Saturday, October 1, 2011

Philly GUR / DC Solar Decathlon

Urban racing fun! In a city we had not even been to before (well, except the airport). We weren't sure how this was going to go, but we were excited to find out.

We got our clue sheets and decided to start with the charity drop-off for Ronald McDonald House. This was at a CVS on Fairmount Avenue, and the subway seemed like a good option for getting us part of the way there. We ran over the Spring Garden station and shared the platform with a few other teams and a bunch of noise from the expressway. At least we could kind of talk with Sheila there - once the train came and we went underground, we were cut off for a few minutes.

We scanned the clue sheet for other ideas, and I just happened to be looking at the tic-tac-toe board when a couple ladies boarded the subway. "Take one picture of all teammates with two strangers holding four visible shopping bags" Hey John, get out the camera!

We got off the subway and headed up the stairs to reconnect with Sheila. We had also spotted a checkpoint at Logan Square, so we ran there since it was on the way north. We had to find the flag for Cameroon and act out the sport that their team "Les Lions Indomptables" play. There weren't any obvious flags flying, but John found the country's sign and we got this pose (bonus points for figuring out the sport):

We briefly tried to find the Franklin Institute on 20th Street, but couldn't quite figure out the address on the run, so we returned to 19th Street to the Rose Tattoo Cafe for CP 6. Another team was already there, but apparently the race volunteer was not (oops!). The guy in the cafe explained this to us, handed us a menu, and we took turns with the other team taking each other's photo to prove we had been there:

We decided to leave the Franklin Institute for the way back, and instead ran north to Fairmount and a little west to Philly Flavors. Inside we found volunteers holding up giant posters with 2 similar photographs. We had to find the 3 differences between the pictures. After a couple minutes we had them all and a race stamp on our clue sheet.

A couple short blocks away was CP 10 - Mugshots Coffeehouse. They had a "Wanted" poster posted that we had to pose in front of. A GUR volunteer volunteered to take our picture, so we handed the camera over for this shot (John's better - much better - at the spur-of-the-moment poses):

As we continued down Fairmount, a team ahead of us was taking an unexpected picture at Zorba's... what is that? We try not to ignore potentially useful information, and luckily John figured out that they were getting a photo with 2 guys with mustaches - part of the tic-tac-toe checkpoint. John asked if that would help us, so I checked the grid - heck yeah!

The two men were happy (well, at least one appears to be happy) to have another intrusion on their break, and someone else offered to take our picture:

We continued a short distance to the CVS for the charity drop-off and collected a flyer in return.

While John tried a couple places for "a piece of fruit that is not a banana" (the final square that would give us a completed row on the tic-tac-toe), I chatted with Sheila about our next checkpoints and the map. We were psyched to have the tic-tac-toe done so we could skip a different checkpoint, and she had one already in mind for that.

John ran out of a market with a plum - nice one! - and we started running south and east back toward the Franklin Institute. This time we needed to find it. Eventually we spotted a huge building across the street, and just to be sure I asked the cop who was directing traffic. Yes, silly tourist, that's the Franklin Institute. With the hugest statue of Ben himself:

Our next set of checkpoints was located a few blocks southeast, far enough that Sheila was checking on bus options for us. She suggested if we ran south to Market, we might find a bus going east. So we ran south, and HEY there's a bus! Good call, Sheila. John was still trying to find Locust Street on his map, so I had to ask the bus driver if he would wait for John to dash across the street and jump on board. The driver didn't seem to mind. Although John's enthusiastic "jump on board" resulted in him sliding and falling over, so the driver probably had second thoughts about that decision to wait.

John was fine, and we made our way to the back of the bus to work on checkpoint locations with Sheila. A few minutes later we looked up to see that we hadn't passed City Hall yet, and the bus was stopped in a long line of traffic. It was an easy decision to jump off and run. At least we had gotten a brief break out of the deal.

We ran several blocks to "More Than Just Ice Cream", where we picked up some sweet, sweet apple pie (I think? Well, whatever it was, it was good!) We got a shot of one teammate feeding it to the other (required), then I got to eat part of it (optional) and I also dropped the other third on the floor (drat!).

We exited the ice cream place and John started down an alley. We popped out on 12th Street immediately across from the yoga place that was checkpoint 11, although it took a minute to see that we had done so. Our back-and-forth searching probably looked pretty funny to the ladies watching from inside.

Once we found the place, we went inside to learn that we needed to take our shoes off for a yoga lesson. Awesome, I have always wanted to do yoga as part of an urban race! Now if we could just score a free Chipotle burrito someday, my urban race goal list will be complete...

