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May 17, 2013

Dispatches from the Scav road trip

Maroon reporter William Wilcox was part of Snell-Hitchcock’s Scav road trip team. Here are his tales from the road.

Day 1

I frankly didn’t believe it when I heard “the Big Easy” and “Bourbon Street” come up as road trip clues as the list was being read in the wee hours of the morning in the “Warre Room,” the Snitchcock Scav headquarters. I thought there was no way it was within the 1,000 mile limit from campus and had hoped to only go as far as Nashville. However, New Orleans happens to lie about 920 miles from Chicago and was just close enough. So after our road trip team got fitted for the preposterous costumes we’d have to wear, we then caught a few short hours of sleep before heading out on our great Southern wanderquest.

Our team was made up of myself and two other guys from the house...and Debbie. She was the mother of a Scav captain brought in to join us on the road trip because we couldn't get anyone from the house with a car to go, and due to the insurance requirements, we needed a driver with a car to join us.

The costumes are a way for the Scav judges to make sure you’re feeling UChicago-awkward no matter how far you’ve driven from Hyde Park. Debbie was dressed as the aluminum man with an emergency blanket cape, a shiny leotard, and a large sunglasses covered in aluminum foil. Cullen was dressed as Prince and wore a shiny blue silk jacket and acquired a crown of tin foil when he became “the King” at Graceland. Sean, as the Witch Doctoral Candidate, was dressed as a grad student with a white lab coat, a Mardi Gras mask, and a homemade voodoo doctor necklace of Barbie heads and toy rabbits with nails through their eyes.

We took off our costumes when we went in Lincoln’s tomb as a sign of respect, but when we went to find another grave, my friend Sean, in his voodoo garb, danced over the grave of some unknowing accordionist for the next item at the adjacent graveyard. This was only a preemptive return to childhood shenanigans, before we started going down slides (maybe meant for children? Because I could only make it down them curled tightly in the fetal position) at the St. Louis City Museum. Eventually, we ended up very tired and in Memphis, Tennessee.

Day 2

Though the hotel in Memphis had cockroaches, and the bathroom door was falling off its hinges, we made it to Graceland in the early morning to pay tribute--in costume and with a sandwich--to the grave site of Elvis Aaron Presley. The other visitors and guards at the grave site were not as excited about our costumes of tributary “fat Elvis” sandwich. The security guard used phrases such as but not limited to “It’s time for you to fear me” and “I’m not the one.”

Needless to say, we made a pretty quick departure. But we then ended up in the stranger and definitely scarier “Graceland Too” in Holly Springs, Mississippi. Graceland Too is a 24-hour Elvis museum run by a devoted fan, whose mental state seemed quite questionable as he showed us around his house that looked like an Elvis-themed episode of Hoarders. Through this, he made some excellent statements like “I found $100,000 and 35 Elvis suits in that Cadillac out back.” It was both horrifying and intriguing, and we got out very quickly.

We ate lunch in rural Canton, Mississippi, in a restaurant we found on accident called “Carrie Nash Loves Shirley Historical Kitchen.” The restaurant was inside of an old home and featured no menu, unlimited sweet tea, and your arteries’ worst nightmare laid out in a mouth-watering buffet. The food was all fried and terrible for all aspects of my physical health but also fantastic.

Then we drove and drove, and it rained all the way to New Orleans. We paraded around in our costumes with umbrellas as we played “drinking establishment bingo” by searching for various types of businesses serving alcohol in order to fill out a 5x5 bingo sheet of different categories given to us by the Scav judges that ranged from “door” (The Famous Door happens to be a bar), “kitchen” or “island.” Most people were too drunk or busy to notice that I was wearing a cape, besides the one old man who asked if I was leading a ghost tour.

Day 3   

After a night in a cockroach-less hotel in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, we went to the University of Alabama in search of a robot statue that Debbie was supposed to wake up next to. We performed an elaborate skit involving Debbie loudly yelling at the Robot for never really loving her aluminum self on the empty 8 a.m. campus. We were happy not to have to justify ourselves to any “normal” college students before we drove to Birmingham, which featured a road sign reminding passersby that “Ya’ll so beautiful.”

In Huntsville, we searched for a creationist science textbook in an attempt to help our team back home on an item. While there were two Christian book stores within a single mile on a strip of road, neither could be of help, so I had to settle for reliving memories of Space Camp at the Space and Rocket Center there in Huntsville (where my 8th grade self had spent a gleeful week learning about NASA) while we left a banana upon the grave of a chimp from the space program.

Eventually, we made our last stop in Indianapolis where, after getting lost, we eventually ended up waging our final dinosaur fight outside of the Children’s Museum. We frantically jumped around and yelled at the dinosaur statues (albeit to little effect) before making the most harrowing part of the drive--the Dan Ryan--and returning home.

Though Snell-Hitchcock only came in Third Place the next night, I still felt like we won mostly because regardless of the point totals, this was the third year in a row I got to go on a grand adventure. I can’t imagine people had more fun than I did because every year during Scav, I’m so happy that I don’t ever believe that anyone has ever had this much fun before. This is a moment to do preposterous things with your friends and see the bits of America you would never find and really, for just one weekend, not care what anyone thinks and wear a cape in public.

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