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Urban Dare Austin

March 21, 2009
By Kipley Fiebig - Team Vignette

As we were waiting for the Urban Dare race to start, volunteers started handing out colored eggs to teams. The eggs had been hollowed out, and apparently had confetti inside. We weren't quite sure what to make of this... it certainly wasn't a typical thing to receive at the start of a race. We guessed that the most likely reason for the eggs is that we would have to transport the fragile cargo to one of the checkpoints. So we set about crafting a protective container for our egg. We used a knife to cut off the top of one of Dave's bottles of Ensure. Then we wrapped the egg in tissue paper, put it inside the bottle, wrapped the bottle in more tissue paper, and nestled the resulting bundle into one of the pockets of my backpack. Perfect! Now we wouldn't have to worry about carrying the thing around in our hands.

At the prerace meeting, Kevin (the race director) mentioned something about taking a picture with your cascarone. Dave and I had no idea what "cascarone" meant, but guessed that he might be talking about the colored egg. We figured we'd wait until we got the clue sheet, and assumed that that would clarify exactly what he meant.

The race started the way Urban Dare always starts, with multiple-choice trivia questions, which in theory is supposed to help release the teams in waves instead of all at once. There were big squares laid out on the ground corresponding to the A-B-C-D answers. We didn't know the answer to the first trivia question, so we did what everyone else did: We followed any teams that looked like they knew the answer. Pretty much all the teams wound up standing in box "B", which turned out to be correct, so all the teams were released at the same time. Well, actually all the teams then had to wait in line to receive their clue sheets, and then they could go. Since this is how the initial trivia situation typically unfolds in Urban Dare, I'm surprised Kevin is still sticking with this format, but whatever.

We finally got our clue sheet, and Dave took a picture of it and sent it into our crew. We scanned the clues to see if there was any that we immediately knew the answers to.

We immediately knew that #3 was a statue at the University of Texas, and #4 was the Treaty Oak. We decided to run north on Rio Grande towards UT for #3, as we figured that would give our crew time to solve some more clues for us while we ran. We initially saw a couple of teams running behind us, and wondered if they were planning on following us. But after a few blocks we looked back and they were no longer there, so they must have had their own plans... good!

We zig-zagged our way northeast until we were heading east on Marting Luther King boulevard. It was at this point that I had a serendipidous moment... I was scanning the clue sheet, and read that #11 told us to find "the biggest star in town". And I thought to myself, perhaps that could be the huge star that's outside of the Bob Bullock museum. Which is... coming right up just ahead of us! How lucky is that! Since we were running right by the star anyways, we decided we may as well take a picture of it just in case that was the answer. Dave called to tell Sheila, our phone contact, what we'd done, and she told us she'd let us know if the crew figured out a better answer to #11 than that (which they never did).

Dave asked Sheila if she had any other clues solved that we should visit before the "Till Gabriel" statue, and she said no, so we kept heading east. But then she almost immediately called back and informed us that our crew had just solved another one that was on campus that was close to our current location. #7 was the Woodrow Wilson statue on the UT South Mall, just south of the Main Tower. Since I'd attended UT for four years, I was happy that I knew exactly how to get there, so we cut through campus directly to the statue of Woodrow Wilson.

The clue sheet said we were supposed to do a 3-legged dare at this checkpoint, but there were no volunteers to be found. Whatever, we just took a picture of ourselves standing in front of the statue, and then ran off towards the next point. Kevin told us after the race that the volunteers that were administering that dare showed up just as we were running away, and they saw us leaving but we were already out of earshot.

We jogged east across campus. Since we were on my alma mater, Sheila temporarily didn't need to direct us where to run. Ironically, we'd driven on San Jacinto street through campus on our way to the race that morning, and I'd actually pointed out the "Till Gabriel" statue to Dave from the car only a couple hours earlier! To bad we had to run all this way to revisit it... but at least we knew exactly where it was!

