Going into it, we each had a different plan. Eccoglyph was to be a master of disguise. The Orange Magister would come from an unexpected direction. Neil the Ethical Werewolf is fleet of foot. Ashley planned to relax and enjoy the trip across SF. Mine, ironically, was to become an information mole when I inevitably got caught by chasers. I won't spoil their writeups (especially Eccoglyph's), but I think none of us got exactly what we expected.
As a strategist, it made sense to arrive early. As a planner, it made sense to come prepared (with a GPS, a bus map, flashlight, dark clothing, and of course juice and warm clothes). As a tactician, it made sense to know the terrain. As a maker of alliances, it made sense to contact an ally.
And so, my first move after receiving the map was to call in to a beautiful and talented confederate on the east coast, to look up the GPS coordinates of each of the stops for me to input into my GPS. As it turned out, when a chaser is coming after you, it is very handy to know you must turn /right/ to enter the safe zone. I kept my GPS unit with me the entire way; while a map is really more handy to see the streets, the GPS gave a great after-the-fact trail of the path I took throughout the city.
And what a path it was. After the initial whistle was blown, the crowd was off. Rather than be a part of the chaser-bait, Ashley, Neil and I enjoyed an energy-providing repart before setting off for the stairs (it helps to have an SF native along).
As we were approaching the base, a man walked by, walking his dog. He slowed. Then stopped, and turned his head to stare at us. We froze. In a perfect movie moment, he slowly drew back his sleeve...revealing a red ribbon.
We bolted from the chaser, a burst of energy that would haunt us when we returned to the steps, as well as hours later. But eventually, we made it to the top, and even ran into the Magister. We snapped a few photos, then went down the back towards our next stop.
Just before we reached it, a man started running across the street...Neil took off running back, distracting the chaser, who took off in pursuit. Ashley and I took advantage of the lure and bolted for the safe zone. A little later, Neil had escaped, doubled back, and met us at checkpoint 2. Here, we joined up with the Magister, as well as two others (Ramon and Anna). We planned a fairly short but hopefully safe route to checkpoint 3, then started walking. At one point, we came across a couple more players. As we were walking, I saw one of the two players sleeves pull up...revealing a red and white ribbon. By this time, they were in the middle of our group, with Neil and Ramon ahead, the rest of us behind. "Neil--run!" I called; and we all scattered, fleeing from the chaser in our midst.
As it later turned out, Neil and Ramon were caught there; but only one of the two was actually a chaser--the other was wearing her blue ribbon, bait and disguise for players like us. When they realized this, Neil and Ramone began an undead mission of vengeance: to find the bait, and ensure that she too was chased and caught.
Anna and I fled in mostly the same direction (you can see onthe gps track how we doubled back and ran to the south). We ran into chaser number 4, and hid, then were chased again; I turned a corner and ducked away, she made it to a bus stop. Both of us safe for now, we also met up with Ashley and tentatively made our way to checkpoint 3. Along the way, every pedestrian seemed like a potential chaser. No one could be trusted. We moved to the opposite side of the road, we spaced ourselves, we gave every passerby a good distance.
At checkpoint 3, we ran into the Magister yet again, who rejoined our party. We also received a surprise--Eccoglyph had beaten us there! Our broken path evasion of chasers and delays to regroup seemed to be costing us, so we went to Sacramento to catch a 1 bus west. at the bus stop, we found two more players-turned-chasers. Having made it into the safe zone, we started chatting, and it turned out they had objects of power! They'd forgotten to use them when they got caught, but generously gave them to us in hopes that they might help.
And they would! For soon after checkpoint 4 (with Anna having departed), a chaser leapt up the ramp and tagged Ashley. "wait!" she cried--but he was already running after me (and before I could cover the half block to the safe zone, I too was tagged). Fortunately, the "get out of jail free card" allowed us 60 seconds of free time to escape, which we used to run east (away from the direction we needed to go), to a 38 stop. Seconds after reaching it, the chaser showed up again; we'd just made it. from here, it was a straight shot west. At a later stop, a horde of chasers got on the bus. This was trouble--even though the stops were safe, they could just wait us out...so we left a stop early, betting on speed to get us to the next checkpoint.
The arrival was fairly uneventful; there were several chasers just hanging out at the house, but apparently those on the bus had other plans. We rested up and chatted for a while. At this point, Ashley and I knew that Neil, Eccoglyph, and now the Magister had all been tagged. Our duty was to make it to the end. With only one checkpoint to go, we wanted to make sure that we survived. We had to avoid any more chasers. and so we decided to walk all the way back to Divisadero and go north, then come into the park on the 43 to the 29, straight into the safe zone. We figured that there was no way a chaser would be back that far. And in that, we were correct. It may have cost us an extra hour or more (check out the huge detour between 5 and 6), but we made it to 6 without being caught. And from there, a relatively quick walk up to Marina and to the end.
