Meredithian: The decision to join in the L.A. Journey was a spur of the moment one for me, but I couldn't resist once I knew the Austinites and some of my fellow FOØcakes were going, including Mr. G who had lived in L.A. for a few years.
Gummy Bears: One of the green gummies journeyed to the end of the night alone as part of the SFZEROPRACTICAL exam, so the Green Team vowed to participate in a real Journey, despite the inherent risks of interacting with unknown humans. Armbands, they knew, were useless on gummies, so they made themselves blue runner hats and red chaser hats. Evil Sugar asked if they wanted water bottles, but the bears declined. Gummies, they said, do not drink water. They drink frosting. Evil Sugar told the gummies that they could have frosting after the race was complete.
Ayma Mack: Being that this would be my first journey as well as my first time to LA, I spent a considerable amount of time preparing. I studied the maps, read all the praxis from the Chicago journey, and enjoyed a few beers in the process. At O'Hare, the mood was set for the next day by a terribly scary cookie. I posted a few pics of O'Hare, boring, I know, but my luggage was lost en route and they are the only ones I have to share!
Sparrows: We had been lucky with our flights (Ayma Mack: Except for the part where American lost my luggage!), so everyone got into LAX within hours of each other the morning of Journey. We dumped our stuff at a friend's house we were staying at, took quick showers and got our running shoes on. Then we went out and scarfed down some energy foods at Fred 62's. Some of us were running for the first time, and some of us were coming back from a triumphant Chicago Journey. Some wanted to be the first to finish, and some wanted only to survive. We were full of a wired kind of tension, and kept pulling out maps of L.A. to examine for ideas. I was narrowly convinced to abandon my Thomas Guide, which I had planned to haul along with me. Ah, Thomas Guide.
We reached the gathering point to find it was already full of potential runners. We were in this little park at the base of a big mountain. The sun was setting, and the streets held their breath in balmy anticipation.
We were at the edge of the crowd and so didn't have a good look at who was telling everyone the rules - was it
Lincoln? Tom O'Tillo? Lowteck? We talked about pushing forward, but then we'd be trapped in the crowd when it was time to break. We stayed put, examining the map.
So we totally weren't ready when the horn blew, and everyone went running.
Mr G: After the Chicago's Journey, I was totally psyched for another one, and I love LA. Approaching the starting point was really exciting. I was surprised by the turnout, and apprehensive about the competitors, knowing full well that many would likely become my enemy over the course of the night. But after a successful run in Chicago, I was confident that we'd finish on top.
Rainy: I just wanted to survive the night. But I don’t run very fast, so I knew I’d have to be alert and clever. If possible. Okay, maybe just alert. Or not.
From Start to Checkpoint 1
(Ayma Mack: Since my camera was captured by AA, I drew for the rest of the journey
We hauled ass up to Hollywood, figuring we'd be safe amongst the touristy shops. It was very surreal, looking down and seeing the hollywood stars at our feet, while certain that chasers would be upon us in seconds - a sensation that was to prove a little psychic. We were only halfway to Checkpoint 1 when Mr. G screamed, "Chaser!" and we bolted, hurtling down the boulevard and dodging through people.
Meredithian: Other than to survive until the end, my sub-goals for Journey LA were to be less cautious and finish with a faster time than I did with Journey Chicago, and to be more tied to the group I had chosen to run with. My experiences in the Chicago Journey told me that when in danger my first instinct was to save myself, and I was not very happy with that revelation. But old habits die hard, and when from the very beginning the chasers hit, I was off and running away from the rest of my team. My first instinct was to run in the opposite direction from everyone else, away from the main street rather than along it, then darting across and heading down the first side street I saw. I was hoping I could duck between some houses or in an alley or something to escape. It happened so fast it wasn't until I was out of view from the rest of the team and fairly safe that I realized I had abandoned the team. It wasn't until I slackened up that I noticed for the first time wasn't alone. Mr. G had been alongside me on the street and then ran over by my side. His presence both reassured me and made me uncomfortable; I both wanted and was afraid to be alone. We found some trash bins to duck behind and tried to find out what became of the rest of the team but couldn't see them. We decide to head on to Checkpoint one and hope they met us there.
