Rambling travelogs from a world traveler

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Winter Sports

Gentle Readers,

This month, Jan 2012, I'm completely off work.  Because of my juniority in the Anchorage domicile I wound up 'getting' two vacations in the deep dark Alaskan winter.  So, I need to find something to do here in the frozen Minnesotan tundra to fill the time.  There hasn't been much snow so riding the snowmachines has been sparse.

Which brings me to this prediction by way of multiple choice question by John Leo sometime back....

The biathlon is a Winter Olympic event combining cross-country skiing and rifle shooting.  Because of its popularity, the next winter games will add this event:
    a.  Sitz bath-and-shoot match.  (Jacuzzis and Uzis)
    b.  Bobsledding and grenade throwing
    c.  Speed skating and bazookas
    d.  Ice dancing and fragmentation bombing.

None of those came to be, but we did get Red Bull's Crashed Ice, which is almost as suicidal.  This year, Red Bull chose St Paul, MN to expand their racing and built a new track on the big hilly bluff that the city commands.  It's been all over the news for the last weeks.

Click here, here, and here please to read some of these stories.  That third link has some interesting videos.

This link has some great overhead pictures of the race course and the cathedral.

Last night was the final event.  Ann, Jaybo and I decided to go down and see what it was all about.  It was a clear, crisp cold night, 19°F or -7°C if you insist on measuring temperature in communist units. So we layered up in warm clothing, loaded up the urban assault vehicle and drove off to St Paul.

Once we were there, they announced that there were 80,000 attendees.  Please imagine that for a minute gentle reader.  It's dark, it's cold and 80K humans to include some children and a few dogs bundled up and went outside to watch a group of 100 or so unemployed hockey players skate down an icy chute at break neck speeds.  The hillside around the St Paul Cathedral was a sea of humanity.

Red Bull puts on a good show - and sells a non-trivial amount of product.  The layer of thin snow was ground into a dusty powder under the masses.  You could smell the cigar smoke, alcohol and other by-products of a lot of people having a good time.

The race itself seemed to be a secondary interest for the vast majority of the attendees.  Unless you position yourself so that you can see the several Jumbotrons showing the entirety of the race you only see small segments of the race course itself.  Most people were there to watch the human race, methinks.

I forgot to take a good camera, but I did pull out my 'droid and gamely tried to record some of the scene.  Here I am standing downhill from the cathedral looking back toward the course.

Here are Ann and Jaybo in roughly the same spot.

After that we moved up onto the cathedral steps to get a closer look.  Note the state capital across the valley and the sea of humanity.

This put us in position to see this snippet of the final heats of the race.

After the race, we had intended to walk back up to St Paul's bar district and warm up in at The Happy Gnome, one of my favorite institutions offering adult beverages.  It was everyone else's favorite too.  They were doing a booming business so we left and and went to Eagan's Granite City Brewery where we arrived just in time to see the Tebow story die.  But that's another tale.....

I'm glad we went to see this.  If you are silly enough to live in Minnesota, you either sit indoors all winter and go quietly crazy or you find ways to enjoy the great outdoors.  Good clothing is the key.

On that happy note, I remain,

Dad / Geoff


1 comment:

Trinda said...

Yes, Minnesota or Northern Canada :P Cold enough for u this week?