John and Andi Rorick dash for the diamond 2009.06.17

Written by David Green. Posted in Feature Stories

By DAVID GREEN

Go ahead and ask Andi Rorick the location of any street in downtown Toledo. A month ago the Iowa native wouldn’t have known Jackson from Jefferson or Madison from Monroe. Now she could serve as a tour guide.front.roricks.windows.jpg

She’s logged a lot of hours studying Toledo in the last few weeks, all in preparation for the Diamond Dash.

More than 200 pairs of treasure hunters all registered for the same purpose—tracking down a $12,000 diamond ring in downtown Toledo. Andi and her husband, John, qualified for the event after she submitted a 250-word essay about their desire to participate.

At 10 a.m. Saturday, each pair of seekers were to receive a text message via their cell phones with a clue to send them off on a scavenger hunt to solve riddles and locate arcane features about the city. The team with the highest number of points would get the prize.

[See story inside for tales from the hunt].

“I’ve been studying like a maniac,” Andi said Friday afternoon during a phone interview.

She’s poured over maps to learn the names and locations of streets. She’s studied Toledo history. She has a 14-page document called “Fun Facts about Toledo.” She’s Googled and Googled and Googled.

Last week she went on a three-hour tour of the city with Morenci Middle School principal Kay Johnson, a Toledo native.

“Oh, there’s Manos, at 17th and Adams,” Andi suddenly says.

Any conversation is just an interruption to her studies.

“I’m realigning my maps,” she explained. “I stayed up until two in the morning making a map from the tour Kay gave me.”

Now she’s transferring those highlights onto a real map.

“St. Clair and Erie. That doesn’t make sense to me.”

It wouldn’t make sense to anybody who isn’t looking over her shoulder.

She notes that Plabell’s Rubber Co. is located on St. Clair. She can direct you to the downtown branch of the Lucas County Library. She knows the docks, the farmer’s market and the Valentine Theatre. She’s been to COSI with her children, but the location was momentarily lost in her mind when it was listed as the Center for Science and Industry.

“Idiot!” she says to herself. “I just feel like I’m going to totally choke when it comes time. I’m going to forget where every street is.”

Bicycles were encouraged for the hunt, so Andi and John visited Will Harsh at C&W Cycle in Morenci. Will is always willing to lend a hand—or a bike, in this case—and he agreed to let them borrow a tandem.

That way John can sit up front wearing a backpack and Andi can use his back like a mobile desk.

As school came to an end, Andi was thinking of asking a fellow teacher if she could borrow one of her kids’ backpacks. Then she spotted the perfect one in the discards pile.

“It’s just what I needed,” she said. “It was calling my name.”

Three levels of zippered pockets to hold the maps, notes, GPS receiver, cell phones, water bottle—everything needed for a successful hunt, including the loan of an Apple iPhone from teacher Brandi Boswell.

Not everything will fit in the backpack. There’s Kay Johnson, who will be listening for her phone to ring with a plea for help. There’s Kay’s friend, Pat, who lives and works in the in Toledo and knows the city well. So does middle school colleague and Toledo native Lisa Runion who will be on duty waiting to help figure out the clues and dive into Google to offer assistance.

There are even a couple of long-distance helpers. Morenci teacher Jamie DeVoe is on the list, even though he’ll be doing the work while visiting friends in Grand Rapids, Mich. Andi also has her brother, Pete, on high alert in California.

“Hey, there’s the Oliver House!” Andi says.

It’s the oldest building still in use in downtown Toledo, and that sounds like a good item for a scavenger hunt.

With school out for the year, Diamond Dash preparation has become Andi’s summer job. John gets filled in on the details when he gets home from work, and Andi knows his competitive nature will be a plus.

“The Repertoire Theater.”

A nice name, she says, and in case you’re wondering, it’s over on Ontario Street, a quick bike ride away from the courthouse, the library, Tony Packo’s or any of the other dozens of attractions packed inside her brain.

The day of the hunt

By DAVID GREEN

“My hands are shaking,” Andi Rorick says shortly before the competition gets underway Saturday morning.

More than 200 two-person teams are set to begin the Diamond Dash scavenger hunt in downtown Toledo.roricks.double_rider.jpg

Andrew Z from radio station 92.5 is warming up the crowd. The major sponsor, David Fairclough, says a few words before the final instructions come from Michael Hagan of scvngr, the company that created this mobile game.

Driving to Toledo that morning, John and Andi Rorick discussed where to position themselves in the starting line-up.

“I think near the edge,” Andi said.

“What if it’s the wrong edge?” countered John. He favors the middle.

In the end, it doesn’t matter. There is no starting line. Teams are scattered here and there in Promenade Park along the Maumee River, waiting for the command to begin the search.

“I’m so nervous, I’m starting to shake like a little dog.”

That was Andi, of course, who had already likened the experience to awaiting her turn at childhood piano recitals.

In the car Andi said, “John asked me this morning, ‘Do you know how to get there?’ Isn’t that funny?”

