M & I went back to Pittsburgh this past weekend for Spring Carnival at Carnegie Mellon. It is great because we get to see friends, talk about the old days and watch buggy races. What is buggy you ask? Well sit down and let me tell you. Where to begin…
The buggy races started in 1920 as a chariot type race with one person who would push the buggy up the hills and jump in to drive. Basically, this guy did it all. In 1953 when the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity came out with a buggy that had a student lying down designs shifted. Today buggies are only a little larger than the people who drive them, are made out of the lightest material people can get their hands on and are manned by teams that can have upwards of 20 people. The main jobs are drivers, mechanics and pushers. The competition is split into two divisions: men’s, in which the men push the buggies, and women’s, in which the women push.
Since I used to be a driver, that is where I will start. Drivers are usually the tiniest women that can be found on campus, although at almost 5′-2″ I was an exception to that rule. After donning spandex (I swear it was all just an excuse for men to see small women in tight clothing) in order to fit into the buggy the driver get in face first less than two inches above the ground. At top speed, the fastest of these buggies will go about 45 mph.
The other half is in the design and mechanics of the buggies. Keeping the buggy in perfect running order is the obsession of the mechanics. This is a huge commitment that takes up all free time and if they aren’t careful, class time as well. Many a mechanic has been invited to go on Dean’s vacation because of buggy, and while that sounds nice, it is really just the University telling you to take a semester off and get your priorities straight.
Lastly are the people who make the buggies fly, the pushers. There is no power to the buggies other than the students who run behind them, pushing them up the hills on the course. There are 5 pushers in all: hill 1 and 2, then the buggy freerolls for a while until it is picked up by hills 3, 4 and 5.
The team that I was a part of was called Spirit. Back in my day Spirit was a top contender. We set the women’s record in ’92 and then again in ’95 (although it has since been broken) and we still hold the men’s record of 2:06:02 from 1988.