Kinetic Race is Weirdness on Wheels: a Look Back

The Kinetic Sculpture Race started in 1969 as a race down Main Street. Last year, the 40th Annual Kinetic Sculpture Race took place over Memorial Day weekend in Humboldt County. The Tin Pan Dragon was one of the nearly 40 human-powered machines that entered the 2009 race. The Mechanical Chicken arrives to the Arcata Plaza before the start of the race with a team of support staff dressed as chickens singing songs to get the spectators pumped. Each team has to be prepared for sand dunes as well as water crossings. Here you can see the Octomom sculpture, a 4-person machine with a giant Nadia Sulaiman head with octopus tentacles grasping eight babies, taking to the sand. "There's bacon over there?" said the pilot of this machine as he tried to muster inspiration for the tough road, er, dunes ahead. Day 2 starts with a water crossing in Humboldt Bay along the Eureka waterfront. Here Grandpa's Flying Machine gets ready to get back to dry land. The race finishes in the Victorian town of Ferndale, CA on Memorial Day, 3 days and 42 miles after the start. Hippypotamus, winner of this year's Engineering award, rolls into town. June Moxon, designer, builder and pilot of the Kinetic Chicken, pulls strings inside the machine making the huge metal chicken animated while the throngs of people watch with smiles on their faces. Two brothers built "Uncatchable" a lantern fish that aced the course this year. In order to get an ACE, you can only go forward by pedaling your machine, no pushing, pulling or help from others. Rutabaga Queen Jermajesty rides at the start of the race. Doug McNeil, pilot of the Glory Hogs in red, slaps five to the spectators along the plaza. McNeil drove up to Humboldt from Los Gatos, CA with eight other people to participate in his 25th race. The Kinetic Grand Championship is a great event for the whole family. These kids were loving every minute of it. The race starts on Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend each year on the Arcata Plaza at noon after each machine is checked for proper breaks and other safety measures. They then circle the plaza a few times before heading out on the long, tough journey. Machines have to carry everything they will need on the course on board with them for the whole race, mainly sand tires and flotation devices. Between Arcata and Eureka on Day 1, the racers have to tackle the sand. Here in Manila, CA, most racers stop to change tires and enjoy the live music while taking a break and refueling with some food and beverages before hitting the dunes. Kinetic Teddy Bear Lady, left, puts a teddy bear sticker on June Moxon, veteran racer and this year's 1st Place Art winner for her Kinetic Chicken. "Ready, Set, Arrrrrrrrrrr," said Stinky Pete as he took a picture of a family in front of his Uncatchable sculpture. Bribing is big with Kinetic Racers. Here Major Etiquette offers me a choice of hand decorated lighters. Pilot Steve Leonoudakis, front right, pedals Dow Jones' Wild Ride up the dunes with a little help in back. "Come on you guys, we're all waiting for the Dow Jones to go up," says one of the hecklers standing on the sidelines. Spectators were out in droves this year. Here a smart group with seats watch as the Kinetic Chicken takes to the sand. Big Top won 1st Place Pageantry this year as well as the Golden Flipper award (more on that in a few...). Me: What's your name? Super Cool Mohawk Kid: Biggie. Pandamonium Rules, an obvious choice for the winner of this year's Teddy Bear Award.

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Josh Keppel
Here's a look back at last year's 40th Annual Kinetic Sculpture Race took place over Memorial Day weekend in Humboldt County. The Tin Pan Dragon was one of the nearly 40 human-powered machines that entered the 2009 race.
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Josh Keppel
The race finishes in the Victorian town of Ferndale, CA on Memorial Day, 3 days and 42 miles after the start. Hippypotamus, a stoned tie dyed Hippo body on top of a 4-person machine, was the winner of this year's Engineering award.
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Josh Keppel
The Kinetic Chicken arrives to the Arcata Plaza before the start of the race with a team of support staff dressed as chickens singing songs to get the spectators pumped.
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Josh Keppel
Each team has to be prepared for sand dunes as well as water crossings. Here you can see Brian "Funguy" Slayton's Octomom sculpture, a 6-person machine with a giant Nadia Sulaiman head with octopus tentacles grasping eight babies, taking to the sand.
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Josh Keppel
"There's bacon over there?" said Elliot Naess, pilot of the NuVinci Flyer as he tried to muster inspiration for the tough road, er, dunes ahead.
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Josh Keppel
Day 2 starts with a water crossing in Humboldt Bay along the Eureka waterfront. Here Grandpa's Flying Machine gets ready to get back to dry land.
