A-Lou-zing Race

This Saturday, hop aboard St. Louis public transit for one incredible scavenger hunt

Mass-transit passes are included in the $35-per-team registration fee, as are a 10 a.m. continental breakfast beforehand at Tanner B's (1113 Pine Street; 314-588- 1229), which serves as the race's starting line, and admission to the afterparty. You must register for "Race 'Round the Lou" online by Friday, May 13. For more information and to enter, visit www.mstl.org.

Calling all couch-potato reality-TV fans who watch programs like The Amazing Race or Road Rules and think "I would be great on that show": It's time to remove your duff from its well-worn grooves on the sofa and prove it -- while proving to yourself that, hey, sometimes going out and exploring St. Louis really is more fun than sitting through a Blind Date/elimiDATE double-header.

That's the thinking behind "Race 'Round the Lou," a citywide, scavenger-hunt-style competition happening this Saturday, May 14, beginning at 11 a.m. Teams of up to four people, armed with only a map, a Metro schedule and a clue (literally and, hopefully, figuratively), must make their way from concealed checkpoint to concealed checkpoint. At each destination team members are faced with a task to complete, an object to find or a puzzle to solve; teams may visit the stops in any order they choose, but they may only move on to the next stop after accomplishing their assigned feats.

The event is the latest brainchild of social- and civic-awareness group Metropolis St. Louis (yes, one of its members is a big Amazing Race fan), so it figures that one of the race's key rules is that participants may only travel by MetroLink or MetroBus when traversing the course. "It's a different way to race, and hopefully, it will introduce people to the ease of public transportation," says event organizer Jennifer Andrews. "We want to show that not only is the Metro system not scary, but if it works for you when you're running a race, imagine how it will work for you when you're heading to work."

To keep up the suspense about the race -- and preserve the integrity of the three months' hard work that committee members put into devising the course -- Andrews is tight-lipped when asked to reveal some of the checkpoint locations. She does admit that all are positioned near MetroLink stations and bus stops, and that the stops include cultural institutions, a few landmarks and many local businesses; in total the race should last in the ballpark of four hours. (Psst: Dobbs Tire & Auto Centers, the Hilton St. Louis Downtown Hotel, Erato Wine Bar & Grand Market, Pets in the City and DB's Sports Bar are just some of the race's sponsors -- which also means gift certificates from such establishments may be part of the prize packages for the top three finishing teams.) And Andrews gives one example of a checkpoint challenge: "eating a caramel sundae as fast as you can." Um, Ted Drewes and a brain freeze, anyone?

One last clue: Each team is required to carry at least one cell phone, so that, as Andrews says, "If for some reason it takes them ten hours, and they're still out on the course, we can call them and tell them to head back." In other words, the cell phones are for the losers. But that's not you, right?

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