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?

Previous Posts about Race

Where I’m Going

CityRace Olvera Street



After the awesome experience we had during the last City Race, we quickly snatched up another Groupon offer when we got the chance. I highly recommend this series to anyone that loves to explore and loves trivia. Meghann suggested Olvera Street since it should still be decked out in Dia de los Muertos decorations and it will be easy to take the metro from Pasadena.


We finished 10th during the Santa Monica version so I’m hoping we can make this a podium finish. We will not be screwed over by a damn trick question again!

CityRace Santa Monica


Course Map

NOTE: This only shows the game boundaries



After the sub-par Devil’s Gate Dam 5k, we needed this race. I signed us up for the Chinatown scavenger hunt but due to the +100 heat that day I had them reschedule us for Santa Monica. Man did that work out well for us. I was unsure what to expect so I had brushed up on some random facts about Santa Monica and fully charged my phone.

The starting point was a great overlook right next to the California Incline. There was a large group of people with 30 teams ready to scramble across Santa Monica for the next three hours. We named our team Team M&M, put on our City Race Buttons, got clues and  the rules:

  • Stay within boundaries
  • You can use locals, phones, guards, whatever you think will help you solve the clues.
  • The questions are not set to any order and can be done at random.
  • Three hour time limit. Teams will lose 10 points every ten minutes over.
  • While there are optional questions, if you want to finish in top 10 you will need to do them.
  • Run now!
CityRace Button
As Melody would say: “BUTTONS!”

With that we were off! I told Meghann we should split off from the group and find a spot where we can figure out a game plan. She suggested we walk and talk while making our way towards the 3rd Street Promenade since most of the questions would be centralized there. Smart gal.

We walked over to the Promenade and I began to Google the simple ones. One question referred to the seasonal rain storm in south-east Asia, a monsoon, and wanted to know the address of the restaurant with the same name (+10). Another asked about the city code that prohibited defacing public property (+15). We breezed a few but we quickly hit a wall.

About seven questions were linked to each other and the first clue asked how many Buddha statues were on top of the entryway. Google only found one reference to Buddha in the area, some random coffee shop but the entryway lacked Buddhas… trick question perhaps? We decided to skip the question for now.

One hour in and we were half-finished and completed about two laps of the area. I was nailing every bar reference and Meghann was solving a few on her own. I had a tendency to make every question complex… she would quickly ask me to take a breath and think that the simplest answer was probably the correct one. Ah, Occam’s razor proved quite handy.

We kept running into other teams and noticed they were also struggling with the Buddha question. Some began to yell at each other and were starting to complain about the heat. While the distance wasn’t too bad, the 90 degree heat and backtracking would be the biggest obstacles.

There were times where I could tell my nerves were starting to fry and hoped I would not take it out on Meghann. Think of trying to solve a crossword puzzle with your partner while walking down a busy random city and only one of you could hold the clues. As was walked from block to block and back again, I kept trying to solve the one question while Meghann would ask me another. I would have a “EUREKA!” moment and try to explain my answer only to have her completely debunk my theory. It was grueling.

By the 1.5 hour mark we were down to just the seven Buddha linked questions and about 6 that focused on the pier. We shifted our focus to the bonus questions, luckily they were simple “buy x from y” questions so the only taxing part was paying for it.

Then… as we stood by the same block we had been on about four times and in the middle of a conversation with a local… I finally saw the fat bastards.  I yelled:


They were on a door frame across the street. I don’t think we even thanked the local as we quickly began to cross off the other questions. One by one we were knocking them out of the park but hit a snag on one that asked about guardians of a “mystical place”. Even with the Buddha clue, I couldn’t think of what mystical place the question was referring to. We had made a note of it and decided to not get caught up on this one question. Two hours in and we ran towards the pier for the big finish!

The pier questions were quite easy. A few “name this” questions or ones that asked about the number of items in a certain locale. The most difficult one had us look at the age of the two cannons located right before the pier. That just involved some sprinting to each gun.

We looked around and only spotted a few teams at this stage of the race. We knocked off more bonus challenges, such as taking a picture in a photo booth (+5) with a stranger (+5). When we took the picture the guy wished us good luck and hoped the prize was worth more than the $8 we spent on the picture. Meghann and I looked at each other and concluded we didn’t care about the prize. We were just having fun running around Santa Monica. The total cost of the items was about $17. More than reasonable for the amount of entertainment we were getting.

With about 30 minutes left we had wrapped up every bonus question but needed to find a kid to cross the finish line with us (+5) and still had to answer the mystical place question. Meghann was double checking the answers and corrected a few. Still.. mystical place… I let my brain go blank and… bam!

There is a hotel named that and it had some lions in front!

We made sure every question was answered and made our way to the finish! We climbed the steps up to the finish and turned in our score card. We got credit for 15 out of 20 in the bonus questions. The results of the rest of the questions would be announced twenty minutes after the cutoff point. We high-fived and took a moment to just relax and look at the ocean.

CityRace - Santa Monica: Post Race
Team M&M. As Meghann said: We have the best dates!

As we sat there going over our answers and recapping the morning, another team was finishing up and they had a kid… bastards had bribed the kid with a free pail (another bonus question) and had told his parents why they needed him. The tourists loved it and took pictures of their child walking up and turning in the scorecard. Bah. A few more teams came in but it was obvious a good amount of teams had just quit. I only counted about twenty teams at the finish line. The couple that was fighting over which direction to go did not make it to the finish…

The announcer thanked us for coming and congratulated those of us who finished. He began to read the answers. Through ten questions we were perfect! And then this…

We asked you to play Jeopardy for one question…
and in that show you answer with “What is…”

Boos were yelled, a few teams walked out, and I looked around for a pretzel to throw at the announcer. Yea that was all that we screwed up on. They named the Top Ten and we came in tenth with 175 out of 190. The other teams were between 180 and 185. If we had just gotten that what is… bah! Still it was a great time and we celebrated our finish with dinner at Barney’s Beanery. We signed up for another scavenger hunt for November, this time we will run around Olvera Street in downtown LA… and this time I will drag a kid to the finish if it means another 5 points!

CityRace - Santa Monica: Top 10 Finish!
Top 10 Teams… we got screwed by Jeopardy!