Never Grow Up: Kinetic Grand Championship 2007

Jimmie Nord standing next to his vehicle dressed in black and blue tights with a blur cape and black eye goggles.

Does this super hero look familiar? It’s Jimmie Nord, the guy who made a 12-gauge steel Jacob’s Ladder. He pilots the Super Beetle with his brother.

“We’re adults having fun so kids will want to get older.” –Glorious Founder Hobart Brown.

The Great Arcata to Ferndale (Calif.) World Championship Kinetic Sculpture Race ends today. For the last 12 months, artist-engineer-athletes have been crafting fantastic mobile sculptures with paint brushes and welding torches.  They design street legal human-powered artistic creations which are pedaled and paddled over roads, mud, sand dunes and water in a three day 42-mile challenge of endurance and the human spirit.

Due to some legal squabbles, the race is called the Kinetic Grand Championship this year, but it’s really the same event. In fact, a nonprofit organization was rushed into existence in the matter of a few months to ensure its survival, powered by the same old volunteers with racers competing simply “for the glory.”

There is a saying that the race is “where art and engineering collide,” but it could just as easily be, “stealing back a piece of childhood.” Here are a few photos from day one of the race.

The Super Beetle sculpture being pedaled down a road.

The Nord brothers in their Super Beetle.

A giant orange flower sculpture moving down a street accompanied by many bicyclists dressed in large bee costumes.

June Moxon piloting June’s Bloom, escorted by her admiring bees.

Photo of the silver metallic-looking circular plate-covered Armored Carp sculpture.

Duane Flatmo’s sculptures are hands-down the crowd favorite for coolness year after year. Here we see his Armored Carp. Duane’s web site provides a small flavor of his broad talent. He’s our version of a local celebrity, and he’s also excruciatingly nice. Though, that’s a prerequisite for all of the racers.

The Armored Carp moving down a street.

The Armored Carp seats four. The head slides smoothly forward a couple feet to facilitate entry and exit from the vehicle.

A man riding or piloting a metal-looking lizard on wheels.

This lizard walking guy was a sight to behold. His hands and feet pull levers forward and back, moving the lizard legs back and forth in a natural motion. Wheels on the lizard’s feet roll the beast a modest amount as the tail realistically sways. Watch this Youtube video of the lizard in action. I didn’t see the lizard elsewhere during the race; so I suspect he was present just for some pre-race glory. This sculpture is a little too wild to race.

Pink-haired Foxy Biloxi piloting her boxy pink sculpture and waving to passersby.

Foxy Biloxi is better known as the mayor of the City of Arcata. She’s also the race’s 2006 Rutabaga Queen.

The Easy Button sculpture with four pilots and four giant spoked wheels covered with red hubcaps.

This is the Easy Button vehicle piloted by students from the Oregon Institute of Technology in Klamath Falls. It’s a six hour drive to the California coast, but kinetic races are now held around the world, including one in Corvallis, Oregon, and they made the trip to participate in our original kinetic race.

The Patriot Act sculpture with three giant wheels and pilots decked out in red, white and blue clothing.

The Patriot Act

Wok on the Wild Side features a large Chinese food takeout container.

Wok on the Wild Side is a giant Chinese takeout box. The sharing of bribes with race judges is a time honored tradition, and spectators also sometimes get some goodies. These folks gave us a hot rice dish in a Chinese takeout box before the race began.

Ursa Vehicularis is a giant brown snarling bear seating six people in its belly.

Ursa Vehicularis

Up a Tree is a palm tree sculpture with a pilot sitting on top of the tree where he peddles.

I didn’t see the Up a Tree sculpture later in the day. I suspect the pilot is another pre-race glory hog. Where is his flotation gear? Or his required teddy bear?

Here are a couple of the many fun race rules:

“Since mothers are discouraged from running alongside, racers must carry a comforting item of psychological luxury no smaller than a restaurant coffee cup at all times. An old security blanket (your “binkie”, or whatever you called it), a soft teddy-bear or sock doll will suffice. Teddy bears are highly recommended or an unreasonable facsimile thereof.”

The Mom Rule: “If a pilot is pregnant and in labor, that pilot may be excused for a reasonable length of time (an hour or so) without penalty. However, the pilot must return with a glossy 8 X 10 color photo for publicity purposes.”


If you’d like to attend next year, the race is always held on Memorial Day weekend. We’re in Humboldt County, California, the land of towering ancient redwood forests with sinfully cool weather throughout the summer (70 degrees represents a heat wave at the coast). Request a free travel guide from our tourism bureau.

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