Mr. G: I was unpleasantly surprised with how many chasers there were along Los Feliz blvd, right near the staring point. So early in the game were we ambushed, and we all scattered. I couldn't tell who were chasers and runners, so I ran without looking back. I successfully ran down a side street and was pleased to find that Meredithian had taken the same route. I was happy to see she wasn't nabbed, but afraid for the rest of my group. We continued on, without hesitation, to Checkpoint 1, which we did without running in to any other chasers.
Gummies: So many humans, all gathered in one place. Running! It was all the gummies could do to not get stepped on. They decided to hide until most of the humans had gone. It was a good plan, a perfect plan – except that the gummies didn't have a map. When the starting area had cleared, they were uncertain which way to go. They set off in what they hoped was the right direction, and quickly became lost. Being out in the human world made the gummies feel very small and very alone.
The rest of us kept together and managed to catch up to and pass some poor runner we didn't know – the chaser went for her instead, and we escaped unscathed.
Rainy: When the chasers surprised us we scattered and I dodged various passersby, almost ran into a wookie, ( ;) ) and then caught sight of Sparrows, and we managed to get away.
Sparrows: I glanced back once as the chaser took her ribbon – I think it might have been Loki.
Meredithian: Getting to checkpoint one was easier and faster than I had imagined. Once we were there I felt a blast of nostalgia from when I had visited LA the first time, to pick up Mr. G and drive him along with all his possessions across the country to my apartment in Chicago. We had visited Griffith park during that trip and we had a fantastic day, hiking up the mountain, checking out the museum, catching up on years living apart and planning for the future of years living much closer together. But this was no time for woolgathering, and so we quickly moved on.
After that we were paranoid and jumpy, certain that everyone whose arm we couldn't see was a chaser. None of us could take our eyes off our surroundings long enough to phone Mr. G and Meredithian.
From Checkpoint 1 to Checkpoint 2
We decided to go along Hyperion Avenue to reach Checkpoint 2. We managed to stop long enough to get a good shot of a beautiful bridge:
Beyond that the street was full of bars and restaurants… just the sorts of places a chaser could wait within, ready to jump out at us. We had calmed down a little, and people were phoning Mr. G and Meredithian and trying to get everyone regrouped, with all the mistrust and cross-checking of, "Are you a chaser?" "No, are YOU a chaser?" that that sort of business involves.
Meredithian: Getting to checkpoint two, again, was kind of a breeze. I had the usual feeling of paranoia, and kept looking over my shoulder and carefully crossing intersections where I thought we might be seen... but overall, it was calm. Though I never really relaxed, I started to look around for the first time. I remember Mr. G. telling me the first time I was in LA that no one really walked anywhere. Truthfully, there didn't seem to be anyone just walking around, even when we passed by seemingly commercial areas. I started to see this as a good sign for the game - if you did see someone walking, it was good reason to automatically be suspicious. Overall, though, not seeing anyone made me think we were making good time. I felt a little bad for our teammates, not knowing where they were - phone communications seemed to be failing us as whenever I tried to call Sparrows Fall I went straight to voicemail. I would have feared for the worst, but my phone had been doing that all day whenever I had tried to call her, so I tried to hope for the best and stay positive. I was disappointed we didn't see them at the first checkpoint but thought maybe we were way ahead of them. Even though I was excited at the possibility of a lead, I thought I would suggest we wait a bit at Checkpoint 2 and see if they showed up.
Mr. G: Our clue for checkpoint 2 was "a VIEW of los feliz." We headed to the intersection of Sunset and Hollywood. Sticking to small streets and dark alleys, we made it without incident. In fact, we didn't even see many other runners. This was surprising so early in the game. Were we way ahead or way behind? Had they all gotten tagged? Who knew, but we kept moving. By the time we left checkpoint 2, we had been reunited with our group, wholly intact with blue ribbons. Except the gummies. Upon arriving, we found that the "VIEW" meant the Vista theater. Sure enough, we found two people dressed as Batman and the Joker. Was this a promotion to the new movie? No, it was the checkpoint people.
(almost like Batman and the Joker...)
Rainy: I wished we could stop at Trader Joe’s. I miss trader Joe’s. Also, I was hungry. Along Hyperion I was nervous as we went; we tried to find groups of regular folk to blend with here and there; this got easier when we hit Sunset. I’m fond of Sunset. Did you know you can take Sunset all the way through the canyons to the coast? Usually when I’m out in the LA area, I’m out there visiting my mom. It was a great relief to rejoin as a group. I like the Vista, too; my first job was at The Rialto in South Pasadena, and I love old theaters.
