A few months ago, Chad and I decided to volunteer to do crowd control for the Rocky Mountain Vintage Racers street race in Snowmass. We would be responsible for controlling pedestrian and vehicle traffic. The only better view of the race was had by the corner marshals. A big motivation for me was that the volunteers had the opportunity to run laps at Woody Creek the next day. If a free track day is involved, sign me up!
It takes a lot of people to put on a street race. A race at a track requires people to do race control, deal with the grid, and maybe a dozen corner stations. You need all the gear for those people: radios, flags, fire extinguishers, brooms. You have to be able to get the corner workers to their stations, make sure they have food and water, and you have to be able to collect them at the end of the day. For a street race, you have all that plus the town’s police department, fire department, emergency workers, and enough volunteers to control vehicle and pedestrian traffic. Before the event, somebody has to place barriers and signage and when we’re all done it all gets taken down. Oh, and there’s a massive communications effort to keep the citizenry informed.
I kept wondering just how many people were involved. I’m guessing about fifty people were required to do race control, grid, and corner workers. Another fifty for crowd control. Add in another handful of folks in supporting roles and you may be approaching 120 people. That’s before you add in the town’s side of it. And, of course, the sixty or so drivers and their support. It’s a big operation.
Our plan was to leave Denver late afternoon Wednesday, drive over Independence Pass, and check in at the hotel before ten. Thursday would start with a 7:30am meeting, then get into our positions until 5:00pm followed by a nice dinner starting at 6:00. Friday would be Woody Creek, leaving for home no later than 4:00pm. A couple of nights in a hotel, a couple of tanks of gas, a couple of pleasant days in the Colorado mountains. Sounds like a plan.
We were told that we should bring fold up camp chairs, water and snacks, sunscreen, hats, sunglasses, a fully charged cell phone, and a cooler or backpack to carry it all in. We’d be spending two nights, so we needed a couple changes of clothes. Because I wanted to run laps, we would also need our helmets. Of course, we stood no chance of getting all this into the Elise with us so we crossed off a few of the items. No chairs or coolers for us.
After all the final adjustments, we managed to be out the door before four, which meant we’d get over Independence Pass before total darkness. It was a beautiful drive. The aspen are just beginning to change. We went up I-70 then over Fremont Pass to Leadville, where we had burritos. The highlight of the drive is Independence Pass. The sun hadn’t set yet, but the road was in shadow on the eastern end of the pass. It was dusk as we descended the western side. We had to keep a keen eye out for wildlife. We saw goats, deer, and an elk.
September 14: Race Day
We were out the hotel door before seven and went to the Westin, next door, in search of food and drink. Oddly, there was none to be had until seven when the Starbucks downstairs opens.
Our Crowd Control meeting was held immediately after the corner workers meeting, so we got started a little late. The meeting was pretty quick: “Here are the position assignments, here are radios, we put the ladies closest to the porta-potties, We’ll be closing and opening the track for traffic all day, no lunch break but we’ll hand out sandwiches. Bring your radio back or you don’t get a dinner ticket.”
On the way out the door we were to collect a whistle, ear plugs, a t-shirt, patch, and poster, and our credentials. I only saw one sort of badge and grabbed it, but it turned out to be the incorrect one. The corner workers badge was blue and said “On Track Access”. The crowd control badge was green and said “Trackside Access”. I grabbed the blue one in error.
I was in CC 11, which was the western end of the driveway for Tamarack townhouses on Carriage Way. Corner 12 was directly across the street, and Chad was posted at the driveway next to them. And the porta-pottie was there.
It’s a fairly steep uphill section. I first see the cars below me, to my left, as they exit an off-camber right turn. They’re wide open throttle from there until they reach my position, where they enter a braking zone for the left hander above me on my right. It’s my job to keep people behind the tape and stopping anybody from exiting the driveway. I was to keep them the double-taped areas entirely.
They say “three is a crowd”. That’s about what it was for me. I only had to deal with one car, a bicyclist, and a few pedestrians all day. When the track was open to traffic, I’d stand at the top of the driveway. One of the corner workers at 11 said if he was driving, he’d want to put his right front tire right where I was standing. The instructions were to keep people thirty feet back, which I paced out to be at a seam in the asphalt. An easy reference point.
I put myself a few feet up toward the track. Through some trees, I could see the cars slide into view at the bottom of the hill. The cars roar up the hill and pass my driveway. I’m standing a few feet below the road, so the cars go by at eye level. There are three classes: small bore, big bore, and open wheel. When the big bore V-8’s blast up the hill it’s a very visceral sensation. I’m not particularly a V-8 fan, but there’s no denying the spectacle.
I have so little to do when the track is open that I spend a fair amount of time across the street visiting with Chad and our corner workers. They aren’t RMVR regulars, but were in town with the Porsche club who had an event on Saturday. They were a hoot. He wore the radio headset all the time and couldn’t hear us well. He clearly operated on the principle that if he couldn’t hear us, we couldn’t hear him, so he tended to yell a lot.
The corner workers were on a different channel than crowd control. Ours was almost non-stop chatter of about three stations up at the paddock and grid. A litany of “I’m sending one down, a white F-150” or “Three down, the last one a green Mazda” and once a “UPS coming down.” I did get to make call one time to say some people were in front of the tape at a station below me.
Our corner workers kept us informed. He’d signal five minutes to track closing. When the track was open, cars could go one way, counter to the race direction. We closed the track when a police car would pass us, making eye contact with each volunteer and announcing that the track was closing. He’d come by again after the session and the track would be open.
Early on, there was nearly a coming together right in front of me in the small bore group. One car catching another, got a bit unsettled by getting a bit of curb, came within inches of the car in front. That said, the event was fairly accident free. A BMW hit a barrier lightly, causing some front fender damage. A Mercury Comet was said to have caught fire, and somebody hit a hay bale.
The morning was gorgeous, and the time passed fairly quickly. After lunch, though, was a different story. Clouds had been accumulating. We had a short shower and later got hit with a bit of a downpour. We even had sixty or ninety seconds of light hail. A session for the big bores started in the dry but encountered a moderate shower. Only one of the cars had windshield wipers, but it didn’t seem to slow them down much. Then lightning was reported seven or eight miles away.
We stopped the race and they brought the truck around and picked us all up, drove us to a covered area where we waited for the storm to pass. Of course, to get back to our position with one-way traffic, we got to go around the whole course. From my place, I could also see a downhill section of Bush Creek Road. I was wondering why they weren’t going faster. Turns out there were several hay bale chicanes.
This interruption broke the flow of things; seemed to make the day longer, forced a recalibration of the schedule. Entropy set in a bit, instructions were announced, then quickly countermanded. Still, given the circumstances everything went off without any major issues.
It was raining again before Robert came by in the van to collect us after the last race. Everybody reconvened in the room we had our morning meetings and we had a beer. Then it was off to dinner. We took the gondola from the hotel down to the restaurant. We rode with the BMW driver who hit one of the barriers. He showed us a photo; the damage didn’t look to bad, but that’s easy for me to say.
They had closed the restaurant for us and we packed the place. Chad and I were among the first to arrive. Nobody asked for our tickets, other than the guy at the door who was curious what they looked like. I had the pulled pork, corn bread, and raisin coleslaw.
I had a good time, really enjoyed the day. I talked to a couple of locals who said the village was more crowded than usual for this time of year – summer over, but the aspen not yet turned. They enjoyed seeing the cars and said they thought it was a successful event. If they do it again next year, I think I’ll volunteer again.