As my teammate Dave Bogle and I made our way to the starting line, the Uptown Bar & Grill on 2523 McKinney Ave in Dallas, we got a good taste of the brisk weather that we'd be racing in. It was 50 degrees, with winds gusting over 20 miles per hour, and it wasn't expected to get any more pleasant as the day wore on. Having raced in much worse conditions in the past, we weren't too bothered by it. My biggest concern was, would we be able to hold on to our map and clue sheets as we ran, or would the wind rip them out of our hands?
We've done many races similar to this (Urban Challenge, Urban Dare, Great Urban Race, etc.), but this would be our first High Trek Adventure race. HTA was coming to our home town of Austin in March, but we wanted to try out this earlier race in Dallas as well, so that we'd be more familiar with their format before the Austin race.
We met Jason, the race director, who was a nice guy and full of positive energy. At checkin they gave us a copy of the rules. There were some instructions that hadn't been posted on the HTA webpage, so we took a photo of it and emailed it to our clue solving team. If nothing else, it would give them something to read while they waited for the race to start:
The start time was approaching, so the 50 teams that hadn't been scared off by the weather shuffled out of the comfort of the bar and stood shivering at the starting line. Jason announced that the race would start with a multiple choice trivia question. The answer to each choice was a business that was very near the starting line, where teams would receive their actual cluesheets for the rest of the race. Dave called Chris, and I called Marcy, and we told them to get ready for some fast googling. At noon, the HTA folks unrolled a big banner with the first question on it: "How many U.S. Presidents have been assassinated?" Actually, the banner stuck to itself a bit as they tried to unroll it, so it was kind of funny reading in the question to Marcy word by word, and then waiting anxiously for the next word to appear.
Marcy had the answer to the question almost immediately after I finished reading it to her... "4". The multiple choice answer of "4" on the banner told us we should head to the Gingerman to get our clues. Not being familiar with Dallas, I had to then ask Marcy where the Gingerman was, and she quickly googled it and told us to head a couple of blocks north. I let Dave know that we had our destination, and so we left the big group of teams still at the starting line and headed north.
A few other teams were just ahead of us, already heading north towards the Gingerman. Then the lead team saw a business across the street that corresponded to another one of the multiple choice answers (the Idle Rich Pub, I think). Either they thought that was the right answer, or they didn't want to pass it by just in case they were wrong about Gingerman, so they broke across the street and headed toward the pub. We were going to ignore them and continue on our merry way, but then all the other teams that were heading north veered across the street and followed the lead team. Sheep, all of them! I'd like to say that we believed in our support crew enough to just ignore these folks and continue north, but no, we became sheep as well, and crossed the street to check out this pub even though we figured it wasn't the right spot. Bah, bah.
Sure enough, as we got to the pub, teams were leaving it, but without any clue sheets. We should know by now better than to blindly follow other folks, but sometimes these lessons need to be learned more than once. Anyways, time to get back on track. I dashed back across the street again, and Dave got temporarily left behind because he was blocked by traffic. A girl from another team unfortunately didn't notice the traffic and tried to follow me across the street, and a car had to slam on its brakes to avoid hitting her. Fortunately, no one was hit, but it was a bit of a scary moment.
North to Boll Street, then West a block to the Gingerman. The HTA race volunteers were sitting outside the Gingerman, and they handed us the clues. Despite wasting time visiting the incorrect pub, we were still the first team to make it to the clue sheets. The Gingerman had a covered patio that was mostly sheltered from the wind, so we quickly laid out the three sheets of paper and took pictures of them:
We then ran the couple blocks back to the starting line to where we had a computer setup to email the photos back to our crew. I scanned the clues as I ran, to see if there were any we could solve just by looking at them. Right off the bat we knew where #2 was, as we were familiar with the Cattle Drive sculptures in Pioneer Park. And we also knew the location of the Book Depository for #7A, as Dave had been smart enough to mark that on the map already. Both were downtown, to the south of us, so Dave told our phone contact Chris that that's where we were heading, and we started running down McKinney.
It took us a while to run downtown, so our crew had time to figure out some checkpoints before we got there. Chris called us and told us we should head first to #3, which was the Cadillac Bar, so we took a quick detour to get it.
Then Chris had another answer that was in the area, the Wild Wild West store for #1. I agree with the clue... this is not one of Will Smith's better movies.
We didn't even notice it at the time, but inside Wild Wild West hangs a Cowboys jersey with the number 81 on it. Which would have been a great jersey to get us some bonus time, as the bonus question involved us finding a person wearing a Dallas team jersey with a high number on it. Of course, we would have had to go inside the store and convince someone to pose in the jersey for us. And we'd have had to be observant enough to even see the jersey in the first place! (Marcy had to point it out to us after the race.) But, anyways, moving on...
Chris wanted to send us to the Cattle Drive next, but Dave knew the Book Depository was nearby, so Dave asked him if we should go there first. This was one of those rare moments where we actually had something figured out before our crew did. Chris checked out our proposal for a second, and then agreed that that would make for a more optimal route. And so, we headed off to the spot where JFK was assassinated. They really had a "Dead Presidents" theme going on for this race!
For this picture we had to get seven other people to stand with us in front of the plaque. We called out to everyone in the area, and convinced a bunch of friendly folks to help us out. We used our usual line of "We're doing an Amazing Race!" to convince them it was worth their time. (We always say "an" Amazing Race, instead of "The" Amazing Race, because we wouldn't want to actually lie to people!) A nice lady volunteered to take the group photo, so we got to pose a bit, for once.
