You never can find someone wearing a beret when you need to.
That was one of the conclusions drawn during a recent trip to San Francisco in which my wife, two friends and I competed in a CitySolve urban adventure race during a birthday celebration for another friend.
If you're a fan of "The Amazing Race" TV show, then you're familiar with this kind of scavenger hunt on steroids.
Here's the gist: You solve clues and puzzles that lead to locations throughout the city, then take a picture of your group at the locations to prove you were there.
"It's a scavenger hunt, with all the thrills of the amazing race, mixed in with trivial pursuit, throw in a mini road race and add a dash of cat-and-mouse," CitySolve's Web site touts.
Some of the specifics:
Teams compete in groups of two or four.
The clues involved word or picture puzzles, a bit of math and some pop-culture trivia. One challenge selling a cheap plastic bottle opener to a stranger for $5 raised money for a local charity. And one challenge featured finding people doing things like wearing a beret, wearing a gold chain or eating spaghetti and meatballs in San Francisco's North Beach district.
You are allowed to take public transit or run/walk to reach your locations, but can't use a bike or a taxi to get around.
Smartphones are allowed and are helpful in finding your way. It also helps to be familiar with the city you're in.
You are encouraged to carry water, snacks and some money for bus fare.
Many of the more serious competitors chose to run from location to location. We walked, briskly.
According to my teammate's pedometer, we walked a total of 10 miles during our journey from China Basin to North Beach to Pier 39 and the Wharf. We took two bus rides, including a final journey from Pier 39 to the finish line, located across the street from AT&T Park.
It took us just over four hours to complete nine out of the 10 tasks (you're allowed to skip one). The winning team finished in just over two hours.
The event is mostly for fun, but the winning team earned $300. There also were prizes for best costumed team and best tweet.
The race made for a great day in San Francisco and a unique way to experience the city. We met people and did things we never would've done otherwise, and it was a fun way to spend time with friends.
For more information on CitySolve, which has races throughout the nation, visit www.citysolveurbanrace.com or check it out on Facebook or Twitter simply search City Solve. There are other organizations that hold similar races, including two found online www.greaturbanrace.com and www.urbandare.com.
Reach Jim Silva at email@example.com.
Clue: This guy's won a Palme d'Or; welcomed Kotter's career back; been a guest judge on "American Idol." Find the establishment that bears the surname of this famed writer/director/ actor extraordinaire in Fisherman's Wharf.
Answer: Quentin Tarantino
Location: Tarantino's restaurant, 206 Jefferson St.
Clue: If the star of "Take Me Home Tonight" opened a cafe and named it after his television father, he might run this waterfront eatery. If that's not enough information, it may be helpful to know that Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman and Helen Mirren became co-owners by starring in a 2010 action flick with a similar name. You can find this shack situated between a bow and arrow and a ballpark.
Answer: Red (Topher Grace's dad on "That '70s Show"
"Red" the movie).
Location: Red's Java House, Pier 40
Clue: A ditty might show your next destination. It's a lyrical lead to a literate location.
If you've been to North Beach, then surely you know it:
A pretty bright beacon for the bongo-beach poet.
A little rhyme could help name the shop you're headed to.
It's on the street of an explorer who had eyes upon the New.
Location: City Lights Books, a famed bookstore-publisher, 261 Columbus Ave.
What: CitySolve Urban Race San Francisco No. 2
When: July 28, noon (check-in is from 10 to11:30 a.m.)
Cost: $60 per person by 3 p.m. July 27; $65 per person on race day To register: www.citysolveurbanrace.com