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CitySolve Urban Race Austin

May 1, 2010
By Kipley Fiebig - Team Vignette KD

At the start of the Austin CitySolve Urban Race, the race director unrolled a large banner with a multiple choice question on it. The question was "How many letters are in the State Bird of Texas"? Our crack clue solving team had the answer pretty much immediately... the State Bird is the Mockingbird, so 11 letters. That answer corresponded to the intersection of Riverside Drive and South 1st Street, which was only a block away from the starting location of Aussie's, and so we were off and running.

The volunteers handing out the clue sheets at the intersection were on the opposite side of 1st Street, so we had to dash across 7 lanes of traffic to reach them. Once there we quickly took photographs of the three sheets, and sent them in to our clue crew:

Some of the clues were obviously on (or near) the University of Texas, so we decided to see if we could catch a bus to save us from running the 20 mostly uphill blocks to campus. As we took off running again we saw that we had just missed a bus heading north past our intersection, but on the other side of the road. No matter, we knew we could catch more north bound buses at Congress Avenue and Riverside, so we headed that way. As we crossed back over 1st Street we faced a huge mob of teams that were still heading towards the clue sheet handout, but had been held up by traffic. As the light changed we had to veer around the horde of teams, but soon enough we were back to the safety of the sidewalk.

Dave and I made it to the bus stop, along with another team that we were friends with, Jason and Adam. The four of us waited anxiously for a bus while we scanned the clue sheet. Q7 seemed like it would be easy enough... all we had to do was find two people with beards. We started looking around the bus stop, and in less than a minute we'd flagged down a couple cooperative bearded folks. The first one was on foot:

And the second bearded guy was on a bike, and we just managed to stop him before he took off across the road:

Well, the clues don't get much easier than that! We continued waiting at the bus stop and scanning the clues. Our clue solving team mentioned that the location of Q6 was at Congress Avenue and 2nd Street. That was just across the Congress Avenue bridge. Since we didn't see any buses coming yet, and we figured we might not have enough time to take a picture of the checkpoint while we were riding a bus past it, we decided to run north across the bridge.

The run wasn't very far, and we found the colorful giant guitar easily enough, so we were now done with Q6.

There was another bus stop right by the guitar, so we debated about whether we should keep waiting for a bus or just start running for the next checkpoint. We asked our crew what they had solved in the nearby area. Chris said that there was a checkpoint at 6th and Lamar. 6th Street was in the direction we were going, but Lamar was several blocks out of the way to the west. Dave and I were getting antsy just standing there, so we decided to jog north to at least 6th Street and then determine what to do when we got there. As we headed north, we noticed there was a bus stopped around 5th/6th Street that was just sitting there, apparently waiting to get back on schedule before resuming its trip north. We sprinted to the bus and managed to catch it before it took off... yay!

Jason and Adam had stayed behind at 2nd Street to wait for the next bus, so Dave and I were the only team on this bus. We determined that it would be heading up along the east side of UT, along Red River Street. So we asked Chris to figure out which checkpoints on campus were farthest east. As we neared the end of the bus ride, we'd determined there were several points on UT... however, they were all on the west side of campus. Oh, well, the bus still had saved us some running, even if it wasn't quite as optimal as it could have been.

We hopped off the bus at Red River and MLK Boulevard and ran four blocks west on MLK to the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum. Here we were getting Q8. The song referred to in Q8 was REM's "Man on the Moon", and you can see there's a scene of the moon landing on the museum just to the left of the IMAX Iron Man poster:

Time to head north onto campus. I accidentally took us a bit further east then we needed to go, but we were soon back on track. Since we'd left the bus we'd started looking at cars to see if we could pick up the two bonus clues. BQ1 involved finding a license plate with the letters "C" and "S" on it. Dave remembered the trick we'd learned from an earlier race, and realized we could be clever and use the letters in "Texas" and "Truck" to satisfy this clue. And so we did:

Alright, onward to Q9, which was the Gregory Gynmasium. It was easy enough to find (now that we had made it back to the correct street), and so we were able to cross off this one, as well.

Q4 was another UT building, the Andrews dormitory. Chris was able to lead us right to this one, so it was also no problem.

A short jog west on 24th Street brought us to Guadalupe. Q3 was "Intellectual Property". Our crew wasn't 100% sure of this clue, as the business appeared to be shut down. So they were happy when we reported that the signs were still up, so we figured this must be the correct answer to Q3, after all.

We headed north on Guadalupe. We'd been looking at cars this entire time, still looking for the bonus clue items. We finally got lucky and spotted an Obama sticker for BQ2. We barely managed to get this picture before the car sped away from us!

