Tune In to Your Inner Motor Skills

LARRY VOLLUM is the quintessential Portland eclectic—on steroids. Two years ago, the industrial designer invented the NuBOOM, a revolutionary video and equipment manager that transforms a standard hospital operating room into a state-of-the-art theater. But beyond work, he has two passions: zeroing in on top-flight solo piano concerts and driving a Formula 1000 race car. What’s the connection? "Racing requires a level of focus, intensity, total commitment, doing something powerful on a physical level," says Vollum. "So does live concert piano—I like to see where these performers are going to take us." And in Portland, it’s easy to find out. More generous than a college student downloading music for friends, Vollum welcomes visiting concert pianists for workouts at his rural retreat, a family tradition passed on by his pioneering parents, Tektronix co-founder Howard Vollum and leading philanthropist Jean Vollum. But in his winged, tree-frog green colored car he’s all solo. "The track is the perfect vehicle, so to speak, to learn how to drive in fun but appropriate ways," he says. "I’m not running red lights and screaming around town—do that on the track."

PAIRING LARRY VOLLUM’S POLAR PASSIONS

Portland Piano International: Great hall, great performers, affordable prices. But most important, solo piano recitals are increasing rare. "Portland is about local, sustainable food culture," he says. "This is the opposite: selecting from the best in the world and creating a robust piano culture here." The season opens October 10 with Joaquin Achucarro, the venerable Spanish pianist, as expressive as a Goya painting. $14-54. Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway. portlandpiano.org

Portland International Raceway: From late-night drag races to weekly bike races, PIR has something for almost anyone on wheels. For Formula fantasies, however, Vollum suggests the many car clubs. "It’s driver education made fun. You can’t go up on the hills and learn what you can learn on the track." portlandraceway.com

Join the Cross Crusade

UNDER THE PRESSURES of co-founding and directing programs for P:ear, a downtown homeless youth support center, Beth Burns developed a pack-a-day cigarette jones. A natural athlete, she found she could still compete in triathlons—as long as she got her pre-race puffs. But after attending just one meet of the Cross Crusade, Portland’s crazed wedding of cyclocross and community, Burns found a new addiction. Soon she was on a bike in the mud, nicotine patch in place. Three years later, she’s one of the regulars helping the Crusade remain the largest regular gathering of cross bike racers in the country. The beauty of the Crusade’s success, she says, “is you don’t have to be good at it.” Mountain bikers aren’t afraid to look clumsy. Unicyclists and sometimes even dogs race. On Halloween, everyone competes in costume. “Cyclocross has changed my life,” says Burns. “There’s such a sense of community, and it’s all about enjoyment.” Indeed, she’s only rarely smoked since.

BETH BURNS’S PATH TO CYCLOCROSS ADDICTION

1. Show up. There’s a beer garden (even in the morning). Bob’s Red Mill serves oatmeal.

 

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Image: Ryan Flood

Beth Burns races in the 2009 Cross Crusade.

2. Bring mud boots, serious rain gear, and a cowbell. Ringing the bell is how people root for the racers. Some are even custom-made. The ringing is constant and LOUD.

3. Borrow a bike. “That’s how tons of people get started.”

4. Keep your sense of humor and be willing to make a complete fool of yourself.

5. Get ready to get dirty. Cross Crusade starts in October when the rain—and the mud—gets thick. It’s absolutely filthy fun.
crosscrusade.com