Three... two... one... Go! Dave and I tore open the envelope containing our clue sheet for the Great Urban Race. We quickly took photographs of both sides on the clue sheet and sent them into our crew. Then we left the start line area at Maggie Mae's, and headed north towards UT. We didn't know exactly which checkpoint we were going to visit first, but we figured there were always checkpoints around the UT area in these races, and we wanted to start going uphill right off the bat while we still had fresh running legs.
Unfortunately, we didn't get to run very far when our phone contact Chris told us that our clue sheet photos were very difficult to read. Here's what we'd sent to our crew:
Crap, we'd used the wrong resolution setting on the camera! Haven't we done enough of these races where we shouldn't be making these types of mistakes anymore? Well, we always have a plan B to fall back on... which in this case was stopping on the sidewalk and taking pictures again with Dave's cell phone, and sending them in while we were on the run. Even this new set of clue sheet photos wasn't perfect, as we cut off part of the edges, but at least it was slightly more legible:
Anyway, back on the move. We started scanning the clues, and reading #8 in particular. We saw that one of the Tic-Tac-Toe options for #8 was to get a picture of us with 2 strangers in front of a Texas flag. We saw a Texas flag in front of a downtown hotel and decided to try and get a good photo with it. We only had 2 strangers available to help us, so Dave tried to take a couple of "selfie" photos of all of us with the flag, but it was tricky to get it all lined up since the flag was high above us. So we gave up and decided to do this photo later, as we knew there were Texas Flags all over downtown. This final photo attempt technically would have qualified, as you can (barely!) see us all with the flag in the photo, but we couldn't tell that that from the small camera view screen:
There was a uniformed valet in front of the hotel, and asked if we could take a photo with us high-fiving him for another Tic-Tac-Toe picture, but the valet said he wasn't allowed to participate in any of our shenanigans. Oh well, then.
That's two failed attempts to get a good Tic-Tac-Toe picture, but undaunted we vowed to try, try again. The next option that looked easy was a non-Texas license plate, which we found after only about a minute of searching for it:
Now that our crew had some somewhat decent clue sheet photos to work with, Chris said we should make our way to #9, which was the Littlefield Fountain on the UT campus. We made our way to the fountain and got this picture of us pretending to dive into it:
And hey, the person who took the photo of us in front of the fountain happened to have tattoos. And getting a picture of a person with at least two tattoos was yet another Tic-Tac-Toe picture option. So just like that, we got another needed photo for #8:
We asked Chris where we should be heading to next, but the crew hadn't mapped everything yet so he didn't have a ready answer. I scanned the clue sheet and noticed that #12 was near the University Co-Op, and knew that that was right nearby on The Drag, so we told Chris we were heading that way. The clue required us to go to the orange Bevo statue located behind the Co-Op. There we had to make a paper airplane and throw it so that it landed on a target about ten feet away.
Dave quickly folded a paper plane, and I gave it a practice throw to get a feel for how it would fly. Ok, it seemed aerodynamic enough, so I decided to try it for real. On my first shot the plane landed on the target, but then skidded off the back, which the volunteers said wasn't good enough to qualify. Darn it! The target was set on a downhill slope, which made things slightly trickier. I got ready for the second try, and Dave and I agreed that if I missed this one we'd just crumple the airplane into a ball and try throwing that instead. But, such desperate measures turned out to be unnecessary, as on my second shot the plane landed on the target and stopped before skidding off. The volunteers awarded us a guitar pick to prove that we'd done this challenge, and Dave took a picture of the target just for kicks:
After we finished with the airplane throwing, Dave pointed out that we'd just gone past some painted murals in the alleyway to get behind the Co-Op. So we headed back 50 feet to get a picture of us with one of the murals, since that was yet another option for the Tic-Tac-Toe clue:
Chris told us that we should now head to Pease Park for #2. We made our way southwest towards the park. I recalled that Pease Park was quite large, so I asked Chris if he could narrow down the actual destination, and Chris replied that the clue said to head to the southern end of the park. Cool.
We realized too late after we crossed Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard that we were stranding ourselves in a neighborhood without any exit roads (in the direction of Pease Park). Well, of course we could have turned around and gone a couple of blocks out and back to make it south to 15th street, but we hate turning around if we don't have to, so instead we bushwhacked due west from the end of 16th street. It was one of our more epic bushwhacks during an urban race... scrambling straight down a VERY steep, tall hill, with a wall of thick brush at the bottom. Fortunately, we were able to pick our way down without falling to our doom, and at the bottom we found a small trail through the vegetation. You should take a drive out to the west end of 16th someday and take a look over the edge if you want to get a laugh at our route choice!
