Our team, The End User Case, came in with 3 out of 5. Aynne and Eris were tagged out and became chasers, but Nicole, Sean and Jason all made it to the end relatively unscathed and with a full manifest.
Jason has some photos on Flickr
, as does Aynne
. Dig all Journey to the End of the Night photos
and also peruse the SF0 Flickr group
I picked up Nicole
around 5:30 so we could get dinner together and try to find a parking space downtown. Succeeding in both, we were early to registration and caught up with Ian, Sean and Sam. More people arrived, some I knew, some I didn't know. I was in a kind of shy mood so I didn't go up and introduce myself to many people, unfortunately. Still, these new-to-me people might become future enemies during the night, so perhaps best to play it safe.
Meanwhile, a friend and coworker of mine that was intending to come called to say that he had lost his house keys on the Golden Gate Bus, so he had to figure out how he'd be spending the weekend—in his place or not. I still don't know what happened to him.
Like Vladypus said
, when we saw that teams were possible, he, Kelly, Nicole and I started to team up, as at that point we were expecting one more (that would be Eris
). But then Vlad and Kelly decided to go it on their own, which ended up working out. Eris had brought her friend Sean
, and then our friend Aynne
called me to see if she was too late to get into the race. Aynne made it but had brought another friend, David
, but he ended up in another team with people he knew. With our team finalized I dubbed it The End User Case because it was the only thing I could think of. But everyone seemed to like it, so it was done.
As all this organizing was going on, we all got outfitted with blue and purple ribbons to designate racer/chaser status, a map of the race course, and free 1" buttons for the taking. Nicole and I had purchased a pretty sweet bus route map from the Ferry Building before the game started and we used it to plan our initial routes. It would turn out that we'd have to alter these plans on the fly, but I don't think we expected any less. One last bit of info: two people would be waiting for us at the Fairmont Hotel, dressed up, with one man with the Humanitarian Crisis insignia on his jacket.
Checkpoint 0 ― Park on Steuart Street, near the Ferry Building ― Starting Line
The race started! 5-4-3-2-1-go. I didn't see which direction everyone went; I just know at least half of us ran northwest and through some shopping/hotel complex to get to California Street. We saw many people running on uphill on foot, but we opted to catch the bus right off the bat, with the intention of pacing ourselves. After 10 minutes waiting for the bus, however, we needed to think of alternatives. Eris has this brilliant idea of calling the hotel, claiming to have a reservation under the name Jones at the hotel's restaurant, and telling them that the bus was nowhere to be found... could they send a shuttle? No dice, they didn't go for it. Shortly thereafter, a bus appeared around the corner and we were heading up California. A few other players got on along the way, including Aaro
, whose group had been split up by chasers. The folks in purple apparently meant to get it started early.
Hearing that we were trying to get into the hotel, an uninvolved passenger on the bus told us about a side entrance. We thanked him but it didn't register, since we all went for the front door, anyway. The bus almost made it to Mason Street, but right before, it got stuck uphill behind a double-parked car. By that time many of us were standing by the exit door in back, in anticipation of the scramble to the demilitarized, chaser-neutral zone, and when the bus driver asked us if we wanted off there, we all responded with an emphatic, "Yes!!" And again we were running, up the half-block to the top of the hill and the hotel.
Checkpoint 1 ― 950 Mason Street ― The Fairmont Hotel
We saw players coming out of the hotel... well, honestly it seemed like every player besides those of us who just got off the bus was coming out of the hotel, and I don't know how they got uphill so fast on foot. We went inside, found our contacts (which turned out to be Ian's parents), got info on the next contact (a woman in a brown trenchcoat), got our signatures and were back out the front door.
