I did an escape room in Tahoe after way too many beers. This is my story. | TahoeDailyTribune.com

I did an escape room in Tahoe after way too many beers. This is my story.

You don't have to be great at cracking codes to enjoy a puzzle room. Just surround yourself with people who are.
Photo: Claire Cudahy

KNOW IF YOU GO

Cost: $29 per person at Puzzle Room Tahoe and $30 per person at Trapped in Tahoe.

Size: At Puzzle Room Tahoe, parties can range in size from 4-6 people. At Trapped in Tahoe, certain rooms can accommodate up to 10 people.

Compete: At Puzzle Room Tahoe, there are two identical rooms where two parties can compete for the best escape time.

It’s 7 o’clock on a Saturday, and I’m handcuffed to a wall in a small basement room in Stateline.

A friend deciphers some writing on the wall, locates a key and passes it along to get the five of us unlocked. Not a moment too soon, because in the three minutes we’ve been locked up there, I managed to tighten my handcuffs so they are digging into my wrists. Rookie mistake.

I look up at the clock. Fifty-seven minutes to go.

No, this is not a harrowing story of how we narrowly escaped getting gassed by a serial killer. It’s a tale of how fun puzzle rooms are — even if you’re absolutely horrible at them. The key is to surround yourself with people who are smarter than you and to drink lots of beer ahead of time.

My friends and I found ourselves at the Puzzle Room Tahoe on a whim when we were looking for something other than our standard Saturday night of making dinner and pretending we understand the subtle differences between bottles of red wine.

Instead we thought it would be a good idea to challenge ourselves with the most difficult puzzle room — a four-key rating — with little to no idea about how a puzzle room really works.

After signing our lives away on the waiver, we walk over to the bar at Xhale, which shares the basement space with Puzzle Room Tahoe, to grab a drink. Naturally we indulge in the $1 Jello shots and grab a(nother) beer to fuel the code-cracking we had ahead of us.

When our turn is up, the surprisingly enthusiastic employee tells us our mission: We are agents with the Star Knights Inc. and for months now we’ve been following the criminal organization Eclipse, which has hidden its headquarters in a mine.

Recently our star agent, Pluto 006, went in to take Eclipse down, but a distress message came in that he is trapped in the underground tunnels and he has not been heard from since. While underground he discovered Eclipse is planning to detonate a bomb in the mine, and it’s our job to stop it. The future of a nearby city is at stake, and we have just 60 minutes to save it.

After freeing ourselves from the handcuffs, everyone but me gets straight to work. The clock is stressing me out. And all I can seem to do is run around the room, find a clue, then shout, “Here’s a puzzle!” I attempt to solve it for approximately two minutes before moving onto the next puzzle and announcing to everyone, “Here’s another puzzle!”

While this is going on, my friends are diligently working their way through the puzzles. Somehow someone opens the metal gate and gets us into the next room where I proceed to point out — and not solve — many other puzzles while guzzling my beer.

Before I know it, we’ve managed to get into the next room — the surprisingly realistic and dark mine tunnel — where the bomb is. There, I expand my role from puzzle announcer to cellphone flashlight holder. I feel quite useful, though it is at this point I realize the folly of drinking beer while locked in a room with no bathroom. I soldier on.

After much work on the part of my friends, and moral support from me, we manage to diffuse the bomb with just 6 minutes and 25 seconds to spare.

Despite my inability to solve a single puzzle, it was a total blast. So much so that we returned to take on the Lost Cabin puzzle room a few weekends later.

It is with great pride that I tell you I managed to solve one puzzle in that room. However, as the employee who watches your progress through video cameras set up in the room would later tell me, I had in fact solved the puzzle 20 minutes before I thought I did and just hadn’t noticed the drawer that popped open. C’est la vie.

Puzzle Room Tahoe and Trapped in Tahoe are the two puzzle room operations located on Lake Tahoe’s South Shore. For information, visit http://www.puzzleroomtahoe.com and http://www.trappedintahoe.com.