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A-Main Raceway/Hometown Hobbies
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A-Main RacewayWhat’s to Love: When I was in 5th grade, my parents bought me a remote control car from Radio Shack. I thought it was the coolest toy I had ever seen in my life. It had a 5 foot wire that ran from the “remote control” to the car, so basically, it was on a leash the whole time. When powered-up, the car would move slowly in a straight line. The controller had a single button, which when pressed, put the car in a reverse, left-turn. Unfortunately, that was the complete steering/navigation system. That car was the epitome of a “one trick pony.” When I wanted to turn the car, I had to hit the button over and over until the car slowly pointed in the correct direction. Still, that car was the envy of the entire neighborhood. Over the past 30 years, I haven’t seen many remote control cars or trucks until recently, and wow…was I pleasantly surprised!

Traxxis RacecarYes, after 30 years, I’m once again in awe by a remote control car. Actually, it’s a truck…a “monster truck” – 1/18 scale to be precise, and it’s name is “The Raminator.” How was I introduced to this “Raminator?” Well, it was actually a birthday present for my son from his beloved grandparents. It’s pretty obvious that grandpa did some serious research and came up with a truck that is incredibly awesome! It’s electric, rechargeable, appears to do about 15-20 miles per hour (I’m not kidding!), has replaceable parts, and a range that is impossibly vast. Again, I’m sure this truck has a range of at least 100 yards. It has a very life-like suspension system that actually tilts when the truck turns. I could go on and on about the Raminator. However, that’s not exactly why I’m writing this article.

My 5 year old son Rhys and I have been anxious to get some more practice with the Raminator. If you haven’t noticed yet, it has been raining a lot lately. So, we have been trying to find an indoor spot to run this electric truck out of the rain. It needs to be a place with a racetrack to get some practice maneuver this engineering marvel – a place where dirt is the primary shredding canvas. In “A-Main Raceway,” we have found THE place to fully unleash the furry of this scrappy little truck.

Backroom prep area at A-Main Raceway in Portland, OregonA-Main Raceway is located at 8041 SE McLoughlin Blvd. It’s combined with Hometown Hobbies – a specialty hobby store for remote control cars – to give both novices and experts the sales, service and support needed to run the dirt track at A-Main. Tim Rowe is the owner of both businesses, and he also runs all the racing of the remote control cars. Yes, there are actual races at the track organized into various categories and skill levels. Tim tracks everything on a computer, posts results, awards points and prizes, and even provides running commentary during the races. Yes, it was a bunch of middle-aged guys geeking out over their cars, but the popularity of this hobby is changing the cultural landscape (i.e., kids and families are welcome). You just have to know when to go.

Racetrack at A-Main Raceway in Portland, OregonIf you’re interested in a new hobby with your kids, these new cars and trucks are so much fun! I recommend stopping into Hometown Hobbies, and they will get you setup. Getting a car or truck with enough power to run on the track isn’t cheap – look to spend at least $150 to get setup. These cars are incredibly fast with super-responsive steering. It takes awhile to get used to handling these little beasts. The dirt track is a blast with some very cool jumps, ripples and bank-turns (video below). The community is very supportive of new racers, and there is plenty of open time to practice on the track, which is only $4/hour.

Caveats: A-Main is in a somewhat awkward location right off McLoughlin. Be careful when turning into the driveway. Most cars are unaccustomed to a turn right at that spot. Once in the parking lot, you’ll probably have to wind through Sellwood to get back to your starting point; unless of course, you’re going back onto McLoughlin.

As these events get more popular, things could get a bit crowded. There really isn’t a “spectator area.” For the most part, people just gather around the outside of the track.

If your car flips over or gets stuck, someone is going to have go out on the track to get you going again. This is a bit stressful, because you don’t want to constantly be walking on the track, or having another person constantly helping you. Fortunately, people are really cool about this. I think they were all in the same boat at some point.

Website: A-Main Raceway and Hometown Hobbies

Distance from Portland: Located at 8041 SE McLoughlin Blvd., which is within 3 miles of downtown Portland. Here is a Google Map.

Recommended Ages: My son is 5, and I probably wouldn’t let him drive the truck with other drivers on the track – he’s a bit erratic. On the other hand, so am I! So, I don’t know if age is actually the deciding factor here. When others are on the track, you need to have control of the car, or you’ll wreak havoc out there.

Younger kids who may not be able to handle a car will probably enjoy watching the races.

Parental Stress Factor: Medium – I think all the people are pretty low key during practice times. They seemed to enjoy watching my son give it a try and helped when the car flipped over or got stuck. However, there is quite a learning curve involved in actually keeping control of these little machines. If there are other cars practicing, it can be a bit stressful. After all, you don’t want to smash into their car, or continually get in the way of their session. Again, this can be avoided by practicing at low-use times. Tim Rowe suggests getting there right when they open, which is noon, as the best time for novices to practice.

Physical Difficulty: No physical difficulty. There is wheelchair access around the track for watching. However, the track itself is not accessible, and the control area is also not accessible.

Family Fun Factor: This is definitely a niche adventure – not everyone is interested in remote control racing. In two visits, I haven’t seen many women or moms. However, after seeing the videos, my wife is interested in coming to watch our son give it a try during practice. There are entire families that race cars too!

Pet Friendly: No pets.

Weather Considerations: A great activity to get into during the rainy months of the year!

Lineup of cars before race time at A-Main Raceway in Portland, OregonInsider Info: To understand the rules both spoken and unspoken, I recommend chatting-up one of the friendly racers/participants, or anyone hanging out in Hometown Hobbies. These folks seem eager to explain the culture to newbies. I’ve found everyone working in the hobby store to be very friendly. It’s obvious they want families and kids to come and enjoy the track.

Bring your tools and replacement parts with you to the track. There are tables setup where you can work on your car, if it breaks down.

On Thursdays, practicing on the track is free! If you want to practice on other days/times, it’s $4/hour, which is a bargain. During slow times, it’s likely that you’ll have most of the track to yourself.

Car charging at A-Main Raceway in Portland, OregonFamily Tips: This is a pretty bare-bones facility. Don’t expect drinks and/or snacks or a place to breast feed, etc. Therefore, if you’re planning on staying a couple of hours, you may want to bring some food/drinks with you. It’s not a good place for a stroller.

The races are held on Tuesday and Friday nights. If your kids love watching these cars, you have got to come and see the live action! My son was quite enamored by the entire experience. These cars get some serious air! Plus, the expert-class drivers are amazing at keeping full control of their cars.

Technorati Tags: A-Main Raceway, indoor, remote-control, racing, RCR, cars, trucks, racetrack, race, Hometown Hobbies, Hobby, store, Portland

 

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8 Comments


  1. Hobbies evolve or change while growing, but it's sweet that you have kept in mind such a passion for many years. It was great reading your post.

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