Except there were at least two chasers on bicycles, circling like sharks to catch anyone who went the obvious direction. Eris (I think) again to the rescue: back into the hotel, we searched for the back entrance on Powell Street. We had to go down a floor but we found it. Eris and Sean poked their heads out, saw the coast was clear, and we ran two blocks downhill towards Market Street before I asked them to slow down. A lot of running downhill meant my gut bouncing, meaning my recent appendectomy scar getting agitated, and I wanted to avoid potential problems. They kindly acquiesced, but with red lights it turned out to be the same in terms of timing. Keeping an eye out for purple bicyclists, we made our way down to Market Street and the plaza at the cable car turntable. Not knowing who was around, we ran from the cover of buildings across the plaza and down the stairs to the MUNI subway station.
A panhandler addressed us on the way down, saying, "Slow down! You're going too fast to help the homeless."
"Sorry, we're in a race," I apologized, and we made it into the station.
On the L (K? M?), we discussed our options: get out at Van Ness and take the direct route, or try going to the Church Street stop and doubling back, with less chasers stationed on the back door? Aynne pointed out that the Van Ness stop meant any running to safety would be done uphill, so we went with the Church Street option. Going down Market in the open, we thought maybe we had made it there quickly enough that the chasers wouldn't have had time to station themselves there, but no. Just before we got to the intersection with Laguna/Guerrero, a man talking on a cell phone and—we noticed too late—a purple ribbon sticking out of his hat got not ten feet in front of us before he shut his phone and said, "Hi!" Before this, Sean had apparently saw the ribbon and stopped, but he didn't say anything, so the rest of us kept walking right into the trap. Right after his greeting, Aynne broke left towards the street, and the chaser went right for her. I, on the right side of the group, shot to the right and forward across the street, into the safe zone. Turning around, I saw only Nicole heading my direction. I called out to her, asking how many of us made it.
When she held up two fingers, I was a bit crestfallen. Had our whole team been decimated just like that? A moment later, we spotted Sean across the street in the safe zone, and he rejoined us. We didn't see Eris and Aynne for the rest of the night, though we later got an SMS that they were on the beach.
Checkpoint 2 ― 1801 Market Street ― It's Tops
We found Sarah
enjoying dinner at the It's Tops diner. Getting her signature on our manifests, we asked her how many people had shown up before us. She let us know we were #s 5, 6, and 7—only 4 players in front! Not bad. After she told us to look for a woman with a broken wrist at the next checkpoint, we thanked her and headed back outside. Our original plan involved catching the N-Judah out through and under Twin Peaks and then catching a bus north, but we saw the chasers starting to swarm in the direction we'd need to go. We figured that ours wasn't the only team to have suffered losses at this point, and the number of chasers was increasing, making things a lot more difficult. After some deliberation and speculation, we decided to head north on Octavia and start cutting across and around, with the intention of making it to the station before anyone noticed us amidst the other pedestrians. Instead, as we cut across a street, Sean spotted the bus stop on Haight Street and we waited there in safety. Only a few minutes passed before we caught the bus up into the Upper Haight.
Along the way, another racer (Liam?) got on the bus and joined us in the back. He told us that a friend of his, a chaser, was also on the bus, waiting to follow him out once he got out. This turned out to be Devin
, and you can read his side of this leg of the race in his documentation
. The four of us tried to look inconspicuous and considered our options. We told Liam that our plan was to get out at Masonic and take the bus north from there to Geary. Liam was going to go with us, but then he said he was going to get off early to pull Devin off the bus, confident he could outrun and get around him. He did so somewhere in the Haight, calling out to Devin and getting out the back. Devin, reading his book, didn't get out in time and ended up getting out at the next stop, never noticing we were there.
At Masonic, we waited again, and discussed that the waiting was slowing us down and would continue to do so. I pointed out that there wasn't going to be a magic bus anywhere along the route that could get us there without having to transfer, and since we also lost two of our team, there was no bonus points to be had at this point, and that staying alive was more important. It's just the nature of the game. The bus came, we took it to Geary, and took the Geary bus right into the safe zone across the street from the third checkpoint. On the Geary bus we ran into Lars
and some others I didn't recognize. When we got out, everyone seemed to be heading down the street... in the wrong direction, I saw, when I checked the street signs. (When looking for 2807, 2900→ means reverse! reverse!) We stopped Sean from going that way, and everyone else was already across the street and out of the safe zone, but... this was a race. We took off wordlessly up Geary in the other direction, and jaywalked across the street.
