Saturday, May 23, 2009

Kinetic Sculpture Race--Day One

Every Memorial Day weekend the Kinetic Sculpture Race is held in Arcata, Eureka and Ferndale. Floats, based on bicycle chassis' are designed and tested. On Saturday the race starts at The Plaza in Arcata. After brake and sobriety tests, the drivers set off around The Plaza and then through the streets of Arcata to Manila where they cover their wheels, struggle over the dunes and make their way down the beach to Humboldt Bay. Tomorrow they will attach flotation devices and make their way across the bay to Eureka. The race ends in Ferndale on the third day.

We went down to The Plaza early so we could enjoy the farmers market (which was moved to a side street to accomodate the race) and do a bit of shopping at the Co-op. Dick and I then found a prime spot on the corner of The Plaza where we could see and photograph every entry. Before the race starts the contestants are required to make a timed quick exit from their float, pass a sobriety test and a brake test. That all took place right in front of us. Each contestant team includes pilots and pit crew. Gifts are given to the judges.

The Plaza was more crowded than I have ever seen it. It was impossible to move much. A number of people watched the scene from the rooftops. There were food stands set up and Dick and I had some delicious pulled pork made totally with local ingredients.

Once all the testing was complete, the contestants took their floats for a spin around The Plaza. They made about three revolutions to give the crowd a good look at the creations.

Then they set off through the residential streets of Arcata to The Bottoms where the route made its way through farmland and then into Manila. Dick and I followed on our bikes. Some floats had technical difficulties along the way and most teams stopped to regroup at the Manila Community Center before they set off over the dunes to the beach. Riding on sand is not easy on bicycle wheels and most teams had brought foam strips to attach to the wheels to avoid getting bogged down.

The scene at Manila was a festive as at The Plaza. There was a band and numerous food stands. There was also an inflated play structure for children. Teams took time to fix minor problems and prepare for the sand. Dick and I walked up and over the dunes to the beach. It was a bit of a challenge in the soft sand. I can only imagine what it must have been like to pedal a heavy float up and over, yet each team seemed to manage.

Once we had watched most of the floats make it over the dunes and onto the beach, Dick and I pedaled back to Arcata and are looking forward to tomorrow's aquatic leg of the race.

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