The Great Urban Race

May 11, 2011 at 7:00 am 2 comments

Christine: Hey, what are you doing on Saturday?

Me: Probably studying… why?

Christine: Wanna do this crazy competition that’s sort of like the Amazing Race instead? I have a Groupon!

Me: (weighing the choice between being a good med student and enjoying a Boston adventure…) Sure!

Running around Boston looking for clues in the sunshine (and even the rain) is a much better way to spend a Saturday afternoon than cooped up in a library studying. I needed a mental health break weekend, and I sure filled my time with some not-so-studious adventures!

The Great Urban Race is based on the show the Amazing Race, in which teams of two go around the world on a giant scavenger hunt and complete crazy tasks at each stop to get their next clue. We didn’t quite make it around the world, but we did manage to walk 7 miles through all of Cambridge and Boston. Want to take a work or study break yourself? Read below for a recap of our adventure!

The race began in Government Center, where we registered, picked up our bibs and T-shirts, and people-watched to see some outrageous costumes. Since we were last-minute participants, we sported jeans and gray tank tops as “uniforms”, but a lot of people went all out. We saw Reno 911! cops (complete with short shorts), the Flintstones, cops and robbers, a science nerd couple, and many other unique duos. At exactly noon, they handed out the red envelope with our clues. We sat on the steps of Government Center for about 10 minutes, deciphering the riddles and strategizing to come up with a game plan. After figuring out the location of about 8 of the 11 clues, we took off for the Red Line to head to Harvard Sq.

CLUE #5: It’s better when you mix things up. Unscramble the following letters and make your way to this hidden gem where environmentally conscious tactics and amazing treats fuse together. Though there are mobile locations as well, head to the headquarters to enjoy a delicious race refreshment. Return to the finish line with a photo of all teammates posing in front of the infamous giant whiteboard as proof of completion. LECVOR OFOD ABL

Easy one! Clover Food Lab, of course, headquartered on Mt. Holyoke St. in Harvard Square! They served us some delicious cinnamon lemonade, which was a great relief from the hot sun.

CLUE #3: Only here would you find Tom Brady updating his Facebook status while Sarah Palin texts Lady Gage and Drew Faust on her iPhone. Make your way to this Harvard landmark, opened in 1960, where you’ll always find a celebrity – even if it’s only on the menu. Take a picture of all teammates in front of the location’s sign, featuring the signature top hat as proof of completion.

Gotta give credit to Christine’s friend Ev and Katie (aka Team Flower Power) on this one… the famous Bartley’s Burgers. I had no idea! Leave it to an ex-veg to have no idea where the good burger places in Boston are.

CLUE 7: Solve the below equation to determine the numerical name of this coffeehouse on Mass Ave. Upon arrival, locate the two posters, determine the three differences in the pictures, and fill in the blanks below with the differences you have discovered. With staff approval, return to the finish line with the correct answers and flyer provided as proof of completion.

No need for math. What other coffee shop in Boston has a numerical name besides the 1369 Coffee House in Central Square? Christine managed to find all three of the differences, and I completed a matching game about how to make different coffee shop drinks. Never thought my year of Panera barista experience would come in handy again!

CLUE 1: Mrs. Reynolds is odd. She likes balloons but not parties. She likes books but doesn’t like reading. She likes letters but not words. She likes noodles but she doesn’t like pasta sauce. She likes apples but she doesn’t like plums. She likes coffee but not tea. According to the pattern in the riddle above, take a picture of all teammates in front of a street sign that Mrs. Renyolds would like as proof of completion.

Have you figured it out yet? This one literally took Christine, an avid reader, about two seconds. I hadn’t even finished reading the riddle before she yelled out, “We need to find a street sign with two letters that are the same next to each other!” Good thing most of the destinations fell along Mass Ave, making this an easy clue to complete!

CLUE 4: Tom Selleck, Hulk Hogan, Charlie Chaplin and the Pringles Guy all share this common characteristic. Make your way to the district where you’ll find the best selection of colorful and charismatic garments for all your costume needs. When you arrive, head inside to pick up your very own must-have accessory. After you collect your disguise, find a stranger sporting genuine growth somewhere in the city. Take a picture of one teammate with the stranger showing off their style as proof of completion.

Another easy one – the Garment District! Really, we expected a little more challenge from guys… Oops, spoke too soon. Despite the fact that Christine and I both have been there on multiple occasions, we managed to make a wrong turn and walk 2 long blocks out of our way before realizing. And it had just started to rain. We persisted, however, and picked up our fake mustache from the Garment District. To be continued…

CLUE 6: Make your way to the statue pictured to the right, constructed by Spanish artists, Jaume Plensa. Featuring a mixture of mathematical symbols, return to the finish line with a photo featuring all teammates jumping in the air.

Math symbols? Must be near MIT! Only took us 3 tries to get this picture… not bad compared to other teams who needed at least 10 or 12 shots to get an in-sync action shot!

