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Scavenging for fun

Teri attempts to sell bottled air to an enthusiastic customer in Canal Park while participating in GISHWHES. (Photo by Reba Granczynski)1 / 4
(Photo by Reba Granczynski)2 / 4
To help Teri Cadeau with a scavenger hunt item, Elizabeth Giddings composes a letter to her beloved while dressed in Victorian style clothing. (Photo by Teri Cadeau)3 / 4
(Photo by Teri Cadeau)4 / 4

Have you ever tried to crochet with dental floss? How about dancing to '80s music next to a sky dancer outside a car dealership? Would you ever set up a "bottled air" stand?

I have. A few weeks ago I did all of these things and a half a dozen more strange things in the name of fun and competition. After hearing about it for a few years, I finally decided to join GISHWHES.

GISHWHES stands for "The Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen." It's a massive photo scavenger hunt created by Misha Collins, an actor best known for his role in the CW show "Supernatural." The scavenger hunt list is impossible to ever fully complete; this year it reached an astounding 178 items long. Part of the fun is seeing just how many items you can cross off. I was on a team with 15 other participants from around the state and country.

Some items depended on geographic location, such as dressing as a Jedi Knight and drinking root beer at a specific drive-in in Ohio. But the items I liked the best were the ones that tested your determination, creativity and willingness to perform silly things in public.

One of the first tasks I took on was item No. 2: A freight train engine pulling a tiny flatcar with a woman dressed in Victorian attire, sitting at a desk with a vase of flowers on it, writing a letter to her beloved. My team leader knew I lived in Duluth, home to a train museum which might house exactly what I needed. Because the item was worth a whopping 123 points, she encouraged me to see what I could do.

As it happens, I had a connection with the Lake Superior Railroad Museum who was willing to help. We didn't have the flatcar, but we did have a train car with a desk, vase with flowers and a pen. What I didn't have was a Victorian-dressed woman.

Duluth's a big theater town, so I figured I could find someplace willing to lend or rent me a Victorian costume. I made a few calls. Then a few more. I sent a couple of emails. Asked friends on Facebook. And after two days of searching ... nothing.

It's the summertime, so the main college costume shops are closed. Most high school costume departments borrow those kinds of costumes from the colleges.

Feeling slightly discouraged, I started thinking about other people I knew who wore costumes. One person popped into my mind but it was a longshot. It was a high school friend of my older sister's. I saw her dressed up at an event in Duluth two years ago. Maybe she'd have an idea. I sent her a message on Facebook and within the hour, she sent me my first positive response. She had an outfit, the time and was willing to pose for me. Victory!

After that item, the others seemed much easier. I created a line of Duluth bottled air to sell in a public place (because apparently the bottled water market has become too saturated). I had a wonderful friend film me dancing next to one of those wind-blowing sky dancers to "Call Me" by Blondie. And I acted as the town crier for a day and shouted the important news in the public square.

By Friday, I felt like I could take on almost any challenge GISHWHES threw at me. When a new difficult item was added to the list, with 36 hours left on the countdown clock, I felt determined. Item 177: "Crochet a gunslinger's belt worthy of Doc Holliday out of dental floss. Instead of a gun, your holsters hold a toothbrush."

No one else on my team had crocheted before, let alone with dental floss. I bought three packs of floss, combined the strands and started crocheting. I improvised the pattern, so it came out a little bit wonky. But by Saturday evening, you could tell it was a holster and it held a toothbrush.

By the end of the week, I'd learned three things. No. 1: Sometimes your life needs a dose of crazy.

No. 2: With a little determination and help, you can do incredible things previously thought impossible or impractical.

And No. 3: If you carry a poster board through Canal Park, even if people can't see what's written on it, they will automatically assume that you're a protester. But really, all I was trying to do was sell some bottled air. A perfectly normal thing to do on a Friday morning in the realm of GISHWHES.

Teri Cadeau

Teri Cadeau is a reporter for the Budgeteer.

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