Maquoketa track lets radio-controlled car drivers practice
MAQUOKETA, Iowa (AP) — Fred Yule underestimated the turn.
His racer flew down the back stretch of the track as he kept a gloved hand steady on the wheel. But the speed was too fast and the turn came too late.
The car slammed into the wall and somersaulted over the barrier. Tumbling downhill, the sound of crunching plastic could be heard from the sidelines before the vehicle came to a sudden stop in the grass.
Yule walked over to the wreckage, picked up his vehicle and sat it back on the track. A few pulls of the accelerator were met with the buzz of an electric motor, and the car hurtled down the asphalt again.
Yule smiled. He's always wanted to improve his turning, and now he can.
"I'm not that good, but at least I can practice now," Yule told the Telegraph Herald . "I used to only be able to do this in empty parking lots."
A resident of Mechanicsville, Iowa, Yule drove 45 minutes Thursday to run his radio-controlled car around the new RC park in Maquoketa for a few hours.
For the past few weeks, he and many other RC car enthusiasts from throughout the region have descended upon Maquoketa to test out the park, driving for as long as their car batteries will allow.
The park itself is nothing more than a collection of three tracks. But to RC fans, it's like Disney World came to Iowa.
"Nothing like this exists in the whole area," said Tyler Johnson, of Maquoketa. "It's amazing that we can come down here and have a place to play and drive around."
Despite its brief existence, the park already has earned a devoted following. An online group has been formed, impromptu racing events have been held and an old, banged-up, black "crawler" car named Judy has been given the title of park mascot.
All of this is the result of an idea concocted by Maquoketa resident Shane Halverson, who proposed the park to the Maquoketa City Council. Halverson also built the tracks himself.
Halverson grew up driving and modifying RC cars, and he passed that hobby on to his children. But, for many years, there was no place to take the cars, unless they were willing to drive over an hour to find a private track.
Even then, it wasn't a sure thing that the private track would be open.
Halverson said he knew that there are a large number of tri-state residents who own RC cars, and he wanted to create a park where they all could go to drive.
"This is the only public RC park in the state of Iowa," Halverson said. "People had no place to go with their cars, so they had to drive them on the streets. Now, they have a place."
With $3,000 from the city, Halverson constructed three tracks on an empty space near the Jackson County Fairgrounds. Each track serves a different RC car specialization.
An asphalt loop is designed for cars aiming to reach top speeds, which Halverson said can be as fast as 40 mph. A dirt course allows for races with unpredictable turns and ramps. And the obstacle course made up of wood planks and concrete rubble allows for "crawlers" to slowly navigate narrow walkways and treacherous terrain.
Yule only took up modifying and driving RC cars about a year ago, but it didn't take long for him to get hooked.
"I used to race real cars, but I'm too old to do that now," Yule said. "This is the next best thing."
For Yule and many other RC car enthusiasts, finding a place to drive has been a consistent challenge. Some have gone so far as to build courses on their own property.
Brandon Bries, of Guttenberg, Iowa, built a track on his property with his friend after the two struggled for years to find a place to race. He believes the hobby is continuing to grow, but space to play has been limited.
"There just aren't that many places open to the public," Bries said. "This new park in Maquoketa goes a long way to helping alleviate that."
Although Halverson has been surprised by the success of the park, he wants it to grow. In the spring, the park will begin holding official racing events, and he intends to continue to expand the obstacle course.
More than anything, though, he just wants RC car enthusiasts to know that they finally have a place to race.
"I hope everyone comes to try it out," Halverson said. "I've been letting people use my cars to try it out for the first time. I want everyone to see how fun it is."
Information from: Telegraph Herald, http://www.thonline.com
An AP Member Exchange shared by the Telegraph Herald.