Local Ducks fans, hoping to rebound, head to Corvallis in their tricked-out vehicle

by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - NEWS-TIMES PHOTOs: CHASE ALLGOOD Members of the Forest Grove tailgating squad pack up the manbulance and test its lights before getting on the road to Eugene Saturday morning. The Ducks fell to Stanford but still have a chance to earn a post-season bowl berth during this weekend´s Civil War.It’s a rivalry that dates to 1894. And while nobody in the stands is supposed to get hurt, some fans may need a “whambulance” to take them home if their team loses.

If you ask Forest Grove resident Tim Harms, it’s not going to be him.

He’s driving his “manbulance” to Corvallis this weekend and he expects that his University of Oregon Ducks are going to rebound at the annual Civil War game against the Oregon State University Beavers.

“It’ll be a tough game,” Harms said. “But I believe the Ducks will power through and win that one.”

With the Ducks’ loss to Stanford last Saturday, the annual intra-state football rivalry this Saturday takes on sudden importance, as a victory is a must if the team from Eugene — knocked out of the race for a national title — hopes to make a trip to the Rose Bowl.

And if Ducks fans’ confidence is a bit shaky, Harms is willing to help.

Before the game, his tricked out manbulance, a decommissioned ambulance reworked into the ultimate tailgate party vehicle, will be pumping up morale outside the gates.

Something special

The manbulance came together in 2010 when a group of guys who grew up in the Forest Grove area decided to set up something special for tailgate parties outside U of O games.

Neither Harms, nor his fellow manbulance crew, including Kory Harrington, Dain and Doug Christopherson and Mike Etienne, went to college in Eugene, but all of them are feverish enough football fans to truck down for every home game.

Harrington now lives in California, but he’s still part of the crew. The rest of the men huddle at Harms’ house at 18th Avenue and Elm Street in Forest Grove to load up the manbulance with supplies before rolling down I-5.

“We’re all just big football fans and we’ve been going for years,” Harms said.

Once there, the flamboyance of their vehicle, which has working lights and a siren, usually draws the attention of other fans.

“Everybody loves it, especially the kids,” Harms said. “They like to play in it and run around.”

The manbulance is seriously loaded with gear. It sports two TVs, a barbecue attached to the back and gadgets galore, including a Nintendo Wii.

“We just made it our ultimate tailgating machine,” Harms said.

Fanbulance or manbulance?

There’s only one manbulance, said Harms, but the Forest Grove crew’s vehicle isn’t the only wild ride tricked out for the past-time known as tailgating.

Before every Portland State University football game, you can find Portland attorney John Whearty at the intersection of Southwest Salmon Street and Southwest 18th Avenue helming the “fanbulance,” PSU’s version of the emergency vehicle-turned-party wagon.

Whearty bought his ambulance from the Chicago Bears when the team was decommissioning their fan van.

Whearty called up Portland’s Infinity Images and had PSU Vikings graphics wrapped around the body of the truck.

Inside, he hooked up a 42-inch flatscreen television to a triple-satellite uplink for the ultimate in sports entertainment.

“You can just flip a switch and you’ve got satellite TV wherever you’re at,” Whearty said.

Whearty said PSU sometimes gets short-shrift among the state’s football fans. And a tough season for a team leaning heavily on freshmen isn’t helping, but he takes solace in the PSU pride that the tailgating can muster in Portland’s Goose Hollow neighborhood.

“We’re the largest university in the state of Oregon,” Whearty said.

And being in Portland has its advantages. Whearty, a Royal Rosarian, had the fanbulance play a role in the PSU’s presentation during the Rose Festival Starlight Parade this year. PSU president Wim Wiewel, a champion of sustainability, rode his bicycle up front — but treated himself to a beer in the back of the fanbulance.

“I can’t picture any of the other university presidents doing that,” Whearty said. “We’ve had a lot of fun.”

Excited about the Civil War

While PSU is the state’s biggest university, U of O boasts the state’s largest college football franchise thanks to years of support from Nike founder Phil Knight, who attended the University of Oregon in the 1950s.

The Ducks’ first loss on Saturday dropped their record to 10-1 while the Beavers’ trouncing of the Cal Bears moved them up to 8-2.

The Ducks still have a shot at playing in the Rose Bowl, but any route to Pasadena has to go through Corvallis first, where a Beavers win would likely put them in a prominent bowl game.

All of which means this year’s Civil War game has even higher stakes than usual.

“The Civil War is always a battle,” Harms said. “It’s something special and always has been.”

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