We got to Checkpoint 2 without much further trouble.
From Checkpoint 2 to Checkpoint 3
We made good time out of Checkpoint 2. We saw a few chasers in the distance, but managed not to attract their attention. We spotted a group of players ahead of us, with blue ribbons on their arms, and followed them for a while. We were eager, and kept almost catching up – we got close enough at one point to see that it was Waldo Cheerio, Tac Haberdash, and the Walrus. We all exchanged wary smiles, and then we let them pull ahead of us again. They would be making better time, but they'd also be the first to trigger any hidden chasers.
Gummies: After wandering lost for a while, the gummies spotted a group of chasers, clustered around a building with a hot dog on top. The gummies waited. The chasers waited. The chasers looked bored. Then suddenly all the chasers took off at top speed. The gummies ran to the giant-hot-dog building and discovered they had reached Checkpoint 3. More importantly, the humans running the checkpoint were giving out cupcakes! At first, the humans tried to give the entire green team only one cupcake, but the green team insisted that each gummy bear needed their own cupcake. The gummy bears licked all the frosting off their cupcakes, leaving the cake part for Evil Sugar. Happy and full of frosting, the green team napped for several minutes (which is over a year of hibernation in gummy time). When they woke up, more humans had arrived at the checkpoint, including their good friends Rainy and Sparrows Fall.
Ayma Mack: I was so hungry by this point that I almost stopped running for a bit just to eat but I was persuaded to keep on going. At one point I shrieked and ran from a stranger who came up to me, but all they wanted was a cigarette. Lucky for me though we made it to the third checkpoint safely, and to find what? An abundance of food. Thai food, yum. But I was massively confused at the fact that there was a tofu-covered hot dog on the roof of a Thai restaurant. These Californians are weird!Anyhoo - to make things even better there were CUPCAKES to be had, and I LOOOOOOVE cupcakes. Yum.
Rainy: Things were seeming a little weird at this point, to me. And I don’tmean the giant food of mixed proteins. We have plenty of giant food in Austin. I was just feeling weird, kind of like I was doing mushrooms. Which made the cupcakes a good thing. Mmm, cupcakes. I ate two and was glad to be rejoined by the gummies and Evil.
We had to drag Ayma Mack away from the Thai food once we got going again. He had a lot of 'help' finishing his order. We decided to head down Western to Santa Monica, then east to the cemetery, where Checkpoint 4 lay.
From Checkpoint 3 to Checkpoint 4
Gummies: The gummies decided to split up. Too many gummies all together, they decided, would attract more human attention than gummies traveling alone or in pairs. Also, they were getting tired. Meredithian kindly volunteered to carry a gummy in her pocket.
Mr. G: Between the hot dog and the cemetery, we did run into a bit of excitement. We thought about taking side streets, but not knowing the neighborhood kept us from doing so. It was risky along Western, it being so open and such a direct path, but we decided to risk it. Upon approaching a couple of chasers, we started to slow down, but knew we had to think fast. Meredithian quickly said "I can take them," and took off running. The rest of us were shocked by such quick thinking, and hung back pretending like we didn't know her. Meredithian sprinted down a side street. The chasers looked at her, then at us, then at her again, and took the bait, sprinting off after her. We were greatful, but worried. Would we find Meredithian waiting for us at checkpoint 4? Or did she nobly sacrifice herself for the sake of the group? Only time would tell.
Meredithian: This time when we saw chasers, my extremely latent heroism finally kicked into action. I did run away from everyone, but first I ran towards the chasers a bit, to try and lead them on. I made them force into a kind of flanking pattern, not sure if they would buy it... but they did! I could feel them behind me and then suddenly was *really* scared I wouldn't be able to get away! I spared a glance back, however, to find that both chasers were with me and my team had safely gotten away. All I had to focus on now was saving myself, and this time I didn't even have to feel guilty about it.
This spurred me on, and with a burst of adrenaline, I went sprinting down the road without looking behind me. I went for several blocks before checking behind me, and when I glanced back I saw the chasers, standing two blocks away - they had gotten tired and stopped.
Rainy: Moving as a pack, we were headed down Western when Mr. G spotted some chasers. And Meredithian took the heat! So brave! I would have done it. Really. Um. Really.
