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30 Years….Road Rally!

“You know what you need?” said any number of well intentioned patrons who would drop by the Duck in our earliest days.

“No” I would sigh.  “What do we need?”

The list was long and one of the most common “needs” was a place to put your foot while leaning against the bar.

Little did these helpful folks realize but we would have happily installed a foot rail if every foot of rail hadn’t cost so darn much money. So we would listen to their helpful suggestions and just say thank you for the good idea and politely change the subject.

David, one of our new regulars, heard the “You need a bar rail” comment one time too many times so one day he came up with an idea to solve our problem.

The Mucky Duck “Rail Plan” was born.  The first 40 people to pitch in $15 would own one foot of brass rail under the bar.  A plaque with their name would be added above their section of the bar.
Guess what? So many people wanted to claim their section of rail that we were able to put brass rail all along the side wall as well…drop in sometime during the day and you can see all the names of our “Rail Plan” contributors.

David also came up with a plan to answer the “You know what you need…” constant request for a piano.  His idea? Everyone could pitch in and own one key.  And they did.

So when David presented an idea for fun…we listened.

“Why don’t we have a Road Rally?” suggested David

“What’s a Road Rally?” I asked.

“It’s a gimmick car race where participants follow an obtuse set of directions to traverse the city collecting objects for a scavenger hunt” says David, “and the winner receives a trophy with their name on it that is displayed at the Duck so all their friends can see how smart they are.”

“And what if they aren’t smart?” says I.

“There will be free barbecue and beer for those that can find their way back to the Duck”

So we set about creating this non-race for a Sunday amusement. Over 40 Duckers showed up in all manner of racing regalia. Everything from silk scarves and wide brimmed hats to one piece jumpers like you see at the Daytona 500.

We spent the better part of a month creating a route that would include some of Houston’s most interesting sites and oddities.  Our route would include Rice University, Hermann Park with a required ride on the train and a stop for lunch at Merida where our contestants could sip fresh lime margaritas while searching the room for the clue on the mural.

The morning of the rally we tied yellow ribbons on trees for Duckers to collect for points for the scavenger hunt. Only later did we discover that some very tricky (and slightly unscrupulous) contestants had taken all of the ribbons in an effort to prevent their competition from finding those coveted trophies.

The rally directions required the contestants to locate a certain pay phone in Memorial Park.  Some of you may remember pay phones. For For those of you that were born in the nineties, pay phones were devices from the last century that were connected by wires that were connected to poles. You can still see those poles today along the roads we travel…don’t know what they are used for now, maybe lights?  Anyway, to operate these pay phones, you had to pay.   Get it, “pay” phones.  You just dropped in a quarter and you would hear a noise, that noise was called a dial tone. Well  enough with the history lesson.
Our road rally contestants had to locate a particular phone in Memorial Park and call the number we provided (the Duck phone) and when they called they would receive the answer to the riddle that provided them with their next clue.

We drove the route to see how the roadsters were faring. We found some of them hanging at Merida, sipping margaritas, staring at the wall looking for the secret hidden in the mural, some of them were in Memorial Park crawling around looking under picnic tables for the next direction to be taken and few could be seen waving from the train going around Hermann Park.

After making sure that everyone was accounted for we headed back to the Duck to check on the grill and prepare to greet the road trippers as they returned, trickling in a few at a time.

Rice students were the first to return, no surprise there! They had not only solved every clue but retrieved all of the scavenger hunt trophies including the button from Texas Junk.  The Texas Junk button was the trickiest scavenger hunt item. By prearrangement the owner of the store would present anyone who asked “Button, button, who’s got the button?” with a button from the giant glass bowl on the counter.
I’m not sure if people were too shy to ask or what, but we didn’t see a lot of buttons returned in the scavenger hunt bags.
The same two Rice guys won our Road Rally the second year….their names are the only two names on our trophy.  The trophy is still on a shelf behind the bar…I’ll be happy to show you the next time you drop in.

more to come….

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