The Bindlestiff Express at the Great Hand Car Regatta of 2010
by Robert Wildwood
Starting from the Black Butte Center for Railroad Culture, Brakeshoe Bruce and I drove the 6 person rail-bike down to Santa Rosa to participate in the Great Handcar Regatta of 2010. There were 10,000 people there and it was over 100 degrees, there we were: pedaling as fast as we could on the railbike! Wes and Alex from Santa Cruz showed up to help be on the crew. We still had 2 open spaces on the 6 person railbike, so every heat we would invite random strangers to ride on the bike. It was awesome fun and the people who got to jump on the bike seemed to be greatly excited.
THe man who built the bike in the 1980’s came out and pedaled on the bike with his son sitting on the back bench, next to Skyler from the Hobogoblins who was playing her accordion as we rolled.
Twice we crashed into the other railbikes at the end of the line, the momentum was too much, we locked up the disc brake and the metal speeder wheels skid on the metal rail. We smooshed a retired police officer between cars, luckily his son was there to pull him out just in time to avoid becoming road kill. After that we convinced the organizers to let us run first so that we would have more track to stop that lead sled of a rail bike.
We ended up with the fastest time ever recorded, but later the award was changed from the Zephyr award to the Nimble Sleight-Of-Hand award, because we had six racers on the bike and the rules only allowed for 4. Oh well, we still had all the glory of taking home the trophy. My favorite qoute of the day was from one of the beautiful announcers on the stand wearing bustled skirts and a corset who said, “Who knew that hobos could go so fast?”
It was lots of fun to return to my hometown, a place where I experienced quite a bit of psychic trauma, to have my family out there watching and supporting me in this public event, a triumphant return! As we used to say in the old days, “Humboldt Punks Rule!” Ha ha. I raise a glass to our fallen comrades.
Many thanks to the lovely organizers who made this event possible! See ya next year! -robnoxious