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Saturday, August 25 saw several of my friends racing across Vancouver on a trip that involved an overcrowded crossword, a needlessly repetitive house of cards, and, literally, a visit to the world of fashion.

I wrote a series of puzzles, with each one pointing to the location of the next one. The locations were all within walking distance of a SkyTrain station between Edmonds and Waterfront. Once players got to the last station, they were to look for the checkered flag, which signalled the end of the course.

Originally, I had intended for two teams to play in the puzzle race, but everyone decided to join forces.

That having been said, all the players gave the seeding puzzles a try anyway.

After that, the main game was desribed to them. They would get a backpack full of envelopes, and other things which may or may not be useful for solving the puzzles ahead. Each envelope was labelled with the name of a SkyTrain station. Players were only to open an envelope when they had been directed to go to that station, either with a message like "Go to Waterfront", or with the name of the station inside an arrow. Not every station would be visited. The ones that got skipped had a card inside that gave them a time penalty, which would be added to the amount of time the team took to come back to home base. Once they found the checkered flag at the finish of the course, they would come back and begin part 2.

At the same time, our mythical Team B would start part 2, consisting the a number of puzzles solved at home base. Each of these numbers would have a numerical answer, and those numbers, when multiplied together, would yield the combination of a lock. Team B's backpack, with all their envelopes for the puzzles to be done on SkyTrain, had been locked up. Their job was to get it free.

The team decided to do the SkyTrain puzzles first. Their first task was to solve a series of horrible puns, in the style of the old game show, "Definition". The final question, along with three packages of pepper found in the same envelope as the questions, pointed to Peppers Marketplace. Once there, they found a note tacked to the bulletin board in front of the store, asking them to count various letters from the puzzle they just solved. This directed them to look under one of the benches for their next clue, an arrow marked, "Metrotown", a signal to move on to the next station. It turns out Ted, my roommate, had been sitting on the clue the whole time.

The team opened their Metrotown envelope and got a number of puzzles. They worked on the first one, Passcode, there on the spot. I suggested to them that the puzzles were more easily solved at Metrotown mall (indeed, some of them could only be solved there), but they decided to see how much they could do from where they were.

With a mostly complete solution to the Passcode puzzle, we set out for Metropolis at Metrotown, a large mall in Burnaby. Along with the Passcode puzzle, the players found a key and an index card with a small map, both marked with the same number, and a puzzle that had a diagram resembling the food court. We settled down to lunch and they solved.

The food court puzzle I made too hard. It involved going around and collecting letters from the menus found there. Once they figured out that was what they needed to do, it was simple, but I didn't give much in the way of instructions. In future races, I'll be more free with them.

The index card map directed players to the lockers on the second floor, where they found instructions for the overall puzzle for this location. The solution to the food court puzzle was their userid, and the answer to Passcode was their password. Using these two pieces of information, they had to log into a Hotmail account I had set up for them, using the computers at the mall's big bookstore.

There they had to locate various books from their covers - without any of the text. They were also given the book's ISBN, author or section of the store as help. Finding all the covers led them to a website with a questionnaire about things they would see on their way to their next station, Broadway.

The team got quite a bit smaller when an emergency back at my co-op called its president, who was playing, back to duty. She left with Eric, her husband, and Ted followed shortly thereafter. Fortunately, another of my friends called us by cell phone to ask if he was too late to join in.

The new team had no trouble solving the puzzle en route, thanks to new player Dave's knowledge of the area. The puzzle directly them to look in the rafters of the bus shelters at Broadway station.

At Broadway, the team found a crossword. We all retired to a nearby Starbuck's to solve it. This, along with a card saying "Go to ABCD," sent us forward.

The team's envelope for the next location had a connect the dots puzzle with the names of several stations weaving through the 70+ dots. The puzzle they found at the spot the crossword directed them to contained a puzzle about famous people. They put the two together to get a pointer to Stadium station.

Next came a map with numbers marked on it. The map was of International Village/Tinseltown's second floor, and the numbers marked the locations of fashion cities from around the world set right into the floor, including Vancouver, of course.

The game lasted into the night, which was a little longer than I had hoped. After Stadium they were to go on a walking tour near Granville Station, which would tell them to go to Waterfront and the end of the line. The Waterfront envelope had five smaller envelopes, one of which contained the location of the checkered flag. Things were closing, so the team just took the envelopes back to home base and solved the puzzle there.

Once there, they also tackled the four puzzles from part 2, that they'd need to open the lock.

One of them, the birdhouse I mention before, had fallen off its tree, or a squirrel ate it, or something by this time, so I had to give them this puzzle's answer.

They also had a stack of cubes to play with and some cards to play with.

Finally, they had a grid of letters and numbers to work with.

Everyone had fun, I think, even though the day was a little longer than I would have liked. I learned a lot about hat to do and what not to do. I will be doing another race in the Summer of 2002. If you're interested, you can write me at djrigby at hotmail dot com.