Checkpoint 3 ― 2807 Geary Boulevard ― Family Billiards
2807 Geary turned out to be a pool hall. The nicest pool hall that I've been in, really. We went in and found Ian's sister Alison
sitting with a friend. We knew her from the cast on her left arm, and we got our signatures right away. Everyone else from the bus started spilling in after our team was squared away, and as she was signing, I asked Alison how many had been here before us. Only two, it turned out! We suspected that it was Kelly and Vlad, but I'm thinking now that she meant two teams. Still, we thought we were doing great. But it seemed like everyone who hadn't caught the chaser virus was right there with us, so we got out fast. I got a couple photos before we did, which prompted someone up front to get on the PA and remind everyone that flash photography was not allowed in the pool hall. Oops.
Outside, another chaser was already circling, and so we kept to the safe zone and went back to the bus stop we arrived at. A couple other players joined us, I think, and another Geary bus came soon. On it, we met up again with Ian's parents. Discussing the race ("Shoot, did you get who we were looking for?" "A man with a broom." "A man with a broom?"), a guy I was standing next to asked what it was that we were doing, and we had time to explain it and SF0 to him, and I did everything except give him a calling card so he'd have something with the website on it. Our conversation was cut short when we got to 6th Avenue, where our team got out and went across the street to catch the 44 into Golden Gate Park. The 44 bus went right by one end of Middle Drive E, which was considered a safe zone, and we were hoping we could get out right there, but the only stop in the park was by the de Young Museum... two streets away.
The park was probably the hardest part in the race. It was already night when we got to the pool hall, you couldn't see a chaser's purple ribbon until it was probably too late... talk about paranoia. We walked down the street we were on, thinking we'd stick to the trees as we headed towards Middle Drive E, but we spotted someone walking down Martin Luther King drive and, when he saw us, he never looked away and started texting someone on his phone.
Right into the trees we went. We ended up in a parking lot, open and vulnerable, but we had no choice to keep going and get across the street at the other end. We did so without incident, fortunately, the chaser not having circled around to follow us. One more block to go, and Sean thought we could cut across the construction going on, and I was game to try but wasn't sure. We ended up going right by and around it, ending up at the entrance to the Shakespeare Garden. It was closed by a big iron gate, but it wasn't locked, so Sean led the way. As I was going in, Nicole and I suddenly heard a voice from across the path. "Do you mind shutting the gate behind you? I don't want anyone sneaking up on me through that way," he said. We couldn't see anyone there, but it sounded like someone was sleeping on the ground across the path.
"Sorry," I said, closing the gate.
"'S alright," said the voice.
Sean had got ahead of Nicole and I as that conversation transpired, so Nicole and I made our way through the garden to the brick monument at the other end. Sean had gone around it, but we couldn't see how or where. I started to go around one way and Nicole the other, when on the other side I saw a silhouette walking right towards me.
Fuck, again. Sean or chaser?
The silhouette just stood there. I was tensing up to bolt. "Sean?" I asked, trying not to be too loud.
Yeah, Sean. Damn this game...
Through some more trees and we emerged on another street. Middle Drive E, with three chasers and their car on the corner nearby. But we were safe, and started heading up the road, past construction and trying to figure out how we were going to find this Peace Circle thing in the dark.
Checkpoint 4 ― Golden Gate Park, Middle Drive E ― Peace Circle
We ended up going up a couple grottos looking for anything resembling a circle. Going up the road, Sean found a park map that showed the hidden path (well, hidden in the dark) going up to the circle. Up a rise and down some stairs, we saw an orange safety cone with a light inside, making it glow, sitting in the middle of a circular opening. Ian and Evan
were there, Evan with a broom. As Evan signed our manifests, Ian told me he was rooting for our team, really glad that we had made it this far. We also learned that six people had been here before us, but that some of them were doing the checkpoints in a different order.
