By Eric Jackson

The word “Home” is one that brings warm feelings and thoughts of family, friends, and a place of solace for most people. As someone who travels most of the time and is only home part of the time, I really appreciate my home when I am here. They say that Absence makes the heart grow fonder. I agree with that, but also feel that when you step away from a situation for any period of time, you see everything with a fresh perspective. That doesn’t mean you need to step away to see what is in front of your face and what is awesome about your current situation, home, and the opportunities there.

Some of the things I couldn’t wait to do, thinking about them on the plane home from Austria, that are specific to my home were:

  1. play a game of backgammon with Kristine in our living room.
  2. play pingpong with the kids in the basement.
  3. eat a dinner at our table with everyone that Kristine cooked.
  4. Eat at the Foglight Foodhouse, our local, awesome little restaurant.
  5. Go fishing at Long Branch Lakes and catch some large mouth bass in my Big Rig.
  6. Do the Backflip off the rocks into the Caney Fork River and play in the main hole with my Rock Star.
  7. take a bath with KC and play with his toys in our big tub.
  8. sit out on our deck in the morning and have a cup of coffee and watch the sun come up.
  9. play disc golf in our backyard.
  10. bounce with KC, Emily, Nick, and Dane on the trampoline

I managed to do 8 out of the 10 in the first two days… I still have to play disc golf and bounce on the trampoline…

I got to go bass fishing with James McBeath, one of my best friends from Canada (and our marketing director) and caught some BIG fish to make it even more memorable of a return. Being back in the Big Rig Pro after being on the road all summer was like reuniting with an old friend and doing something really fun together. I played around with my Ray Marine Dragonfly fish finder and checked out the floor of the lake, water temps, and tried fishing the structure I could see on it. Another toy that makes me smile when I goof around with it. The weather broke from rainy and windy to calm and nice after about 1 hour and it was perfect fishing conditions. I was pounding the banks with my bait casting rod, my minnow, crawfish, and spinner baits. It felt good that I didn’t seem to lose any accuracy in my casting after a month of no fishing. The trees are so thick in this lake that it is all about snaking the lure through seemingly impossible mazes to drop into the sweet spots. Somehow it reminds me of Star Wars when Luke has to make the impossible shot by using the force to kill the death star. I actually say to myself when I see a spot that looks like it should be harboring a big bass but seems impossible to get to.. “Use the force EJ… Let go, use the force.” And then fly the bait into the spot, around the trees, over and under, and it seems to make it more often than not. When it doesn’t go well, it means a long hard search and rescue for the lure. When it does go well it means, often, a fish that has to help me by jumping over trees, around them, and find its way back to me.

I caught two fish over 10 pounds on my first day back, something that should be harder to pull off, but the fish gods were smiling on me on this day. James and I fished three lakes in one day, pulling in some good numbers and some good fish. James managed to break two rods, one of mine, one of his in one day. I think that is a record, too. :) Luckily for me, he broke my oldest, cheapest rod that was on its last leg… Even more luck on my end, Joey Monteleone brought me a gift last night, something he was working on for some time, a custom made rod just for me! It has the Jackson Kayak logo on it, and he tricked me into giving him the specs for it. He emailed me and asked “Hey, EJ, I am doing an article on fishing rods and wanted to get the exact specs for what you think is the perfect rod.” I emailed him back the length, stiffness, grip, guides, etc. etc. thinking he was taking a poll. Instead, he created that exact rod, my first ever, custom rod, and gave it to me at our open house last night. I can’t wait to try it now!

