Wednesday, August 27, 2014

South Dakota, pre-rogaine

Some scenes from around South Dakota, mostly taken before the big rogaine event.

We checked out the rogaine practice course and got some idea of the character of the area.  Specifically, roads that end on the map but don't actually end in real life, subtle features that may be hard to distinguish on a 33K:1 map, and things that cling to your pants and gaiters:

We also got a chance, along with Kip, to visit our aunt and uncle who have a wonderful cabin in the Black Hills.  Nice discovery at their place - some candle sconces that our Dad had made!

This looked familiar - not sure how we solved it last year in Puerto Rico, but I couldn't repeat that performance here:

The campsite where we stayed when we visited South Dakota as kids:

Group photo, including Dad who is now spending part of his final existence in South Dakota where he grew up:

Kip remembers playing horseshoes when we camped here:

Nice shot!

View of the cabin on the hill, lovely spot:

Leland explaining how parts of the area were tested for gold, but they didn't find enough to make it worth mining:

We were staying in Deadwood along with the Bogles.  Testing out the go-cart track (photo from the top of Howie at the campground):

The street where Dad grew up:

And a view of the town of Deadwood:

Fun place to hang out for a few days!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Devils Tower

August has been busy!  We're still taking new photos almost every day, lots of blogging in the wings when I get back to more frequent WiFi.  The main point being that South Dakota has been an awesome sightseeing destination.

But first - we spent a couple days at Devils Tower, WY.  There are a few trails for exploring the park, most of which have views from various directions of the most famous part of the park:

Almost as interesting were the prairie dogs, including the brave ones with burrows near the roadway:

Loved listening to them whistle and watching them watch us:

Back to the trails... it has been a while since we've seen one of these:

The main attraction, from different angles as we walked/ran around it (we saw a few climbers but didn't get any pictures showing their tiny figures in the shadows):

Couldn't resist a shot with Tug and Howie:

Our solar panel has a growth!

A peace pole, very nice.

It was only a slight detour to visit this place, very glad we did!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

GUR Vancouver finals

Here we go!

First order of business was one of the GUR directors rolling 2 dice to determine how many tic-tic-toe items we would have to collect (5 minimum).  7, OK, that sounds reasonable, I guess?

Our final GUR clue sheet was wrapped in a huge wad of cellophane (no red ribbon though), so John got out his pocket knife and went to work.  Inside the cellophane was a little box containing the clue sheet - in pieces, nice!  We spent a couple minutes assembling it, trying to make sure any key sections of text were readable.

There wasn't a lot of location info to work with immediately, but Sheila helped us locate a couple streets and it became clear we needed to return to the area south of False Creek.  This time our "bus test" on Burrard worked out great, and soon we were motoring south.  And this time we passed Kip and Dave as they were running over the bridge.  Almost got a picture of them but missed...

My knee was officially a problem.  We got to the location of the CP7 clue pick-up with me trying to run but mostly hobbling.  Argh.  Well, all we can do is try.  Expectations were not too high, but there was a lot of race left to go.

Here is our CP7 clue:

Happily, Richard and Chris were there at the same time and they immediately saw some writing amid the sparkles.  We verified that it looked like "DARK TABLE" and put our crew to work on that question.

Oh look, a grassy hill - we could use it for one of the tic-tac-toe items.  The tic-tac-toe turned out to be one square from each of the local GUR races this year, except as a video with each of us appearing for at least 5 seconds and doing the challenge.  Fun!  Except - red socks in Vancouver, really?  :)

Rolling down the hill, with (much needed) assistance from Dave partway down:

We followed Kip and Dave over to the area of another checkpoint where Richard and Chris were looking around.  They started running west, while I wasn't going anyway on my knee until I knew for sure what was going on.  Soon they all figured out that we should try the storage facility behind me and look for room 2152.  Sure enough, the lady behind the desk was ready to point us upstairs to the storage rooms.  Fun surprise.

The fun ended there, because the challenge was putting one teammate in one of 2 coffins, covering him/her with hissing cockroches and a couple snakes, and closing the lid!  John and I had already let the other 2 teams go ahead since I wasn't running so good, and now that seemed like an excellent decision.  Dave was not so excited about this.

Richard "taking one for the team":

John followed the other two to find out what they needed to do while the person in the coffin waited.  Scooping sugar with a tiny spoon, it turned out:

I had the best experience, getting to listen to Dave talk from inside the coffin, still on the phone.  Eventually he let us know that the cockroaches were starting to crawl up his face, and the animal handlers told him politely that the best thing would be if he shut his mouth now...

