Thursday, March 29, 2012

Meeting Reminder

Don't forget that the Pre-Trip Meeting is next week.  Thursday, April 5 at 7:00 pm.  Upstairs at McDougal's Chicken Coop on Belcourt Ave.

Believe it or not, there will be some real planning at this meeting, including the serious tasks of choosing what section of the Current River we're going to float and picking our campsites.  And you will all be a part of it.  It's true those things usually happen magically on their own and there are some drawbacks to revealing how the process works.  You don't take the frog apart to see what makes him croak. 

But on almost every previous trip we had already paddled the section of river we were going on and we knew exactly where the best campsites were.  The only exception, besides the Chicago River which was a day trip, was the Green River in 2007 and that was a white-knuckler.  You may recall the river was high and there were zero places to pull over, much less camp.  Lunch was on a tiny spit of gravel in the middle of the river.

When we finally found what looked like a decent place to camp, it was earlier than we wanted to stop but we were wise to take it.  The next morning we didn't pass a single gravel bar before the take-out.

Since we don't know where any of the campsites are on this trip, we're going to all share the risk of paddling for miles in the dark or passing the last good gravel bar and sleeping on an uncomfortable rock ledge.

Actually, we have been on the Current before.  Many times.   But it was a long, long time ago and we weren't scouting campsites for a bunch of middle aged men.

Two Future RRCC Members on the
Lower Current River - Summer 1978

We also weren't drinking beer, which is the real key to river planning and is something the Coop has plenty of.    So see you next Thursday if you can make it.  We'll also try to get a first rough head-count and talk about travel plans.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Hoeing Down

The Mystery Blogger made a good point last week:  everyone should be able to get in on the music on these trips.  That's always been the policy, we just haven't made it very easy for others to learn the songs or join in.  So it's time to get organized and change that.

We are hereby announcing the grand opening of the RRCC Dynamic Digital Songlist.  We will post a permanent link to a separate web site where we will collect all of our songs, both current and in progress.    It will be oar-ganic - growing as we learn new songs and with links to the words, chords and an audio sample of each.  

Here it is so far:  RRCCSongList

No more excuses.  You have plenty of time to practice because the canoe trip is exactly one month away.  We won't be able to get all of the lyrics and chords up at once, but if you're learning them faster than we can upload them....well, we'll be in pretty good shape then won't we.

And don't worry if you don't play an instrument.  If you just learn the lyrics to half these songs you will be contributing far more than than some drunk guy with a guitar (not directed at anyone in particular). 

-  The Soy Bomber

Monday, March 26, 2012

Ok, we're back and have readjusted the stern seat, wiped down the keyboard and are looking forward to watching the countdown clock hit the one month mark. 

Josh, thank you for your excellent contributions.  But I really hope that wasn't you who ate the opossum breast sandwich in the breakroom fridge - it was clearly dated and marked with my initials.

I will also use my initials - "S.B." - on all future posts so you will know it is me, The Soy Bomber, and to distinguish myself from Josh who hopefully will identify himself similarly and contribute often. 

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Do Y'all Take Requests?

Of all the great aspects of the trips, I think my favorite is the music in the evenings. We've got so many truly talented musicians with incredible taste in music, and it's really amazing to sit around and listen.

But at the same time it's also a source of some tension, since those of us with no, say, musical talent of any kind, are left to wonder if we're just pissing everyone off when we only sing the parts we know, off key and out of tune, to boot.

To that end, I'd like to nominate a couple of explicitly riverine songs to add to the repertoire, both by the late John Hartford, a man who knew a thing or two about hanging out. Best of all he sang in a baritone, often monotone, and more or less changed the tunes every time he sang, so you can't really go too wrong.

I remember seeing him perform Skipping in the Mississippi Dew on TV when I was a wee lad, either on the Smothers Brothers or maybe Flip Wilson. I immediately thought it was the coolest thing ever.

 The way the beat mimics the sound of stern wheel pounding against the surface of the water, and the escapism of it all, just seems like a perfect option. And if we do that one, then there's another, probably too hard for our banjo picking skills, but kind an an ode to an old river man that also is just about perfect for our idiom.

"Paddle Placement and Turn Initiation"

The RRCC has never placed a huge premium on actual canoeing skills, whether as a membership requirement, or a developmental goal for longtime participants.

As long as everything is tied down, then the sheer enjoyment of seeing your colleagues plowing headlong into a mudbank on a sharp turn (Sorry Kirly, that one was on me), or maybe taking a bit too casually a fallen tree extending halfway across a mild riffle (Thanks for building me that fire, guys), a mishap has always been seen as its own reward and well worth the mild inconvenience. That's why they invented dry-bags, and why we own so many of them.

