Note: This tale is from April, 2008. Enjoy.
This weekend, My Fair Lady and I drank from The Keg of Glory. Waaaaaay back in 2002, a race of sorts popped up in Dallas. It was called the "Urban Challenge" and it was a scavenger hunt of sorts. The point was to start the race with a set of clues which you would need to decipher in order to find certain locations scattered across the city. Only public transportation, i.e. DART buses and the rail) were allowed in terms of transportation. No bikes, no cars, no nothing. Just your feet and your DART pass. You could have friends standing by in their homes with Google at the ready, and both Crayola and Fireball proved invaluable. Once you arrived at your destinations, you had to take a picture of yourself and your teammate at those locations.
The challenge was not so much in the finding of the locations that year as it was surviving the heat. The organizers, who were clearly not native to the area, thought it a a great idea to hold it at the first of September which is still in the Texas summer. So it was that we journeyed forth in 100+ degree heat, all chipper and excited. Our pictures that year were hilarious because the first one showed us excited, the next one showed us to be a little less excited, then the third one showed us already sunburned but kinda gung-ho, and so on and so forth. The eighth picture, also the point where we gave up, shows us completely melting. Think the ending of "Raiders of the Lost Ark" in t-shirts and backpacks and that's it.
Fireball was kind enough to answer his phone that year and not ask any questions when all he heard on the other end was "I'm melting.... MELTING...." I don't recall much after that but apparently in my incoherent ramblings (which come from having to hold the phone with one hand and paste your lips back onto your face with the other) I gave him the address we died at. He drove over, poured us into his car, and drove us back downtown where we crawled across the finish line along with another couple of teams in, believe it or not, worse shape than us. With only a few fatalities that year, the future looked bright for more races to come.
Fortunately, the weather the following year was fantastic and we placed 19th thus qualifying for the National Championships in New Orleans, which we had to forgo since that was right in the middle of My Fair Lady's law school exams. The next year, the contest mysteriously vanished.
Fast forward to this weekend...
The newly christened "The Urban Race" was upon us and of course My Fair Lady would not allow us to miss it. So it was that we arrived at Dick's Last Resort in the West End (i.e. the family-style party center of Dallas) and stood around looking at the other teams. This year, organizers thought to hold the contest in APRIL which proved a wise decision because the weather was in the high 60s, and it was a beautiful, cloudless day. The prices this year included an award for "Best Costume," the result of which was a high number of people wearing all manner of elaborate, and not so elaborate, crazy-wear. We spied a man and woman dressed as Mr. and Mrs. Rambo complete with war paint, inflatable weapons, and bullets wrapped around their chests. Another team was dressed in suits (yes, suits) while two others were dressed as ninjas. I was, frankly, surprised to see them so I assume they were training ninjas who had not yet received details on being covert.
The announcer called to us and gathered us in the square outside Dick's and assistants passed out envelopes containing clues. The good news this year was that we could team up with another couple, and our good friends M&L joined us. They had run in the previous races with us, so it was fun to have fellow veterans on our side. At high noon-ish, the buzzer sounded and all of us tore into our clues. We could do the clues in any order, and we could skip one of them. Two of the clues, however, were mandatory and skipping those was obviously not allowed. Should we miss or mess up on any of the clues, we could still finish and take a 30-minute penalty. The clues broke down as follows:
1) Find someone with an out of state drivers license
2) Find the number 225 on any building and yes, it could be part of an address (i.e. 12256 Somewhere Dr.)
