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Sunday, July 15, 2012

Trash Boat Regatta

This was the fourth annual running of the Trash Boat Regatta in Kansas City. Last year was sort of messed up, the flooding on the Missouri made it impossible to hold the event on the usual Kaw Point to Glow in the Dark Park river route, so it was moved to Big Eleven Lake, which isn't big at all.

I doubt Big Eleven would be the site again, even in a flood year. We learned that day that it is a body of water only if you count empty beer bottles, discarded guns and cholera as 'water.'

Still, the event was so much fun, we had to do the regatta this year. Had to.

I say 'we,' but really, Brian and Corinna did the work. Brian was forever bringing things to our house that he'd found that would be 'perfect' for the regatta. Big blocks of styrofoam, the lid to a hot tub, 55 gallon plastic drums. A two man raft with oars.

Try as I might, I couldn't figure how we'd get them all put together into a boat.

An even bigger challenge, how to get them all into a wagon that could be towed by bicycles.

My biggest contribution to the design of the boat was pointing out that an early configuration of wheels might be stable as far as supporting the weight of the boat, but there was no way it would track behind a bike.

The rules say no motors, and the boat needs to be mostly refuse. Budget is capped at $100, which we stayed well under even if you count a case of beer and a bag of ice.

A couple of our original team bailed on us, but I managed to persuade my friend Jill at the last minute to come join us. Then Corinna recruited three more people down at the dock.

Getting the boat to the launch was the biggest challenge. For one, part of the frame up by the trailer broke before we left the yard. This didn't inspire confidence in Jill who was already dubious about the whole enterprise.

Towing this monster up the hills of Minnesota Avenue, the idea had been that cyclists surrounding the boat could hold straps, but they were too low to the ground to stably do that. Especially from my backup bike, an ill-fitting mountain bike I picked up cheap off Craigslist (I wasn't putting my Surly with its Brooks saddle out on a river). We were a one-float parade, and the 'detour' sign was perfect for telling folks in cars exactly what they needed to do if they wanted to go faster than three or four miles per hour.

Me and Jill ended up hopping off our bikes and walking up the hills, one hand on the boat, one hand on our mounts.

Then we got to Kaw Point and Brian's back wheel tacoed from the weight. This is a 40-spoke touring wheel, stock 1980s Schwinn, but still, it takes a lot of weight to warp something like that.

As I say, Corinna recruited more people to float with us, more people than I thought we should try to take. I'm not sure where she came up with the magic number seven, but she figured we had capacity for at least seven riders.

It was pretty precarious when we loaded on, me sitting on the cooler, shifty my weight to counter as various people hopped on. But my weight was too high being up on the cooler, and as we shoved off, we started rocking and once one person fell or jumped off in panic, there wasn't anything to be done except hope your dry sacks were sound.

Not a complete success on the dry sack front, and that's part of why I have so few photos from the actual float trip. My camera (my old Canon PowerShot, not my D7000; same reason I wasn't riding my Tall Pale Hooker for this expedition) started to get hot, and the moisture in the dry sack was bad enough that I went ahead and popped the battery out of my phone as well just to be safe.

After the capsize, we moved Jill and James to the two-man raft and piled all the bikes and Brian's trailer on the mother ship. Except for James' bike, which he wanted to leave locked at Kaw Point, and Tom's bike, which he sent for a flat repair with someone who offered to meet him at the other end all fixed up.

I thought that was amazingly trusting, he'd just met this person, but sure enough, at the end of our voyage, his bike was waiting with a new tube in the back tire.

It kills me I can't share pictures with you of the underside of the ASB bridge, for instance. Lots of things, you really should float down the Missouri sometime and get a new perspective on Downtown Kansas City.

A pot luck dinner consisting largely of alcoholic beverages and junk food was waiting for us at 'Glow in the Dark Park.' The sign says River Front Park, actually, so I'm not sure why the organizers call it the more colorful name, but they do.

Getting the USS Detour home was another issue. We managed to get what we had to take home with us strapped to bikes and Brian rode off on his compromised bike (Joel whacked his wheel into a more or less round shape that could limp him home) to get a pickup truck. So for next year we either need a lighter boat or sturdier wheels. The cast-off InStep trailer we used for the back wheels of the boat is rated for something like 100 pounds maximum, and we were easily three or four times that.

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