CityRace Olvera Street: Recap


Course Map

NOTE: This only shows the game boundaries



After the awesome time we had at CityRace Santa Monica, we were set on doing another CityRace by the end of the year. The draw to this particular CityRace was that it would be in Olvera Street near Dia de los Muertos. Up until this race I had never spent more than a few minutes in Olvera Street, let alone wandered all around the area.

The day of the race we got all our gear and made sure we were fully ready for this one:

  • Fully Charged Smartphones
  • Athletic tops but regular shorts with plenty of pockets
  • Running shoes and socks
  • $20 in singles, for strip club and/or bonus hunts
  • Brita water bottles
  • Awesome new tote bag from R’n’R LA
  • Extra patience

The last one is the most important item you can bring to a CityRace. When you are running around for three hours trying to solve riddles… your nerves are going to get fried and it takes a lot to keep your cool. Communication is key and you won’t get very far if your partner (or yourself) has lost their patience.

As soon as we got there I started sizing up the competition. I mean we were vets. Our first race we finished 10th and only missed one question and half of a bonus hunt. Both of us expected a podium finish. So I glanced at the groups… I wasn’t too worried about the newbies who were still reading the rules; the true competition would be from the group going over their plan and what they learned from the last two races. All four had their phones at the ready and had tourist maps at the ready… Maps? Damn it! Totally forgot tourist maps would be easy information.

The organizer was a few minutes late but we were quickly given our clues and time limit. 2:15 was the cutoff time and it started NOW!

Meghann and I split off from the pack and found a spot to go over the clues and knock out the easy ones… problem was there weren’t many easy ones. I looked up a few that had dates and important people but for the most part that only gave us the site. For example:

Go to the building in Clue #7 and find the number on top.
Now do some math…

Yeah it went into this whole Aztec math thing and said the key was nearby Clue 8. Now I get why they labeled this CityRace “Moderately Challenging”.  We decided to focus on the bonus hunts. These were simple hunts that involved buying item A or eat item B. They made the difference last game and were all in the shops area nearby. Here is the random assortment of items we bought:

  • Mini sombrero, $3
  • Coaster with Frida Kahlo’s picture, $2
  • Chilean pan flute, $3
  • Day of the dead item, $4

Nothing as costly as the $10 photo booth from Santa Monica and we found it all in one shop. All of the items will find a place in Meghann’s classroom so it wasn’t a total waste either. There were two others but they were food items and I made the call of waiting until the end to buy them. We loaded the items into our bag and took off towards La Iglesia de Nuestra Señora Reina de los Angeles, oldest church in the area and clue 14!

As we walked from building to building, plaque to plaque, and monument to monument, I couldn’t help but look around and take it in: The beautiful altars set up for loved ones. The dancers in the gazebo entertaining a large crowd. The king taco offerings left at one altar, which totally made me crave tacos al pastor. A confused racer arguing with her partner on the number of bells at the church. Good times!

About an hour and a half in and we were making steady progress on the clues and had narrowed it down a few more in Olvera Street and 8 based in Union Station. So off we went and reached the point where patience would be a strong point; we were both hungry. We had a simple breakfast but the combination of walking all over the place and the heat made us burn through that quickly. Meghann went to grab some food while I tackled the single worst question on race… a math word problem… noooooooooooo

So I sat there with a train timetable in one hand and a pretzel in another as I tried to figure out how many hours it took for the train from Los Angeles to reach Chicago on the Amtrak Starlight line. Bleh. I did the raw math and gave it to Meghann. She chimed in that we should adjust the answer since the timetable might list the destination time in CT.  She hit the nail on the head. My brain was too fried to account for that.

Random facts we learned about Union Station:

  • Planes, Trains and Automobiles was not filmed there. Blade Runner, Union Station, and The Way we were… were.
  • There are 230 original wooden seats in the main lobby… we bailed on that question.
  • There is a bench on the east side of the station made from material found at the original Chinatown.
  • Union Station was built over the original Chinatown, white voters wanted to do away with that part of town and the new rail station was the perfect excuse.
  • Four famous figures in the mural, also on east portal, are wearing hats.
  • The three original lines were Southern Pacific Railroad, Union Pacific Railroad and the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway.

Finding out random bits of local history is one of my favorite parts of CityRaces. We checked the timer and were down the final 15 minutes and we still needed six more questions… arg.

We ran back to Olvera Street and I kept an eye out for plaques and signs. BAM! The replica bell that was rung to signal the war between Mexico and Spain. BAM! The two plants listed in a Native American remedy that we needed for a word scramble. BAM! A map that decoded yet another word scramble; it spelled Mexico… har har har… Only the Aztec math and the churro remained! I opted to stand in line for the churro while Meghann took one for the team and handled the math.

10 mins left:  I had made a bad call by putting off the churro purchase as there was now a long line for it.

7 mins: Tourists in front of me were deciding what they wanted.

5 mins: I pleaded with one that I was in a race and just wanted a plain churro but that made no difference.

3 mins: The churro was in the fryer…

1 min left: The churro was in my hand! As we ran to the finish I held that churro like the Olympic torch. The timer had gone off but thankfully there was a line to check in and we were not penalized. When we turned in our score sheet and bonus hunts, it hit us; we did very poorly this race. We had a few blanks, two guesses and missed the bonus with the highest point value. Damn you bug candy! Why were you sold out??? Anyhow… the Olympic torch churro turned into a sad churro and I nommed on it while we waited for the results.

As in the last race, the organizer read the questions aloud and waited for us to reply with the correct one. The first ten we were all locked up. And then came the math questions and curse words were thrown around. Followed by Union station facts and… it turned out only a handful of teams had gotten that far! The pros I worried about in the beginning were even missing a few. Could it be? Could this be our podium finish???

CityRace Olvera Street Top 10

No it wasn’t. While we did finish higher than the last race, 5th place! we were a bit disappointed in ourselves. All of those blanks and guesses had cost us the podium finish we wanted. Still, it was an enjoyable experience and we got to know the area. Team M&M will definitely sign up for another race! Perhaps even the CityRace Pasadena… what better place to PR than in our home town?

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2 Responses

  1. While these races sound like fun, I think they’d be equally frustrating. Especially if you don’t have the right partner haha.

    Looking forward to your podium finish.

    1. During the race, especially during crunch time, it can be very frustrating. I mainly enjoy the history lesson and just getting to know another part of LA. Definitely worth it if you can grab a Groupon or Living Social deal! Next race we shall have our podium finish!