We popped out of the trees and crossed Lamar, then took the pedestrian bridge over Shoal Creek. We found the volunteers for #2, who were set up with aquariums full of cockroaches. We had to identify two types of cockroaches and then take a picture with one of them. There were pictures to help identify the bugs, so we quickly determined that one was a Madagascar Hissing Cockroach and the other was a Fake Death's Head Roach. I picked up one of the roaches for this picture, while Dave reminded me that we didn't have to eat the roach this time:
We headed south down Lamar toward #1, at Pure Austin Gym. Since all our clue sheet photos were hard to read, Chris had us verify the equation that we needed for #1. Good thing he did, as our crew had thought the final operator in the equation was a plus symbol, when actually it was a division symbol. Anyway, the solution to the equation was 0.6, which meant we'd have to pedal a stationary bike in the gym up to 0.6 miles.
We had a hard time finding the entrance to the gym, running all around the outside of the building. Finally we found the way in through the parking garage. The biking part was easy by comparison, and it took hardly any time at all to make the odometer reach 0.6. We took this picture for proof and headed back out:
We headed south on Lamar over the lake, then west on Barton Springs to #4, Uncle Billy's. We had to identify the three ingredients used to make beer, which wasn't too hard. They gave us a coupon to prove we'd been there, and Dave took a photo of us as well just in case:
We headed east to 1st Street, then up the looooong hill as we traveled south on 1st away from the lake. #6 was Roadhouse Relics. At this location they had an poster that displayed an old photo of the shop's layout. We had to compare the layout displayed on the poster with the current actual layout in the shop, and determine the three things that had changed. A pretty neat test, and we quickly spotted the differences and wrote them down on our clue sheet.
Over to South Congress Avenue, to Mighty Cone for #5. We had to take a picture of us feeding food to each other. The volunteer was affixing the sticker for completing the challenge to my chest while we took the photo:
We still needed a picture of us with two strangers and a Texas Flag (since we didn't think the previous one we took would be good enough), so when we saw a bunch of Texas Flags on the pedestrian-rich Congress Avenue it was a no-brainer to get the picture there. And hey, this picture completed our Tic-Tac-Toe (Mural, Two-Tattooed Girl, Texas Flag), so now we were done with #8:
Slightly north on Congress Avenue was #3, Lucy in Disguise with Diamonds. Here we were handed a fake mustache and we had to take a picture of us with the fake mustache along with a stranger with a real mustache. We quickly found one random stranger to get our photo with, but his mustache wasn't very prominent. So when we ran into a second stranger with a much fuller mustache we took a picture with him, too. Here's both photos:
Time to head back north to downtown again. At least it was a nice long downhill for us as we ran north on South Congress. #10 was at the Children's Museum on 2nd and Colorado. Here we had to fold some tissue paper and cut out a pattern of holes with scissors. Then we had to glue a string to it and fold it over. Which is all quite easy, except for the fact that we were sweating all over the place from running in the humidity, and every drop of sweat threatened to dissolve the tissue paper into a mushy mess. But we managed to get it done and then carefully put our art piece into Dave's pack, hoping that it would survive the trip to the finish line.
We were allowed to skip one point, so we only had to complete one of our remaining clues (#7 or #11). #11 was slightly closer, and from the clues it sounded like the challenge for #7 would be trickier, so we chose to do #11. We bought some baby food from a downtown CVS pharmacy and headed east on Seventh Street to Any Baby Can. We donated the baby food to the charity, and got our picture there for good measure:
Ok, only about eight blocks to get back to Maggie Mae's. We hadn't made any huge errors this race, and our route had been pretty efficient, so we felt pretty good about our chances. We made it to the finish line, and sure enough, we were the first team back. Yay! We made our way to the scoring table, and showed them all our photos and the items we'd collected at the challenges. It was all deemed good, and so we won the race. Double-Yay!
We were racing with other friends of ours that day, and those other friendly teams started crossing the line shortly after we did. Art Cook and Robyn Cantor, the directors of Too Cool Racing, finished in second place. Tom Lane and his daughter Sarah crossed in third place. Jim Sampson and Darin Camp came in fourth. And Kristi Fleming and Mary Ann Hubbard finished their very first clue race while dressed up as bunnies. It was a great day for all of us!
Thanks to all of our wonderful crew, yet again, for guiding us to victory despite having to use the lousy clue sheet photos we sent them. And to end this report, here's a picture of Dave's son Nick, wearing the fake mustache we received during the race:
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