Wednesday, February 16, 2011

From Here to There: 19 Miles on the Versa Board

Just last weekend Woody and his lady Kim (Woody is also Kim's man) had come over to visit and cook out on my brand new grill (it’s bad ass).  Over a good evening of chatting and hanging out with our significant others, Woody said that he had the idea to stand up paddle 20 miles on the French Broad river on the Versa Board the next day. Betsy (my lady) said that I had to go because she had a pile of grading several megabytes deep to do and she wanted me out of the house.  So there it was: the scene was set.  We both needed to get on the water and with unseasonably few whitewater options, this looked like the adventure at hand.  The idea was exciting as a challenge always is but I also felt a kind of sinking dread: this was going to hurt.

In the morning Betsy and I made a big breakfast of Palak Paneer Omelettes and buckets of coffee to help with her heavy pencil pushing, and my long longboard pushing for the day. 10:00 am.  We took off like a herd of turtles.  

We drove into downtown Asheville, to the River Arts District, to set shuttle.  If you ever get the chance there is lots to be done down by the river.  The Wedge Brewery waits directly across the street from the takeout.  A short quarter mile down the road they serve the best BBQ ever at 12 Bones.  Artists practice their craft in several locations along the way including an old friend of mine Pattiy Torno at the Curve Studios.  It’s a great place to spend some time.

As we pulled away from the take out and headed to the top of the run,  I thought to myself (and I am sure Woody was thinking the same thing),  "We can put in anywhere. We don't have to do 20 miles."  To tell you the truth, neither one of us really knew how much river we’d bitten off.  We knew there was a put in near the Asheville airport and by road it was 16 miles to the takeout so we figured it would be somewhere between that and a lot more.  As we were driving up, we started laughing about it and that pretty much sealed the deal.  We both agreed: we had to do the whole adventure.  

As you can tell it was not the most perfectly planned mission.  Woody's booties didn't fit.  We didn't know how far it really was.  He hadn't eaten lunch. I had one Snickers bar and a gallon of water.  We were putting on at 1 pm for a potential 20 mile trip.  Which left about 5 hours of light.  But the real issue we’d left far back in our minds was the headwind.

The French Broad River flows from the airport North into Asheville past a complete mix of scenery.  You paddle through urban sprawl, industrial landscapes, farmland, and a large chunk of the Biltmore Estate. Even the downright ugly was interesting to paddle through because as paddlers we just don't paddle through that type of environment often, but the section through the Biltmore estate was beautiful. The Biltmore house itself has 175,000 square feet of space and 250 rooms.  It the closest thing we have in the U.S. to a castle. The estate today consists of 8,000 acres surrounding the house and along the river, and paddling gives a great way to see it.

But remember that part about the sinking dread? At times the head wind pushed back so strongly that we both considered the possible escapes from the mission. (Knocking a couple riders off their horses we saw along the river, climbing up a bridge and sticking out a thumb…) Woody and I would plant the paddle deep in the water to hold our ground against the wind.  If we didn't, the wind pushed us upstream.  As we started to see more signs of getting close to town our energy rebounded (or maybe it was that half a candy bar).  Our legs ached from the hours of standing.  Our arms and hands were tired from the constant pull.  Three days out I can still feel the tension in my forearms from the long leverage of the stand up paddle.  As Woody put it, "this is the type of mission that you are psyched for when it’s done".

Looking back on it we can say we enjoyed the trip. I may even do it again.  And as you can see Woody is psyched that its done.

Click Here for the link to all the photos from the day.

Shaneslogic Comments