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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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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