3) Find a Mexican flag
4) Go to a specific carnival inflatable ride place, run their inflatable gauntlet and take a picture coming down the slide at the end (Mandatory)
5) Find a specific tae-kwan-do place and take a 5-10 minute lesson, noting that only groups of 10-20 would be accepted at a time
6) Find a place that made concentric circles in the sand every 24 hours
7) Get to a specific stall in the Farmer's Market, take a banana, then feed it to your teammate (Mandatory)
Cool Decipher an anagram to find a location, then arrive there and hold up the number of fingers that matched the Cowboy's win record last season
9) Get to Flag Pole Hill and take a shot of the flag pole while holding up the number of fingers of the surrounded picnic tables
10) Decipher clues to get an address, then once there high five one another over the address
11) Find a specific bronze cow and take a picture showing its hoofs
12) Do a crossword puzzle included with the clues
AND WE WERE OFF!!! Like the wind, some might say. I'd say more like a subtle breeze. We spent about half an hour or so cracking the clues and between the four of us we figured them out, locations and all. We recognized that the inflato-course and Flag Pole Hill were hell-and-gone from downtown Dallas, but that everything else was within walking distance of the finish line (also Dick's Last Resort). So we figured it would be wise to do the furthest ones out first, then come back downtown and knock out the rest. We headed down a thin alley towards the rail station when My Fair Lady was struck with inspiration. It occurred to her that while we were in the West End that we should start asking people if they were from out of state. So it was that we found this lovely lady right at the start:
We interrupted her lunch but she was gracious enough to be from Pennsylvania and to share that bit of geography with us for our first clue. While we were taking this shot, one of our cohorts ran inside only to come back out and let us know there was a Mexican flag hanging from the rafters. We checked with the gal at the front counter and she waved us through, already tired of our fellow racers hustling past people concerned only with their enchiladas. The result was our second clue:
Viva Mexico! After a quick pit stop, it was on to our next clue. We raced out of the restaurant ignoring the stares of people expecting to see a camera crew following us. We ran to the rail stop and patiently waited for the Blue Line to arrive. It's promptness did not disappoint for it pulled up alongside us and we elbowed our way on board. Roughly 15 minutes later, the train pulled to a stop near where Flag Pole Hill was, twenty or so teams hopped off, but M&L insisted we stay on to the next stop. The next one would put us in striking distance of the inflato-course, which was the same train of thought exhibited by three other teams. The Browns, Mr. & Mrs. Rambo, the Greens, and us all piled out of the train at the next stop and bolted. It was exactly like on the Amazing Race because every team ran full out... for about 30 yards. Then we all remembered we were in Texas, we were not racing for $1 million, and where we were headed was any one's guess.
We all knew vaguely where this inflato-course was, but not specifically. We all made it to the intersection of 635 and some random street which is where our paths diverged. The Browns turned south and opted to follow 635 all the way to the course. We, and the other teams, opted to go north to a major street where we would turn right then follow that around to our location.
While the Greens and Mr. & Mrs. Rambo went further north, we hooked a right and cut through the warehouse row to the far side. We arrived at the major street the inflato-course was off of well ahead of the others. The two teams were behind us and the Browns were no where in sight. Neither was the inflato-course, for the record. We headed south, and amongst much swearing and bickering (entirely from me) we finally came in sight of the cross street we'd all been looking for. My Fair Lady encountered a random piece of metal, cast off from a truck, that whacked her a good one on the shin. Her latest tetanus shot was, fortunately, just a few years back so we pressed on rather than amputate on the go. The other two teams were catching up to us because they'd decided it was a good time to run.
We booked it to the inflato-course where we were warmly greeted by the proprietor and his merry band of people. I yanked off my shoes, then dove headfirst into the course roughly 15 seconds after Mr. Commando had entered. I raced through the course, my years of gaming bringing to me the skill to make split-second decisions on how best to go over/under/through the course. Mr. Commando lacked for such awesome prowess, for I blew past him, scaled the final inflatable ladder, then heard My Fair Lady ask me if I was ready for my picture. The result is such:
I hurled myself out of the course, catching the camera in midair as My Fair Lady hurried off to begin the trial. Moments later she flew down the slide. We were then waylaid by M&L who struggled mightily to get "the perfect shot" of her coming down the slide. Finally, they finished the course (I think the fourth time) then just stood on the slide for the shot. Good enough, we thought and then moved it. With the generously provided lemonade slushies firmly in hand, we were then off and we were forced to make a decision - head back to the train or continue walking south to Flag Pole Hill. Our numbers crunchers did the math and found it to be six to one, half a dozen to the other. A half hour walk back to the train, only to wait for it followed by another 10 minutes south and then to walk over? Or should we just hike south?
