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High Trek Adventure San Antonio 2009

October 10, 2009
By Marcy Beard - Team Vignette

We entered this race as a tune-up for the November championship races and to learn more about High Trek Adventure. I think we accomplished both, and learned more about ourselves in the process. Bonus!

Jason and his stepdad Mike also came to race, and we figured Mike might help us solve a clue or two, but more likely he'd be the ace in the hole for their team when figuring out how to get around downtown. San Antonio doesn't lack for interesting and confusing routes, from angled streets to the Riverwalk, so John and I just hoped to do our best and see what happened.

The race started with a trivia question, as usual. This time it was about the movie The Alamo and who was not in the movie. John noticed that all 4 possible clue pick-up locations (based on the trivia answer) were south of us in a small area, so he started out the door while I was trying to relay the question to Sheila.

I decided to follow John's lead and take off without an exact location in mind. Sheila came back with the answer "C, Benicio del Toro". That's awesome, except I couldn't tell her what that meant to us.

So we got to the intersection of St Mary's and Mulberry, and John looked a bit lost. I was doubting his strategy as we turned to follow other teams across Mulberry, when John spotted a volunteer on a recumbent bike with the clue sheets. Phew, challenge #1 completed.

Our team and Jason/Mike picked up clue sheets. John and Jason worked on taking pictures to send to the crew while Mike and I scanned the clues to see if he knew any of them right away. HTA clues are harder than GUR and Urban Dare clues, so he appeared mostly stumped and slightly bewildered. No problem, we have an awesome crew to help us! We DID know the answer to CP1 - the fish sculpture over the Riverwalk at I-35. At least I knew where we were going first, on the way to downtown.

I noticed that one checkpoint required a photo with other people:

Looking around, I wondered whether other teams might want to work together to create the word "ALAMO" so everyone could get that checkpoint out of the way immediately. Once the clue sheet photos were done, I asked Jason if he wanted to try to gather people together to do this. He has a great voice for getting people's attention, and he agreed we should try.

The next few minutes turned into utter chaos. Jason did a great job of putting forth our proposal, and several teams came over to collaborate. I got down on the ground as the first piece of the first "A" and another woman completed the letter. I'm not sure what happened further down the line, though. All I could see was John and Mike trying to get photos.

I had not made it clear to my friends that both teammates needed to be in the picture, so I tried to get John's attention to tell him to take the photo as a selfie so he would be in it as well. John just watched the madness of other people trying to figure out how to be whatever letter was needed while someone tried to get photos of their team. In the end, he said that "ALAMO" never did appear, people were jumping up and running off, and it would have been really hard to get the whole word into one photo anyway.

All I knew was that John wasn't paying attention to me, so I started yelling louder. That had no effect except to make me angry. He finally figured out that he needed to be in the photo, so he handed our camera to Mike who was still trying to do something with their camera. In the end, the whole process dissolved and I was left screaming at John that a bunch of other teams got their photo, it had been my idea, and now we were left with nothing.

The only photo John captured (which, in his defense, looks like crap because our camera was stuck on high zoom):

I have got to find a way to stop yelling, dammit! Any suggestions would be greatly, greatly appreciated. Let's see if we can do any better the rest of the race.

As noted, I was pretty angry about that fiasco, so I grabbed our clue sheets and took off running. Eventually I even stopped talking about it. John caught up and we finally turned our attention to the clues ahead of us. John led the way while our crew worked on the clues. About a block too late, Sheila mentioned one CP on St Mary's:

Unfortunately we had just passed it (Grace Coffee Shop), so we figured we would get it on the way back, especially since it was pretty close to the finish.

John worked the map well, taking us on a nice angle toward the Riverwalk at the right spot. Sheila had a bead on the next clue we'd be heading for:

I relayed the answer, "Maverick Park", to John. We were excited that we knew exactly where that was and how to get there, since we had scouted the exact route in the opposite direction the day before, pretty much by accident. We got to the fish sculpture (very cool, by the way - and they light up at night!) and worked on getting a photo. It took a couple tries and a battery change (!) because our camera was having unexplained zoom problems. Finally we got a good photo and could move on, still ahead of Jason and Mike.

