Wonka Tour Bay Area, 25-26 September 1999

Team Advil from Espionage reunited for the Wonka Tour: Alex Aravanis, Chris Lane, John Owens, Scott Pegg, and Greg Yap. The fine folks at Whitehall-Robins (now part of Wyeth Consumer Healthcare) were kind enough to provide us with Advil paraphernalia, including a big box of Advil packets and an Advil banner for the Advilmobile. Sure, they thought we were fellow employees in their company and had sent the stuff before realizing their mistake ...

The application for this Game was rather unique: a set of random questions and the requirement that our entry had to be no bigger than a breadbox. True to theme, Yee Lee and I trekked to TAP Plastics and constructed a Great Glass Elevator complete with paper dolls of the team. The pictures don't quite reflect the finished product - it didn't have the Scotch tape or the brown paper on it - but, if I do say so myself, it did turn out pretty sharp. And, coolest of all ... the acceptance to the game was a chocolate bar in Wonka wrapping with a Golden Ticket inside.

Game Control (Red Byer and Stephanie Cinereski [pic]) had given us little battery-powered receivers and as we went from clue to clue we found transmitters that gave us plot points. We also were given Choose Your Own Adventure books with an entirely different story that corresponded to our journey and the choices we made. We started far north in Sonoma and tooled around Sonoma and Napa Counties most of the day, including a brief swim in a lake. As night fell we learned the value of GPS, which saved us from a costly wrong turn. We spent quite some time at Lake Berryessa next to Monticello Dam and were somewhere in the middle of the pack. Successive clues in Davis, Sacramento, and south through the Delta eventually put us in the lead at Altamont Pass. We kept the lead through the last clue where were the first team by an hour to find 6 animal-sound-playing speakers in a Ed Levin Park (Milpitas) tree in a 3x2 Braille grid. We spent hours on this clue; Red 5 was the next team to show up and between them and us we were able to decipher the Braille message (as more and more teams stacked up behind us waiting). This clue sent us back to the finish line in Mountain View and the other teams permitted us to lead the way ... Team Advil's first victory!


  • The Golden Ticket in the Wonka Bar used as acceptance to the Game.
  • The Wonka Lickamee Bar in Calistoga, in which the white-chocolate clue was embedded inside a dark chocolate bar.
  • Nifty ASCII magnet-based clue.
  • Arriving at the Davis bicycle and finding someone had left Advil there before us. (Doh!)
  • Some amazingly cool clue with a laser in the dark on a Sacramento softball field ... I was manning the van so didn't go out there but the other guys came back raving about it.
  • Going south on Highway 12 at 4 am and finding the highway running into the water ... then a ferry appearing out of the mist to take us across. Good thing we didn't turn around right away and lose two hours going back like the Doh! Boys.
  • Driftwood in Rio Vista that was actually a clue.
  • Using a sledgehammer to beat the crap out of a rainbow-colored-epoxy mass with a tiny clue embedded in the middle.
  • Leaving the previous clue and driving under 680 as Red 5 arrived, tossing Advil packets under the overpass, and watching them turn around to check the site. Woo hoo!
  • The transcendental moment after hours of Braille animal-sound tedium, in a tree, when all the animal sounds lined up perfectly. Perfect silence but for hoots, honks, and roars, with 5 teams watching with mouths agape from below, as 6 tree-bound Gamers raised and lowered their arms in unison.

Random pictures from the weekend

John Owens | Game Home Page | Last updated .