Turn a Bull City summer into a winter wonderland in seven X-treme, legal(ish) steps | Arts Feature | Indy Week
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Turn a Bull City summer into a winter wonderland in seven X-treme, legal(ish) steps 

Urban bobsledding INDY editors risk life and limb so you don't have to.

Photo illustration by Alex Boerner

Urban bobsledding INDY editors risk life and limb so you don't have to.

Tina offered several lovely ways to find some winter fun in a Raleigh summer, but if you live in Durham, sucks for you, because you're going to have to settle for me as your tour guide.

Start your summer snow day with something invigoratingly X-treme: Bobsled down the ramp of the parking garage at Main and Corcoran. As anyone who works downtown knows, this is the dramatic spiral staircase of exit ramps. It makes leaving work feel like going to your debutante ball. Yes, signs command that you "Do Not Walk On Ramps," but who said anything about walking? We suggest a shopping cart for barreling down four levels of corkscrewing concrete chaos.

As the photo verifies, the INDY staff safety-tested this idea, and we can assure you that it's hideously unsafe. The banked edge will probably keep you from toppling down into the street, though it will also easily spill you onto the ramp. Just don't blow it at the bottom by shooting out into rush-hour traffic or getting decapitated by the exit gate. And for the love of God, don't tell the deck attendant we sent you. (Sorry, Calvin.)

If you come through the juddering descent intact, you'll be pretty shaken up. To relax, stroll around the corner to Main Street and feed the penguins at 21C Museum Hotel. Sure, you could see real penguins being fed at Greensboro's Carolina SciQuarium, but you can do it here without wading into the ethical dilemmas of animal captivity as entertainment or supporting an institution that came up with the portmanteau "SciQuarium." And you don't have to worry about that nasty fish smell, because hot-pink art penguins don't eat fish. They eat money (and the two bottom levels of the garage you just careened down).

Durham is so littered with construction materials that it looks almost post-apocalyptic, but there's an upside—use the bricks piled on practically any street corner to build a brickman. It won't melt, and while brick is less expressive than snow, you can give it some personality with a rebar pipe, a glass-shard nose and two eyes made out of cigarette butts. If you place an orange traffic cone on its head and it begins to dance around, run like hell. And be careful extending this idea to snowball fights, because that is basically a riot.

Now that you've had a whimsical respite, it's time to raise the stakes. Let's ski-jump off the jutting roof of DPAC. You'll have to drag some kind of ramp up there in order to build the momentum you'll need to carry you up the promontory, and we may not have totally thought through the landing. Just focus on the immortal moment when you are thrust against the sky above people coming out of Newsies.

Now that the adrenalin is thumping, you have an increased chance of survival when you try speed-skating on the Downtown Loop. With all the cardiovascular benefits of rollerblading, the competitive intensity of time trials and the thrills of dodging heavy traffic on a Gordian Knot of one-way streets, it's like the Winter Olympics meets Rollerball with a twist of Frogger, and you don't even need to bring extra quarters, because when you lose, you just die. See if you can beat the fastest time on record for completing the Loop, 38 hours.

For a cross-country winter sports experience, outfit your ELF with snowmobile runners. Will the terrible grinding sound they make on the pavement annoy pedestrians? Of course it will. But you're already driving an ELF, so what do you care? (That's my obligatory cheap shot at ELF out of the way. I don't know why I do that; it's like Jon Stewart and Arby's. And anyway, ELFs are only the second-most irritating vehicles around at best, now that trolley pubs have come to Durham).

By now, you should be running out of daylight. While you could do some table-curling at Surf Club or make a "beer scum angel" on the floor of The Pinhook, you might be ready to get out of the city after such a busy day, and are almost certainly fleeing the authorities. Instead, drive out to Lee or Chatham County to catch coal ash on your tongue. It's worth the trip—the smeared sunsets are supposed to be gorgeous, and they say no two flakes of toxic ash are exactly alike.

  • Brian Howe risks life and limb while urban bobsledding, building brickmen and fleeing the authorities.

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