Urban Challenge - San Diego (8/2/03)

Team Mumu (15852)


We left home well before dawn and arrived in SD with enough time to find a parking lot downtown that wasn't still closed for the night. Luckily, we walked right past a trolley stop on the way to the Westin and we bought One Day bus and trolley passes. As far as I could see, the web site made no mention of the fact that day passes are available at the "vendormats".

Upon entering Race Headquarters at Horton's Sports Bar at the Westin in Horton Plaza, Dave F. observed that we were under-dressed. Most of the other teams were in full Runners' World approved gear - running shoes, headbands, matching team shirts, "hydration" systems, etc. I was wearing sandals and a Sidekick. But we knew that our secret weapon was the Research Team.

The officially entered team was Dave Pfitzner and I. Max and Dave Fullagar stayed with us for the whole race, while Tracey and Kate hung on until Checkpoint 9 and then decided a relaxing stroll down the esplanade would be more fun than a mad dash in search of who-knows-what. The funny thing is that they kept catching up with us even though they were strolling and we were running.

The Trivia Challenge

We got off to a slow start with the Trivia Challenge. We got 9 out of 30 wrong and were in the third group to leave, about 10 minutes after the winners. At least 28 teams did better than us :-(. You can see the questions and answers . We got Mary Poppins, Hogshead, Elk, Northern Exposure, Bad Sci-fi movies, Monkees, Football, Rudolph and Picasso.

The Race

Our first stop was the Starbucks in the lobby of the Westin, where they had a Fax machine and copy machine. We made several copies of the clue sheet, so everyone could refer to it. (Big win!). The fax machine cost $2.50/minute and took three tries to get it to work. As the bill was approaching the $10.00 mark, we chose not to send another fax to Andrew's efax account. But we blew it by not communicating that to anyone (Lynn, in particular). Lynn assumed the efax had gone out and so didn't transcribe the clues until Sam asked. Oops - my bad.

The organizers attempt to keep everyone from bunching up by assigning a random starting point. We started with Checkpoint #3.

Checkpoint #3

Rio Bravo! Find the border Crossing by Luis Jimenez north of race headquarters. It's Checkpoint 3.

This is the only one I got on the Sidekick. For the rest of the race, the info streaming in from the research team was much more accurate and reliable than I could manage by googling on a 160x240 screen. It's in the courtyard of the "San Diego Community Concourse", a couple of blocks north of the Westin and right at the Civic Center trolley stop. We got there pretty quickly.

Checkpoint #4

Erin Go First? True or false, according to legend, Saint Brendan discovered America about a thousand years before Columbus.

If true, then The Field is Checkpoint 4.

If false, then Panevino is Checkpoint 4.

It's true, so we walked about eight blocks to "The Field" at 544 5th Ave.

Checkpoint #5

Bustin Out a Patented Wacky Equation!

Gordon, bulb, cards


green, quarter, diamond


Checkpoint 5

Find this establishment in the Hillcrest area.

Dave figured out that it was Flash+Back. Lynn found the address at switchboard.com and gave it to Dave on the phone. Moments later, Tom sent us the address by email. We took a bus up Fifth to Flashbacks, a vintage clothing store at 3847 Fifth. While on the bus, we were getting help for the next checkpoints from the research team and from other people on the bus. A guy on the bus pointed out Jimmy Carter's as we drove by, so we "knew" where to go next.

Checkpoint #6

Sirva usted Cerveza Billi? Checkpoint 6 shares its name with a United States President and is found north of Balboa Park.

Lynn and Sam found Jimmy Carters bar at 3172 5th Ave. We already knew where it was, so we walked over to 4th Ave and took the bus back down to the 3100 block. There were several other teams getting their pictures taken, so we never suspected that there was another Jimmy Carter's Mexican restaurant at 807 W. Washington St.

Unfortunately, the Washington St. address is north (actually northwest) of Balboa park and the 5th Ave address is due west of Balboa park. So the clue unambiguously refers to the Washington St. establishment. This was almost a disqualifying mistake. If we hadn't overheard another racer's conversation much later at a trolley stop, we would have had no idea.

Checkpoint #7

Three Against One, No Fair! Checkpoint 7 is four metal cowboys engaged in a gunfight with one in a trough and three on foot. Find it outside the park in the Old Town Area.

