Sunday, May 2, 2010

D.C. Challenge Scavenger Hunt: A recap of the adventures of the team that came in second to last place

Now that I have lived in D.C. for almost five years (yikes!), one would think that I actually know where things are. Except I don’t. I often get emails from friends who are going to visit the city and they ask me about Place X or Monument Y and I am like, uhhh, I have no idea what or where that is. (Of course, I don’t admit that though, I just Google it and make it sound like I know.)

But for the most part, I am pleased as punch in my little corner of the city that I know like the back of hand. It’s like my small hometown in the middle of a major city. Small town girl in the big city…it’s like having my cupcake and eating it too (which I am fairly adept at anyway).

That said, it is always good to attempt to learn a bit more about the city I currently call home. So when some of my friends from the office asked if I wanted to join their team for the D.C. Challenge Scavenger Hunt, I was all in! What a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon, right? And with that, I joined Laura, Liz, Shirin, Luke, Sam, and Ryan as part of team ‘Ladies Man,’ named after the Will Ferrell movie and Saturday Night Live skit (neither of which I have seen, so I just rolled with the jokes). D.C. was our “general searchin’ area.”


Thanks to Liz, Laura, and Sam for making our super cool team t-shirts. My shirt had a ‘C’ on the back for Captain…which is what I was.  Which had less to do with my leadership skills and more to do with the fact that they ran out of numbers.

So on Saturday morning, we each made our way to Kelly’s Irish Time near Union Station, which from this point forward will be known as the smallest bar with the most terrible layout for checking in over 2,000 people in under 2 hours. Because the lines for check-in? They were insane. This is just one block of the line…


Naturally, as I took my place at the end of the massive line, I heard "Hey Rebecca!" and looked up (literally, he's way tall) to see the manager of my gym. His wife had organized a group to do the Challenge as a way to kick off  his birthday weekend festivities. I thought that was a neat idea.

There were over 300 teams made up of over 2,000 people registered for the event and I think the organizers were a little overwhelmed. Also, not working on their side? Saturday marked the early return of summer to D.C. Ninety degree temperatures, intense sunshine, and that fickle beast known as the D.C. humidity all combined to make for some crankiness (and sleep-inducing) conditions.

All of the participants gathered in Upper Senate Park to received the clues (the start time was pushed back about 40 minutes so that they could get everyone checked in). I categorized the teams into three groups:

  • Teams that were WAY into it! - These teams were either in costumes (I am looking at you team in the Avatar Blue People costumes) or were clearly in it to win, complete with Camelbak water pack because gosh darnit, they were not going to pause for breaks and these teams actually RAN between clues.   Did I mention it was 90 degrees outside?
  • Teams that were going to complete but not compete - The team sitting next to used this phrase and I liked it! I think this may have been our team.
  • Team that were going to do a few clues and then hit the post-race beer party - No description necessary. Just looking around, you sort of knew who these teams were.

As ‘Captain’, I was the one who got to go up and get our clue sheet. Where we were told that we were on the Honor System of not flipping it over until told to do so. Uh, yeah…I don’t think a single person followed that rule.

The rules of the Challenge that were followed were basically this: We had to complete 11 out of the 12 clues on the sheet (no bonus points for doing all 12). We had to take a photo of our entire team at each  stop which meant we spent a lot of time asking random people to take our picture and I now need to return the karma this tourist season and be willing to take photos for random tourists this summer if they ask. To get to the clues, we could only use our own two feet and public transportation but no taxis, cars, bikes, roller skates, etc.

Clue Sheet!


Plotting, planning, and Googling on our smartphones…


Liz and Laura match the clues to a map so we can be efficient.


We actually figured out about 9 of the clues quickly using just our knowledge and Google. (I would imagine the race had an entirely different tone in the days when people could not access the internet from our phones.  Ha, that sounds like I am referencing the olden days or something.)

And off we went.


The clues will be listed below in the order we obtained the pictures. If you want to play along at home, go for it. The pictures and answers will follow each clue.

Clue #1: Take a photo with the front page of the hometown newspaper of one of your teammates that’s not from D.C. If you’re all from D.C., take a picture with a paper from a state that begins with the letter A. Hint: there’s a museum that could help with this clue.


The Newseum displays newspapers from each of the 50 states outside the building. Here is our group in front of the Lexington Herald-Leader, which is the homestate paper of Shirin who is from Kentucky. We picked that paper in honor of the Kentucky Derby which I was sad to be missing. However, in the sun outside, I was wishing I had my fancy hat.  I was happy to have shellacked myself in sunscreen because I got zero sunburn/suntan at all.  Impressive.

On our way to the next clue, we walked past what I think is the longest ladder I have ever seen.


Clue #2: A memorial to America’s sea service can be found between Avenues Keystone and Hoosier. Have your team stand on top of the furthest birthplace of one of your teammates.