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Gina Lodes
This photo by Gina Lodes shows the Tin Pan Dragon breathing some fire after spinning a circle on the water.
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Josh Keppel
June Moxon, designer, builder and pilot of the Kinetic Chicken, pulls strings inside the machine making the huge metal chicken animated while the throngs of people watch with smiles on their faces.
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Josh Keppel
Two brothers built "Uncatchable" a lantern fish that got an ACE on the course this year.
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Josh Keppel
In order to get an ACE, you can only go forward by pedaling your machine, no pushing, pulling or help from others. The Ocomom sculpture on the left ended up winning the Racer's Choice award as well as the Spirit of the Glorious Founder award.
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Josh Keppel
Rutabaga Queen Jermajesty rides at the start of the race.
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Josh Keppel
Doug McNeil, pilot of the Glory Hogs in red, slaps five to the spectators along the plaza. McNeil drove up to Humboldt from Los Gatos, CA with eight other people to participate in his 25th race.
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Josh Keppel
The Kinetic Grand Championship is a great event for the whole family. These kids were loving every minute of it.
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Josh Keppel
The race starts on Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend each year on the Arcata Plaza at noon after each machine is checked for proper breaks and other safety measures. They then circle the plaza a few times before heading out on the long, tough journey.
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Josh Keppel
Machines have to carry everything they will need on the course on board with them for the whole race, mainly sand tires and flotation devices. You can see some silver things strapped to the front of this machine.
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Josh Keppel
Between Arcata and Eureka on Day 1, the racers have to tackle the sand. Here in Manila, CA, most racers stop to change tires and enjoy the live music while taking a break and refueling with some food and beverages before hitting the dunes.
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Josh Keppel
Kinetic Teddy Bear Lady, left, puts a teddy bear sticker on June Moxon, veteran racer and this year's 1st Place Art winner for her Kinetic Chicken.
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Josh Keppel
"Ready, Set, Arrrrrrrrrrr," said Stinky Pete as he took a picture of a family in front of his Uncatchable sculpture.
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Josh Keppel
Bribing is big with Kinetic Racers. Here Major Etiquette offers me a choice of hand decorated lighters.
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Josh Keppel
Pilot Steve Leonoudakis, front right, pedals Dow Jones' Wild Ride up the dunes with a little help in back (no ACE for you guys). "Come on you guys, we're all waiting for the Dow Jones to go up," says one of the hecklers standing on the sidelines.
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Josh Keppel
Spectators were out in droves this year. Here a smart group with seats watch as the Kinetic Chicken takes to the sand.
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Josh Keppel
Big Top won 1st Place Pageantry this year as well as the Golden Flipper award (more on that in a few...).
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Josh Keppel
Me: "What's your name?" Super Cool Mohawk Kid: "Biggie... B-I-G-G-I-E."
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Josh Keppel
Pandamonium Rules, an obvious choice for the winner of this year's Teddy Bear Award.
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Josh Keppel
The sand is where most teams loose their ACE because they have to get pushed to make it.
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Josh Keppel
The Kinetic Chicken has a mouth that opens and closes, eyes that blink, and wings that flap.
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Josh Keppel
This is Dead Man's Drop, where machines have to go down a steep slope after returning from the ride along the Pacific Ocean coastline.
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Tin Pan Dragon starts its descent...
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Josh Keppel
...and takes an unexpected turn towards the bushes...
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...but all is well and the Dragon flies through the trees after a somewhat harrowing, but successful drop.
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Josh Keppel
The Kinetic Chicken bows its head to clear the trees after Dead Man's Drop (followed by its entourage of course).
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Josh Keppel
June Moxon, creator of the Kinetic Chicken, told me that her sponsor Tomas Jewelery gave her enough money to buy 10,000 rhinestones, which she used to cover everything.
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Josh Keppel
Twinkle Toes, a 2009 ACE machine, won 2nd Place for Engineering and 2nd Place Time completing the 42-mile course in just under 12 hours.
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Josh Keppel
Thousands of spectators lined the course watching the machines take on Dead Man's Drop.
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Josh Keppel
Think of the Kids looked like a woman in bed giving birth?
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Big Friendly Giraffe won 1st Place for Time with a total race time of 10 hours and 51 minutes.
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Bubbalicious was awarded Most Improved.
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Big Top won the Golden Flipper Award (most fabulous flip over) for this flip down Dead Man's Drop that the crew is seen here trying to right. Even through they flipped, and were later called "Big Topple," they still finished the race with an ACE.
