The teams are supported by a network of friends and family, connected by phone, who can use the Internet and phone books to solve the riddles. But while they're Googling away, the ground team must be quick on their feet literally.
"We have to get to the checkpoints by either running or using public transportation," Dunham says. "There's no cars, no bikes, no hired vehicles. If you even skateboard or Rollerblade it's automatic disqualification."
Dunham and his fellow scavenger, Bradun Dunbar, claimed victory in the semifinals at New Orleans Oct. 23. They earned the right to compete in Miami Nov. 20, where 200 teams will be gunning for the big prize
Already Dunham and Dunbar are studying Miami maps, checking bus schedules and planning to arrive early to scout the city.
They're used to such reconnaissance missions and strong resolve. Their team name, "2 Grunts Running," refers to their military days. Dunham, 35, was a major in the Marine Corps, where he met Dunbar. Now Dunham is self-employed, working with defense contractors to develop computer code for tracking ballistic missiles. Such military know-how may hold the key to victory.
"Land navigation is essential for all Marines," says Dunham, "and so is physical fitness and the raw determination to push through."
Last year they were knocked out in the semifinals, but this year Dunham is hoping to secure his share of $50,000.
"We're pretty optimistic about making the final seven," he says, "then after that, we feel like there's an equal chance. One in seven. If we have some luck and some things go our way then we could do it."
The results will be posted at www.urbanchallenge.com. Daryl Grove
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