But to every thing, turn, J-stroke, turn, there is a season, and the time has come for some goal-setting on canoe skills.

To that end, and for your visual delectation, here is the great Marc Ornstein's performance in the Freestyle Canoeing Mid-West Regionals. The Deadspin sports website's viewing instructions cannot be improved upon.:

"Skip to 1:20, turn the volume up to a sufficient, yet not
excessive level, and watch Marc Ornstein's canoe glide across
the lake like a waterborne gazelle on a half-dose of Ambien.
Let the tender majesty that is freestyle canoeing
guide you into the warm night."


Blog Headquarters

Well it's taken a few days, but I've now settled into my stern seat here at the RRCC blog's gleaming headquarters in downtown Nashville. The facility is perched high above the city in the space vacated by the rotating Polaris restaurant, and clad suitably enough in aluminum lovingly salvaged from abandoned Grumman canoes.
Previously I'd had no idea what a professional operation our leader had cooked up to keep this blog functioning at such a frenetic pace. But with his ostensibly busy work schedule and the additional hours he puts in monitoring the region's USGS river gauges as well as his budding career in Naval Engineering, I knew there had to be a secret. Still, I never imagined all this.

Once the disarmingly friendly receptionist had shown me to my temporary offices, I took a few minutes to familiarize myself with my surroundings.

There's a fully stocked kitchen with beef jerky (both regular AND teriyaki), cases of Pringles, bowls of squirrel fritters, and endless shelves of smoked herring and whole walls made of bricks of Kerry Gold cheese.

The fridge was stocked with fresh huckleberries and three bushels of raw collard greens.

The team of interns generously offered me a snack to go with my mid-morning smoke break, but I thought I'd better press on with the tour.

As I familiarized myself with the facilities I was not surprised to see some photographs by RRCC legends adorning the walls. A John Guider shot of a triumphant crayfish was prominently positioned at the entrance to the Dickel-sponsored whiskey tasting area:
Guider's Crawdad

And of course there was a highly evocative Bob Delevante shot from the Duck River:

Bow-plate Special

And I was by no means surprised to see a vintage framed map of Buffalo River access points on the wall:

But, as the rotating floor rounded the turn into the John Graves Alcove I was greeted by an unexpected sight, a world-class collection of Tennessee Valley river mussels on display:

A munificent monument to malacology, but alas also a probable violation of Tennessee State Law:

and I quote:
"License Requirement - No person, firm, or corporation shall take, buy, sell, barter, or possess mussels taken from Tennessee waters (alive or dead) that are not of the species and sizes listed above. No person, firm, or corporation shall be in possession of non-processed freshwater mussels unless they have in their possession the required commercial musseling license, wholesale mussel dealer license, or pearl culturing license."

Luckily, with most of the TDEC's staff having either been laid off, or downsized through attrition, I feel we are at relatively low risk of prosecution. 

All in all it was a fantastic day, and I'll be reporting back soon.

Thursday, March 15, 2012


Starting tomorrow, a celebrity blogger will be taking over while your  regular editor is on vacation.  We can't tell you who it is.  He will be posting under his Wilbury name

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Planning Commission

Here are the steps for developing a river strategy for an RRCC trip.  The actual canoeing part.  We're going to describe the process below and pretend like we don't already know exactly where we're going. 

First you need to have a good feel for where the Current River really is.  Here's a map of the Show Me State showing both the Eleven Point River (Fall 2010) and the Current.  The Jack's Fork is marked because it is the third great Ozark river and we'll probably be on it someday too.

Click it:

Then you get yourself a good river map:

And a mileage chart:

Next you decide generally what part of the river you want to do.  Considering intangibles like water level and points of interest and avoiding the crowds (more about that later).  Because it is a spring trip, we'll have plenty of water and can do the Upper Current (above the Jack's Fork) which has all the caves and deep blue springs and also has the best gravel bars for camping.

The last step is to draw it all out by hand so you can see your access points and distances at a glance.

At the April 5 meeting we'll have a "vote" to decide which section, which will be about as meaningful as a Muslim election but at least you can all have ink on your finger and act like you had some say in it.

Here are some Muslims on the Current River. 

Fishing and canoeing and eating watermelon like they're from here!  I bet you they're all named Obama.

Friday, March 09, 2012


We are going to have a pre-trip meeting on Thursday, April 5.  We will start in the secret upstairs room at McDougal's Chicken Coop. 

Have you watched the Current River movie posted earlier this week?   It's mandatory viewing if you want to participate in the Spring trip or vote in the Academy Awards - and discussing it will be the #1 agenda item at the meeting. 

