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Urban Dare Austin 2007

March 24, 2007
By Kipley Fiebig - Team Vignette #2

The Urban Dare race came to Austin for the first time in 2007, so of course we just had to enter. It was similar to some other clue solving/running races we'd done, like Urban Challenge and Austin Found. You had to solve 12 clues and run around the city to find the locations matching the clues. The twist for Urban Dare was that at some of the clues you'd have to perform "dares" before the volunteer would punch your passport.

The race started with a verbal trivia competition, designed to release the teams in waves. The first trivia question was what the downtown Austin streets were originally named after... fortunately we knew the answer was "trees". Those of us who got it right were told to "go!", so we ran to grab our clue sheets.

Upon getting our clue sheet the first thing I did was take a picture of it all with my camera phone, to send to our support crew. In past races this technique has resulted in text of various degrees of legibility, but this time we lucked out, as it was all pretty readable in just the first shot:

After sending the picture we looked at the clues and pretty much immediately figured out that the answer to #1 was "Amy's Ice Cream". It was just a few blocks south, so off we ran. This checkpoint was supposed to be a dare, where we had to eat a serving of ice cream before the volunteer would stamp our passport. However, this volunteer hadn't been properly briefed, and she was stamping everyone's passports just for showing up, and then ice cream was offered to us if we wanted it. Well, usually we wouldn't turn down free ice cream, but right now we still had 11 more checkpoints to find, so we headed out the door and started walking.

We didn't know the answer to #2, so we called up our support crew and bugged them to hurry up and solve it already. Our request was quickly filled as our crew came back and told us the answer was the Crown and Anchor Pub, which was a few blocks east. We took a slightly roundabout route to get there, because running in a straight line is for wussies. Along the way we passed a fire station, and saw a team stopping there to take a picture, and wondered what the heck that was all about, but didn't bother breaking our stride to investigate.

At the Crown and Anchor Pub we learned we had to complete a dare consisting of throwing a bulls eye with a dart before we'd be allowed to continue. My teammate Jason Mittman and I both stepped up to throw darts, when the volunteer informed us that only one of us could shoot. I suck at darts, so I let Jason do the honors. After it became apparent the Jason ALSO sucked at darts, I decided to make productive use of the time by calling our support crew and verifying that all the clues had been sent correctly. They were able to read them all back, and they matched our clue sheet, so we at least knew that our crack solving team was busy at work figuring out where we would have to run next.

Our phone contact Jim Sampson also let me know that they'd solved the next clue, and it was the Glen Rose exhibit of Dinosaur Tracks by the Texas Memorial Museum. Around that time Jason managed to hit the bulls eye, so it was time to get running again.

We again took a slightly roundabout route to get to the Dinosaur Tracks, because it's our strategy to confuse any teams that might be following us. Or something. Anyway, in our first picture of the exhibit it was pretty impossible to tell what we were trying to photograph, but the second one was perfect, so after that one we were off.

The clue for #4 had us confused... we initially thought we'd have to take a photo of six flags all together. So we figured the answer might be at the Bob Bullock Museum. We ran alongside Marcy and John Beard's team, with whom we were collaborating and sharing our support crew. The four of us discussed the meaning of #4, when we realized the clue was actually asking us to take six SEPARATE photos (at different locations), each of which had the Texas and American flags in them! This sounded like a difficult task, because how often do you see those flags together around Austin? We then realized that that was why we'd seen the team stopping at the fire station earlier, to get a picture of the flags. I started to wonder if we should ask our support crew to send us all the locations of nearby fire stations, or what.

As we started moving again, we decided to scan the rest of the clues to see if there was any other scavenger hunt clues that we needed to be on the lookout for. Good thing we did, because it turned out that #8 involved us picking up a copy of the Daily Texan, and we were about to head off of campus. So we took a quick detour to run through the nearest campus building we could find, and luckily found a newspaper dispenser with only ONE copy of the Daily Texan remaining! Score! We swiped it, and found the Sudoku puzzle inside that we had to solve. But we felt too lazy to solve it right then, so I just took a picture of it with my camera phone and sent it in to our crew to work on. I figured they were probably getting bored by now, and looking for more things to solve, anyways.

We figured that the answer to #5 was probably Barton Springs, which was quite a ways away. We considered crossing over to Guadalupe to catch a bus, as public transportation is legal during the race. But Jason pointed out that we might as well wander by the Bob Bullock Museum and the Capital, first, to get some of the six flag pictures we needed. So that's what we did. And as we started looking for Texas flags, we discovered that this scavenger hunt wasn't that unreasonable at all! Turns out that there are Texas flags EVERYWHERE around the downtown area! We quickly got not only six unique flag pictures, but a couple of extras as well, just for good measure. Here's two of our better flag photos:

That particular task completed, we resumed our trek south again towards Barton Springs. We were heading down Congress when Jason had the presence of mind to visually scan the rest of the clues. He figured that #10 sounded like it would be a statue of Stephen F. Austin located in the Capital building. Well, since we were currently just leaving the Capital grounds area, we decided to do a quick U-turn and head inside to see if we could find a statue of Mr. Austin. There were two statues in the entrance foyer, and we weren't sure which was correct. Jason found a security guard who was happy enough to point us to Stephen's statue. Excellent!

Ok, NOW it was time to head south again. But, our experience with clue #10 had taught us that perhaps it wasn't always optimal, traveling-distance-wise, to get the clues in sequential order. We called Jim and asked if they could figure out the nearest solved clue to our location. Fortunately, he was able to come back with an answer as we ran, and soon we were heading towards #9, which was the Driskill Hotel.

