Escape Rooms or Yo Ho Ho And A Bottle Of Aleve or Sixty Minutes Isn’t a News Show
None of the following would have happened if I hadn’t insisted on spending a few weeks on Maui. But to avoid any pangs of jealousy on the reader's part -- for the record -- the ocean was way too wet. And some clown poured a couple of tons of Leslie Iaodized salt into the water.
The island weather was always the same. Cozy. Warm. Boring! Tee shirts, shorts, and thongs. NOT those kinds of thongs. The ones, you wear on your feet. And the fish! Too many of the darn things. We couldn’t swim anywhere without bumping into a school of ‘em.
I Wish the Fish [a short poem] would find another pool to school. I won’t even mention turtles. One of those sneaky suckers poked his beak right into my face mask-- scared the hell out of me. I’ll take a shark any time. I understand you never see one coming. And sunsets? Like they don’t do the same thing everywhere! Every night! Big deal. Ah, but .. I’m digressing…
For years Bobbie and I have planned ‘Mystery Trips’ for each other. On Maui, it was my turn. As the planner, I knew where we were going—how we were going to get there -- what we were going to do when we arrived.
Each trip was in a sealed envelope resting next to Bobbies morning cup of coffee.
My first Mystery Trip was a hike through the historic Iao Valley. VISIT THE INCREDIBLE IAO VALLEY was the third item I found on an internet webpage titled: THINGS TO DO ON MAUI. . I decided to do the third thing on the THINGS TO DO ON MAUI to do list, first. But, when we arrived a sign at the entrance read:
THE IAO VALLEY IS CLOSED
UNTIL JANUARY 2024.
We did hike to the lower waterfalls and Iao Valley Garden area. Regrettably, it was a short hike. Very short. How can you close a valley? Why did they close it? Who gives someone the authority to close an entire valley? Why don’t they warn tourist? Why not update the THINGS TO DO ON MAUI LIST, to do list?
My second Mystery Trip was to Twin Falls on the Hana side of the island. Think rainy side. Both falls were open and falling.
During Mystery Trip research, I found -- though Twin Falls fall freely from the sides of Haleakala Volcano -- there is a ten-dollar parking fee to see them freely fall. I was ready to pay the fee, but the young woman collecting money took one look at our rent-a-wreck and said, “you folks must be locals,” and waved us into the parking lot.
Since Covid, the cost of renting a car on Maui for ten days is roughly the same as two round trips to Paris and back. A few years earlier Bobbie discovered a local vendor named Kimo who’s started a lucrative rent-a-car, read WRECK, business. I’m pretty sure he borrows cars and vans from his friends and family, drives them to the short-term airport parking lot, and rents them online for decent prices. These vehicles do not come with tanks full of gas. There are no convertibles or last year's models in his fleet. Kimo’s cars ARE often: last decade variety, two and three-tone colors, aged naturally by the salt air and sunlight, occasionally splattered with bird guano, peeling paint, and in need of a good bath. A vehicle that shouts loudly, ‘I am Hawaiian. I live here. I’m a local!’ But if you’re going to Maui and you’re not proud or picky and want a good deal on a car, give me a holler. . . Ah, but I digress.
My third mystery trip was inspired by Donna Yan, a former student and a gifted artist who knew I love writing and solving mysteries and logic problems. “Spoltz, you have to try an Escape Room.” She told me one afternoon after helping me with my webpage. “They’re everywhere now. My friends and I solved the hardest one in San Francisco in less than forty-seven minutes,” she bragged. “There’s one on Maui too. They are so fun.”
A Mystery Trip where you had to solve a mystery! Could be the ultimate trip. I wanted to pat myself on the back. Bobbie was always willing to try something new so I returned to the internet. Every Escape Room I researched promised to LOCK YOU UP in a THEME room with your family, friends, or coworkers. You were allowed 60 minutes to escape.
The MAUI ESCAPE ROOMS website promised:
Find the hidden clues. Think outside the box. Solve the puzzles.
Race against the clock to uncover the mystery! Keep your wits
about you, and when you start feeling the pressure, make sure
you stay level-headed. Remind yourself that it’s just a game.
Or is it?
Collaborationinteraction and teamwork are an absolute must for success!
Designed to build team chemistry and create social interactIon.
Escape games are amazing team-building exercises for all types
of businesses and organizations. All sorts of interesting personalities
and unique character traits are revealed in the game!
FUN FOR ALL
Escape rooms are an exciting entertainment experience
for people of all ages and skill sets.
