By PAT HARTMAN
In the Contra Costa Times, Ann Tatko-Peterson, who writes for several publications in the San Francisco Bay area, set forth the rules for the Great Road Trip Scavenger Hunt, which incidentally it’s not too late to join. The concept is while you’re on a vacation trip, find each of 20 items on a list, and take a picture of it with at least one member of your scavenger hunt team included in the photo. The beauty part is that this search isn’t even limited to the continental United States. Here’s how the foreign travel exception works:
From past experience, we’ve learned that some items on our list are very difficult to find when traveling overseas. For all those venturing outside of the United States, you can substitute up to three items on the main list with items from the special list for overseas travelers.
So, if your trip is inside the USA, some of the mandatory items are a town square clock, a double-decker bus, a real old-time outhouse, an outdoor pay phone, an artwork made entirely of edible food, and a member of your team assisting a street performer, which we’ll talk about a little later in this post. If your travels take you outside the country, the possible substitutions include a castle tower and a building that started out as something else and was converted into a hotel.
While reading The Third Tower Up From the Road, we took notes and, working backwards, invented the imaginary Travel Writer Scavenger Hunt, a competition which Kevin Dolgin would have won handily if these items were on its list, because he’s seen them all and told us about them in his book:
a 27-hole golf course
a village with a population of one
the door to Hell
the world’s best tobacco
a fortune-telling rabbit
a smugglers’ cave
a frisbee decorated with a cannabis leaf
a 400-year-old spice market
an equine poop chute
a clove of garlic grown in the year 500 BC
salty licorice, chestnut beer, octopus balls, smoked tea, boiled duck embryos
and best of all…a human statue
Actually, the world is well-supplied, some would say over-populated, with living statues. Kevin describes the area near the Pompidou Center in Paris as a hotbed of human statue non-activity, and discusses the ethics of wearing a mask. But it’s the Las Ramblas sector of Barcelona, which seems to be Human Statue World Headquarters, that really brings out his descriptive ardor. There he saw people dressed up like Julius Caesar, Satan, Mickey Mouse, and Che Guevara, and several attired as Egyptian mummies, all holding very still. His enthusiasm for a certain golden angel is extreme. His favorite, however, is
[…]a skinny guy with a little Leninesque beard and glasses, all painted gun-metal gray and sitting on the rail of a subway station. He’s very metallic. He also doesn’t move, whereas the less artistic human statues tend to ham it up for picture-snapping tourists.
Which is where the notion of interacting with one of these outdoor artists comes into play, as we promised a few paragraphs ago. To fulfill the requirements of the Great Road Trip Scavenger Hunt, it might not be necessary to let a mime make a fool of you, or to hold some street performer’s chain saw or flaming torch. It might be enough simply to entice a living statue to pretend to whisper in your ear.