- Associated Press - Thursday, November 26, 2015

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (AP) - When it comes to remote-controlled (R/C) cars and trucks, it’s easy to become hooked.

“I’ve been interested in them for a long time,” said Herbert Hill of Mannington, who has become a true enthusiast. “I just finally started buying them.”

That began on a snowy day last winter at Xtreme Sports at the Meadowbrook Mall in Bridgeport.

The R/C vehicles offer enjoyment, but they are more than toys. Much more.

“It’s a nice habit,” Hill said. “It’s fun. It’s really fun. It’s just having fun with the remote controls out here in the woods. Just having a good ol’ time. It’s nice and peaceful and everything.”

Some may prefer to keep them at home and set up courses inside the house or in the yard. That’s fine. Others prefer more of a challenge, modifying the vehicles and taking them to outdoor courses where they can compete on a track or send their vehicles over trails, up and down hills, and over rocks.

Tim Ingram, the Xtreme Sports owner who planned to open a second store at the Morgantown Mall in Westover in October, is in the process of developing 36 acres of his property off exit 115 of Interstate 79 in Harrison County south of Clarksburg for enthusiasts of R/C vehicles, a location named Xtreme Sports Park.

“We’re not utilizing all of it right now,” he said. “Probably seven or eight acres we’re utilizing at the moment. The thing is, if you come out here and you sign that waiver and you’re a member, you’re welcome to use anything.

“We’re trying to incorporate more defined trails and things of that sort. Climb rocks. Go to the track. Whatever you want to do.”

He takes pride in offering “a diverse group of layouts” and is using funds from the memberships to expand what will be available in the future.

“There are all sorts of different things for people to do,” he said. “Different challenges. What I’m trying to create is like when you go snow skiing. You have a beginner, intermediate and expert course. We’ve tried to incorporate the same thing with R/C. We have a beginner area if you’re a novice. Intermediate is a little tougher. Of course, we have the expert, and we’ll see how well you can run with it.

“That’s what we’ve tried to put together. It makes it nice.”

The Ingram family has 31 R/C cars and trucks.

There are places where enthusiasts who may have trouble walking can be taken to enjoy running their vehicles.

“I can get you here,” Ingram said. “We can sit you down, down there, and you can sit there and run all over this hillside. You don’t have to worry about walking.”

Right now there are no scheduled hours, but members can go at any time. Open-run days with a fee of $10-$15 are available for people to determine if they are interested in becoming members. Individual and family plans are offered.

Brian Osbourne of Mannington is working with Ingram in developing the area to run the R/C vehicles.

“It’s the cheapest form of racing you can get into,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of race people around. It’s a true family sport. My entire family including my wife and my two kids - both have R/C cars - does some traveling and racing at different tracks. It’s nice to have something in our backyard.”

His interest began when his son got an R/C vehicle for his birthday.

“We just started playing with it, and it grew out of that,” Osbourne said. “We got one for the whole family. Now I’ve got 15 or 16.”

He’s enjoying working “hand-in-hand” with Ingram in developing the area to run R/C vehicles.

“If we come up with an idea, we put it in place,” Osbourne said. “We’re trying to make it a nice place for families. That’s what we’re wanting to do.”

R/C racing, Osbourne noted, goes up to professional levels where people “travel all over the world and make thousands of dollars at races. It’s a lot bigger in the world than it has been in our area. It’s really just now starting to catch on.”

Hobby-grade R/C cars and trucks “are miniature vehicles - springs, shocks. It’s just like a real car,” Osbourne said.

All the parts can be replaced.

“You can make one large investment, which is not too big, and that car can be upgraded to go faster,” Osbourne said.

Tim Ingram’s son, Brody, a junior at Bridgeport High School, helped get his dad involved with the R/C vehicles.

“It started out as a hobby,” he said. “I guess all hobbies lead to big things.”

A big attraction is meeting people who enjoy the activity and its challenges.

“It kind of gives freedom,” he said of the time spent in the woods. “Everyone that you meet is always nice. It’s fun to do.”

It can be a high-tech adventure for those who get into the hobby very seriously.

“It’s very high-tech,” he said. “They entail a lot of technology, but it’s just a blast. It’s fun to be with everyone and do all this kind of stuff. You definitely learn a lot. You learn something new every time you come out. Somebody knows something about your car that you didn’t and how to change something.

“It’s crazy all the stuff you can do with them. I’d love to keep going with it. It’s definitely fun.”

Tim Ingram said he and his staff are committed to helping enthusiasts as much as possible.

“We have a knowledgeable staff that’s right there available to help you,” he said. “Not to say they’re going to know the answer to every question; however, if we can maintain a friendly, family-oriented atmosphere along with the customer service, I think we can be successful.”

An R/C vehicle - whether electric, nitro or gasoline - can involve some complicated issues. The smallest scale is 1/24, but the most popular, according to Ingram, is 1/10.

“We have the 1/5 scale, which are usually two-stroke gasoline,” he said. “They have a regular engine in them. You mix oil and gas to run them, and they’ll run 40-45 mph and weigh anywhere from 35 to 45 pounds. They come in two-wheel-drive versions and four-wheel-drive versions.”

Serious enthusiasts enjoy working on the cars and trucks to get the most out of their experience.

“It’s almost a machine,” Ingram said. “It’s a sophisticated, technical toy, if you still want to use the terminology ‘toy,’ but I’m not sure that’s the proper word for it because it’s so much more than a toy. People win money racing these. They hold events. There are all sorts of different avenues to go down as far as what you can get into with these things. The sky is the limit, basically.”

It’s a much more affordable hobby than, for example, motocross, which requires thousands of dollars for a motorcycle or ATV. It’s common, though, Ingram noted, to see motocross people at R/C events and vice versa.

“You can get into one of these cars for $170 to $1,000 and up,” Ingram said. “It’s able to bring people together for a fun, affordable hobby.”

___

Information from: Times West Virginian, https://www.timeswv.com

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