A Day At The (Camel) Races

Camel Races in Alice Springs, Australia
Kraig Becker

The Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes are three of the biggest horse races on the planet, collectively making up the prestigious Triple Crown. Steeped in tradition, each of those events deftly mixes exhilarating action on the track with plenty of pomp and circumstance in the stands. With their large purses, competitive fields and rich histories these races are the very embodiment of the “sport of kings,” drawing plenty of attention to thoroughbred racing on an annual basis.

The residents of the town of Alice Springs, located deep in the heart of Australia’s “Red Center,” aren’t particularly impressed with the Triple Crown, however, mostly because they have a fine race all their own. In the minds of local residents, their homegrown event more than rivals those races in terms of prestige, action and unpredictability, while easily surpassing it in quirkiness. The Lasseters Camel Cup takes place on the second Sunday in July each year and features some of the finest camel racing you could ever hope to see. That is, if you should ever find yourself at an actual event that features those irritable, obstinate and down right mean animals pitted against one another on a racetrack. The sport seems aptly fitting for Australia, however, where they not only have an abundance of camels but more than a few jockeys crazy enough to try to ride them.Considering the fact that camels aren’t indigenous to the continent, they have still managed to play a surprisingly important role in Australia’s history. The animals were originally imported to the country from Pakistan, India and the Middle East back in the 1800s and were used in both the exploration of remote regions as well as in the building of the all-important Overland Telegraph Line. Eventually, camel breeders set up shop within Australia itself, providing local animals that were healthier and stronger than those that were being imported. They remained a popular choice for draft and riding animals into the 1920s when motorized vehicles came to prominence and began to replace the creatures. When they were no longer needed, many camels were set free into the rugged Outback and over the years they have grown into quite the nuisance. It is estimated that more than 1 million wild camels now wander the countryside and in an interesting change of fate, some are occasionally rounded-up and actually exported to other countries.

The Camel Cup has been built on the legacy that the animals have created in Australia but also has a colorful history all its own. Now in its 43rd year, the race began as a bet between two residents of Alice Springs who decided to settle a feud by racing one another on the backs of the unpredictable beasts. They didn’t know it at the time, but those two men were starting a tradition that would continue for decades to follow, carving out its own identity in the process. The original race was so much fun for the locals that they actually decided to continue with the event in subsequent years. The Camel Cup became an important fund raiser for the Alice Springs Lions Club, which has been involved with the event from the start and uses the money raised to help fund a number of local programs.

Camel races in Alice Springs, Austin
Kraig Becker

The most recent edition of the Camel Cup took place last Saturday, July 13, in front of a large and enthusiastic crowd of over 5000 at the Noel Fullerton Camel Racing Arena located in Alice Spring’s Blatherskite Park. That arena became the permanent home for the race in 1979 and is the only venue dedicated strictly to camel racing in the entire Southern Hemisphere. It features a 400-meter, oval shaped track, plenty of seating for fans and a press box where colorful commentators provided interesting and funny comments all day long. Local vendors also set up stands that offered any number of tasty delicacies to keep those in attendance happy and well fed.

Much like the Triple Crown, the Camel Cup consists of a number of races that take place throughout the day. Each of those races brings an element of uncertainty and randomness to the event leaving spectators to wonder just what they might see next. The stubborn nature of the camels often provides good comic relief because when they aren’t busy trying to throw their riders they often race in the wrong direction or simply refuse to run at all. At the Camel Cup it is possible to see more unexpected action on the track in a single afternoon than you would see in months of horse racing. You’ll also be more than happy to be sitting safely in the stands rather than astride one the more temperamental creatures making its way around the track.

Between races the crowd is treated to a number of other entertaining activities. Young children race on the track’s infield on hobby-camels while rickshaw races involving teams pulling each other around the track are hilarious to watch. There’s even a spirited competition amongst contestants looking to be named Mr. and Miss Camel Cup, which is a unique honor to say the least.

As a visitor to Alice Springs taking in the Camel Cup for the first time, I loved how there was an air of seriousness about the entire event, but not too serious. Some fans came dressed up in their finest clothes, as if they were going to the Kentucky Derby, while others wore silly costumes and became part of the show. The bottom line was that everyone was there to have a good time and no matter which end of the spectrum you were on, I think that mission was accomplished. I’m not positive, but I believe that even the camels were getting a good laugh out of the whole affair.

Call An Ice Cream Truck On Demand Today With Uber

Today is the hottest day yet in New York City’s latest heat wave, and the summer weather is no less forgiving in many other cities in the western hemisphere. To help beat the heat, car service app Uber is offering ice cream trucks on demand, today only from 11-5 p.m. in 33 cities worldwide. The stunt is to help promote the app’s expansion to new cities in the United States and in Australia, Europe and Singapore.

Demand is expected to be high and waits may be long, but if you want to try for a truck, download the Uber app and connect with your credit card info, request the ice cream app, and wait for one to show up in your area. Prices and ice cream treats vary, average is $25 for ice cream for five people. The full list of U.S. cities includes: Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Minneapolis/St. Paul, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco Bay area, Seattle, and Washington, D.C.

New to Uber cities include Miami, Portland (OR), Houston, Toronto, Sydney, Melbourne, Amsterdam, Berlin, London, Lyon, Milan, Munich, Paris, Rome, Stockholm, and Singapore. Incidentally, those are all cities where you can get a car and driver on demand anytime with Uber.

See all the details and get your ice cream on Uber’s blog.

Dreamy Summer Palm Springs Footage


If you want a surreal moment’s break from today’s mundane routine, check out this dreamy video of slow motion aerial footage from the Palm Springs Ace Hotel. Created by Nate Bolt, this film was shot during the “Seven Seconds of Summer” at the “Yes By Yes Yes” gathering. Palm Springs, which is situated 107 miles east of Los Angeles, is a popular vacation destination. But summertime in Palm Springs can be daunting since temperatures regularly rise to or over 110º F, which makes this video even more to the point: if you’re in Palm Springs during the hottest months, get to a pool ASAP and stay there, ideally floating slowly.

