What you get for $40 in Missouri
This past Groundhog Day weekend, I had the unexpected honor of being invited to the annual Jim Davis GROUNDHOG weekend. Details of the event were sketchy, save for being given the location and being told to bring camping gear, a boat and a bicycle. This was definitely gonna be my kind of trip. With the pending ice/snowstorm, there was a liberal amount of “spirited conversation” between the wife and I about the safety of driving, but eventually she came to realize I’m not a fan of common sense. And so it was with great determination and forgetting most of my gear that I eventually hit the road for the 2 hour trip to Sutton Bluff, Missouri.
I wouldn’t call the drive perilous, but I certainly wouldn’t want to re-live it any time soon. I can’t confidently say how much time it took to get to the campground, but I can say it took 4 coffee refills and one bag of cheddar popcorn. Needless to say, I was happy to roll into the campground around 1130 that night. The rest of the group was already tucked away in their cars/tents, so I got my hammock hung and called it a night. We were camped only about 20 feet from the river, so I had an excellent night of sleep listening to the water. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Waking up the next morning, I realized I’d forgotten my kayak and paddle. Probably not the best way to enjoy a float trip, eh? Undeterred, Dan and I drove into the Metropolis that is Lesterville, and after chatting it up at the local gas station were introduced to a man who rented kayaks. I paid him $40, promised to bring his boat back, and the day was saved. We grabbed some coffee and headed back to camp.
It rained all weekend, so Jim’s tent/canopy thing was very handy. We put our boats in the water, made sure we had all the necessary provisions, and began what would be an excellent adventure.
The Black River is hands-down the clearest river I’ve ever paddled. It was absolutely fantastic. The temps were probably around 35-40(?) with no wind and a light
fog, so conditions were very ideal.
One thing I never really considered is that a sit-on-top kayak allows water to crash into the your lap, effectively turning the seat into an ass/testicle freezer. I think we’d been on the water for all of 30 minutes when I took a wave over the side and got “marinated”. Another little tidbit I failed to realize is that rainproof does not equal waterproof. In retrospect, wearing rainproof pants over denim jeans was pretty damn stupid.
****I can’t figure out how to make that video play slower.
But why would I dwell on frozen testicles when there was so much beautiful scenery to absorb? The water was crystal clear, Pockets of ice lined our surroundings and I was among friends. Friends with beer.
Jim spoke at great length about the upcoming Ozark Trail 100, a point-to-point mountain bike race he’s planning later in the year. He’s got a lot of passion for the race, which will be used as a fundraiser for GORC. I don’t know if I’ll ever be man enough to finish that race, but I think I’m gonna try it anyway.And apparently there’s an app on my phone that combines photos automatically..which resulted in this super-creepy photo of Dougan with a little mini-Dan sitting in his lap:
A bald eagle was sighted and we all sat stupefied in our boats watching. Nobody even took a photo. I guess it was one of those “had to be there” moments. Either way, it was pretty awesome.
Throughout the day, I got to see Dan and Jim both flip their boats for various reasons. Neither was captured on video, but I assure you both were hilarious.
As with all things awesome, the paddle seemed to be finished all too soon. With falling temps and only 2 dry asses out of the 5 dudes, we decided to return the boat and head for the campfire.It took quite a while, but I finally got my socks dried out:
Around the time darkness fell, the freezing rain had gathered intensity to the point of ridiculousness. Dan and Pierce decided to head for home, while Drew, Jim and myself stayed for one more night in the woods. Leaving was probably the smart thing to do, but I just couldn’t do it.
I can remember sitting there by the fire and just really feeling like I’d been part of something special. The river, the cold temps, the scenery..all of it had culminated into such a kickass experience, and I was reminded that this is why I love adventure racing. I couldn’t care less about victories or split-times or any of that bullshit; I love the experience of getting out there and doing something I’ve never done before. The whole day had been like a Beer/Viagra commercial, and it had only cost me gas money and $40 for a kayak rental.
I think the last time I spent $40 on something I loved this much was my 3rd date with Cara, when we went to see Transformers.