categories: usa travel
Camel Races? Zebra Races? Ostrich Races? The tourism board did not have to say those phrases many times before I was intrigued.
The Virginia City International Camel Races have been held annually since 1959. This year as with the last 6 years the animals were provided by Joe Hedrick, owner of Hedrick’s Exotic Animals from Nickerson, Kansas. Hedrick used to be a rodeo clown but has been amassing a menagerie of exotic animals since 1978. The dozen camels that he brought to Virginia City are only part of his herd of 70 camels.
While most of the jockeys in competition were from the International Order of Camel Jockeys (no seriously, I swear that’s what they told me), the first day of the event also featured a number of “media races” where various journalists and at least one travel blogger / podcaster raced against each other in groups of 3 for nothing more than fame and glory.
I had no plans to actually race a camel. I have been on one before in Egypt and knew just how tall a camel is and could imagine just how painful it might be to fall from a camel. So… I have to chalk up what happened to the Nevada heat or the heat of the moment. Somehow I found myself accepting the offer to race.
We can’t say that they didn’t try and warn us of the possible dangers. They made sure we all had insurance and made us sign a release form in which this phrase particularly stuck out as I read it.
Possible risks of camel, ostrich and/or zebra races include but are not limited to the participant being stepped on, run over, knocked down, defecated on, urinated on, butted, kick, spit, bitten, dislodged, thrown, dragged by animals or carts…
I will have to say that none of those things happened to me, fortunately. But they did leave out two important warnings:
- Duck. That starting gate is rather low as this picture will attest. I hit my hat if not my head on the gate as the camels came forth in a burst of vaguely directed speed.
- As a guy, I would like to debate the wisdom of placing the saddle just behind the hump of the camel. Suffice it to say that, as soon as the camel started running my biggest concern was no longer falling off the camel.
I finished my race on the camel. I came in 3rd in a race of 3 but there seems to be some luck on very little actual steering of camels going on. I live to race another day…. or perhaps not.
Disclosure: the Virginia Tourism board was kind enough to let me enter without paying the normal $500 entrance fee. (Yes people actually pay to do this). They also put me up for two nights at Nevada’s Oldest Hotel – The Gold Hill Hotel. Good wi-fi has likely not always been available at the Gold Hill Hotel as it was during my stay since the hotel was founded in 1861.