There really are seven other people in that photo... one of them is hidden in the back, but you can see his shoulder and feet. We thanked all the folks for helping us wacky racers, and headed off towards #2, the Cattle Drive. There's some 70 sculptures of cattle in this park, and we had to find one of the three that had its eyes closed. I went down the left side, and Dave went down the right, inspecting the cattle. I got my feet soaking wet at the stream crossing, and Dave was much smarter and found a rock crossing to stay dry. And then, we found the squinting steer.
Our next destination was #6, Urban Cartel. Chris gave us the street directions and the business name, and off we ran. The first sign we saw when we got in the area was Urban Market. Since it had been five minutes since Chris had told us Urban Cartel, our brains had already forgotten that exact answer, and to us Urban Market sounded close enough. So we initially took a picture of the incorrect thing. But then we quickly corrected ourselves, as I realized that the Urban Market wasn't a salon (like the clue specified), and so I quickly checked the anagram and confirmed that we'd photographed the wrong thing. As I was doing this Dave had already ran around the corner and found the Urban Cartel, so we regrouped, deleted the bad photo, took the right photo, and were back on track. Crisis averted... whew!
On to #9. The clue specified that this one would be on Cedar Springs Road, so once we hit that street we just needed to figure out which way to turn. Chris told us the address was 2011, so we followed the numbers on the street signs until we arrived at the big sign outside that maked that address.
We next started heading to #8, the Boardroom. Along the way, we ran into a bunch of folks walking on the street that were heading to a Stars game. A perfect opportunity to get the bonus question! We took a picture of a guy wearing a jersey with the number in the teens. Soon afterwards, we found another man wearing a jersey in the 20's. (You got more bonus time for higher numbered jerseys). Then we realized his kid was wearing a jersey numbered in the 30's. A minute later, we encountered another large group of people, and sifted through them to find our highest number for the day, 56. Not too shabby, that would be worth 10 minutes of bonus time out of a maximum of 18. We told the guy wearing the jersey to just keep walking, and we'd be getting a picture of his back, and he shrugged and said, "ok", completely unconcerned with our antics.
The Boardroom was just across the street from where we got that jersey picture. It was a multi-lane street, but we jaywalked across it anyways, as we tend to do during these races. As we were halfway across, we noticed that there were a couple of policeman stationed at the intersection helping all the Stars fans cross the streets while alternating letting the traffic through, and belately realized it probably wasn't a great idea to jaywalk right in front of the cops. Well, nothing to do but keep going, and so we made it to the other side and Dave whipped out the camera to get our picture in front of the Boardroom.
As Dave took our picture, sure enough, one of the cops started yelling "Hey" at us. Uh, oh, were we going to get a ticket? And if so, how long would it take the cop to write it? We're in a bit of a hurry, here! We prepared ourselves for the worst, and the cop came up to us and said, "Oh, hey guys, I was just going to take your picture for you, as I've done that for some other teams that have come by here!". We started laughing, relieved that the cop wasn't concerned with our bold street crossing maneuver, and thanked him for offering to help us out. And then, we started running out of there, just in case he came to his senses! Thanks, friendly cop!
We left downtown and headed north to #5, Up in Smoke. Just before we reached it we encountered the first opposing team we'd seen since we left the starting line, they were heading south to downtown. Since we'd been alone for most of the race, and never had to stop for more than a minute to get our next destination, we were feeling pretty good about our chances.
But before we could cross the finish line, we had to choose one of the remaining two clues that were far to the north (we were allowed to skip one clue with no penalty, so we didn't have to get both). We'd already left downtown, so we would have had to backtrack to catch the high speed DART train, so we decided to just run up McKinney. But we got lucky, for once, and we saw a bus coming our way. That never happens... yay! We got on the bus, and asked how far up McKinney it would go. The bus driver said only a few more blocks before it turned off, but we figured that was better than nothing. We rode the bus for about five blocks, and the driver even waived our fare as we weren't going far. Thanks, friendly bus driver!
We continued up McKinney, towards the final points. #4 was slightly closer, but it involved a golfing special test, which could take some time to complete. So Chris suggested that we skip it and run a couple blocks farther to #10, Adikt. A fine plan, to be sure, but as we came to the Hank Haney Golf Center we saw a team exiting the building, and so we yelled to ask them how hard the golfing test was. "Easy!", they replied, and so we changed our plan and headed into the Golf Center to do it. That friendly team was dressed as pirates, which isn't really relevant to our story, but it is pretty awesome.
We found the HTA volunteer, who explained that we had to empty a bucket of golf balls and hit them onto the range. We immediately asked questions, such as "How far do we have to hit them?" (Doesn't matter, we just had to get them over the line right by the tee), and "Could we just kick the balls with our feet?" (No!). But since we technically didn't have to hit the balls any kind of real distance, the test was easy. We both grabbed clubs and simply scooted all the balls over the line in rapid succession (often several at once), and we were done in no time. The volunteer even commented to the effect that we'd finished that faster than anyone else so far. So, one final picture for us, with the golfing volunteer.
All that was left to do was head back south on McKinney's to the Uptown Bar & Grill again. We passed the pirate team along the way, but they still had some points downtown to visit. We made it to the finish line in just over an hour, and as we'd hoped, we were in first place. Technically, another team could have finished behind us and still won, if they'd gotten a bonus picture that was worth more than ours. But it took about a half an hour for the next teams to start coming in, so our victory was secure. At the finish line we had our photo taken with Jason, the race director.
I can definitely recommend High Trek Adventure, as the Dallas event was very fun and well organized. Plus, if you finish in the top 25 at any race in the series, you're qualified to go to the championship race in Las Vegas in November, where teams will race for a $12,345.67 prize! Perhaps we'll see y'all there?
And finally, we got a picture of Dave's kids, Nick and Logan, with another team that was at the race. They were there to show that you don't have to be bananas to do one of these races, but it can't hurt!
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