340 Miles to Immortality (Part II)
We’d been defeated by mere wind. Air moving too fast, too aggressively in direct opposition to us, had overcome our resolve. Humbled as we surely were, in our minds, we’d merely lost a battle, the war was yet to be won.
The race had been delayed from mid July t0 mid August. The rains had been too heavy, there was flooding around one of the early check points. The organizers, in a decision I don’t envy one bit, choose correctly. They decided to err on the side of safety. But damn it, I was pissed. I was READY TO GO. We’d been preparing and counting down the days since we’d signed up. The only real concerns we’d ever had were that the water would be so low as to be quite slow, and that in the middle of July in the middle of Missouri it would be over 100 degrees! As the date rolled around, we were thrilled at the weather forecast, mild and rainy. Ideal conditions when you’re on the river. No sun mercilessly beating down on us and more water to raise the river and add free speed to our endeavor. But when they told us there was too much of a good thing, we were enraged. But we’d be damned if that was going to stop us.
So August rolled around. It had been delayed a full month because the organizers, in their infitinite wisdom, mandate that the race is held to coincide with the full moon to give paddlers extra time at night. And I can say without a doubt, that paddling on the wide, smoothly flowing Missouri River at night, with a beautiful full moon looming just over the horizon, is a fantastic sight that too few people are privileged to witness.
With the delay, my main concern was the weather. I felt like we’d lucked out with the July weather and couldn’t possibly hope to get so lucky again. Not in August. Not in Missouri. But as the next date crept closer, the weather started to cooperate. Something was amiss. Some error had inadvertently gone in our favor for it was not ungodly hot and humid. In fact, we got sensationally lucky. It was cold at night. Mid 80s during the day and mid 50s at night. Couldn’t ask for better weather. There’s no doubt that we owe a lot of our finishing ability to the weather gods. Had they been less merciful, even the beards might not have been enough.
Monday August 11th dawned. Josh and I, and my brother-in-law Jeff, headed west with kayaks strapped precariously to the roof. Hot damn it felt good to be finally embarking on our journey! I know I was full of nervous energy as we rolled out the miles to KC.
We arrived early afternoon, check in quickly, and then high-tailed it over to Boulevard Brewing Co for their smokestack tour. It was a great tour with even better beers at the end. A really nice way to kick off the adventure. And though we didn’t see much of KC up close, I’m excited to go back. Seems like a cool town.
We staged our kayaks that afternoon. And that was our first dose of reality: no other kayak was nearly as short as ours. That had to mean something… After the safety meeting, we rechecked our gear for the fifth time, rolled up all loose ends, and went to bed like kids on Dec 24th.
(Continued in: PART III)