This one was hard (impossible?) to do on-line. Lynn gave us the phone number of Old Town Historic State Park info. We were definitely not the first people to have called today! The lady told us that it was across the street from the Coldstone ice creamery on San Diego St.

We took a bus back up 5th to University where we found the "Skip Woman". That meant that we could skip any one checkpoint in the race. This turned out to be extremely important. We then took another very slow bus along University to the Old Town Transit Exchange. This trip took a looonnnggg time. We might have done better by going south on 5th and catching the trolley, but then we would have missed the Skip Woman.

A huge crowd of racers boarded the bus at University and Goldfinch. This should have tipped us off that something was wrong. They had just visited the correct Jimmy Carter's on Washington.

When we arrived at Old Town we still didn't know exactly where San Diego St. or the Coldstone Creamery were. But a huge crowd of racers ran off and we followed. In fact, they didn't really know where they were going either. We stopped and asked a park ranger who sent us straight to the checkpoint.

Checkpoint #8

Gesundheit! Checkpoint 8 is an Old Town establishment that shares its name with a city of antiquity founded about 660 BC by Greek colonists in what is now Istanbul. Get a photo with signage cuz it's Checkpoint 8.

Sam emailed us addresses of two Byzantiums, but only one is in Old Town at 2607 Congress St. Only about three blocks away from the cowboys. We walked/ran to this one.

Checkpoint #9

Sorry, Charlie! Checkpoint 9 is the propeller from a boat. To find out the name of the boat, ask any tuna you happen to see, what's the best tuna? Find the prop on San Diego Bay.

There was some confusion here, because Sorry Charlie was the ad campaign for Starkist Tuna, but "What's the best tuna" was the jingle for Chicken of the Sea. But this one was hard in any case. Information about tuna boats and their propellers was hard to come by on line. We guessed that it might be near the Maritime museum and/or "Tuna Harbor".

We got it by following the crowd. Lots of racers boarded the trolley at Old Town. Several got off at County Center, but we followed another group that got off at Santa Fe Depot. The first group was a bit closer, but it didn't make much difference. The propeller salvaged from the Chicken of the Sea is at the Maritime Museum, right on the esplanade, near the Star of India.

Checkpoint #10

Big Boom! Which branch of the United States Armed Forces maintains most of the US nuclear arsenal?

If Army, then the aircraft carrier memorial is Checkpoint 10.

If Air Force, then Homecoming statue is Checkpoint 10.

If Navy, then Clifton Sprague memorial is Checkpoint 10.

If Marines, then mast at the Fish Market is Checkpoint 10.

Find them all near the Fish Market on the bay.

This was a mile or so down the esplanade. Tom narrowed it down to the Air Force and Navy, so we took pictures of both. Lynn finally found this definitive link that shows the air force winning 6320 vs 3920. We deleted the picture of the Admiral Sprague memorial.

Checkpoint #11

They Kinda Look like Banana Trees ... Find a large black anchor (it's not attached to a boat) along side a black cleat made at Markey Machinery in Seattle. Geoff thinks there are large Birds of Paradise next to the anchor and cleat, but he's no arborist (or botanist, for that matter). The anchor is Checkpoint 11 and can be found within a half-mile of Joe's Crab Shack at the Embarcadero.

This one was also very hard to do on line. We were asking people up and down the esplanade. Pedicab drivers. Tee-shirt sellers. Horse-drawn carriage drivers. Tourists. We finally got some recognition from a tour leader who sent us another half-mile down the bay. It was really close to Joe's Crab Shack - a lot less than one half mile. Nevertheless, we still might have missed it if a friendly gardener hadn't turned us around and pointed it out right behind us.

Checkpoint #12

C'mon Baby, Light my Fire! Artwork by Leonardo Nierman is Checkpoint 12 and can be found near the convention center.

Lynn found it at the convention center and sent a link with a picture. But I never followed the link. Fortunately, it was only a few yards away from the anchor and somebody noticed it as we walked by.

Checkpoint #1

What the Heck is Apoplexy! Find the statue of a former Mexican president with the middle name Pablo who died of apoplexy. Find it within a mile west of race headquarters.