“You’ve probably been there five times,” John said.

“Five? Kay and I drove past eight times,” Andi said, referring to her tour of the city with native Kay Johnson.

Hagan finally starts his countdown—10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 go!—and the first clues are sent via text message. The Roricks are among those who begin at the Lucas County Public Library.

“Where’s the library? Where’s the library?”

Andi is scanning her map as the crowd starts to move. Dozens of teams are carrying bicycles up the park stairs to Summit Street. John is doing double duty, carrying the tandem bike they borrowed from C&W Cycle in Morenci.

The Roricks reach Summit Street and head out on Madison, narrowly avoiding a woman who suddenly stops her bike to retrieve her cell phone that fell onto the pavement.

Andi’s plan is working perfectly. John drives the bike, leaving her hands-free to locate the library on the GPS map system and give commands to John.

They’re among the first to arrive on the scene and among the first to become completely baffled. Correctly sending in the name of the place was easy enough, but the challenge question is this: If books aren’t books, what are they?

A lot of pondering begins. Then the phone calling begins. There’s a list of helpers to call, but no one is getting anywhere with this riddle. I have already crossed the line from journalist to participant. Andi wanted me on her helper list, anyway, before I suggested writing a story about the adventure.

I even make a call, puzzling Lori Drogowski back at Morenci’s library, pleading with her to Google the phrase “If books aren’t books?” No results.

This isn’t a good start to the day.

Andi decides to ask for a hint—it would result in a penalty of only a point or two.

Hint: “They’re more than books.”

The frustration grows. John had walked around the outside looking for a clue, but found nothing.

A guy walks out of the library with an irritated look on his face.

“Did you ask anybody in there?” his partner asks.

“Yeah, they don’t know what the hell I’m talking about.”

I happen to notice someone across the street intently looking up.

There it is in plain sight, carved into stone at the top of the massive building: “A book is more than a book, it is life...” plus two more lines.

Andi sends in “life” for her answer. Wrong.

Now there’s just one guess remaining. Get it wrong and you’re out of the game.

Wait a minute. I have a story to write. It can’t end here. I quietly suggest skipping and going to the next clue. It would mean another penalty and would reduce the chance of a victory.

The correct answer might be “It is life” or it might be that plus all the other words that follow. Too great a risk.

We’re spending way too much time here. We raced to the location on bikes, but the player in a wheelchair arrived 10 minutes ago.

The Roricks decide to skip and we have a fresh start. We’re off to the monument honoring Pres. McKinley. That was easy and so was the challenge question.

Back to Promenade Park for a question about a sculpture. Puzzling at first, but it turns out to be the Propylaea fountain. Next is the restaurant with the moniker of Toledo’s transparent nickname. There must be a place with the word glass. Sure enough, the GPS brings up Glass City Café.

As we arrive, an employee is leaving and tells us they’re closed.

“That’s OK,” John tells her. He doesn’t have food on his mind.

It looks like an interesting little café to check out sometime. After the shaky start, this is becoming fun and the Roricks are racking up the points.

I write in my notebook: “Downtown Toledo is an incredible place. Sculpture and monuments everywhere. Beautiful old architecture.”

I’d always heard that downtown Toledo was a place to avoid, but I’m happy to be here.

We count stones at the Viet Nam Memorial Arch and puzzle over the “block brothers” challenge. Next comes a proud moment. We answer a question plus a challenge question without even going to the location. John remembers the sandals in a sculpture at the river and we still have the name of the sculptor in our minds.

All morning the Rorick daughters keep singing “Happy Birthday”— Andi’s ring tone is heard repeatedly as calls arrive.

We move on to study the huge mural by the Magic Wok and next we check out the big arrow at Tony Packo’s.

We puzzle about the mixing of water and dirt to create a place where birds would collect. It turns out we were taking it too literally by thinking about mud along the river. A telephone helper, Pat, points out the obvious: the stadium where the Mud Hens play.

We lose some minutes, but we pass gargoyles and fancy brickwork laid more than a century ago in old Toledo.

Time runs out as John and Andi count windows on the First Energy building at Edison Plaza. It’s another frustrating puzzle. Windows on just one face of the building or on both of the visible portions? Include the narrow little panes or just the regular large ones?

We move on to the Blarney for the followup gathering and the introduction of the winning team. Shortly after we arrive, the woman in the wheelchair comes in. We spotted her a few times during the search and John and I suspect that somehow she was keeping pace with us as we raced around town on bicycles. Good for her. It was great to see that she chose to compete.

A young couple is introduced as the winners. They’ve been going together for five years, but hadn’t yet gotten engaged. The short biography they submitted says they don’t have the funds, including a lack of money for the ring.

That problem is now solved—they have a $12,000 set from Fairclough’s—but they don’t follow the script. The marriage proposal is not made.

We head to the car without the prize, but we’re satisfied anyway.

“I think it will be fun even if we don’t win,” Andi said on the way to Toledo that morning, and she was right.

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