John and I went to visit my parents in the fall of 2006. While we were there, my mother noticed an ad in the local paper for "The Amazing Vermont Race". As a big fan of the TV show "The Amazing Race", I thought this might be interesting to try. After a couple emails to the race director, we were all signed up and ready to go.
We drove our rented van to the starting area, a local campground in Hyde Park. There we met Keith, the race director, and the 4 other teams of two. Everyone was very friendly and it looked like we would have a good time. There was a short briefing which basically involved Keith thanking us for coming. He told us that our first clue was hidden in the paintball area down the road, so... "GO!"
Cool! We all took off running, hoping that we'd get to play some paintball. That wasn't to be, but maybe next year. Instead we searched around until John uncovered a piece of paper with instructions to drive down the road to a field with hay bales.
We ran back to the van and drove a short ways while I read the rest of the clue. It was a Road Block. One of us would be searching under hay bales to find our next clue. Easy decision – John can do this one.
We parked and John ran onto the field with a guy from another team. John's special skill of running into round bales to move them a couple feet really paid off with this task. Soon he had another clue sheet for us. It must have been an interesting sight from a passing car, seeing people running around and pushing hay bales.
Back to the van! We drove further north to the next town and I located our position on the map. Following the instructions, we found a farmhouse with a friendly volunteer and some flagging leading up the hill. This was a Detour – we could run straight up the side of the hill, or take the longer way around on a dirt road. Never one to shrink from a bushwhack, John led me on a scramble up the hillside, following just behind another team. Hmm, we could have used the tow line right about now.
At the top we found a field of small pine trees where we had to search for a clue box. We noticed Christmas ornaments on many of the trees. Fun! After a bit of hunting around we found the box and our next clue. It said to take one of the ornaments from the box and find its match among those hanging on the trees. We grabbed one that looked distinctive and starting looking around. I tried the "reverse search" by studying an ornament on a tree and going back to the box to see if there was a match, but that didn't work – obviously there were a lot more hanging on trees than sitting in the box.
With other teams roaming around, we put our eagle eyes to use and eventually spotted our match. Back down the hillside, we tried to stay on our feet (John because he was carrying two fragile ornaments, and me because I didn't want to hurt myself). We both did a bit of sliding and butt-landing, but everything important made it down intact. We gave the ornaments to the volunteer and got our next clue.
From here we had to drive south to Stowe and find the corn maze in a nearby field. Alright! John drove the speed limit on the way to Stowe, while I wondered why he wasn't in more of a hurry. Well, I'm certainly never one to voluntarily request crazy driving. The team behind us took a shortcut in Stowe and arrived at the maze ahead of us. But... the maze didn't "open" until 11 a.m. and it was only 10:50. So we got in line and chatted with other racers and Keith. Yes, we were definitely having fun, we told him.
The maze task involved running through the maze, finding a clue box and getting a pencil from within to bring with us to the maze exit. John and I decided we'd try the "always turn right" strategy and took off running. The field turned out to be pretty big – you just keep going and going, twisting and turning, never really sure if you're doing the right thing or not. At every intersection we turned right. This seemed to pay off with almost no dead ends, and then we found the clue box right underneath a little bridge. We took a pencil and continued onward.
Two guys from separate teams found the clue box and then climbed onto the bridge to start yelling to their teammates to "come here!" The response through the corn rows was pretty much "how do I get there?" He he. I guess splitting up wasn't a great idea. John and I kept running and running, finally emerging from the maze, the first ones out. Yay! We were the first ones to the Pit Stop, so we won a free lunch at a local restaurant. Neat!
The other teams finished the maze, and we got instructions for meeting at the Trapp Family Lodge after lunch. Time to go eat! So we headed back to Waterbury and my parents' house where we got a bit of lunch and regaled Mom and Dad with tales from the morning. It was a bit weird to take a meal break in the middle of a race.
After lunch we drove up the back way to the Trapp Family Lodge and met up with the crew. The next task involved running up a hill while following signs to a chapel. We were instructed to look carefully in and around the chapel and memorize everything that we could about the setting. Then we had to find a clue box, get a clue sheet, and return to Keith where we would answer 5 questions. If a team didn't get all the questions right, they had to wait for the next team to arrive before they could leave.
