Author Archives: Bob Jenkins

What you get for $40 in Missouri

20140201_101229

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.

BLD Basecamp

BLD Basecamp

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.

  20140201_093807

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.

20140201_111043Pictures or video never do justice to nature’s beauty, and these photos are no exception.

Pierce, aka Pierre

Pierce, aka Pierre (Jim Davis photobombing)

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.

icenuts

****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.

Drew and Dan. Note Dan's 'cooler' in the water

Drew and Dan. Note Dan’s ‘cooler’ in the water

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.14 - 8And 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:

He looks just like his father..

He looks just like his father..

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.

20140201_141703-PANO

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.

20140201_140355

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:

14 - 6

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.

 

Shoe Reviews

Shoes. With all the different brands, styles and fads, it’s hard to figure out which shoe is the right one for you.  Over the past few years I’ve tried out a few different lines of trail shoes, and I thought It’d be fun to share my thoughts on them. I’ve never been the kind of person who buys things simply because it’s “what the cool kids are doing“, so I’ve been hesitant to spend the money on Salomons. I really wanted to do my own thinking and come up with that awesome shoe that noone knew about.

Strike One: the Asics Trail Shoe:

I was pretty excited when I bought these shoes, paying over $120 for them. They looked cool, had good ventilation and seemed lightweight.  Well, to make a long story short..they sucked. The laces didn’t stay tied, they held water and I got a lot of blisters. Running in wet conditions was like wearing roller skates. 

Strike Two: The Hi-Tec Infinity-Lite

At first, I LOVED these shoes. Never before had I experienced so much traction and breathability. While running in these shoes, you can literally feel the air moving through them. They drain water very efficiently, the laces stay tied and they’ve got that handy hoop on the back so you can clip them to your pack while cycling.  All this, AND you can find them at steeply discounted prices on ebay.

The one major problem with this shoe is its lack of durability.  I’ve owned 3 pair of these shoes, and they all fell apart in nearly the exact same way. Before the 2012 Berryman 24 hour race, I bought a brand new pair of these, and the tread literally fell off halfway through the race.  I was understandably pissed off, so I called their customer service people later in the week. Their response: “Wow, that sucks. ” Thanks, Hi-Tec..thanks a lot.

Then one day I got lucky and found a Merrell outlet having a clearance sale…

Big success! – The Merrell Mix Master

What a great shoe. I found these babies on sale for $40. They drain water wonderfully, breathe magnificently, are durable and they look cool .  Win-win, especially for $40. If I could own 10 pairs of them, I would.

My only issue is that since the sole is so thin, I can “feel” the trail a little too well. I suspect this has more to do with my body-weight than anything, so we’ll overlook that. These are excellent shoes for adventure racing, no doubt about it.

The Hoka One One Stinson Trail Shoe.

Best purchase of 2013

Best purchase of 2013

If I could describe the Hoka trail shoe in two words, those words  would be “Holy Shit”. These shoes have literally solved 95% of my running problems, with the other 5% being comprised of obesity and lack of motivation. Shinsplints..gone. Uber painful calf cramps…gone. Knee pain..gone. Shit, I think my teeth have even gotten whiter since I started wearing these shoes.

 My one and only complaint is that they don’t really shed water very well. But seriously, these are the best and lightest  trail shoes you’ll find. You can step on rocks and never feel them! These shoes have given me the ability to run downhill, and that’s not something I’ve been able to do until now.  I seriously think these skins are some gonna be a major game-changer for me.

So…those are my thoughts on AR-specific trail shoes. Someday I’ll own a pair of Salomons, but for now I’m a Merrell/Hoka man.  Feel free to call me a dumbass in the comments section and/or share your own opinions.

Well, this is disappointing.

Good afternoon, my friends. It is with a tattoo-free lower back that I announce  my quest to run 100+ miles from June 20th to August 15th has been a successful one. Read ’em and weep:

Graph

Actually, I hit 100 on August 7th, which was a private goal I kept to myself and one other person. As one can see from looking at the graph, there was an 8 day stretch where I literally did nothing. I had a lot of lower leg pain and running any more than about 50 feet brought on a lot of calf/shinsplint pain. I finally broke down and ordered a pair of Hokas, which cured about 90% of all those problems. More on that later.