We ran south on the Riverwalk toward Jones Street where we jumped up to street level and ran a block east to the park. During scouting we had dismissed this park because there was nothing there. Nothing but a sign with the name of the park!

John asked if there was a chance of catching a bus going south. I thought perhaps there was, so we switched to the other side of the street and John watched behind us as we ran. We had predetermined that there were no good buses to be had right at the start, but perhaps it was late enough for the Broadway buses to show up. Sheila worked the question as well, but by the time John saw a bus behind us we were almost into town already so we decided to keep running.

From there we headed toward the Alamo. We pulled up to the front plaza and looked around at all the people milling about. Lots of people! We decided to try for the part of the crowd that was waiting in line to get in, since they might appreciate a distraction more than other people who are trying to get their own photos. This seemed to work well. John got their attention, a woman volunteered to take the picture, John maneuvered her into position, and she got this photo:

We thanked everyone profusely and walked off. The problem at that point was that it was impossible to know exactly who and how many people were in our photo. 20 people is a lot to get all at once, and it would be difficult to tell if we got that many from our little camera display. Ah well, that question would have to stay in the back of my mind for now.

Sheila told us that the crew had everything solved except CP's 7 and 8. I looked at CP8, since it was supposed to be near our current location:

I misread it and thought we were looking for a BBQ place. Not only that, but I thought it would be across from Alamo Park in San Antonio (as opposed to Alamo Park in San Francisco). Sheila told us that we could come back to that checkpoint later, as we were about to do an out-and-back in downtown. Cool.

Our next destination was the answer to CP3:

I knew "Medusa", and Sheila told us to head toward the intersection of Market and Presa. John took us right there, but we didn't see anything that resembled a lounge. We jumped down to Riverwalk level, but there was nothing there. We came back to the street, and I noticed that all the signs said "South Presa", while Sheila told us the addess was on "North Presa". John questioned this because we were at Market Street like we were supposed to be, but we still didn't see anything. Sheila said that since the CP was likely north of there, we would get it when we looped back later. Cool.

So we went west some more, aiming for CP4:

Sheila gave us an intersection, an address, and the CP number. I asked her what we were looking for, and when she told us "Melrose", I was like "oh, we know where that is!" Jason had the same experience with his phone contact. Jason and John have both done work for Melrose stores and we had seen the store during scouting. Easy! And too funny.

Going west a bit more, Sheila attempted to give me directions but I didn't really get the streets she wanted me to turn on, especially "Produce Row". I saw the Mercado across the way and told her we were going there to try for the sombrero bonus photo:

We pretty much gave up on the jersey bonus - we didn't see a single person in a jersey, much less two jerseys from opposing teams, and we didn't know of any downtown stores where we might find them.

Anyway, we ran up to the little stores with sombreros outside. John remembered that one of them had a sign to the effect of "No photos with the merchandise", so he suggested we ask the store people if they would let us take a picture in return for $5. That went over great with one store man, and he set us up with Mexican hats for us, an employee, and a couple passerbys (including a girl who was excited to be involved):

Later we learned that Mike paid the guy $4 while Jason didn't realize it, and another team paid him $2. This made for an interesting post-race conversation.

As we were leaving, Mike and Jason ran up to take a turn with the sombreros. We moved on to look for the poster of Frida Kahlo in this checkpoint:

Sheila thought maybe it was at the museum right next to us, so we circled it with no luck. We continued through the Mercado, while I noticed we were now on "Produce Row", so that was good at least. John spotted a bunch of posters with women on them (all of them Frida? I don't know). We picked the wrong one initially and got an assist from the vendor who pointed out the right picture (note the sombreros just sitting there watching):

John flagged down Jason and Mike to point the picture out to them. Sheila then reminded us that we still needed to get CP7 close by:

The crew had been struggling with this anagram, and Jason had heard as much. He remembered that I wondered whether our anagram would be in Spanish (difficult!), and somehow came up with the answer - Mi Tierra! Way to go, Jason!

