This year the Mt. Ashland Mountain Bash was scheduled for the week after Wayne’s trip to Austin. I brought Miss Gulch forward in my mind once again, wondering where I might possibly find such a uniquely austere dress. I mean, asking someone to contribute a period dress that we would most likely be sending to its death was too much. And there were so many parts to collect and assemble. Then, during the week Wayne was at SXSW, the idea began to stir once again, to the dismay of my work schedule and sense of time management. Add to that, Mt. Ashland announced that it would be “The Last” Dummy Downhill. If I didn’t build Miss Gulch On Her Bicycle this time, I never would.
I went to sleep Friday night thinking, “Tomorrow I’ll give myself two hours to locate a junker bicycle. If I can’t find one in two hours, then I give myself permission to let go of this idea. That way I won’t berate myself for not having tried.”
So Saturday morning I got up and visited two Goodwill places and a landfill, coming up with nothing. With just a half hour left of those two hours, I posted messages on Freecycle and then Facebook. My good friend and fellow writer, Cindy, responded within minutes, telling me that she indeed had an old girl’s bicycle rusting in her backyard! It was perfect!
I collected the bicycle and after a quick trip to Home Depot, came home and stripped it of all modern brakes and gearshifts and spray-painted it black. Then, recalling that our last defeats were both due to a weak base structure, I set about making the strongest sled possible out of scrounged parts. I used the skis from our previous dummy and added another level of lift, using parts left over from the old closet Wayne had ripped out of our bedroom. Plus I streamlined the edges so there wouldn’t be any corners to catch in the snow. The bicycle would provide plenty of ballast.
On Sunday I created a skeleton out of pvc pipe, fitted to my proportions on the bicycle. By this time Wayne had seen my post on Facebook about the bicycle and began to suspect my plan. I knew that he would be key in providing the face, as his artwork in the two previous dummies has been superb. But I would have to convince him that the project was already on track, and all he would have to do is the face in Sculpey, which he truly enjoys, and that we wouldn’t be staying up until 3 a.m. the night before, frantically trying to finish it.
By the time Wayne returned from Austin the base was finished, the dress and hat were figured out (thanks to Goodwill and my own slim knowledge of sewing alterations), the skeleton was finished, and the turnbuckle attachment of the bicycle to the base had simply popped into my head. Maybe it was the way the funnels of the Titanic were attached that reminded me; I don’t know. Anyway, Wayne got right into it. He even remembered where he’d stashed the one Styrofoam wig form we had left. Miss Gulch was on!
There was one night where I stayed up late to attach her hair, but we pretty much glided toward Saturday on plenty of sleep, and a solid, unwavering dummy on a firm base. Early Friday evening we practiced taking Miss Gulch apart and putting her back together so there would be no surprises up on the mountain on Saturday.
I rode up to the mountain with Miss Gulch in my lap the next morning, in Wayne’s Subaru station wagon, with the base and the bicycle in the back.
It was a gorgeous day up on Mt. Ashland – sunny and warm. Upon our arrival, the parking lot guy decided to start a fresh row of cars in the front, which provided us with a dream parking space for a Saturday, right near the entrance. And get this: the people who pulled into the space next to us were from London, and had actually heard of Wayne’s favorite band: Jools Holland and His Rhythm and Blues Orchestra. As they don’t tour to America, no one around here knows about them, although they’re quite literally the house band of the UK.
We happily unloaded Miss Gulch and began the setup. One small mishap occurred when a turnbuckle bolt decided to fall off in the snow, but one of the other contestants quickly offered a replacement bolt and we improvised. I have to say, the camaraderie between the contestants was really great. We thought we might have a pretty good shot at winning, but then two more dummies arrived that left us shaking our heads in amazement: “Psy Rocks” and “Giovanni, the Dragon Tamer.” Giovanni’s creator has been doing the Dummy Downhill for six years, and each year he uses the same little doll reminiscent of Jerry Mahoney in different settings, such as a rocket ship, and a bed. He has become a beloved figure to many of us for several years, and yet had never taken first place. Psy Rocks stood upright on a platform, and not only played the actual big hip hop hit of Psy, "Gangnam Style," but also contained a mechanism which caused him to dance. Several of us thought it looked slightly like a guy having a wank, and that’s all I have to say about that. I just wanted Miss Gulch to make it over the jump this year.
Meanwhile, not wanting to be outdone, Mt. Shasta could be seen in the distance, spinning up one of the most spectacular lenticular cloud-bonnets I’ve seen in a long time. Wayne and I watched while we had a little tailgate lunch party at the car until it was time for the competition.
We would be 9th – third from last. I politely squeezed my small-sized self between two larger men and got ready to film as the race began.
Some of the dummies made it down the hill and flew over the jump – several notable, such as “The Greatest American Hero” and “Upside Down Sally.” In fact, The Greatest American Hero flew so far he crashed into the back fence. But they all landed in a heap at the bottom. Several ski-lift operations guys quickly removed the wreckage before the next entry. Then there were the dummies who didn’t make it, crashing or stopping before the jump, much like our previous entries. “The Hot Pink Puffer” unfortunately swerved and hit the side wall, flipping over before she even made it to the ramp.
Then it was time for Miss Gulch!
I zoomed in on Wayne getting her into position as a local radio DJ announced her, coaxing the crowd into a countdown. He gave her a push and she was off, picking up speed quickly. Just then I couldn't get my camera to zoom out, and although I knew Miss Gulch was heading straight for the jump, I couldn’t find her in the lens – it just happened too fast! I looked aside just in time to see her sail over the jump in perfect form! Unfortunately, most of my footage after the starting gate features wildly spinning trees and me yelling, "Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!!!!" Wayne was so excited he scrambled down the hill to congratulate me before someone offered him her ski poles to keep him from sliding down the rest of the way on his butt. Poor old Miss Gulch just went to pieces over the whole thing.
Psy Rocks and Giovanni also sailed over the jump in fine form, to the cheering crowd.
Afterwards, we hurried down the slope to retrieve Miss Gulch’s remains. Some of her larger parts were hauled up by snowmobile.
Then there was about an hour before winners were announced, which provided me with more time for skiing! As I rode the chairlift up, with my iPod blaring, the entire Siskiyou mountains before me and Mt. Shasta in the distance, still spinning her Saturday snow-bonnet, I felt so blessed. It had been a wonderful day with good weather, excellent skiing conditions, great company, and Miss Gulch made it over the jump, looking spectacularly weird. I already had everything I wanted.
I came back to the lodge at around 3:00 to find Wayne and await the final results. Miss Gulch scored a $50 Gift Card to Mt. Ashland – a bronze medal, had she been in an actual freestyle skiing competition. I think it worked out great. Giovanni the Dragon Tamer’s creator finally won a much-deserved competition, Psy Rocks was way too cool not to score, and we placed third!
I had another microbrew and spent the last hour skiing in the Miss Gulch hat.