After going to Canoecopia and seeing kayak balance boards, I had to have one for myself. So we set about to build one. I started with a 2x10x8 board and cut it to a 5 foot section with two six inch pieces for the bottom.
Then I found a large plate to use as the rounded bottom.
I’ve been talking about wanting to paddle while it was snowing for about two years now. Today, I got my first taste. I was snowing good and my boss let me out of work early for new years eve and snow. I called my paddling buddy, Jo Newbold and she was up for a snow paddle. So out to the river we went.
Unfortunately for me, once I got out on the river, the snow stopped. We did receive sleet, but no serious continuous snow. There were pockets of ice on the river. I told Jo that I was going to ram the ice, she warned me to take it slow. I’m glad I did, because the boat started to slide up the ice and got quite tippy. Lucky for me I didn’t tip over, but it was closer than I wanted.
In the ice was a fish that jumped, but didn’t get back in the water…
The garden is in full swing with part of the crop getting planted last month and the crop of garlic getting ready to be harvested. Danelle is working hard as ever to produce a viable garden. I’m proud of her for the work she puts into it. Its hard to appreciate a grocery store until you try to grow your own food in any quantity!
Speaking of growing, we had an extremely mild winter. I usually let the “bamboo” from the previous year stand until the first shoots come up in the spring and then cut off the old stalks. Much to my surprise, the old stalks started growing back this year as well as getting new stalks from the ground. I’ve kept this strand of bamboo for almost 10 years now and have never seen this happen before.
Like any parent, I’m constantly doting on how awesome my kids are. The did this or that, but now I have proof how cool Sonora is…
During this month’s Sunset Race, I took my newish Hobie Adventure kayak down the Meramec river. I bottomed out too much and caused some damage to the rubber on the pedal drive. By the end of the race, the damage caused the boat to list to the right.
Camping is one of our favorite family activities. We like to go to Meramec State Park because its relatively close to home and on the river. This is our first camping trip of the year. We have added a roof rack to the van, and a Hobie Adventure kayak to the mix. This will allow the whole family to get out on the water at the same time!
As always, I’m in a hurry to get on the river and relax. So we parked the camper, and set off to pay our fee for the campsite and put our boats on the water. We could leave the setting up of a camper for after we got back from the river. Our plan was to put in near the campsite and paddle upstream for about three miles and then float back down. This avoids us having to get a shuttle and saves a few bucks.
For boats, Danelle got the Hobie kayak to herself and I had the two kids in the boat I lovingly refer to as “the turd”. The boat is a 14 foot Mad River Adventure (notice that I have two boats with the Adventure model). It gets the name from its speed in the water and the brown color. I actually really like the boat, its extremely stable and holds three people in semi-comfort. So we headed upstream, but it wasn’t the pleasant dream that I wanted. I lost my temper too much with the kids yelling for them to sit still and keep their paddles out of the water instead of dragging them. Partly because we were going upstream and it was difficult, but also because I’m use to canoe racing and just expect people dedicated to paddling.
We stopped to paddle inside a cave and check it out. The kids got a huge kick out of it and it was a nice break from paddling. Eventually we switched places and Danelle got her turn in the cave and the photo to go with it.
At the halfway point in our journey, we stopped on a bank to have lunch. We relaxed and enjoyed the picnic we had prepared, except for the bag of goodies we left in the van. At the lunch stop, the kids (including me) each got a turn riding on the kayak. Heading back downstream after lunch, I was about half as upset as going upstream. The kids still like to squirm in the seats and nearly upset the canoe a few times.
Goodness do I look upset in the picture above. Its something that I’ll have to deal with better next time!
When we got back to the camper, this was where the real fun begins and probably why we don’t have more pictures. The camper would not raise up with the mechanism. I tried several times and gave up before I broke it worse. Danelle and I looked at each other without words for a few minutes. Then with one more effort, I cranked while Danelle lifted up with her hands and we managed to get the camper open. It didn’t open completely, but enough to sleep in it for the night. I was again upset over this, casting a shadow over the trip.
I took the kids for a hike and we saw some cool trees and a “cave” that they had to show mom. So we came back and the kids took mom out. Danelle came back from the hike limping with a bad mood. It seems that she had the wrong shoes on and hurt her toe bad. We were all ready for bed and called it a night fairly early. Then around 1 am, Corvin woke up sick and threw up a few times. At first light, we quickly packed up and retreated for another time.
On Thursday night, the day before, I made up my mind and decided what I wanted to do. I had Friday off while the wife and kids had school and work. I had a whole day free and to myself, my job was to make the most of it. I had asked my paddling friends earlier in the week if they could join me and they all had commitments. So I mapped out a 20 some mile route that took me from the last ramp on the Meramec river up to the Jefferson Barracks/I-255 bridge (JB) and back. What makes this route so interesting to me is that I have never paddled solo on the Mississippi river before. I was also planning to do half of the trip upstream!
