Monday, May 11, 2009

Cadiz and H, you are the last team to arrive. I'm sorry to tell you that you have both been eliminated from the Race

Way back in March, Angel07 celebrated her birthday in style--Amazing Race style. She and her man, Mark, did a fantastic job thinking up challenges and putting together a very fun day for all of us.

You long-term readers know how much I love CBS's The Amazing Race. In fact there has been much talk in the comments over the years about getting teams together and how well we'd all do against one another. H and I were so convinced we'd be a perfect team that we even filmed and submitted an application video a few years ago. However when we watch it now, it's easy to see why we never got a call. Regardless, he's great with directions and I'm an excellent driver (I know everyone says that, but my dad's training and years of weaving through traffic at high speed combined with constantly having to turn around has made me quite effective under pressure).

That gorgeous afternoon--60 degrees in Mid-March!--we got to Mark's house about 30 seconds before the final check-in time. Phew! However one half of the Wonder Twins (dressed in matching green-and-white stripedy shirts and black winter vests) kept us waiting anyway; apparently there are a few exits off the highway with the same name and she had taken the wrong one.

We received a
RACE INFO packet containing maps, instructions that explained the CLUES, ROAD BLOCKS (for one team member) and DETOURS (for both team members), and a pen.

The race took place in a suburban area with which H and I had zero familiarity. Other teams knew it well, but we were confident we'd win handily anyway. We rarely miss an episode of the show and know all the pitfalls. This may have worked against us.

Mark gathered us all in his driveway and gave us the first clue which led to the big mailbox in the center of the cul-de-sac. Everybody took off running for that red-and-yellow envelope.

H and I sprinted toward the car, where we got in and opened the clue: "Make your way on FOOT..."

It was a number-to-letter puzzle. Other racers just ran to the park to sit down and figure it out, but H and I were already behind, so we solved it while we ran. Splitting the paper and doing it together was a pretty quick method.

Mark was at the first location, a children's park with picnic tables, a jungle gym and some really confused kids. We whispered the solution in Mark's ear. He gave us our next clue:

All of the envelopes, boxes and clues were clearly marked with TAR colors. These guys were not playing around.

We were the second team to get this 60-piece kids' puzzle. Apparently in our haste, we didn't see the pile of scotch tape dispensers on the other table. Only after we heard other teams using it did we get some, which really helped. But that put us in second-to-last place. On the back of the completed puzzle was the next clue:

We ran back to the car. I am much more out of shape than I thought; H got to the car while I caught my breath and picked me up on our way to Wendy's, where we got our first DETOUR, "Eat it or Play it."

In "Eat it" each team member had to gulp down a small Wendy's Frosty. That was out because H has lactose issues. "Play it" was a simplified game of war, conducted by A07 and the Kind Dentist. We got very lucky and won right away, putting ourselves ahead of several teams who were already there. A07 handed us the next clue:

We took off to the train station. The thing that sucks about scavenger hunts and the like is that the first team to get there wastes a bunch of time determining the exact location while subsequent teams just look for the cars and follow.

No matter, I had Eagle Eye H with me, who found a plastic Easter egg right away.

Luckily ours had keys in it; decoy eggs contained paper clips.

The next clue was in an out-of-the-way-place. Next to the station was the stadium for a local minor-league baseball team. There were several lots, which were pretty much empty, but spot #15 was off to the side. We had learned our lesson about showing other people the way and parked out of sight. There was a yellow-and-red box under a spruce tree that contained the next clue, a ROADBLOCK, and Mark was chilling on a lawn chair behind the tree.

H has definitely seen more American movies than I have, so he did the challenge. But they were tricky questions, such as "Which singer/songwriter composed the music for Princess Bride and Wag the Dog?" another neither of us can remember, and the one H got correct, "Name the actors who played the aliens in Earth Girls Are Easy," even though he hasn't seen the film. Mark gave us the next clue, which ended up being the root of our demise:

"Keep your eyes open for the "light" at the end of the tunnel."

I mentioned that there were several parking lots at the Flyers' stadium, right? Some of them were cordoned off; more specifically the west-end lots were chained off. We headed to the west pell-mell and spent an UNGODLY amount of time driving/walking around lots that happened to be situated near an overpass, under which we could see the sun setting. I guess we overinterpreted the clue and were looking at the outside edge of the lots and near drainage pipes that could have been "tunnels." This took forever because we had to park the car and search on foot.

