On Saturday, Debbie and I did the Great Urban Race. It’s an adventure race / scavenger hunt that’s held in cities around the country, and this was the first year they’d done one in Houston. Despite the fact that it occupied my entire Saturday, and the race experienced a few “first race” issues when they had twice as many teams as they’d expected, it was a lot of fun.
We had twelve checkpoints — figuring out where they were required puzzle-solving and Google-searching skills (phones and laptops were allowed, and calling people was also fair game) — and were allowed to skip one. We started at Lucky’s Pub just a couple blocks from Minute Maid Park, and ended up running through downtown and all the way to Montrose when all was said and done.
Debbie named our team the Lollipop Lobsters, and she invented lobster costumes for us to wear. Our extra arms turned out looking more like sausages, but oh well. One of the clues had nine things to take a photo of, and we needed any 3 in a tic-tac-toe pattern. The first one we got was both of us with a stranger wearing a cowboy hat. Since there was a gun show going on at the convention center, this was quite easy to find.
Another of the tic-tac-toe options was to take a photo of us with 5 strangers in front of a fountain. This one was right in the middle of Discovery Green, and there were tons of people around so it was easy to find some enthusiastic strangers. Being dressed in our ridiculous lobster getup didn’t hurt either.
The first couple checkpoints we attacked were downtown. (We weren’t required to do the checkpoints in any certain order, but could determine ourselves how we wanted to proceed.) The clue for this was to take a photo of both teammates touching the statue at a given set of coordinates, which turned out to the Joan Miro statue in front of the Chase building at the corner of Milam and Capitol.
We also had to take a picture of us in front of the clock on the corner of Main and Texas. The catch was that we had to be within a minute of 20 minute increments (i.e. 1:00, 1:20, 1:40, 2:00, etc). Fortunately we timed things well.
From there, we hopped on the Metro and rode along for a few stops until right after we’d passed under I-45. Public transportation was allowed and encouraged! A few blocks from the stop was the Nouveau Antique Art Bar, where we had to take a picture of ourselves in front of the mural on the wall. We then ran over to “the best place to watch hockey in Houston,” which turned out to be the Maple Leaf Pub on Elgin, where we had to get a ping pong ball into a cup a la beer pong. There was one more checkpoint in this area that we skipped — it would have required one of us to eat a habanero pepper, and neither of us wanted to do that!
Then we had to head out Westheimer. We kept looking for the bus to come by so we could hop on, but it never did. The winning teams did indeed take the bus, so I guess we were just unlucky. No bus meant we had to go on foot, which added about 3 miles to our path. We did it anyway. One stop was in front of this mural at the Leopard Lounge, another was at the Aurora Picture Show, and a third was at Cherryhurst Park where we had to do an obstacle course.
We had no luck with buses on the way back either, so we had to go all the way back to the Metro stop and ride a few stops back into downtown. We ran over to the Houston Public Library and made origami. I have to say, we totally ROCKED the origami challenge. We were in and out of there in about 5 minutes, and it sounded like other teams had been there for a lot longer than that.
Our final stop was “the Travis location of the restaurant founded by Tom & James Papadakis,” where we had to take a photo of one teammate feeding the other teammate a cookie. The restaurant turned out to be James Coney Island. (Thanks to Jose for Googling that one for us as our “phone-a-friend!”)
We passed back through Discovery Green on our way to the finish line, where we stopped to get a photo of Debbie shaking a dog’s paw to complete our tic-tac-toe. We’d had to change direction halfway through the race after failing to find a restaurant with a to-go menu with an eggroll on it — it was amazing to us that we couldn’t find a single Chinese restaurant with egg rolls. Oh, there were spring rolls galore, but no egg rolls!
We finished back at the pub, where we think we were in the middle of the pack. We’ll know for sure when they post results later this week. We hung around for the awards and costume contest, but sadly we didn’t even make the finals. There were a lot of people in great costumes, and since the voting was done by applause, the guys who won were the guys who had the most friends there, pretty much. They were entertaining though.
I mapped something close to our path this morning, and found that we covered around 10 miles. About 2.5 of that was on the Metro, which means we ended up covering somewhere between 7-8 miles on foot. I didn’t realize it had been that far, but that explains why I was so tired that night!!