What would the attraction of going to Kentucky in February, with snow on the ground be for a kayaker, one might ask who has never been to the National Paddling Film Festival. The Bluegrass Whitewater Association puts on an incredible event at the Buffalo Chase Distillery and Elk Horn Creek. I’ll set the stage.
In a downstairs large conference room in an old wooden/log building there are booths set up. Such as my good friends from Canoe Kentucky, Team River Runner, American Whitewater, etc.. There is a big silent auction, food, and a ton of people milling around talking. Upstairs in the theater there are non-stop kayaking movies going on, with the producers of them often providing the intro and sharing stories about them. People come and go, watching what they want and hitting the bar with free beer that the tip money goes to American Whitewater.
On Friday night clay and I brought in the Villain S prototype and shared with Allison and Nathan of Canoe Kentucky briefly while we had a stream of paddlers sitting in it and checking it out. Everyone seemed fired up on it after looking at it and learning more. We watched a few movies and talked alot to friends from all over the east coast. At 11pm the Festival closed down, but I was here on Clay’s program, just him and I the after party was next on Clay’s agenda, as well as plenty of the paddlers.
We went to the Brick Alley Pub and they had a good DJ rocking the place, and the crowd was diverse, to say the least. Kayakers, mini-skirts, pool players, more kayakers, and Freddie who ran up a bar tab that I can’t imagine and wouldn’t stop trying to deliver us one thing after another. Somebody must have said something to him about Bud American Ale, because at one point i looked around and a bunch of the kayakers were holding a bottle of it and smiling. The next time I looked around, everyone had a Buffalo Trace Burbon which is distilled there in Frankfurt. Freddie was still at the bar getting more, turning around, delivering, and repeating until they started saying “Drink up, time to go” closing down the bar.
The conversations are quite fun at a kayaking event like that, talking about paddling, boats, people watching, and I even had a short dancing stint with Woody, an unlikely date for me, but much safer than the couple of mini-skirts that looked like trouble. We made the 1/2 mile trek back and crashed at the hotel and were awake at 7am for breakfast and our clinic at Canoe Kentucky.
Clay drove us to the Canoe Kentucky shop, a very cool kayak shop, instructional facility, and rental place. Is is early on a Saturday morning but there were 10 people there to participate in our clinic on all things Jackson Kayak. We were supplied with plenty of coffee, and they already had the 2010 Fun, Stars in Stock, as well as the Hero, Riviera, some kids boats, etc.. We brought the Villain to show them. The staff, and some of their instructors and customers were there and Clay did a great job on the boats. Nathan and Allison also gave me a new disc for disc golf at my house. Dane will be jealous.
Our next stop was the Elk Horn Creek Race and Fun Day event. On a below freezing day, where we woke up with 1/2 inch of snow, there was a full take out full of cars, boats, and paddlers. We milled around a little, got our gear on, boats loaded on the shuttle provided by the organizers, and had our racers meeting for the 4 mile downriver race. Clay and I added a little twist to the race. At the bar the night before a couple of local paddlers racing made it clear that they weren’t super fired up to have to compete in a mass start race head to head with Clay and I. The idea came up of us being blockers instead of racers and I was all about it.
We got to the put in and slid down the snow into the river. I wish I had my camera there was there was a huge traffic jam of paddlers trying to get in the river at the same time. We all paddled down below the low head dam where the start would be. Now I am not one to poke fun of people normally, but I am not sure about the people in KY that are put in charge of making sure others are safe and warned about hazards. As you paddle down the first big sign that you paddle under that is supposed to educate you about a very dangerous low head dam says, “low head dam, No Portage!” and has a cartoon picture of a kayaker running it and the paddler looks like he is doing the right thing. No portage, then what do we do? run it I guess. I wonder how many people end up just running over the dam because they are told not to portage it by the “saftey sign”. the next sign you see says, “Turn back now” on river right and it really gives you the feeling of what the cowardly lion and the Tin man must have felt in Wizard of OZ when they get to the haunted forest and the signs say, “i would turn back now if I were you.”
I got below the dam (so I don’t upset certain folks I won’t say how) and hung out surfing a small wave as the starting line area became full of racers. Clay and I were about to be the racers menace.
We paddled downstream and set up to “take people out” by getting going against the traffic in the middle of a mass start head to head race. this was a friendly concept, of course, with the goal of making those leading not lead any more and have to re-pass if they wanted to win. I hung out in an eddy and there they came, racing down and i got the feeling that what I was about to do would be more like pulling out into rush hour traffic without looking first and getting slammed, than me being the obstical! It worked out fine as the racers tried to split around me and I got to railroad one or two at a time into the eddy on river right, then river left, and then I started being in the middle of the pack and spinnign people out on their sterns. Clay suddently appeared in the middle of the pack and had been messing with them since the start. I took it easy on the open canoes, not wanting to flip them in the cold.
The rest of the 6 mile run was spent just paddling casually, playing around, talking, etc. as i ran out of fast racers to harrass. We arrived at the take out, fired up on the run and I was reminded just how beautiful the Elk Horn gorge is, getting plenty of time to look around.
It was cold, but they had a good fire going, and I brought the take out beer. There were some fun, low key awards, lots of great conversation, and a warm fire to hang out by. It was already a Fun Day, but the NPFF was still to come.
Clay and i arrived at the Film Festival at 6pm and Wow, it was really busy! I got to meet Ben Brown, who we donated a Hero kayak to (Team River Runner guy who is in a wheel chair but kayaks) and had a short video in the contest. Tyler Bradt provided the main feature film “Dream Result” and it was awesome, as well as seeing Tyler do an awesome job delivering it and answering questions. Everyone was super fired up on this film with a standing room only theater.
Before I knew it, the festival was closed down and we were in the first after party room (the kitchen) and eating cheese and pimento sandwiches. that quickly moved back to the Brick Alley where we closed down the bar for the second night in a row, thanks to Clay who had me on his schedule which is quite different from the schedule i am on with Kristine and the kids. Clay is sleeping still as I write this at 7am on Sunday morning and I can’t do anything until he wakes up anyhow. we’ll try to get home in time to paddle today. I am fired up to see Kristine, Dane, Emily, KC, Nick, etc. today.
I met some awesome folks, as well as got to hang out with many old friends, some that I have known for 20+ years. Great trip, and a Fun Day, followed by a Fun Day, and two Fun Nights as well!
My birthday is wednesday, and I am already wondering what kind of cake Kristine will make me this year. OK, my mind is wandering now.