Now that we'd crossed the two UT statues off of our list, we asked Sheila where we should head next. Our crew had solved a lot of clues that were downtown, but the worry about going all the way back south again was that we'd miss a point that was in between. Then Sheila started talking about the Moon Towers... we had to get pictures of four different Moon Towers for clue #1. Fortunately, there were Moon Towers between us and downtown. However, we already knew this clue could be tougher than it appeared. There are many online lists that detail the locations of the Moon Towers, but we knew from prescouting we'd done years ago that not all the Moon Towers still existed where the lists claimed they did. I actually had a map made at one point of all the towers that were still standing, but like an idiot I wasn't carrying the map with me.

So, our crew scrounged around a bit and attempted to figure out a good route bring us to four of the towers. In the meantime, Sheila had us run south towards Centennial Park for #2. Now, you'd think this clue would at least be easy to find, as it comes right out and tells you what park to go to. However, apparently the location of this park is quite difficult to Google, and it doesn't even show up on many of the main maps of Austin. Fortunately Marcy finally managed to spot Centennial Park on the UT campus map, and so we set off to find it. Which also turned out to be difficult! Sheila sent us to 15th and Red River, which was actually slightly south of the park. And the park was so small and hidden, we couldn't see it from the intersection. However, we eventually wandered half a block north and found it.

The volunteers at the park were administering two dares. They were happy to see us, and we were happy to hear that we were the first team they'd seen. For the first dare, we each had to throw beanbags into three different targets. This wasn't too difficult, it only took each of us a few tries to get all the targets.

The second thing we had to do was the spellbound dare. They gave us a random word, and we had to run around the park, and find the letters that made up our word. Each letter would have a corresponding number posted by it, and we'd have to add up all the numbers to arrive at a total that represented our word. We're not big fans of this particular dare, because your team can be screwed if you get a word that's longer, or a word with a letter that happens to be hidden better than the other letters. But this time, we did ok, as it only took us a couple of trips around the park to find all of our letters.

Dave started adding up the numbers, and I called our crew to ask them to add them up in case Dave got the answer wrong, but Dave came through and got the answer correct on his first try. Excellent! We thanked the voluneers and headed out of there.

Next we would start collecting our Moon Tower pictures. After taking a trip through the Capital grounds, and going a bit further south than necessary, we got back on track, and found our first tower at 12th and Rio Grande.

The next tower was a bit out of the way, up a steep hill on 12th and Blanco. At least we could see it from far away. But we decided we should run all the way to it to get the tower identification number in the picture, just in case we needed to prove that we had in fact visited four different towers. Around this point we finally started seeing other teams... up until now, we'd been running all alone. Of course, since you can visit the points in any order you choose, it's impossible to tell who's ahead!

From here we ran south on Blanco. We tried to cut east on 10th street, but then had to turn around once we realized that it was a dead end. East on 9th street, then, to Duncan Park for #6, and the wheelbarrow soccer dare.

For this dare, one of us had to hold the legs of the other, and he would walk on his hands through a course. Also, there was a soccer ball we had to bring along with us on the trip, by hitting it with the hands as we walked. We took turns being the hand-walking guy, and switched half-way through the course. Ok, no problem, get stamp from the volunteer and head off east again, to 9th and Guadelupe for our third Moon Tower.

It sounded like Sheila had the rest of the race all nicely mapped out for us by this time, as we were running pretty smoothly from point to point. It was time to briefly head a little south, to 8th and Colorado, for #10, The Amsterdam Cafe.

From here, we ran north and east. Those of you paying close attention to our route will notice that we didn't exactly do things optimally, as we ran a whole lot of back and forth east and west. But hey, it's never been our philosophy to wait until we have the perfect route figured out before we start running. For our final tower of the day, we got the one at 11th and Trinity.

We ran south towards the next point. The South by Southwest music festival was going on, so we started running into sections of road that were closed off for the festival. Bands were playing music and people were partying everywhere, and we were running through the middle of it all. It was madness! But Dave was certainly keeping a clear head, because at this point he happened to spot a CD lying on the ground, and he was smart enough to remember that there was a five minute bonus for bringing a music CD to the finish line. Sweet, great catch, Dave!