The yoga lesson consisted of one sun salutation, which was quick and fun, especially with socks on a slippery floor, and I enjoyed it so much I managed to mess it up, but the instructor didn't seem to mind. We got a flyer with a free yoga class coupon - if anyone from Philly wants it, I'll send it to you.

We headed east a short distance towards CP 7. We had a slight communication snafu where Sheila suggested one street and John took a different one, then we thought we were supposed to turn left on 10th Street when we were actually supposed to go right... my info-relaying skills weren't working too well. But we eventually found the fitness place.

The cluesheet didn't mention a challenge here, but it didn't surprise us that we needed to go through a workout routine. We did some jumping jacks and some kind of "tall, small, flat, small, tall" thing that is really impossible to explain without pictures, then a hula-hoop twirl. That didn't work with a waist pack, but they let me twirl it around my arm, cool. For our last trick, we had the choice between a plank for 30 seconds or a handstand against a wall. A handstand, yeah right! Even John knew better than to try that.

Then we were outta there with a bottle of Fuze (John drank it) and our coupons for a free class. You can have those coupons too, although I'd do the yoga instead, personally.

One more checkpoint! We made our way toward 3rd Street just north of Market, dodging cars and pedestrians. We even made opposing decisions about which direction to head at one intersection and ran smack into each other. That's a first!

We also hit the Independence Hall area square-on, which John realized was a mistake since there were so many people. But we were there, so we took advantage of a cross-country diagonal across the lawn. That almost turned into a disaster, as we passed a family and I swerved to avoid a kid. Suddenly a second child swung around a pole right into my path! I managed to get by with only a slight bump, but I apologized as profusely as I could to the parents. The idea of knocking a kid over scares me.

We made it to the vintage clothing store without further child-collision incidences. There we found 3 outfits in the window, and we had to determine which decade each one belonged to. Oooh, this just got interesting. I told Sheila we might need her help - if you know me at all, if you've even met me once, you know that fashion and looks are the last thing I worry about.

We picked out the 70's outfit immediately, and it was so obvious that I can't even remember what it was. Maybe watching all three Austin Powers movies recently helped. The next one had a skirt that looked like it should have a poodle on it, and Sheila confirmed that the 50's would be the right decade for that.

This left a rather ambiguous (to us) pink dress with lace over (maybe) satin, plus a skinny, straight, shiny purple tie. Ugh. We were stuck trying to fit it into the 20's or 30's, which didn't match anything Sheila was coming up with back in the early 1900's.

Well, we decided to try "20's" and that was not correct (although the 70's and 50's were right). We had one more chance, and if we didn't get it, that was it - yikes!

Slightly desperate, we headed inside the store to look around. John had an amazing idea to ask some women who were shopping in the store if they wouldn't mind helping us? Sure, they would love to! After a brief conversation with the woman working there about how actually it was OK to get help (she wasn't going to help us, but that didn't mean strangers couldn't), John took the women outside for a look at the dress. Immediately one of them declared it was from the 80's. Wow, she sounded really certain.

I went to look again, while Sheila mentioned that skinny ties had made a comeback in the 80's. Suddenly I could picture Molly Ringwald wearing this outfit. It finally made sense. It still took me a moment of hesitation before writing it down - what if we were wrong?? - but I finally did. We were right! We were so excited!

Wow, that was CRAZY.

Time to book it to the finish. Sheila had been talking about the subway, but John was already on his way out to Columbus Street. Let's get there!

We ran it in, surprising the race folks with our arrival. That's usually a good sign. Sure enough, we were the first ones back. We piled all of our various pamphlets and papers onto the table and showed our photos - they were good - good enough for 1st place :)

What a collection:

What an awesome race! GUR is so much fun. Top local racers Ed and Nick finished not long after, and team Holy Cow came in third - in costume! Wow! Kudos to these ladies:

Messing around before the awards ceremony:

We had a couple hours so we used our spare subway tokens to go back to town to look around a little more. The Liberty Bell (the original one) behind glass:

An amazing display at the Reading Market (awesome place):

After the GUR awards and costume contest, we drove down to DC to see our friends Kathy and Bob (yay!). It was a quick visit but always a joy to see them.

We spent Sunday wandering around the Solar Decathlon near the Jefferson Memorial:

Fun and interesting houses! It's a competition among college teams, and the entries were amazing and varied. We really liked this one from California:

Also the Canadian house with a native American theme:

This one uses recycled shipping containers:

The New Zealand tour was great fun - always enjoy listening to Kiwi accents. They also had a great light fixture over the dining room table:

I got back home via car, bus, train (transfer in NYC - grab a slice of pizza!), and car. Phew! What a great weekend! I needed a couple days to recuperate after that... and now I'm caught up on the blog posts! Catch ya later!

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