Sunday, February 10, 2013

"I think I am blocking the river"

While 2012 was a drought filled year that made finding acceptable water levels a challenge, 2013 has started out with a nice combination of snow and rain giving the kayaking world hope that the upcoming year will be an improvement.  As the RSVP's poured in, Dan felt like a high school reunion chairman or better yet one of the Blues Brothers as he hustled to put the band back together.  Kent, Tom, Russ, JD, Jim H. fell into place.  Hell, even Jim M. dug through his vast collection of toys and dusted off ole' yeller.  Dan smiled to himself and in his best imitation of  Animal House's Flounder exclaimed: "This is gonna be great!" But wait....something was missing.  Where was our Curly of the Three Stooges, our Chrissie of Three's Company, the other woman in our dreams of a Menage a Trois? Yep, although an original member of the consecutive month kayaking club, Pat has long established his kayaking preference is that of a loner.  He has become the Grand Bu pah of the solo yak...a Master masturyaker as it were. 

Clockwise from upper left: Dan, group, Jim H., Kent, Jim M.,  Russ, JD, Tom
  Enjoying mild temperatures in the thirties, the seven yakkers put in at Hidden Lake and headed towards the Arboretum.  As Kent and Russ power stroked ahead as if trying out for the last spot on Yale's sculling team, conversation at the tail end of the group eventually landed on the legality of entering the Arboretum via the river.  Were we trespassing or not?  Although the question has been asked many times before and opinions on the topic are unlimited, a definitive answer never seems to be forthcoming nor would it on this trip.  As the five stragglers came around a bend they saw Russ and all 12 feet of his kayak stretched across the width of the river.  Apparently thinking that the best way to get over a submerged tree limb was sideways like a high jumper doing the Fossberry Flop instead of a hurdler attacking it head on, Russ got caught up on the tree.  As the realization set in that he was now blocking the rest of the group Russ shrugged his shoulders and sheepishly said "I think I am blocking the river!"  No SH!#  Sherlock!!  After a few minutes the obstruction was removed (as well as the tree limb!) and the trip continued. Dan shook his head and muttered under his breath "FNG Russ". 
 While the increased water level provided some nice riffles in multiple sections, it did cause some concern about the chosen departure location...a gushing spillway. Despite his little mishap earlier in the trip Russ took the bull by the horns and roared right up to the fast flowing water.  The whole group held their breath in anticipation of the impending disaster. For some of us, this would not be the first time we have witnessed a fallen brethren sitting in the freezing water next to this spillway.  Much to our shock (and relief), Russ calmly stepped out of his yak onto shore like he was getting out of his recliner to fetch another brew. The ease in which he did this maneuver was surprising to everyone especially after they all struggled to get onto shore themselves.  Although I love the label, maybe it is time to remove the FNG tag.  Kent, practicing a self imposed alcohol moratorium, went to get his car while the rest of the group enjoyed a nice cold beer, next to the river a mere 100 yards from the police station.  Hard to think of a better way to kill some time on a lazy winter afternoon!  SYOTR.
The boys enjoy a cold one after a successful trip

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Duper...we have a PROBLEM!