Immerse yourself in a fully themed escape adventure,
where no special knowledge is required to play,
and there is no intense physical activity within the game.
All you need is the willingness to have a good time!
While I drove to Lahaina, Bobbie read through our choice of Escape Rooms. There were five:
TESLA’S SECRET INHERITANCE: Match wits with the genius of Nikola Tesla. In an old Victorian parlor setting, you have 60 minutes to find the patent for the most important
first-time invention of all time.
- MODERATE DIFFICULTY – Fun for children 6 and up and first time Escape Room participants.
SAVING SHERLOCK HOLMES: Sherlock has been poisoned and has sixty minutes to live. Can your team find the antidote and discover the only way to administer it in time to save Sherlock?
- MODERATE DIFFICULTY – Fun for children 8 and up and first-time Escape Room participants.
KA PUKA BUNKER: On a hidden trail in the Hawaiian wilderness you’re team stumbles on a WW II bunker. When you enter a booby trap seals the chamber. You have
only sixty minutes to escape before the bunker self-destructs.
- DIFFICULT – Perfect for teams that have had at least ONE Escape Room adventure
PRISON BREAK: The bars slam shut behind you and your team. The guards have left for one hour to watch snuck out for one hour. Can you decipher the clues and figure out a way to escape?
- DIFFICULT - Perfect for experienced Escape Room participants. NOT recommended for anyone who suffers from bouts of vertigo or claustrophobia!
PIRATE SHIP: You and your team have been captured and are prisoners of Captain Lava Beard in the cargo bay of his ship. But his crew have gone to town to pillage and plunder. Can you escape the cargo bay find your way to the treasure room and steal his ill-gotten gains before they return?
-VERY DIFFICULT– Participants should have multiple Escape Room Experiences and a team of four or more people!
By the time Bobbie and I pushed through the doors of the Maui Escape Rooms, we’d decided on the Pirate Ship. Team Spoltz was equal to any team of four or more. Didn’t I love to write and solve mysteries and logic problems? Didn’t Bobbie spend most of her life dealing with me? Talk about having incredible problem-solving abilities. Bobbie was dedefinitelyfinite Mensa material.
The Escape Room lobby set the mood. Several adults and children mulled around in the dark. There were pictures of dungeons, ghosts, witches, pirate flags, and a large picture of Sherlock Holmes’s deerstalker hat. There was no head in the hat. Just the hat.
On the other wall were the portraits of five monkeys. The Tesla Monkey was in a lab coat holding a light bulb. The Sherlock Monkey wore the deerstalker and held a pipe in one paw and a magnifying glass in the other. The Ka Pua Monkey was dressed in a military uniform and had three stars on his helmet. The Prison Break Monkey wore a black and white striped outfit and had a ball a chain fastened to one leg. The Pirate Monkey was on top of them all. A patch covered one eye. He had a peg leg and brandished a sword in one paw. ‘Why monkeys? ‘ I thought. ‘Why not normal people or animated superheroes? Monkeys?
Under each Monkey, on a black slate, were written the three best times for ESCAPING THE ESCAPE ROOMS. Under our Monkey was written: 27:14 -- 29:33 – 34:36
Bobbie pointed to 27:14. “That record is going down.”
“TODAY.” I said with confidence.
Below the monkey pictures were a couch and coffee table. On the coffee table was a collection of types of Rubik's Cubes I’d never seen before.
Interspersed with the Rubik Cubes were a collection of locks. We all know there are locks with numbers and keys, but who knew there are locks with letters of the alphabet, geometric figures, and symbols of fruit?
Two women stood behind the counter. They smiled.
“Aloha, do you have an appointment?” One woman picked up a clipboard with a list of names.
We knew our names were not on that list.
“No,” I said.
The women exchanged a look of disappointment. Bobbie just gave me her ‘look.’ The look all married men and men in long-term relationships know well. The ‘how can you be so ______ fill in the blank, look.’
“On your website, it said appointments were not mandatory,” I said in my defense. “Just drop in, it said.”
“Oh, but it did recommend, scheduling an appointment. Didn’t it?,” said the woman at the computer.
I nodded sheepishly. I took Bobbie’s hand, “We’ll come back some other time.” We turned to the exit.
“What Escape Room where you folks interested in visiting?” asked the woman at the computer.
I didn’t think they were going to let $120 plus tip walk out the door.
“The Pirate Ship,” Bobbie offered eagerly.
“Oh, you’ve visited our escape rooms before?”
“No,” Bobbie said.
