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Sunday, March 15, 2009
And then a member of the Rocky team started punching Slimer
I showed up late to this year's Urban Iditarod. The details were vague and the official website didn't offer up much in the way of the whens and wheres. I figured I'd found the place when I was driving down a side street off SE Grand and spotted a few hundred costumed "dogs" running towards my car.
The annual event takes place every March and, according to an oft-quoted KATU soundbite, "there are no winners, there are no losers, there are only belligerent people." If you've never been, the Urban Iditarod is a drunken spectacle that replaces the hard-working huskies of more traditional iditarods with drunks and the sleds with shopping carts. My colleagues and I spent a few hours among the teams, learning their ways and studying their habits, but we never did figure out if there any actual rules involved in this race. At one point I found myself asking the same question that perplexed Hunter. S. Thompson during a long-ago trip to the Honolulu Marathon: "why do these mad buggers run?"
One theory: beer. Another theory: more beer. A third theory: boredom, spandex and still more beer.
That's not to say that this year's iditarod lacked any displays of genuine competitive spirit. As the dogs took off from the race's first break area in a parking lot next to Dutch Brothers, a team comprised of Rockys attempted to distract the leader of a Ghostbuster-themed team. Have you ever tried to navigate a group of inebriates attached to a shopping cart while dressed in a green spandex Slimer suit? It isn't easy, especially when you've got three Sylvester Stallone imitators slapping you upside the head.
There were many awesome teams and costumes on display during Saturday's race. No less than two teams dressed up as the Ghostbusters. There was a team of perverted Boy Scout troop leaders, a team comprised of butchers that kept screaming at spectators in broken Italian and, my personal favorite, the team that decided to drag around a functional Port-A-Potty instead of a shopping cart.
The Urban Iditarod isn't your traditional spectator sport. The race comes to a screeching halt every few blocks, allowing the dogs and their leaders time to pump themselves full of more alcohol. We followed the teams as far as the Green Dragon before a broken iPhone forced us to bag the race and make an emergency trip to the Pioneer Place Apple Store. So we didn't get to see any combination of drunken crashes, puking, public nudity, police intervention, or anything like that. But, hey, that's not to say that the afternoon was entirely free of highlights. I got sprayed in the face by one dog who was packing a dildo/squirt gun. Fun!
So if you go next year? You might want to leave the kids at home. You should have seen the expressions on the faces of random motorists that had to wait in traffic while the teams bombed down Belmont. As we followed them one spectator stopped to chat with a befuddled auto mechanic. Since carrying around an open container is still a serious no-no in this town, she offered him her beer, which he gladly accepted.
I figure there's at least one team still rolling through the streets of Portland in a drunken haze, madly searching for a finish line that's no longer there or maybe never existed in the first place. If I'm right about this, I figure it's the guys with the shark-cart made partially out of Pabst cans.
More photos? In a Flickr gallery? But of course. Just click here.