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Sunday, August 30, 2015

2015 Trashboat Regatta: Meet Charlie & Foxtrot

I started hoarding two-liter bottles last December or January. I thought I did about one a day, so I expected by July I'd have about 180 empties to work with. The Trashboat Regatta got delayed to the end of August due to flood conditions on the river, and when I got my boat lashed together I think I only had about 90 bottles.

Zippy wanted to come, but the only cat I allowed was Charlie.

And a lot of inner tubes, discarded bicycle tubes was what I lashed the HMS Clusterfuck together with. And zip ties, I used those to secure the truck my friend Will welded together for me out of a hack-sawed bike frame (the one I destroyed meeting Corinna), and two junk mountain bike forks. Oh, and I guess there were some deck screws and scrap lumber that held the two pallets together.

I wasn't at all sure about towing this thing to the river by bike. As far as O.G. Trashboat Regatta standards go, the way Joel & Michelle conceived the regatta, not only is no motor power allowed on the boat, but you're supposed to get the boat to and fro without a gasoline motor, either. At least that's the way I remember it presented to me about five years ago.

I thought maybe the best plan was to lash the barge to the Kuat on my Scion xB and tow it to the river that way. Corinna said I'd get a ticket for an illegal trailer, and maybe, but what scared me more was ruining a $500 bike rack. The Kuat is supposed to be able to take two 60 lb bikes, and that's a stout rack, but the HMS Clusterfuck weighed 200 lbs if it weighed an ounce. Part of the problem was the pallets, they were scammed from my employer, a print shop. The stuff we buy by the skid, it's paper, say 10,000 sheets of 26x40 parent size sheets. There's pallets that are three boards with a half dozen boards nailed across them. Then there's these skids, which have cross-bracing and 3/4 inch plywood floors and reinforcing blocks.

Then again, the bike tubes weigh something. Maybe not much individually, but by the time you have lashed 90 two-liter bottles to shit in a way that only one or two pop out on the river, yeah, there's some weight there. Then there's the truck, made of a steel bike frame I bent a few minutes after meeting Corinna (I rode it 5200 miles after that but shouldn't have), and two mountain bike forks. Towing the Clusterfuck was an adventure of its own, as the boat rocked back and forth my front wheel jerked about.

No rubber on the Clusterfuck's wheels. I started to put some on, but by the time my wife gives up on a tire, it's whipped. I found a pair of 26" wheels in the basement, scrounged up a couple of tubes, and before I had 40 lbs in the first tire it blew out the sidewall. So I reasoned that rims would have the least rolling resistance, plus I'd shed the (modest) weight of two tires and tubes.

The noise I made rolling along Minnesota towing this barge was epic. I was the Atlanta Rhythm Section conducted by Arnold Schoenberg or maybe John Cage. It was like atonal steel drums, and it was hilarious seeing people turn around and double-take try to figure out what the actual hell they were seeing.

I mean, I had to tow the thing upside down so it wouldn't drag, so there's all these bottles. Then there was Charlie and Foxtrot, styrofoam sculptures a client of mine had commissioned, then didn't use because they looked too psychotic for her trade show booth. She didn't want to hurt the artist's feelings so she paid for them, then gave them to me as a, uh, gratuity? I've used them as yard art ever since, and I'm actually kind of fond of the, but yeah, they look crazy enough for a Trashboat Regatta.

This was actually the first trashboat I built. Not the first I've ridden on, but after last year, Corinna felt like she'd done too much work and I hadn't done anything (I was busy, I don't remember with what). The long and short of it was I said, fine, I'll build the next boat, I'll do all the work and you can just ride down the river. I kept my word, though she didn't feel up to floating. She did help me with the tow job to the river, though, and a good thing. Because a mile and a half in, the Atlanta Rhythm Section slipped down onto my fender and I was pretty well fucked to get it back up on the rack on my own. I should have done a test tow (she told me so), but I didn't, and as a result, my tow hookup was dodgy at best.

