So the trailer got hitched and Millicent the bus took off around 3am. Nick and I had stowed away on an upper bunk, and he had earplugs, so the diesel purr didn't wake him so much as the gentle bouncing motion in the center of our bunk. I rolled over to him at one point, announcing my intention to photograph everywhere we sleep for the remainder of the trip, because it has gotten progressively weirder. And this bunk was NARROW. Well, probably not much different than our tent, which is fine for two people who like each other very much, but our tent isn't usually suspended 6 feet off the ground.
Millicent bumped along up and down, wending her way North to Arcata, an unsleeping Peter at the helm. Elliot had been up for over 50 hours by the time the trailer was hitched and decided last minute he wasn't coming and Peter didn't trust anyone else to drive. C’est la Vie. Nick and I listened to him talk to Bob for ages before we crawled down to participate in breakfast and being people again. Wending our way through the redwoods was gorgeous, seeing them from a different perspective.
The children woke up shortly and began screaming about five minutes later. When Jeri asked who was riding the sculpture with her, I pointed to Nick, who wouldn't last an hour with them. While I don't like kids, I'm more tolerant of them. Usually. But today was different. Back to that after these messages.
We rolled into town at 10 for a race that started at noon. Great. Peter hadn't slept at all and was planning to compete. He unhitched the trailer and we unloaded. Nick's task was to help power the Hoosier wheeled trike. I was to power a smaller trike called Lilah with two front forks and wheels locked together with a seat in front, wrangling one child there and the other on his own small bike. We left the midnight machine on the trailer for the boys who belonged to it to retrieve and made our way, sculptures and all, towards the starting line. One more thing, I had the chicken on my shoulder.
Our procession reached the Town Square, received team numbers, pit crew and peon badges and revolved around the square, getting brakes checked, machines inspected, and performing for the judges. To “Ace” the race, one must meet a certain list of criteria, so those contents are inspected. For pageantry for Fired Up, we demonstrated Jeri’s smudged nail polish, Bob’s glorious mustaches, and Nick’s ability to stop, drop and ….do the worm? as well as carrying me in a proper fireman's carry, and of course, our kinetic chicken in training. One group, A Cockwork Orange, showed up with 49 assorted pit crew and peons, all in matching orange shirts and shorts with bowler hats crowned with gears and cocks combs. Talk about putting on a show.
Instead of sticking around for the start, which the pit crew didn't participate in anyway, I took the munchkins and chick and headed back to Millicent. Along the way, we passed Innuendo, as the midnight trike had been named, newly annointed with an enormous stuffed cow, and pilots Matt and Krauson, already reporting trouble. They never did make it to the starting line, but Shhhh! They bribed the judges, a wonderful and accepted practice in the world of Kinetics.
Stuffing the chick into the bus and tugging the kids back off, one of the garage door springs for hoisting the rear end shut snapped with a SPROIIINGG, sending us ducking for cover and making the back much more difficult to close. Not having an option, I muscled up and figured it out.
Help showed up just then, in the form of Gary, perennial pit crew, his two sons, plus entourage. I spectacularly unloaded one child into each vehicle they had and took off on Lilah to catch the racers we were supposed to have been keeping up with. Following a parallel road allowed much faster interception than was otherwise expected. That trike has never covered five miles so fast.
Racers pulled into a park and community center to adjust their rigs for the first obstacle, sand. Many put overshoes of foam or treads of some kind to cover narrower bicycles wheels, and Nick and I perused the machines, inspecting the various methods while he snacked. They were off again, with Gary walking alongside Peter in the sand while the rest of us prepared to meet them on the other side. The sand obstacle involved two miles of packed, damp sand, terminating in a steep, loose, sandy hillside to be climbed, and an even steeper descent down the other side, affectionately named Dead Man’s Drop.