Another hard one! This one had the research team working for quite a while. We wanted to do this one and skip #2 because we thought it would be closer to headquarters and hence save time. But we weren't getting anywhere figuring out where it was. We decided to take a trolley to the general vicinity of "a mile west of Horton Plaza", which also happened to be the transfer point for the trolley to Checkpoint #2. While waiting, we overheard another racer describing the Jimmy Carter ambiguity. We panicked and sent the research team off to review Jimmy Carter, and sure enough, we had gone to the wrong one. But we had the "Skip Woman" photo, so we deleted the wrong Jimmy Carter photo and now had to do both #1 and #2.

Benito Pablo Juarez -- J-U-A-R-E-Z ... J-U ... J ... no, really J ...

We split up at Santa Fe Depot. Dave F and Max went inside to ask at the Information Desk. Dave P and I headed over to the esplanade to ask the cab drivers, pedicab drivers, etc. The research team was furiously searching the Internet. Tom, the Information desk and two pedicab drivers got it at almost exactly the same time. It's a statue in Pantoja park about a half mile away. The pedicab drivers gave us precise directions and we hustled off. Dave and Max a few yards behind.

Too bad Tom didn't find this earlier. You could have seen us at Pantoja park and Star of India.

Checkpoint #2

Go Busby, Go! Checkpoint 2 is located on India Street. To find the address, solve the word problem below, round your answer up to the nearest whole number, and then substitute the answer for A in this equation.

(6 times A) + 68 = address

As busby walks to the barber shop, he walks by an empty rectangular field. He can either walk across the field diagonally or walk the length and width. How many feet less is the walk diagonally through the lot. There is an accompanying diagram that shows the field is 600ft x 400ft. The answer is A=278.889, round up to 279 and get: (6*279)+68 = 1742 India St.

It's in Little Italy. Pantoja park is only a block away from a trolley stop, but a trolley went by as we were walking toward it. Rather than wait 15 minutes for the next one, we decided to hustle back to America Plaza, where we would have had to change anyway.

Just as we arrive, our trolley pulls out :-(. So we decide to keep moving on foot. The total was about 12 blocks, and it was getting pretty late and pretty hot. This one, combined with the run back and forth to #1 just about did me in.

The guys at Pete's Quality Meats (1742.5) complained that people had been coming by taking pictures all day and nobody had bought anything. Neither did we. The exact 1742 is a Hair Salon (the barber shop mentioned in the clue).

The Finish Line

We called SDCommute's phone number and were told to wait for the #5 bus on Kettner that would take us back to Horton Plaza. After waiting for a while, we realized that the trolley was only one block away and that it seemed to run more frequently on the weekend. So we took a chance and headed over to the trolley. We got lucky this time and the trolley came in a couple of minutes.

Time was running out, so Dave P. and I ran the last couple of blocks from the Civic Center station to race headquarters. We didn't realize that we were supposed to cross an actual "Finish Line" outside, so we waited in line for a few minutes to check in, only to find out that we hadn't actually "finished". We ran outside and officially finished at 4:52:30. The guy at the check-in table reviewed the pictures in the camera and verified that we had successfully finished the race. We were 108th across the finish line, but 77th in the official standings because many teams were disqualified, mostly because they visited the wrong Jimmy Carter's. Only 83 teams correctly completed the course in the 5 hour time limit. We heard that only 17 of the first 45 teams to finish were not disqualified.



Tom suggested Fillipi's in Little Italy where we cooled off and loaded up on pasta. An excellent choice for a tired and hungry group. Not too crowded at 3pm, but by the time we left at 4:30 there was a pretty good line.

Better luck next time?

Upcoming events are every two weeks in Portland, Seattle, Washington DC, Denver, Raleigh, Austin, Dallas, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Fort Lauderdale. I think I might be fully recovered and ready to try again in Las Vegas on Oct 4. But if anybody feels the urge to visit Portland, Seattle, or any of the others, I'd be more than happy to work the phones and Internet as part of the research team.

Complete video coverage

Official Entrants Ground Support Research Team
John Salmon
Dave Pfitzner
Dave Fullagar
Tracey Parrish
Max Yevmenkin
Kate Yevmenkin
Lynn Salmon
Samantha Seaward
Tom Metzger
Mark Brady