BASTROP COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — The owner of a local racing school started a new course this Halloween to help save stray dogs by shooting zombies from a speeding off-road vehicle on muddy trails in the pitch-dark rural central Texas woods.
“I’ve envisioned this for 10 years,” Dave Carapetyan said, “and then I hired really great people, and then I let them loose with a bunch of toys.”
Carapetyan owns Rally Ready Driving School, a company that offers off-road racing lessons at a 140-acre ranch in Bastrop County. “Shred the Undead” puts visitors in the passenger seat of an off-road vehicle, armed with a laser tag gun, to shoot zombies his team has placed around a dirt course through the woods.
“There may or may not be some live targets out there as well, and some of them may or may not shoot back,” he said. “I can neither confirm nor deny any rumors.”
The new offering will fund a solution to a problem Carapetyan sees in the world of the living.
Carapetyan raced rally cars himself for a few years before starting the driving school in 2012. Five years ago, he moved it to the ranch in Dale, Texas, about 20 minutes southeast of the Circuit of the Americas track.
An Austin native, he was “overwhelmed with the stray dog problem in rural Texas.”
Dogs are always showing up at the ranch, and he can’t help but take them in. He brought on Alexandra Stevenson to be the executive director of what they’re calling Rally Rescue.
Stevenson trains and rehabilitates the dogs, and the team makes sure they’re spayed or neutered, have their shots and are treated for heartworms and other ailments before they’re adopted out. Over the last couple years, they’ve informally re-homes a couple dozen dogs.
Half the money from each zombie run goes to funding a more permanent rescue. Stevenson and Carapetyan plan to build kennels on the property, but they’re already having success through the undead hunt.
The team held the first runs over the weekend, and at the start they had four dogs available for adoption.
They’re now down to one, but more are bound to keep wandering onto the ranch.
“To see people show up here having no idea that we even have a dog shelter and leave with a dog,” Carapetyan said, “it’s pretty special.”
Monday, Stevenson got in the passenger seat of the off-road vehicle to take her first run through the course.
It’s “probably super intense and really fast,” she laughed as she put on the full helmet riders are required to wear. Strapped into the seat with the laser tag gun in her hands, she and the professional driver were off.
The twists and turns in the track come fast as the driver barrels down straightaways and takes sharp turns down steep inclines. All the zombies wear laser tag collars that flash different colors depending on whether the passenger hits the target.
A little more than four minutes later, the ride is over. “That was amazing,” Stevenson said as soon as the vehicle came to rest back at the Rally Ready headquarters. “I hope I nailed some of them… in my mind I got all of them.”
The course is unpredictable enough in the daylight, but with plot twists on top of the turns in the track, Carapetyan promises a ride better than any haunted house.
“Shoot zombies, save dogs,” Stevenson said. “Nothing better than that.”
How to hunt
“Shred the Undead” runs three more nights: Oct. 31-Nov. 2. The cost is $45 for the first lap, and additional laps are discounted.
Carapetyan is hoping to attract some of the racing fans in town this weekend for the Formula One event happening at COTA.
Register for the rides here. The company’s website advises you to bring your email receipt, close-toed shoes, and anything you wish to donate to the dog rescue.