So Brian decided to surprise me with a birthday excursion. He had done all the planning; all I needed was a white polo shirt and a tennis racket. OOOOkaaaay.

I knew hijinks would be in full effect when Brian pulled up in the Minivan of Magic dressed like a 70s tennis pro.

When, to my complete surprise, a similarly dressed Bill and Alex jumped out a few seconds later and started doing stretches I knew this was going to be an adventure. Brian handed me matching shorts, headband and wristband, and instructed me to change.

There was, however, one slight difference in my attire.

Off we went.

My shorts kept riding up as I was driving.

First stop, Le Roy's.

Because where else can you start off your day with Belgian waffles topped with fresh strawberries and whipped cream with a side of tasty tots? 'Nuff said.

It was at this point that Brian finally let me in on the day's shenanigans: CityRace, L.A.'s urban adventure hunt. Seeing as Brian and I had conquered a similar race three years earlier, and now we were adding William "Rain Man" Crockwell and Alex "American Gladiator" Rai, this was going to be cake. We were Team White (at least we weren't Team Pink). The only instructions Brian was given? Meet at the FedEx office in Monrovia by 10 a.m.

FedEx Office? Check.

Boris Becker Wimbledon-champion thighs? Check.

Bjorn Borg sweet forehand? Check.

Bill threw down his best "Suspicious Minds" karate Elvis move.


You've got to admire a man who is confident enough with his masculinity to wear a neon-bright fanny pack in public.

We waited around for about 20 minutes for a phone call. Dressed like this.

The call finally came and Brian downloaded the instructions for the day.

Our mission if we chose to accept it: find two other teams (out of eight teams total) in the L.A. area to join, then we would receive further instructions. Brian's face tells the story: find other teams in the sprawling urban jungle that is Los Angeles? This seemed a virtual impossibility.

Since this was CityRace with the "city" being Los Angeles, we headed west. We needed a home base that offered Internet access: The Apple Store in Old Town Pasadena fit the bill. I dropped off the other three on Colorado Blvd...

...and left the Prius in a parking structure.

By the time I jogged over to my digital Nirvana our group had already found Team Orange! They had also chosen the Apple Store to start their search. Pure luck, but success nevertheless.

Now it was time to find a third team. We hit Facebook, Twitter, Craigslist, and even contemplated MySpace and Friendster (not really).

Bill hit paydirt on the Race/LA Facebook page, finding a phone number to another team.

Alex got on his iPhone (fitting, considering where we were) and set up a meeting place.

Then we booked down Fair Oaks Ave...

...for our rendezvous point at the South Pasadena Mickey D's.

Alex was excited after making use of the facilities.

Then Team Pink (Buscemi would have been pissed) rolled up. We had created our triumvirate so quickly the CityRace people told us they would call us back a while later with further instructions. We called bullshit on that one; we felt we were being penalized for our dumb luck/efficiency. This gave other teams more time to find each other. Yes, BULLSHIT! Unfortunately this wouldn't be the last time I used this designation of outrage that day. More on that later....

Alex and Bill used the time to apply sunscreen, although I'm still unclear why Alex felt his South Asian complexion needed UV protection.

It turned out Team Pink was compiled of professional Urban Adventure Hunters (who knew such a thing existed?). They were ready with smartphones and laptops so when our first clue was texted to us in the form of a scrambled word, the frenzied electronic search produced...

...the Hollyhock House on Hollywood Blvd. (By the way, a laptop can't make you drive faster or navigate traffic better, Team Pink).

After hauling ass to Hollywood with teams Orange and Pink hot on my tail (we were supposed to stay together), throwing a u-turn in the middle of Hollywood Blvd with a LAPD squad car facing me 100 yards up the street, and madly squealing up the hill, we grabbed our respective flags and the next instructions. From here we were allowed to split up. Let the real race begin.

Bill took a moment to pose with our current and next locations. As we were already in Hollywood that must mean we are heading for the stars.

