Alana, Abny, Jordan and Ed Win the August 2007 Philly Ravenchase Adventure!

Alana, Ed, Abny and Jordan with the Golden Penn's Pen

I stumbled upon Ravenchase when glancing at the adventure activities in the City Paper (this was for their July 7th event). Couldn't make that one, but vowed to sign up for the next one, which turned out to be "The Quest for Penn's Pen" on August 18th. I enlisted my trusty Urban Dare partner Jordan, who brought in Abny and Alana to make a team of four (the team sizes appear to go from one to many). We were sent this clue a few days beforehand and preceded to get totally stumped trying to solve it:

Starting Clue Sheet

Although we found most of the hidden words, we did not find "utilize" which would have been a big help (being a verb!) and never noticed that "REVE" and "NGEI" anagram to "Vigenere" which is a cipher code that I had read about (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vigenere_cipher) to learn how it works... and to get your own free solution sheet for future use!). So, the night before the start I emailed the organizers and after some vaguely helpful clues finally received the "use the Vigenere cipher." I even found an online automated program that delivered the answer "start at Penns Landing by Ships of Delaware Sign." I was seriously hoping that the event would not include solving lots of obscure codes!

Below is an image from the famous Rassilon with the solution to the puzzle.

Solution to Starting Clue

Saturday was a gorgeous day. I had to work the morning, but got off in time to meet with Abny, Jordan and Alana at the start. There were two other teams there (Rassilon (Geoffrey G. Wynkoop) and Team Pink (well, they had a longer name, but I can remember it - there were six of them in coordinated pink shirts) and one on its way (Team Jersey - 2 people). We were each given a small gold coin that got us a free drink at the end - provided we got there. Robert and Kristine, who organized the event, briefly explained the directions and then handed us our first puzzle. The starting challenge consisted of a scroll and a gift basket with a dollar, two quarters and a penny in it. The scroll said that we had to tell Kristine (the starter) how many heads were on the dollar bill - that information was determined by matching the flags listed on the sheet with their corresponding letters (the sign was a few yards away from the start). Sad to say, I won't tell you the answer, but after some hints and more careful observation, we got the solution on our last try. We were off!

Kristine gave us the trusty Ravenchase carefully aged, ripped and water stained treasure map, which showed the five known locations that we would be visiting (Fireman's Museum, Betsy Ross House (for some reason marked as Atwater Kent Park), the Tamanend statue, Welcome Park and the Vietnam Memorial), plus three clue sheets. For some unknown reason I was convinced that the five paragraphs on the Clue 1 sheet referred to the five locations, and that the five paragraphs on Clue 2 sheet referred to five hidden locations... or something like that. So, somehow we concluded that we could go to any location and start there. Of course, choosing the Vietnam Memorial took us in the exact wrong direction and left us all alone. We spent a bit of time wandering around there when it finally dawned on us that Clue 1 - the whole clue - referred to one location and Clue 2 another. And those happened to be the Fireman's Museum and Betsy Ross House. And so we were off again!

Portion of Our Map

As we trekked back to the correct place, we spotted Robert walking towards us, and then turning up a side street. I joked that he was on his way to the memorial to place the big gold coin (there is one on the course and it gives you a 20-minute bonus if your team finds it) at the memorial. Alas, I was right. As we passed the Tamanend statue, I pointed it out to the team, and that's when we spotted another scroll under the trash can. It was for Clue 5 - the Vietnam Memorial - meaning we had a leg up (inadvertently) on everyone else. I was sure we were in dead last. We looked at the sheet and it mentioned needing the penny and a password, so we knew the penny was important.

When we arrived at Fireman's Hall, the Jersey Team was there looking around. The museum was closed, so we figured the clue was somewhere around the building. We were wrong. A few minutes later the Jersey Team was talking on the phone, but then they moved off. At that moment Team Pink and Rassilon showed up (from the Betsy Ross house) and began looking around. Since Robert had mentioned that the clues could be 2-300 yards away I figured we should be looking up side streets. As Jordan and I trekked up one of them, Abny waved us back. It turned out that the museum was supposed to be open and Team Pink was getting the answer (since we couldn't see it), and then giving it to Rassilon and us. We could have saved about 10 minutes if the Jersey Team had alerted us, but karma would catch up with them later.

Once you put the phrase into the grid on Clue sheet 1, you used the numbers listed on the page (so 49 is the letter in row 4, column 9) to spell out "go to Elfriths court and under two stars a gem." I knew that the stars were the covers on the wall hiding the bolts that ran through the house to keep the walls from falling off - a common Colonial practice to keep the houses up (but did Franklin also invent this?).