“Uh-huh, but you’ve been to Escape Rooms in other venues?”
“No,” We said in unison.
The two women exchanged their own knowing look. “But, you’ve chosen the Pirate Ship to escape from?”
“We have.” Bobby and I stood tall.
A ten-year-old boy tugged my hand. “We did the Pirate Ship Tuesday, it was sooooooooooo easy. ” He turned his redhead toward his father. “Wasn’t it Dad?”
His father gave me a look and shook his head ‘NO.’
“We have an opening for the Pirate Ship,” said the woman at the computer.
“Are you sure that’s the escape room you want?” asked the woman with the clipboard.
I wasn’t sure anymore. I looked at Bobby. She looked sure.
“Sure,” I said.
We paid our fees and the woman with the clipboard introduced herself as Lolani .
“What a beautiful name,” Bobbie said.
“Mahalo, it means Bird of Heaven,” Lolani smiled and ushered us to the couch where she handed Bobbie and me a small, gray lock. “This is sort of a warm-up puzzle. Many of the problems you’ll need to solve inside the Pirate Ship are similar.” She placed five laminated pictures on the coffee table. The pictures were of leaves, arrows, plus and minus signs. The mystery writer, logic puzzle lover was stupefied. Within seconds, Bobbie was clicking away on her lock.
The little red-headed kid came over and asked me if I needed some help. “It’s easy Mister.”
Usually, I like kids. I didn’t like this one. He had a certain smugness. An air of superiority.
Bobbie nudged me and handed me her lock. It was open. She had a certain smugness. An air of superiorityredheaded. “Want some help, Honey?”
Minutes later I was still trying to open my lock. In a corner, the red headed kid was smirking and peeking at me through his fingers. Bobbie was thumbing through a surfing magazine.
“The Pirate Ship is waiting for you to board,” Lolani approached with a smile. I tried to sneak my unopened lock into the pile on the coffee table. “Had a little trouble with the puzzle, Captain Grey Beard?” Bobbie teased.
In the best pirate voice, I could muster I admitted defeat. “Aye, that I did my fellow buccaneer. That I did.” I took her hand and stood. “But ahoy and Avast a treasure trove awaits.“
“I don’t want to be a buccaneer,” Bobbie stood and spun around the coffee table. “I want to be a Wench. A pirate’s Wench, with a knife ‘tween me lips and a mug of grog in me hand!” And I thought I could do a pretty good pirate accent. Jonny Depp eat your heart out.
I joined my Wench and we followed Lolani through a curtain into a darker corridor.
A few steps in, Lolani held out her hand. “There are a few rules before we go any further. Once you’re on board the ship please do not use cell phones. Pictures are not allowed. And when you escape ---“
I was glad she didn’t qualify it with an ‘IF’ you escape.
“We ask that you do not share the solution to any puzzle. ”
Like we’d rehearsed it, Bobbie and I raised our hands and solemnly swore to follow the rules.
Lolani laughed, “You two are going to have a good time.” She handed me a stack of plastic
cards held together by chrome hoops so cards could be flipped over. On the front was a picture of a pirate galleon complete with billowed sails and a skull and crossbones pirate flag.
“Each card has a clue,” Lolani said. “They will make the going easier and they are in the correct sequence of your adventure.”
“Don’t think our team will need that, “ I nudged Bobbie with confidence. She didn’t return my nudge.
Lolani give me an ‘Oh-Yes-You-Will – Shrug, “ and pressed the packet of clues firmly into my palm.
We stepped on a plank and entered the ship through a hole in the hull. The light was dim. We were in the cargo bay. The Hold. In front of us was a large sliding door with a large locked, padlock.
Lolani explained, “behind that door is the Treasure Room. And somewhere inside is the treasure. Your first task is to find the key that opens the lock to the Treasure Room.” Lolani sweet her arm around the cargo bay. “Somewhere inside this room is the key. It’s important that you work together. “
In order to abide by our solemn oath not to divulge any of the puzzles or their solutions the following descriptions will be vague and brief.
On one side of the cargo bay was a wooden cell. The ship’s ‘BRIG.’ I was summarily ushered inside. Lolani, ‘the bird of heaven’ slammed the door and locked the lock. She then chained my Wench to a wide, ten-foot-high barrel. Give Bobbie a corset and a red rose in her mouth and my Wench would have been an image right out of an S & M catalog.
