The 21st Annual Texas Challenge and Festival

When the doors opened Saturday morning, we all arrayed ourselves in our various panoplies, waiting for opening announcements to be made. Unfortunately, you’ll have to imagine the sight this year. I was more in team captain mode than correspondent mode. A pressing concern almost derailed our efforts: Team CenTex lost a couple of people, one to injury and one to illness, meaning we didn’t technically (and by “technically,” I mean actually) have enough members to compete. Luckily, this was not the first time in the Challenge’s history that this had happened. We were allowed to compete anyway. While the deadline for registration is quite firm, the minimum team requirements have remained less so. It’s always better to have more people out there than fewer. Besides, if we didn’t play for Central Texas, would we be expected to compete for one of those other foul and most foreign regions? I think not! The doors were closed, and the rundown began. The rules were reiterated, the captains received our packets containing coordinates and puzzles, and then we were off!

These caches we would be seeking were fake ones, created solely for the competition, containing numbered novelty hole punches for our scorecards. Find a punch, use it on the scorecard next to the corresponding number, and then find the next one. There were also Activity stations spread around the city. Activities counted as caches, and when you successfully completed one, the attendant would punch the appropriate place on your card to give you credit. At the end, the scorecards would be totaled up, and then all the players on a team would be averaged together to get a final team score. Simple enough, right?

I ended up rolling with a married pair on the team, him from New York and her from Texas, named (appropriately enough) BklynTex1015 and TexBklyn1015. We started with nearby caches while our puzzle team attempted to work their magic. Several caches were near the starting site, and then we started branching out. We quickly found ourselves at the first Activity in the middle of a nearby park filled with statuary. We grabbed all the caches in the park, several in wooded areas, one along a pipe over the nearby creek, and then set about finding two specific statues and taking selfies with them to satisfy the Activity.

We got back on the road, scooping up more punches as we found them. We had a sizable number of DNFs (as did the other teams), probably because of bad weather a couple of days before, but we had a good number of finds. We ended up getting a few more activities …

… and later ran across a tendril of the East Team. We ended up caching in the same park, crossing paths repeatedly. We teamed up with them for a couple of finds and separated for others. We eventually split away from them and roamed the side streets of east Longview, looking for more punches for our scorecards. And when our time got close to ending, we headed back to the hall. We had a lucky last-minute find. The puzzles turned out to be hard (also confirmed by other teams). Our puzzle team only solved one, and that location contained a decoy. We even got an assist from a true puzzle master and still didn’t get any of them (it turned out the “solved” puzzle contained another puzzle within it, leading to the real punch). As we pulled in to turn in our scorecards, we noticed a couple of competitors nearby fiddling with something. They had accidentally stumbled upon one of the puzzle locations by accident! The Brooklyns and I ended up getting a last-minute freebie that few other people got! We punched our scorecards and then turned them in with a few minutes to spare! Once we were done, the rest of the team got together and talked. Once everyone was done, we all spoke with members of the other teams to compare notes. We’re only enemies for a few hours, and then we all return to being friends. But I had to abandon them all for a little bit because I had something even more important to take care of. What could possibly be more important than communing with my friends and my team?

Bringing my caching daughter to her first Mega-Event! I introduced her to Signal and some of my other friends she hadn’t met yet. A few people recognized me from my writings and Seattle, so for a moment, I got to give my daughter the impression that I’m kind of a big deal. We hit the vendors for some pins and a nametag, and then after I handled some last-minute, team-captain business, we hit the food trucks for lunch and then headed out to grab a few caches.

But the day wasn’t over yet. Once I got her back home, it was time for a wardrobe change. I had to get my blue shirt and hurry off again. It was time for me to attend…

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