Support for LAist comes from
We Explain L.A.
Stay Connected

Share This

This is an archival story that predates current editorial management.

This archival content was written, edited, and published prior to LAist's acquisition by its current owner, Southern California Public Radio ("SCPR"). Content, such as language choice and subject matter, in archival articles therefore may not align with SCPR's current editorial standards. To learn more about those standards and why we make this distinction, please click here.

Arts and Entertainment

Join A Wild Desert Scavenger Hunt Through Abandoned Ruins

Before you
Dear reader, we're asking you to help us keep local news available for all. Your tax-deductible financial support keeps our stories free to read, instead of hidden behind paywalls. We believe when reliable local reporting is widely available, the entire community benefits. Thank you for investing in your neighborhood.

There's a rally happening this weekend that'll have you dressed up in costume and driving all night long through the desert on the hunt for bizarre checkpoints, all the while dodging eggs from your competitors.Steve Bryant, known on the road as 'Pants,' described the Rental Car Rally as "Halloween on wheels." It's part scavenger hunt, part costume contest and part lunchroom food fight. It's like Cannonball Run, but in real life. The event started in New York in 2008, and launched in Los Angeles in 2010. In those years, players have ventured from Los Angeles to Tombstone, Vegas, Tahoe and the Grand Canyon. This weekend, players will begin their adventure in Los Angeles, cruise through the desert during the night, and wind up in Death Valley.

The players will meet on Friday around 10 p.m. at a location that will be disclosed the morning of the race. You must have one vehicle per team, and what exactly that vehicle is, well, that's up to you. It could be your own car, a rental (the tagline for the rally is "get the full insurance"), a van or a school bus. If you can legally take it on the road, you can enter it in the rally. Ideally, this would not be a vehicle you care about getting a little dirty or scuffed up. You're encouraged to dress up in costume and decorate your car, and this is something you'll be judged upon by your fellow motorists.

"You don't want to be the person who shows up at the costume party not wearing a costume," Bryant said.

At midnight, you'll be given a briefcase. Not only will this case contain your itinerary for the night, but it will also hold a number of "mischief makers." Eggs, pancake syrup, stink bombs—anything that could potentially make this race really annoying for your adversaries, but all things that are mostly harmless.

Support for LAist comes from

Your team will have to hit ten checkpoints to complete the scavenger hunt, and these checkpoints have been carefully selected by Bryant and his two cohorts—they go by 'Supreme' and 'Mustache.' Once you've found a checkpoint, you can text or email a photo of it to a server. This will mark your progress along the way and also ensure that your team found them all. Without giving away any spoilers, your checkpoints could include abandoned locations or houses of ill repute. Past checkpoints have included forsaken water parks, a bridge to nowhere and a dome rumored to house Satanic rituals.

Now, to call it a race would be incorrect. Though teams should reach the finish line at 5 p.m. on Saturday, you won't be judged on how quickly you hit the ten checkpoints and dash to the end. Rather, you'll be judged on how efficiently you hit those checkpoints. The itinerary will tell you what it is you're looking for, but it won't give you the exact location or GPS coordinates. You'll have to do a little detective work, and figuring out shortcuts may be in your team's best interest. Your vehicle's odometer will be checked at the starting point and again at the end.

Teams can earn up to 100 points. Fifty of those points relate to your mileage. The team who finishes the course in the least amount of miles will get 50 points. The next best team gets 49, and so on. Your other points are based on popularity. Team must choose their five favorite teams other than themselves. So, if you have great costumes, an awesome car, or your competitors find you particularly charming, you might do better than a team that doesn't dress up or pelts others with sticky food. However, Bryant said there are teams that choose from the onset to be the thorn in everyone's side.

"It's like wrestling," he said. "You have the hero versus the heel. The heel is the villain. He's expected win, but ultimately, he loses. There are also a couple of teams that set out just to be the heels."

He said one team dressed up like chefs and threw bags of flour at others. A team dressed as Mario Kart characters may come armed with banana peels. One team, dressed as pirates, built an egg canon out of PVC pipe. Bryant thinks the reason food is such a common method of sabotage is because food items are typically not dangerous. Obviously, you're not allowed to pelt your opponents with rocks or to line the road with spikes. (Don't get any ideas!)

Co-organizer Franz Aliquo, who goes by 'Supreme,' said a lot of the fun comes from feeling like a kid again.

"As adults, we rarely get the chance to really cut loose and have the kind of insane fun that's not (just) fueled by liquor. Rental Car Rally manages to bring that out of people, the openness and imagination that really drove you to have a mind-blowing time as a kid," Aliquo said. "And as an adult, you can make questionable decisions without the fear of your parents grounding you."

Though it all might sound weird and possibly a little dangerous, everyone that's ever participated has survived the rally in one piece. However, one person did get arrested when a police officer saw him chuck an egg at another car.

So, let's say you plot out the most efficient route and you rolled high on your charisma score. What do you win? Well, you get $500, but it's obnoxiously all in coins. You'll also get the coveted Golden Gas Pump. It's a gas pump that's been spray painted gold. Though certainly nothing to sneeze at, you might say the prize is a MacGuffin, and that the Rental Car Rally is really about the journey. Though the exact locations of each checkpoint are a secret until the competitors get the briefcases, we can tell you that they've got an afterparty planned at the finish line that is sure to be very interesting. You can read about how a team called The Underground won a previous rally in a mildly profane blog entry here. Or you can read about how a duo of crash test dummies took third place here. (Some of the images may not be safe for work.)

About 30 to 60 teams sign up each year. If you're interested, you can sign up online here. It's $189 per team, and a team can be as large as can safely and legally fit in your chosen vehicle. There are other ticket packages available, and those include meals, lodging or—the priciest package, which no one has ever bought—"a fully legal shot of human adrenaline," Bryant said. Basically, it's that syringe Vincent Vega plunged into Mia Wallace's chest in Pulp Fiction.

Support for LAist comes from