This would of course be the Navy Memorial which is between Indiana and Pennsylvania Avenue. Here is our group standing on Minnesota where Luke and Ryan are from. The cement map is confusing because the darkened areas are the water and not the land which I guess makes sense given that it is the Navy and all. I found where we needed to stand by spotting the "thumb" portion of Wisconsin. (And every person who is from Wisconsin and went to college in Wisconsin knows what I am talking spend your whole first weekend at college pointing out where your hometown is in the state by pointing to its relative location on your hand.)

Clue #3:The Smithsonian Institution was founded in 1846 and has 136,000,000 items in its collection. Enter any of its museums and take a photo with one of these items that’s older than the institution itself.


Okay, if anyone has ever doubted my claims to be a rule follower, well, here is photographic evidence of it. While everyone else jumped the fence (to stand by the sculpture), I was definitely of the 'uh, guys, should we be doing that?' (NOTE: THERE WERE A LOT OF PEOPLE BESIDES OUR GROUP DOING IT. Not that that justifies anything, just please don't send me comments lecturing me on it.) So I stayed outside the fence and it made for a rather funny picture. ha. And the sculpture is from B.C. so it is definitely older than the museum.

Clue #4: Kind of like a robin heralding the arrival of spring, the flocks of tourists taking in the sights are a sure sign its warmer weather. Take your own souvenir photo with one; but they HAVE to be wearing a “I LOVE D.C.,” “FBI,” “CIA,” or “WASHINGTON DC” shirt.


An any given day, even in off-peak tourist season, I see someone wearing one of these tourist t-shirts...but this day, we could not find ANYONE. So we did what anyone would do...we lurked outside a t-shirt stand outside of one of the Smithsonians and waited from someone to buy a t-shirt. A VERY nice family (remember this family as they will come in handy again a bit later in the Challenge) had just bought a t-shirt for their daughter and she was more than excited to jump in our picture. Too cute!

Clue#5: D.C. has more than a few crime fighters: if they’ve got a badge or a gun, take a picture with them. It shouldn’t be hard: in D.C., you’ll find 1,800 Capitol Police officers, 1,300 officers of the Secret Service’s Uniformed Division, and 4,050 officers of the Metropolitan Police Department.


Oh, DC and your police. And your many police who are not allowed to take photos with people. That added a wrinkle to the Challenge. Some of the police were not so nice about it; others were downright apologetic. We were really struggling with this one. But then remember that really nice family in Clue #4? Well the dad apparently has some sort of pull because we met up with them at a crosswalk later, he flashed a card to one of the police officers in a security booth which led to the police officer stepping out and taking a picture with us. THANKS REALLY NICE FAMILY!!!!

Clue #6: Designed by the same architect as the U.S. Capitol, William Thorton, this residence was lent to President Madison after the British burned the White House during the War of 1812. He probably didn’t have to move his belongings far. It became the home of the American Institute of Architects all the way back in 1899.


All right, it was about this time in the challenge when it got INCREDIBLY hot outside and we had already walked about 3 miles. So we were happy to sit down at the Octagon House which was the answer to this clue. And which led to a heated discussion on the definition of a polygon and some really lame math jokes...which is what is going to happen when almost the whole team works in math careers. And also, no idea what Laura is looking at in the picture.

Remember how I said it was really hot? Like an oasis in the dessert, every one out of a hundred of these sidewalk vents emits freezing cold refreshing. And then the next vent emits like 2,000 degree air which completely ruins the moment.


Clue #7: You may know that Pierre Charles L’Enfant worked closely with George Washington to prepare and plan this fine city, including a design for what would become the home for the President. What you may not know, is this Irish-born and trained architect was eventually hired after Washington grew sick of L’Enfant’s insubordination. Take a picture in front of the bar named after the ultimate winner of the design competition for the White House.


Um, DC Challenge clue writers...James Hoban's Irish Restaurant, named after the answer to this clue, is outside of the defined Challenge map area!!! Come on...seriously? But we trekked there anyway. If only to catch the wonderful scent of the Krispy Kreme donut place.

Next we hopped on the Red Line to take the Metro to Gallery Place-Chinatown. Two glorious words about Metro on this day? AIR CONDITIONING! It was heavenly. And the lovely facial expressions in these pictures are just priceless.

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What preceded and followed obtaining the next clue were among the funniest. things. ever. Seriously, a day later and I am still laughing.

First, while we were walking up the escalator at the Metro station Gallery Place-Chinatown, a man and a woman also doing the Challenge were ahead of me. The lady totally fell walking up the escalator (uh, trust me, it happens more than you might think). She was mortified. The guy's comforting words? "You have to focus! And don't fall." HA!  (I think their team was in the “Teams that were WAY into it” category.)

Clue #8: There are only two publically accessible bowling alleys in D.C. The third is in the white house. Take a photo at any of the three.