I patrolled the park, picking up abandoned shoes, shirts and stuffed animals and stuffed the kids into a pickup truck with Lilah in the back and set off for Dead Man’s. It's a quarter mile walk in from the road with air that whined with mosquitos, despite the fog of bug spray encompassing spectators. We arrived at the hill just as one of the early machines hit the hill and waited for “Momma.” With five adults, these two couldn't possibly get lost, right? Each kid took off in a separate direction, digging, sliding, tugging on plant roots, Lilly filled her green velvet dress with sand, picked up the bottom and toted it around. They were whirling dervishes, running into unsuspecting people and animals, constantly shedding shoes and toys. It was easier to keep picking one or the other up and collaring the remaining kid to keep them together we then repeatedly hollering to no avail.
Just then, Fired Up came chugging around the bend. The first half of the hill, designated pit crew can help a machine by acting as brakes to keep them from rolling back, but no more, so myself and one son firmly planted ourselves behind the rear wheels while someone else watched the kids. Jeri got out of her seat up front, turned around to face Nick and Bob and began walking the front tire slowly forwards while they struggled and strained and valiantly moved, inch by inch. Nick's chain dropped and the official on the hill rudely asked if the 800 lb machine could “move over so others could pass” but I death glared at her til she went off to talk smack about us to the next team in line. Sure they weren't going quick, but they were moving again, and we had passed the flags into legal 'Push’ territory. Jeri jumped off to lay in the sand in victory, but there were other machines in line behind, and the official was back. Now, we turned and helped push to the top of the hill. Our intrepid heroes took a breather and went to watch another team go over the drop.
Sparky the Adoptable Dog went over the crest, the crowd surged forwards and the Dog tumbled onto its side. An excellent first impression for Nick, as they remounted Fired Up and headed for the edge. Both kids scrambled in front of the machine, tumbling over each other in their haste to watch. The human tide swallowed them as spectators filled in, and when they ebbed away again, both had disappeared. Brilliant.
Once again, they were making nuisances of themselves, running among the people, dogs and machines, and continued to do so as Peter and Gary came around the bend and up the hill. Peter’s machine is a glorious design, utterly different from anything else in the race. A double rimmed wheel, one foot wide and seven feet tall, with interchangeable or removable wheels attached a children's coaster brake bicycle drivetrain, also removable, and foam floats across one side. Sisyphus Walks the Moon, as he called it, could ride on and off road or stand up and walk the whole wheel across sand and mud and up the giant hill. An ingenious solution to the terrain question.
He stopped for a breather at the top, and I shouldered one kid and collared the other so we could follow him down the hill. In all his excitement for the race and finishing Innuendo, Peter only ever got an hour's sleep and was exhausted, and so, somewhere at the bottom of the hill going up, lost his ACE designation for following all the rules perfectly. It's a challenge that's he's completed before, but not this year. Going down the other side, Gary acted as his brakes, but the wheel still listed drunkenly to one side, repeatedly, as the hill was slightly off camber. They made it to the bottom and we scrambled after, slapping at mosquitoes and struggling to keep both kids upright. Peter put his wheels back on and took off down the road, so we all piled into the truck like sardines with kids on laps to join Fired Up at the finish line for the day.
Once there, the children were turned loose into a fenced in area for pilots and pit, where most people knew them and could bring them back. I was exhausted, declining even Nick's offer for ice cream, so I could sink to the grass and dissolve for a minute. Recovered, we walked around inspecting and photographing drive trains and wheels of vehicles that had handled themselves well on the sand and hills. With so much art to be seen, we would worry about the aesthetics later, but for now we were overwhelmed. One thing that struck me was how nearly all the 38 machines had recumbent riding positions, as that seems the least efficient for power, but I guess not everyone likes a saddle for so many hours and miles. Speaking of sitting, we are going to attempt to take the children out to dinner soon while Peter sleeps on the bus, but if I can hear any more of Bob's stories over them, it'll be a miracle.
Jay: 2.4 mi walked, 6 mi riding
Nick: 12 mi on Fired Up