[Thanks, Laughing Squid]

Discover the Living Desert in Palm Springs

Racing Boats Made From Beer Cans At Australia’s ‘Top End’

Darwin's Beer Can Regatta raises funds for the Lions Club
Kraig Becker

Tucked away in a remote corner of Australia’s Northern Territory – known as the “Top End” in the local vernacular – sits the bustling and vibrant city of Darwin. A bit of a hidden gem for travelers, Darwin boasts warm, tropical weather all year long, not to mention some of the most spectacular sunsets that you could ever hope to see. Visitors can elect to relax on a tranquil beach, sail the open waters of the Timor Sea or venture deep into the vast and wild Outback in search of crocodiles and wallabies.

Deftly blending that famous Aussie-hospitality with a laid back vibe that is all its own, the city has a unique feel to it that is unlike any other you’ll find on the continent. While Darwin is a growing city that is likely to play a vital role in Australia’s economic future, its inhabitants certainly know how to leave work behind and have a good time. Nowhere is that more evident than the Darwin Lion’s Beer Can Regatta, an annual event that is equal parts beer bash and charity fund raiser, with a hefty dose of nautical mayhem mixed in for good measure.

As the name implies, this regatta features boats made almost entirely out of beer cans, which the owner and his friends have no doubt put a lot of effort into emptying. Those cans are then combined with a variety of other materials – such as PVC pipe, plastic water jugs and whatever other buoyant items they can find – to create a mostly-seaworthy vessel that is capable of competing against other entrants both in aesthetic value and speed out on the water.The actual regatta takes place on Darwin’s popular Mindil Beach on a Sunday in July. The most recent version was held a few weeks back and featured a variety of boat designs that both amused and impressed the substantial crowd that gathered to take in the festivities. Notable entrants included the “Crocket Ship,” which bore a more than passing resemblance to the crocodiles that are so common in the Northern Territory, and the “Grog Monsta,” a massive boat constructed from more than 50,000 cans that came equipped with a powerful water cannon designed to harass any would-be rivals.

The Beer Can Regatta is an all-day affair that includes a number of activities both on and off the water. For instance, kayak races allow youngsters in attendance to get in on the action while a spirited tug-of-war competition gives teams a chance to flex their muscles. A thong-throwing contest (the shoes not the underwear) is also quite popular with this year’s winner managing to toss his footwear an impressive 51 meters.

An entrant into Darwin's Beer Can Regatta
Kraig Becker

But the real highlight, of course, is the competition between the crews of the various beer can boats. Throughout the day they challenge one another to a variety of races in the waters just off Mindil Beach, earning prizes as they go. The enthusiastic crowd cheers them on while some of them get an early start on building their own boats for next year by emptying a few cans on their own.

Those preliminary races are just a warm-up for the real competition, however, as it is the Battle of Mindil that caps the competition and determines just who is the true champion of the event. During the battle the teams search for “booty” hidden under the water while using water cannons, flour-bombs and balloons filled with tomato juice to rain down destruction on their foes. The first few minutes of this final competition are pure chaos as the boats attack each other with little regard for finding the hidden treasure, which is simply represented by a plastic bottle tied to buoy hidden out on the course. In order to win the battle, the “booty” must be claimed and then taken to shore and delivered to the starters’ table. That gives other teams an opportunity to steal the prize for themselves, although, by that point of the competition some of the boats wouldn’t exactly be described as ship-shape any longer. Once the booty has been placed in the hands of the judges, the Battle of Mindil is over and the champion of the Beer Can Regatta is crowned.

While the event is a raucous affair that features plenty of eating and drinking, it is all done for a good cause. Sponsored by Darwin’s chapter of the Lions Club, the Beer Can Regatta is used to raise funds for a number of local causes. For 40 years the Regatta has brought the city together while managing to raise thousands of dollars that go directly back into community projects. The premise of racing boats made primarily from beer cans may sound silly, but it has some serious implications for the city.

The date for the 2014 Beer Can Regatta has yet to be decided but you can bet that next year’s competitors are already planning their entries. After all, if you want to launch a winning boat, you need to start emptying beer cans early.

Huge Summer Festival Does It All In One Day

Summer festival
John Davies/Flickr

Summer festivals and events scattered around the United States feature a variety of themes. At one event or another, there is surely something for everyone. It’s just a matter of finding one that suits our interests and getting there. Some are small, local events with a focus on interests shared by friends and neighbors. Larger, regional offerings have a more broad appeal with a national focus – like oysters.

The Milford Oyster Festival is an annual cultural festival held on the third Saturday of August throughout the city of Milford, Connecticut. Commonly called Oysterfest, the 39 year-old event is the largest, free, single-day attraction in Connecticut, often drawing over 50,000 visitors.

Held on August 17, rain or shine, this year’s Oysterfest features ’80s rock band Blues Traveler as the event headliner. At many summer festivals, the musical acts are the main draw. Not so at Oysterfest, which also features hundreds of arts and crafts vendors, amusement rides, schooner cruises, a canoe and kayak race, food court, children’s stage, martial arts demonstrations and more.Insiders start the night before on the Oyster Eve kickoff event, this year featuring Key West’s Jimmy and the Parrots, one of the nation’s foremost “Buffet Bands” and the 2012 Trop Rock Entertainer of the Year.

Oh, and oysters? The East Coast Shellfish Growers Association will serve up over 20,000 of them, also recycling the shells to seed oyster beds.

How to Shuck and Grill Oysters