alessandro_bard: (Default)
Seeing as how much fun the Great Handcar Regatta was last summer, I decided to don my railroad engineer's outfit and give the Steampunk Expo a try this past weekend. I was only there on Saturday, but what a fun time.

As [livejournal.com profile] acanthusleaf already mentioned, there were quite a lot of things going on. She kindly allowed me to leave some stuff of mine in her booth, so that became a home base of sorts.

I went to a number of presentations and panels. One was on a history of steam power in general, another was on Victorian World's Fairs (many very amusing images from that one), and a panel on bringing the maker culture to the masses. That brought out some interesting points, and one of the big takehome thoughts for me was the gradual intrusion of zoning laws and activity/business permits that various communities and counties put up. These are of course meant to preserve a certain quality of life, but they have the unintended consequence of driving out most hands-on activities.

The outside steam pen was small but well stocked. The flame-shooting snail car was there (complete with small child enthusiastically yanking the fireball ropes), a calliope, various vehicles, running sterling and steam engines, and one steam-powered three-wheeled vehicle, somewhat in the manner of Cugnot's carriage. I never did find the person who created it, and didn't see it running, though it clearly moved around during the day.

The highlight was the visit to the Neverwas Haul creators, Shipyard Labs. Their hospitality was grand, their ideas were expansive, their shop mind-blowing. The place was enormous, and [livejournal.com profile] acanthusleaf and I were there for at least two hours, digging through the heaps and mounds of sheer awesomeness that awaited us at every turn. There were dozens of past projects, many still in working order, monstrously huge tools (for example, a 4-ton drill press from the Alameda shipyards with over 40,000 hours on the meter!), scrap parts and ingredients haphazardly organized, and an overwhelming air of idealistic innovation. Scrappy ambition built the place and creative exuberance keeps it going. It just made me want to grab a torch and start building things. I could easily see losing myself in a group of people like that and having the time of my life doing it. I consider myself to be thoroughly boggled by our visit.

They were happy to tell all and everything about their projects and plans. One of my big questions was simply, "Is there a group of people even half as wonderfully loony as you guys near Santa Cruz"? The answer was, "not really". There are a few artists and small groups working the same territory of the industrious visionary, but nothing remotely of the scale of Shipyard Labs.

All in all, a truly fun weekend. I'm laying plans for possibly giving a presentation myself next year. Probably something along the lines of railroads, steam engines, and trains and their influence on the Victorian aesthetic.

I'm going back!

(Edit: Fix typos. There are probably more.)
alessandro_bard: (Default)
 It's been a couple of weeks now, and I have more results from and thoughts about the Handcar Regatta.

The Past... )
The Present... )
The Future... )
alessandro_bard: (Default)
The good news: I had the best time of all entrants.
The bad news: I didn't win.

Why? Well, my fastest run was in one of the heat races, but I had mechanical failure (lost the chain) in the finals, which caused a crash.

Which means even though I set out to do only one of two things, in reality I did them both! Be the fastest, _and_ crash spectacularly for the collective amusement of the assembled masses. 

In the finals, my opponents also suffered a mechanical failure, but having the virtue of four wheels, they stayed on the rails and managed to limp past the finish line. Meanwhile, I dusted myself off, bent a few things back into place, got the bike back on the rails, re-set the chain, and (slowly) pedaled across the line a short time later.

It was oodles of fun. The entrants all had a real camaraderie, a sense of fair play and always helped each other out. It took a while to get things organized, but then things ran smoothly. There were many thousands of spectators, even though it was 100 degrees. Both [livejournal.com profile] acanthusleaf  and I battled the heat, and it was great to have a Racer's tent with lots of cold things to drink and salty foods. We both had a blast. There were loads of merchants, loads of steampunk groups and displays of wonderful inventions, and loads of general goofiness.

Pictures and such are soon to come. At this point, I'm exhausted and sunburned (kept sweating the sunblock off) and I will write more after I get some sleep and recover a bit.


alessandro_bard: (Default)
So here is the scoop on Sunday. The event itself opens to the public (it's free) at 11:00 AM.

There will be several heats of side-by-side racing. The first heat is at 12:30, the second heat is at 1:30, the third is at 2:30. Then there will be a break, with the fourth heat at 4:30 PM. The final race is after that, and will be between the two fastest teams of the day.

I'll be in the first race of the second heat, at about 1:30 or so. My contraption is called "Cyclotron", and the team name is "The South Pacific Coaster".

And 'heat' will be the word of the day - the weather forecast calls for it to reach nearly 100 on Sunday in Santa Rosa. Joy...

As for clothing, I kinda have it together. If it's really that hot that day, I'll be in modern cool clothes for the day, and perhaps I'll change to the railroad engineer outfit for my race. Or I might just stay in modern clothes for the race as well and wear the engineer's hat as a token gesture. That will be up to the meteorologists.

Racers need to be on site by 10:00, and I want to have some extra time for setting up the bike for the Santa Rosa tracks. So, at this point, I'm planning to bring everything with me to Bardic and to leave from there, spending the night at the event site. I know this messes up carpooling plans, but perhaps we can work something out?

BTW, the speed is improving. Some tweaks to the bike have further improved the stability and brought the time down to 37 seconds for the 700-foot run from a standing start. The better track in Santa Rosa might just allow me to trim the time a wee bit more. Maybe that will make it fast enough to be at least somewhat competitive...

alessandro_bard: (Default)
What have I gotten myself into?

About a month and a half ago, some friends told me about the Great Handcar Regatta handcar-regatta.com. For years I've been kicking around the idea of building a railbike, and here was an opportunity. I sent in my registration, dubbed my soon-to-be-invented contraption "Cyclotron", and got busy at the drawing board.

My evenings are now filled with cutting, welding, finagling, and bludgeoning of metal, wood, and bicycle parts. What has emerged from the cacophony is in no way historic, whimsical, nor steampunk. But, it works - to a first approximation. There are some abandoned tracks near my house, and after several test runs, there is still a lot of refinement needed. Stability comes first, then speed. I'm a long way from maximum speed, and someday I'll want to be able to ride from here to Santa Cruz and back - but that's getting ahead of myself.

So, the day after Bardic (Sunday the 27th), I'll be in Santa Rosa at the race. [livejournal.com profile] acanthusleaf  will be along as my guide to all things steampunk, and I'll do my best to charge to victory. Or crash spectacularly. Whatever is more amusing to the collected gallery.

Either way, this is going to be fun! Heck, it's already a lot of fun!

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May 2010

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