When we made it, it was almost 1 AM. We were late. We were tired. we were probably the very last ones to arrive. But we had made it. We had survived. Josh graciously gave over the stamina prize to Ashley, and we hung out, meeting some of the great people here on sf0. It was a fantastic adventure, and we had an amazing time.
Spidere's writeup is fantastic! I'll just add in my own personal experiences as I traveled seperately from my group.
Last year's descriptions revealed that chasers often had trouble identifying people in play, especially after dark when ribbons didn't stand out. So I figured if I could make myself blend into the landscape, maybe I could sneak by the chasers. I am an avid costumer, a "master of disguise" as Spidere puts it, and I rarely pass up an opportunity to make use of it. I decided people would avoid looking too closely at a homeless character – we do have a tendency to avoid certain realities. A key point to the costume was that it had to be easily removed, as I didn't want to be seen in costume signing into checkpoints. I fell even deeper into a paranoid state and expected people might get suspicious of the same character showing up near every checkpoint, so I put together multiple costumes. In the end, I had a homeless character, a goth girl, and I went to the meeting place as a platinum blonde. Wonder if a psychologist would say something about my affinity for creating alternate personas.
I met up with my friends, Spidere Warmouse, Ashley, Neil Werewolf, and the Orange Magister at the meeting place in my blonde wig, and a few of us went to grab some food at the Ferry Building. Not many choices on a Saturday and service was a bit slow, so I was heading back to the lawn when I saw the explosive scatter of black-clad figures on the lawn. Oops. Missed the start. I bolted back to the cafe, warned my friends and ducked into the ladies restroom. There were many people in the bathroom, so I decided emerging from the stall as a bearded vagrant wouldn't be wise. Granted, the beard was a cheap plastic wig on my face, but what would it matter upon first glance? So I put on my pajama pants, Russian ear flap hat, bedsheet, gloves, and threw my backpack into my laundry bag. I walked up to the sink and used the mirror to properly place the beard so the women could see I wasn't a man. They still gave me odd looks, but I think they were more confused than frightened, except for that one woman who walked in as I was trying to leave. However, when I went to meet up with my friends in the café and take some pictures, one of the café workers followed me outside asking if I needed anything – if I was hungry. He may have thought I was bothering his clientele or else he was just that nice. I told him I didn't need anything, but I was kind of shocked that he actually thought I looked genuine. I had a brief hope that maybe I could pull this off. I headed off to the first checkpoint.
#1) I am embarrassed to say that I had no idea how to approach Coit Tower, though I work fairly close to the area. I headed up Embarcadero, and was at first amused that people were giving me a wide berth. After awhile, it wasn't so funny… I actually felt extremely isolated, and whereas I had hung my head to keep people from seeing my face at first, I was finding it difficult to look people in the face. I ended up circling the hill a bit before finding the winding way up. I didn't see any chasers, probably because they were already at checkpoint #2. I passed the Magister on his way back down, and he gave me a knowing grin as he passed. Thankfully, my grin was hidden behind my horribly fake beard. Once at the tower, I hit my first snag. Where in the world would I change? There were tourists everywhere! My goth girl backup costume could change in restrooms but I didn't think my current character could, especially not the women's restroom. I wandered the tower and spotted the contacts – then turned around to find an isolated spot to change, kicking myself for not fully considering this situation. I quickly threw off the sheet, the pajama pants, the beard and hat, and tossed them all in my backpack. I then ran over to the contacts, who told me I was bringing up the rear, #70-something. Wow. Didn't seem like the costume was helping any. I headed back to a vacant area and quickly threw the costume back on. Grumbling, I headed at a quick hobble to checkpoint #2.
#2 – Checkpoint 2 was outside on a street – lovely. Where to change… I hobbled past the contact couple and turned into a small side street. Threw off the pajamas, sheet, etc., left the bag of stuff in the alley, already growing tired of the changing act, and headed to get my manifest signed. As I was getting it signed, the couple asked if I had just walked by in a sheet. I was amused that they had been paying attention, and I learned the woman had recognized that I was female from my sneakers. I love my Sketchers, and I didn't want to buy a pair of used sneakers that weren't broken in for such a ground-intensive event. Rats. They wished me luck and I went back into the alley, and changed into my outfit, again. The beard was really getting on my nerves now. I kept trying to adjust it by using store windows as mirrors.
