Let’s XPlore Philly 2013

From Ben to George

July: must be time for another stifling hot summer day race with Carolyn!  Last year we ran the CitySolve race in July – when the temperature at 5pm was 100 degrees.  Even took a picture of the temp.  This year, we were running the inaugural XPlore Adventure Race, created by locals Logan and Jonathan, which will travel to nine other cities by November.  One difference is that there’s no championship – you get points for placing in each city, with domination points (tie-breakers, more or less) based on how much faster you finish than the next team.  We decided to try the first race before deciding whether to go all-in and get an All-Access race pass (which the Boston team had already done).  Unsure of how difficult the clues would be, we had two folks on support (thanks Jim and Jen!!!), though we ultimately needed only one (and it’s so tough to let them know you’re set when you’re running down the street while attempting to text).

The race started at 1pm, an hour later than most races (and 1 ˝ hours later than one in particular), which in July made for an even hotter day.  We started at the Fieldhouse, an excellent choice (along with McGillin’s and a few other places) – centrally located with quality clues in all directions (as opposed to starting at the waterfront).  We would get 13 clues and had to solve & go to 12 of them – no mandatories and no bonus clues.  We went through the usual pre-race meeting (their first one!) and then – we were off!  Ran about 15 feet and opened the clue sheet.  Always appreciated:  two copies for each team and plenty of white space to write things (and white paper, not some dark or neon color!)  Oh, and highlighting what you needed to do on each clue – very nice!  Carolyn started with side 2 and I side 1. 

Clue 1 was a high altitude photo grab with stick pin showing the location of the clue.  Despite seeing City Hall, it was tricky to orient it (especially since north was down in the photo – boo hoo for me).  The clue turned out to be near Broad and Vine, close to us but ultimately the skip.  They did add a good math problem that you had to solve to find the correct floor to find the clue (it was a parking garage).  Clue 2 I knew from experience (even though they had removed the balloon historic marker several years ago (not sure why)); 3 was one of the ever present tour buses that could be found all over the city; 4 was the LOVE statue (of course!); and 5 I had actually heard about before (that 30th Street station has an airport code), but Jim confirmed it.

Onto side 2!  Carolyn knew that 6 was the logo on many of the city newsstands, so that was easy enough (good luck looking it up online!); Monopoly was 7; she also knew the song in 8 (from Fresh Prince and local celeb Will Smith), which is good since I didn’t; 9 was any “I” flag; 10 was our local whale mural near 30th Street (they are all near rail stations in cities across the country); 11 was an anagram for Ben Franklin (thanks again Jim!); 12 I knew from my rallyes; and 13 could be done at any time.  Now, time to map!

Monopoly (7), Love Park (4) and Sister Cites (12) were towards the Parkway.  We knew we could find a tour bus (3) near there; I knew of a Ben Franklin statue (11) on the way, and also that the Israel flag (9) was the first one on the south side of the Parkway.  So, that is six clues between here and 18th & the Parkway!  We could then motor down 18th, nabbing a newsstand (6) somewhere on route, take a trolley (there are five lines that run on the track from 19th to 30th so that’s one every few minutes) to 30th Street, nab the whale (10) and “The One” (5) up there, jump on the subway down to 5th, hit the Fresh Prince song (8) and Washington Square (2), and then use the fountain to pour water over our heads(13).  Simple.

Off we went!  First stop was a picture with Ben, then up the ramp into the wheelbarrow.  Just missed a Duck Boat, but got a trolley tour bus at a red light.  Then up the steps to the Love Statue (and no, we are not waiting in line like everybody else – off to the side!), and onto the Parkway for the Israel flag.  It was a few blocks to the Sister Cities, where we had to each do 10 jumping jacks… over a water fountain!  It looked like we could get in about 12ish jj’s in-between the water shooting up, and despite Carolyn saying “go” while the water was still shooting up (a good four feet I might add), we both managed to stay dry and not knock over any children playing in the water.  Couldn’t they see we’re in a race (we did have race bibs on!)?

From there it was a quick run south on 18th, checking several newsstands (all wrong!) until we hit pay dirt on Market!  Then, up to 19th, down to the trolley stop and caught one within two minutes.  At the 30th Street stop, we ran a block+ to get a good shot of the whale and then into the station to find “The One.”  This was a person or persons sitting on one of the dozens of long wooden benches in the center of a big concourse.  We split up to cover more ground.  After attempting to deduce who it might be, I just started standing near the middle of the bench and sortof asking everyone at once – thinking “The One” would acknowledge me.  We finally converged at the last sector (of course!) and found three women who gave us the X acknowledgement (yes!).  Apparently no teams got detained by the transit police over this.  We got our special card, which I tucked safely away and then sprinted back to the subway.

We waited maybe five minutes for the subway, and decided plan A was to use my now empty 16 oz. PowerAde bottle to pour water on our heads and plan B was to buy water to chug at the finish (since neither of us relished chugging 16 oz. in one shot and then running several miles).  The subway deposited us at 5th, and up we bounded to the Liberty Bell pavilion (since Independence Hall had to be in the shot).  It turned out to be trickier than we thought to get some strangers to sing with us – many did not speak English or just thought we were crazy.  Whatever.  We finally wrangled two women into singing with us (well, they sang – I got out the only line I knew and mumbled along) while another videotaped us.  A quick thanks and over to Washington Square, where we accosted another group to first shoot us jumping off the fountain and then videotape one of them pouring water from my bottle over our head.  At least we didn’t have to sing.

Finally, a long and numbing run north to Market and then back to the Fieldhouse.  I hit the red zone at about 7th and Market, so it was a combo fast walk/block run until we finally hit the cool of the bar.  It was really hard to tell how we did when I entered the finish area (maybe the heat) - I kept looking around for teams sitting around and really had no idea how long we’d been on the course.  Turned out it had only been 1:07 (yow!) and we were first!  And we were hot.  This may have been the first race I had a glass of water before beer, but not really sure about that one.  Once we cooled down, we waited for a bit and then the next three teams came in with 3 minutes of each other(!).  More teams trickled in, and finally the good ol’ awards ceremony.  New York City, anyone?