Meredithian: I found myself far off course, with no one around. I took out the map. I could go all the way back and hope the chasers weren't waiting for me, or I could try to make my way along the roads and hope I met up with everyone. I didn't want to call them - I may have been heroic, but I wasn't going to risk that they'd all been caught anyway, and were about to lure me into some kind of trap. And then I saw a bus! A bus! I hopped onto it immediately then looked over the map trying to figure out where it was heading - luckily it was going in the right direction. I got off near the checkpoint and warily approached, but there were no chasers around. Unfortunately there was no one I knew there, either - were they ahead of me or behind me? How much time had I lost, distracting the chasers?
Green Gummy: I rode the bus! I rode the bus! (The green gummy was very excited about this because the Yellow Team had gotten to ride the bus to work with Rainy one time, and it sounded fun.)
From Checkpoint 4 to Checkpoint 5
Gummies: SO TIRED!
Rainy: The neighborhood got kind of dog-eared, and there were some rumors filtering to us about heavy chaser activity ahead. I gave a couple of the gummies, who were very tuckered out, a lift in one of my pockets. I was still feeling weird, and this wasn’t helped a feeling of vertigo (kind of twisty feeling, like I was turning into one of the twisty junipers all over LA…which I like, but I didn’t want to turn into one) and a sudden strange fog drifting up from the gutters.
Gummies: Yay Rainy! Yay pockets!
We were heading north on Vine when we ducked into an alley while Sparrows tied her shoe. When Rainy peered back onto the street she saw a chaser that had just come around the corner, so we retreated further into the alley. We decided to cut through the alley and then move north again to avoid the chaser. But when we got through it, it opened up into a small street that didn't seem to go anywhere, with another alley on the other side of it. We ducked into that one, too, getting nervous now – what if we couldn't get back on track? At the same time some weird fog was coming up, making it hard to see very far ahead.
We'd reached the other end of the second alley when we heard a shout and running feet, right on top of us – if we ran, too, we'd make too much noise. We flattened ourselves against the walls of the alley. If the runner turned down our alley we were totally screwed. But luckily the blue-ribboned guy sprinted by the mouth of the alley and kept on going. We heard a tremendous pounding of feet as the pack of pursuing chasers closed the gap between them and their victim – they shot across the mouth of the alley.
We only saw them for a second, but it was enough to freeze us in place. They burst from the fog and were gone so fast we couldn't be sure it was really them, but in that moment we swore we saw Piratey Monkey, and Cameron , and P00n, and Gadget, running full tilt, red ribbons marking their arms, glee on their faces.
We waited for several long minutes after they had gone by, then crept from the alley, moving as fast as we could. The fog lifted soon after, and we made the checkpoint.
Meredithian: At this point I was making time on my own. I made it to Checkpoint 5 with relative ease, at some points I felt like running even when I didn't have to, partially out of latent adrenaline and partly just because running felt good. I stuck to alleys parallel to main streets to draw less attention to myself and always slowed up and tried to look casual at major street crossings. I was alone, but unlike Chicago I was on track and moving fast. I felt free, and strong, but I also hoped my friends were okay.
From Checkpoint 5 to Checkpoint 6
The majority of the trip had gone pretty well for us. We only had a few run-ins with chasers, and, though being split up once or twice along the way, as we approached the final checkpoint, our core group was still intact. Though nothing could prepare us for the hell that was Hollywood Blvd. We knew we were in trouble heading up Cahuenga when we saw a suspicious figure on his cell phone. He seemed to be doing the 'ole "pretend I'm on my cell phone to hide my ribbon" bit. We reluctantly moved forward - his intentions became clear to everyone at the same moment. We darted across the street just in time for a traffic light to change. We all made it, but he was still on the other side of the great divide. We didn't stop running, but noticed that he decided not to pursue us - perhaps intimidated by our agility, or perhaps seeking other prey.
Hollywood Blvd was a nightmare, mostly because it was packed with tourists, and we didn't know who was a chaser and who was a runner and who was a tourist. We stuck close together, hoping to conceal each others' ribbons as much as possible without cheating
. While clutching each other tight as fear overcame us, a chaser walked right past us without looking at us. We must have been blending in well.
