“For the scavenger hunt on the mall!” I replied excitedly as I prepped myself in comfortable shoes and a lightweight shirt, for I knew the temperature would be scorching (as anyone who lives in DC right now can tell you).
He scoffed at me when I invite him to join me and he went back to sleep as I began my trek downtown on the Red Line.
I got off at Chinatown and hiked in the heat (already hot at 9 o’clock) down towards The Mall. Once I made it to the castle, I checked in with the Go Smithsonian and Scvngr people (who were co-sponsoring the event). I then found out I would be competing for an iPad (for up until this point, I thought I was just playing a game). That’s when things got serious.
The rules were simple: Using an iPhone or Android, you had to solve riddles and clues by exploring the Smithsonian museums on the National Mall and answer them on the Scvngr app. The person with the highest score at 2 o’clock would win the iPad! Scvngr and Go Smithsonian people would be monitoring our progress.
And off we went at exactly 10 o’clock. With just under four hours of battery life, I knew it was a race against the clock. So I slowly, but steadily, completely the six tasks for the Smithsonian Castle. Some challenges were extremely easy (Who’s buried in the castle?); others were harder (What animals were kept in pens behind the castle?).
Then off to Freer Gallery Of Art, for my plan was to complete a clock-wise circle around The Mall. Most of these tasks were easy, until I was asked to find a “sun” (the icon of the Smithsonian). As I won’t be giving away any of my answers, let me just say, this was my most creative answer of the whole game. There were four tasks here.
Twenty-five minutes in and I feel like I’m moving too slow, so I pick up the pace as I trek across The Mall towards the National Museum of American History (with a quick stop to complete one of “The Mall” challenges by snapping a picture of myself in front of the Washington Monument.) At the American History Museum, I began to feel time crunch on me again, as I waited in the bag check line! (Why did I bring a bag with me? Why was I carrying the heavy tome: Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince?) But of the ten tasks, I only had to search for six of them, as I knew the answers to the rest. I was rude to the people who were standing in line at the First Ladies’ Dress exhibit, but I was on a deadline.
I snapped another picture of a sun (a running theme), and head out. That’s when I mistakenly checked the leader board. I was in 39th place! I was never going to win! So by 11 o’clock I was in the Natural History Museum. A much better pace and the best understanding of the layout of this museum granted me the ten answers in just under twenty minutes.
I then thought I was off to the National Gallery of Art, but to my surprise these museums are not part of the Smithsonian! Score, two less museums to visit! But the schlep from Natural History to American Indian was long and hot, and I wondered if I was going to make it!
During this time, my phone was at half battery, and I had received a phone call, which I promptly hung up on, and a text; which I stupidly replied to (wasting precious battery with six museums still to go!)
I completed another “Mall” task of a picture of me lifting up the Capitol Building. (Thank you stranger who has no clue how to work an iPhone!)
These six tasks were the hardest, as the app wanted an exact word order for many of the answers! Also, being the least familiar with this museum I had a hard time finding my way through the exhibits but thoroughly enjoyed them once I got to the correct place.
Then came the museum I was least excited to go to. I enjoy, in fact love, the National Air and Space Museum, but loath it on the weekends in the summer. The line wasn’t too bad to get in, but the lobby was crowded (as was the whole museum). I felt rushed here for the first time in about an hour. The crowds were making me anxious. This was also the first time in a long time that I had run into several people playing the game. But I soldiered on and completely the eleven tasks.
Then into the heat of the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden and the Hirshhorn Museum, probably my least favorite museum on the mall. But still easy to navigate (as the clues told me where to go!) Seven tasks completed; including a great haiku about the gift shop.
Final task on “Mall:” finding the odd animal on the carousel.
12:30, and I have plenty of time to find the last two museums (which I had never been in). The National Museum of African Art had some great exhibits that I can’t wait to see again, when I don’t have a time crunch. Six tasks in about fifteen minutes.
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery had some great Asian art, and six challenges, done in fifteen minutes also!
Then I had one more task to complete: give this trek a tagline! I sat for the first time at one o’clock, outside, when I wrote the five words that won the iPad: “Trek Through History With Technology.” And I checked the leader board one more time, and I was first! So, I rushed back inside the castle, found the person from Go Smithsonian, Beth Py-Lieberman, to whom I announced that I was Thom F. (the leader). And at 1:10 pm I was finished.
I sat around talking to the people in charge of the trek, as we waited for the 2 o’clock deadline. I nervously watched the leader board as I slipped from 1st to 8th. But, as they deliberated on the results, they announced that some of the pictures didn’t count or the haiku’s weren’t written properly or some tasks were completed more than once! When they returned from deliberation, they announced their favorite haikus (mine was not one, and I feared that I just wasn’t a favorite to win). Then it was announced that the tie breaker (the tag line) was used! One of the Go Smithsonian people looked at me a moment before it was announced and I knew then, I had won!
I sat and talked with the runner up for a few minutes, and we walked across The Mall for a bit, until I finally ate some food at the American Indian Museum and schlepped back north to Silver Spring.
I had an amazing time in the trek. I got to experience new museums, such as the African Art and the Sackler, and revisit ones I hadn’t been to since they opened: American Indian. I have recommended this trek to all my friends (not ever just for the iPads that are still available, but for the sheer fun I had exploring something that I normally just take for granted).
The people at Go Smithsonian are incredibly nice and I hope to interact with them more! Check out the trek’s homepage here.