I thought that, while clever, it was cheap, probably cheating, and said so. Ian, in his way, neither confirmed nor denied the legality of such an action. After some planning of alternate routes, since getting back to the de Young seemed unlikely, Ian warned us that several chasers had been spotted going up and down MLK Drive, and we might want to consider going another way. We got our streets mixed up (or at least I did) and thought that MLK Drive was the long street to the north, where the Conservatory of Flowers was. Instead, it was the street where we spotted the chasers from before. Still, thinking we'd have to exit the other side of the park and get back across elsewhere, we headed out the other side of the circle after getting our next contact (a man with a box of logs), up some stairs, through some trees, across the baseball fields and to Lincoln Avenue, running along the south side of the park. We walked along the park, as I took the lead and kept an eye out for chasers waiting to jump out at us, but we made it to 9th Avenue and the bus stop for the 44 going north.
Once again, we discussed that bus transfers were killing our time. I was really paranoid about the number of chasers along the course at this point, and thought best to err on the side of caution. Nicole was with me, but I think Sean was getting impatient and wanted to take more risks. I was with the occasional risk, but we had to pick our battles wisely. In the meantime, the 44 could get us right to Balboa Street, and the Balboa bus could get us right to the fifth safe zone. Sean agreed and we waited. And waited. Nicole pointed out that it was 10:30pm and that the chasers would be called in at 10:45. Damn. Had it really been that long since we started?
I called Ian and told him we were worried about the race ending. He told us that there would still be chasers out after 10:45 and that we should consider ourselves in play until we reached the beach. That made me feel better and I let the others know the good news. I mean, I didn't think we'd get to the beach first at this point, but I didn't want us to be timed-out and disqualified because the busses were slow.
The 44 finally came around 10:40pm and we took it north through the park. We ended up talking to another guy on his way home, who said he'd help us get to where we were going after I showed him our map and told him we were racing across the city. But as we got to Fulton Avenue, Sean went to the front of the bus, looked out the side, and motioned for us to get out there. He was out before we could say anything, and so Nicole and I jumped out the back. "What? What's going on, what happened to Balboa?"
"The Fulton bus is coming, we can grab that."
"But if we take that to 17th/18th, the chasers will probably be looking for us that way, and it's a two block stretch the long way. If we took the Balboa bus, we'd get in to the safe point without having to deal with them."
We debated the merits of Fulton versus Balboa, and we decided on Balboa before the Fulton bus showed up. (I said something like "If we get caught, it's on your head," to Sean, which probably didn't help matters, mea culpa.) The walk to Balboa was uneventful, and we found a bench (a real bench, not the flip-down half-seats other bus stops have) to take a breather on. Sean seemed okay with this plan when he found out the Balboa bus runs every 15 minutes, so we wouldn't lose too much time. I made an audio recording on my camera of our situation while we waited, during which an SUV came up and asked directions to the Golden Gate Bridge. We didn't have to wait too long before the bus arrived, and we found the guy we were talking to on the 44, who said something like, "See? I told you this bus would get you to where you're going."
We got out at 17th Avenue, ran across the street without looking for chasers, and into the safe zone.
Checkpoint 5 ― 1640 Balboa Street ― Laundromat
A small laundromat was at the address of the fifth stop. Orion
was there, manning the spot, and we also were reunited with Vlad, Kelly and Avidd
. I was glad to see all of them, until Avidd turned around and we saw that he had a purple ribbon tied around the flower on his jacket...
Orion signed our manifests as the rest of them left, and said, "And before you go, I have something for you." He turned around, reached over something, and produced two club-sized logs which he handed to Nicole and me.
"You're kidding me," I said. "We have to carry a log the rest of the way?"
Orion tutted at me. "How do you think the wood for the fire is going to get to the beach?" Just great. We're tired, and just as we thought the end was in sight, we had to carry extra weight with us. Sean got a log as well and we left the laundromat.