And... go! We took off running, John leading the way. We had decided that he should go ahead and get a jump start on the task at the top. It turned out to be a decent climb up the hill, and most of us got pretty winded. By the time I got there, John had located the clue sheet and was walking around the chapel to take mental pictures. I joined him, and together we vocalized things like the number of benches, number of windows, colors of walls, etc.
The other teams were all roaming around the chapel when we decided to head back down. We made it back to Keith first and answered: 1. How many benches? Two. 2. What was above the door? A cross. 3. What was the chapel made from? Wood. 4. How many hinges on the door? Ooh, good question. We started with an answer of "two", but then Keith psyched us out by asking if we were sure, so we changed to "three". Doh! It was two. Last question – Where are we going next? From the clue sheet, we knew we had to head to Ben & Jerry's Flavor Graveyard at the factory down the road.
We had to wait for the next team to come barreling down the hill, then we were allowed to leave. Phew, that wasn't too painful. John reved up the car and took off down the road back toward Waterbury. Apparently he knew enough about the Amazing Race format to know that the last half is much more important than the first half, so he was ready to drive fast now. Or maybe he had some coffee for lunch.
We pulled up to Ben & Jerry's and we were directed by the parking attendant. John asked if we could just drive up to the Flavor Graveyard and he was given the "sure!" Once there, we hopped out and got a clue sheet from the volunteers. It listed sets of ingredients from previous Ben & Jerry's flavors (for example, peanut butter bits, peanut butter ice cream, and strawberry jelly). We had to find the names of the now-obsolete ice cream from the tombstones (like Peanut Butter and Jelly, if you can believe it).
We ran around calling out "Dastardly Mash", "Cool Britannia", and "Makin' Whoopie Pie". Pistachio was a common ingredient in the list, we noticed. Other teams arrived to share in the fun. Soon we were done and the volunteers gave us our next clue. We had to find the Waterbury Farmer's Market and a clue box with a combination lock.
So we got back in the van and got some directions from the parking attendant. We drove off, but got a bit antsy when it seemed like we were headed out of town, so we stopped at a shop and got the instructions to just keep going. Soon enough, there was the field and the stalls. We jumped out and started running around looking for the box. I decided to try the fence along the edge, since that was the most likely place to put something amid the temporary stalls. At the far end I found the box on a tree.
We used the combination we had been given to open the box and get the next clue. On the way out a man stopped to ask what we were doing and we explained that we were doing the Amazing Vermont Race. Oh, OK, just checking, he said – I guess he had been asked to keep an eye on the box for Keith.
We ran around the opposite side of the stalls back to the van to perhaps throw off the team right behind us. The next clue directed us back north, to the Stowe cemetery (a real graveyard this time). We drove a few miles, caught our breath, found the turn-off, and parked the van. Up the road at the cemetery, another volunteer gave us a clue sheet.
We had to search a specific section and find two particular graves. Then we had to figure out how old these two people were when they died, add up the numbers, and return with the answer for our next clue. We settled down for a bit of searching, finally coming up with the tombstones, the dates, and the final number. It was good!
On our way out we saw one of the competitor teams, but they had headed off into the field from the parking lot instead of finding the cemetery. Oops. Next stop – the camping area where the race had started. Go go go!
We pulled up and started looking around for Keith. He flagged us down and told us he was still trying to get someone to pull out the shuffleboard equipment for us. After a brief delay, we were ready to begin the last task. Each of us had to slide a shuffleboard disk (whatever that is called!) and land it completely within the small "10" triangle at the opposite end.
Luckily we had some time to play with this by ourselves, because it took a while to get the hang of it. For a while I had the aim down, but the distance wasn't right. Then I got the distance "touch" working, but my aim was off. Alternating with John, I finally hit the 10. A couple slides later and John was done too. Yay!
Very soon after that, other teams started showing up. They competed for the next places and we had fun watching since there was no more pressure on us. Then Keith took some photos and handed out prizes. As the winners, we received 8 day passes to a Vermont ski area. Alright! Nice award, and it sold on eBay to someone who actually lives in Vermont and could use them.
It was a ton of fun, a small touch of the actual Amazing Race, and a beautiful day to go driving around the Vermont countryside. Too bad we don't live in Vermont in case this race happens again next year!