"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines.

Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." -Mark Twain

The OCF Amazing Race

>> Monday, October 29, 2012

The humidity was already palpable, even at 9:30 in the morning. We were mid-muster and I could see the excitement on my classmates' faces and the competitive glint entering their eyes. Our head educator Beth's voice still captures our attention as she informed us of what our day would entail, the mischievous sparkle never leaving her eyes.

The crew and educators had designed a day-long activity that strongly resembled the Amazing Race, a reality television show broadcast on CBS in which participants do to various places competing by completing random and bizarre tasks. The nerves built as we received the list of items that we needed to bring with us: water bottles, our Literature Reader, a fathom of rope, Jacksonville maps, an OCF sticker, seine twine, cameras, and writing utensils. This list comprised what we would be carrying on our backs for the six to seven hours as we traveled in various loops around Jacksonville.

Our teams were announced--I was paired with Austin and Lilli. We frantically scrambled to procure the items that were previously rattled off, shouting orders to each other as we went. The heat and tiredness that plague my body were forgotten as I stuffed my backpack full with the necessary supplies. My team met back on deck, our anxiety rising as we struggled to find a team name and uniform-the first task of the day. Our first uniform with "tanks or cut-offs" we vetoed since it heavily resembled another team's choice. The feeling of defeat already filled me as we desperately spit out ideas, finally landing on "The Pumpkins" which consisted of us wearing some orange article of clothing. Our uniform passed and we received the first clue of the race.

We briskly walked over, our outlook gloomy as we observed the other groups racing ahead. We come to the first objective: measuring the uprights of Jacksonville's Main Street Bridge using our bodies to do so. With a measurement of forty feet, we strode on to the Friendship Fountain, where we got the next clue.

The competition was high as shown by our early lunch at 10:30, having already completed the tasks that were expected to take us until 11:30 or 12:00. Lunch was only earned after getting mall-goers to join us in a made-up cheer about the Florida Gators or Georgia Bulldogs. We accomplished this by roping in four Georgians who were over-enthused about the fact that they got to chant and bark in a bulldog-like fashion in front of our science teacher (who had shaved off his beard and mustache after the race began to confuse us). After our quick lunch, we trudged on, completing each task with a drive to win in the warm Florida day.

Our motivation was dessert with our very own Captain Flansburg at the Hyatt and, of course, bragging rights over the other students. For most of the students, it seemed that spending time with the Captain and eating in an actual restaurant with cold water was valued much higher than the actual dessert itself. Personally, I was motivated by the aspect of getting dressed up and spending time with the Captain.

This motivation that I felt in the morning did not last long, for the heat and tiredness that consumed me weighed me down along with the slice of cheesecake we had to consume in seconds at the top of the forty-two story Bank of America building.

Dashing down from the cheesecake, the next task was what other teams would nominate as the hardest at the end of the day, but for my team it was a five minute breeze thanks to my teammate, Lilli, who had previous knowledge and practice tying the running turks head. She tied it in record time, propelling us to the number one slot. This lead kept with us until much later in the race.

The clues took us on a trolley down to Riverside where we wandered around looking for an pizza place in order to find the price of their signature dish. After the Italian restaurant we walked with a new found determination over to the park where we were all tied together before walking back to the boat. This proved more difficult than one would initially think since at moments, especially when bikers were sharing the path, one of us would forget we were attached and attempt to go to the opposite side of the trail, creating a clothesline affect.

We made it back to the boat and immediately dove into out next challenge: getting a the monkey's fist of a heaving line into a life ring floating aft of the vessel. This task that seemed so simple took us around forty-five minutes to complete! Our positive moods quickly deteriorated as we feared our loss of the top slot. More groups caught up and began throwing their own heaving lines towards the life ring. Our downtrodden attitudes were erased with Austin's success in making it in and we strode on towards the oldest tree in Jacksonville.

At the tree, we encountered a "Road Block," where two crewmembers made us climb a tree to retrieve a pumpkin that we then had to carve into our favorite crewmember. We carved Captain Flansburg and took our carved pumpkin, mustache and all, onto the Skyrail towards our next destination.

We met the Captain outside the Times-Union Center for Performing Arts where we had to don mustaches and berets to recite "My Lost Youth." Luckily no accents were required. We completed our recitation and then sprinted back towards the ship where we completed a hand-crafted puzzle as our final assignment. Completed, the puzzle said, "The End!" A sign of release left all of us as we realized that the seven-hour Amazing Race was over and that we had won. The acknowledgement of our success from the crew and the fact that we had won brought smiles to our faces. We had won by 4.5 minutes and this fact allowed us to finally relax. It was only then that we realized how absolutely disgusting we were. We looked frazzled and sweat dampened our bodies and cloths. The deck showers we took were revitalizing, the feeling of being clean elevated our moods. We were clean and we had won, what more could there be?

After our dinner on deck, the first place and second place teams dressed up in our freshest cloths, which may not be anything special to someone who has not been on a boat for a month and a half. We set out with out arms linked, across the street to the Hyatt. We strode through the doors with our heads held high and our backs straight; proudly using the Captain's name for our dessert reservation.

Our time was willed with reminiscent details of our day of challenges, triumphs, and mess-ups. We laughed and made of of each other for the ice water and milk that we had ordered with seemingly too much enthusiasm, evident by the expression on the waiter's face.

I felt triumph-the feeling of pride radiated off of every single one of us as our faces glowed. I knew at that moment that these people and this experience; even if it was only halfway over, had changed all of us, had brought us closer and molded us into the over-excited and determined people who sat around me. I was proud to be here and proud to be sitting with and personally know every single one of the members at that table and of that crew.



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