John gave me the option and I now owe him more than ever:

On my way to the sugar scooping, Chris and I noticed a cockroach on the loose.  Hmm, hope they got all of those back.

I scooped as fast as I could, and John was a trooper until I came back.  Yikes!!  Hope they got all of those off:

Well, that certainly was memorable!

Back a couple blocks where we just were, for a neat climbing challenge that was obviously all John and I'm guessing he had more fun with this one:

Our crew was still working on solving several checkpoints, as it was another set of difficult GUR final clues.  No problem, we had our next destination - Dark Table on 4th Avenue.  Up on 4th Ave, we had just started west when a bus showed up.  Sweet!  My knee was happy to sprint for a few seconds in return for sitting on a bus over the next hill.  That was lucky.  We got off the bus right next to where Kip and Dave were taking a photo, hi guys!

At the Dark Table we had an interesting challenge of being in total darkness, feeling around to learn a table setting, then coming back out to copy it exactly.  John had excellent "noticing" skills and I added one key detail with the discovery of a napkin, and we got it on the first try.  Very cool.

Richard and Chris also nailed it, nicely done.

Now for the dilemma of the day - there were 2 checkpoints still to be solved.  Our 3 teams discussed, checked out bus options for going back east, and debated what to do next.  Kip and Dave took off running east while we went with Richard and Chris to the closest bus stop where we could catch an express bus.  I had an easy decision - I couldn't run that far, so a bus was the only realistic option.

In the meantime, another tic-tac-toe video (maple leaves from the Toronto race):

Sheila and I focused on the checkpoint with boardgame pieces in the clue, and I even walked into a toy store to see if we might get (really, really) lucky with that kind of guess.  We watched for buses.  Suddenly Sheila told me that the crew had solved it!  Even more amazing, the address was 2 blocks from where we were standing.  We were pretty excited.

Drexoll Games had a big area in the very back where they had staged 8 hay bales.  Each had one needle in it somewhere, attached to a small black plastic string.  We picked one bale, Richard and Chris picked another, and we got to work looking for our needles.  Some of the hay had prickers in it, so not only did it hurt a little sometimes, we'd think we had found a needle but we would be wrong.

Here is where we probably should have given up pretty quickly.  Unfortunately that's just not in our nature.  We had a lot of success in the Urban Challenge series by being tenacious.  Two years in a row at a GUR finals race, we would have done a lot better by letting something go.

So we searched the whole dang hay bale, no luck.  The funniest part was listening to Chris tell someone on the phone over and over that he was LITERALLY looking for a needle in a haystack.  Made me giggle every time.  We worked on it for probably 25 minutes, finally coming to the conclusion we should have started with - this doesn't make sense.  We have to leave.  So close yet so far.


On the bright side, we learned that the crew (with Dave's help) had solved the final difficult clue, yay!  We also somehow managed another bus along 4th Avenue.  Back on the move.

We found a gym where we were led in to meet a hypnotist.  We played along, listening and pretending to act calm and relaxed.  Well, John probably wasn't pretending.  He's just like that.  Obviously he was the one she picked to be "hypnotized", so I read some text to him instructing him to untie his shoe when she tugged on her ear.

3..2..1.. and you're awake, John.  The lady kept talking, subtly pulling on her earlobe a couple times.  John stood there grinning.  OK, either you're really in a trance or you were just zoning out, although actually he just didn't see her do it (his story later).  I made eyes at him to untie his shoe, but that didn't work either.

Trying again - "when she PULLS her EAR you will UNTIE your SHOE" - 3..2..1.. and you're awake.  This time he got it!  Phew, that was even longer than intended.  But we got it eventually!

I guess I'm not really the Best Hypnotist in the World, no matter what she says.

Sheila had been hard at work with the bus question, directing us up to Broadway in the hopes of catching one that went all the way across to the east.  It looked like we were going to get really lucky once again, but the first bus didn't stop - an Express bus at a non-Express stop, dang it.

So we started running.  My knee was doing better after all the breaks, so we were actually running with some velocity that didn't involve limping anymore, that was nice.  Another bus blew by - another Express!  This time we were closing in on a big cross street where there was an Express stop, and the bus stopped for a couple red lights on the way so we were able to catch up.  The driver apparently had noticed us and said something like "hey you made it!"

We were now watching the clock, with a 6 pm time limit looming.  We would try to get as many of the remaining CP's as we could...

