By Eric Cachinero
“Riding camels is dangerous. You could break your arms, legs; you could easily break your neck. It’s serious; not just some pinochle game.” This is how Joe Hedrick, announcer for the International Camel Races in Virginia City, gives me the crash course prior to my debut as a camel jockey.
Before I have time to rethink my decision, I’m perched atop a camel in the starting gates. Suddenly, the gates fly open and my camel begins to gallop down the track. To my surprise, we’re in first place. We make the turn, and just as victory seems inevitable, my camel makes an executive decision to spin in circles instead of proceeding the 15 yards remaining to the finish line.
Though my camel and I aren’t immortalized in Virginia City lore, I walk away with my third-place ribbon, feeling lucky that I don’t have to look back on Hedrick’s warning from a hospital bed.