Kayaker, Engineer, Athlete, Tinkerer

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Long Haul Back (Part 2)

I made it into Seattle and to Tom's house on the early evening of the 30th. We loaded the trailer that night and to be honest I was pretty worried how the Blazer would do with the extra weight but mostly air drag.  Driving out I was getting mostly 13miles per gallon which is pretty bad even for the blazer, but the only way I would know is to just go and drive.  But first I had to have a little paddle after all the last time I paddled that boat was July 1st on the Isere in france and I was anxious to get back into it again.  So on the morning of the 30th Tom and I met up with Andrew McEwan to do some attainments.  It was great to get out in that boat again on something that wasn't shallow or flatwater.   Since I had some delays from weather driving out and I had an even longer drive coming back so I decided to hit the road that afternoon.
Coffee is a big part of Seattle culture, and there are tons of little drive through espresso stands to get some fresh coffee.  I'm told some of them even have "bikini barista's".  On my way out of town I had to stop and get some because after just sitting in a car for days the short workout made me a little tired.  The barista's at the stand I stopped at were fully clad, but they had a rather american menu option.
Oregon was pretty much like this, cold barren and not much there.  That night was particularly cold, it's not fun trying to start a diesel engine when it's -7 in the morning, but at least there was a nice sunrise
Oregon and Idaho were pretty hilly and desolate, but once I hit Utah there were clear blues skies and that reflecting off of the snow was pretty neat, it was also very flat which was good for the gas mileage.
It was a pretty remarkable day considering the terrain change that occurred. I started out with sort of scubgrass plains in Oregon and Idaho. Then I hit barren Utah and near Salt Lake I hit the mountains again, and heading east toward Green River, I went through a portion of canyon country.
By the next morning I was back into Wyoming but the southern side this time.  It was sort of snowing, but really windy, so not much to look at. 
At this point, after two solid days in the car I found this gas station name a little funny. But Wyoming was good for cheap diesel.

Shortly after crossing into Nebraska, I caught up to this tractor trailer.  It was going at a good speed and since elevation change doesn't exist in Nebraska I just set the cruise control the same speed as him and tucked in about 30ft behind him. 
Oh look a huge train, and the same truck.  We both even had to stop for fuel at the same exit.  I caught up to it again shortly after getting back on the highway.  I seriously drafted the same semi for about 400 miles.
There was some huge roadway monument so I took a picture of it. You can get a sense of how exciting Nebraska is, after driving 500miles through it, I took pictures of a train and a monument and that was it.
Two consecutive nights is my mental and personal hygiene limit to sleeping in my car.  This was my hotel room about 30 seconds after I entered it.  I then ironed my jeans, and walked to a nearby micro-brewery, drank some beer and slept like a baby.
Compared to the previous day, today had a lot of states to cross and several big cities.
This was a pretty cool bridge over the Missouri River in Kansas City.
This was one of three Centralia's that I passed on the trip, but none of them boasted an underground coal fire that's been burning for 50 years, so I didn't think it was worth stopping for.
Hmmm St. Louis traffic with cross wind and a boat trailer, so fun.
I managed to pry my white knuckles off the steering wheel for a second to grab this rather bad photo of the arch.  I kept trucking the rest of the evening before making it about an hour or so west of Chattooga where I would drop 4 of the boats off the next day.
One last picture of the full trailer before dropping the first four off.
If you look closely above and to the inside of the trailer lights you can see the little bike lights I zip tied on the trailer and would turn on at night. While this was sketchy at best, it was apparently legal enough for the half a dozen cops I drove past at night. 
Oh look its those long boats where you face the wrong way and an angry midget tells you what to do...

After dropping off the boats I stopped by NOC to say hello to the people there and go for another paddle.  It was nice to see some familiar faces there and good to get out in the boat again.  The paddle was pretty much like every other time I paddle with Hipgrave. I was 100 yards upstream warming up and he gives a signal and just goes for it. I spend the next 15 mins trying my hardest to catch up while trying to appear that I'm not trying hard.  Eventually he slows down a bit and I catch up, but that's the way it goes between two competitive people.  Each of us is secretly trying to drop the other while looking like they aren't trying, haha I love it. 

After the paddle the plan was to meet another friend at a brewery in Asheville, but of course what's a long road trip in the blazer without a break down. About 30mins from Asheville I was getting pretty hungry so I pulled off to stop at a Subway, shortly after I put it in park the engine just died.  I tried cranking it but it wasn't going, so I went to subway and got food so I wouldn't have to worry on an empty stomach.  30mins later its still dead, with my limited mechanical knowledge I quickly determine that it is outside the scope of my fixing and quickly put up a plea on facebook about diesel mechanics near Waynesville, I was soon able to get a mechanic/tow truck called and I received several support calls and texts for which I am very grateful for.  The blazer was towed that night into Asheville, at least it's heading in the right direction.  The mechanics were able to diagnose a bad fuel pump that night and that was all they could do.  They were a pretty nice group, they made room for the kayak trailer so it could be locked up over night and pushed the blazer outside so I could sleep in it that night. That morning I went for a walk to get breakfast and to get out of their hair for a bit because the part hadn't arrived yet. Luckily there was a Bojangles nearby so that was a good way to start the day. Around 10:30 the fuel pump showed up and 15mins later the blazer was running, those guys knew what they were doing.  I got the trailer back on and I was on the road again.  