At least the trip east went quickly once we were on board the bus.  After getting off, we covered one more tic-tac-toe video by juggling peaches, although we decided later that we were probably both supposed to complete the challenge so we didn't count this as one of our 7:

Just down the hill to a parking lot where, HEY WHOA, lady's got a gun!  Ally from GUR came around a vehicle holding a pellet gun and looking like she meant business.  Sheila, I'll call you back.

We took turns shooting cans of soda, trying to knock 3 into a box behind the sawhorse.  For each shot that didn't finish the task, one of us had to run around to the front of the building to retrieve another pellet and a couple cans of soda.  John started out shooting but eventually took over the running duty so I got to try my hand with the firearm.

Neither of us was particularly good at this task, but it was entertaining and we finished eventually:

Here is our attempt at a video with "wind blowing in our hair" (what there is of it, in my case) for the tic-tac-toe:

A couple blocks away we found the Sin Bin Sports Grill where we had to do a couple quite strange things.  John searched through a pie with his face looking for an M&M while I was perched on his back.  He might have been faster, but the pie was apparently yummy so he had to eat some of it?  Just a strange photo to show for it:

Then I got into a machine that blows money bills around (fake ones, too bad) and captured between $250 and $300, I think.  I had as much time as I wanted to get it right, so that worked out OK.

John filmed it for fun:

Ah, OK, this is a checkpoint about sin, so the first part was gluttony and the second half was greed, got it!

While we were there, we worked on more of the tic-tac-toe.  The lady behind the bar was ready to sell us a couple shots of rum.  Bacardi rum, actually tasty!  John doesn't like alcohol AT ALL but he was game to try.  If you watch only one video in this post, watch this one, and stay for the ending:

Cheers!  (Another tic-tac-toe item) (and I hated leaving the beer behind but we were running out of time!):

One last one at the bar - ringing a bell:

Well, that was entertaining!

We ran over to Main Street, hopped on a bus for a couple blocks (yes, another bus happened to show up!), and got off right in front of our next CP location.  If you could remove the part in the middle of the race where we spent 25 minutes on a checkpoint we had to "bale" on, and the beginning where I couldn't run at all, the rest of our race was dang smooth.

We walked into the library, whispering loudly to each other to try to find the volunteer until he heard us and came to our rescue.  Hey, my kind of challenge!  I had to type a bunch of text without looking at the keyboard.  It went great until a bunch of symbols gave me pause and a few flubs, but our final penalty was only 2 minutes so I guess it wasn't too bad.  I liked that one.

Even better was the next one - I got to meet Victor!  He hung out on my gloved hand while John and I worked together to pick up plastic geckos scattered on the floor.  John was blindfolded and wearing long nails to make it more bird-like, while I wore some bird-ish glasses that weren't as easy to see through.  I had to direct John to locate and pick up one gecko at a time, then Victor and I would go collect it from him.  After 5 of them we were done.  I loved chatting with Victor, helping John find the geckos, and getting into a groove with this most excellent task.

Thank you Victor!  You are a very cool bird.

That was fun!

Also fun was walking out the front door to see a bus going by (yes, AGAIN), so we ran and caught it for a ride down to the train station.  We have never been this lucky with buses in an urban race before and never will be again.  My knee sincerely thanks you.

We made quick work of the logic/trivia puzzle at The Party Bazaar, even taking along a slushy to drink afterward, yum.

At the nearby Sky Train station we chatted with Sheila.  There was just enough time to get back to the finish line before the course closed.  But we had one checkpoint left - Academie Duello swordfighting!  We would have loved to go try it, but it would have put us over time for sure (for a 30-minute penalty).  Sheila told us that Kip and Dave had won, but 2nd and 3rd place still weren't certain yet.

OK, time to get back, even with the loss of one CP (30 minute penalty also).  The "Train to Main" finally showed up, we rode it back, and ran our butts off toward the finish line.  I think we passed the Finnsters on the way, but they weren't racing us.

Dave waved us in with a teddy bear to hug for one last tic-tac-toe video in case we needed it - see also some cameos as John didn't stop the video immediately:

And... 4th place!  Richard and Chris were right behind us for 5th place, with the Finnsters coming in 6th.  Missed 3rd place by 8 minutes, but any number of things (and buses) could have changed that in both directions.

Our collection of "stuff" - we got more videos than flyers this time!

Bottle of champagne along with a big check:

What a fun time with all of our friends, fellow racers, GUR staff, volunteers, everyone we met that weekend!  We miss y'all already and hope to see you again at future races!

GUR Vancouver - morning race

Last one  :(

The final Great Urban Race championships and last GUR race ever.  It has been a fun bunch of races over the past years, we will greatly miss them!

