New Castle soapboxers’ canoe is ready to roll |

New Castle soapboxers’ canoe is ready to roll

John Gardner
New Castle, CO Colorado
Chad Spangler/Post IndependentInnermountain Distributing employees Kevin Hodgins, left, and John Lee look over the New Castle company's entry in the Red Bull Soapbox Derby on Thursday afternoon.

NEW CASTLE, Colorado ” Driving an old canoe mounted on four dirt-bike tires down a quarter-mile course at Red Rocks Amphitheater sounded like a pretty good way to spend an afternoon to John Lee and Kevin Hodgins.

“Doesn’t it look like fun?” Hodgins asked, showing off their invention Thursday afternoon in the parking lot behind Innermountain Distributing, across the river from the town of New Castle.

Hodgins, 48, and Lee, 49, work for the distribution company, which happens to be the largest Red Bull distributor on the Western Slope, Hodgins said. And when these two heard about the Red Bull Soapbox Derby, being held this Saturday, Oct. 25, in Morrison, they knew it was a competition tailor-made to fit their personalities.

“We saw it when (Red Bull) sent us some advertising stuff promoting the event,” said team captain Lee. “Kevin and I said, ‘You know we should probably get into something like that.'”

The first obstacle for them was who is going to build their craft?

“We sort of looked at each other and said, ‘Bob (Frank). Let’s have Bob build it, because he’s our mechanic and he’ll know what to do,'” Lee said.

They approached their co-worker and friend, Frank, with the idea of fashioning the old water craft, which hadn’t seen any water besides rain for the better part of eight years, into a land vehicle made for speed and agility.

“We drug it out and asked him what he could do with it and he said, ‘Well, let me see,'” Lee explained. “And each week we came here and he’s got something else done and we all kind of got into it.”

Frank became the brakeman who will ride in the rear of the canoe as it careens down the hill. Lee and Hodgins also recruited a younger co-worker, Ben Watkins, to steer the vehicle. Ironic that the two who came up with the idea found two other guys to actually ride in it.

The team has already held a test run to check for stress points and the crew’s dexterity at an undisclosed location in Garfield County.

“They clocked it at about 37 miles per hour,” Hodgins said. “And the course is going to be a lot more of an incline than what we tested it on.”

They know, because Lee took his truck to Red Rocks this past weekend, put it in neutral, and coasted down.

“I had to hit the brakes,” he said. “It was a pretty steep road.”

With turns and S-curves added for excitement, these boys know what to expect.

“It’s like a NASCAR race,” Hodgins said. “You don’t go to watch the race. I think they encourage wrecks, it gets the crowd excited.”

The five-man crew will start the race with a 30-second skit, for which they’ve recruited co-worker John Pelland of Grand Junction to be an integral part. The two-man team then has a minute-and-a-half to complete the quarter-mile course. When it’s all said and done, they will be judged on three categories: skit presentation, speed and creativity.

“You can have a fast car and still not win,” Hodgins said.

They’ve named their team The Naturals and were one of 42 teams chosen out of 150 applicants. So they are taking this event seriously. Thursday they were putting the finishing touches on their vehicle, attaching fishing rods to the rear so they can have stringers of empty Red Bull cans dragging behind.

“It’s gonna be a fun time had by all,” Hodgins said.

Something these two know all about.

Contact John Gardner: 384-9114

Post Independent, Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO

The Naturals

– John Pelland of Grand Junction ” playing the roll of Dr. Pelland in the skit

– Kevin Hodgins ” team founder, member and marketing manager

– Ben Watkins ” driver

– Bob Frank ” resident engineer and brakeman

– John Lee ” team captain

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