How to Hold a Treasure Hunt Rally

There are many varieties of rallys that provide enjoyable motoring competition for club members, from the simple Poker Rally (follow a prescribed route to five locations, pick up a playing card in a sealed enveloped at each location, the best hand wins) to the fast-paced, demanding TSD (Time-Speed-Distance) rally which requires sophisticated navigating and timing equipment. One of the more enjoyable varieties is the “treasure hunt”. We’ll outline here, how to put on one of these fun events, which can be run for 10 to 100 cars with virtually the same preparation.

The basic concept is that the competitors solve a clue to take them to their next location, where they learn their next clue, and so on, to the finish. The winner is the person who completes the route closest to the organizer’s prescribed “bogey” time, by solving all the clues and not opening any of the answer envelopes (which are also provided). A scenic route, some clever clues, careful planning and an enjoyable finish location (a nice restaurant, BBQ or party at someone’s house) can make a treasure hunt rally very enjoyable indeed. Let’s follow a typical competitor through such an event…

Arriving at the start – the parking lot of a local shopping center that’s not too crowded – you’ll find the start marshal with a registration list. Paying your $5.00 entry fee (to cover awards and operating expenses), you sign up, listing your navigator’s name and your car type (there may be classes by type of car). You are given a large envelope to which is taped a sheet of instructions, one of which is your start time. Reading the instructions, you learn you have to open the packet at your start time (cars will leave at two minute intervals, on official rally time, by the rally master’s prominently displayed clock). Inside the packet are seven large envelopes each marked with a letter, and seven small envelopes similarly marked. The instructions tell you the large envelopes contain clues, the small ones the answers to the corresponding clue. Perhaps you will find seven clues before the finish, perhaps not (the instructions say this to stop you opening all of them at once to learn where the finish is. There’s a 30-point penalty for incorrectly opening your envelope.). Another instruction tells you you will be charged one point for each minute between your start time and your arrival at the finish, but that the “bogey” is 90 minutes, so the first 90 points won’t count. If you finish in less than 90 minutes, there’s no penalty, as long as you haven’t opened any wrong envelopes or any answers. Around the course you’re told you will find 3″ x 5″ cards pinned to trees, fences, etc.. at the location determined by solving the previous clue. These cards will tell you which large envelope to open next. The locations can be found by using the local map provided in the packet; all you have to do is solve the clues and correctly decide where the answer takes you.

At your start time, you will show your unopened packet to the starter, who will tell you the first letter. Opening your packet, you remove and open envelope “B”. Inside you find a sheet of paper which is headed “BEFORE”, beneath which are several groups of numbers. Having puzzled for a few moments, and after driving a brief distance, your navigator suddenly says “B FOUR”, and writes B – 4, so the number groups are quickly converted to letters by writing out the alphabet, making B=4, and all the other letters equal to corresponding numbers between 1 and 26. Translating the number groups to words gives you “GO FIRST WHERE OAKS MEET THE SEA”.

Being in Kansas City, you decide not to drive to California, but rather consult your map. Sure enough, Oaks Drive intersects with Ocean Way. A ten minute drive finds you and your trusty navigator at the intersection, where you spot a card lettered “N”. You open large envelope N and find a sheet with ten unfinished sentences, numbered 1-10, and a group of hash marks below the sentences, numbered as follows: 1 – 5, 3 – 6, 4 – 2, 5 -1, and so on. After completing the sentences (No. 1 is “Popeye’s girl was OLIVE OYL”), you realize the first letter down below will be “E” (1st sentence, fifth letter they wrote in) and thus to complete your clue. This takes you on to the next clue location, again using your map to find out exactly where to go. The next clue, “S” has you both completely stumped! Trying for fifteen minutes, you realize you simply have no idea what it means. You decide the 30-point penalty for opening the answer will cost you less than sitting and puzzling for who knows how long? You open the answer envelopes to “S” and it tells you exactly where the next clue location is.

This goes on for six envelopes, and the sixth location turns out to be the finish. Your time in route was 106 minutes plus a 30-point penalty for opening the answer to “S”, so your score was 46. (Good enough for third place!)

That’s a fairly typical treasure hunt. The clues could be based on anagrams, number puzzles, trivia questions, nursery rhymes, TV shows, almost anything…If you, as an organizer, want to be sure your entrants follow the prescribed route, ask questions at the bottom of each clue sheet for entrants to answer from things they see in route. Award bonus points for getting them right. On a 90-minute bogey rally, you’ll find three or four people manage to come close, another dozen or so will be in the 2-21/2 hour range, while there’s always someone who manages to stay outfor hours! The best way to avoid this is to add an instruction “If you’re not at the finish by 4:30, when the rally ends, call this number to find out where to go.” A good treasure hunt organizer asks an intelligent friend or relative to “proof” the rally before finalizing it. You may have decided “Oaks at Ocean” was a good location for a clue and been so intent on it that you didn’t realize there was also a cross street called Pacific on Oaks Blvd! Nothing ruins a rally faster than two logical solutions to one clue.

Hopefully, this will give some of you an idea for a fun local event. Here in Santa Barbara, the local MG Club has now run nineteen annual treasure hunts, each more popular than the one before! If you’re not perfectly clear on any of the organizational details, write in with your questions to: Editor, Moss Motoring, 400 Rutherford St., Goleta, CA 93117 and we’ll get back to you right away!


By Lawrie Alexander

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