"Vanishing Ozarks" talking points for April 5:

-  The "Commissary Boats" traveling ahead to set up camp and start dinner.  Everything the RRCC does gets validated sooner or later.  

- Cooking with two large coffee pots and two cast iron skillets ("Fried chicken...and lots of it!"). 

-  The extra propeller pin, Jim's cot getting its own validation, sitting around at night drinking "coffee."

-  Is "Chief Guide Leroy Lewis" really Larry Harrington?

-  Why does the baritone voiced narrator keep filming "our sound man Chris Michaelsworth" walking around with no shirt and diving in the water?  Why are there parts of  the Current River “too gay for a clumsy old flat boat to flirt with"?

Mule Update:  We tested some of the improvements to our own Commissary Boat on the water this week. One unforeseen issue with the outboard tilt solution (using a bolt to bypass all the lock positions) is there is nothing to hold the motor down when you're in reverse.  Never thought of that! So it floats up a little when you're backing up, but not too badly at slow speeds and everything else works great and exactly as planned. We even fixed the same problem on the trolling motor.   Also, the middle seat cooler is done, but the boat does still leak a little.   Maybe more than a little.

Current River at Boyd's Creek

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

La Rivière Courant

"The Ozarks" is an area of highlands in southern Missouri and northern Arkansas that includes the Ozark Mountains but is as much about hillbilly culture as it is about geography. 

Modern "float trips" and "float camping" were basically invented here, and the Current River is the Ozarks' most famous float stream.  Although it is now one of the most popular canoe destinations in the country, it wasn't canoes that got things started.

The Ozark Jon Boat:

The johnboat became, perhaps, the Ozarks most famous folk product and was constructed throughout the entire region. The locally crafted johnboat was and is revered by fishermen and folklorists alike. Its historic role as the watercraft which introduced tourists, journalists, artists, and businessmen to pristine Ozarks streams is significant. The johnboat and associated float fishing became a fundamental part of the experience sought by the new people coming into the region—an urban clientele in search of health, pleasure, and sport in the outdoors.

Entrepreneurs and Ozark float trips became a common thread of experience for outside investors. These men who came to the Ozark outdoors advocated Ozark waters for their crystal clearness, gushing springs, and long, clean gravel bars for camping. The romantic images in the press owed their origin to floaters in flat-bottomed boats who placed their testimonials in print. Float fishing became part of a social landscape for conviviality and recreation, whether floaters were visiting sportsmen or native fishermen.

The johnboats were constructed "for use, not show. They are never graceful and trim. They are not pretty. The outlines thereof resemble the cartoonist’s study of a typical old maid—angular and built for long life." Imagine a flat-bottomed affair, oblong, shallow, two capacious end seats flush with the top rail and two broad intermediate boards, on one of which the pilot-rower sits. Besides the abnormal width, these seats are of course uncushioned.  It did not tip over and resembled a "floating piano-box. The flat-bottom acts as if greased." And, as important, overland transportation had to be overcome. "This unique product of the ancient mariners’ skill is lifted bodily from the water, placed on wheels, hitched to a pair of mules—and presto, is transformed into a wagon, conveying overland to the starting point."

It's movie time, so grab a skillet of popcorn.  Take your shoes off.  Sit a spell.

At 6:52: "Rivers, being what they are, like fickle women, can change their ways ever so suddenly and catch the unwary." 

Monday, March 05, 2012

Weekend Report

Do you know who we feel sorry for?  We feel sorry for people who have to go through an entire winter without a 1967 jon boat in their garage to mess around with.   After this weekend, our beers will be a little colder and our motor a whole lot tiltier.

First, behold the new insulated secret middle seat cooler:

As far as the motor, to make trimming it simple we needed a simple solution.  We think we've got it, and it's plenty simple, but it sure was complicated to figure out. 

We used Occam's razor to saw the head off of a giant carriage bolt, wrapped the ends with a little duct tape, jammed that mother-humper into the last notch of the tilt assembly, and Bob's your uncle!  

The result is that the motor now rests on the bolt shaft when it's running, and never even enters the gerbil trail of different settings and releases.  The beauty is that it can still swing and lock all the way up - to keep it out of the water and for trailering.   So effectively there are now only two positions (run and locked/high) instead of having to work your way through seven tilt settings while you stand on one foot and hold your mouth just right. 

We will try to get back to talking about the Current River tomorrow. 

Thursday, March 01, 2012

$*#!% Lawyers

It's March, so we can now start talking about the river. 

First, the rules. The Current River is part of the Ozark National Scenic Riverway which means we will have to modify some of our plans to comply with federal regulations. 

Specifically, according to the 2009 Superintendent's Compendium, at page 10, we cannot legally do Jell-O shots until after Van Buren Gap:

Mark your maps.