The video above isn't the same year I was in it, but it's the same derby, same fairgrounds, and the same idea. If you want to get a feel for what it was like - watch the video.
Here is how it went: I was in my early 20s and had just retired my old car. For years I had joked about burning it or crashing it. One day, my stepdad suggested I should enter it in a demo derby, which sounded crazy, but super fun. So, that summer I was helping my Step-Dad work on my 1969 Buick Electra for the Sanders County Demolition Derby in Plains, Montana.
While this model is about the same, mine was beat up and I hated that car with a passion. I had just bought a new Suburu and I couldn't think of a more fitting death for that old beast than a demo derby.
The car was 22 feet long, heavy and was already basically destroyed. The body was rusting, the paint old.. The brakes were bad, the steering was loose and it just wanted to go fast. It was actually a dangerous old car. We removed all the glass, the inside door panels, painted a number and my name on the side.
The day of the derby, my Step Dad loaded the car on a trailer and we headed from North Idaho to Montana. I was nervous and on the brink of chickening out the entire time.
When it was time to drive into the arena I reminded myself of my goals. The goal is to use the back end of your car to hit the front end of other cars. That way you protect your engine and the radiator.
The rules were simple, don't hit another car's driver door, everything else was fair game. The drive into the arena took forever and my future husband and step dad walked alongside the car giving me advice. I was sweating and wishing I had never committed to doing such a silly thing.
There were 18 cars and they lined us up in 2 lines, back-ends facing each other.
My photos of this event are in storage, but this is what it looks like.
My heart was racing and in the crowd I could hear my family and friends yelling advice and thoughts, it was hot and dusty in the arena and with no windows in the car my eyes were already feeling gritty. The announcers took forever introducing the cars and my hands began to sweat. I had my step dad's awkward fitting helmet strapped under my chin, and my hands were shaking.
Finally the count down.. I could barely breathe, as I tried to calm my brain down and focus on what to do ... Like all the drivers I put the car in reverse and prepared to back up as hard as I could into the car behind me. I took a deep breath... and when the flag dropped I hit the gas and prepared to ram the car coming from behind...
The noise was a bit overwhelming as the cars revved their engines, spun their tires and the crowd yelled, the announcer's voice droned on, but I could no longer hear his words. The flying dirt from spinning tires was in my face and eyes, and I was in a bit of a panic. The air was filled with smoke, from dripping oil, flat tires and the occasional engine fire.
Finally, contact.... As I backed as fast as I could into a car that was also backing up at me, the crash was shocking when we hit. My helmet came down over my face and my contact popped right out of my eye on contact. I was a bit stunned. As I struggled to fix my helmet and realized I was not going to find my contact another car was in position to back into me again. My heart was still pounding and the adrenaline made it hard to focus. Someone who recovered more quickly than I did, stuck the front passenger door of my car, sending my helmet flying again and my car died on impact.
This is the funny part, I tried to restart the car, but it just clicked I paused for a few moments and watched the others crash into each other not really sure what to do. As my attention turned back to my own car, I realized that I had to put the car in park to restart it, and she fired back up.
That's when I realized the wreckage of cars around me was blocking my path to trying to ram the other cars that were still running. I had to work my way around and during that time, the other cars that were still running were bashing on each other, and my car wasn't that damaged yet. By panicking in the beggining, I actually got a chance to recover and get my bearings.
The rest is a blur of crashing and smashing and I got the mad nervous giggles, which also made me look crazy. :) In the end there were three cars left, and really I didn't drive that well, I got lucky that those two were fighting each other and my car lastest slightly longer than the person who got third.
By the time the whole thing was over I won second place and $500 bucks. (which paid to replace my contacts) I received a ton of attention in a small town that didn't have a lot to do besides go to fairs and talk about demo derbys. My broken car and the photos sat out front of the local gas station for a while and I received a trophy as well.
I had legit whiplash for days and although I never want to do it again, it was a super fun experience and I am glad I did it once.
I am not even a car person, I don't really enjoy driving and I have no idea what possessed me to such a thing. :) Just writing this down though I felt the anxiety and rush of the day and once again a flash of entertainment for making a crazy choice.
Ever done something oddly crazy and completely out of your daily life?