It was 66 degrees at 2am and raining cats and dogs! The Rivers of Tennessee were about to run again as the leaves were finally off the trees and it is winter season again. I got the first two Fun Runners off of the production line, thanks to Brad and Jeremy for organizing that! I got a “Spiderman” and a Red one. Emily, Dane, and I woke up to a variety of rivers to run. Cane Creek and Caney Fork were the two we narrowed it down to. Emily chose Caney Fork because it was more of a river run and less like a creek and the Fun Runners are river runners. Sounded like a plan. I just got my Landcruiser ready for winter season, an ’88 with 215,000 miles on it. We loaded up and drove the 45 minutes to the take-out, which is a long winding, not so well maintained dirt road, perfect for my truck. Dane drove Emily and Nick’s Honda Element to the take out, and it made it, but it would be interesting driving it out… we’ll see.
We arrived at the put-in and started getting dressed. The cold front blew in and it was about 40 degrees. I looked for my Kokatat fleece and it wasn’t there. Dane announced that he had taken it out of the car, put it in the drier, and then forgot it. I wore my JAckson Kayak Loki hoodie under my Kokatat Dry top. We walked the 5 minutes down to the river, which is at a redneck camp, complete with fire pit, inflatable toys, and left over junk that they couldn’t be bothered to clean up, like an old tent, Shamoo the killer whale. Other than this access point and camp, the river is pristine and one of the prettiest anywhere. Water levels were medium at about 900 cfs. Dane and I got to work and filmed the “Walkthrough” for the Fun Runner to make sure everyone knows what they need to know about our newest kayak while Emily directed. We slid in and started playing around, zipping from eddy to eddy. Dane was on filming duty and decided to hand paddle the Zen prototype (we only had 2 Fun Runners) and he would video Emily and I where appropriate.
I was testing the new foam blocks that were cut to go on the footplates of the Uni-Shock Bulkhead. They were really comfortable and have allowed us to make the first adjustable bulkhead smaller kayak since the EZ that I did 11 years ago. Awesome! Get in, adjust the bulkhead with a pull on the rope to get it to the right tightness, adjust backband, put on skirt and slide in the water, voila!
The river run is about 12 miles long and in the middle of nowhere. It is mostly continuous rapids with only very short flats in between them. Class 2-4 at this water level with tons of great slots, boofs, and plenty of variety from easy to hard lines.
Besides being on the river on a beautiful sunny day, good water level, in an incredible place, and it just being myself and my kids, the Fun Runner was a big part of making my day. The boat is the perfect combination of river running prowness that stems from stability, maneuverability, and being super lightweight, and also playfulness from being a small package with a great hull and slicey ends. We were doing enders, pirouettes, squirts, eddyhopping, boofs, slots, and racing down the rapids as we went from the put-in at mile zero to the take out at mile 12. At Hell’s Kitchen, I decided to run that rapid twice as there is a move at the top that is awesome and I have never tried it in a longer boat. Starting on river right there is a narrow slot that requires a smaller boat and quick acceleration to make it into. If you don’t make it into that slot you go sideways into a pinning rock and then into a big hole, assuming you don’t get pinned. I was feeling really good about the Fun Runner and how quick it accelerates and how quick it turns and figured I should try it. Sure enough I made the move and was fired up on it but didn’t remember the rest of the rapid very well and hit the bottom two holes more than I wanted to. I walked up again, while Emily did the standard over the top rock into the eddy and then downstream line perfectly. My second run was smooth and easy as I remembered the rapid and knew the line to the end. Wow! I can get used to paddling this boat!
By the time we got to the takeout we were all tired and hungry. We loaded the Element and started up the hill. There were two places it really didn’t want to go and we were close to having to push it, but didn’t have to. It has good clearance and we only bumped the bottom one time, but the tires did smoke one time. On the way home on top of the Cumberland Plateau, between Sparta and Crossville is Susie’s Kitchen. From the outside you would never choose to come in and eat. However, we were hungry and I wanted to eat at a home cooking restaurant, not a fast food place. Susie told us about her special of the day, homemade lasagna. I got that, while Dane got the chicken noodle soup and emily got a hamburger. I saw an old man eating cherry pie with a scoop of ice cream and the entire experience reminded me of what is special about owner operator restaurants. Great service, great food, and a caring atmosphere. Sweet slice of redneck heaven, just how I grew up in Woolrich, Pennsylvania, and how my entire family was from Leetonia, Ohio.
We got home and hung out with Kristine for a while then went to dinner at the Foglight Foodhouse- our favorite restaurant, and on our street. I got the “Texas Lollypops” this time, which are lambchops. We talked about our day, watched KC terrorize the neighborhood (people love watching him), and then went home, built a fire and watched a movie together. The perfect day. Dane couldn’t make the promo video from the day, however, since he had to pack for Mexico. He left early in the morning. He is filming a Nikon promo with our friend Corey Rich and will be used in their global marketing campaign of this new camera. We are meeting him there next Saturday!
Well, it is official- Jackson Kayak has a new river runner in the Fun Runner and this boat rocks! Beginners learning, to old school boaters wanting to relive the days of longer, faster playboats, but without the vertical element to it, just the surface play and easy river running, super comfortable, and lightweight, all in one neat package. Women are going to go crazy over the Sixty gallon one. Easy to pick up and load, lightweight for carrying to the river and for paddling, turning, accelerating, but super easy to paddle, roll, and really low profile deck that makes you feel like you are mostly out of the kayak, verses sitting in a bathtub. No hand hitting spots, making any paddle-stroke easy to take and free from boat interference. Sweet!
p.s. Here is the walkthrough on it, we did at the put-in…[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qoyVz1ZN-70[/youtube]