National Bike Week – Rocktown Trackdown

Since last summer, Bryan and I had been thinking that a bike/walk scavenger hunt in Little Rock would be fun. Vinny's alleycats are great fun for a handful of people, but what if somebody did a race that was a little less competitive and a little easier to navigate? If participants were given a map, it'd be easier to plan a route. If people just had to answer questions, we wouldn't need many volunteers.

Bryan found a series of events just like this, held in the Pacific Northwest. These looked just exactly like what we wanted to do, and having their model to follow, we decided that we could plan and host a similar event in Little Rock. We even picked a clever name: Rocktown Trackdown.

We spent several Saturdays planning thirty-one checkpoints, all within a couple of miles of MacArthur Park, in downtown Little Rock. We found little details about monuments and buildings and statues and decided on questions to ask. We wanted our course to be challenging enough for people who were really competitive and fast. And we also wanted a lot of checkpoints near the start, and we wanted them to be interesting so that even people with little kids, who didn't want to win, would have fun walking around and learning about Little Rock. Bryan designed a cool map while I finished the semester, and our friends Cliff and Jennifer Li rode the course a couple of weeks ahead of time to be sure that the questions made sense and that it would be possible for some people to get all the answers within two hours. I pitched in at the last minute to help with gathering prizes and snacks and inviting participants. The guy we'd hired to design a logo was a wanker, so at the last minute I just made one myself, on typing paper, with a sharpie.

The weather was perfect on the day of the Trackdown. All our volunteers showed up right on time to help set up. We registered nearly 75 people through the line, took their donations, gave them answer sheets, and passed out maps. When Bryan whistled to start the race, people scattered in four different directions, just as we'd planned.

Some news people had showed up right at ten, so after our participants left I took time to talk to them. Not long after, people started trickling back in for help. A flat tire needed fixing, and somebody needed a bathroom. A few people stopped in to let us know they were dropping out - one lady's dog got tired, another was dealing with a cranky toddler. One guy wrecked, badly, on the trolley tracks near the Rivermarket. We weren't able to fix his bike, but he was unhurt. He did a nice interview with the news guys before packing up and heading home.

While waiting for the rest of the racers to come back, Bryan showed some helpers how to grade the answer sheets. The rest of us moved the shade canopy and set up the snacks and cold drinks so that they'd be available as people came in.

And then they started coming back! Nearly everybody returned with huge smiles on their faces. I got hugs from total strangers, who said that they'd had a great time and that they'd learned neat stuff and that they were super glad we'd planned the event. Bryan and his group got to work grading papers while I cruised through the crowd, being sure everybody had what they needed. We broke out a pair of 6XL Bike Polo shirts and had a contest to see who could fit more people in theirs. Greg made up the rules as the game progressed: One head out the head hole! Each arm hole must contain at least one arm! And the winning team got NINE PEOPLE in one shirt.

And then it was time for prizes. Team Bobby's Bike Hike was the overall winner with a perfect score (1000 points/31 checkpoints). Jen, winner of the FOOT SOLO division, was 7th OVERALL with 770 points/25 checkpoints. The all unicycle team, The Llamas, came in 22nd overall with 450 points/15 checkpoints. In addition to their first-prize ribbon, they won a can of diced rutabagas, which made sense at the time. Greg Wagnon (950/29) and Judy Lansky (950/29) tied for the top Bike Solo winners. Ivy Dog came back with an impressive 450/17 which got her a specially prepared goodie bag from Premium Pets.

Due to (unexpected) preparation for Riverfest, the giant Memorial Day music event, a large part of the River Market/Riverfront Park area was closed off. That meant that checkpoints 25 and 37 were inaccessible to participants. Some snuck in to get the points, others guessed, and still others talked the guards into giving them the answers. At least one team actually talked the security guards into a 'private tour' to the checkpoints. To be fair, we gave everyone credit for those two checkpoints.

We had decided that everyone should have a chance to win prizes, so we set out all the stuff on a table and gave everyone a raffle ticket when they turned in their answer sheets. Those who did really well got ribbons and extra raffle tickets, and I just stood on my trash can podium and drew tickets and yelled out numbers. We had so many prizes that pretty much everyone got to choose something from the table. And as people left, they told us how much fun they'd had, and that they want to know next time we have another Rocktown Trackdown.

Photo by Bryan Signorelli

The best part of the whole thing may have been that we were able to use the money we made to help out at Ron King's Recycle Bikes for Kids project. His next workday was the Tuesday after the Trackdown, and our family stopped by and handed him a big wad of cash to use for new tubes and brake cables and whatever he needs to get more old bikes back on the road.

The photos in this post are from Cliff Li, our Mobile Photographer Extraordinaire (who had run sweep for a mountain bike race the day before, but helped us anyway!) The rest of Cliff's photos can be found on his flickr site, at http://www.flickr.com/photos/adinar/sets/72157629829955894/

My friend Kristin gave us the Mommy Perspective in her blog (http://starterkid.blogspot.com/2012/05/rocktown-trackdown.html)

ArkansasOutside.com did a writeup, too (http://www.arkansasoutside.com/rocktown-trackdown/)

And we were on the local Fox news station on Sunday night. (http://www.fox16.com/news/story/Urban-scavenger-hunt-held-for-needy-families/NPz0pxi9VEe877BtFRAmPA.cspx).


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