Reno, considered “The Biggest Little City in the World,” is known for its casinos and lavish resorts. Spend time in the malls and shops, visit a few museums, and eat at some of the finest restaurants. There are casinos everywhere, if you’re feeling lucky. If that isn’t enough, step away from the bright lights and into the spectacular desert and mountain scenery and catch a glimpse of the oh-so-wild, Wild West.
That’s the whole idea behind the scavenger hunts, Ames said. “It’s the best way to educate. There’s no better way to experience the destination than to have your feet on the ground.”
Ames makes sure agents’ sneakered feet scour the area for sometimes obscure, but relevant, landmarks. Although the hunt takes only one day, the remaining three were dedicated to field trips, fancy dining, and, well, a bit of gambling if you dared.
In Reno four teams of five agents, each wearing color-coded red, blue, yellow, and green T-shirts, hit the ground running for the $15,000 purse.
Some of Reno’s clues were daunting. Questions, etched on pages of white paper, were handed to one member of each team. The timed quest hinged on answering those 10 questions correctly, which meant 10 chances to win or lose.
Clue number five was a killer. It read: “In 1926, E.E. Roberts was Mayor. The city council consisted of S. E. Ross, Henry Deiterich, Sam Frank, Wm. Justi, Kelley Klaus and Chas. Nichols. Who was the City Engineer and where are these folks memorialized?”
The answer was hard to find, even with our scavenger hunt-sanctioned smartphones fixed on Sir Google A. Lot. The answers: Harry Chism and the Center Street Bridge. Although our blue team walked past the bridge at least once, OK, maybe twice, we missed that one. It seems even Ames, who visits Reno frequently, accidentally learned about Chism. “We did trip into that plaque on the bridge, just by walking to the car museum,” he said. Ames was at the corner of Bacon Boulevard and Dasher Drive seeking another question and a few answers when he saw the plaque.
Three questions later he brought us back to the National Car Museum for Clue #8. The answer: a 1973 Cadillac Eldorado Coupe’s egg crate grille.
“When you pick up the information by having fun, it sticks with you a little better,” he said.
He’s right. Scrambling around Reno, taking pictures, seeking automotive grilles and cyphering the last clue, which determined where the hunt’s end, was fun. Hectic, but fun. One wonders what visitors thought our frantic colorfully-clad teams were doing racing around Reno. Perhaps the T-Shirt’s logo, “US Airways $15,000 Reno Scavenger Hunt,” etched in black letters on the shirts’ backs, gave them a necessary clue.
When it was over the red team took the prize, but everyone who made it there won four glorious days in Reno.
Our pre and post scavenger hunt field trips took us to the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort where we had a leisurely lunch, walked around the property and enjoyed Lake Tahoe’s shore line.
My favorite adventure took us to Virginia City and into another century that held glimpses of miners before. Costumed guides loaded us into an open air mechanical buggy and gave us a circular tour of the city center with its historic board sidewalks that helped visitors walk into old-time saloons and ancient shops. Unused train cars from centuries past, signs and even a basement museum dedicated to Mark Twain reminded us of Comstock Lode and this once booming mining locale.
Virginia City is where Clemens, under his Twain pseudonym, began chronicling news in the Wild West. Slip downstairs and see where and how his stories printed, then whisper thanks to the man who gave us some of America’s best literature.
By the time the hunt was over it was pretty clear, all 20 of the agents won, especially this JAX FAX reporter.
JAX FAX thanks: Peppermill Resort Spa Casino; Silver Legacy Resort Casino; Virginia City, Nevada and Reno Tahoe tourism representatives; Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe; Harrah’s; Atlantis; The Steakhouse at Circus Circus, Eldorado’s 32nd Annual Great Italian Festival; and Hussong’s Cantina and Taqueria.
US Airways Vacations offers a one-stop shop for vacation packages in dozens of exciting destinations. Travel agents can reserve packages by calling 800-455-0123, or by visiting www.usvtravelagents.com
To participate in the 2014 Las Vegas Scavenger hunt agents must sell US Airways Vacation Las Vegas packages. If you’re one of their 30 top-selling agencies, you’ll head to Las Vegas to compete for your share of $15,000 in shopping gift cards and US Airways air travel. For details and registration, visit www.usairwaysvacations.com/travelagents/scavenger-hunt.htm