Best purchase of 2013

Best purchase of 2013

The  embarrassing thing is that I truly believed running 50 miles in one month was a monstrous challenge. Almost insurmountable. The truth is..it really wasn’t that hard. I just put my shoes on and dedicated between 10-60 minutes of my day to completing the goal. Using the Beeminder was a huge benefit, but I’d have to say most of my motivation came from my lovely wife when she asked me “what kind of pink panties are you going to wear when you lose the bet.” I ran an extra 2 miles that day, and for the record I would’ve went with boy-shorts. 

As per luke’s part of the bet, he has handily doubled my mileage and dwarfed me in the process. He’s in Colorado as we speak, probalby on a mountain doing something awesome.

His cardio should be other-worldly next weekend.

His cardio should be other-worldly next weekend.

So, this is one of those odd bets where we both win, and you, the reader, loses. I’m honestly torn as to how I should feel about this, but I think there’s a solution.

Robby, Travis and Kate are also going to Thunder Rolls. It only seems fair they have to duke it out somehow, and I’d like to hear your thoughts on how we should make that happen.  Or maybe you want us to do another running bet “to the death’ for the Castlewood race later this year; I don’t know..let your imagination run wild.

Either way, let your thoughts be heard. I’ll be at work all weekend and likely bored out of my mind.

Adventures in Marriage

For this trip-report, Cara has been granted temporary access behind the Virtus curtain to leave her comments in pink 🙂

P7050943

Last year on July 1st, Gomed and I were enjoying a nice day on the river when *one of us* (we all know it was Bob)made a critical paddling error and flipped the canoe. I must’ve swallowed too much river water, because suddenly a creek-bank next to our submerged canoe sounded like the perfect place to ask if she’d marry me. Forgetting to kneel, I botched the proposal and had to “do it again.. the right way“. This is, of course, a short version of the story and only a small part of a great weekend trip together.

And so we decided that a wilderness trip on the first weekend of July would be an annual thing. This year, I’d been spending a lot of time on the Ozark Trail Planner website, and I really wanted to do their featured 2-day trip.  Basically, it’s a 13 mile hike on the OT to BASS River Resort campground, then paddling back the next day. It was going to be a challenge for sure, and we were both pretty excited about it.

Trip Overview

Trip Overview–click to enlarge

Finding the Onondoga Trailhead was a little more challenging than we’d hoped, but after a few minutes of driving around in circles we finally stumbled onto it. Striking out onto the trail, Cara wasted no time dropping my ass. I’m hardcore like that.

And she’s off!!

Since we were carrying all of our food/water/tent, etc. for the whole weekend, our packs were pretty heavy. I’d tried to do the chivalrous thing and carry most of the heavy stuff, but she was still left to carry a really heavy blanket and about 9 pounds of Slim-Jims and sweetTarts. Lucky for us, there were randomly placed benches along the trail for the first few miles.

101_1098_med

Totally not a staged photo

The OT website described the first 4 miles as “A pleasant walk through hardwood forests and a few pine groves”. Lies. I guess that’s mostly true, but there was some respectable elevation changes, especially with the heavy packs we were hauling. One thing I noticed was that while it doesn’t look like the trail gets used much, it was in very good shape.  The further we hiked, the better the scenery became, especially as we neared mile 5.

P7050949

We passed several caves and rock arches in the early miles of the hike

The miles ticked by steadily and soon the trail was skirting along between the Courtois River and a rather large limestone bluff. Very cool stuff. We saw a few paddlers in the creek, but for the most part we passed by unnoticed.

P7050961

And yes, I brought the entire bottle of my seizure meds. You never know when you might find yourself in a long-term survival situation… 🙂

At mile 5.2, we came to the  “wet crossing, normally 1-2 feet deep and subject to flooding.”  The water was so clear you could see to the bottom, and we learned pretty quick that the green-shaded areas were DEEP..as in, up to my waist. We had the foresight to remove our socks and shoes before crossing, so after a very relaxing swim, (Bob swam around in only his underwear, tight, green little booty shorts.. he got some looks) I sat on the water’s edge changing back into my dry socks.

P7050954

….then I had a good laugh watching her try to find a way across without getting soaked. She skirted the bank all the way around, barely getting wet past the knees.

Clever girl, that one.

Clever girl, that one.

Right about this time, we had a the option of cutting the trip short or continuing on. I left the decision to her and she wanted to do the whole 13 miles… an impressive lady on all counts. I’m tough.