Okay, so maybe there is one more thing that is going to make this trip interesting. I have a new kayak. A Hobie Adventure 16. This boat is a peddle powered sit on top kayak. To date, I have had about an hour in the boat on a lake and an additional 10 minutes on the Meramec river the previous weekend. So my experience is very low.
I set my alarm for 5:50 am on Friday morning excited to get out and start. When the alarm went off, the house was cold and dark, and I was a bit scared. So I decided to sleep for another hour waiting for my “standard” alarm to go off. From there I would just have to leave and take this trip. After the second alarm went, I dressed quickly and loaded up my van. I tried not to think about the trip that was in front of me. I realized quickly that I was quite scared! If I didn’t do this trip today, I didn’t know if I would ever be able to go on this river solo!
I kissed the wife and kids goodbye (hoping that it wasn’t for the last time) and took off. My first stop was to find a Quick Trip (QT) gas station on the way. I needed to get some breakfast and other supplies for the river. At QT, I picked up a breakfast sandwich, coffee, two water bottles, Gatorade, and trail mix. It was a strange purchase with mostly liquids, but I didn’t want to get dehydrated on the river. Okay, and maybe a bit of comfort food to help prod myself along!
At the ramp, I took my boat down and surveyed the surroundings to make sure I would find it when the time came to leave. I walked back up leaving my boat to park the van and bring the rest of my gear down. Once down at the water, I had the unfamiliar act of juggling all of my gear. In the past, I would just throw it in the canoe, tie a few important things down and shove off. With the sit on top kayak, there is much more consideration and preparation that goes into putting into the water. I had to stow everything as there is nowhere to just set junk and hope that it stays.
I had trouble getting the Mirage drive system in while the boat was on the land, so I carefully set it in the boat. I was extra careful here because the drive doesn’t float and it wasn’t secured to the boat. This was actually dumb, so I’ll have to figure out how to do it before I put the boat in the water next time. I don’t’ want an accidental sinking of my equipment! I pulled off my socks and placed them where I would sit so they would not be lost and I could put them back on if I got cold. I made the conscious decision to point the boat downriver to the Mississippi and started off.
The temperature was somewhere around 50 degrees when I set off and I was cold. I learned quickly that pants won’t work on this boat as they get caught in the water by the Mirage drive. I ended up pulling the pants up above my knees so they would not get wet and create extra drag. I also quickly got hot and took off all my layers down to a single shirt and PDF. I stuffed the two other layers behind me under the bungee cords. I later learned after my paddle that the back compartment is quite wet as the water comes up from the drain holes. This caused extra weight and made my clothes worthless if I wanted them later to warm up. I’ll have to find a better solution for this!
I took a few photos on my way down, but I value most the video I took of me heading into the Mississippi. I cut it a bit short as I wanted to have maximum control as I hit the big river!
Going out on a big river is always fun for me! There are so many different things to see. The industrial developments are always the most exciting for me. This stretch of the Mississippi didn’t disappoint either. Right away, I came across the Ameren Meramec power plant. They had a large presence along the river for what appeared to be delivery of coal to the plant.
After my paddle, I tried to get to the power tower in the photo above to closer examine the stone work. But the guard at the gate wasn’t having any of it. I’m not sure if he was having a bad day, or just didn’t like me. About the only words out of his mouth were “private property”. So I didn’t get any closer inspection of the stone work.
I went up the river about six miles just above Cliff Cave Park before I had enough upstream paddling. I tried to stay in the channel of the river so I would not scrape the Mirage drive on the boat, but I only got about 2 mph of speed upriver doing that. Towards the end, I used the slack water caused by the wing dikes to go much faster up!
On the way back down, I stuck myself right out in the channel enjoying all of its benefits. Between the river and myself, I made an easy 8 – 10 mph coming back! I even made it a point to get right out with the buoys.
I was quite glad to be back at the boat ramp at the end of the paddle. You can see the whole route/mileage/time on my fitness blog at FriendFit.com. But back to the ramp. I pulled up and talked to a fisherman for a few minutes. Then I was ready to walk my stuff up. But I noticed a truck coming to back down and launch their boat. So I moved my kayak to the side of the ramp. I walked my stuff up and moved my van to get the kayak. By the time I got back to the ramp, the guys had launched their boat and started unloading all of their stuff right in front of me!
Rather than getting furious, I just waited an extra 15 minutes for them to unload their pickup truck and get out of the way. It was an amazing paddle that I hope to do again soon!