Finally we were finished with that area, so we took off to the east, with Jason and Mike not far behind us. I discussed our options with Sheila - she said we could skip either the Medusa CP or the Vogue building further north. I was still worried about our Alamo photo, so I asked if we could get both and she replied "Sure!" So we would start with Medusa and then go north to Vogue.

We ran down Commerce and then at Presa we turned north to try to find the address 203 North Presa. I had a brief thought that we should at least look south to see what was around that corner, but John didn't hear me and we took off north instead. We followed building numbers to the area that seemed to line up to 203, and we ended up on a bridge above the Riverwalk (a different section than earlier).

That created our most major roadblock of the day - trying to determine if the Medusa Lounge was actually down on the Riverwalk. We asked people, but no one knew what we were talking about. Finally I asked John to call Jason (since their team had apparently found the checkpoint). While he was doing that, we ran north to Houston Street for checkpoint 9:

I'm impressed that our crew found this one - there is a Vogue Cosmotology school that dominates Google in San Antonio searches. We turned the corner to see the street closed off and filled with chalk art drawings on the pavement. Wow, that's not something you see every day! We hopped over them the best we could in order to get our photo:

John got ahold of Mike, who told him that Medusa was between Commerce and Market. This was only a couple short blocks south. Sheila had a bead on a bus coming to the area of CP8 in nine minutes, so we decided we had time. Running back, we found Medusa just around the corner from where I had thought to look (but didn't) and right across the street from our location the FIRST time we looked for it. In our defense, it was a dark underhanging sign and barely visible, and the "South Presa" street signs were confusing. But still... we had been so close twice already!

Finally, we were done with the downtown points. Jason and Mike kicked our butts through that section :)

We ran up to Crockett, then east toward the Alamo. Sheila told us to turn north on Broadway, but all three of us missed the fact that Broadway becomes Losoya street in that area. So we passed it up and hit the Alamo Plaza. John instinctively turned north at that point, while Sheila and I were a bit confused. John then seemed to know where he was going as he veered to the right on a side street. That backfired when we found ourselves at the intersection of Third Street and Avenue E without a clue about which direction to go from there.

I got a bit frustrated trying to relay directions between Sheila and John, while John figured it out on the map and took off. Sheila tried to help, but finally map-man got us going the right way. Only 5 minutes to bus!

We ran hard up Broadway to the location of CP8. It was another tough clue, but our crew came up with the answer, The Painted Lady Inn:

We waited a few seconds and John spotted a bus coming toward us. Yay, bus! We got on and started north, planning to get off at Mulberry and then run toward the Grace Coffee Shop for our final checkpoint (allowing us to skip the Alamo photo in case there weren't 20 people in it).

Then... the bus stopped and Jason and Mike jumped on, looking at us like they couldn't believe it. They had gotten out of town quickly, but they wavered between waiting for a bus on St Mary's vs. on Broadway, wasting precious time that ended up with them barely missing a bus at CP8. They had run north, watching behind them for another bus and finally got on this one.

John called over to ask if they were headed for the finish line - they were. It was about a kilometer run from Broadway to the finish, and we figured we could beat them in a sprint directly there. But not if we detoured to the coffee shop. Dang it. I studied the Alamo photo on our camera, counting and recounting the faces I could see, but only coming up with 17 each time. John was convinced I couldn't see them all and we should believe our photo would be good.

We jumped off the bus together and debated some more, finally deciding to offer Jason/Mike a tie finish. Jason was certain about their Alamo photo (having counted the people in his group). We decided to take a chance with ours, finish together and see what happened. So while our crew was making funny comments about each team needing to "take the other team out," we jogged it in together instead.

Crossing the line as the first teams to arrive (yay!), Jason had his photos checked first - all good. The race director looked at mine, and at the Alamo photo he basically glanced at the crowd of people and said "Yep, that's the Alamo". So our photos were good too - yay! Checking the Alamo photo later, I did find 20 faces in addition to our own, so John was right, phew.

We split the pot, a very nice way to finish a fun race. Plus Mike got a gift certificate for winning the Senior division - way to go, Mike!

After the race we read the rules section of our clue sheet more closely, and we found this:

That's a new one on us. And something to keep in mind for future High Trek races. See, I knew we would learn something!

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