One man two guvnors
Blytheville, Arkansas. 2nd October 2014
In fact, I rather feel like I have several guvnors just now. Naturally, the two key elements are the river and the weather, so let’s first have a little look at these two.
Around two weeks ago, we had 5 inches of rain overnight. Apart from filling the top boat on the trailer, necessitating endless pumping out before we could move, the rain had a truly seismic impact on the river. Over the following 24 hours, it rose 7 feet. That’s right, 7 feet. This had two huge impacts. The first was to increase the flow a great deal, but at that point we were still in the lock and dam system, so did not really benefit. The second impact was to scoop up all the wooden detritus left on the river banks. Now, many of you will have seen bits of driftwood etc on the Thames and other rivers, but this ranged from smallish pieces through to whole trees. These boat- wrecking behemoths become deeply sodden and sit just at or below the surface, making them devilishly difficult to spot. If you do hit them, there is only one winner.
The river has steadily now fallen back to pre-rain levels, but today and tonight we have storms coming, so stay tuned as we may be surfing into New Orleans.
The last five days have been a joy on the participant front. We first had Tom Barry, Oxford blue from the early 80′s and just a thoroughly good man. Wanting to maintain the dark blue (Jerry Dale) approach of court jester, he turned up not only ready to row, but full of new jokes which have been stored accordingly. He did superbly and is a genuine boat mover. This was exemplified by him rowing with Paddy on his second day for 23 of his 27 miles with his oars in the wrong way round. He didn’t intend it as a joke, but it worked for us….
He was replaced by Richard Stow, one of the world’s great eccentrics and the first person to pledge $10,000 the moment he heard about the challenge four years ago. He has been more than true to his word. He brought his girlfriend, Sosefin Malinowski, nearly as eccentric as Richard, and who helped steer him and Paddy yesterday. All we could hear was peals of laughter echoing from their boat. Fabulous company and Richard is now staying on to enjoy a cooling libation with us in Memphis. And he is wearing blue suede shoes.
My colleague, someone who is more English than me but whose name sounds like a character from Star Trek, Sarkis Zeronian, joined us yesterday and has had a baptism of fire. He is a huge man who, if he had hinges, would unquestionably be a door, and we needed all his strength as we had some really challenging headwinds and rough water today. He was terrific, but I am again feeling pretty tuckered. Not helped, it must be said, by the prospect of 45 miles tomorrow to get us to Memphis. How I need that break….
Observers of this blog will maybe recall that there have been some miscalculations by the event planners in terms of the mileage calculations. We have today found some really egregious clangers which we are now desperately trying to sort out. Let me explain. I think I mentioned that the total river miles of 2320 did not correspond to the total miles of the combined sections as listed? We have now 20 days left and I am counting these down as you might imagine. I was particularly happy to see that there were two very short days of 9 and 17 miles. Graeme has looked hard at each day and has found that in fact the 17 mile day is 70….. And there are several others, all of which are, naturally, longer.
So, dear reader, I need to beg yet more of your good thoughts and goodwill as over the next, three weeks or so, as instead of being a joyous celebration of a task winding down, I and Paddy are going to have to dig ever deeper to find as yet unknown reserves.