February had arrived, the rivers were at a nice level after the recent rain and the snowfall the night before set the scene for what should have been a great winter kayak trip.  Dan (extending his streak to 87 consecutive months), Tom, Katie and Russ set off on what was planned to be the North avenue to Beecher route. All was good initially until we rounded a bend and saw a large tree creating a major blockage.  With a 2 foot ice shelf guarding the 4 foot high bank, the kayakers were facing some crucial decisions. While finding a place to get out for a potential portage was proving difficult, the unknown prospect of trying to successfully get back into the yaks after the tree ultimately sealed the deal. The decision? We would paddle back upstream and abort the original plans.  While it involved more effort than we typically like to exert, things were going well until we hit the "rapids".  We would have to portage if we liked it or not. Taking advantage of his insulated waders, Dan got out and pulled Katie to a safe spot while Tom and Russ looked for another option.
Russ, Katie and Tom enjoy the majestic winter beauty not knowing what was around the bend
While the snow can make for a beautiful backdrop to a winter kayak trip, it can also hide unknown dangers to the unaware. After struggling up the steep embankment to "solid" ground, Russ and Tom set off upstream to scout out a re-entrance point to the river to continue the trip back to the cars.  They had only taken a few steps when old man winter kicked Tom in the teeth.  What he thought was a safe spot to step turned out to be trap.  As the ground gave way, Tom plunged into the frigid water below.  The shocking bite of the 33 degree water caused Tom to scream out in shock.  Dan whipped his head around just in time to see the smirk on Russ's face that seemed to say "I knew you shouldn't have stepped there dumb@$$ !!"  As it turns out only one leg went in about knee deep and disaster was avoided.
A desperate Tom reaches out for assistance from Russ 
Once everyone was safely back in their kayaks, the paddle upstream was without further incident.  Back on shore the group stood next to their ice covered gear and enjoyed a nice cold bottle of brew.  Topics changed quickly from the ice cold temperature of the beer, to the need for upgraded winter kayaking gear to the changed kayak transport situation due to the altered route. Attempting to be funny Russ pointed out that his truck and kayak were already here and all he had to do was make the quick trip back home (thus stranding Dan with a kayak, no car and no ride). Not receiving the panicked reaction to his comments that he was hoping for, a few minutes later Russ repeated his whimsical comment hoping maybe that the group would think he was really serious if he said it again. Dan took the bait and disgustingly said "If it wasn't funny the first time you said it why did you think it would be funny the second time?". The group enjoyed a chuckle, sucked down the last few ounces of beer and loaded up the gear all agreeing that this adventure was a first (and one that no one would want to repeat).  Till next time...see you on the river.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Consecutive month 75 saw Dan, Kent and Pat (YES....the original Duper boys back together again) out on the old standby..Centennnial Beach to Pioneer Park. You would think the day before the big Super Bowl game we would have spent the whole time talking about THE GAME. Instead, we talked about kick ass meals we had recently had at restaurants, how to reproduce those recipes at home and in what ways we could alter those recipes to make them beter....does not get much more macho than that!!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

"If you don't drink in the morning..... can't drink all day." In every group in every situation, people tend to take on certain roles within the group....classic group dynamic stuff. The more I kayak with Russ, the more I am perplexed on what his role will be. I am liking "FNG Russ" just because I love the whole "FNG" label and it is not every day that this label fits someone as nicely as this fits Russ. It has a very comfortable feel, much like a pair of old slippers. Last week on the Chicago river Deb tossed out "Wrong way Russ". Possibility? Yes, but after hearing his little gem above and his weekly singsongy "I don't know where the Huskies go just don't eat the yellow snow!" (my apologies if either quote is not verbatim) I am thinking he may take on a new role that has not been filled before.

Oh yeah, the trip. We put in at Hidden Lake and took out at Community Park. We had some low spots that required a few wet walks but everyone who walked was quite pleased with their footwear and the cold water was not an issue. After the trip Russ was kind enough to bring 4 glasses and multiple beers for a post yak beer sampling. A little Backwoods Bastard was followed by some Breakfast Stout and lastly KBY. The last 2 looked more like chocolate syrup than beer but tasty just the same. As we were walking back to our cars, Russ grabbed a chunk of old cardboard out of his truck, threw it on the ground and proudly called out "Hey look, my changing mat!" As I drove away I smiled to myself and shook my head..."FNG Russ". If nothing else he has added some color to these dreary winter yaks. Till next time....SYOTR (see you on the river!)

PS Click on the link below for my new technological toy. Click on the Green map bubble at the top of the map, then hit the gray play button. Be sure you are scrolled down on the page so you can see as it tracks our trip down the river.

Arboretum Float 1/22/2012 by kayakmandan30 at Garmin Connect - Details

Thursday, January 5, 2012

FNG takes a plunge!!!

The reach of the Duper boys' influence has been well documented on this blog. What started out with Dan and Pat in a borrowed canoe has evolved into a consecutive month kayak streak that has reached 74 months for Dan, Pat and Kent (I am confident Kent will get out in January since he had to miss the annual New Years Day float). Since Pat's canoe, Dan's single kayak and Kent's tandem, I can come up with a count of about 15 kayak purchases that can directly or indirectly be traced back to the Duper Boys. With all these kayak purchases the need to moochayak* has been greatly reduced. If I count the seats correctly, we could have 21 people on the river at the same time.....LETS DO IT!!

