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Great Urban Race Dallas

October 3, 2009
By Kipley Fiebig - Team Vignette KD

The Dallas Great Urban Race started a few minutes past noon, and we ripped open the envelope. We took pictures of the clue sheet and sent them to our crew, and then quickly scanned the clues to see what we could start heading for.

We noticed that #5 involved bringing some donation items for Jonathan's Place. Prior to the race we'd scanned the Jonathan's Place website and located their typical donation needs list, so we already had pre-bought some of the items just for this eventuality. We shoved four jars of baby food into my pack, and decided to head directly to this clue since it listed the address, and so we could get rid of the extra weight quickly.

We headed towards the door, pushing our way through all the rest of the teams that were still staring at their clue sheets. I think we were one of the first teams to start actually moving. Dave called our phone contact Marcy and she started giving us directions on how to run to 1500 Jackson Street. As we were running Marcy mentioned that #7 would involve us making it to a clock at exactly 12:30, but we decided we had enough time to drop off the baby food at #5 first. We made it to 1500 Jackson Street, but there were no volunteers to collect the food! We went inside the front entrance to see if they were setup in the foyer... no luck. We went around and looked down both sides of the building, and there was nobody there, either. We figured that the volunteers simply hadn't set up yet, as we'd arrived at the place probably more quickly than expected, since we didn't even have to stop to buy the items. So, we just took pictures of us with the food at the location, and left the food on the ground. We hoped that the food actually made it to Jonathan's Place!

We then started running to the #7 for the 12:30 picture. But our crew solved another clue that happened to be along the way, so Marcy called to stop us, and it turns out she called at exactly the right moment, as we were just running by Dr. Bell's BBQ (#6) at the time. We ran into Dr. Bell's (actually, we accidentally first went into the bar next door, but they quickly pointed out our mistake), and got the brownie. We took the picture with me feeding the brownie to Dave (we didn't bother to waste time unwrapping it!), and then headed for the exit. As we were leaving Dave asked some customers if they wanted a free brownie, and they said "sure", so we tossed it to them. I'm normally not one to pass on a free brownie, but when you're in race mode, there's no time to stop and eat!

Ok, now it was time for the 12:30 picture of the clock at #7. According to our watches it looked like we'd make it to the clock with a couple of minutes to spare. We reached the intersection, and found the clock with about ten other teams in front of it. The clock was a little fast by my watch, but that was actually worked out great as we'd arrived there slightly early, and so we took our picture at 12:29 (as they allowed a minute of leeway).

Next was #4, Landry's Seafood House. We ran over there and read the marquee, which stated that we had to take our picture with one of us piggybacking on the other. So Dave handed the camera to a bystander (as it would be too difficult to "selfie" this shot), and I jumped on Dave's back, and voila.

Marcy had us start heading towards #1. As we ran she mentioned there were some scavenger hunt items we should be looking for. #2 was finding a person riding a Segway, or eight newspaper vending machines all in a row. #3 was finding the letters "G", "U", and "R" on license plates. And #10 was finding a person wearing either nursing scrubs, camouflage, or a cast. Wow, some tough items, we'd better start looking. We found two of the license plate letters pretty much immediately, "G" and "R".

We continued our way to TePheJez Jazz Club for #1, and discussed various ways to optimize our chances of finding the scavenger clues. We figured one of the major metro stations might be a good place to find a bunch of newspaper vending machines. We reached the club, and Marcy figured out just as we arrived that this clue didn't open until 1:00. We tried the doors, and sure enough, they were locked. D'oh! Oh, well, we had enough time to get some other clues while we waited, so we headed south to Farmer's Market for #9. We needed to locate a tractor amongst a bunch of international "Welcome" signs. Farmer's Market is a big and confusing place, but fortunately Dave found a guy at an informational desk that pointed us right to the tractor.

It was only a couple blocks from there to #8. Here we had to empty out a pumpkin and bring it to the finish. We picked up the smallest pumpkin we could find, cut off the top and scooped out the insides, and fortunately it was tiny enough to fit in my small pack. Good, as it would have been annoying to have to carry it by hand the whole way!

Next we headed to #12, which was a sculpture in front of City Hall. We had to both be touching the sculpture for the picture.

By now it was almost 1:00, so we started heading back to #1. On the way there, we cut through a pedestrian plaza, where we were lucky enough to spot a gentleman wearing camouflage. Hey, that's scavenger hunt item #10! The guy seemed to get a kick out of the fact that we wanted to take our picture with him. A couple other teams in the area saw us doing this and also lined up for his picture, so suddenly he was a very popular person.