We opted to hike south.
Along the way, we cut through a few neighborhoods and went off the beaten path. One team of racers ran past us as they headed from Flag Pole Hill up to the inflato-course. It should be noted here that we were walking downhill this whole time and they had been running up hill. Heh heh heh. After exiting the neighborhoods, we found the hill, counted the lone picnic table, and here was our victory shot:
It was then on to the train, and southward bound once more. As we arrived at the train, a few other racers were exiting and asked us directions. We were kind enough to share, knowing it had taken us roughly two hours to do this circuit that netted us exactly two shots. We figured we'd be in good shape if we could knock out the rest downtown. Once the train started south, we began to formulate our strategery.
Since we exited right next to the street of one clue, we worked to find the address. We stumbled onto it, lay down and high-fived one another as seen below:
We decided to head to the Farmer's Market next since the rest seemed to be grouped together near the finish line. We recalled a previous race where we spent a good hour and change looking for a stall with "Little John's" on a banner, and hoped this time it would be quicker. Fortune smiled upon us because we quickly tracked down the stall, which resulted in my favorite shot of the course:
Potassium firmly in our stomachs, it was off to the other side of downtown. At this point, the nagging sense of doubt began. Where the hell would we find 225 on a building, we all wondered? This part genuinely scared us, more so than finding someone with an out of state drivers license which we admit had been an awesome stroke of luck early on. We continued onward and past Dallas City Hall (aka OCP Headquarters) we came to the bronzed cattle drive. The clue told us to look for one cow with its eyes closed, its tail between its legs, and its hooves in a certain position. No trouble! Only about 30 of these suckers to look at. Between the four of us, we canvased many a cow that afternoon and when I look my grandkids in the eyes and relay this tale to them over hot cocoa many moons from now, I'll be able to tell them with perfect honesty that yes, granddad did spend too much time of his life looking at the underbellies of bronzed cattle.
"HEY!" shouted a female voice. It turned out to be some girls at a quinceanera. My Fair Lady waved frantically over the cows (how she expected me to hear her waving I don't know) and we all ran over to find the cow we'd been looking for. As seen below:
ONWARD! We hustled across a few streets to find the below image:
Apparently, this giant-ass screw makes perfect concentric circles in the sand every 24 hours. Basically, it's a Zen garden by way of Texas oilmen and it's hilarious to behold in person. Following this, we ran on to the next clue. The anagram we'd deciphered pointed us to the Old Red Courthouse, and the result was this picture:
13 wins by the 'Boys last year. Too bad the three loses were, you know, IMPORTANT games. PeteRock no doubt is snickering as he reads this part.
At this point we were down to our last clue - find 225 on a building. It was roughly 3:40 p.m. and we hadn't seen another team in some time so we had no idea what our place was. We scrambled, we talked to people on the streets, we even split up. Nothing. Then, My Fair Lady and I got a call from M&L who'd found it. We ran to where they were - right at the head of the tiny alley we'd walked through at the beginning of the race. The number 225 was scribbled on the wall right there as seen below:
If we'd looked to our right as we entered that at the very beginning, we wouldn't have experienced any panic. With the final shot snapped, we raced back to Dick's and landed on the finish line. We showed them our pics, and they told us we'd placed in the top 25 which meant automatic qualification into the Nationals. An hour later, we found out that My Fair Lady and I placed 16th on the list of north of a 100 teams. Hell yeah. Our final victory pose was with our medals at the finish line:
We have drunk from The Keg of Glory and damn if the taste isn't sweet.