Yesterday was whitewater day in the morning. Nick, Dane, Stephen Wright, and I went down to the river. Dane and Nick went to “Dane’s drop” with Karmas, and Stephen and I brought play boats. The ultimate way to get into this river is from the 20′ seal launch. The ultimate way to do the seal launch is by putting in backwards, carefully inching back to the edge to the balance point, and then throwing a backflip off of it. The part where you inch up to the edge is the scariest part as the rocks are sticky and it is hard to slide the boat predictably. If you don’t get close enough to the edge (butt just over the edge while leaning forward) the backflip doesn’t go well (which is not fun). I was all alone up on the rock as Nick, Dane, and Stephen were ahead of me and already down at the hole when I got in. I got into my Rock Star, which is a much tighter fit than my Karma, especially with the Happy Seat, Happy Thruster combo, the elevated seat with my Sweet Cheeks 200, and extra hip pad shims. I forgot just how tight I like to paddle and it took me a second to get in the boat. I have a new GoPro Hero 4 and figured I would try taking selfie photos during the backflip, something never tried before. After getting in and situated, I set the camera on “Burst” mode and set it for 10 photos/second for 3 seconds. I had my “3-Way” GoPro stick to hold the camera and inched back into position. With no way to hold the paddle, I chucked it into the air and it fluttered down to the water. Camera now ready, I had to figure out how to push the button, throw the backflip and hold the camera all at the same time. Yes, it occurred to me that my brain might overload and I might screw something up, hopefully not the backflip! When I got all of the way to the edge, I stopped for a second, looked around, and realized that my heart was going way too fast and took a deep breath until it calmed down. Leaning forward to keep from falling off, I counted down, 3, 2, 1, push button, and then throw! I managed to keep it all together and got some sweet photos as well as landing the backflip perfectly vertical. (over rotating means landing flat and hurting your back, and under rotating means landing on your head and knocking the wind out of you)

I put the camera in my kayak and paddled down, doing some super fun surfing action with Stephen, while Nick and Dane played around with the rocks on the waterfall and then they both did a run on it. Dane landed perfectly vertical, but was more vertical than he hoped as it is not deep in the landing. Nick rotated in the air and landed on his side off of 25 feet into hard water. He knocked the wind out of himself and didn’t look to fired up on it and claimed “that was the first and last time I am doing that”.. I don’t believe it, of course, as he’ll quickly forget the pain and just want to do it right the next time.

We all had a great time, so happy to be home, and thinking about the other things we’ll do this fall. Only a few hours later there was about 100 people at my house for an “open house” for our Dealer Summit. We had friends/dealers/distributors from Russia, England, Germany, Mexico, all over the USA and Canada. It was the Jackson Kayak Peace Summit and it was so clear just how the world can be at peace, you just need to have a big party and invite everyone for some good food and drink!

Home- I hope to explore and find more reasons that I love this place, and most importantly, the people here.

Here are some of my tips for making home life and family life more special…

1. There will always be things you “need” to do around the house, etc… take a little time EVERY day and do something you WANT to do, and do it with a family member or friend… something small that brings a smile to your face, anything… (I play backgammon with Kristine, chess with Nick, wrestle with KC, kayak with Emily and Dane and Nick, Clay, Stephen, goof around with Tucker… that all takes a couple of hours or so each day, take away the kayaking and it is only 1 hour or do, but time very well spent.

2. Ask your other family members what their favorite thing to do at home is, as a family… and try to do one of those things each day, or more.

3. Find out what others want to do: I have a hard time getting anywhere asking “What do you want to do today?” to Kristine, for example, as she’ll say “I have to go to the grocery store and then help my mom do this or that, and then…” I walk away deflated as she doesn’t say, “I want to play X, Y, or Z with you..” I had to find another tactic to get her thinking about doing something and getting from her what that might be. Asking Emily what she thinks her mom wants to do helps and asking “what can I do for you now, so that we can play something later” is my best tactic so far. This is an entirely different subject matter… :)

4. Have active, outside and inside toys- Bocce Ball (Kristine’s favorite) Bikes, corn hole, soccer ball, football, frisbees, ping pong, etc.. are all examples of things that can quickly make home the place to be.

5. Have fun, interactive games to play as a family: Our favorites are: Settlers of Catan, Cranium, Carcassan, bananagrams, and the “dice game”, as well as occasional card games, usually Hearts. There is something about playing games like that as a family that really makes home feel friendly and fun. They also provide a “We are off” feeling where nobody is working and the focus is on each other.

6. Unplug- Slow down, and potentially stop, watching TV- There are times where watching TV can be interactive as a family, if you have a favorite show, or game to watch that everyone likes. However, it is not typically quality time in the end. Also- put away your phone and computer when you are want to do something. Don’t get mad when other’s are not aware that it is unplug time, ask nicely and work towards it if it is the habit today. I was lucky enough to have made rules against phones during dinner or family time, etc.. back when the kids were little.

I hope this helps you make home more fun and an even more special place for everyone you care about!

:)

EJ

Here is a video I made two years ago with KC, just hiking down by the house…

Click here to view the embedded video.