Outside, Kelly, Vlad, Avidd, and some other guy who was not Maccabee
but would later claim to be Maccabee's avatar wanted to know if he could go with us. Sure! He wasn't a chaser, after all. Avidd warned us that chasers in some sort of yellow buggy had been seen zipping up and down 18th Avenue and that we should be careful, before he slipped off up to 17th to see if he could catch anyone else, leaving us to discuss what we were going to do.
With Avidd's back turned and up the block a bit, we ended up running down to the bus stop at 19th Avenue. Much deliberation as to what we were doing. Kelly admitted that they had seen us at other bus stops before this, but weren't sure if we had been turned into chasers or not and they had avoided us totally. I brought up that bus stops were safe zones, and there was some deliberation as to whether or not "MUNI stations" (as it said on our manifest) included bus stops, or just train stations. Kelly and Vlad had been playing the whole game
assuming bus stops weren't safe, which is pretty impressive that they'd made it as far as they had. I pointed out that it'd be terribly unfair if you couldn't even wait for a bus in peace in this game. Avidd returned shortly thereafter to circle like a shark. At some point, Sean, Vlad and Kelly all decided to run for it, and Avidd took off after them. Nicole and I figured we'd wait for the bus, get out somewhere in the 30s where there probably weren't any chasers (since the Balboa bus would only get us two blocks from Great Highway, and we figured that'd be some sort of chaser gauntlet at this point—screw that), get on the 18 bus which would drop us off on the west side of Great Highway, right into safety and the beach.
After a few minutes, Kelly and Vlad returned. We told them our plan since they were still a whole team and I really wanted them to have a shot at winning. It turned out Vlad had the same idea at some point. Avidd showed up again as well, apparently having lost Sean (who later sent me an SMS saying he was on Geary and going to take that bus).
Some more conversation, and Ian showed up on his bike, on his way to visit Orion. More discussion, and finally the Balboa bus showed up. Everyone but Ian had every intention to get on that bus, but it passed on by without really slowing down.
Not much to do about that, so Ian went off to visit Orion, and Avidd took off his chaser ribbon, claiming a truce since he just wanted to get to the beach. We all walked up to Geary (no sign of Sean, but we saw a Geary bus pass us by from half a block away) and waited for the bus there. And waited. And Kelly was like, fuck it, and stuck out her thumb. They got a BMW to stop for them and she and Vlad jumped into the back seat. I debated Nicole and I joining them but we didn't. After they took off, the rest of us discussed the legality/creativity around that action (mostly: damn, wish we'd gone with it), and Avidd ended up taking off on foot, maybe to find a cab. Nicole and I decided to stick to the rules and wait for a bus. And wait we did, for like half an hour. I was sullen and cranky, wishing the race had started an hour or two earlier so players wouldn't have to deal with crappy late-night bus schedules. Then again, that's just part of the race... Even past that, we were worried about how we'd get back to my car, all the way on the other side of the city, when the busses stopped running...
The Geary bus dropped us off a block from Great Highway. We went cautiously but directly through a plaza, saw no chasers (mind, it's about 12:20am at this point), and got across to safety. A couple calls and we knew which fire out of a long string of maybe two dozen fires to go to, and being one of the last to arrive, we added our logs. Fucking finally. Reunited with everyone, we fell into many discussions, including the nature of EquivalenZ tasks and how they might seem to have a higher barrier to entry than other teams, and what could be done to fix that. Nicole took a cab back to her place on her own, and later I ended up catching a cab with Rubin
and their friend Josh back downtown around 3. On the way back, we passed a motorcycle with twenty-eleven headlights and mirrors, like something out of Quadrophenia
, and I watched the rows and rows of houses go by my window, watching us cover in 20 minutes the same ground we had raced and been pursued across for over four hours. And to be honest, fell in love with the city all over, once again.
And I don't think anyone noticed that the map we received put San Francisco on the Atlantic Ocean. We move whole cities here at SF0.