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Oct 25 2011

Minneapolis Chevy Sonic Adventure

On Saturday I participated in the Minneapolis Chevy Sonic Adventure. I posted about the race last week, and since then I’ve had people emailing me for more information. Apparently the race is going to be held in several cities across the U.S., and enterprising individuals are looking for clues or trying to decide if they want to get in on the action. I’m not going to share specific clues that we given here on the blog, but I’ve made a couple of lists about my experience with the Minneapolis race.

Top Ten Highlights

1) It was FUN. I had a really good time.This was an enjoyable scavenger hunt, especially for someone like me who enjoys logic games, friendly competition, a little exercise, and exploring.

2) Well-organized start. The starting location was huge and there was plenty of room for people to leave the park at their own pace when the race opened up. There was no craziness or fear of being trampled as people raced out of the area. Not getting trampled was a nice way to start the day.

3) The clues were really quite well done. I was worried that the challenges would either be too easy or impossible, but the people who were responsible for creating the clues for Minneapolis managed to make them challenging without being frustrating. We didn’t have to know the city to figure out the clues, but it did help to have a general sense of direction of where we were and where we were headed.

4) We got some exercise. My partner and I walked several miles on Saturday, which was lovely because the weather was PERFECT – sunny, a gentle breeze and somewhere in the low 70s.

5) I love group activities. The organizers handed out pale pink shirts with the logos all of the supporters written on the back. When we were walking around the city we’d run into each other and there was a sense of camaraderie. Also, there was a bit of hint-helping – you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. No one that we ran into were super-competitive jerks, and most of the teams were smiling and laughing. It felt nice to be part of the group. And one amusing thing about 500 people running around the city in pink shirts was that it confused the crap out the cabbies and other downtown Minneapolis regulars.

6) Seeing the city with new eyes. I’m pretty familiar with downtown Minneapolis, but I discovered new parks, landmarks and stores that I had never noticed or paid attention to before participating in the race.

7) They planned ahead with the no-bike rule. The organizers did not allow bikes or other wheeled transportation (with the exception of medically necessary wheelchairs). There were up to 500 people racing around crowded downtown Minneapolis on a Saturday afternoon. I am so grateful that no one from our group was on bikes; that would have been a nightmare with the pedestrian and car traffic.

8 ) Well-organized ending. When the game was over, the app and text number were disabled. It was a very clear message that the game was over and it was time to head back to HQ.

9) Treats and Prizes! At our game the organizers had a bunch of different kinds of granola bars, fruit snacks, candies and water waiting for us at the end of the race (totally not expected as we hadn’t paid an entry fee). And at our location, one of the local radio stations helped sponsored the event and handed out some swag by random drawing. Finally, the organizers awarded tickets for local events, an MP3 player and a couple of digital cameras to the top eight finishers. I’m not sure what the first runner-up won, but…

10) Someone actually won a freaking car! As I mentioned in my earlier post, the details for the race were quite vague. There was a statement about how participants might win a new Chevy Sonic. My partner and I thought maybe the top winner would get entered into a drawing, or maybe someone would have to hit a certain number of points to win the car, but no. At the end of the race they actually gave away a car to what I’m assuming was the team who ranked the highest in points. That was really neat.

Top Five Disappointments

1) Crowd control during registration. The race was advertised as starting at 11am. We showed up at 10:30 to register and were told that registration didn’t open until 11am (oh, that’s what they meant by starting at 11am). There was no help for queuing up, so at about 10:50 everyone started bunching up and pressing into a huddle around the reg tent. When emcee announced that registration was open the crowd surged toward the table. A couple of orderly lines eventually formed, but not without some shoving, nudging, elbowing, grumbling and generally jerkiness. It took the organizers over an hour to register everyone and we didn’t leave the park until sometime after noon.

2) Runners had the advantage. The name of the game seemed to be hit the most number of clues (and correctly answer them). Those who were able to keep up a steady jog made it to more places. I’m not saying that it was unfair, but those who were used to walking or jogging for long periods of time definitely had an advantage.

3) SCVNGR sucked it up BIG TIME. Don’t get me wrong – the SCVNGR app is really well designed. We pulled it up at the start of the race and all of the  locations were mapped out and the clues were all listed. We planned a route that would cover the greatest number of points in the most direct lines. The app was beautiful. And then the f*cking thing crashed. They weren’t ready for the traffic and we ran into many groups who were having trouble getting the map and clues to refresh or open up. We eventually switched over to the text mode of playing, but we lost a lot of time and a few clues in the process, and…

4) The text message mode of play is at a big disadvantage to the SCVNGR app. The text message mode of play was more reliable than the SCVNGR app for us, but WAY more inefficient. With texting we were sent to one location at a time and we couldn’t pick or choose which location it would send us to. We were sent back and forth across several blocks and had no ability to plan our route. E.g. – it sent us to 7th Street, then up to 10th street, then back down to 8th Street, then to 10th street again. That was frustrating. If they wanted to make the race more even, they would limit everyone to use of text messaging.

