Five Cloverdalians went on a quest for glory over Memorial Day weekend.
Carol Keig, Lenny Von Hoogenstyn, Derek Montanye, Logan Felber and Ryan Bumpbell all spent the months leading up to Memorial Day working on a kinetic sculpture to race in Humboldt County’s Kinetic Grand Championship.
According to the event’s website, the grand championship asks participants to traverse land, sand and water totaling over 40 miles. Those who participate set out to make all-terrain creations that are meant to be aesthetically wondrous and can sustain the three days of travel. What seems like a big feat is all done “for the glory.”
Some kinetic creations are huge with multiple people operating them. For this team, the operation looks a little smaller — Keig manned the amphibious bike, Felber was her pit crew, Montanye helped engineer and weld the creation, Von Hoogenstyn served as commander and Bumpbell was on hand to help out.
The Cloverdale team’s whole creation is named “Raspberry Fembot,” a victorian robot persona that was dreamt up by Keig. The name is apt — Keig operated the raspberry colored bike vessel wearing a metallic, raspberry colored victorian riding costume. The outfit came first, followed by the name and the raspberry colored bike was found along the way.
“I wanted an outfit that was intentional and glorious,” she said.
To go along with the name, Keig has developed a backstory to Raspberry Fembot, which continues to grow.
While this is Keig’s second year participating as Raspberry Fembot, this is the first year the group had a fully amphibious vessel. Last year Keig rode her bike in the race and, when she got to the water portion of the route, put it in a canoe and paddled it across.
“But that’s not glorious,” she said. “It’s glorious to have an amphibious bicycle.”
So, that’s what they did. Raspberry Fembot had a modified bicycle that retained all of the main functions of a bike, so it could operate on land, but also had inflatable pontoons to help it wade through water.
The pontoons, while they enabled the sculpture to operate in water, did cause a bit of a hiccup on the way to the finish line. While in the water, one of the oars came apart at its joint and wasn't able to be repaired while it was in the water. Keig prevailed, peddling through the water with fins that were attached to the bike. However, once she noticed that one of the pontoons was deflating, she made the decision to come in to make a quick vessel repair.
“I wasn’t afraid I was in any danger, but I was afraid of making a great big mess and also of it being over,” she said. “I really wanted to not capsize the bike-boat.”
Inevitably, with the pontoon reflated and a spare oar from Von Hoogenstyn, Keig was able to get back in the water and exit at the designated space. Per the rules of the race, vehicle pilots are the only ones who can propel their vessels and, in the case of when they’re in water, the sculpture needs to be proppelled in and out of water unassisted.
“Right ahead of me in the water section was a woman who was swimming, carrying her art. It was like, ‘woah, you’re impressive,’” Keig said, emphasizing the wherewithal of the championship participants.
Following the second night of the race, all of the participants camp out on the beach.
“These are people that have let whatever it is that holding them back, they’ve left it behind,” she said. “You just feel safe — even though everybody around you is clearly crazy. They just hang around and celebrate being alive in their flashiest, silliest clothes.”
Along with giving out ribbons for participating, the Kinetic Grand Championship also gives out a sizeable handful of other awards. The Raspberry Fembot team was awarded the Spirit of Our Glorious Founder Award, in honor of the race’s founder, Hobart Brown.
“I was kind of hoping I would get the best bribe prize,” Keig said, talking about a prize given for the best bribe. Bribes are given by groups throughout the event. “I got a prize even better than the best bribe prize, that didn’t even cross my mind that I was going to get the prize I got.”
When asked about her favorite thing when it comes to participating in the Kinetic Grand Championship, Keig had to take a beat and pause.
“All of it, the glory. I have so many different answers to that question. The most boring of which is that it makes me work out,” Keig said. “The same reason that people enter 5K races … it’s a great motivator for me to exercise.
“Why this instead of something else? This is more fun,” she continued. “Whatever it is that you do, you can bring it. If you’re a fire dancer? You can bring it. I’m a musician, I can bring that. I’m a nerd, I can bring that. Which brings me to part three — which is all the things I haven’t tried yet.”
Participating in the championship has enabled Keig to challenge herself and learn new things, like how to operate an amphibious bike or how to make earrings out of soda can tabs (her bribe for this year’s event).
“It’s an intersection of a lot of stuff, all of which supercharges me,” she said.
The water-friendly modification made by the group before this year’s race takes care of two of the types of land that participants are asked to go through. Next up, Keig said that the group is looking to tackle how to operate on sand.