We saw another group of runners not too far ahead of us, and decided to steady our pace with theirs so that any pack of chasers would hit them first. This worked for a while, but when we passed Highland Ave, we noticed a Michael Jackson impersonator was actually a chaser impersonating an impersonator! He went after the group in front of us. Two girls got tagged immediately, and the other two from their group ran into the mall. Thankfully, Michael Jackson/the Michael Jackson impersonator/the chaser followed them in after gathering the other girls' blue ribbons. They looked like they were quitting, since they didn't put on their red ribbons - which was good for us. We didn't have to contend with other chasers (as if there weren't enough). Michael Jackson turned out to be the calm before the storm, for our biggest threat was yet to come.
We continued on warily, and soon the safe zone for the final Checkpoint was only a block away. There were people in the street, but we didn't see any chasers. We glanced at each other.
We sprinted for the safe zone, and made it halfway down the block when from behind car after car chasers stood up. We still don't know how many there were - it seemed like at least twenty or thirty of them, though we knew that was impossible. We were like the tide crashing up onto the beach - it was chaos.
Gummies: At this point, only one gummy remained with Evil Sugar. The gummy heard something, a very faint pitter patter. GUMMY CHASER! RUN!
We started screaming. Some of us went right for the chasers, some of us turned back, and some of us tried to go around them.
Sparrows: Here's where I got chasered. I went right for the chasers, and tried to draw them off. I figured I'd be fast enough to be a distraction, but I was wrong - I drew off two of them, but they caught me in short order. Luckily I could slow them down for a bit while they waited for me to take off my ribbon. Take that, reds.
Runner Gummy: The gummy with Evil Sugar was now the only gummy not turned to a chaser. Run faster, the gummy told Evil Sugar. They wove through tourists.
Chaser Gummies: BLOOD! ALL WILL BE TAKEN! NONE WILL SURVIVE.
We broke down some side streets, and luckily didn't find chasers waiting at the other end for us. We made it around onto streets clear of chasers, and from there into the final safe zone.
Runner Gummy: Evil Sugar spotted Sparrows, but she was wearing the red armband! It was too late to hide, the only thing to do was to sprint for the finish. Evil Sugar ran, but Sparrows didn't follow. Sparrows had other plans.
Sparrows: So. I hadn't made it through, which sucked. On the other hand, I was a chaser, which rocked. I scooped up some of the nearby chaser gummies, who could not move very fast with their tiny gummy legs, and slid behind a car near the theatre, just at the edge of the safe zone. I waited until some poor sod of a runner was almost on top of me, and then stood, and in that second of terrified recognition, launched the chaser gummies directly at them. Direct hit!
Then we got to have a discussion about what counted as tagging or not. After the ribbon hats on the gummies were properly examined, it was decided that it did.
Meredithian: I had made it to the safety zone outside the last checkpoint independent of the group, though I saw them once in the midst of chaos from afar - I considered trying to join up but it looked impossible and using the distraction while it was available I forged ahead. I am glad I wasn't nearby in a way when Sparrows was endangered and chasered because I'm sure it would have made me sad, and I probably would have tried to do something silly to save us and ending up getting us both caught. Also, I'm fairly certain that had I been nearby when she got her red ribbon, she would have lunged after me... though I'm not sure she could have caught me.
I ran into the rest of the group at the finish, having just beaten them there. We had made it - or most of us had anyway.
Mr. G: Overall, I really enjoyed Journey: LA. In the end, team FOEcakes, again, came out on top. There were some sticky moments, but I knew we could do it. By the end, I was exhausted, but I was happy not to have sustained any injuries. The experience will last with me for a long time.
Gummies: Go Team Foecakes!
Meredithian: I'm glad to have participated in another journey, and to have not just survived, but really ran and challenged myself to be faster. I'm also proud to say that I didn't *always* abandon my teammates and friends when in danger this time around. I think I'm ready for a strong race in Minneapolis come September.
Rainy: So, as others in the group have said, the last leg was hairy and scary. As we approached Graumann’s, though, I was fatally distracted. There was someone selling those laquered Chinese paper parasols! I found one painted with dragons and cats--how could I leave it behind? I couldn’t. Just as I was paying for my umbrella, there was a tap on my shoulder. At least I wouldn’t have to chase any of my team mates.
Ayma Mack: Somehow, still wearing the clothes I came from Chicago in, I managed to make it to the final checkpoint without getting caught. There were close moments, and I was alone for parts of the route, but in the end it was totally worth the "Journey" (haha, bad pun.) And the best part... I noticed I had a voicemail while we were hanging out at the last checkpoint. It was AA and they had found my luggage... in Boston!