Amazing race

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Laura and I had a ton of fun yesterday running Chicago's 2009 Urban Dare race. Urban Dare is a scavenger hunt that takes you all over your city to solve trivia puzzles, collect photographs, and complete a few dares. You're only allowed to travel by foot or on public transportation. You need a phone, a digital camera, and a PDA with internet access—preferably all in one.

Annotated Urban Dare clue sheet We started at noon in Oz Park. A trivia question got things underway. Every two-person team was directed to stand in a certain group depending on their answer to a multiple-choice question: In what year did Chicago's Playboy magazine publish its first issue? Since I, ahem, knew the answer was 1953 (come on, Marilyn Monroe was Miss December), Laura and I were in the first group to get our clue sheets and get started on the race.

We took our clue sheet to a nearby Orange Julius/Dairy Queen combo to have some ice cream and decipher our clues. We had to hit 11 stations throughout the city. For each clue we had to figure out where we were supposed to go, and what the best order would be for hitting them all. Once we had the locations plotted, we decided to tackle them from north to south.

Urban Dare Challenge #7 It probably would have been smartest to just hope we would be able to pick up #7 (photo of a Cubs and Twins fan together) somewhere along the way, but we decided to ride up toward Wrigley Field first of all. As it turned out, we found our victims the moment we stepped onto the train. That let us head back to our next challenge without traveling all the way to Wrigley.

So we took a combination of buses, trains, and shank's mare all the way from Belmont on the north to Balbo on the south. Along the way we scarfed down eight buffalo wings at a sports bar, tossed beanbags into targets at the Benito Juarez sculpture, assumed the upward bow yoga position, and hobbled around a plaza in a three-legged duo. We bothered passersby to take our pictures all along the route, including a befuddled tourist from Manchester who seemed a little embarrassed to admit that he was enjoying the unseasonably cold and cloudy June weather.

Urban Dare passport with stamps At every manned station, at least early on, we asked the race personnel how many teams had beaten us there. We didn't have any delusions that we'd come in first, so we had agreed that we'd take it easy and just have fun. By the time we were staggering up to our final challenge station, though, we were sure we were going to place right down at the bottom of the standings, which didn't sit so well with us.

Miracle of miracles, though, when we made it back to our finish line at Kendall's Bar and turned in our passport and photos, we found ourselves with an unofficial place of 20th out of about 60 teams. Not bad! And a fine excuse to indulge in a victory beer.

Urban Dare hits a lot of big cities around the country over the course of the year. If they come to yours, there are plenty worse ways to spend a Saturday! And if you run Chicago's race next year, you'd better look out because we're going to kick your asses.

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William Shunn

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This page contains a single entry by William Shunn published on June 14, 2009 12:16 PM.

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