#3 – The supermarket. Approaching the supermarket, I could tell things were different. There were chasers everywhere. Even in my costume, I didn't feel like walking right through them and drawing their attention. So I walked past the supermarket, and jaywalked across the road to enter the parking lot. Safe, I thought. Now… that darn changing problem, again! I went into the supermarket, hoping the employees would ignore me. I went into a corner of the market and changed quickly, then went off to find a woman with an umbrella. After walking the parking lot a bit and heading back in, a random shopper saw me searching and pointed me towards the back. "That way," he said, clearly having had some encounter during his shopping experience. I wish I had asked. Bu tthere was the woman with an umbrella and a shopping cart mostly filled with salt. Cute. Got my manifest signed, found out I was right in the thick of the players, and headed towards the entrance. There were my friends in the parking lot! I was surprised that I had caught up, and they shared with me stories of chasers and adventure. They also told me that Neil, who I had expected to outrun everyone in this game, had been caught by an act of treachery. Shoot – not the kind of person you want as a chaser. I also met this really nice guy named Rabbit. We looked out at the parking lot together, at the scores of chasers surrounding it, and felt rather powerless. I told him I had to go back in and get ready. He came with me as I changed into my costume. I didn't mind showing him my secret as I felt some bond of camaraderie, both of us facing incredible odds, on the same side. He also changed his outfit as much as he could. I didn't want to deal with my beard anymore, so I covered my face with the sheet, wished Rabbit the best of luck, and headed into the fire.
#4 – I had no trouble leaving checkpoint 3, but I didn't want to take a direct route to #4, now that I knew the chasers were all over. I walked on a parallel street, and turned the corner to head in towards the safe zone. I saw a guy in black at the corner of the safe zone, talking loudly into a cellphone and gesticulating wildly, in my direction, and towards the checkpoint. I turned around, heart beating loudly, and continued walking along the route. Frick. Maybe if I came in from the other direction? So I walked along, and I could hear someone walking quickly behind me, catching up. I stepped aside on the sidewalk to let him pass. He walked on past, and I continued behind him. He then turned around and addressed me directly – could I give him directions to Denny's? Oh hell, I thought. Is this guy a chaser? I felt a stab of panic, and tried to make my voice sound gruff, forgetting that I was no longer wearing my beard and he could probably tell I was a girl. I mumbled something about "No" and "Pumpkin seeds" (Ok, I panicked) and went past him shaking my head. He was pretty persistent for awhile before he backed off. I found out later that this was one of the organizers, Orion. I felt very nervous as I continued into the safe zone. I was shocked to have made it in, and ducked into a wall crevice, stripped off the sheet, left the bags, and walked towards the address. I was getting used to leaving my stuff on the street now. I was in the safezone but I was so paranoid that when a chaser followed me, I turned abruptly into an open door and ended up in some storage area for a restaurant. I headed up the stairs and waited for a couple of minutes, eyeing the boxes of fruit all around, trying to slow my heart and basking in the adrenaline rush. I headed back down and found the address – hey look, I thought. Denny's. That confirmed my suspicions of the interrogating chaser on my way over. I went in, found the guy in the orange shirt, and got my manifest signed. In turn, I signed a cast. :-) I met Sam there, who was still in the game, and we headed out together. As we exited, I saw Neil with a bunch of other chasers and I froze, then ducked behind a pillar. After getting over the initial panic, Sam and I walked away from the group and stopped when we reached my bags. I told him I needed to change as we wished each other luck and he headed off to #5. He did far better than I did. I was maybe a block away from the safe zone hobbling quickly away when I heard feet pounding on the pavement behind me. "Don't run," I thought to myself, "It might be someone running from a chaser… they'll run on past-" and then I felt two hands slap me on the back. Frick again. I turned around and found myself looking straight at Rabbit. No! Not that sweet guy from the supermarket! The first words out of my mouth were, "You got caught?!" So much for camaraderie. Guess I should have been more careful about hiding my identity. I was disappointed that I hadn't made it to the end, and disappointed that I didn't get to try out my goth outfit, but I was glad that I hadn't become so paranoid that I avoided meeting people. Ah well. I exchanged the blue ribbon for a red, and figured I'd head to checkpoint 6 and stop people at the end.
Not much more to the story now. I thought I could use my outfit to get close to people, but after about 15 minutes of walking through empty streets, I started to feel wigged out. I took off the sheet and continued. Finally I called the Magister and found out he had just gotten caught. Mixed feelings for me on that one – yay that now I had someone with whom to travel on the creepy streets, but I was sorry he hadn't made it to the end. I'll let the Magister tell you his story. We still had two friends in the game, though, Spidere and Ash, and they did end up making it, though they were the last ones to the endpoint. On our way to #6, the Magister and I ran into a man with a jealous, extremely affectionate golden retriever puppy.
We got to #6, met the contacts and took pictures with the owl:
We also ran into Neil on his mission of vengeance, the Magister caught a player, who wasn't quick enough like his female companion to jet to the bus stop. We got to the party pretty late, after the awards, and passed some players who were turning in early. I met Orion, who was thrilled to find out that he hadn't interrogated an actual homeless guy. Seems he had strong suspicions that I was a player, but was thankfully amused enough to let me go.
People crashed at the Magister's place in Berkeley, being thoroughly spent, and got some much-deserved rest. Spidere and I have already begun talking about how to organize a Journey in DC. Clearly the event is a hit when participants want it to spread. Ja!