We slowed down as we approached #1, since it wasn't quite 1:00 yet. But then we saw teams leaving the TePheJez Jazz Club, so I guess they opened the place early. We headed up the stairs to the dancing floor. They had already started the lesson for the folks who arrived ahead of us, but we knew better than to ask any questions, instead we just slipped onto the floor and joined the group before any volunteers could tell us we had to wait for the next lesson. Dave took the lead, so I became the honorary "girl" in our twosome, and we did our best to follow the instructions that were being called out. Slow, slow, quick, quick... or something like that. I just tried not to step on anyone's feet. The lesson was over soon enough, and we ran to collect the card and flyer that proved we'd been there. Shoved that stuff into my pack, and it was down the stairs to head back to the street.

On our way to #11, we had another scavenger hunt coup, as Dave spotted not just eight, but nine newspaper vending machines in a row! Hey, that's scavenger hunt item #2! We only managed to get eight of them in this photo, but that was enough to satisfy the clue, so that took care of that.

At #11 (Bath Junky) we had to smell five numbered bottles and guess the scents. Our best guesses were chocolate, pomegranate, papaya, rosemary, and lilac. We wouldn't find out if our answers were right until we crossed the finish line. Plus it would be a 30 minute penalty if we didn't get three correct! Man, that's harsh. We hoped we could get all 12 clues, so that we could use our free "skip point" on this one in case we'd guessed wrong.

Just outside of Bath Junky we ran into a person on a Segway. This was an alternate solution for #2, which technically we didn't need, but it can never hurt to take another picture just in case the newspaper picture didn't pass for some reason, so we did so.

So now our situation was this: We had completed 11 out of 12 clues. The only clue we'd yet to finish was #3, finding a "U" on a Texas license plate. And it wasn't from a lack of trying... both Dave and I had been looking at every license plate we'd run past the whole race, and there was nary a "U" to be seen. We'd checked so many plates, that we'd come to the conclusion that "U"s weren't included on non-vanity Texas license plates. (Turns out we were right about that... since 1990 they haven't used the letters "A", "E", "Q", or "U" on Texas plates.) So we decided that we just wouldn't be able to find a "U", and that we should just finish, and hope that we'd gotten three out of the five smells right. As we headed toward the finish line, I started thinking aloud, talking about other possibilities for getting a "U" that wasn't in the main part of the license plate. What else was written on license plates? Let's see, "Texas", "The Lone Star State"... no "U"s in that. I said maybe we could find a plate that was held in place by a "Houston" plate holder, and the "U" in "Houston" would count. As I said this, Dave pointed and yelled "TRUCK"! That was it! There was a "U" on truck plates, in the small word "TRUCK"! What a great catch, as we got this picture just a couple of blocks from the finish line.

The embarrassing thing about this is... all three of our license plate photos were of truck plates! We never noticed that until after the race! Anyways, to the finish line, where we crossed in 1:04. We were the first team there, so all we had to do was hope our pictures passed. The first controversy was the Jonathan's Place drop-off where there weren't any volunteers to collect the food. But we explained how we'd gotten there before the volunteers, and we showed them our pictures of us with the food in front of the building, and that we good enough for them. One down!

But then things got worse, as we realized we hadn't read the instructions closely enough for #6, and we'd failed to get the restaurant's logo in the picture of us with the brownie feeding. D'oh! We're trying to not make this type of mistake so much, but it's difficult when the races are going so fast and you turn around unexpectedly to get a clue that was just solved. But, it was our fault, so we'd have to hope the rest of the pictures were all correct and we could use this one as our skip point.

So that meant we needed to get three of the five smells right. Our "rosemary" guess was incorrect, but the other four were right, and so... it was good enough! Yay, no half-hour penalty! Which was fortunate, because if we'd received a half hour penalty, instead of coming in first place we wouldn't even have made the top ten! It guess it wouldn't have paid off to enter this race if your sinuses were acting up that day.


It was short, but very elaborate race. It was fun and hectic, crisscrossing all over downtown. Our crew was awesome, and we definitely got lucky by finding the scavenger hunt items right when we needed to. Had we not lucked out and found all three scavenger items, well, that would have cost us the race. Hopefully our lucky streak continues through the championships in November!

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