5) Battery Life!!! My phone had a 2% charge left at the end of the race. If it had gone any longer we would have had to stop and charge up or throw in the towel. All answers were tied to one phone – not an account that you could log in to from anywhere – so once we had started answering questions, we needed to keep using the same device.

Conclusion: DO IT.

Overall it was a GREAT day and I would recommend the race to anyone and everyone who likes this kind of competitive gaming. The few annoying things were not enough to ruin the overall awesomeness of the event. The thing that made participation a no-brainer for me was the free entry. For $0 from all of us the organizers provided a wonderful afternoon of entertainment, plus a free t-shirt, snacks and prizes.

I would suggest getting a bunch of teams together that all know each other. My teammate and I didn’t know anybody else, so we were our own little world of two. Teams were strictly limited to two people, but there were a couple of larger groups of two-person teams who all sat together before and after the race, and I imagine they had fun running into each other downtown and competing against each other.

And, you actually have a pretty decent chance of winning a car. In Minneapolis the challenge was limited to 250 teams, and one of those teams won a car. If you consider that some of the groups that pre-registered probably didn’t show up, that means each team had a better than 1:250 chance of winning the grand prize. Those are better odds than most of us will probably ever have of winning a car in other types of contests (radio call-in contests, raffles, etc.).

There are photos and video of the event over at the official Minneapolis Chevy Sonic Adventure website. And knowing what I know now…there are some clues about the types of questions and answers you might expect if the Chevy Sonic Adventure comes to your town!

9 comments

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  1. 1
    Kristen Haley

    Thanks so much for this info.. about to embark on the Boston hunt. Wish me luck!

    1. 1.1
      Brianne Bilyeu

      Good luck! I hope you have a bunch of fun!

  2. 2
    Bridget Brooks

    Thanks for the info! We’re racing in Omaha tomorrow. Any other advice?

    1. 2.1
      Kristen Haley

      I think I got like 134 points, but the winner got 163… it was fun, WET in Boston and cold as hell.. but you are running all over the place. My suggestion is to concentrate on the concentration of locations.. as we went all the way to the Boston Public Garden to get that taken care of first when we should have just stayed near all the major stuff that was close together.

      Wear good running sneakers.. I wore Pumas that were more for fashion than function.. and comfortable pants you can move in that won’t weigh you down. Skinny hipster pants=big no.

      Good luck!!

    2. 2.2
      Brianne Bilyeu

      Have fun, match your speed to your desire to win. If you’re just out to have a fun afternoon, don’t kill yourself sprinting…unless that’s fun for you :) I bet you’re about to start, so I’ll wish you good luck. Tell me if you win!

  3. 3
    Bridget Brooks

    We didn’t win, but we had a lot of fun. Thanks so much for your blog post — it was the best advice/preparation we found in advance of participating. We ended up with 79 points (the winner had 118). I’d say we finished in the top 50 teams. (They gave away the Sonic but also 10 iPads too to the top 9 teams — 2nd place team each got an iPad).

    Speaking of teams, they had way more than 500 people — I’d estimate closer to 1,000. They said they had 500 t-shirts. We didn’t get one. They also ran out of water at the end (they had enough gum and granola bars). The SCVNGR app worked fine.

    It was a ton of fun. I don’t know that not having the clues ahead of time hurt folks, except that knowing that you needed to count syllables on one challenge was critical.

    The clues in Omaha were really pretty much city-specific, with the exception of two Sonic-related ones. (And no one I talked to got those two questions right. We only encountered one of them, and didn’t get it right.)

    My best tip: READ the clues carefully. Some of the trickiest ones could be answered just by re-reading the clue carefully and taking your time to answer (math questions or spelling something backwards, or writing the answers backwards or without vowels).

  4. 4
    Becky B

    We are doing the Sacramento one on Saturday. Wish us luck! I’m not in the greatest shape, kinda worried about that…

  5. 5
    scott jennings

    doing the one in rochester ny 2maro. my gf and i signed up, but after reading this, my gf bailed and my son will be running with me. thanks for all the info everyone! (and not giving away too much info!) :)

  6. 6
    johnbtes

    Check out my experience at the St. Louis challenge

    http://acumenstudio.com/articles/2011/11/chevy-sonic-adventure-experience-and-clues/

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