Wednesday, July 29, 2009

I Don't Know Why...

I don't know why people make choices. Friends, living arrangements, life partners, professions,.... So many choices to be made. What about hobbies? What causes a person to choose an activity to fill unscheduled time? Many seem to choose challenge as criteria. Can I do it? Can I climb that mountain, ride that bull, win that race, on and on and on. There are worlds and worlds of activities out there, for many of which we have no concept. Take paintballing, for example. Every June thousands of participants converge on 600+ acres in rural Oklahoma for what is billed as the world's largest scenario paintball game.

Yes, thousands from across the US and around the world. People from Germany and Australia have attended, among others. I wouldn't know about it except that Brian has worked as a staffer out there for years during the event. His rock crawler is used to keep an eye on what goes on back in the woods and to get lost stragglers in at night. He is kind of an all-around guy who does all sorts of things for the owner. This past June over 6,000 checked in during the week long event. Three semi-truck loads of paintballs were used, millions of 'em. The participants must purchase paintballs of a certain color at the event. Entry fees, camping, food and drink at the restaurant, vendor rental space, and equipment sales make the event a major source of income for the owners. Ya gotta give the guy credit for figuring out a way to produce income from land that is agriculturally marginal at best.

In addition to the pipe and railroad tie conglomerations used as points of defense, a number of structures are scattered about for the games. This is a picture of one of the structures put up in an area representing a village. It's used in the D-Day game, as well as in others such as Blackhawk Down. That's a lot of concrete block set for a game.

This other structure represents a church in the same village. Just a few guys, Larry among them, got together to pour the concrete on the second story. Again, a whole lot of work to play a game it seems to me.

So, there's a place, a game plan, a whole lot of participants, and a desire to run around and shoot little balls of paint at a pretty fair velocity at each other. As I said, I don't know why....
In addition to the prospect of bruising from paintball strikes, players deal with bugs, including the ever popular chiggers; poison ivy and poison oak; sometimes unbearable heat; and occasional rain. And this is FUN! A great time! Worth the trip!

I don't know why.

Boys and their toys....

The D-Day Adventure Park is also the site of several motorsport events. Most recently the annual Bike and Jeep rally was held. The above vehicles are little-modified examples of wheelin' rigs. These are probably roadworthy, as is our Cherokee. Yet it is amazing the places they get driven. Why? To see if ya can, I guess.

These guys are barely recognizable as Jeeps. Most start out as Wranglers, but the current machine has little of the original Jeep left. Huge tires with bead locks require beefed up axels and so forth.
The object seems to be to drive in the most unlikely place and not break down. Our Cherokee is just meant to get us to the places to watch the big boys make attempts. I honestly think some of these rigs could drive up the side of a house and over if there was no overhang to stop them. There is a social aspect to it too. These guys wheel in groups, which is a necessity to help out when someone breaks down or turns over.

You can see how a person might roll down one of these hills. They wheel at night out here too. Adds another dimension, I guess. I wasn't there, but Brian rolled his rig Friday night. The thing about it is that they aren't going fast, and Brian and his passenger wear five-point harness. That's in addition to the cages added to the stock vehicles. As a matter of fact, Brian fabricated the cage on the yellow jeep in the foreground. That jeep used to be painted like a black and white cow before this owner repainted. Anyway, after working with electricity and amonia, racing motorcycles, and riding hurtling- death-machine four-wheelers, rock crawling is one of Brian's safest hobbies yet.

Also Friday night, some guy was out in the park by himself (not wise--rookie mistake) and he broke down. After wandering around in the woods for awhile, he made it back to camp. Problem was he had so disoriented himself that he wasn't sure where the jeep was. He also had a motorcycle and wanted to go on the poker run, so he just went and decided to find the jeep later. Go figure.

This orange and blue tiger-striped rig is Brian's. It's actually not the most recent incarnation, which has some added features including a longer wheel base. He does all of the work himself, so it's a more affordable hobby for him than it is for most. I heard that most rigs range in price from $16,000 to $150,000. Yep, it's a significant chunk of change. Why do it? I don't know.
On a much more somber note.... Why do people put themselves in harm's way? It's clearly an element of many hobbies. People permanently injure themselves or lose their lives in hobby- related incidents. On Saturday there was a fatality accident at the event. Things got really bad really fast. Jeeps and trucks were running down through the mud in an area marked off for the activity. The boundaries of the run are separated from spectators by big concrete pipes lined up as a barrier. Bleachers are set up for spectators. Past the bleachers some rigs were parked with their front tires up on the pipes. There were people who decided to sit on the pipes thinking that the worst that could happen was a splattering of mud. That would have been the worst had all gone well. Unfortunately that wasn't the case. A fast mud-truck entered the lane revving the motor and showing off. He started through with pedal to the metal, got turned sideways, and evidently thought he could ride it out. He didn't let off on the gas, the truck jumped the barrier, and it turned over on some spectators. I knew someone had to be dead out of that deal. A young woman originally from Guam on her first visit to the park lost her life. Five others were injured, one seriously. He was med-flighted out with a broken leg, shattered pelvis, and a head injury. A couple of others left in ambulances. Really bad deal. It was the first incident of that kind of seriousness to occur out there. The events have been going on for years. What was different? Carelessness, I suppose.
Why did it happen? Why those people? I don't know. Maybe just because....

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