Standing in the middle of the cargo bay Lolani looked from Bobbie to me and pointed to a large white screen above the door. Above the screen was a camera. “For your safety, we’ll be watching. Some folks get claustrophobic or nauseous – and“ Lolani tittered. She had a cute, Hawaiian type of titter. “You wouldn’t believe how many people try to join the mile
mile high club in our different escape rooms.”
I believed her. The idea had crossed my mind. Especially with my wife chained to a barrel.
“If you’re having trouble clues will appear on the screen. These clues along with the packet I gave you earlier, will make your adventure more fun. The Pirate Ship is not easy.” Lolani turned to the door. “Remember you have one hour. Sixty minutes. When I walk down the plank a digital timer will appear in the upper right hand corner of the screen. Do either of you have any questions?”
I stuck my arm through the bars of my cell and gave Bobbie a ‘thumbs-up. Since her arms were chained, her hand could only give me a thumbs down. I said, “No.” Bobbie simply rattled her chains and hummed the first few bars of ‘Chains, they’ve got me locked up in chains.”
Lolani laughed, “Some people think taking a hint or using the clue cards is cheating. It isn’t. If you need help we’ll give you a nudge in the right direction. It’s incredibly rare that any team escapes without any hints. Please don’t be afraid to use them.
“No nudges,” I said peering through the bars of the brig.
“Have fun you two.”
The door closed. On the blank screen, 60:00 appeared and quickly turned to 59:59 and at
Seven minutes and thirty-one seconds I was still in the brig. I had solved nothing. Time was flying by, I pulled the packet of plastic clue cards from my pocket. I read the first one. The clue didn’t give me a clue. I peered through the bars of the cell.
On the other side of the cargo, I watched my frustrated Wench slither out of her chains.
“Are you supposed to do that?” I asked.
Bobbie shrugged and immediately on the white screen appeared.
PLEASE RETURN TO YOUR CHAINS.
THE CLUE IS RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU.
My Wench was not so smug now. I returned to my own puzzle.
Minutes later I heard a squeal of delight. “Found it!” Bobbie scurried across the cargo bay brandishing the key to my cell.
“Now what?” I asked. “How did you find the key?”
Bobbie shrugged. It was a shrug of embarrassment. A question that would not be answered.
A clue appeared on the screen.
READ THE THIRD AND FOUR CLUES IN YOUR PLASTIC CLUE
PLACKET TO FIND THE KEY TO THE TREASURE ROOM.
My brain did a summersault. Our new clue was to read from a packet of easier clues to get a clue on how to solve our next puzzle.
My unchained Wench who always listened to good advice snatched the packet from my hand and went to solving.
We inserted a large key into the padlock and parted the large sliding doors to the Treasure Room. The room was decorated and well-appointed with all kinds of nautical objects I can’t tell you about. Except there was a real ship's helm lashed to a mast that disappeared attentionthrough the ceiling.
Suddenly, there was a ‘beep’ to draw our attentIaon to the screen we were paying no attention to.
“I didn’t know they could “beep” us, “ Bobbie said.
PLEASE OPEN THE TREASURE ROOM DOOR FARTHER.
WE CANNOT HELP YOU IF WE CANNOT SEE YOU.
Bobbie was at the helm of the ship solving a puzzle so I opened the door wider. I glanced at the timer and realized all hope was gone. We were already seven minutes past the third-best all-time escape record. I took a long look around the Treasure Room. There were at least five more puzzles to be solved. I was desperate. If they could ‘beep’ they must be able to hear us. They had to be able to hear us. I sang out, “Lolani, Lolani, We Get By With a Little Help From Our Friends.”
My Wench was on the same page. She spun the helm and burst into an Escape Room version of the Beach Boys ‘Help Me, Rhonda,’ singing, “Help us Lolani, Help us Lolani.”
Clues came on the screen. We race from puzzle to puzzle. At 00:57, three remained. There was no way we could solve the puzzles, find the treasure and escape from the room. I looked at the timer.
Now I knew what an inmate on death row felt like when he got a midnight reprieve seconds before they executionzapped him with 50,000 volts of electricity.
At 00:12 we got another stay of execution. The timer again shifted to
We got more clues. Easier clues. Much easier clues. Clues even a person who writes mysteries and loves to solve logic problems could follow.
Shoulders slumped, my Wench and I walked back to shore down the same plank. In the corridor, we thank Lolani for all her help.
The young red-headed kid was still in the lobby. “Told you it was easy.”
I can still proudly say I’ve never smacked a kid.
As to Escape Rooms – somewhere soon – an Escape Room Record is going to fall.