Sunday, September 14, 2008

I Like ‘Em Fast - Bonneville Speed Week 2008

Just last month I attended the Bonneville’s Speed Week 2008 in Utah for the first time. Armed with my trusty point and shoot and SLR, I was able to document that experience and share some of my favorite images with you here.

Cajoled and convinced by car enthusiast and blogger, Mochi Mochi, we set off on a 9-hour drive across the desert of three states. I had no expectations but was promised it would be an adventure What I didn’t anticipate was how incredibly international yet homegrown, and gritty yet artistic this event turned out to be. On the magnificent salt flats of Utah where even my sad Matrix looked good, I got a tremendous feast for the eyes (see image to right). I saw for the first time 1920s speed racers that looked like, well, “Speed Racer.” There were: hydrogen cars that resembled missiles such as Ohio State’s 2016 Buckeye Bullet (see image below); exquisite European vintage motorcycles like the Indian, perfectly restored Ford Model Ts; muscle TransAms and on and on.

This event is so non-commercial, there was no fee for spectators and I only found one old-school ice-cream truck that could maybe constitute as a food vendor. By god, I could not even find a commemorative tee to save my life. So novel!

How it works at Bonneville is you get certified to participate. Then your vehicle gets in line with others and when your turn comes up, you zip across the salt flats and get timed. If you break a record, your machine is impounded to make sure you don’t tamper with it over night. The next day you get timed again to make sure it’s not a fluke and if you match or beat the previous day’s time, you get the new record. Though able to watch these cars up close and personal, sometimes standing just ten feet away from the starting line, it was not the highlight.

The most intriguing aspect was when as a “journalist assistant,” I got to speak with drivers and engineers from countries such as New Zealand, Germany, Canada, Australia,…and even from exotic states like Montana or Idaho (see "Japanese tourist" to left. oh that's me). They all spoke about their machines in the same way - with passion, commitment, joy, and dedication to the craftsmanship. They kindly shared stories of their machines and its inner workings as well as the experiences at Bonneville. They were women and men ranging from whipper snappers to 80-somethings. Nothing beat seeing a 68-year-old woman suit up before her motorcycle timing. Way cool (check below a woman in her 60s racing!)!

Possibly the most engaging story was of a Canadian Viet Nam vet who really didn’t look old enough to come from that era, but with a nickname like “Bloody Eddy,” I’ll take his word on it. He spoke about his fellow riders like family and Bonneville like a reunion. When asked about his self made motorcycle, he eloquently and humorously spoke of where each part came from, including using the engine of a chainsaw. I’ll link to his video when I get a chance to upload it on youtube. In the mean time, his image is captured below.

Speaking only as a first time spectator and avid sociologist, I highly recommend Bonneville. You don’t have to love cars and motos but not hating them adds to the experience. Bring lots of sunblock, water, snacks, shades, and extra batteries for your digital camera. You’ll leave with so much more!

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