Unable to find the clue, we drove around again in a panic and almost hit an SUV coming around the corner who probably didn't expect anyone to be there. When we finally stumbled onto the next clue, it was (of course) at the first place we had stopped--and apparently walked right past somehow. A small plastic treasure box sitting at the base of the lightposts in the middle of the parking lot. There were several left, so we knew we were among the first to find it (this clue threw off a bunch of teams). We used the keys from the Easter egg to open it and get the next clue:

We headed back to Mark's house for what would be our final test. We were hot on the heels of the Wonder Twins, who at the last second changed from the left-hand turning lane to the right and took the other direction on the highway back to Mark's place. We continued to the left and went in what was the WRONG direction. This proved to be a big mistake, because traffic was building and we had to go all the way around before nearing the house.

When we did get there, we discovered the Wonder Twins arrived about 15 minutes before us and ultimately took first place. A few other teams had also finished the last challenge--a ROADBLOCK that I would do. However, pp and her boyfriend were still out there, so it wasn't over yet. My task? Match the country with its flag, a challenge often featured on the television program to see if racers could remember where they had been. This proved to be more difficult than I had imagined, especially because the last time I'd looked at an Almanac list of flags was probably in 1998. And there were eight more flags than spaces, some with only slight changes (like two for New Zealand with different-colored stars).

Kind Dentist was holding the answer key and telling us how many we each had wrong. I was hung up on Croatia, Kenya and Egypt. I should have changed them one at a time, strategically. D'Oh! As you can see, I had New Zealand (wrong-colored stars), Poland (the red is on the bottom), Belarus (not even close), England (much different than the U.K. flag) and Croatia (that's actually the Belarus flag) incorrect.

We came in last. It was a humbling moment for H and I, who thought we had this race in the bag. When I asked the Wonder Twin who completed that last challenge, I realized I never had a chance; she had been playing some sort of Facebook flag application game and locked it down in a matter of seconds. Who says Facebook is just a time waster?

Later we heard that two teams bypassed certain challenges altogether and just followed other teams. So technically we came in third to last. But it was a great experience. All that running around, navigating unfamiliar territory, putting our heads and hands together (however four adult hands are too many with a puzzle that small), there were plenty of opportunities to yell, but we kept cool and worked together despite the frustration. Which was comforting. Plus, we were able to redeem ourselves later with a couple rounds of Taboo.

One thing's for sure, though. I will never again look at Amazing Race
contestants with disdain. Luck plays a much bigger part than I thought, and it's way more challenging than it looks on tv.


SupaCoo said...

oh my god, that is the COOLEST THING EVER!! I love that show, and I lvoe this idea!

Also, I'm not judging or anything (ever notice how when someone says that they are TOTALLY getting ready to judge?) but don't you think you could have finished faster if you hadn't taken all the pictures? SECONDS COUNT HERE!

Lia said...

How fun! I think you should have gotten some kind of handicap, not knowing the local area and traffic. Hang on; recalculating . . . Cadiz and H come in first!

Anonymous said...

Wow, what an adventure. I got tired just reading about it.

Librarian Girl said...

I am so stealing this idea for a party some day. Although it does sound like a ton of work to set up.

omar said...

I've never seen the show before in my life, but this does sound like fun!

Madelyn said...

I've never seen the show either, and while i wouldn't want to play, i would love to make all the clues!

cadiz12 said...

Supacoo: it WAS really flipping awesome. again, mad props to A07 and Mark. Thanks for the reconsideration, but the only pic taken during the game was that last, most fuzzy one. The rest I had to reconstruct later from the detritus strewn about my backseat.

Lia: I know! But we were cocky, and cocky people sometimes need to come in last.

Anon: I got tired running for the first clue! Since then I've upped my trips to the gym.

Librarian Girl: Your party guests will adore you. They had some sweet prizes, too. (gift certificates, i think.)

Omar: We have been over this for the last three years. I don't know what else I can say to recommend the show to you. I have done all I can.

Madelyn: From what I've seen of your handiwork, you would be an EXCELLENT clue-maker. If you set up a game, can we get in on it?

Anonymous said...

That sounds like SO much fun! I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the Amazing Race! We may have to break up with Omar for not watching it - what's up with that? :)

sarahmk said...

That last post was me. Apparently, the identity thingy is smarter than I am!


Angel07 said...

All late about commenting, but so happy you kept (and documented) the clues!! You are too cute!!!
So glad you all had fun!

There is a Great Urban Race coming to Chicago! I think Mark and I might do it! Let me know if you and H might be interested!

Cool Cat said...

so i missed it but it was fun to experience it through your retelling!