Rant n' Rave – Piss n' Moan

May 21, 2010

Last Place

Filed under: Last Place — Tags: — Bob @ 12:47 pm

 

This canoe event took place sometime around the Spring or early Summer of 1981 or 1982.  I was about 38 years old, Danny was about 10 or 11 years old, and Mikey was about 2 or 3 years old.

The race sign-in point was on the South side of Rte. 27, South Main Street, Medfield, MA where the Charles River runs under the road.  I parked the van (yes, the same 1970 Ford E-300 Econoline van we had on the trip in Death Valley) and Danny helped me untie and unload the 14′ Coleman Ram-X canoe from the roof of the van, while Mikey carefully watched the cooler and the bags of food.

14' Coleman Ram-X Canoe

14' Coleman Ram-X Canoe

This picture is not our canoe, but a newer version.  As you can see, it is not meant to be a racer, but more of a tugboat to haul people and supplies, and have fun.  It has a wide stem and stern to accomodate flotation zones. 

Danny and I had gone out on several training exercises in preparation for this race, fully aware that we would be taking Mikey along for moral support and additional ballast to keep the boat low and, alas, slow(er) in the water.  But we had entered the race not to win so much as to enjoy nature, the weather and surroundings, the friendship and good humor of our fellow racers, and, of course, each other.

One of those training sessions was on Lake Massapoag, about 1 mile from our home in Sharon, MA.  We were paddling around the lake when a severe thunderstorm sprang forth, causing us to hug the shoreline and hope we didn’t get struck by lightning!  It was a bit scarey to say the least, what with the thunder crashing all around us, and our canoe being braced with aluminum and the paddles had aluminum shafts!

The big race was broken up into different classes/groups based on the paddlers.  We fell into the ‘Father-and-Son’ class, and I think there were actually 3 or 4 different groups in this class. 

The competitors were eyeing us and our equipment as we carried the canoe down to the water.  I left Danny and Mikey there to go back to the van for the rest of our ‘necessities’, such as cooler, waterproof bags of food and snacks, and a waterproof bag with a change of clothes for each of us, including diapers for ‘you-know-who’.  When I got the supplies down to the canoe staging area, I went back up to the road to park the van in a field across the street. 

Now, I know some of our competitors saw our racing equipment and knew that we had no chance of winning against their long, pointy racing canoes with the bent-pole wooden paddles.  That, and the fact that there were 3 of us plus a load of supplies probably weighing around 30 lbs. by itself.  But this did not deter us in any way, even noticing the occassional smirk or sneer from some of them. 

We knew we had a secret weapon to help us.  Our goal was simply to get to the take-out point and enjoy the free bar-b-que!  The secret weapon was the knowledge that we knew in advance that we wouldn’t be finishing first, so the pressure was off us and we could enjoy the day!  Other teams were obviously intent on ‘the win’ and were snacking on power bars and drinks and practicing their paddling form, etc.  The boys and I had smiles and waves to any who looked at us.

Well, the time came to line up in our heat and get going.  The starter blew his air horn to signal our group to begin, and we started our pre-planned easy paddle stroke to let the anxious and energetic racers get their fast start mixed in with the traffic jam under the bridge.  We hugged the shore to get by this jam of canoes, and kept up our paddling for a while as more and more of the other racers got their paddling in sync and started pulling ahead of us.

Before too long the next group of racers came into view behind us, and soon caught and passed us as they paddled furiously by.

In the meantime, Mikey kept up a running discourse on just about anything that came to his mind, especially what snack he could have next.  He was known far and wide for his non-stop conversations, and we took this in stride as we paddled along, calling attention to this bird or that tree or that leaf floating on the water.  Danny paddled well and kept the canoe moving when I shipped paddle to fetch another snack for Mikey.

Also, at this time, I was dealing with a nerve problem in my arms, which sometimes caused weakness and pain.  Of course whatever it was decided to bother me at this point in the race, so I had all I could do to just steer the canoe around bends and obstacles.  I could barely hold the paddle with my left hand, so I cradled it under my arm to steer and give the occassional stroke to help Danny keep us moving for the rest of the 2.6 mile race.

Well, as luck would have it, the rain didn’t last too very long, just about 45 minutes or so, at which time Mikey poked his head out from under the tarp keeping him relatively dry, and close to the snack supplies.

The passers-by finally stopped passing us by, telling us that we were actually the very last canoe on the river.  They were all friendly and smiling and waving, and we smiled and waved back at them, having a lot of fun.

When the take-out point finally came into view, we felt great relief as we hauled the canoe out onto the river bank to the applause of a crowd of racers and onlookers!  We were guided over to the award booth where we were presented with a certificate stating that we had succeeded in being the last canoe to finish the race, and we were SO happy and excited!  Really!!

We enjoyed a cold drink and a cheeseburger, and then I had to find my way back to the van somehow.  I instructed Danny to stay with Mikey, sitting right in the canoe that was pulled on shore, and don’t get out for any reason.  I got a ride back to the starting point with a family that had brought 2 cars for just this purpose.  By road, it was probably about 5 miles back to the van, and I drove right back to find Danny and Mikey sitting almost completely alone in the little grove where the bar-b-que was held.

We loaded the canoe onto the van and piled inside for the 20 minute trip home, each of us with big, happy grins on our tired faces for having such a great, fun day together!

So, as I said at the start of this story, Last Place is not always bad!

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Thanks to the The Charles River Watershed Association

I will be looking for pictures of this amazing race, but I don’t recall if I ever took any, although there is a small chance I did use my Kodak disk camera on that day.  The problem is, there are several large boxes of photos and negatives in the garage, and none are in any particular order, but I think the disk photos are all in one shoe box.  That remains to be seen.  I will be keeping my eyes open for maybe finding the Award Certificate, too!

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1 Comment »

  1. Those Boys were so lucky to have that great experience with a great Dad. Congratulations on making so many great memories for the kids. Thank you. The three of you are still making great memories…only difference is that now it’s the four Boys 🙂

    Comment by Barbara — May 21, 2010 @ 5:13 pm

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