Thursday, June 7, 2012

Kinetic Sculpture Race

The Kinetic Sculpture race began in 1969 in the town of Ferndale, California, a dairy town near the mouth of the Eel River.   It is also an art community.   The race concept caught on, it expanded, and 43 years later it is still going strong.   After the first few years, the race expanded to run a 42 mile course from the square in Arcata, across sand dunes, roads, mud, a portion of Humboldt Bay, and across the Eel River at Fernbridge.  The race takes three days, ending on Ferndale's Main Street.  

The race happens every Memorial Day Weekend, come rain or shine, and rain is not unusual in the region.   If you are not lucky enough to be here for the race, there is a museum of past sculptures in a building on Ferndale's Main Street.   It's worth a stop.

This one shot flames out the rear, had a whole contingent of moustache wearing firefighters.

The sculptures are human powered, and must have brakes and some kind of floatation device (life vests for the operators, something more creative for the sculpture).   Generally they are powered by one or many more folks using bicycle pedals.  But then the creativity starts.   Some have standard bike wheels, some have rollers, some have large inflated tires.  

The rules are wacky, the costumes are part of the fun.   Over the years there have been Yellow Submarines, serpents, and all order of craziness.   The rules run for pages and cover everything from the ages of "barnacles" (young riders), to bribing the judges (encouraged), to requirements for stuffed animals on board.  It also covers brakes, which are tested before the race begins. 

The idea has caught on.  While the Humboldt Race remains the grand master, other communities have adopted the idea.  There is a good sized web page if you check out Kinetic Sculpture Races.

Big Foot, reported local denizen on the far northern woods of California, and one of the Big Foot watchers lead the sculpture...what else?   A Big Foot.   Crew was on hand to trim the toenails.

Lined up and ready for the noon whistle send off.

And they are off, with the Silver Slipper first out of its slot.

A crab seems like a likely candidate in this region where fisheries are a major industry.

The next set of photos are not of the sculptures but a a unique motorhome.  Custom designed and built with a deco period feel, this vehicle was parked on a corner off the square and became the focus of attention after the sculptures were headed out of town.
The driver, owner, designer can drive from either the inside, the standard situation, or from a seat on the top deck.   A beautiful wood staircase on the outside, allows folks to climb up for a look.  

Inside view

He followed the route of the race and we saw him parked on a side road at Somoa after we had lunch.
Chris had arrived for the weekend and the Kinetic Sculpture Race was our first photo op.   After the send off we headed to the Somoa Cookhouse for lunch.   It is a tourist place now, but still fun if you have never done it and the museum gives you a feel for life in a lumber camp.    Originally the cookhouse served the folks who worked in the pulp mills that once dominated the spit west of Eureka, enclosing Humboldt Bay.   

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