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Star-Bulletin Features

Thursday, April 13, 2000

By George F. Lee, Star-Bulletin
Above, Milton and Fay Galase have a go at boxcar
racing at the ABCRI Box Car track in Pearl City.

Fun in a box

Weekend daredevils rule at
the American Box Car race track

My turn at the wheel

By Nancy Arcayna
Special to the Star-Bulletin


TREVOR McIntyre looked every bit the responsible dad as he pushed his daughter Madison around the boxcar racing track on Waimano Home Road in Pearl City. Talk to him though, and the image changes. He claimed to have been riding himself for hours and figured poor Madison finally deserved a turn at the wheel.

"I definitely got my money's worth," he said.

Boxcar racing is not just for kids. B.C. Cowling, executive director of American Box Car Racing International, and dedicated volunteers merged their childhood dreams in 1996 to create and fund the race track adults and children enjoy today.

By George F. Lee, Star-Bulletin
David Garcia, an auto mechanic, fixes the
wheel of his box car.

Don Pierce's hobby of building boxcars combined with the determination of other volunteers to maintain the race track. Many participants have memberships and return to the track regularly.

"Our mission is to facilitate healthy family activities and keep kids off the streets," says Cowling. The activity probably keeps some adults out of trouble as well.

Rides start at the top of a slide 12 feet high and 70 feet long. The boxcars are really wooden boxes with wheels and a steering column. Because they have no engines it's pure momentum, centrifugal force and a little body language that send the cars hurtling toward the finish line.

The boxcars come in several sizes. The "sumo" car can easily hold two adults, up to 400 pounds. The youngest driver on the track was three. "The oldest driver we've seen was an 85-year-old woman ... she was having the time of her life," says Greg Pack.

By George F. Lee, Star-Bulletin
Debbie Lyon takes 3-year-old son David
out for a spin.

"We have more fun than the kids" is the general comment heard from adults. Cowling says that some adults rush in saying they can't wait to drive. Others are a bit more bashful and claim to be too old. Some even act as though their kids coaxed them into driving. Once they experience the ride, they fight with the children over the cars. Mayor Jeremy Harris is among the big kids who enjoy racing.

Milton and Faye Galase definitely enjoyed their adventure last weekend. They were celebrating their niece's birthday at the track. They claimed that the box car experience was a blast and made them feel like they were kids again as they romantically cruised down the track in the same boxcar.

"It was our first time ... it was really neat," said Milton.

"It had nothing to do with romance. I'm just not a good driver," said Faye.

The Garcia family was also enjoying a day at the track. They continually coaxed their grandma to join in the fun.

"These kids make me do all kinds of crazy things. I don't even know how to drive. I scared," said grandmother Angie Garcia. After much hesitation and encouragement, she finally headed up the ramp. Once she made her first trip with her son David, they couldn't keep her off the track.

The kids cheered "Go grandma" as she descended down the lane. Renell, Garcia's daughter claims, "We make her young again."

By George F. Lee, Star-Bulletin
Auto mechanic David Garcia takes his mom Angie
Garcia for a spin in a box car racer

Safety is an issue at the track. Instructions on driving are given, track monitors ensure that the rules are followed and there are even "time-out" chairs for those who don't listen.

Unfortunately, accidents still happen.

"There was a three-car crash earlier today. They came down the ramp and all got together" says Pack. It's not as bad as it sounds, though. Reassuringly, John White added that injuries rarely occur. "It's almost impossible to flip one of these cars over," he said.

Daring drivers can engage in the races. Public races, for driver ages 6 to 60, are held from 5 to 9 p.m. the first Saturday of each month. Cowling said the formal races are more fun because they promote competitive driving skills.

"On the track, we are all the same size. The kids often drive better than their parents ... the adults just know how to cheat better," explained Pack.

Rain doesn't even stop the races. he recalls, "One night we were thoroughly soaked, drenched and laughing. We had more fun than we ever had in our lives. It was just too much fun."

The program is run completely by volunteers of all ages. They build and maintain race cars, coordinate parties, monitor track safety, and provide a safe and fun environment for families.

Avid drivers and racers also can look forward to a new race track that will be included in the new Central Oahu Regional Park at Waiola. The track will be three times larger and will be contained in a permanent facility. The park is still in the planning stages, and no opening date has been set.

My turn at the wheel

My family enjoyed their first trip to the track. My husband became a boy at the wheel, although my son seemed embarrassed when his dad lost a race to a small kid.

One trip down the track was enough for me. It was lots of fun, but I felt they would need to empty the track to ensure everyone else's safety.

I whizzed down the track, illegally crossed into the next lane and cutting off a poor child before I made my way to the finish line.

No, I didn't want to beat the kids. I'm just a crazy driver. The ramps and sharp corners were just too much for me. The grandmothers definitely deserve some credit.

The whole experience dredged up memories of my adventures at the ice-skating rink.

While struggling to make my way around the ice, a boy reminded me of my lack of skill and coordination. The boy poked me in the back and with a small voice said, "Move it along lady, can't you go any faster?"

--Nancy Arcayna


Bullet What:Boxcar Racing
Bullet When: 4 to 8 p.m. Fridays; 1-5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays
Bullet Where: 1200 Waimano Home Road
Bullet Cost: $6 for up to four hours; $180 for a three-hour private party for up to 45 people. Birthday party bookings, memberships and other packages are also available.
Bullet Call: 947-3393

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