Finally, the LEM

And more Ben and Penn!

What would a race be without at least one Ben Franklin or William Penn clue – or both! But finally the LEM (Lunar Excursion Module – a mockup) that stood in the grassy area next to the Franklin Institute was included in the hunt. Hooray! Another item off my urban adventure bucket list.

The day started out well: great weather and my train was on-time. The start line was at Schuykill Park, a short haul from the train station. I arrived just before the noon start time to a see lot of other Urban Dare participants – surely a record for Urban Dare Philly! I quickly located Nick and we signed in for the event. Kevin was in New Orleans for the (cancelled) Urban Dare there, so we had a new huntmaster: John (obviously from New York!). And they add a new start twist – rather than the trivia (with four options for answers) each team’s Checkpoint Card had a number. Once we got the start signal (have to work on that one, John!) we had to find a tennis ball (located a few hundred feet away) with our number on it, and then bring it back to John to get our clue sheet. It does streamline the handing out of the sheets… though there was a high urge to kick away any ball without your number on it!

Today I had Sal and Anne on phone support, while Nick added Phyllis last minute when Ryan needed to do his nails (or something like that). We grabbed our sheet (after we returned the correct ball) and scanned it: 12 locations and 2 bonus clues. We were already briefed that clue 1 was under construction so that we would not be able to see the clock (which probably helped a lot of teams since the instruction dictated that you had to take the picture on the hour or half-hour, which is a scheduling nightmare). One look and we knew it was Independence Hall. I knew the next one – Class of 1923 Rink (at Penn) – from memory; and the third one since John Lennon’s birthday popped out & I guessed Instant Karma was his third single - which made Good Karma the answer... now to have Sal find out where it was (which turned out to be a few blocks away). Fourth was a founding father with a court here, which had to be Ben; fifth was going to be three-person support challenge of the day; sixth was an easy anagram for Independence Visitor Center; seventh was obviously Washington Square; eighth was the blessed LEM (yay!); ninth was the urban adventure-favorite huge game pieces next to City Hall; tenth was Logan Square (I believe Phyllis got this one); eleventh was Foglietta Plaza (had it in QUASH); and twelfth was a photo of two guys leap frogging.

We had all but 5. and figured it was at Penn, but I was leery of running up and having to wait while someone located it (all three helpers were on it), so we opted for a Center City swing/bus trip/Old City swing/subway/Penn swing/run home route, which turned out to be a very good choice.

Right off the bat Nick nabbed two guys on the street to do the leap frog photo – he’s such a good convincer and so outgoing! It was a quick run to Good Karma, where a lot of teams were snapping pics. Turning north, we ran in the Halladay team (who eventually came in 2nd) and tried to convince them to quit so that we could take their picture for one of the bonuses. I didn’t think they’d accept, and they didn’t. No matter. We ran along 22nd Street to Race and then east to the LEM, where sure enough stood some guy in a Halladay shirt – bonus 1 done! We even had him take our LEM shot. Then we dodged traffic to Logan Square and did the dreaded letter-number challenge (and got our first stamp from the staff)… and got it right on the first try! We snapped a pic of the tallest William Penn in the city for bonus 2, and sprinted along the Parkway to the big game pieces.

Nick and I had to count the chess pieces and then explain to the staff that the Parcheesi pieces were not considered chess pieces (so that we – and they – had the right count). Our dare was to make a balloon dog. Did I tell you I have a lot of balloon animal balloons at home? I made it in about 10 seconds, which apparently stunned everyone there. We got our stamp and Nick gave my creation to a little girl sitting nearby – he’s such a family man!

After that we raced around City Hall and just caught a bus for our first breather. We rode the bus till 3rd Street and then jumped off and into Franklin Court. The clue was a quote on the ground – I knew they were all over the area. We quickly found it and took it with our feet (thankfully we didn’t have to get on the ground), then sprinted off to Foglietta Square, which is an surprisingly long run over cobblestone. There we had to jump rope five times for the staff. And of course there was no one around, so Nick accosted some sitting man lost in his headphones and a (another!!!) Halladay-shirt wearing man to swing the rope for us. It was tough catching one’s (that would be me) breath, but we finally did and jumped five times. Hoorah! We got our stamp and raced up Walnut Street to Washington Square.

The clue there involved finding a plaque with someone’s name on it. We raced around the park and eventually found a bench with the correct name – thank goodness nobody was sleeping on it! After that it was a quick run to the visitor center to look for another plaque… which was helped by having several teams already there taking photos. We sprinted down the stairs to the subway… to just see it pull away! Nick mused that that might cost us the win, but I held out hope.

It was a long 10 minutes until the next one arrived. We jumped on and rode it to 34th Street, then jumped off and raced to the Smith Walk statue of Edgar Smith (that pesky clue 5). A quick pic and then off down Walnut Street to the rink. And then a long haul over the Schuykill to the finish line!

Nick sprinted ahead as I chugged over the bridge. I was really hoping that Walnut hit 24th Street next (not 25th) since the end was at 20th. I was thinking positive things the whole way! To my delight, the first cross street was 23rd! I zipped down and crossed at 21st Street, and then had to dodge a lot of peds. I was a few hundred feet from the bar when suddenly the Halladay Team crossed the road to my side – one in front of me and one behind! I believe they asked if I too might be going to the finish (well, yeah!) when I somehow shot ahead and into the bar. No finish line and no Nick! I went in screaming “where was the finish,” knowing that if I turned the wrong way I could end up behind the other team. I went straight back – correctly – and found John at a table in the back. He punched our card (with a time stamp) and then Team Halladay's. And we were the first team to finish! We had all the clues and bonuses (or so we thought!) and had the win. Team Halladay had missed one of the bonus clues, so were 5:07 ahead of them. That’s when John mentioned there was a hidden five-minute bonus that we didn’t get. Thankfully the next team did not show up for a while, so we safe. In fact, I’m pretty sure nobody got it, so it turned out that our victory stood. Hooray! Teams began to pile in – Kris and Jenny weren’t far behind and finished sixth – and soon the bar was full of sweaty folks in mostly matching shirts. We hung around with Nick’s friends (yes, it’s true!) for a while before returning home to watch the Phils lose. Well, at least the race went well!