We were a little concerned about getting the remaining clues in the optimal order, but our crew had solved all of them except for #6 at this point, so we figured we were in pretty decent shape. The next closest clue for us would be #7, the Stevie Ray Vaughn statue on Town Lake. We left Congress Avenue, and started crossing over the lake on the 1st Street Bridge. Then I had the flash of inspiration to read our clue sheet again, as I remembered that we were supposed to turn in our Sudoku puzzle... somewhere. Oops, that somewhere would be the north end of the Congress Avenue bridge, which we'd just ran right past. For the second time in the race, we did an about face and headed back the way we came. Of course, we hadn't filled out our Sudoku yet, as we were counting on our crew to solve it. Jim had actually texted the complete answer to my phone, but there was salt in my eyes, and sweat obscuring the phone display, and the sun was making it hard to read, and I just generally like to do things the hard way, so we had him read out the answer line by line over the phone for us, as we walked back to the gazebo where the race volunteer was waiting. Our puzzle was correct, and the volunteer told us we were the third team to reach that point.

Back to the 1st Street Bridge, and over, and down to the trail for the Stevie Ray statue. We had to take our picture on the correct side of Stevie, based on whether the race director had been wearing sneakers or not. I knew she'd been wearing sandals, so we stood to the right of Stevie and clicked the camera.

#5, Barton Springs, sounded like the southernmost point we'd have to visit before heading back up to the finish line on the Drag. Our crew still hadn't solved #6, but it sounded like it might involve paddling a boat. The obvious place for this would be the canoe rental place on Barton Springs. We didn't know how to solve the clue to arrive at this answer, though, so we took a backwards approach and asked our crew to call Zilker Park Canoe Rentals and inquire if they were doing something with Urban Dare today. That worked; over the phone the rental guy confirmed that they were indeed doing a canoe dare! At this point, we finally knew where all the remaining clues were, and just had four more to collect.

Our guess about paddling a canoe at #6 was correct. It was a short paddle, just across the creek to touch two different rocks, and back. Most of our time was spent verifying with the volunteer that we were heading to the right points, and turning the boat around after each one, instead of actual paddling. Too bad, as Jason is a paddling machine! The volunteer here told us that we were the fourth team to reach that particular point. But I figured we might be doing better than that, as I was guessing that the teams ahead of us hadn't yet visited all the points that we had.

We finally found the volunteer above #5, Barton Springs, and learned we had to complete a slalom course with our team doing "the wheelbarrow". It was short and easy, so we got our passport punched and started heading back north.

Our final two points were on the Drag by the UT campus, way north of where we were. We decided to cut over to Guadalupe and hope that we could catch a bus heading that way. Then we realized that Guadalupe was one-way at that point, and not the right way. So we scooted over to Lavaca instead, which worked much better, as we managed to catch a bus from about 8th street to 20th street. Being able to relax in a nice air conditioned bus was a welcome relief from the running we'd been doing all day in the heat!

#11 was a semi-famous graffiti image of a frog by Daniel Johnston. The graffiti asks, "Hi, how are you?", and from our picture, I guess the answer for Jason is "rather zonked"!

On to #12, which would be the finish line, and also the moment of truth. How many teams made it here before us? The happy answer was... none! We entered the Hole in the Wall pub in first place. To secure our victory, all we had to do was put together a sixty piece puzzle before any competing teams showed up to thwart us. We sat down in the nice air conditioned pub, and started working on a puzzle of some cute puppies, while chugging huge glasses of ice water. After a while, the glasses of water turned into glasses of beer... I'm still not quite sure how that happened. Nothing like getting a nice buzz while in the middle of a race!

Another team showed up, but it was the other team that we were cooperating with, Spencer Conklin and Shawn Bostad. The three of our teams had a prior agreement that we'd attempt to finish together in a tie, if we could do so without having any outside teams beat us in the interim. So Jason and I held off on placing our final puzzle piece in place, letting Spencer and Shawn catch up. We called our crew to ask about our third team of Marcy and John. Turns out that they'd had serious camera issues, and actually had to go and buy a disposable camera partway through the race, and backtrack to get an earlier picture, just to stay in the running! Oh, my!

So, unfortunately, when a third team showed up at the finish that wasn't Marcy and John, our two teams were forced to finish our puzzles to stay ahead of the competition. We placed our final pieces in at the same time to arrange a tie. Jason and I submitted our pictures, and the race director checked them out... all correct! Yay! Spencer and Shawn did likewise, and... oh, no, they hadn't got the news that we needed to take six individual pictures of flags. They'd just gotten one picture of six flags, like we'd originally been planning to do. So, they ran out the door to see if they could track down five more flag photos. Fortunately, the third place team had made the exact same mistake! At this point, the race director announced you could just take a three minute penalty and still finish officially with only one flag picture. So, we called Spencer and Shawn and told them to come back.

Marcy and John arrived during all this commotion, and quickly put their puzzle together. We thought that they possibly finished within three minutes of the other team, which would put them ahead because of the that team's flag penalty. But, no such luck. But still, quite an impressive showing for our teams, finishing 1st, 2nd, and 4th in the race, out of about 30 entered teams.

The race was a whole lot of fun. Our expert clue-solving crew was amazing, as they pretty much always are. We love it when this type of race comes to our home town!

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