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Scavengers hunt the grid

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Over 30 teams of bike scavengers took to the streets of downtown Sacramento Saturday in a race against time to interpret clues, hunt for items and complete challenges for the Bicycle Kitchen’s annual Hunt the Grid bike scavenger hunt.

If cyclists didn’t know Sacramento before the hunt, they sure do now. The hunt, now in its third year, is an event where teams of four hit the pavement and try to solve clues based on well-known venues and random oddities of Sacramento.

Bike Kitchen staff member and event organizer Ryan Sharpe, 32, planned the event with his staff non-stop for six weeks.

“No one is going to look at the city in the same way,” he said.

The city was broken up into quadrants, and cyclists had three hours to scavenge. Sharpe said it would be a lot of biking because they tried to utilize the entire grid. The hunt spanned everything from Old Sacramento to Alhambra, and B Street down to Broadway.

“There’s certain places they have to go to test their metal against our volunteers,” Sharpe said. “As they’re riding around town, there’s clues that they can decode, certain things to look out for — random items they might find on the street and things they might have to knock on someone’s door to get.”

The list, which came in a sealed envelope given to each team at registration, included a plethora of lists — four different clue sets leading the bikers to over 25 venues, shops and landmarks on the grid, four challenges and over 60 photos and items to collect along the way.

Once teams were allowed to open their packets, they huddled and began strategizing how to tackle the list.

Rachel Dudderar, 28, discussed a plan of action with her team.

“We’re trying to figure out where to go first and what the clues mean,” Dudderar said. “We’re probably going to split up and get back together and start off with what has the most points.”

Teams didn’t have to stick together for the entire race, but all team members had to be present for the destination stops and challenges.

Riders were led to destinations like the Crest Theatre, given the clue set, “Leave the toothpaste at home when you hit the theatre, but be sure your breath is fresh when you talk to the doorman.”

Doorwoman Candice Adams, 31, stood at the door awaiting the hunters to hand them a ticket that led them to their next stop. In the first hour of the hunt, she said she had seen at least 15 teams come through.

Movie ticket stubs, “Kings Be Heard” signs, coffee sleeves, Kevin Johnson’s business card and discarded bicycle parts were items to gather on the list. Another layer of the clues were picture sets, for which teams had to present photographic proof of their findings of things like a skateboarder, a street musician, an original red News & Review stand and Downtown James Brown.

“There’s so many clues, it’s going to be impossible to finish,” one biker said.

“IMAX. 3-D glasses. Let’s go!” replied his teammate, and they sped off.

Bikers were in and out of establishments and off and on their bikes as they raced against the clock and other teams.

“The goal was to make it so that no one can complete this no matter how hard they try,” Sharpe said. “I don’t want the fastest team to win. I want the smartest team to win. You have to be pedaling slowly around town to be able to catch certain things. If you’re just racing around from one place to another, you’re going to miss a lot of points.”

The organizers said they wanted to outdo themselves in comparison to past years and worked hard to make it better, including expanding the list, doubling the point values and adding the challenges

The challenges were worth six points and tested the wit and precision of the team members in various tasks, one which tested their shooting skills at a target behind a defunct sewing machine shop on J Street. 

Sarah Pulse, 30, a Bike Kitchen volunteer and organizer, said the hunt is not just about biking around and finding stuff. It will involve strategy and a keen eye.

“You have to keep an eye on your surroundings,” she said.

The team with the most points at the end of the three hours was the winner. Prize baskets went to the top three teams.

Pulse said they gave out over $600 in prizes for first place, $400 for second and $300 for third. Bike Kitchen sponsors, some of which were destination stops, supplied the goods for the baskets.

“We have a lot of gift cards from local businesses,” Pulse said. “We have some merchandise from local businesses, some event tickets from local businesses and of course some bike paraphernalia.”

Magpie, The Beat, Shady Lady, Fox & Goose, Time Tested Books, Zen Sushi and many others supplied gift cards.

John Berlin came in third place the first year.

“It can be intense,” Berlin said. “It was super fun and I didn’t know what to expect being new to California and Midtown in general, but it’s a good way to test your knowledge of your city.”

Pulse said she didn’t expect people to work so hard. People came back looking haggard and drenched in sweat. People were overheard saying, “It was a lot of work,” “I don’t want to get back on my bike after that,” and, of course, “It was a lot of fun.”

The scavenger hunt ended, but the party continued. The Bike Kitchen closed out the evening with a big party celebrating their fifth anniversary.

The party featured music from local honky-tonk bands The Alkali Flats and Copper McBean and the Vested Interests, plus a T-shirt silk-screening station and art from Duder Manor and “more beer than they’ve ever had” from New Belgium. They announced the winners at the party.

“It’s been a lot of fun for us to put on the last three years, and we’ve been really happy with what we’ve received, not only in terms of prizes, but also the people actually going out and riding their bikes,” Sharpe said. “If you give people an excuse to go out and enjoy a beautiful May or June day on their bike, they’ll lap it up. It just gives people a new reason to ride their bike around town and maybe take a new look at the city.”



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