CLUE 8: Definition: a lump, a solid piece, or often a metal. This unique store features everything from Rolling Stones collector’s edition vinyl, to classic Bob Dylan CDs, and even hard to find Creedence Clearwater cassette tapes. Celebrities and commoners alike have stopped in to shop the goods and leave a lasting impression. Find this discrete distributor of music and snap your photo in front of the Piano Man’s classic Kohuept album, autographed by Mr. Long Island himself. Return to the finish line with a photo of one teammate posing in front of the album as proof of completion.

What do you do when you have no idea what the clue is talking about? You phone a friend! Unfortunately, my musician friend wasn’t sure, but luckily Ev (thanks again Team Flower Power) had a musician friend too. Apparently, he was out shopping for vinyl records when she called, and the owner of the store was able to help us out with the clue. It led us to Nuggets in Kenmore, a place I passed on an almost daily basis for 2 years and never really took note of!

CLUE 12: Let’s play Tic-Tac-Toe! Complete three of the nine challenges in the Tic-Tac-Toe square:

  • Take one picture of a teammate honking a stranger’s car horn 
  • Return to the finish line with a penny dated between the years of 1961-1979 – Found on our way out of Nuggets on the ground – best find of the game!
  • Take one picture of all teammates high-fiving a stranger in uniform 

CLUE 4: After retrieving our mustache from the Garment District, we were actively scouting Boston for a hipster with a ‘stache to take a picture with. We figured our best bet would be in the Berklee area. We turned down Boylston on our way to the next destination, and the Berklee kids did not disappoint. We stalked an unassuming and harmless looking guy and innocently asked if we could take a picture with him and his awesome mustache. He was flattered and agreed. We opened our backpack and (gasp) the mustache was gone! Oh noooo! We apologized to our new hipster friend for wasting his time, mourned our missed opportunity, and brainstormed how to complete the task without returning all the way back to MIT. To be continued…

CLUE 10: It’s a hotel, motel, Holiday Inn! Or maybe it’s jus a temporary home away from home for international guests. Regardless, this community is open to travelers from around the world. Journey to this Hemenway St. location and translate the 7 words found on the wall to decipher the secret word. You have two chances to provide the correct answer and receive verification from the staff. In order to receive credit, you must return to the finish line with the correct answer and flyer provided as proof of completion.

The only hostel I have ever heard of in Boston! Thank goodness for GPS (which helped us get there) and Google Translate on my smart phone. We had to translate 7 random words in different (unlisted) languages in order to come up with the word that was the answer to the riddle: EXPLORE.

CLUE 2: Though an English playwright wrote the original in the early 1600’s, the modern-day story might read something like this: Helen loves Bert, Bert does not love Helen. Helen chases Bert and wins his commitment. All ends well. Now it’s your turn to role-play! Venture to the park outside of the South End Library where your task awaits. Return to the finish line with the CSC flyer as proof of completion.

We reported to the South End Library, where we had to read a two page scene from Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well, which will be performed by the Commonwealth Shakespeare Company this summer. They will surely be much better than Christine and I were!

CLUE 9: Don’t blink or you might just miss this lightening Bolt run past you! Seek out his autographed shoe in this South End running store and snap your photo in front of it. Return to the finish line with a photo of all teammates posing with the shoe and flyer provided as proof of completion.

Bolt… running… Usain Bolt! Now where in the South End would he have a signed running shoe…? Smart phone saves the day again! You can see the shoe, too, at the South End Athletic Company on Tremont St. (only a few blocks away from my school!)

CLUE 4: We had called Team Flower Power to see what we could/should do about our lost mustache. The same thing happened to them along the way – silly, elusive fake mustache! They found another along the way, presumably which belonged to another team. They told us they would hide it for us on Boylston St. before they headed to the finish line. However, Christine and I were wet and cold and tired of walking at this point. We decided to make a new friend while in line for our photo-op with the famous shoe. Luckily enough, they had a mustache and had already taken a picture with it, so they generously gave it to us to use. We ran outside and spotted a cute old man smoking on his stoop. He kindly agreed to a photo and told us he couldn’t wait to tell his grandkids!

FINISHED! We ran hobbled to Washington St, caught the SL5, and made our way back to Government Center. Our final completion time was 3 hrs and 40 mins. An exciting, rainy, and fun-filled adventure. If the Great Urban Race comes to a town near you, check it out. If not, spend a day exploring new, random places in your own city. It is always fun to learn new facts about the place you call home!

Entry filed under: Roamings. Tags: , , .

“Family” Fun with Homemade Dumplings Philly Fake Steaks

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Elizabeth  |  May 11, 2011 at 11:48 am

    That’s funny that you had to go to the youth hostel – I’ve stayed there a couple times with my girl scout troop.

  • 2. jenlenew  |  May 12, 2011 at 10:51 am

    I remembered! That helped me figure out the clue :)


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