Vermont Avenue! Brian loves it!

The corner of Vermont and Los Feliz could only mean one thing:

Griffith Observatory! Two stories for this stop, one good, one not so much: First, after driving up the hill we were told by security that the lot was full and we would have to turn around and find parking at the bottom. That would be at least a 10-minute walk uphill, something we were not about to do. So we basically bum-rushed the place, telling the guards that we were on a special mission, and that we had official business at the top. As you can tell by the photo, they let us through.

The unfortunate second part: we had to answer three pieces of trivia that could be found somewhere inside the observatory. We thought we could afford to run around the place because we were the only team to park at the top. It turned out that Team Pink found the answers with their laptops instead of searching in an honest fashion. Do I sound bitter? Maybe I'm just old school but I think it goes against the spirit of the hunt if you are at an historical site like the Griffith Observatory and you never even set foot inside the place in your search for answers. I guess that's the purist in me talking. Needless to say our time advantage was gone but not our excitement.

Did I mention our excitement?

The final stop was the original Farmers Market at Third and Fairfax. Again we were the first team to arrive, this time by at least 15 minutes.

Our job was to find the guy with the next challenge.

And there he was. He gave us a list of Farmers Market merchants with blanks next to them.

The only clue was Kip's Toyland with the number 1956 next to it. Initially thinking it was the date the store opened I went inside and talked to the guy working behind the counter. He told me that he thought the store had been around since 1945. He even went over to ask to the original owner, Irv "Kip" Kipper, who was working in the backroom, and he confirmed the 1945 opening. Figuring there was some kind of code we were dealing with we burned through our four respective intelligences in vain. Then we sighted Team Pink, our nemesis; we had lost our advantage again.

And that would be it for us. We were so stumped by the challenge that groups showed up we didn't even known existed, such as Team Red.

We were here for about an hour when we got the text that the game was over. Over? Did I say "over"? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no! Well... actually yes, it was over for us this day.

We headed back to the car to change clothes.

Yes, change clothes.

This was planned as our victory attire...

...compliments of Fun Bobby at Friar Tux. All he asked was that we keep them clean.

For some the pants, vest and bowtie were all that was necessary.

Pimpin' ain't easy, but tuxedoes help.

Victory is irrelevant when attitude is everything.

La Brea Tar Pits, the final meeting place.

A tar pit.

The boys took over a giant sloth(?).

The rest of the teams were already there.

This included today's winners... yep, you guessed it, Team Pink. We asked them what the solution was to the Farmers Market challenge. They explained that we were supposed to find the dates when each store opened. But Kip's Toyland opened in 1945, not 1956, I said. Yes, they explained, but the store moved to the Farmers Market in 1956. Damn. How did Team Pink figure this out? Their laptops. I spoke to the original owner; they used the Internet.


But wait, we had earned a prize for being the first team to find another:

A tin of assorted jellybeans and gummie bears. Yay.


On our way out Brian discovered his right shoe was defective.

Then his left one exploded. BOBBY!!!

Then appeared over the horizon...

...the Tar Pit monster? As he walked away he called out, "Facebook me!" Classic.

As we headed home I suddenly saw the red and blue lights flashing in my mirror.

Yeah, it was that kind of day.

The real burn was that I got a ticket for tinted windows. I have tinted the windows of every car I have owned since I was 18 years old, always illegally dark, and NEVER received a ticket. Until today.

Is that a pink pen?

I decided to drown my sorrows at The Boat.

Nothing makes things right better than a chiliburger.

Unless, of course, your chili drips on your rented tuxedo. Brian always knows how to cheer me up. Sorry Bobby.

Alex made the mistake of leaving his food behind to refill his drink. Upon his return he noticed his plate was a bit lighter while Bill's was quite the opposite.

Ultimately, it's not how you finish the race, but how you finish the day. It was a good ending.