Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Walking a Fine Line

I am slowly beginning to think I have control of the weather. It seems any time I consider jumping in a boat the temperature drops 20 degrees and it begins to rain. This past Saturday was no different when I went to look at a custom made Kevlar canoe that I had considered purchasing. I was told that a bunch of people were meeting at the Farmington river to go “poling” and I could take the boat out for a quick spin to see how I liked it.

Indeed a bunch of people showed up to go “poling” and there I was among them waiting in the rain for Chris to arrive. Now I must take a stab at describing this activity… Basically one person stands in the middle (but towards the back) of a canoe with a large say 15-20 foot aluminum pole instead of a paddle. Then instead of paddling you push off of the bottom with the pole to run the canoe up and down river. Having showed up for a poling demonstration I basically had to oblige the group by giving it the old college try. It was interesting and I could see how with time one could get a greater sense of control and speed out of a boat, but it was also clear that one small mistake would also mean a guaranteed soaking. Having appeased the poling gods with some basic skills I turned my attention to the boat for purchase.

After I met Chris and saw his boats I immediately realized there is a fine line between custom-made and homemade. I would say this boat would be categorized as the latter. Also Kevlar can became a Kevlar fiberglass mix-which begs the question how much fiberglass and how much Kevlar exactly is in this old beat up boat? The canoe tracked like a sailor who just got kicked out of the bar on his first night back in port. So I carefully extracted myself from the situation with a very transparent “I have to think it over, I’ll send you an e-mail soon.” And got out of there quick. So the search continues-it looks like a trip to Old Town, ME may be in the future.


Thursday, April 13, 2006

Part Two: The Aftermath

(See "View From the Front" before reading)
At that point we pulled out and had to tie the canoe to the roof of the car. This was by far the hardest part of the day. As soon as we stopped paddling the cold caught up. My hands were numb. My arms were spaghetti. But there I was trying to lift the canoe onto the roof and tie all those knots I didn’t learn in Boy Scouts.

Of course it could be worse and it was-we ended up putting a paddle in dog doodie before throwing them into the car. Now we were cold, wet, and numb; rolling down the road in a car with a canoe on top that could fall off at any moment that smelled of animal feces.

Let me tell you in my entire life, I have never had a better shower. Now you can imagine our surprise to learn at the awards ceremony that we came in first place - as the only boat entered in our class. It’s amazing what people will do for a free T-shirt.

(p.s. already Thursday and no word yet about any outstanding canoe charges)

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The View From the Front

We headed out in a dreary drizzle. Temps in the low 40s but Dr. Pepe and I knew it would get warmer as the day wore on. Maybe the clouds would lift. We joined other paddlers in a pre-race ritual (finding a tree in the woods) and we are ready to roll. In their infinite wisdom the organizers had us launch 3rd, with all the serious big time paddlers chasing us from behind (I guess they must have had dinner plans or something). We got off to a good start. Rolling along we even caught one guy before the kayakers began passing us by. I was up front and working hard. The rain didn’t bother me I was pushing forward. Soon I settled into my rhythm and the only pain was from the strain of kneeling for an extended period of time.

We passed Amanda and her folks on the shore and my excitement built. It was just the burst of energy my tired arms needed to push on-the race was longer and the current slower than I initially thought. I quickly spent this reserve of good tidings as the rain picked up and then turned to sleet. It wouldn’t have been a total loss except I noticed quite a bit of water in back of the canoe. “What’s going on back there?” I inquired. “We got a lot of rain water in her” replied Dr. Pepe. Now I’m looking at our gloves and Nalgene bottles floating around his feet and I know there is no way that’s all rain water. When I voiced my concern and that perhaps we should check things out I got put off.
“No we’re ok I think I just figured out what happened; we’re ok.” But I was really getting that sinking feeling.

I was skeptical. I knew that was not rain water or splashes from our paddles in our boat. We were filling up. As we approached bridges I had some serious doubts if our vessel would finish the race. I passed my concerns on to Dr. Pepe wondering aloud if we could continue. Dr. Pepe fought the good fight (feet fully submerged in water) to press on. In the front it was hard to tell how dire our situation was. My strategy was to remind Dr. Pepe we could always pull out and to trust his decision on whether to press on. Once he gave a go ahead I paddled with what my body tells me now is more than all my might.

Finally, we had to pull to the river bank and empty the canoe. Here we confirmed our worst fears. There was a long gash in the bottom of the canoe-we had a leaky boat (you can squirm and you can dance…). The best improvisation we could manage was throwing a towel over the hole and putting as much weight as we could on it. At best I considered it very sketchy.

We paddled on with our boat was filling up. For the record it becomes quite a bit more difficult to paddle and maneuver a canoe once it pulls in 10-30 gallons of water. I was working hard as hell. I was not only paddling, but leaning forward as far as I could to distribute as much weight to the front of the canoe as possible (as Dr. Pepe was slowly sinking in the back). Another dump and our load lightened once again. Then we rounded the corner and hit Eagleville dam and the wind was right in our face.

Now we were in brutal open water, face to the wind, no current, with a boat filling up as we went. We had to power through to get to a bank where we could dump before Dr. Pepe’s (rear) end went completely underwater. We didn’t make it by much but we made a quick landing (emptying out within site of the finish) at the last possible second. Then it was the sprint for the finish. For pride-no that was long gone-we saw land we saw the end and it was a great sight for two people who are too stubborn and/or stupid to know when to quite. Despite all of this and we were known as the only guys who were grinning the entire way. We enjoyed ourselves so well we were accused on having Sierras in the boat. But it didn’t matter; we had made it. Next up; the Aftermath...


Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The Big bird Has Landed...

went to go pick up the nuevo truck with Mr. Pony just now...some images...

What is that bright yellow thing over there?

It appears to be some sort of insect. really, how cool is this?

Sign here, or I shall smite you with mine tobacco spit! Now let me show you useless yuppies how to drive this thing, before you both ruin it.

My view, first out the front window...

Anyone have a freaking clue what all these buttons do? really?

Drag - Racing shifter, I can do this. I have two graduate degrees...damn, these brakes are awful...(overhead: Baby, what the hell did I just do?)

TWO gastanks, and we can't figure out which is which, or even how to put gas in the thing. Again, we're both not that dumb.


more to come...more to come...

Before All of That

Our Adventure in the Willimantic River Race was too big with too many competing parts to be contained within one post. So I am starting things off with the story of our boat-aka the hoopty canoe and will post the view from the front soon enough.

After all the trouble I had reserving a boat to rent for the race, I wasn’t going to give it up because of a little rain. So when Bill at Center Marine told me he figured I didn’t want the canoe I had reserved because of the rain, I told him I’d be there in 45 minutes.

Upon my arrival at Center Marine Bill gave me a thorough once over before asking where I would take his boat. Now like George Washington I can’t lie so I answer “probably the Willimantic.” I believe in that moment our fate was sealed. The worst boat on the premise was quickly found for our rental and as the rain picked up from a drizzle to a steady downpour we tied it to the car.

Upon arriving home I encountered the one thing to go right all weekend. The car fits (barely) in the garage with the canoe on top. So Amanda and I leave it and head to the airport to pick up Dr. Pepe.

Enjoy Dr. Pepe's Dispatch!

The Rain, The Sleet, The Cold and The Hole – The View from the Back

When we arrived at the registration tent for the 2006 Willimantic River Race, the temperature was hovering around 40 degrees and there was a steady drizzle. Not too bad for a nine-mile canoe race in Connecticut in early April. Could be worse…

Washboard was in the bow and I was in the stern. We registered in the “Canoe-Local” division, which meant that we were one of the first boats to start. The race officially began at 11:00 am, and by 11:03, we were paddling.

The rain let up a little, and we made good time for the first few miles. The Willimantic is a narrow, shallow river that moves quickly. A couple of times we bumped through some shallows, but for the most part, we were reading the river well and staying in the current. A couple of one-man canoes caught up and passed us. After a while, we were sweating and taking off our thick ski gloves. The scenery was great and we were totally enjoying ourselves, smiling and waving to spectators on the bridges.

As we were nearing the halfway point, the rain picked up considerably. The kayaks had caught up to us and we fell in behind them, running their lines. Once or twice, we bottomed out, brushing against a hidden rock in a section where the kayak had breezed through. Despite the cold and the rain, our spirits were still high.

It was around this time that I started to notice a fair amount of water in the back of the boat. I thought back to the last bridge we had gone under, where a woman had observed, “You sure got a lot of water in the back of that boat.” I had shrugged off the comment, a little embarrassed that our tie-ups in the shallow water had caused enough splashing to collect a puddle large enough to be spotted from 20 feet away. I mentioned the puddle to Washboard and suggested that the rain might be contributing to the problem. He paused mid-stroke, turned to look and the water, and said “Naw, probably not.” I agreed, a bit perturbed that my sloppy paddling and inexperienced navigation were slowing us down.

As the first of the two-man canoes came into sight behind us, the weather turned nasty. The rain had changed to sleet, and the temperature continued to drop. Washboard yelled out, “Holy shit, man, this ain’t rain, this is sleet. It’s friggin’ sleeting out here.” Sure enough, little white pellets were collecting in the folds of my North Face shell. I realized that I was definitely colder than I had been at the start of the race. The temperature had dropped significantly.

By now, it was getting hard to paddle. The canoe was no longer steady. If I reached out too far to my left, the boat would tip and lurch. I glanced down at the water at my feet. Minutes before, the water had been lapping at the heels of my shoes. Now, it was above the soles. I was struggling to get the boat through turns. Washboard and I debated whether to pull over and dump the canoe, and then agreed that it was inevitable.

After the first dump, I still harbored the illusion that it was just a combination of sloppy paddling and steady rain/sleet that was causing the boat to fill up. Washboard was dubious. Every time he looked back, more and more water was swilling around my feet. The ski gloves and Nalgenes in the bottom of the canoe began to float. The gunnels were about five inches from the surface of the water, and the slightest lean brought us perilously close to swamping. We had to dump again. We pulled to the shore flipped the boat, and I saw it. A one inch gash running along the spine of the boat. I put my arm inside the boat and pressed a finger against where I thought the crack might be. Pink flesh pushed up through the blue fiberglass hull. We were leaking…fast.

We estimated that we had about two or three miles left. We wedged an extra towel into the crack and laid our full Nalgenes on top of it. Nearly, the entire field had passed us at this point, so there was no need to rush. Our goal was to make it to the finish, a task that even Washboard was doubting. Luckily, the towel slowed the leak, and I realized that with a little determination and a few more dumps along the shore, we could make it. We weren’t going to win anything (other than the “Spirit” award), but we would finish.

After a quarter mile or so, we dumped again, tucked the soaking towel, and started back on the water. The rain, the sleet, the cold, the hole—all these were secondary. All we wanted to do was finish. As we passed under a bridge we asked, “How much further?”

“About a quarter mile,” a young girl called back. Washboard asked if I thought we should bail out of the race here and let them shuttle us back to the finish. I said I thought we could make it. So, we limped our way under the bridge and powered toward the finish.

The end of the race was Eaglesville Dam, which temporarily turned the shallow, quickwater of the Willimantic into a quarter-mile long, deep-water lake. The hills and bluffs that had enclosed us for the first eight-and-a-half miles of the trip had flattened into nubby, winter-yellow fields and wind-swept marshes. We entered the slow, flat water of the home stretch equidistant from either shore. The boat was full, and a headwind met us out of the south. We dug in as much as we could. One last team motored by us, both paddlers in perfect sync, alternating sides each time the stern man yelled “Hup!” Both paddlers wore tight-fitting polypro shorts and shirts, sweating profusely despite the cold. They were unaware of our situation, but still offered some encouragement, “Almost there, guys!”

Unfortunately, we weren’t almost there. We badly needed to pull over to the shore for one last dump. Washboard was panicked. The gunnels were less than three inches from the surface, and we were still 200 yards from shore. We both knew that if my end of the canoe swamped, our boat would be resting at the bottom of the lake in a matter of minutes. We struggled for the shore, hitting sand just as the water in the bottom of the canoe crested above my ankles. We could see the finish line less than 500 yards away. We dumped, wedged the towel and braced into the wind and rain for the final sprint home.

As we pulled up to Eaglesville Dam, no one could tell what we had been through. The canoe looked fairly sturdy and dry. Washboard’s wife Amanda and her dad stood under umbrellas waiting for us, relieved. The EMTs greeted us with a few snickers and a “Ya missed the burgers and beers, boys.” The first place boat had finished with a time of 140 minutes. We had pulled in at 197 minutes. But our pride was intact. We had brought her home – despite the rain, the sleet, the cold and the hole.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Well this throws a spanner in the works, don't it?

Recently a new gospel was translated (I'm not so religious myself, my family couldn't hack the rigorous demands of Unitarianism, after all, but still) the long awaited Gospel of Judas. Apparently it was cited in a work by Irenaeus, the Bishop of Lyons in 180, so people had been looking out for it. (sidebar: I thought reviewing modern citations for my term paper sucked, imagine trying to find references from 1815 years ago! think that's covered by Google Scholar?)

The Times has a nice review today. And it's something I thought about for a while, as a kid, when, in order to fit in to the cub scout troop, I got sent to Sunday School for a few months. Basically, Judas, and by extension, Jews, have been reviled by 'good Christians' for a couple of millenia because "Jews killed Jesus" (ok, fine, there were a lot of other bad reasons having to do with money lending, the need for scapegoats and the like, but this is the front that was put up for the masses) and this doesn't make any sense to me. Sure, the killing of Jesus was a bad thing (if you buy it, that is) but honestly, without the betrayal and execution (and subsequent rising) of Jesus, doesn't the whole Christian Faith as commonly practiced simply fall to pieces? That guy standing at the Superbowl with the John 3:16 sign should be thanking Judas, not berating him. Judas, alone among the Disciples, put the needs of the faith, and of his God, first, without the betrayal, there is no crucifixtion, no Easter. Jesus becomes a prophet, and the early Christians remain Jews. Instead of going out to buy my Easter Lamb this weekend, I'd be out looking for Gefilte Fish. (hey, just cause I'm not religious doesn't mean I don't take advantage of an excuse to eat lamb and mint jelly)

So who is the person most responsible for the Christian Myths, the entire backbone of the religion? Judas Iscariot. And what does he get for it? two millenia of revulsion. Gee, Thanks, God! You let Peter, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John get all the props, heck, kids are still being named after them, but Judas? the guy who did the heavy lifting? two thousand years of persecution of a religion that happens to share his name. What if his name was Christopher, would that justify 2000 years of going apeshit on Christians?

gosh, I hate it when the facts seem to get in the way of a good group hate.

Monday, April 03, 2006

And a positive note, to accompany the negative

The next random blog? How the West was... And it's in Dutch, so I can't read it, but it does have this absolutely fabulous picture on it. Not sure what's going on here, but it's good for a laugh, at least.


If You Hate...

So, whilst wandering the random blog-o-button (it's up there in the top right, if you really want to waste time) I stumbled on Oh...For the Life of Reilly who seems to be from New Jersey. And I noticed this top post, titled If you hate...your probably a liberal (sic).

This is what I learned.

I learned that I apparently hate a lot of things. Better that, methinks than the alternative, which is, roughly, if you hate spell-check, homonyms and the correct use of the possessive and conjunctive apostrophe, you probably hate liberals. One question comes to mind, I must say...it seems to me from my readings of the Federalist Papers, the Bible and a Constitution, they all seem to love good spelling and decent grammatical structure. Does that mean God, Alexander Hamilton and good ol' TJ were, in fact, liberals? hmm, interesting thought.

words matter.

Musings on advertising

I've been thinking, this weekend, about the effects of advertising, especially on me. After all the comments about the Tahoe commericals that flew around the old internet this past week, and the idea that really, I'm never going to buy one, and I don't think anyone on this blog will buy one (we like our trucks old and yellow, apparently) but still, I now know that there is a new Chevy Tahoe, for a lot less per person than a couple of ads in the Final Four would do (especially if they featured Coach K, corrallary one: if your team is eliminated from the tournament, your ads should be as well, are you riding a winner if they're sitting home in Durham getting ready for the 2006 Bulls' Season?). I dunno.

But still, all this must work. Do the sometimes brilliant Mastercard ads? (you can make your own of those as well, you know, but you can't publish them like Tahoe did, not as smart, guys) make me want to pull out my Mastercard? well no, since I don't have one. I find that I respond much more to targeted internet advertising, one click and I can find a new place to buy something, than TV stuff. Occasionally, of course, we all learn something new from TV ads, a new product that seems entertaining, or the like. and we've all sent around various funny commericals to watch. (Pony is especially obsessed with the Bud Light couples ads during March Madness. I missed the followup during the Mason game on Saturday) So what's the point? We still don't drink Bud Light, at least by choice. And does anyone really not know that Bud Light exists? Surely, there's a point here.

So, a question. Anyone ever knowingly been influenced by a clever ad on TV? gone to a website, bought a sample? Everyone must have, I'll try to think of a time that I was and follow up with it.

enough commercialism.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

More Tahoe Commericals

Anne over at Incendiary Advice was kind enough to post more links to the infamous Tahoe Commercial, including the original one. Seems that the good people at YouTube were able to snag a couple before Chevy pulled them down.

I hear a lot, really, from people saying what a stupid idea this whole thing was for chevy, how they left themselves wide open for bad PR and getting laughed at. Well sure, but how else was Chevy's Tahoe division going to get themselves talked about in the blogosphere? not too shabby, a couple of million bucks in PR, and some much needed buzz, all for a website.