exhausting.

When we got to the Fox, we found the clue behind a glass display, crowded by racers. I snapped a picture with my phone and went back to Dre to solve it. Basically, it was three questions with numerical answers that you had to add together and present to the representative in order to pass the clue. The number of days that had passed since the theater had opened plus the average number of people who attended every year plus how many seats it had. I found the last two relatively easily on their website. And once I knew the opening date, I looked up some sort of online helper to determine the days. I wasn’t about to try to figure out leap years and stuff. Meanwhile, Dre sorted out where we were going next. I took the paper to the GUR lady and received a stamp for my correct answer. We chuckled as we jogged past those dumb people who had sprinted past us off Marta.

We headed down Ponce next to solve a picture clue Dre knew the answer to, then hiked the mile to Ri Ra, the Irish pub answer to another activity on the list. On the way we realized that we had missed a location. The place where we had just taken a picture of the Kodak sign was next to Unit 2 Fitness, clearly noted on our orange sheet. But we had already gone about half a mile, and didn’t really feel like adding more hills to our journey. So we skipped it and hoped we could complete everything else.

On the way to Ri Ra we stopped for another photo opportunity to complete the tic tac toe photo game the began with us high-fiving a stranger. We pretended to dive into a fountain as people eating lunch looked on in amusement. I think this is the point where I was no longer aware of running around my city in matching attire like a loon. We were in the race.

At Ri Ra we had to learn a brief jig to progress. Not knowing the answer to another picture clue, we asked the bartender, who directed us to the statue in front of the Federal Reserve building, fortunately located just around the corner. We had another team take a picture of us imitating the statue.

And then we went to Buckhead. At this point we had mapped out where we had to go for all of the clues, except for one riddle that we couldn’t seem to figure out. We called Aimee, Andre’s sister, and I even called our friend Stephanie in Washington DC who is very good at things like that.

Mrs. Beirne is odd. She likes trees but doesn’t like leaves. She likes pools but doesn’t like water. She likes weeds but doesn’t like flowers. She likes letters but doesn’t like words. She likes noodles but doesn’t like pasta sauce. She likes apples but doesn’t like fruit. She likes coffee but doesn’t like tea.

And then it told us, “According to the pattern in the riddle above, take a clearly visible picture of all teammates in front of a street sign that Mrs. Beirne would like as proof of completion.”

We were walking the mile from the train station in Buckhead to our next location going mad trying to solve the riddle. Was there a street with all those words in it? A sign located near a noodle restaurant, pool place, and garden store? We had no idea. We tried to ask another team as we passed them, but they brushed us off. Fortunately, two nicer race participants solved the riddle for us. A sign that had two letters the same. And we were right near RosweLL Rd, so they even took our picture. I only think I got the answer after the picture was taken. Whoops.

The next three clues were all located together. We went to North Face and had to find three differences between two pictures. We ruled it. We found them all within a few seconds of walking in while other teams looked as though they had been struggling for ages. All the photo hunt at Estoria in our early twenties must have paid off. We high fived and headed next door to Whole Foods, where a tent was set up in front of the store. We had to identify three different foods and circle the answers on our orange page. Kumquats, Pepino Melon, and Jerusalem Artichoke. We were rocking this section of the race.

Finally, we crossed the street to LW Chocolatier to feed each other a piece of the brown stuff and take a picture. It was kind of strange, but easy enough.

After those three activities were completed, we only had two more clues left, and one more photo to take in the tic tac toe game. We had to take a picture of us with two people holding four visible shopping bags. Dre had the great idea that if we didn’t find anyone, we could go back to the CVS by the race beginning and buy four items and have a couple people hold them in individual bags. Fortunately, we didn’t have to do that. At the next location (another mile away) we donated two boxes of tampons that we had purchased earlier to the Stronghold Atlanta ladies who had set up in Sunnybrook Park. They were surrounded by bags, so we snapped a picture with them.

For our eleventh and final activity, we headed across the street to Garden Hills Park for the Chipoltle challenge, which luckily for us had nothing to do with burritos. One teammate had to make a paper airplane and the other had to throw it to land in the middle of a plastic target set up on the ground. Andre wanted to throw, so I had to try to remember how in the hell to make one of the paper fliers. It came back pretty quickly as I watched other teams also fumbling along. Dre tossed the paper and it landed squarely in the center. We whooped as other teams failingly attempted to sail their flimsy contraptions. Now we had to head back to Side Bar for the finish. Another mile and a half to the Marta station.

By the time we finished, in three hours and nineteen minutes, about fifty people had checked in before us, out of a possible two hundred plus teams. We don’t get to go to the National Championship in New Orleans (only the top twenty-five teams are invited), but we still did well. There were over two hundred teams, so we really didn’t perform too poorly. Mostly, it was just a ton of fun running around in our old softball uniforms. The company was pretty good too.


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