An oddball race, that’s as much about the whimsical as it is about the competition, returns to Mare Island in July. It’s called the Obtainium Cup, so named because many of the assembled vehicles are made up of found and recycled things, or “obtainium.”
Past entries have ranged from blinking cats to teacups to a submarine straight out of Jules Verne’s imagination. But this vessel runs on land. “We also will be opening the event to all types of contraptions, powered wheelchairs, electric bikes, pedal-powered bikes and small gas-powered contraptions,” said Kathleen O’Hare.
O’Hare, also known as Lady Impetuous, is the logistics expert for Obtainium Works, the innovative art studio that built the Neverwas Haul, a self-propelled three-story Victorian House that is 75 percent recycled materials, and has been displayed at several Burning Man events. This year, the studio’s creations are appearing on Jay Leno’s Garage and Battlebots, the fighting robot show.
Studio leader is Shannon O’Hare (Major Catastrophe), whose experience as a theatrical prop maker and set designer guides adults and children into new, creative opportunities. “We will have a number of children’s art vehicles,” said O’Hare. Youngsters will operate Morty the Tree, the Submarine, the Robot and the studio’s newest piece, Libby the Dragon. Libby is Benicia’s featured entry, made by Liberty High School Students guided by Arts Benicia.
The race is more than a bunch of quirky vehicles tackling a Mare Island road course. Entrants face obstacles. Not blockades. Not rough roads. That would be easy.
Instead, the impediments are zombies, flying toy monkeys, mad hatters and robots. Drivers must dodge the incoming monkeys. But the shuffling zombie horde wants brains for dinner, and competitors must decide whether to employ speed or deceit to outwit the walking dead. “The Obtainium Cub began in 2012 after our competition at the Grand Kinetic Championship in Arcata in 2011,” said O’Hare. “We thought that Mare Island would be a perfect setting, due to the beauty of the Shoreline Heritage Preserve, length of streets and lack of topographical challenges—hills, sand dunes, water—and lack of traffic.”
The first edition attracted just six vehicles, making the race “more of a photo shoot than a real rally,” she said. But those who entered found both the race and the art studio appealing. They became what O’Hare called “long standing crew members” as well as dedicated competitors. “Since then, we have added challenges, average about 30 contestants and welcome around 800 spectators,” she said. “The festival at Alden Park has also expanded, and includes Steampunk vendors, food trucks, a beer garden and entertainment in the bandstand.”
Steampunk? It’s a variety of Victorian speculative fiction based on such writers as Verne and H.G. Wells. It’s grown into a genre with a fan following of its own. The Bay Area has its own Steampunk convention, Clockwork Alchemy. Aficionados wear 1800s attire with goggles and gear-based accessories.
“For the past three years, we also have joined the Art Car Jam on the Obtainium weekend,” said O’Hare. The Art Car Jam is for unusual street-legal vehicles, and will take place from 11am to 6pm Saturday, July 21, on the 500 block of Pennsylvania St., Vallejo. O’Hare said the studio is contemplating a bicycle rodeo, at which children will learn bicycle safety and could win a bicycle.
The Obtainium Cup will run from 11am to 6pm Sunday, July 22, starting at Alden Park, 8th Street, Mare Island, Vallejo. Walnut Avenue between Vino Godfather at Kansas Street and the Chapel will be closed. All challenges will be within walking distance of Alden Park. Those curious about the rally and the studio may visit www.obtainiumworks.net.