Then as I got to Kaw Point, I didn't realize they were building some huge warehouse (or some bullshit) where the turn off used to be and I missed the turn for the boat ramp. Had to do a 180 in the road, which was pretty wide but this tow arrangement wasn't up to it. I thought Corinna had bailed and gone home, and I was tugging fruitlessly on things when I saw her coming down the bridge into Fairfax. She got me to the river and I got all kinds of street cred for doing it O.G. Trashboat style, the only one to tow his boat to Kaw Point by bike.

Then when it got time to actually launch, I ended up being one of the last boats in owing to a beer & burgers run. And paddle mightily, I could not catch up with the group. Well, I kind of did while it was still the Kaw, but once we got to the Missouri somehow everybody just dropped me like a bad habit.

A drone followed the launch!

The firefighters were out again with their jetboats. Except this year I didn't scoff because they saved my worthless behind last year (and my daughter's and my wife's and my friend's) when we got stuck on a log jam. As I cruised down the river a guy on a pontoon boat asked me if I was confident. I was like, yes, I've done this before. True, though not solo.

He was like, When you get to those bridges, the current is going to eat your lunch.

I'm like, I know the danger of which you speak, I plan to row like hell to stay within the channel. He was like, your rowing isn't doing shit (this was true as far as I could tell). So I asked, what do you suggest I do?

His first suggestion was that I abandon ship and jump on his boat. Yeah, I don't think so. This is 90 two liter bottles, a truck and a couple of sculptures I want to keeep, and a couple of pallets my friend wants. Abandoning ship makes me a litterbug, too.

Then his idea was to throw me a rope and control idle me past the bridges, but then he noticed all the people ahead of me (everyone), and went to warn them of their imminent doom and I managed to thread the needle. Getting through the Broadway bride was easy enough but then I was right in line with an old Town of Kansas pylon and had to work like hell to get clear of it. The firefighters in their jetboats were on hand in case I screwed it up, but the worst thing I did was be slow on the river. Hydrodynamics, I never studied it. They asked me if I could go faster and I told them honestly, not really.

KCMO and KCK firefighters were on the river and I could hear them meeting up with each other. 'You got medical supplies on that boat?' 'Just cigarettes.' Then I'd hear their radios talking about the last remaining straggler and I was like, 'Hey, I know that's me you're talking about.'

Then when I got to the pullout, I paddled like hell to get over and nothing. I'd been sticking close to shore, so close at one point I had to use my paddle to shove back off into the river. But there at the pullout, nothing doing. The jetboat pushed me gently in so I didn't have to land down at the Cheauteau bridge or something.

I got a wicked trophy and a much appreciated ride home. I can't wait to do this again next year, though I'm going to try and cut the weight of the craft in half. And the truck from the Clusterfuck, I think I'm going to make that into a cargo trailer.

Going to Mass

I love Critical Mass. Some of my favorite Massholes were on hand, too, including Jones and his offspring, Dana and Scott, Henry, Richard, Sally, Sally's photogenic friend, Corinna's adorable Realtor...

Then there's Dave, Victor, Robin, Will (who welded my trashboat truck), James, Phil, Pablo, Andrew, it's a whole sick crew, I'm leaving a lot of people out trying to list.

Then, to top it off, since I'm not that good with names there's people pictured here who I know but can't put names with faces.

I was determined to make it an early, relatively sober night because of having to get up for the Trashboat Regatta on Saturday. Well, I managed the latter anyway, had a couple beers in the Scumfresh parking lot, bumbed a couple along the way but got home without so much as a buzz.

The early part I didn't do as good at. I was going to peel off by 8:00, but I was having so much fun. About 9:30, as we rolled into 18th & Vine, it started to rain, pretty hard actually. I figured that would make the party break up pretty quickly (it's usually true), and anyway I was way past my bedtime so I headed home. Saw on Facebook later that the party most assuredly did not break up just because it rained. Looks like a good time, but I had a Regatta to prepare for.

It was fun seeing Jones and Soren. When I met Jones, if you'd suggested to me he might become a Daddy I'd have scoffed at the notion. I bet he would have, too. But he seems to have taken to it like a duck to water. The kid's super cute, too, and I think besides unusually long legs he inherited his father's case of the look-at-me's. I won't be a bit surprised if he ends up being the front man for a huge rock band.

Portrait of Henry as a Young Maniac

Henry complained that he's never made my blog. I doubt it, but I'm far too lazy to go back through almost 3200 posts to prove him wrong. He's a regular at Critical Mass and I think I've seen him at Cranksgiving and just plain run into him a few times. So I bet he's been here before.

Anyway, here he is in all his glory.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Wet Paint

For a couple of reasons, when riding home I tend to turn off Beardsley onto the lower deck of the 12th Street Bridge riding home. One reason is the 'truck stop' gas station/liquor/convenience store where I often carpe brewski for that last stretch home (the bottle of Guinness commonly seen in my bottle cage).

Plus there's no bike lane past 12th, it gets skinnier and cars on Beardsley seem to think that speed limit sign said 55 not 35. But as I went to make my usual turn I saw a flash of color. I had to check it out. After procuring a bomber of Guinness, of course. I rode back up to Beardsley and went down to photograph two tags so new I wondered if the paint was dry to the touch.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Charlie Foxtrot

The H.M.S. Clusterfuck is coming along nicely six days until the Trashboat Regatta. It would be good to get a test run in today, but I'm not sure I'm up to it. This beast is heavy, a lot heavier than I meant it to be. It's supposed to be towed behind my bike, though I might lash it to the Kuat and tow it with my xB, very slowly.

My friend Will did me a solid favor welding a couple of mountain bike forks to a bike frame for me to make it towable at all. He made them square with each other and everything, totally above and beyond. The wheels, I might just run them without rubber, not sure. I started to put a couple of old tubes & 26 inch tires from the garage on there, but when I got the first one to 40 lbs it blew out the side wall. By the time my wife (the only person here who rides a 26") gives up on a tire, it's whipped, and when you add years of age to that, yeah.

I made three pontoons out of two liter bottles lashed to scraps of lumber with discarded bike innertubes. The one thing I bought new for the project was two four-foot planks of 1x4. Home Depot has a cut-your-own stand and I found some scraps under a foot long in there they didn't charge me for. So the two four footers are deck-screwed to at three blocks on the two pallets to give it some stability. Then there are four places where there's a little stub of 1x4 deck screwed to the blocks. I wasn't sure it'd be a strong enough setup, but I worried about adding too much weight. And when turning the boat over, I accidentally dropped it a bit and the thing held so I think we're good there.

The bike frame the truck is made with is the Diamondback I was riding when I met Corinna, and promptly bent the frame on. I rode it 5200 miles with the bend before retiring it. I hack-sawed the chainstay off, and with the help of the guys at Velo+ managed to get the fork/handlebars and crank off it.

I decided bike innertubes wouldn't provide enough stability for lashing the truck to the pallet, so I used zip ties. Quite a few zip ties. It feels solid.

My theory is that I wan't most of the buoyancy to be to the outside so the boat is stable in the water. I originally thought of a catamaran style design but couldn't think of a frame that would be strong enough and light enough. So I lashed the pontoons to the sides and front, making sure to tie them to where they want to roll to the underside rather than the top (hopefully this will keep our butts more or less out of the water. Then for some reinforcement to the buoyancy of the pontoons, I filled in quite a bit of the pallet's underside with additional bottles. There's a bit of a gap in the middle but I ran out of bottles (I've been hoarding them for eight months), I'm kinda surprised I only had 80 or so). And like I say, I think having the buoyant stuff to the outside will make it more stable in the water, less prone to capsize with two or three people and a cooler aboard.

Another decision I have to make besides how to tow it and whether to try and get workable rubber on those junky wheels or just let it clatter on the rims (less rolling resistance, I think), is whether to lash Charlie & Foxtrot to the back pallet. These crazy animals are carved out of boat dock foam, and were given to me by a client who commissioned them for a trade show booth and then decided they looked too psychotic. So they're cast off/free, therefore qualified as boat building material, and obviously they're buoyant themselves. But we've had them in the yard for a month or two and I actually kind of like them as yard art—and I'm not sure I can lash them to the boat effectively without damaging them.

They would give the H.M.S. Clusterfuck a certain character, though. And Charlie-Foxtrot gives me an alternative name I can use if someone's little kid asks me the name of my boat. They take up a bit of deck room, and I'm thinking we'll have at least three people on this next saturday...