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Josh Keppel
The Bubble Buggy stops for some hot dogs courtesy the Glory Hog, who travel with a BBQ on the back of their machine.
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Doug McNeil drives down from the Bay Area each year to participate in the race. "Our goal is to enjoy the whole race and have fun." So, they stop at the bottom of Dead Man's Drop each year and feed hot dogs to anyone who wants one. This year they handed out 32, Sherri McNeil grabs the last two here.
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A good view of Duane Flatmo's Tin Pan Dragon, a fire breathing dragon covered in scrap aluminum baking tins.
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Most teams wear themed costumes while racing. Here you can see from right to left, Duane Flatmo, Lucas Thornton and Jenn Weiss (4th pilot Billy Pinnix obscured) with their face shields up.
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Josh Keppel
Ken Beidleman's Hippypotamus weighed in at a truck scale at a whopping 1840 lbs.
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Josh Keppel
Tia Haar pedals the Werehorse Racer down 2nd Street in Eureka with the beautiful Carson Mason in the distance.
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Josh Keppel
Day 2 starts with a water launch and crossing in Humboldt Bay in front of spectators lined up along Eureka's waterfront.
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Josh Keppel
Machines must float, and should be able to propel themselves forward in the water. Elliot Naess pilots NuVinci Flyer shortly before his legs gave out on Day 2 and someone else had to complete the race.
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Josh Keppel
I was told by ACE judge Michelle Estabrook that if you get towed, like Henry Ford Shoots for the Moon seen here getting some assistance from the Sheriff boat, you are still eligible for your ACE. You must be able to pedal in and out of the water, and you will incur a one-hour penalty.
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Kanga Rex is trying the tricky task of getting out of the water after having early won the "Biggest Splash" prize upon entry.
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The Samoa Bridge is see in the distance as two machines near the end of the Day-Two water crossing. The machine on the left is using oars to move forward while the machine on the right is pedaling.
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Some think the transition from water back to land is the hardest thing to engineer on the course. Here you can see Uncatchable easily pedal right out of the water.
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Each of these teams used oars to propel themselves in the water, which made getting out a little more difficult.
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Pandamonium Rules hits land while the pilot in back bangs and clangs on hanging baking sheets.
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Bruce LeBel, Pandamonium Rules pilot, told me that the white wheel covers provide "double-duty sand traction, flotation, and wheel axis height to accommodate the pontoons." Here he is taking them off for the miles of street racing ahead.
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Golden Dinosaur (first machine to break down after start of the race) award winner Picnic Basket gets pulled into shore on Day 2.
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If breaking down in the first 12 blocks after the start of the race wasn't bad enough, these guys had to get pulled out of the water by a long line of race enthusiasts who were quite excited to help out.
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Winston Lowe volunteered to help with the 3-day, multi-camera live TV broadcast which was really cool because you could follow the race from home.
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Main Street Ferndale, where the first race took place in 1969, is now the finish line for the 3-day, 42-mile race.
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Josh Keppel
Poor Pitiful Me award winners Henry Ford Shoots for the Moon arrive into the beautiful Victorian town of Ferndale, CA.
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Josh Keppel
Last years Grand Champions Melvin approach the finish line. This year's Grand Champions were a team from Eureka High School called Art of the People.
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Josh Keppel
Jason Hotchkiss took over the wheel of NuVinci Flyer after builder Elliot Naess' legs gave out on Day 2. Here Jason rides into Ferndale for the Glory.
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Compost Sheep was a big pile of compost, followed by...
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...The Redwood Rollers, Humboldt's roller derby team who played the Oakland Outlaws on Saturday night. The lady in front is the ever popular McNasty, #34B.
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Compost Sheep and the Garden Girls go rolling by.
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Fifi, 2nd Place Art winners, show how some race sponsors get their advertising integrated into the machines. Mad River Brewing wasn't the only beer sponsor, New Belgium Brewery (Fat Tire) was the main race sponsor this year. I only wish there were more places to enjoy the suds... next year?
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Each year, Ferndale, CA has a Memorial Day Parade march down Main Street. Then, throughout the afternoon, the kinetic racers sporadically arrive to big fanfare, usually one at a time, slowly rambling down the street soaking in all the Glory.
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Humboldt is famous for its Skunk...
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Kinetic Chicken basks in the sun as it heads towards the finish line.
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Bill Cody
One last picture of the fire breathing dragon, on water no less. Photo courtesy Bill Cody. For more race info, check http://kineticgrandchampionship.com/ and www.kineticsculpturelab.com/
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