When CityScape Adventures first came to Austin in March, Dave Bogle won the race with his wife and kids. Part of the prize for that victory was free entry to another CityScape race, so we decided to try the San Antonio version. Neither of us had ever raced in San Antonio before, in fact we'd never even walked around the downtown/River Walk area before. But we figured, what the heck, doing a race is a fun way to quickly explore a new city and discover its charms!
The start and finish line location was Dick's Last Resort, on the River Walk submerged from the main street level. At checkin they gave us a rule sheet:
Pretty typical rules, compared to other similar events. Though unlike many of the other series nowadays, they didn't give you a free "skip point", so we'd have to solve all the clues. At the pre-race briefing they announced that we'd only receive the first six clues at the start, and that we'd receive the second set of clues somewhere out on the course. Well, that was a bit of a twist. The race started, and we quickly took a picture of the first sheet:
We ran upstairs from Dick's and perused the clue sheet. For #6 we knew "velocipede" meant "bicycle" (or technically, any human powered land vehicle with wheels, but bicycles would probably be the easiest to find), and as we looked around we saw... well, whadaya know, there's a bicycle chained to a bar less than one block from the start line! That's probably one of our quickest, easiest clue captures ever for one of these races. It felt a little wrong to jump on this random stranger's bike without asking permission, but at least I was able to put most of my weight on the bar instead of the bike, so I wasn't sullying the velocipede that much:
Dave then suggested we should try to get #1, the Mariachi Band photo, with some folks who were walking by. We explained that we needed them to pose as if they were playing various musical instruments, and fortunately they were happy to partake in our weird scavenger hunt shenanigans, and so we quickly had our second clue finished:
We weren't 100% sure if that picture would be good enough to qualify for completing the clue. Would the race director require us to have actual Mariachi Band instruments in the photo, or not? The clue didn't really specify. But we figured that tracking down actual instruments for a more solid picture would likely take more than 20 minutes, which was the penalty for a wrong answer, so we decided to risk it and hope that our pantomime would be deemed acceptable. And besides, if we were lucky enough to stumble across a real Mariachi Band during our travels downtown, we could always take a better picture later.
We scanned the clue sheet again and noticed #5 required getting a receipt from a BBQ place. And, hey, the County Line restaurant was right there! It was just below us on the River Walk, so we took the stairs down. We found a waiter who was willing enough to print us a duplicate receipt, and so that was another clue done. Three clues solved, and we hadn't even traveled a block away from the starting line, yet!
But we supposed it was time to start actually running somewhere, if for no other reason than to get in our workout for the day. Our crew still hadn't solved #2, and we didn't know of any nearby places that had a jukebox for #3, so we focused on #4. Not being from San Antonio we didn't know offhand where the Main Plaza was, but Dave spotted a River Walk Information Guy and we figured he might be able to guide us. Sure enough, he knew exactly where it was, and he immediately gave us perfect directions to the Main Plaza. Only four blocks away... excellent.
We ran on over to the Main Plaza and asked our phone contact Chris to try and solve the rest of the clue before we got there. Right on time, just as we arrived Chris told us we were looking for the County Courthouse building, and he started describing it to us. Yep, that's the building that's right in front of us, alright! The clue instructed us to give a "presidential pose" for this picture, so we did our best:
I think it's safe to say that neither of us will become president anytime soon. Alright, two clues left. Since we'd finished the first four items so quickly our crew still hadn't finished solving #2. For #3 we had the location of a place that had a jukebox (that was also open at noon on Sundays), but it was about a dozen blocks away. It seemed a shame to leave the downtown River Walk area, since we figured that there had to be some nearby business that had a jukebox. But we're much too impatient to just stand around and wait, so we decided to bite the bullet and just start running, even though our chosen destination probably wasn't quite optimal.
A few minutes jog later (it wasn't all THAT far, really) and we arrived at the Sanchez Ice House on El Paso Street just before I-35. The surrounding area was pretty deserted, so we were worried about finding the required three other people to be in our photo. At least the place did have a classic large jukebox for us. Inside the establishment we found a gentlemen that could speak English and he convinced a couple other folks to come out from the back area to get a picture with us gringos. Most excellent!
OK, only one clue left in the first set... better hope that our little run gave our crew enough time to finally solve the thing! Indeed, they had... and it turns out that #2 required us to go back to the starting line. Ok, no problem, time to jog a bit again. We made it back to Dick's soon enough, and they told us we had to complete a puzzle before getting the next batch of clues. It was one of those "remove the metal ring from the two horseshoes attached by chains" type puzzles.
I gave the puzzle a shot, but I couldn't immediately solve it. So I handed it off to Dave, and he was able to get it pretty quickly. Cool! And so they handed us our second set of clues:
#10 required us to dress up in vintage clothes. Conveniently enough, our post-race clothes were tie-dyed shirts, so we guessed those were probably be good enough to count. At least, we hoped they would be. So, we didn't even have to leave Dick's to get this picture:
We saw we had to go to the Alamo for #8, which was only about four blocks away, so we headed out for that one next. Also we knew we were looking for a guy with a mustache for #7, and we figured we might come across someone like that along the way. And hey, sure enough, there was a mustached guy up ahead! Man, we are really getting lucky with these scavenger hunt clues (well, except for the jukebox one).
We realized later we actually already had a picture of three mustached guys, in our earlier jukebox photo. Oh well, I guess it doesn't hurt to be quadrupled up on our mustache quota. A couple of blocks later we reached the Alamo, and for our picture we had to be "planking" in front of it. I'll never quite understand the whole planking craze, but at least now I can say that I've done it:
We then started heading towards #11, the Tower of Americas at Hemisphere Park, which was only three blocks south of the Alamo. But we knew at this point that the answer for #12 involved us drinking a coke, so we looked along the way for a place that sold them. Sure enough, right nearby the Alamo there was a souvenir store that offered sodas. We quickly bought one and the checkout lady took a picture of us having a coke and a smile:
OK then, back on track, heading south towards Hemisphere Park. We could see the tower already from the Alamo area, and wondered if we should just take our photo of it from there. But we decided we may as well get a little closer. After all, we were worried enough about our Mariachi Band picture being accepted, so we figured we might as well make the rest of our pictures as free of controversy as we could. So we ran towards the Hemisphere Park proper and got a decent shot of us in front of the tower:
Only one clue left, #9. This would require a picture of three strangers on a river taxi acting out "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil". So, we headed back to the starting line area, and the River Walk. Our timing was perfect, because as soon as we hit the River Walk we saw a boat coming, so we ran down the stairs and got their attention. We thought we'd have to get the picture "on the fly" as the boat went by, but the boat driver actually stopped the boat as we started talking to the passengers on board, and everyone involved seemed game enough to help us out. So, we gave quick directions on what we needed them to do, and they did it, and here's the shot of it:
Well, that's it, folks! We ran back to Dick's, and crossed the finish line 42 minutes after the race started. That's an average of only 3.5 minutes per clue! Quite an impressive rate, especially considering that we took 13 minutes visiting our chosen jukebox location. Fortunately, we were fast enough to be the first team back. Even more fortunately, they deemed all of our pictures to be good, including the pantomimed band one. So, we won the race... yay!
It was a good thing that we didn't get a 20 minute penalty for any of our pictures, as the second place team finished only 11 minutes behind us. Quite a fast race course, compared to most other clue solving races. If you did this course perfectly, you could have finished it all without traveling more than five blocks from the starting line.
Thanks to everyone for helping us out!
Back to our main Urban Clue Solving Races page