Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Time for the Big Dance! The crazy, fun, always full of surprises, entertaining, tough, interesting urban racing national championships!

We traveled to New Orleans for the Great Urban Race semifinals and finals races last weekend, and as always, GUR put on a top quality race that we will be talking about for years to come. And it's always the most fun when we spend the weekend with our urban racing buddies. Y'all rock!

Some of our friends at the start - Darin in the Twisted X jersey, Spencer taking a photo, and Dave listening intently to the announcements while John preps his gear:

Kip wrote an awesome race report, complete with pictures of the clue sheets, if you want to see that at

Right before 9 a.m. we collected a clue envelope and waited for the "GO!" signal before ripping it open to see what was in store for us on this beautiful Louisiana morning. Hmm, the charity drop-off up north on Canal Street is an obvious initial destination. Nothing else stood out, so we jogged out to Canal Street to look for a trolley and discuss for a minute.

No trolley, but no other obvious plan of action, so we started north. John astutely noticed the center square of the tic-tac-toe could be obtained in a nearby cemetery (and maybe we'd get lucky with a trolley after that). So we sped over to find an above-ground tomb showing a birth date prior to 1900. This may require a zoom to see the date:

We ran back to Canal Street and greeted Jim and Darin who also appeared to have the same idea about the cemetery, hi guys! No trolley - wait, there's one WAY back there. We decided not to wait and took off running instead. It never got close behind us, but John kept an eye out while we ran.

It was fun greeting a couple other teams along the way. The first checkpoint - Chickie Wah Wah! (too funny) - was mostly empty when we arrived to learn that we needed to wait in line for a dance lesson. While we waited, we hunted around for the specific slogan ("This is not that kind of place") for this picture:

Other teams arrived, and the volunteers set us up as a group on the dance floor. We got a lesson in some kind of swing dance (maybe?), then they started timing us for 3 minutes of dancing. We seemed to get better at it, but I guess that wasn't really the point - after 3 minutes they let us go.

Right as we got out the door I realized that we also needed a flyer (I may have heard the team behind me talking about it, not sure), so I ran back in to grab one from the table. Several different flyers were sitting there in piles, and I'm not even sure how they verified that each team completed the dancing task once a crowd started gathering. Mostly I was just in a hurry, so I grabbed one with the restaurant name on it, and we took off again.

No trolley. Well, except the one we could see up ahead of us but couldn't catch. We ran further north on Canal to Jefferson Davis Parkway. Sheila told us there was one CP in each direction, so John picked a right-hand turn and we ran over to the beer garden while I checked the clue sheet. Geez, why are we getting to a BEER checkpoint before Jim, Darin, and Robyn? That didn't seem like great planning on our part :)

On the other hand, the challenge wasn't about the beer, per se. It was about unscrambling a whole bunch of letters to make 8 different names of local Abita beers. At least we were given the 8 starting letters. But all the rest of the letters were scrambled all together, not one line at a time. I read the letters in to Sheila and we got to work on the research, Sheila online and us at the nearby beer cooler reading off possible beer names.

Several seemed pretty obvious (Jockamo, Purple Haze, Turbodog) and we liked Andygator for one of the A's. Vanilla looked good for the V. But then we started getting stuck. While working through the remaining letters, we took a minute to locate the poster for our photo at this location:

Jim and Darin (aka Brew Masters) showed up, and later we also saw Kip and Dave. A huge crowd of confused teams was gathering. People were making guesses, so I tried a couple too. The volunteer with the answers gave no hint of what was right or wrong. Someone (Jim/Darin or someone on the crew) came up with SOS for the S, which was a good guess. "Light" was also a guess, for the L. We had a second "A" left, maybe Amber or Abbey Ale. But we had a bunch of letters that didn't seem to help - something with gold or good or lager? They weren't making this easy.

We knew we were losing all kinds of time, and we were bummed to be so close (at least we thought we were) and not able to figure it out. Finally we cut our losses and left. Maybe the crew would come up with something while we were still in the area.

We ran across Canal St to the other Jeff Davis checkpoint at a tattoo place for a picture with Bruce Willis (hope this wasn't one of our friends from 2009):

I volunteered to get the temporary tattoo, so I went to the side room where a very nice and efficient (thank you!) man applied this to my arm:

Trying to read the clue sheet with the other hand didn't work too well, so I had to call John back for a little help. Soon we were done and out the door. Much better, finally a fast checkpoint!

We ran back to Canal Street and a few blocks north to the Walgreens for the charity drop-off. As we approached it, we saw a trolley heading the other way back toward downtown. Bummer, we were not hitting the trolleys at all that morning.

Just then Sheila came on the line to tell us that the beer checkpoint was solved! Jim and Darin had cracked the code! Well done, y'all! We had been missing "Vanilla Doubledog", a special edition beer that wasn't prominent anywhere we all were looking. Wow.

