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Urban Dare - Miami Champions Race

South Beach, Florida
January 12, 2008
By Marcy Beard/Team Vignette-MJ

Background: John and I did the Urban Dare race in Austin in 2007. We had camera problems but staged a recovery and finished fourth. Kip and Jason won that race and qualified for free entry into the Champions Race in Miami Beach. John and I got to race for $30. With a $1000 prize, we decided it would be fun to return to the site of the 2004 Urban Challenge Finals.

Jason severely injured his back and was not able to come with us, unfortunately. He made up for it by recruiting his friend Elias as a teammate for Kip. Elias lives in Miami Beach, has done plenty of adventure racing, and was a fun guy to hang around with for the day.

Race start: Noon, near the beach at 7th Street and Ocean Drive on Miami Beach. We gathered with 16 other teams. Kevin, the race director, read one trivia question about the filming location of Jerry Lewis's "The Bellboy." Elias and I agreed that the Fontainebleau Hotel just seemed right for some reason, so we all stepped on the "A" square. We were right!

We ran over to find a tennis ball with our team number on it. Soon we had our clue sheets, so we moved away to call in the clues to our support folks online.

1 - She was known as the Grand Dame of the Everglades. Go to her park for your spellbound dare. This dare closes at 1:00pm.

It was already 12:15, so we knew we better start with this clue. The rest we could do in any order. Everyone quickly agreed that the woman was Marjory Stoneman Douglas (one guy that Elias called knew it off the top of his head!). However, everyone also kept telling us to go to Coconut Grove. This was really far away and didn't make any sense to anyone. We ran over to Washington Ave to wait for a bus just in case, while calling folks to ask them to look for something closer.

This felt like a make-or-break clue for this race, as the other CP's looked relatively easy. We waited perhaps 10 minutes, hoping a bus WOULDN'T come and force us into a decision about getting on or not. Finally Art told us "3rd Street at Ocean Drive" and we were off and running. Elias led the charge, leaving us (well, me) in the dust.

We arrived at the park to see other racers in blue shirts wandering around looking for little signs with letters and numbers on them. We had to find the value for all the letters in "BARNACLES", add them up, and turn in our answer to a volunteer. Kip and Elias had the word "ENDURANCE." It took us a while to realize that most of the little signs were hidden in one area. We were stuck without an "R" until I finally spotted it on the back of the park sign. Kip and Elias had trouble with their "U", until the volunteer finally told them it was way off near the beach, completely away from the rest of the letters - what the heck?

As John and I left the park, I asked John to stop and answer one question - did the crew have a plan for the rest of our CP's? He said they knew all except a couple, and there was one CP really close. So we dashed off toward that one:

3 - Robert Mitchum, in his role as preacher Harry Powell, had these words tattooed on his knuckles. Get your picture in front of this establishment.

We ran over to 423 Washington Ave and got a photo of ourselves in front of Love Hate Lounge.

2 - Obama, Romney, Hillary, and McCain are all vying for this job. Get your picture with 3 hotels that fit this theme.

Our crew eventually found quite a few options for these. At the time, they had located Hotel Clinton at 825 Washington Ave., so we headed there for our next photo. I kept asking John where we were going to get the rest of our presidents, but he didn't have an answer for quite a while.

I also started bugging him for information about the finish line. Art came back with an answer - 13th Street at Ocean Drive. Cool. We were heading north (I knew one of the CP's was up by the canal along Dade Boulevard), then around and back down the east side of the island.

5 - It's a 3 letter code for a local airport, and a designation for a soldier unaccounted for after a battle. It's also the name of a local store. Get your picture in front of it.

Elias and I both knew "MIA" immediately at the starting line, so John asked Art to put that in the answer box. Our crew found the address of MIA Skateboard Shop at 229 9th Street, so we quickly bagged our third photo.

4 - Go to miaflong (one word scramble) Park for your soccer dare. This dare closes at 3:30.

Talk about easy unscrambling. Looking at the map, "Flamingo Park" popped right up, so we gave the answer to the crew for plotting on the map. It was time to go there, so we ran several blocks, into the park, then located the volunteer.

She said only one person needed to do it, so John kicked a soccer ball between some cones while I called Art to hear about our next CP. Art said that they didn't have any info on it, that we had told the crew that Elias knew where to find it. Right, the lederhosen! John chased down an errant kick while the volunteer talked on the phone and ignored us, then we got our passport stamped and were on our way.

6 - Get your photo with someone wearing lederhosen. You'll find them working in a restaurant.

Before the race that morning, we had parked at the end of Lincoln Road Mall and walked 15 minutes a ways up the street and back. It's a pedestrian mall with lots of shops and restaurants. I had noticed a German restaurant and remembered thinking that someday we might get a clue in German. At the starting line, Elias saw this clue and told us it was on Lincoln Mall but he couldn't remember exactly where.

So John and I ran up Meridian to Lincoln Mall. I knew I'd seen the place on the north side, but couldn't remember whether it was left or right from there. I sent John right while I went left. A couple blocks down I located Hofbräu Beerhall at Lincoln/Michigan. I called John and waited for him to arrive so we could get a shot of us and the back of one of the waiters. Kip told us later that the waiters were getting pretty annoyed with all the requests for photos.

7 - He was one of the Bee Gees. Go to his park for your trivia dare. This dare closes at 3:30.

Apparently Paul is a Bee Gees expert, so our crew figured out where to find Maurice Gibb Memorial Park. We headed toward Purdy Ave., starting out straight west. Too late we realized that Lincoln Road dead-ended at Lincoln Court, which dead-ended at a canal. The only way was back around to West Ave and then north from there. John asked if I wanted to swim across the canal and I graciously declined so he didn't have to be the one to back out on that idea. In retrospect, we lost at least 2 minutes here, and maybe swimming would have been a good option...

On the way down Dade Blvd, we saw two teams of two guys each heading the other way. I pegged them as being ahead of us and possibly the current leaders. At this point I felt like we didn't have any way to win this race. But never give up, right? That is my urban race theme.

At the park we sat down with a volunteer and started answering Trivial Pursuit questions. We got about 4 of the different colored chips (for different categories) pretty quickly, then had to cycle through a few questions to finish up with a set of 6. On our way again!

8 - Get your picture with the memorial to those of a certain religion who were killed by the Germans in WWII.

We headed up Dade, running on the street for several blocks to The Holocaust Memorial at Meridian Ave. We had spent some quiet time wandering through this memorial on our previous visit, and it was nice to see it again even though it was a really quick second visit.

Jumping back out to Dade, John had us cross over to the sidewalk on the north side instead of continuing our dash along the car-side of the street. Trading safety for extra distance, that's my husband (?)

We worked our way up to Washington Ave where we cut over to 21st and Park. I heard John say something to Art about Adams Hotel, so as we neared the intersection I checked across the street. The hotel name was on a round sign that slowly revealed itself - L-E-T-O-H S-M-A- hey John! It's over here! I ran over to the hotel and expected him to follow me with the camera. Instead he tried to tell me that there was another checkpoint over in the park. "But this is RIGHT HERE!" Finally my yelling convinced him to run over and get a photo. I didn't have my usual snit-fit during this race, and I was trying hard to avoid one. I felt just fine with a bit of loud discussion in exchange for less running.

9 - Way back in 1881, he discovered that yellow fever is transmitted by mosquitos. Go to his bust where your next dare awaits. This dare closes at 3:35.

Across the street in the park we found a volunteer at the bust of Carlos Finlay. He instructed us to perform a wheelbarrow race and then a piggyback ride. John played wheelbarrow, then I played piggy (hey, wait a second...), we got our passport stamped, and we were on our way. A couple other teams were here at the same time.

10 - Spencer Tunick is famous for a certain style of photography. Get your photo with one of his pictures taken in South Beach.

Apparently this Spencer Tunick guy takes photos of large groups of naked people. Several of these pictures are on display inside the Sagamore Hotel, so we ran down to 1671 Collins to find one. As we approached, a team of 2 guys came out of the hotel and started going north, like they were looking for something. I asked John if this was the right place, but he was sure, so we joined another team of two guys heading into the lobby. A nice doorman opened the door for us coming in and leaving again after we got our photo. Interesting photography, by the way!

11 - Time for your beach dare. Find the Urban Dare official near the DLXXXV divided by XXXIX Street Lifeguard Stand. This dare closes at 4:00.

We ran south toward 15th Street, but then John spotted a side walkway with the sign "Beach Access" - good man! Then when it curved around, he continued south on the walkway, while I called his attention to the fact that we needed to be on the beach, so we both followed little paths out to the sand. Once there, we saw lots of little beach cabins, but then I spotted the large lifeguard house. We ran over to find the volunteer who told us to make a pile of sand as high as the plastic baseball bat that she gave us. She also told us we were the first ones there - what? Weird!

John used a plastic pail to scoop up sand, then I realized that wetter sand might stack more like a sand castle. We added a couple lumps of those, which sank into the pile. I held onto them as John added another on top until we had it high enough. We tried tearing down most of our pile, got our sandy passport stamped, tried to get sand off our hands, and ran off toward the street again.

One more CP! Out at 1423 Collins we were looking for the President Hotel. Except the hotel was under construction and there was no sign on it saying what it was. The construction workers didn't know. Up close I found a couple permits that had "President Hotel" on them, so we got photos of those.

Finish - Go to Finnegan's Way for your final and most puzzling dare.

Now to the finish! We ran down to 14th Street, cut over to Ocean, and then ran right past Finnegan's Way (the finish line). John turned us around to see Kevin smiling at us from the top of the stairs. I asked John what he thought about trying to get a bonus pyramid photo there at the restaurant:

5:00 minute bonus - Photo hunt - take a picture of a human pyramid 3-2-1. They must be non-competitors in the race.

John apparently hadn't known about this challenge during the race, while I had known but hadn't seen any good opportunities. We discussed paying people at the restaurant to do it, but decided to weigh time vs. the chance that we didn't need it, and skipped it.

We ran inside, grabbed a puzzle with bright-colored fish, found a well-lit spot and scrambled to assemble it as fast as we could. We made quick work of it, finishing quickly while another team of 2 guys was working on theirs. I started a timer once we were done, and they finished about 3 minutes after we did. But they did have a pyramid photo, so that was that. They won and we came in second.

We figure that it probably would have taken over 2 minutes to actually get a pyramid photo, so that might not have been enough to get the win. The main time losses were mostly finding CP1 at the start and taking a detour around the canals to the trivia dare. The fact that we were even close to winning is such a surprise, and a testament to the clue solvers and people who set up our online map for route optimization.

Kip and Elias did a bit of extra running early-on, then got stuck with 7 other teams at the trivia dare. Apparently that dare works fine when there is only one team, but becomes quite unfair the more people are bunched up there, since there is only one volunteer and one question at a time. Kip and Elias ran well and finished fine. We got to watch them build a pile of sand and put their puzzle together.

It was fun and we still love these urban races!

Pictures from the Miami race

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