Having crossed the creek, we made our way up a short piece of trail leading t0 Bat Cave, which is obviously not somewhere the Dept. of Conservation wants people playing around.

Cara was pretty sure this gate was built to contain the cave-monsters..

Cara was pretty sure this gate was built to contain the bat/human cave monsters from the movie The Descent

After that, the trail got very interesting. We basically went up, up and up before eventually reaching a scenic overlook near the 8-ish mile mark. There’s a rock outcropping that overlooks a few miles of the valley below, and the view is awesome. I don’t know if it was the spectacular view, the awesome weather  or the remoteness of it all, but we were suddenly inspired to do something more adventurous than stand there and take photos…so I hope you’ll forgive the absence of bluff-top pictures. I’m sure any other man in my position, (get it?), would’ve done the same thing.

Trail panorama

Trail panorama

I’ve got to say, for a woman who spends most (all) of her day working in a lab, this wife of mine did very well on our 13 mile hike.  It wasn’t until we’d gone about 11 miles that she finally lost her shit. But when she did…it was in glorious fashion. Let me see if I can remember her words correctly:

***Quietly hiking slong and then…..**” I f*cking hate nature!!, this is so stupid, why do we have to climb all the way to the top of  these giant ass hills,  then have to turn around and go right back to the bottom  and then come back up again?!?. This is so stupid, we’ve hiked like 7 miles and 5 of them have been in circles!! Who makes these trails, anyway??!? And how is that creek a “reliable” water source?!?! I’m not drinking that green shit, I don’t care how long you boil it.

It’s true, I said all of that plus some.

It was absolutely hilarious and I loved every moment of it. We discussed the possibility of camping along the trail and finishing the hike tomorrow, but she wanted to get to the campground. About an hour later, we reached Bass River Resort.  13 miles had come and gone (those miles did not just “come and go”, they were looong, painful miles), so we decided a victory pizza was in order:

P7050963

So many unflattering pictures of me and I don’t even care.

We set up the tent, drank a few beers and settled in for the worst night of sleep we’ve ever had together. Not bringing an air mattress was a HUGE mistake, regardless of how heavy it would have been. Having one blanket and no pillows was an even bigger mistake, but I don’t know how we would’ve gotten them into our already-stuffed packs anyway. We were awake early the next day, mostly because it was too painful to lay on the ground gravel bar.  Some leftover pizza slices and a few cups of Pine-needle tea, and it was time to break down the tent and get ready for the paddle.

Before leaving, we decided to eat one of the Mountain House meals we’d brought, but ran into a bit of trouble when we realized we didn’t have any spoons. The people at BASS told us they didn’t have any either, which I’m sure was a lie. I won’t elaborate on the rest of our experience with the employees there, but I will say their demeanor was disenchanting.

Trying to impress my wife, I broke out the old survival knife and made us a spoon, which we then boiled to make sure it wasn’t loaded with nasties.  Bob thinks he’s an ultra-survivalist from watching too many Man, Woman, Wild shows.

See how happy she was with the spoons!

See how happy she was with the spoons!

All loaded up and ready to go, we embarked on the 1 mile hike to the kayaks. Cara really didn’t want to walk, so I stuck out my thumb and we hitched a ride on the tailgate of someone’s pickup truck. We both had a good laugh during the ride, and before we knew it we were ready to hit the water.

Perfect weater..for now.

Perfect weather..for now.

You couldn’t have asked for a much prettier day. The temps were probably in the mid 80’s, no wind, sunny and pleasant. Paddling in separate boats was definitely the right thing for us to do, as we were able to choose our own lines when the river got tricky. (No arguing) I was probably 100 yards behind when I saw her boat go around a corner…then shoot up into the air upside down. She exploded out of the water like an Olympic swimmer trying to catch the boat and paddle , and I did my best to laugh quietly. Seriously, though..I don’t think I’ve ever seen her move that fast.  I’ll kill you.

Separate boats=smiling faces

Separate boats=smiling faces

The water was crystal clear and the scenery was fantastic. There were a lot of people on the river too, but we never ran into any belligerent drunks or anything. Check out the bluffs along the river:

P7060998

Since I’m an idiot and hadn’t brought a map, I had no idea how far we’d come or how far we still had to go.  We were having fun though, and our pace was decent. Things were about to change, though. The sky grew dark and the wind picked up quite a bit. Off to our right, a giant sycamore tree broke in the wind and crashed to the ground. It was LOUD, terrifying, and  an awesome sight, but also foretelling of the incoming weather.

