I had nothing going on this weekend, so I consulted the Internet to find something on Saturday – something with a lot of people, where I could practice taking photos of real persons. I came up with a Soapbox Derby Race, sponsored by Red Bull.
The other week, when I drove out to the far Northwest stretches of the Dallas side of the Metroplex, I stopped off to take some photographs of a horse sculpture that I had found online. When I drove by the horses looking for a place to park, I considered going up the street a bit, parking, and riding my bicycle back down. Looking closely, I decided that the street ran up a hill… and that hill was too high and too steep for me… at least at that time.
So, I guess that it isn’t surprising when I realized the Soapbox Race was going down that very hill.
I wanted to get a good spot, so after buying some vintage ink at an estate sale I drove out there – only to become horribly lost and trapped in the various byways of Plano. Tens of thousands of people were on their way to the race and every housing development had a private guard out in front with a clipboard to make sure nobody drove by or parked on the sacred streets. That funneled all the cars into a single road which was hopelessly backed up. Everything in Plano is fenced and guarded – it’s the most unfriendly and unwelcoming town there is.
This put me in a foul mood and I almost gave up, but I finally looped way to the west and came in from The Colony side, which was fine. I only had to navigate a rough cowshit-filled field, a tangle of barbed wire, and a mile-long walk… which was much more pleasant that a single drive down a carefully manicured housing access boulevard.
I found a place along the race route and held on, standing there for over an hour, when, once the race began, a loud boiling crowd of kids and aggressive self-righteous parents wedged in and forced me into a tiny bit of space. I stayed for a dozen or so races until I gave up and made my walk back out.
It was a fun event – but way, way too crowded. I took a few photos – enough for a handful of entries here. It wore me out… I’ll have to think hard about this sort of thing. I might stick to smaller groups next time.
Big crowd at the Red Bull Soapbox Derby.
The home built gravity-powered vehicles rolled downhill on a narrow course lined with hay bales and sprinkled with obstacles. The crowd quickly grew to a point where it was actually tough to get a good look. Here’s a particularly artistic (though not very fast) entry rushing towards the finish line.
The crowd lining the race course.
The spectators lined the entire course (maybe a kilometer long) four or five deep on both side, with thousands more on up the hills.
The competition wasn’t on speed alone. There was a panel of celebrity judges up on an elevated platform. Here are three of them (left to right): Josh Henderson (from Dallas, star of Dallas), Lolo Jones (Olympic hurdler), and Louie Vito (X-Games Snowboarder).
The first official entry.
The first official car was a two-person buffalo thing. It wasn’t too fast, but it did make it all the way to the bottom. Not all of them did.
Three men in a tub, post-wreck.
All entries crossed the finish line, even if they had to carry the thing. These guys had a spectacular crash (too far up the hill for me to see live) and some nasty road rash.
I visited the pit area. This is the broken steering joint that doomed the Three Men in a Tub entry.
One of the first entries was “Three Men in a Tub” – and they picked up some serious speed until a weld gave way and they had a spectacular crash. The crowd was so tight I could only see the bit of race right in front of me – but there were big video screens set up and they replaced the tumbling high speed wreck over and over. Post-disaster the racers walked by me lugging their wrecked vehicle (helped by track employees) and one guy had a terrible road rash and he seemed in pain from knocking his helmeted head into the pavement.
The OOmpa Loompas from the SMU team. They barely made it ten feet.
Some of the racers were well-made and carefully thought out. Most weren’t. The SMU team had a cart that was terribly top-heavy and barely went ten feet before tumbling over and tearing itself apart.