I bowled in my underwear this weekend at East Village Tavern & Bowl.
On Saturday, there I was in Lane 3, wearing red and white bowling shoes, gray boxer/briefs and a look of frustration. It was around noon, and I wasn’t the only one down to my drawers. Far from any sort of pin-up party, though, this was part of City Chase, a traveling urban adventure series that’s part-scavenger hunt, part-obstacle course and part-circus.
There were more than 225 teams of two that began the day at Embarcadero Marine Park North. City Chase President Jason Erkes was on hand to announce the rules and start us off. We were instructed to complete 10 of the 19 Chase Point tasks at locations throughout downtown San Diego. The first team to make it to House of Blues with evidence of 10 completed tasks (some mandatory) would be declared the winner.
The City Chase clue sheet was challenging. Rather than saying, “Find such-and-such building,” the clues were rhymes that were ambiguous and tricky. One clue was labeled “Wavehouse,” and had an explanation in Spanish. Many teams simply took a bus to Wavehouse in Mission Beach (teams were given MTS public transportation passes for the event). Well, the clue was in a foreign language because you were supposed to go to the beach at Spanish Landing, downtown near the airport.
When you found a Chase Point, besides bowling in skivvies, there were a bevy of unusual tasks. Among other things, you had to: kiss a stranger and exchange clothes with a different stranger. At The Local and Robert Cromeans Salon, participants ate crickets, mealworms and cow tongue. To get the point at Jack in the Box, we put on body-size taco outfits and had to direct people to the fast-food eatery. We sang to senior citizens at St. Paul’s Manor. Luckily, my team avoided having to get dunked in a stinky, warm milk tank near the Sheraton Harbor Island.
The race started at 10 a.m., and the course closed at 4 p.m. A pre-race e-mail indicated that the winners would probably finish in three hours. At 1 p.m., we had four tasks completed, and were struggling up that huge hill on Laurel Street. My partner and I eyed cabs (against the rules) that kept passing. On a bus (legal) a little later, we heard report from another team that no one had finished yet. Buoyed, we knocked out our last Chase Point (building a monkey out of paper, tape and trash at Amici Park) and limped to the House of Blues.
Our time was 5 hours, 36 minutes -- good for 21st place. Many teams didn’t come back on time or with 10 tasks completed. We were about an hour-and-a-half out of first place. The winners will compete in City Chase’s national tournament in Quebec, Canada, later this year.
Overall, City Chase scored high marks with me. There were kinks in the system, and their Web site is hard to crawl through, but they executed with a high-level of efficiency. And thrice on the day, we met really nice, informative city bus drivers. They were helpful and friendly. Of course, I don’t think I’d ever want to go bowling in my underwear with any of them.
Ron Donoho is a regular contributor to NBCSandiego.com and a contributing editor to sandiego.com. His Web site (sandiegoDTOWN.com) is dedicated to news, sports, culture, happy hours and all things downtown.