Basically, the weather went straight to shit. It started out with some strong wind, then came the rain. The cool rain was pretty refreshing at first, but it wasn’t long before we found ourselves in an all-out downpour. Branches were splashing into the creek all around us and the rain filled the kayaks. I tried to get some videos, but they’re pretty shaky.

Beginning of the storm

Adding insult to injury, Cara finds herself on a sandbar:

I don’t think she’s havin’ fun

Next thing you know, it starts hailing. Time to get serious. I yelled for her to abandon the boat and take the paddles to the bank. Then I hauled both boats to the bank and dumped our stuff out. She laid down on the ground and I put the kayak on top of her. I’m about to get under my kayak when I look out and see a family in a raft being pelted with hail. A girl in the raft couldn’t have been more than  4 years old, so…I ran out and helped them get the raft to shore, dump it over and get them under it. After that, I crawled under my kayak next to Cara and we laughed about the “epicness’ of it all, because being caught in a thunderstorm with hail is HILARIOUS when you’re under a piece of plastic hoping to not get crushed by fallen tree, or drown in the quickly rising river.

Hail video

It’s hard to believe you can find romance in a hail storm, but laying there under the kayak while my legs were being beat to shit with ice, I was so happy and proud of my wife. This was obviously an unforseen circumstance and she had handled it like a champ. There were no complaints, no arguing..just the two of us working together to overcome an undesireable situation. There’s nowhere else I would have rather been. Aww, he’s such a sweetheart 🙂

"weathering the storm" as a married couple

“weathering the storm” as a married couple

I guess the hail lasted about 20 minutes, and when it stopped we decided to get moving before we got too cold. So back out into the rain we went, until the skies eventually cleared and the day was gorgeous again. Along the way, we bumped into a few folks we knew, including, Lisa, Pam and Randazzle, who were more than eager to share their deviled eggs, cookies, booze and water with us. (Just a few more of the things we’ll be bringing with us next time).  They saved us. We had no food, no water, no nothing.  I was so relieved I didn’t have to drink river water treated with iodine tablets.

Cara, Lisa, Pam and Randazzle in the background

Cara, Lisa, Pam and Randazzle in the background

We were also invited over to “Chateau de Dazzle”  later that evening for some delicious steaks and intelligent conversation. Talk about an awesome day. We paddled/floated with the 3 of them for the remainder of the trip, and eventually called it a day. In my book, this weekend trip together was a complete  success. The route was challenging, scenic and rewarding. We worked as a team, overcame all obstacles and even got to eat steaks at the end. Judging from the soreness in both of our lower legs, I’d say the next trip will be a bit shorter, but we’re already talking about doing it again. I’m thinking a group trip with other couples/individuals would be a REALLY kickass time.

13_-_2

I dunno, I’d say her WTFAR face is pretty good. Oh look, more unflattering photos of me.

Double or Nothing….and Thunder Rolls is coming!!

Is it really the middle of July already? I hope everyone else is having fun and doing plenty of “coasteering training” for The Thunder Rolls next month. I know I am..

Underwater cameras = big fun

Underwater cameras = big fun

So anyway, it’s that time of year again…time to put our twisted minds together and concoct a new Thunder Rolls Challenge. The floor is open as far as what the betting should be, so feel free to post any suggestions you may have. At last count, we potentially have 5 Virtusans TR-bound: Myself, Kate, Luke, Travis and (maybe)Robby. Personally, I think everyone should have their own individual challenge.

If you want to make a bet with me, (and lose), it needs to be running-related. I’ve been on a bit of a roll with this goal of running 50 miles by August 15th, as is evidenced by the Beeminder.com graph below:

Oh yeah, it's the real deal.

Oh yeah, it’s the real deal.

….and this bit of success has motivated me to raise the bar a bit. Since this challenge pairs so nicely with the Thunder Rolls racedate, I’m gonna double my initial goal for a total of 100 miles before August 15th.  In the event of my failure, I’m willing to accept any and all consequences you offer up. That is, as long as you’re prepared to hold up your end of the bet when I win.

Oh, and we’re gonna crush WTAR this year, but you already knew that.

-BLD

 

%d bloggers like this: