Kinetic race tests both mind and spirit

Get out your mudflaps and your galoshes.

Better bring your thinking cap, too.

The annual Gorge Kinetic Sculpture Contest is geared up for another year of innovation and imagination Sept. 8 at Rock Creek Park in Stevenson, Wash.

For the casual observer, the race might seem like a soapbox derby for adults who refuse to grow up, but as most competitors will tell you, building a kinetic sculpture is no fly-by-night proÿject.

It requires equal parts imagination, muscle and engiÿneering to construct an amphibiÿous, human-powered vehicle able to travel over a five-mile course of land, water and mud.

Kinetic vehicles come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from inflatable rafts on wheels to maÿnipulated kayaks, and are judged on speed, design and pageantry.

Last year's competition feaÿtured a recumbent bicycle with an enormous water wheel on either side to propel it through the water and mud -- a concept which demÿonstrated that speed is secondary to all-terrain capability in this nonstop game of cat and mouse.

Some found out the hard way, as their vehicles that pulled away on land didn't necessarily finish first -- or at all.

Judging by past competitions, many participants will be happy if they simply cross the finish line.

Humility takes on new meanÿing as the competitors grind it out through the mud and muck, thinking about what they could have done differently.

Some will already be devising a strategy for next year.

But as gratifying as it is to finish, participation is the biggest prize for most. A chance for athÿletic, artistic engineer types to show off their new toys and roll around in the mud for a day.

What could be better?

According to race coordinator Ken Cohen of Skamania County Parks and Recreation, the one thing that would really enhance this year's competition would be a larger local contingent.

"The event has really grown, but most of our competitors are from the Seattle area," Cohen said. "It would be great to get some Gorge teams involved."

Registration is $25 per team, and spectators are admitted free of charge. For more information, contact Cohen at (509) 427-9478.

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