Thursday, April 18, 2013

The End of an Era--Pinewood Derby

The last Pinewood Derby--Garrett's car is in the red lane
I have four sons that have gone through Cub Scouts.  Four sons means a whole lot of Pinewood Derby cars.  Tyler and Haydn I think both got to race two times, but Rhys and Garrett both got to race three times.  That means somewhere between ten and eleven cars over the years. 

As a Cub Scout Father, I've tried to make fast cars.  Tried and failed.  Sometimes our cars win heats, but we've never won or placed in the overall meet.  So we default to cool cars instead.  We tend to have the coolest car in the meet.

Garrett wasn't going to be able to have a third Pinewood Derby, except that my trip to Milwaukee last month meant they put off his Arrow of Light ceremony until this month so he was still able to compete.

I asked him to design a car, then we went over his design and made some refinements.  He initially wanted a car with a single central fin on it.  I had seen a small cliplight at the Dollar Store and thought, "Wouldn't it be cool to have a car with headlamps?"  I pitched the idea to Garrett and he said, "What about rocket boosters too?"

We went over to my office where I have some tools and some access to other tools and crafted the Pinewood Derby.  I allowed Garrett to use some of the tools, and when Rhys found out, he was a bit indignant because I had never allowed him to use the bigger tools.  I was very careful and taught him proper safety protocols before letting him use the tools.

Garrett at the bandsaw.  Note the safety glasses

Garrett shaping with the Dremel Tool.  Note the safety glasses

We got the car shaped and the ports ready for the headlamps and rocket boosters (which turned out to be cool beads) then we went home for the night.

Since Garrett was still in school and I had the week off in between semesters, I worked on the car during the day and had Garrett come and help me finish when he got home from school.

My office is about a hundred yards away from the US Post Office and periodically through the day I'd go and weigh the car.  We had a 5 ounce limit and no matter what I'd do, it seemed like the car was too heavy.  I'd cut and sand and drill until I came just under weight.  This was the first time in the history of the Benson boys and their Pinewood Derby's that we didn't have to add weight.  By the time we were done, we weighed in at 4.9 ounces, fully loaded.  That was enough.

When Garrett came to help me, the car was still too heavy and I drilled and chiseled a little more and he sanded.  Finally, when we knew we were under weight, we glued in all the pieces, added the wheels and painted the rig.

I cut the end off a clear plastic spoon and used the bowl part as a domed windshield.  It just looked cooler that way.  Here are a few pics of the finished car.

The Steampunk Pinewood Derby

With headlamps

The evolution of Garrett's Pinewood Derby's--The left was built for speed, the center was built for cool and the right was built for over the top!

As you can see, ours was the coolest car of the bunch

We have a man who is a Pinewood Derby enthusiast in the area and he has a really hi-tech track.  This one has sensors at the end that are hooked up to a computer and he can tell several things at the end of the race.  He can tell who won, he can tell how fast the cars were going (in scale).  His computer also ranks the cars and establishes heats based on speeds and times which makes each race more exciting rather than having one car outpace all the others, he groups them based on performance after the first heat.  It makes for a much more enjoyable night.  Each racer got to race eight times and each racer got to run twice on each track.  Just to make sure that the track wasn't corrupted I guess.

He runs Pinewood Derby events from Pocatello to Ashton.  He has quite an investment in equipment and he doesn't do it for free, but he is well worth whatever it is he charges.  This year he added sound effects.  He has the system down and it's well organized.  Pleasant time all around.  Makes me kind of sad that I won't have to be building anymore Pinewood Derby cars with my boys.

Garrett didn't win any heats and didn't place in the overall event, but his car did max out at 172 mph (in scale).  The record for that track was 194 mph, by the way.

When the race was over, the exhibition race began.  He put his loop the loops in the track and anyone with a car was allowed to run.  They call it the legends race.  Several of the boys brought some of their previous Pinewood Derby cars with them and ran them down the track.  We take the Pinewood Derby very seriously here in Idaho.

Giving instructions to the racers

I like this picture.  Garrett at the races

Heading to the finish line

"Gentlemen, start your engines"

The race begins--Lane yellow

The home stretch

Streaking to the finish line

Crash and burn at the exhibition race

After the races and awards were given, Pack Night became more serious and the scouting awards were given.  This was Garrett's last pack night and he was ushered into the Boy Scouts.  We have a ceremony called the Arrow of Light where the boy is given an arrow in blue and yellow, the Cub Scout colors and commits to living a clean and productive life.  We then exchange the neckerchief from the Weblos to the Boy Scouts.  I got to change the neckerchief.  It was a great honor for me.  Then the boy crosses over a symbolic bridge from Cub Scouts to the Boy Scouts.  At that time, the Scoutmaster then instructs the boy as to what is expected of him as a Boy Scout.

It's really a grand event.  I was really proud of my son.

I wasn't blogging when my other sons went through all this, and so I wish to dedicate this blog post to all my sons.  Know that I felt the same feelings for each of you when you advanced.

Garrett being presented with his last Cub Scout awards

The neckerchief ceremony

Crossing over the bridge

Being inducted into the Boy Scouts
This was a great night.  The passing of an era.  I'm kind of sad that I won't have anymore Pinewood Derby's to build.  I didn't think I would be, but I am.  I got a little choked up last night.

For me, I think I was looking backward but Garrett is looking forward.  I'm proud of him.

No comments: