In an effort to have the maximum training for the MR340 race this year, I planned the two full moons before the race to do overnight training runs. This would give me the distance and nighttime practice I needed for a successful race. I posted my plan for the paddle on the forum and waited. The plan was to go upstream from around 10 am until 2 am and then turn around and come back to the ramp, saving shuttle time.
Nobody wanted to sign up for this trip, so I was on my own. The Missouri was moving particularly fast. Once I got on the water, I was moving at a significantly slower pace than I expected. The GPS had me moving upstream at 1 mph. I admit that I would have gone faster if I hadn’t been out in the middle, but I was nervous about hitting the pedals of the Hobie Mirage drive on a wing dike and messing them up. As much as I told myself that this was a great idea, the reality was that going so slow upstream is demoralizing!
Getting to the I-70 bridge, I was confronted with construction. Of the three spans of the bridge, the one on the right appeared to be blocked all the way across. The middle seemed to be the best choice. It wasn’t in the channel, so the water would not be as fast. As I approached the middle, I inched ahead until I could see the actual boils coming up right under the construction. I wasn’t sure what was under the water, but I didn’t want to find out. Scared that I would tip, I slowly backed down the river with the nose of the boat pointing upstream. Once I was clear, I punched it into the channel and started to get around the bridge. After a few minutes, I realized that I was not going anywhere! I was stuck not able to go further upstream.
I decided to take a second attempt at the middle construction section. I ferried back to the middle section and started attacking it. I got about 30 feet farther upstream than my previous attempt, but needed all of my rudder power to keep the boat pointed in the right correction. I had a few close calls and decided I would likely tip if I continued. Not wanting to give up, I decided to give it a fourth try, going back to the channel. With great determination, I started back in on the channel. With a huge dose of perseverance, I started inching forward. I was nearly out of breath and I kept looking at the bridge pylon to decide when I could start moving out of the channel so I could make it.
I knew once I cut over that I couldn’t stop for anything or I would likely hit the bridge or go through the boil and end up swimming or worse. About 30 minutes after I started the third attempt, I was safely past the bridge where I could relax. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t get more than a mile past the bridge before the weather turned on me. Lightning was seen and I could hear the approaching thunder. In the past, I would have kept going. However, I was thinking of my safety as well as my family.
After I pulled over to the side of the river, I called my wife to see what the weather picture was. She told me heavy stuff was coming. So I donned my rain gear and started a fire with driftwood on the shore. The fire was therapeutic for me. I was worried a little about the strength of the coming storm. I knew a fire was good for heat and would distract me from the weather.
After about three hours of a fire, I was ready to go. I had talked to my brother on the phone as well as getting a weather report from Danelle. It looked good to continue upstream. I wasn’t going to get as far as I wanted, but that was life. Back on the water I went about another mile upstream before I was so frustrated at the situation of not making much progress and waiting out the storm for 3 hours.
I gave up and turned the boat back downstream. It took about 45 minutes to get back to the ramp. I didn’t make the connection at the time that the current was much stronger than I initially realized and it was a decent paddle, the GPS just didn’t give me credit for my work.
So I was off to home with only 14.9 some miles to show for my work.