We came to Vancouver to experience as much "GUR" as possible, with the main goal of making it to the finals.  I've been nursing a gimpy knee, staying off it lately in hopes that it wouldn't slow us down too much during our run around the streets.  Technology was another challenge, paying extra $ for international phone and data service, but at least we had a whole lot more to work with compared to the Bahamas Super Dare race a few years ago.  No complaints.  Especially when we didn't have to do any social media uploads during the race, thank you for that.

Time to run around beautiful Vancouver!  We recognized a couple addresses to the south of False Creek and ran to the closest bus stop.  No bus in sight, so after a short while we decided to jump to a different street and test our luck there.  It was good!  Almost too good - John hauled butt across a park to jump on board.  I watched the bus doors close as I huffed my way toward it, hoping John could sweet-talk the driver into waiting for me.  Happily he did, and I didn't lose my racing partner in the first 5 minutes of the race.

On the bus, yay!  We passed Team Nads as the bus crossed the Granville Bridge, so it looked like an initial bus gamble had paid off.  We might have been the first team to arrive at the Reckless bike shop, where I spun a bike wheel and John worked on flicking a playing card through the spokes.  The hardest part seemed to be getting any distance on the card, but John got the hang of it soon enough.

One down!

Around the corner to a grape stomping place (I think?) where John stripped off a shoe and moved some corks from one bucket to another with his toes (hope they don't reuse the corks).  He's pretty good with his toes and knocked this one out.

Granville Island was close by with our next checkpoint - hey, we're finally doing a stand-up paddle!  We had practiced last year in Puerto Rico, only a few months later to put that training to the test.  I hung out on the dock and took pictures as Kip and I cheered on our respective teammates:

Making quick progress:

Right around another corner to the Lobster Man - looks like another challenge for John.  He was blindfolded (not sure how many layers of blindfold he's got on there) and then had to reach into a tank to pick up a crab.  I held up my end of the bargain with selfie duty for once.  Yay, we both did it!

On the way off the island, several teams noticed this "Arret" stop sign for one of the tic-tac-toe squares, nice.  I'm not certain what's so funny, surely I'm not yelling at John already...

Time for the first long run of the day.  We hooked up the tow line and hoofed it to the east.  My knee was holding up fine and we were somewhere in the vicinity of Kip/Dave, the Nads, and various other teams when we hit Solly's bagel place.  Here we had to stretch out bagel dough to pass it over our bodies while holding hands, neat!  We managed easily enough and got our photo:

A coffee bean challenge, uh oh!  Straws instead of chopsticks make all the difference, no problem.  John made it a point to capture the Nads on film behind us, hi guys!  Also, a shout-out to Andy for offering to let us go ahead when it seemed like we had lost our place in line.  No time was lost by either team, I don't think, but we greatly appreciate his concern for fairness.

And a quick shot outside the coffee shop, this time with Zack Attack in the background:

On over to Main Street where it was my turn to perform a challenge - flipping a popsicle stick around from one end to the other in my mouth.  I eventually realized that I have a tongue and managed to make it work:

Up the street to a bakery where John dropped tea bags from a balcony to try to land one in a cup on my head.  We lost a couple minutes here trying different things to get the tea bags to drop in any predictable kind of way, but eventually landed one, phew.

Now back to town!  Sheila had been wading through various public transportation options for us, deciding to send us over to Cambie St.  We were to look for a bus while running north on Cambie to the Sky Train station.  No bus, but an immediate and very fast subway awaited us at Broadway.  Soon we were back downtown and running toward...

...Button Button!  The woman running the shop was great, perfectly helpful without giving anything away.  Kip and Dave were just finishing up as we got there, then a couple minutes later we found our "button in a haystack" (spoiler alert for the afternoon race) and we were done too.

One last checkpoint, a bit of a run and we were looking for a bus because my knee was starting to talk to me.  No bus, just a little limping on over to a flower shop.  This was actually the funniest challenge of the morning, dressing your teammate up like a flower.  How does that work, you might ask?  Wrapped in cellophane, tied with a pretty red bow, and with a flower in my mouth for good measure.  Nice work, John:

Just some cellophane/ribbon disentanglement, a few blocks back to the finish line, a box of mac & cheese, and a loonie and a toonie in our pocket to close out the tic-tac-toe grid:

Good enough for 5th, amid a group of 4 teams within 4 minutes of each other for 3rd to 6th place, including Kip and Dave, the Tweedles and Taintastic.  We would be joining the Finnsters, the Nads, Cougin' It, and our friends Richard and Chris in the Elite 8 afternoon race.  Success!

Now to go figure out what to do with my knee for the next race...