Monday, March 08, 2010


Last weekend, we went to a scavenger hunt/race disguised as a birthday party. I'd planned one for D's birthday myself six or seven years ago, but mine was nowhere near as elaborate as this one.

As we arrived, we were assigned to different-colored teams, and given color-coded leis. The teams appeared to be assigned based on local knowledge (we were in Moraga), internet access (in our group we had one AT&T smartphone, one Verizon, and one T-Mobile), and skill set (puzzle-solving ability turned out to be very useful!). The premise was that the birthday girl's cats had been kidnapped, and we had to solve some clues to help rescue them. Each team was given a different clue packet, and we were on our way!

It turned out our very first stop was a Fear Factor-style challenge. We were given a padlocked box and a bowl of mealworms containing ten keys. Nine keys later, we finally unlocked the box. At that point we were given the opportunity to win bonus points by volunteering to eat one of the worms. Later on we discovered that we were supposed to get the points for just volunteering, but our fearless teammate had already consumed the poor mealworm. She even reported having chewed it so it wouldn't suffer. Eww.

I won't enumerate the rest, but there were a variety of subsequent challenges involving blacklights, the 4-gallon bucket problem, birthday girl trivia, and more. We spent much of the day criss-crossing Moraga and punching up answers and directions on our phones:

Our team finished the clue packet first (several hours later), but unfortunately we did not score the most points, due to sloppiness while measuring the buckets of water. As a result, we had to wait two penalty minutes before we could start the final challenge:

Luckily, we had several puzzle masters on our team. They got started solving the puzzles, while D managed to figure out the combination (based on previous clues), and I dredged up ancient high-school memories about how to open a Master Lock. Inside we found the eight corner pieces and diagrams of both puzzles. We finished our puzzles about ten pieces ahead of the next team, and were declared the winners by the mysterious cat-napper!

I was really impressed by how well organized the event was. There were video segments, custom-built software applications (used to enter solutions), and lots of other props that looked like they'd taken some time to make. Also, during the course of the afternoon, we encountered maybe ten people who had been recruited into helping run the race (mostly people's parents, relatives, and coworkers). Fun!

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