Jim and Darin were on their way up to Walgreens as we ran back to the beer garden. Thanks y'all! We ran in and got our stamp (the volunteer was still really coy about it until he FINALLY gave the OK). Done with the northern CP's, only wasted, hmm, maybe an hour on that? Not something we expected to recover from, but we had to focus and get through the rest of the course before we could consider the consequences.

Time to move! And hey, there was actually a trolley a ways up the street, coming our way for once. We waited for this one and started mapping the rest of the points. It was nice to finally catch a break, and we were happy to wait to get on board. We talked about skip options and which order to get the rest of the points. Carrying a balloon around the remainder of the course seemed like something we might save for the end :)

Back downtown, we jumped off the trolley to get running again. John led the way over to Tchoupitoulas Street and we paused briefly to get our picture with a street sign that contains at least 13 letters (tic-tac-toe square):

Not far from there we found M's Cafe where we had to answer questions about the New Orleans Saints. Not too hard. And fun to find out that their mascot is a Saint Bernard.

A couple blocks away was Lucy's Retired Surfers Restaurant (funny!) where there were tables set up outside for our next challenge. We had to "flip" a plastic monkey and a plastic mermaid into a glass, using little plastic surfboards. The volunteers were great with getting us set up and explaining the task, and soon we were off and flipping.

Amazingly, I was the first to score. The monkey was apparently easier to predict than the mermaid that John was working with (although that didn't stop me from flinging monkeys all over the table and the street in the process). Eventually he flipped a mermaid into the glass, so we gathered up the whole kit and kabboodle - monkey, mermaid, surfboards, flyer - and we were on our way.

Continuing down Tchoupitoulas, we found the Preservation Resource Center for CP11. While waiting our turn to do the challenge, a volunteer led us over to this pretty dollhouse for our photo:

We watched the teams ahead of us doing a balance pose, and jumped right into it, but the volunteer made us start from the beginning. Joining us was another team from the dancing challenge - hey, I know you! Hopefully I didn't step on his feet this time around. The volunteer was all calm and slow-like and "Hi, my name is Alex, and I will be your yoga instructor today". I was all in a hurry-like and "That's-great-I-love-yoga-let's-get-this-show-on-the-ROAD-ALREADY!"

He guided us through a couple trust balance poses which were actually pretty cool (and only slightly harder being sweaty), and finally we were done.

We took off to cross Magazine Street, didn't see a bus anywhere, so we ran up to St Charles to try our luck with the other trolley.

Nope, still no luck. Time to run again! We ran along the trolley line for a ways until it was time to turn off toward the Magnolia Mansion where we were handed umbrellas and beads (?) and a flyer and were told to pose for a photo:

We worked on stashing everything as John led the way back to St Charles. We decided we were skipping the checkpoint on Magazine - which turned out to be Juan's Flying Burrito, my pre-race CP guess. I never guess right! At least we didn't miss a free Chipotle burrito AGAIN. Someday we'll get us one of those...

Anyway... hey, there's a trolley that is actually going our way! Run, John, run! He did catch it and we jumped on for a nice breather. Another bit of trolley luck, and we'll take it.

After a few blocks we got off to run over to New Orleans Party and Costume. We were making a Mardi Gras mask, cool! "If crafted carefully, it could last until Mardi Gras" - yeah right! We smeared on the clue, dunked it in sequins, piled on 10 feathers, and sprinkled on the glitter - done! Good thing I didn't have to wear this to the finish line.

The volunteer offered to pop the balloon for us to carry (thanks!) but he only managed a small hole for a tiny leak. Once we got outside, John took care of that right quick, and the loud "Bang" scared a lady next to us - sorry 'bout that!

We ran up Camp Street and over to the House of Blues on Decatur for our Carnival Krewe trivia game. I managed a couple of small errors but we eventually got our stamp and then this photo:

We ran right quick to the finish line to find some friends (old and new) with 4 musical instruments...

...and a couple of Cafe du Monde hats for us :)

Word was that there was still a spot or two open for the Elite Eight. This was pretty amazing news, apparently many people also got very stuck on the beer unscramble. So we went to dump all of our stuff on the check-in table to get a verdict.

And the verdict was ... we were missing a flyer. Remember way back at the first checkpoint with the dancing where I almost didn't grab a flyer? Well, I was supposed to get TWO of them, one for the location and one for the activity (the Jitterbugs folks). And just like that, our day was done.

Well, that was pretty sad. Not much more you can say about that.

On the (very) bright side, 3 other Austin mob teams made the finals, we got to help in the afternoon, and Kip and Dave won the whole darn thing! Now THAT'S an amazing way to wrap up a weekend!

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