Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Day 3, Part 4 - The Queen City

Last time on Day 3 of the Great America Race:

We played with a unicorn, griffin and lion. We ate ice cream. We went out of our way to visit a mausoleum. We explored a cemetery. We solved a nice pop culture/music clue and used the solution as a Vigenère key to decrypt some ciphertext.

Armed with our decryption, we arrived at Lyttle Park in Cincinnati knowing we needed to search near the flags for some glowing signs under a well-placed light. We suspected this was cluing the use of our blacklight but while it was easy enough to locate the flags, there was nothing particularly obvious on which to shine our light.

So we spread out and expanded our search area. While examining the flags, I noticed a rock near one that seemed a little out of place. I inspected it but didn't see anything and I didn't have the blacklight on me. So I made a mental note to show the rock to the rest of my team and continued my search.

After another 15 or 20 minutes of searching, we texted Josh and he gave us a hint to look for a rock out of place. Immediately my unfailing mental note went off and I said, "oh yeah, I saw that like 15 minutes ago, we should shine the blacklight on it." It's a wonderful system I have... very efficient.

Anyway, the message on the rock led us to search some nearby ivy where we found the last four clues of the day.

The first of them took us to the Carew Tower downtown where we found a doorway with a series of medallions around it.

The order of these medallions helped us put together a message telling us to FIND THE BURNET HOUSE PLAQ. We were a little confused by the picture of Arnold Schwarzenegger (was this a callback to the earlier clue?) but it turns out that was just added because a couple of the playtest teams solved to an alternate message indicating Arnold's Bar and Grill (I'm not sure how) and Josh wanted to prevent us from going there instead.

We filled in the names from the plaque's register into the provided grid and used the numbers on the plaque to label our x and y axes.

This allowed us to use the xy-coordinates to pull out letters and go to the Berlin Wall Monument.

There scattered around the monument, we found various words scrawled onto stones in the ground.

We used the letter frequencies of all these words to help us find the proper German word that would decode our last Vigenère of the day which led to a local pub, O'Malley's in the Alley.

When we arrived at the pub, we found Josh waiting but he did his best to ignore us as we weren't quite done yet. The final clue had us locating various signs in the bar and taking the indicated letters to form one last message. Somehow I only have a pictures of two of the signs.

The message would have had us then head to Toby Keith's Bar and Grill but as it was already pretty late, that site was scratched and O'Malley's became the final location of the day. We talked with Josh for a bit and learned that the other two teams were an hour or so behind us. We were pretty hungry so we left before they arrived and visited the nearest Skyline Chili.

The waitress must have misunderstood because when we asked about a 5-way, she brought us all this chili instead.
I found the classic Cincinnati chili to be delicious but still a far cry from that of the Texas Chili Parlor that Rich and I had visited in Austin a month before. After gorging ourselves on chili and hot dogs, we found that we still had room for Graeter's ice cream which was conveniently located only a half block away.

I think Rich wins the Goldilocks award for enjoying his ice cream just the right amount.

I have been told in the past that Graeter's is the best ice cream on the planet which I always found to be a pretty bold statement. But after trying their 1870 Tower with black raspberry chip ice cream, I can no longer discount that statement out of hand.

All in all, I had a great time on day 3 and think that is probably my favorite day of the entire race. The puzzles were fun and challenging, the bikes were awesome, the travel clue was great, we recaptured the lead from the other teams and we finished with chili and ice cream. How could that not be fantastic?

Thanks for reading!

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