The next point was #8, Esther's Follies. I don't know how our crew was able to figure that one out from the incredibly small and crappy photo for the clue, but they did. The photo was so indistinct, that even as we stood in front of Esther's we weren't convinced that it matched the photo. But then we walked around to the west side entrance, and saw the diver on the roof that matched the photo, which made us a lot more confident about it.

#9 was a mural with a pink cadillac, at 6th and San Jacinto. Quite a difficult thing to find with Google. Our crew was able to solve it because (several years ago) we'd actually prescouted and made some notes about that mural. Did I mention how much our clue solving crew rocks? Because they do!

Westward to #5, Mellow Johnny's. The other team that we were working with, Jason and Mike, had actually figured out this clue as soon as they read it.

From there we continued west to our last clue, at Treaty Oak. Here we had to perform another dare. A volunteer handed us a paper plate with a blob of whipped cream on it. She told us that one of us had to find the piece of gum in the whipped cream without using our hands, and then blow a bubble with it. I dove my face into the cream and found the gum easily enough, so far so good. But blowing the bubble turned out to be ridiculously hard. The race was using this old, cheap bubble gum that turned into liquid mush as you chewed it. It was the least "gummy" gum I've ever had. I chewed and chewed and chewed it, and it just didn't get any better. Occasionally I'd try and blow a bubble, but the gum was just mush so it never worked.

Well, this would be a silly reason to fail to finish the race, we thought. And right then, our other team of Jason and Mike showed up! They had visited the checkpoints in a different (and more optimal) order than us. We asked them how many more points they had to get, and they said this was their last one. They asked us the same question, we gave the same answer. Uh oh, suddenly the race was on! These guys were our friends, and we were all sharing the same clue solving team, but that still didn't mean that we wanted to let them to beat us!

Fortunately, we'd been failing at the challenge for so long at this point that the volunteer had finally taken pity on us and given me a second piece of gum. It didn't help all that much, but it helped just enough that I was able to produce a pathetic little bubble. The volunteer decided it was good enough, and stamped our passport.

Four blocks east to the finish line! We took off sprinting, leaving Jason and Mike to deal with the crappy gum issue. Since the race was going to be so close, it was a good thing Dave had found that CD on the ground to get us the five minute bonus.

But wait... what about that colored egg we'd been carrying around since the start of the race? Was that a required checkpoint photo? It was hard to say for sure, as the clue sheet didn't mention the egg at all. The egg wasn't listed as being "checkpoint 12", or anything. So did we need a picture of it? Kevin had said something at the start of the race about getting a picture of your cascarone, but we weren't at all clear about whether that was a mandatory thing, or whether it was optional.

Well, obviously we wanted to get a picture of the egg, just in case, but it was all wrapped up in my backpack. I slowed down so Dave could dig the egg out of my pack as we jogged. Then he unwrapped the egg from the many layers of packaging we'd bundled it in. Hey, the egg was still intact, alright! I bet we were the only team there who successfully (and needlessly) carried their egg with them for the whole race!

We made it to the finish, and I asked Kevin to clarify whether the egg picture was mandatory. Ok, so perhaps I hysterically yelled the question at Kevin... as there was plenty of noise from the band that was playing and the parade that was going by. And Jason and Mike were right on our heals! Kevin confirmed that yes, we did indeed need a picture of the egg, and so we snapped one right there at the finish.

Jason and his step-dad Mike finished two minutes later. They'd run into the same problem we had with the inferior bubble gum, so they weren't actually literally right behind us as we'd feared. Kevin originally had planned to have one final dare at the finish line, where we would have to put together a jigsaw puzzle, but he decided to cancel it due to the chaos that was going on in the area. Which was good for us, because if we had to put together a puzzle, that would have been one more chance for Jason and Mike to catch up to us.

Our two teams were the first ones to the finish line! (Out of 56 total teams.) Yay! We were going to stick around at least until the third team finished, but after an hour of waiting there were no other finishers in sight, so we just had to go.

The clues sure were tough this year... thanks again to our crew for being so brilliant!

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