A couple blocks later we reached the northernmost point of the race. Q2 was all about Rocking the Kasbah:

Well, now it was time to head back downtown again. Chris checked the bus schedules for us, but said that nothing would be coming down Guadalupe for a while, so we may as well run south. At least we could look for the bonus clues as we ran... and hey, there was a hybrid car for BQ2!

And surely we'd be able to get the last part of BQ2 by finding some kind of sign with the word "organic" on it. Sure enough, Guadalupe Street along UT has all sorts of eateries, and Terra Burger was organic enough for our needs:

That was it for the two bonus questions. Yay, we'd racked up the full 25 minutes of bonus time! This was comforting, especially after the CitySolve race we'd competed in three weeks ago, where we'd crossed the finish line first but then lost to a team that had managed to collect the bonuses that we'd skipped.

But at this point, we weren't sure if the picture we'd gotten of the Obama bumper sticker was good, or not. All team members have to be in the photo for it to count, and Dave wasn't sure if he'd managed to get himself in the picture before the car drove off. Since we were right there on The Drag anyways, we ran into a Coop bookstore and asked if they sold Obama bumper stickers... but no dice. We proceded to the next bookstore. Dave said he was going to stop and take a look at the camera picture preview to see if he could confirm whether our Obama picture was good. So he stepped off into the shade to do that, while I went into the next bookstore to see if they sold bumper stickers, in case it was bad. But then I heard Dave in my earpiece saying, "it's good... I can definitely see my arm in the picture", so we regrouped and started running south again.

Chris had us head east to San Jacinto, as the next checkpoint was further east. And also, because there eventually would be a bus along San Jacinto we could take south if we needed to (but as it turned out our running kept us ahead of the bus). As we ran down San Jacinto we noticed the team of Jason and Adam ahead of us. They had taken a different bus to UT (one that went along the west side), and gotten the campus points in a different order than us, but now our paths were coming back together. Dave and I were slowly catching up to them as we ran south. In hindsight, at this point we should have tried to be stealthy and cut one more block further east, as they definitely increased their running speed once they saw that we were hot on their tail.

At 6th Street both of our teams turned east, and made our way through the Pecan Street Festival to Q5, the Thirsty Nickel.

Only one more checkpoint to go! We were allowed to skip one point with no penalty, so we had chosen to skip Q1. Partly because it was out of the way from the rest of the course, and partly because we weren't sure what the penalty would be if we couldn't guess the ice cream flavor correctly. The "five minute penalty" mentioned in Q1 seemed to be for if you forgot to take your picture there... but it wasn't clear what would happen if you got the flavor wrong. Would that be a five minute penalty, as well? Or would you lose credit for the entire checkpoint if you guessed it wrong? Whatever, since we wound up skipping the checkpoint, we never found out the answer to that question.

Jason and Adam were managing to stay about a block ahead of us as we ran. We wondered if they had all the bonus pictures like we did, or not. Our teams took slightly different routes as we cut diagonally across the downtown blocks, heading towards Lofty Dog at 2nd and Guadalupe. Dave got temporarily confused and headed too far south, but we quickly got back on track.

We saw Jason and Adam enter Lofty Dog and we headed in right behind them. Here we had to do a special test: We had to throw stuffed mice into dog dishes that were about six feet away. Adam was already throwing, and then I started throwing right next to him. One of my mice went into the bowl, but slid out the other side, so it didn't count. Then I decided to try the shotgun technique by throwing a handful of mice all at once... but they all missed. Damn mice!

Adam soon made his two mice in, and then our team switched throwers. Soon Dave had made two shots, so we got our photo with the friendly volunteer to show that we'd finished Q10:

It was now a dash to the finish line! We didn't like our odds of catching Jason and Adam, as they still had a lead of about a block on us. They crossed the 1st Street Bridge on the west side, on the pedestrian sidewalk that is fenced off and submerged from the road level. Dave and I managed to cross to the east side of 1st Street before getting on the bridge, so we figured we had a slight chance... if traffic held up Jason and Adam from crossing 1st Street at the south end of the bridge, we might be able to get ahead of them. But no, as we were finishing crossing the bridge, we saw Jason and Adam pop out and make it across the road with no delays, still ahead of us. We cut through the RunTex parking lot to approach Aussie's from the back, but it wasn't enough to catch them.

But we'd much rather be beaten by one of our own teams than someone else! So we were quite happy to discover that our two teams had indeed crossed the finish line in first and second place. All of our pictures turned out to be good, and since we had all the bonuses we knew that nobody could come from behind and overtake us.

It was a nice short race. Our expert clue solving crew once again made the day easy for us. Thanks to CitySolve for putting on a fine, fun event!

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