Clue Sheet 1

We actually deciphered this later, so our next stop was the Betsy Ross house to solve Clue 2. Just as we entered I spied the Jersey Team leaving - we were picking up time! We knew we had to go inside the house and find a tool. Of course we waited to decode the rest of the poem and marched inside. I was looking for something special while the rest of the team was scouring the tables (we were in the gift shop). I figured we did not need to go into the museum part of the house. That's when (I believe) Alana spied the penny-stamping machine. Of course! We had 51 cents, exactly the right amount to stamp the penny. A big breakthrough and a really neat idea. Since the first part of the clue described the flag I thought we should use that one (plus it had just been stamped and the Jersey Team had just left without covering their tracks well). Apparently some teams were not so confident and got all four styles (for an extra $1.53). We then decoded the rest of the poem, which told us to use the quarters to stamp the penny. Our intuition was faster than our puzzle solving skills!

Clue Sheet 2

We hit Elfreth's Alley (note correct spelling) and quickly deduced that the destination - probably Clue 4 - was down the side alley (Bladen's Court). There it was behind a tree. We spent a few extra seconds searching for the coin - I figured we were still dead last and someone had found it already... but just in case. Leaving the alley we moved quickly to Clue 3 - Welcome Park. This clue had a big word search that unscrambled as "if you wish to conquer this clue you must find the answer to this question in Welcome Park what was penns wife name?" Reading the timeline showed that Penn had two wives... but only one actually lived there (at the Slate House): Callowhill. There were 10 letters left in the square that I swore were a clue (they were not), but we didn't spend much time on it.

Clue Sheet 3

The next Clue (4) was at the Tamanend Statue and it was some number-letter substitution puzzle. Jordan argued (correctly) that the clue there probably told us to find the scroll for Clue 5 - which we already had. We knew that Clue 5 said we needed a password (which we just got) and a penny (obviously the stamped one), so we were good to go to the Vietnam Memorial for the final instruction. I was concerned that the riddle might tell us something else and that we needed to go there. Conventionality won out and we went to the statue, though in hindsight it was obvious we should have went to the memorial.

When we got to the statue the Jersey Team was hard at work on the puzzle. I noticed the sequence 3,2,2 at the start and 2,3,3 at the end of the puzzle. The instructions indicated a one number to letter substitution, based on the treaty quote on the statue. I bet the first word was "look" and the last "scroll" with 3 as l and 2 as o. And lo and behold the first three letters of the quote was "t,o,l." That confirmed our suspicion, but I still wanted to get a few more letters to make sure. The rest went ahead, while I got the first 10 letters - everything matched to make "look to where Tamanend points and get a scroll." Another great puzzle! I left the Jersey Team still working on the puzzle.

Clue Sheet 4

When I got to the memorial, the rest of the team was looking around inside and out. The poem clearly pointed to the big name wall and directed us beneath an inscribed cross. After a quick scan showed nothing but names, I said there had better be someone named Cross on it. Sure enough, there he was - and right below were three small flags. I spotted some text on one (turned out to the manufacturer) and Jordan spied the one with a sticker on it. It was a phone number! We all agreed that Callowhill was the password (not those other ten letters that made no sense) and Jordan called the number. We had to hurry since Team Pink was just around the corner, as well as Rassilon! Well, the password was right and we were off to the Bongo Bar on the Moshulu just across Delaware Avenue. We hadn't found the big coin, but we solved everything. And it got better!

Clue Sheet 5

We bounded up the gangplank, and found Robert and Kristine at the bar... and no other teams! Still, they were near us and the big coin would give them 20 minutes and the win. Finally Team Pink called in with the password and arrived... without the coin. Then Rassilon came aboard and still no coin. The Jersey Team started a half-hour behind us (though technically we should have all started at the same time... even if they were delayed), so there was a bit of time (even assuming they did not get the coin) before we would capture first.

Well, we won by a few minutes as they arrived about 35 minutes later without the big coin (which turned out to be on top the memorial, directly above the flag... I was right!). They actually might have won, but they couldn't find the flag with the number. Then Rassilon commented that he didn't find it either! I said it seemed impossible that Team Pink could find it, but Rassilon arriving five minutes later would not (I couldn't imagine anyone coming along and taking it). That's when Jennifer "Sticky Fingers Flag Stealer" from Team Pink produced the flag from her bag! She figured there was one-per-team and took theirs. Uh-oh. That dropped them to 4th (they had been tied with Rassilon), giving 3rd to Rassilon and 2nd to the Jersey Team. We hung around for our free drink, and few more, before journeying back home with the golden Penn's Pen. Team Clubedventures.com did great - everyone had their moment in the sun that day (some of us even got a sunburn to prove it!) and it was a very enjoyable teamwork victory. A great day for all!