Saturday, April 09, 2011

Race Day 2011

Want to guess what my favorite part of a pinewood derby is? Nope, it's not the thrill of speed. Not the joy of victory. Not the agony of defeat. Not even the cool gadgets timing things down to ten-thousandths of a second.

It's not even the cake. Although that's quite good, too.

Give up?

It's the creativity.

OK, case in point: Normally, if you go to a car race, you'd expect to see people racing cars, right? Not here. On race day in a pinewood derby, your car might be matched up against...

A tank!

A shoe!

A gymnast on a balance beam! A UPS truck!

A rocket-powered pizza delivery wagon! Rocket Barbie, whose pink ship has been hit by a silver meteor! (Seriously. I asked.)

A pirate ship!

....not to mention dragons, of course. But you already knew about that.

CREATIVE WRITING ASSIGNMENT: Write a short story involving a tank, a gymnast, a shoe, a dragon, and your choice of Rocket Barbie, a supersonic delivery guy, and/or a pirate ship. Send it to kerr at kconline dot com. I'll publish the best ones here. You have 10 minutes. Go!

Of course, I enjoyed the racing, too.

We were seeded 12th out of 31 this year, at 4.3262 seconds — a big improvement over last year's performance of 4.5771. Yeah, two tenths of a second is huge in this world.

OK, confession time. After last year's third-from-the-bottom performance, I was secretly quite pleased to find ourselves in the ranks of the "sorta-fast." While I'd let Fiona have free reign over the shape and design of the car, this year the wheels and axles were mine. Oh, the tools I got into. There were pipe cleaners. Files. Drills. Jeweler's rouge. Dad gave me a book of pinecar speed secrets for Christmas, and I used as many of the tips as I had time and tools for. It wasn't so much an overt competition with the other dads (there was enough of that going on without me getting involved, most of it pretty friendly) — it was more to see if I could do it, too. Granted, that's complicated by the fact that one has to compete to see if one measures up....

Wanna know why those other cars were so fast? There'a s dragon behind them! Yeah! You'd run, too!

On the whole though, there was good fun to be had from the start of the track...

At the starting pin. the end of it.

Racers get a prime spot right at the finish line. Remarkably, Fiona is actually in contact with the ground here.

We didn't win any prizes this year. I knew I hadn't done enough rocket science to win on speed, and our car really wasn't a replica of anything. I thought we had a chance on "best of show" (craftsmanship) or creativity, but those passed us by, as well. But all that's OK.

I won my prize two weeks earlier.

Fiona and were out in the shed together, huddled in our jackets, and sanding away happily at our little wedge. "So, Fiona," I asked, "Whose car is this? Yours, or mine?" She looked thoughtful. "It's your car and my car. And the time that we're working on it is, like, special you-and-me time."

What prize could be better?

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