The final leg went reasonably quick its I drive that I know quite well at this point after working at NOC for two summers and going to several training camps and races there at other times. I also made it back into Sheetz territory which was good.  Around 8:30pm I make it to Marysville to drop off two more boats and then make the final drive back to Montoursville.  While this would seem like the point where I would start to relax, it wasn't.  My first class of the spring semester started in less than two days and I had major laundry and packing to do as well as deal with the trailer of boats in the backyard.  But it wasn't a big problem and eventually I was back at school with an epic adventure under my belt.
After 6167 miles of driving my boat from Worlds was at my house 100% intact 

Since some time has passed since I finished the trip I'll add my comments of the trip.  
Driving cross country and back with a trailer in the middle of winter is not a vacation it just isn't.  I'm not going to say it was fun, because being in a car by yourself for 10 days isn't, but it was an experience.  You can't have the good without the bad (sleeping in your car when it's -7 just plain sucks) and no matter how much you plan and prepare things happen, like your fuel pump giving out.  All the cold, pain and discomfort are all in the past now, but the memories I have will stay with me.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

A Long Journey of Many Miles, Lots of Snow and Questionable Sanity (Part 1)

Well its been quite a while since the last post mostly because I really haven't been paddling wildwater.  After training intensely for one sport for about two years without a major break, it was good to relax a little and not do ridiculous training all the time.  I did an adventure triathlon in the fall which was pretty fun, 19miles of biking 2.2 miles of kayaking and 4.5 miles of running. I even did my first half marathon in december and it went surprisingly well. I guess I was just having a little fun with my fitness.

Anyway, the boat I raced with in France was shipped on a container ship to Seattle Washington. I got word that it was there right around the time I was trying to figure out what to do over winter break so my next logical thought was oh well I'll just drive to Seattle and pick it up.  The good thing was that there were several other boats that needed to come back east, 9 others, 4 to Chattanooga, 2 in PA and 3 were from the Canadian Team. While my car is quite big, it couldn't fit 10 wildwater kayaks on the roof so I set about borrowing a kayak trailer. Luckily I was able to get one from the local paddle shop, I just need to grease the bearings which is not  particularly pleasant task, especially when it is below freezing. But all the preparations were made including sliding a twin mattress in the back of the blazer so I wouldn't need to get a hotel room every night.
On December 26th after I had loaded the Blazer with Christmas cookies and sleeping bags I left Montoursville with the goal of making it past South Bend Indiana.  I was on the road around 10am and thought I would have plenty of time, but there was a pretty large snow storm working its way over western PA and Ohio.
Once I was west of Snowshoe PA the snow started and was pretty bad.

Ohio was a little better, at least they used snow plows. Three would run side by side to force people to drive slow so things like this wouldn't happen.
This pretty much sums of western Ohio and Eastern Indiana.  Snowing, slippery and cold.  At around 9:30pm I called it a day and found the nearest truck stop.  In the roughly 14 hours I spent driving I only manages 500 miles, not a great start to the trip.

Day Two took me from central Indiana to eastern South Dakota.  Nothing exciting happened this day. I woke up, and got on the road. I passed through Chicago around 10am so traffic was busy but it was moving good the whole time. 
On most toll roads, you grab a ticket and pay wherever you get off, but that makes too much sense for Illinois.  for I284 to bypass downtown, there are 5 toll plazas where if you don't have their Ipass you have to fight your way across traffic to a mini exit where you pay 2.25 and get the pleasure of driving 3-4 miles before having to do it again(5 stops total).

Wisconsin was pretty cool, but then again after driving through Ohio and Indiana any place that has trees is a nice change of scenery.
Minnesota was pretty boring, just rolling flat farmlands after climbing up from the Mississippi River.
The frozen Mississippi River

Later that night in eastern Minnesota it started snowing, not really have but it was cold enough it didn't melt and would just blow.
Visibility did become a problem whenever a semi would pass

Day Three was a pretty cool day.  I made it far enough west that I would be able to drive through the Badlands in the morning as well as stop by Devils Tower in Wyoming later that day.
There's really not much in South Dakota

Except for metal tyrannosaurus rex's

And the Badlands 

The clouds cleared about 20 mile from Badlands National Park and that combined with fresh snow gave some pretty awesome scenery.
Yeah it was pretty cool, I even found some Buffalo 

After spending a couple of hours in Badlands, it was back to the highway to get some miles in.  A couple hours later I made it into Wyoming and made my way to the Devils Tower, there was some slick roads to get there but I made it to the park fine. The park had a trailer parking lot so I took full advantage.  The combination of 4 wheel drive with a high torque engine on pack snow is very fun driving.

It was at this point in the trip that some things started to go wrong, for example the blazer developed some electrical problems and I lost running lights, everything else work headlights brake lights, turn signals, but there weren't anylights on behind me at night, luckily western Wyoming and eastern Montana is not very busy so I would put on the 4 ways whenever someone was close. I opted for a hotel that night it was getting pretty chilly and I could use a shower.  The next morning after trying to figure what what might be wrong I went to a NAPA store to replace the turn signal flasher and the plug for the trailer to no avail still no driving lights.  At least the sun had some out so for the time being I would get some miles in.
Something not flat

At a rest area they showed a scenic highway that ran parallel to the interstate but went though the mountains instead of around them so that seem like a good change of pace.
And it was there were some really cool spots like this one.

It was in Butte Montana that I came up with a sort of solution for the lack of light: bike lights.  I managed to find a bike store and bought two red bike lights that I zip tied to the trailer and would just turn on whenever it got dark.  I really liked western Montana, I stopped into Missoula to grab some food and try some beer, even managed to find an "Eddy out pale ale." The next morning was really nice, scenic snow on the pine trees of the rockies in Montana and Idaho. 

Several hours later I made it into the Cascades where there was tons of snow, and within 2 hours after that, I made it to Tom's house where all the kayaks were. Halfway done, well not really.