Sunday, July 17, 2016, was the date for the Obainium Cup Car Rally. Lillian and I attended. The event is put on by the Obtainium Works art car studio and artists’ collective on Pennsylvania Avenue in Vallejo, CA. The event itself was at Alden Park on Mare Island, due west (across the river) from Vallejo.
This was the fifth Obtainium Cup Rally, and participants maneuvered their human-powered or gas-powered vehicles through a course that led them through serious, serious obstacles, like flying monkeys, zombies and the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party.
Before the rally started at 3:00 pm, though, there was plenty of time to study the vehicles, wander the booths and generally check out a dedicated group of steam-punkers in their never-was-Victoriana finery. You could buy plenty of steampunk hats, necklaces, goggles and corsets and there were booths with fabric artists and other jewelers as well. It wasn’t a huge gathering, but there was a good variety.
The buildings that surround the park, some Second Revival style mansions, the functional and powerful red brick buildings of the former naval base, and one or two Second Empire style buildings give this event the proper historical feel, and a nice edge of other-worldliness, since many of these buildings are still vacant. There is a humming steam-punk vibe to the area around the park, and as Lillian and I walked around, in the bright summer sun through the still, warm air, I was imagining a horror movie filmed here; turned on its head and set in midday in broad daylight.
But then we were on to the rally!
The vehicles are released by a marshall; it’s not a race, it’s a rally, and the control of the “pack” gives the hazards time to get set up. We watched the flying monkeys, and I don’t think anything could have beaten that for fun, exercise, and sheer silliness. The first two vehicles sent on their way were bicycle-like, and both participants were obviously old hands at the rally, because when they saw that the flying monkeys were not quite ready, they looped around and rode in a circle for a minute or two. Then they braved the hazard, dodging plushy animals shot at them from repurposed confetti cannons.
We didn’t walk all the way down to the zombie hazard because it was at the far end of the course, but we did check out the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. While a good idea in concept, I thought the execution was poor; there were several stations or “trials” (my word, not theirs) each participant had to stop at, all from Alice in Wonderland, and it looked like the first one was actually a judging booth. Anyway, can you say “backlog?” Lillian and I walked along to look at the stations and made it all the way to the Red Queen’s court before the first rallyist caught up to us.
On the other hand, we were walking through a beautiful parklike area of lush grass, beautiful trees, some native, some introduced… and headstone-like bunkers, another reminder that this tranquil place was a former naval base. And, ghosts, or at least one ghost, are real.
If you follow 8th Street down to Nimitz Avenue you are at the waterfront, and due east across the street is the city of Vallejo. You can see the ferry landing and a park from the waterfront. It’s a view of Vallejo I’d never had before.