Monday, December 28, 2009

Behind the Scenes at the UAR

Producing the New Belgium Urban Assault Ride across the country is a unique job to say the least. We meet 1000's of people (literally) and usually these folks are trend setterss who like fun, creative things. Accordingly, we have some pretty darn interesting experiences. Here are a few of the stories:

Two fries short of a happy meal: Austin's UAR is the oldest and biggest in the series. In order to produce this one, we need LOTS of everything. We had an idea for a 'human bumper car' obstacle and needed enough big inner tubes for at least 10 teams to do the obstacle at a time. We tried to source these tubes in Colorado, but since most tires are are tubeless these days, huge 18-wheeler size inner tubes are not as easy to find as you'd think. So the plan was to get them close to Austin - in New Braunfels - home of Schlitterbahn and tubing on the Guadalupe river. When we got there, we wanted to make sure that all the tubes were leak-free, so all 24 tubes were inflated. Realizing that 24 huge tubes would not fit in back of a cargo van, the tubes were then deflated. If you've ever deflated a bike tube by pushing in the pin of a schrader valve, you know this takes a bit of time. Now imagine the time for a 18-wheeler tube. Now multiply this by 24. So the solution was to go buy a valve core remover which made things a little bit faster.
This operation took the good part of a day and this was only 1 of 10 obstacles to set up. Yet - we had the tubes in hand as well as all the moving pieces for the obstacle to work (thanks to the good folks at Rogue Running found plenty of 'runners' willing to run around in 100+ degrees bumping 1000+ participants for 4 hours). Then Saturday night we started to inflate the tubes. We had two air compressors to use, but one decided to go kaput. It was taking about 10 minutes for a small compressor to inflate each tire. That would be 4 hours of inflating - which we didn't have the night before the big day AND we'd love to get a little sleep too.

Plan B - get help from a partnering bike shop (nope - everybody's closed).

Plan C - go to a gas station and use their compressor.

I went down to a gas station on the east side of Austin around 1am in the morning. Not the best place to be as I had a 1/2 dozen folks approach me for money. I gave the gas station attendent $5 and told him to keep it running - yet the machine would turn off after a couple minutes, so I had to keep running back inside so the attendant would turn it back on. Although we now had me at the gas station (running back and forth between the compressor and the attendant) and another crew on hand with the original compressor - it was still taking WAY too long.

After awhile I figured I'd get a bit resourceful. I asked a scraggly white bearded fellow to help me inflate the tubes and I'd be happy to pay him for his labor. He was more than willing. I provided clear instructions to how to inflate the tube, how big it should be, what to say the attendant, and where to put the tubes when inflated. Then I drove back to Rogue to pick up more tubes to be inflated. When I got back to the gas station - I was blown away to find a whole assembly line in place. Seems that my new vagrant friend rallied the troops for assistance. One guy waited by the attendent, one was on the inflator, one was stacking the tubes. It was an impressive operation to say the least. In no time, all the tubes were inflated and I had a crew of guys very satisfied with their work. I gave the ring leader a $20 and then they all started to argue over who should get what amount. Then I proposed they buy a 12 pack to share. Their eyes lit up with the possibilities of this fortunate bounty. They put the $20 to good use, bought a 30 pack of bud light and a couple of king-size snicker bars. I came by a bit later and took their picture....

More stories coming soon....

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