Interesting to point out that all four Doyle boys own multiple boats. Tom, while threatening to buy one for years, finally took the plunge along with his daughter Katie (2nd female owner after her cousin Theresa) in the spring of 2011. Experiencing the freedom that the gently flowing rivers of the Chicago area offer, Tom has appeared to set his sights on a streak of his own. "Once a month?' he thought, "that is amateur hour". Not sure how he is doing on maintaining his weekly trips but last I heard he had a bumper sticker stating "My other car is a kayak". What a madman.

As I track the lineage of the kayaking family, I must give credit (or blame?) to Tom for bringing Russ into the fold. I have kayaked a few times with Russ and each time I have had at least one "shake my head in disbelief" moment as I watched Russ learn the art of river navigation. It was a trip in December that my shaking head moment turned into a "WTF?" moment. At one point it was necessary to navigate through a small opening of about 8 feet between some downed trees. As I went through I felt the river pulling me closer to the tree on the right than I wanted to be but I made it through with no issues. I held my breath, listening behind me as Tom and Katie both went through silently with no problem. It was then I heard the shockingly loud noise as if someone was scraping their fingernails on a chalkboard or sticking an electric cattle prod up a cat's a$$. I whipped my head around just in time to see Russ crash into the tree branches (STRAINER!!!)and slowly get dumped into the river. As he gathered his feet underneath him and the shock of the cold water started to set in you could sense by the pained expression on his face that a certain part of his anatomy was transforming in the frigid Salt Creek water much like plump grapes transform into shriveled raisins!! His eyes bulged and his breath quickened as the harsh realty and dangers of winter kayaking set in while he stood chest deep in the 34 degree water. After we got him back safely into his yak, he declared "Maybe I should wear my scuba diving dry suit next time"........ya think? That or a Neoprene / Gore-Tex body condom!! To his credit, he keeps coming back and seems to really enjoy it.

Later on that day a text was sent to Pat and he later advised that there was no need for further explanation: "Russ swims with the fishes". Don't feel bad Russ, you are not the first.

*(mooch - ah - yak) verb (used with object): To take or obtain a kayak with the promise to return the same or an equivalent: Since Jim did not own a kayak, his desire to masturyak whenever he felt the urge was continually hampered by his need to moochayak.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Bloggers strike is settled! Streak uninterupted.

The pressure to produce informative yet entertaining recaps of the Duper boys' adventures caused an unfortunate blog-stoppage over the last few months. Call it a case of writer's block or just a lack of anything to write about but I am back in the blogoshpere. Who am I kidding anyway? Most of this is done just to satisfy my own desire to read some qualify prose. Kind of in the same vein (easy fellas, not a big purple one!) as when I get caught talking to myself and my standard response is "sometimes its the only way I can have an interesting conversation!"

Rest assured, the lack of a monthly accounting of all trips does in no way mean that the monthly trips did not take place. We utilized both east and west branches as well as the post merge DuPage river rapids trip in Shorewood. Pat, Dan, Kent and Chuck took advantage of some nice water and had a great time riding the wave trains. The post paddle beers and shots didn't hurt either. Apparently, Kent liked it so much he had Chuck drive him all the way to Lisle, just to drive back down again all in the same day. Not sure what the story was but I think I would have remembered that I had my car and had not accepted the ride home with another man. They do seem to have a "special" bond.

Over the almost 5 consecutive years of yakking, there have been conversations regarding what counts as an official trip and what does not. "No", they do not all have to be on the Dupage river. "Yes" renting a kayak on vacation continues the streak, etc. We, the active streak members (Pat, Kent and Dan), are usually in complete agreement, after all who other than us really gives a damn if the streak continues or not? This all being said, I feel I would be doing the consecutive kayaking streak loving world a disservice if I did not recall a conversation between Kent and Dan 3 weeks prior to Kent's Alaskan cruise. Kent: "I am getting on the cruise ship on June 29th, that counts as my June trip, right?". Dan: "Are you f%&#ing kidding me? A canoe. yes, a row boat, maybe, but a 70 ton cruise ship!!! You have 3 weeks left in June, get on the river!!!" Kent sometimes likes to mess with my mind but I don't he was this time, he was being serious. If nothing else, our streak will always be about enjoying the water, the outdoors and each other's a MAN POWERED boat, preferably a kayak.

Where the HELL is the RAIN???? We need some WATER!!!!