Hello all from Los Angeles, where the 2013 edition of our little annual around the world travel adventure began way back on April 12th. First off, everyone is good and safe and heading home. I apologize for this late post...but I simply could not find a nickels worth of time until now...sorry!
(Although the wacky Tea Party's vindictive austerity measures have led to more than a few FAA-induced flight delays and late arrivals home for our travelers. My daughter was grounded in Seattle for over two hours and arrived home after 1AM Monday morning. And one unlucky traveler who left our Toronto hotel Sunday morning for her noon flight (of less than two hours and on the East Coast) did not arrive at her home until after midnight. Fun times...a BIG thank you Washington D.C.! We travel around the world without one single delay in poor developing countries only to return...and BOOM!...insane dysfunction. I guess you get what you pay for?)
Okay, you all want to know what the heck happened in Toronto that led to our British Columbia (that's a province in Canada) father-son team of Gerry and Phil (aka The Ogopogos) winning the 2013 edition of The Global Scavenger Hunt and being crowned The World's Greatest Travelers on Saturday night. Well, here's all the news fit to print:
When last we wrote on Saturday morning, the leader board was a dead heat. A tie between the upstarts from Canada and last year's winners and still The World's Greatest Travelers from New Zealand, Saskia and Andrew, who had just pushed hard and won the grueling European leg. So a one-day event in Toronto would break the tie, winner take all...
Teams headed out early in the morning, with many teams headed to the mighty Niagara Falls to fulfill a huge Bonus scavenge. But train time to and fro sucked away most of their day...despite the great views of Mother Nature's handiwork. Upon arrival back in metropolitan Toronto teams quickly split up to get to business and complete an incompletible series of 34 Toronto-based scavenges. And they were off...strategy is important at this point, and my sense is that Gerry and Phil might have had a little advantage in Toronto being Canadian and all. But what truly swung the day in their favor is that Saskia and Andrew never take cabs anywhere, like all efficient travelers I know, their go-to mode of transportation is always local buses and subways. Guess what? The TTC (aka Toronto Transit Commission) let them down and there was a type of subway closure on Saturday afternoon that thwarted their plans big time. The result was that Gerry and Phil ended up winning the last Par One Toronto leg by 65 points because the were able to complete just three more scavenges than Saskia and Andrew. Folks, there were over 600 scavenges in the entire 23-day 2013 event from start to finish, and it came down to just three scavenges in the last hours of the last day. Wow...amazing...heartbreaking...fun...a real competition!
So the Toronto leg ended with The Ogopogos winning the leg completing 17 scavenges, including that tough Niagara Falls bonus and earning 570 points. All either Saskia and Andrew or Gerry and Phil needed to do to secure a win was finish before each other. And they did. In second place were the Retired Traveling Chicks with 555 points, followed by Saskia and Andrew in third with 505 points. Other score cards received included: Miami in the Mix in 4th, the Traveling Tigers in 5th, M2 in 6th and our three time champions Lawyers without Borders in 6th. All in all everyone had a great day in the sun in Toronto.
The Retired Traveling Chicks t-shirts says it all....
That done, teams met at 5:00PM at Toula's Ristorante & Bar on the 38th floor of our Toronto hotel overlooking beautiful Lake Ontario for the Winner's Reception. (It was great having some old friends from the area come by to see me too...friends I have known for over 50 years and great high school mates too! Thanks Allison, Dave, Vince, Dan and Tommy. Great seeing you all!) The scene was joyous as the end was near...yet tense at the same time, as nobody knew who had won.
The Major Dudes are still around...but grey now. Thanks guys...
And then the awards ceremony began. First up was the nice bottle of French champagne to the team who stayed in the cheapest hotel one night in Scandinavia. At 45 Euros—no small feat I might add—the bottle went to The Ogopogos. Then we had our Travelpro drawing...Travelpro was nice enough to donate to our GreatEscape Foundation a great set of luggage for us to use as an online fundraiser during the course of the event. We raised more than a few wonderful donations over the last 23-days and we thank everyone for giving. Thank you. Zoe pulled a name of one lucky contributor and the winner of the Travelpro luggage was David L.—and he was happy to have won.
Next up was the Player's Pool that was conducted before we left in Los Angeles at our first meeting. Teams were asked to guess which 11 countries they would be visiting over the next three weeks of the event. This is always a telling event as the Road Officials later look over the guesses. Teams this year had us going to New Zealand and Australia—nope, not yet! They had us visiting Peru, Chile and Colombia—nope, not this year! But there were a lot of great guesses...but mostly wrong ones. In the end, two participants guessed five of the eleven correctly and Phil and Erik each took away $240 cash each. Good job guys...
Finally, it was time for the top prizes and The World's Greatest Travelers trophy and title.
In all, seven of thirteen teams that started the event in Los Angeles finished the event in Toronto, handing in score sheets at each of the seven legs. Six teams dropped out of the competition along the way, although they all of course finished the event having fun and participating as best they could at each and every stop along the way. An attrition rate is normal as teams do soul-searching and realize the best and most satisfying way for them to participate in the annual travel adventure competition. That said, congrats to all the teams, but kudos to the seven that successfully finished what they started. And here is the final edition of the 2013 Leader Board.
Winning the Bronze Medal coming in third place was the dynamic duo of Margarita and Demetrius (aka Miami in the Mix). I had debriefed (Peer Reviewed) them after the tough Par 4 Vietnam-Cambodia leg, and I was impressed by how they traveled efficiently and how they were creative in finding solutions to their travel problems. They proved very worthy competitors, worked hard from day one and were also great folks to hang with and share stories along way. Good job Miami in the Mix...you earned it!
Bronze Medalist Margarita & Demetrius (aka Miami in the Mix)
Placing second were our 2012 defending champions Saskia and Andrew (aka You're Not in Guatemala Now, Dr. Ropata!) hailing from New Zealand. Again from day one they proved to be tenacious competitors, great travelers and worthy champions who participated in this their second event in the true spirit of The Global Scavenger Hunt—giving, trying, sharing, public transportation, and stopping to smell the roses along the way. But it was not to be this year for Saskia and Andrew. Both Pamela and I thank you guys for gallantly returning to defend your title and being true to the spirit of our event once again. Cheers.
2012 Champs and 2013 Silver Medalists Saskia & Andrew (aka You're Not in Guatemala Now, Dr. Ropata)
In any competition there can be only one winner. And the winners of the 2013 edition The Global Scavenger Hunt as we know were Gerry and Phil (aka The Ogopogos) from British Columbia, Canada. (BTW: That makes three of our nine events to date won by non-Americans: Kiwis (2012), Canucks (2013) and Belgians (2005).) Gerry and Phil did not do well on the first leg way back in Shanghai, China. I remember them seeing where they had placed in the pack (5th) and there was no whining or complaining. Gerry simply said, "Cheers to the winners and we just have to work harder." And boy did they ever. Like hockey players tirelessly working the corners for any advantage, they were always grinding away, trying to figure out a winning strategy and a way to do better on each leg. And they did that too, learning along the way and building up steam and winning four of the seven legs and coming in a close second on the challenging Par 5 Euro Leg. They never tired. They simply were the most consistent team to enter in the event this year. And I am happy to report that The World's Greatest Travelers for 2013 are Gerry and Phil, Team Ogopogos. The gold medal and trophies are well-earned guys. Enjoy the title...we will see you again!
Father and son Team the Ogopogos (aka Gerry & Phil)...The World's Greatest Travslers!
It is all downhill after Europe, but we try to have some fun the last day. Anyone who knows travelers know that they have a lot to say. And our travelers have done a lot over the last 23-days and we want them to share it. Our 2013 event is no different. We held our Winner's Gala dinner at the wonderful Volos Restaurant, an upscale Greek eatery that serves mighty fine octopus. Wearing clean, fresh-smelling clothes they obviously hid in the bottoms of their suitcases—not!—teams assembled for a fun finale. And special prizes were awarded for the completion of some of our fun scavenges. Saskia and Andrew won for employing the most modes of public transportation on the global adventure—29!—beating the 2009 record of 28. Teams tried to retell some of the taxi-driver jokes they were tasked with learning from drivers in each country to varying degrees of success. It is always funny when someone tries to download jokes from the Internet—they don't work and everyone knows. Ha ha. Next up was the Tackiest Souvenir award that went to Jordan for his now non-working Chairman Mao waving (or saluting?) wristwatch. Funny Jordan. At the beginning of the event in Los Angeles, we asked each participant to pick out an item that they thought could be purchased anywhere in the world, and price out that item in each country they visited. Some folks did cups of coffee, liters of gas, bottles of water, McDonald's items, postcard postage, ice cream cones, bags of chips, etc...but the item that won the prize (as voted on by all present) was packs of cigarettes by Demetrius. He found that the cheapest place to buy a pack was Cambodia at about $1.65...and the most expensive? Surprise, not, Oslo at $17.00 for a pack of butts! Wild...
The Winner's Gala at Volos...
The proverbial kids table...Catherine, Jordan, Madeline & Oliver....
Finally, we give a special prize to somebody that creates the best travel collection...you know, collecting that one item from each country they visit. This year we had note pads and key cards from hotels (there were no keycards in Kathmandu folks!), bracelets, flags, book markers, beer labels (I confess, I do this one too all the time...I plan on wall papering the barn one day!), coins and bank notes are always popular, pens...of course we outlawed Christmas ornaments and refrigerator magnets. We always get great collection...but this year Casey had the best collection ever (but not one I would endorse for my kids)...he got a tattoo in each country he visited. I am sure his doctor will be checking his blood levels for a few months! Great job on a tattoo hunt Casey.
So, that concluded our wonderful dinner. We were all tired...exhausted really after 23-days on the road and still on European time—we think. It was an early night for most of us as anti-climatic as that may seem. We know what we did over the last 23-days was incredible. A once-in-a-lifetime adventure. But tomorrow is another day. The event was over. No one died. Everyone came home safely. And this I know for sure...everyone had the time of their lives.
Thank you all. Thank you Pamela. I will write one more post in the coming days to try and sum up what this last trip around the world might have meant to us...right now, words fail me. Until then, thanks for joining the 2013 edition of The Global Scavenger Hunt, the most extraordinary annual event on the planet.
And please check out all the latest blog posts from our teams...
You are not in... (Andrew & Saskia, 2012 champs):
Lawyers without Borders (Zoe & Rainey, 2011 champs):
Captn Marvel & PI Baby (Michael & Nita):
The Buckeye Terriers (Anahi & Bill):
The Austinites (Erik & Casey):
Traveling Neophytes (Wendy & Oliver):
The Ogopogos (Gerry & Phil):
Miami in the Mix (Demetrius & Margarita):
Retired Traveling Chicks (Kim & Maria):
The Escapees (Christine & Jordan):
M2 (Marnie & Madeline):
The Traveling Tigers (John & Michael):
Team Wainwright (Angela & Sean):
Wander Woman (Margo):
Please friend and like us on Facebook...and I will attempt to add Twitter insight (sic) in 140 characters or less!? I will also be writing periodic Huffington Post pieces as well...
Remember that The Global Scavenger Hunt™ has always been about more than traveling around the world competing for The World's Greatest Travelers™ crown, it is about helping others help themselves through the GreatEscape Foundation. This year we have some great Travelpro gear for a lucky contributor who makes a small one-time $25 online donation during the course of the 2013 event (the more times you donate, the more chances to win). Thank you all, because we know all—every little bit helps out a lot. Thank you!
We also want to issue a THANK YOU to all the official suppliers of The Global Scavenger Hunt's 2013 event. Thank you, great fun stuff we all agree!
Teams arrived early evening last night at Lester Pearson International (YYZ) and got to enjoy the sunset on Lake Ontario upon arrival at our home away from home in Toronto, the Westin Harbour Castle. Naturally folks are weary after 22-days on the road and a final set of flights from Oslo via Reykjavik to Toronto. Madeline of TeamM2 had the unusual distinction of celebrating her birthday in three countries! Happy Birthday...
Okay, drum roll...it was high math last night after teams handed in their Peer Reviews. In fact, Road Officials spent the better part of the sleep part of evening crunching the numbers over and over again in our noblest efforts to get it right. And we did.
We have a tie going into the last day of the Par One Toronto leg! Saskia and Andrew won the grueling five day Euro Par 5 leg—home advantage?—and the Ogopogos placed second 310 points behind them. So everyone knows, with so much at stake, these two teams had to Peer Review each other...so any issues would surely have been stated and Road Officials notified. There were none of course and they both had long clean sheets. What it came down to upon analysis was that Saskia and Andrew were able to find and visit Hans Christian Anderson's house and kayaked in Copenhagen. They were also able to do a few more point worthy scavenges in Goteborg, Sweden. That was the difference over five days of scurrying around Europe. Congrats to our defending 2012 champs Saskia and Andrew...and good luck to both teams today in sunny Toronto.
Of course the other five still competing teams did well also...M2 came in seventh with some added fun weight of two new tag-along's with them. The Traveling Tigers made it too, despite some missed trains and James Bond-like maneuvers. Good to have you two alive! Next up we had Lawyers without Borders who helped a few other teams during the leg truly enjoy themselves and in so doing fell on their swords sacrificing a lot of points. One wonders how they would do truly unhampered. Then we had the Retired Traveling Chicks, who I saw everywhere in Oslo, coming in fourth on the long leg. Great job ladies...hope you get another chance someday to try this again—has it gotten into your veins? And in third place was Miami in the Mix, who left Frankfurt limping a bit, but arrived in Oslo full-steam ahead. They had a great leg and proved consistent again.
But of course the top two teams prevailed again. Here is the Official 2013 Leader Board as we enter that last sprint here in Toronto.
Teams were all given their Par One Toronto-area scavenger book at 8:00AM. Cell-phones, laptops and iPads where handed over to Road Officials—to be returned after check-in at 4:15PM—to keep things truly level. Sure the Ogopogos may have home field advantage being from Canada, but my guess is that there is no such thing. And in a show of great sportsmanship, four teams, including the two teams vying for the 2013 crown of The World's Greatest Travelers all headed out together en route to Niagara Falls and huge Bonus. We'll see at 4:15 this afternoon how long they stay together... or are left behind in a mad dash to earn points. It should be restated here that in 2004 two teams were tied on the last day in New York City. And we all remember how that turned out—don't we Randy of Newport Beach!—one team left 20 points on the table and lost it all on the last day of the marathon 23-day around the world event. Stay tuned.
The World's Greatest Travelers for 2013 will be either...
For those of you unfamiliar with the Canadian language, here are some helpful phrases:
One Dollar = loonie
Two Dollars = toonie
Doctor = A medical professional everyone in Canada has!
Eh = what did you say?
Eh? = what do you think?
EH? = something to say just to end a sentence
Eh!! = WOW!!
EH!? = what do you mean?
Eh?? = your joking!!!??
Hoser = a good friend...
Take off! = you are kidding, no way
Skates = what all Canadians wear as first shoes
Napkin = a serviette
M&Ms = Smarties
Newfoundland = pronounced noofunlan
Toronto = pronounced Trawna
Two Four = a case of beer
Pop = a soda
The States = The Unites States of America
Bob’s Your Uncle = Everything will work out great
Winter Hat = a toque
Taxes = Goods and Services Taxes (GST)
Z = zed not zee
Canadian = a Canuck
American Cheese = processed cheese
Police = Mounties, OPP’s
We will touch base later today...
Good Morning all -
All the teams checked-in this morning ending the long and challenging Euro Par 5 leg at the hotel...albeit with weary smiling faces. I am thrilled to report that yet again after 22-days on the road that everyone is healthy and safe. We are all on our way back to North America now.
It is hard to believe that three weeks ago today we all met in Los Angeles...it seems a different time and era! And what an amazing ride: Shanghai, Ho Chi Minh City, Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Kuala Lumpur, Kathmandu, Doha, Frankfurt....Oslo. I am sure a few folks are looking at maps to see where they have been. But all good here and I will have more of a blog posting, and maybe some Leg scores too by the time we get to Toronto at about 8:00PM local time this evening.
Out from Oslo...
Hi hi from Oslo...More teams have been seen scurrying about Oslo. They have been spotted in Viking Ship Museums, getting off ferry boats, dining in restaurants, carrying bags of chocolates, attending the ballet and walking in the blistery sun. The eagles are assembling once again. But not much to report...
The Rugged Canadian Team The Ogopogos...attending a Canucks Game? Nope,
a contemporary ballet at the National Opera House!
But it was an awesome ballet...by Kylian entitled Different Shores in 3 Acts!
I just sadly said good bye to my daughter Petra who is en route to Iceland for a few days with her Viking relatives. I miss her already. Bittersweet/hard for a father to realize that his little daughter is all grown up and ready for the big wide world on her own...but I can still worry—as I look towards the clouds for any sight of a plane heading northwest—right?
Walking with dad...
I just finished a fun interview with a great women and fellow-traveler named Hilde from Norway's Financial Daily Finansavisen. If anyone reads Norwegian, please send me a transcript...I hear excerpts of the interview will be published Saturday. Sadly, no teams where around to defend themselves.
A few facts and observations you might not have had time to think about:
Did you know that Denmark's national flag, called the Dannebrog, is the oldest national flag still in use in the world? True.
Did you know that Sweden has been involved in no wars for over 200 years...maybe that's why such great diplomats come from here, such as: Raoul Wallenberg, Dag Hammarskjöld, Olaf Palme and Hans Blix.
Did you know that Norwegians drink more coffee than anyone else on the planet? Over ten billion cups a year...or a staggering ten a day! (I had two espressos writing that last sentence.) Oddly, Red Bull was banned here recently—too much caffeine?
About trolls those real-life, err, mythical trolls, not the Internet types either. (I promised Petra I would pontificate on the subject for all it is worth because like all teenagers, she thinks her dad knows nothing, hah!) Well here is what I know: According to Norse sagas I have heard (from people who actually live in Island), trolls are mammals with feelings. And oh what odd temperaments they apparently have too! They are not very smart either, downright dim-witted some have said, much talk-show pundits and GOP advance men. But for my money, mountain trolls are a tad more mischievous then those run-of-the-mill garden-variety staid woodland trolls, or elusive rock trolls hanging out somewhere in Iceland. And I personally have yet to encounter a troll that has been helpful—ever! And I find that odd too because, forget dog years, trolls are said to live for between 1,000 to 12,000 years. Think of it, 12,000 years and never a good deed? That is not very Christian of them is it? But that's another mythology. I have been told that trolls are born with only one head and one eye, but as they age, not so gracefully I am told (like Hollywood blondes), that they grow two more heads just to scare away other trolls...but they still only have one eye! Go figure multi-headed Cyclops? Good thing they only come out at night...and usually after a few drinks by the observer too! (aka pink elephants) Why only at night you ask? Well, when exposed to light, trolls will either turn to stone (young ones) or explode (older ones). Yikes! That might, or might not, explain why their diets consist of charcoal and concrete? Sadly, trolls it is said can only become parents once in their lifetime. That could explain why they are seen less and less—zero population growth and all. And that could be why we don't know a lot about trolls...whereas why the fairies of Celtic lore are still very busy doing a brisk business in teeth these days. And that is all I know about trolls, said to lurking everywhere in Norway; well, at least in gift shops.
A Troll Sign...hmmm, they must be real?
The Oslo art scene...
Lunch...(mine are better!)
Now that is a ship (circa 920 CE)...
The New Opera House...
A Moral Tale...or a telling tale?