How awesome would it have been if we had managed to get to go to the White House bowling alley. But since the White House Correspondent's Dinner was last night, I am guessing the Jonas Brothers or Jon Bon Jovi were using it. We had to settle for the bowling alley at Lucky Strike. Which is right above Bar Louie which has the best tater tots in town!

At this point, the clues we had left to complete were all located near the Lincoln Memorial which is far far far away so we decided to take a bus. We spotted a Circulator bus that we thought was ours and what ensued was pure hilarity. Picture seven people sprinting (possibly jaywalking) across a busy street in downtown DC. One member of the group gets to the bus just before it pulls away and the packed bus stops for us and we all pile on. We are feeling pretty exhilarated, smiles on our faces, the end is near. And then we hear Laura say, "Uh, guys, this is going in the wrong direction." And the whole bus starts laughing at us. So at the next stop, which is exactly a half block away, we get off.

We then waited for a while on the  streets of Chinatown for the bus we actually needed to take.


Not going to lie, sitting on the bus after being in motion all day, my legs started to cramp. HAHA! And I think we all started to get tired...but we had just three more clues to get!

Clue #9: A statue of this guy has been on the D.C. Challenge website for a relatively long time, so you knew we were going to include it, didn’t you?


That would be the Albert Einstein statue on the grounds of the National Academy of the Sciences. Note: at this point, I had resorted to asking the tourists for directions...not a good sign...and none of them knew anyway.

We arrived at the statue to find it literally crawling with kids…from Wisconsin, actually. HA! I shouldn't mock because my high school band had our group photo taken on this same the pouring rain.

Okay, all day long, NO ONE understood our team name. But these middle schoolers saw our shirts were like "OMG, Ladies Man...BEST MOVIE EVER. Where'd you get those shirts. I want one!" Seventeen years too late, I was finally cool in the eyes of middle schoolers. Anyway, we literally photobombed their photo op (and uh, middle school girl behind me, QUIT GIVING ME BUNNY EARS!) and they were then taking our pictures so I am pretty sure we're going to pop up in some Facebook photo albums, tagged as who knows what.

Getting closer to being done...

Clue #10: Re-enact either of these famous scenes in D.C. movies: the Wedding Crashers lounging at the Lincoln Memorial, Jenny and Forrest Gump reconnecting at the Reflecting Pool (please stay out of the pool).

So we had BIG plans for this one initially. I was going to be Jenny in Forrest Gump, Sam was going to Forrest. It was going to be EPIC.

Yeah, that never happened. We were exhausted. We were hot. We wanted to be done. The result of us re-enacting the Owen Wilson/Vince Vaughn on the steps of the Lincolm Memorial scene from Wedding Crashers? Just about the most hysterical photo ever. It is the type of photo that usually rolls around on about Day Four of a family vacation when you are all completely annoyed with each and have spent way too much time together but your Mom firmly tells you that you WILL have a good time and you WILL take another group photo. I don't think any of these were the case for us, but um, don't we all look like we hate each other? BAHAHAHAH!


One more clue... but first, the largest mass of cute baby ducks ever on the edge of the Reflecting Pool.


Clue #11: Due south of the White House, due west of the Capitol, you’ll find the Jefferson Pier. It’s not a dock. Take a photo standing with it; it makes one of four “American prime meridians” that run through D.C. This would probably make a good last stop before the finish line.


Yeah, this one was all Ryan. HA! I think we all would have wandered aimlessly and given up otherwise. Obscure much, DC Challenge?

And with that we were DONE! So we headed to the post-race party near the Washington Monument where we discovered we had finished last! Another team rolled in like 45 minutes later to redeem us a little so we finished second to last of the teams that actually finished.

Team Ladies Man Celebrates!!!


But we celebrated none the less with a round of flip cup. Shockingly enough, my college experience included neither flip cup nor beer pong, so I have never played either. But yesterday, at age 25+5, I played flip cup, albeit with water in my cup. But I wasn't that bad. And, sadly, there is not photographic evidence of my efforts!


Also in attendance, Captain Planet smoking a cigarette...haha, so so so so wrong.

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And that wrapped up the day! It was sooo much fun. I would totally do it again!

Thanks for a super fun DC Challenge, Team Ladies Man!!!!


And yes, I did make everyone pause to take this group photo even though Luke so kindly pointed out that we had been taking group photos all day long. But, come on, great picture right?


  1. It totally looks like a fun time was had by all! I live in Alexandria VA and been here my whole life and haven't been to many monuments and museums so I feel you on not knowing some of the landmarks in your own ackyard:)

  2. nearly a year later, i have discovered this literary gem. thank you for posting this! i laughed out loud.

  3. I was just reading this today and it made me smile! Maybe we should consider doing it again when I'm in even better shape (hopefully) next year haha

  4. Great recap. Thanks for sharing! Loved your bus ride!