Winter Ride


Last Saturday, I was the only one to show up for the local bike club’s Winter Standing Ride.  The ride is so named, I think, because it falls on the same Saturday each December.  The season’s still Fall, though, isn’t it?  I drove to the meeting place, arriving about on time, and waited until about a quarter past the hour during which time I talked about cycling with a couple who’d parked next to my car and started asking questions about the bike, about the club, about cycling.

I realized that I’d left my water bottles at the house, on the floor of the garage beside the stand where I keep my bike.  The day was cool, but I’d worn enough layers to keep me warm and, anyway, my alpha-class mutant power is sweating.  With that in mind, I set out against an annoying 10-15 mph headwind and rode out to a nearby college campus – maybe seven miles distant.  On a long, straight stretch of country road, the side-winds once or twice threatened my control of the bike’s forward motion.  That’s a down-side to riding a lightweight, modern frame; I never would have been blown the least bit off course riding the Miyata 610, a bike that’s almost 30 pounds fully rigged.

At the school, I stopped in at the Baptist Student Union – seeing lights on and cars out front – to use the bathroom and get a drink of water from the tap.  Turns out a congregation was in there having a Christmas party.  They kindly allowed me to use the bathroom and gave me a bottle of iced water from their cooler.  I was glad I’d worn a pair of windpants over my indecent-around-non-riders, anatomy disclosing thermal tights.

I halved my ride’s distance due to lack of much to drink; the 8 or 16 ounce bottle I’d been given didn’t last long.  On the way back, I stopped and visited a good friend and my amazing mom.  The horse picture I snapped at my friend’s house.  His wife home-schools their many offspring, and I guess used the rebus painted on the back of an out-building to teach equine anatomy.  I rode over the bridge pictured on a greenway near where I’d parked my car.


Drive sides in – bike and horse

Winchester City Park to Wagner & Boiling Fork Creeks

Last Thursday and Friday, I completed most of my Chattanooga reports and did some other work. I haven’t felt much like writing anything else, but do want to post some photos from my paddle yesterday afternoon at Winchester, Tennessee. Mapquest revealed the location Winchester City Park, which is across the street from the city’s Swimplex. A windy day, and possibly the coolest sunny day we’ve had this Fall, the boat ramp was not busy, although a children’s party of some sort was taking place at or around a nearby pavilion.

As I was readying Campsis Radicans for launch, a man in a bassboat in friendly fashion told me I would be well served by a sailing rig. No fish had he caught. We laughed about the wind. I was looking forward to paddling against it, I felt like I needed the exercise and something to resist (however, if the radical socialists prevail in the coming US elections, thinking Americans who put their nation and its constitution first will have plenty to resist – see Buchanan & WSJ).

On the water, I paddled left, past the other boat ramp and the fishing dock, then under the bridge. I came to a sort drainpipe through which I paddled into a backwater into which flowed a creek the name of which I do not know. Paddled under a footbridge and around a bend then through a tiny sea of twigs until I ran aground, then back the way I came. A footpath with benches and a bridge passed over and along the creek’s bank, apparently part of the city park complex.

Both my prior trips this way, I ignored Wagner Creek Branch. On the map, it doesn’t look like much. From the water, too many houses on the bank at my right, steep and rocky with fewer houses on my left. I liked the left bank much better. Saw a small kayak unsuitable for covering flatwater distance on a paved private boat ramp behind a too large, too new house that I tried not to covet. On the left bank I saw an eccentrically but attractively painted dock.

Under the road bridge farther upstream I saw a fat, brown groundhog on a rocky shelf next to the water. Looking at me as I greeted it with a quiet and surprised, “Hello,” the creature turned and hastily walked out of sight under an overhanging shelf nearby. Around the next clump of trees and shoreline, I met a man and woman fishing. They said they had caught nothing, and asked a couple of questions about kayaks.

Back out and around the point to Boiling Fork creek, the wind began to howl from the northeast, as NOAA had predicted. I spoke baby words my son uses into the wind, “Eeeachh,” “Eh, Eh,” then “Bwah!” to the water. Early yet, I thought it would be interesting to back to that cave I’d paddled into on June 21, the day I paddled twice to the map’s edge. The water was lower by several feet, yesterday, as Tims Ford reduces volume to winter pool levels. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to make it that far back up Boiling Fork.

Strong wind at my back I thought, “Paddling back against this will be difficult.” Water was sufficiently high to wend my way through Winchester, the slough behind the main street into town, probably Hwy 41-A/64, then past the new Franklin County High School, and to the cave in question. I could have gone farther, but since I’d got such a late start (on the water around 12:15 pm), I’d head back after seeing the cave. I observed tracks in the cave I could not identify. One of the photos I took of the inky blackness beyond the muddy floor shows the gleam of what might have been an animal’s eye. Maybe a raccoon or a small wildcat of the sort indigenous to the region. I observed the cave paintings of a troglodyte band proclaiming themselves “PUNKS” next to red earthen handprints and an alphabetic arrangement I have not yet deciphered in the same medium. Through a cloud of mosquitoes at the cave’s mouth I paddled backwards, observing a large carp in the shallow water unconcerned with my presence.

Stopped out of the wind to eat a snack made of two Slim Jims and a croissant, three generic Fig Newton cookies, and two hands full of salted almonds and raisins. And then back to the boat ramp against the howling wind that sped my passage the other way. Near the roadbridge close to the city park’s boat ramp, I saw two men in a flatbottom, motorized fishing boat. One of them said he was having a pretty good day, had caught no fish, and opined that less the wind, the day would improve.

Shortly thereafter, upon reaching the boat ramp, I wished the wind had been stronger. I saw another of the groundhogs standing on the rocks beside the ramp. I took a picture as the animal quickly walked away.

Paddling back toward the drainpipe on a nameless creek's backwater

Paddling back toward the drainpipe on a nameless creek's backwater

Another Look at Morris Ferry Landing 9/13/08

Won't be waving long here

Won't be waving here much longer - Old Glory at Morris Ferry Dock

Even though I was not feeling entirely well, I thought I’d paddle Saturday. I needed the physical activity. NOAA predicted much wind as Ike made his way north, brushing Western Tennessee with his right shirt-cuff. Paddling in wind either pisses me off because it impedes my progress, or makes an otherwise boringly familiar location interesting by offering resistance, chop, and spray. Sometimes paddling in excessively windy conditions is a challenge to God – strike me down or let me pass. Some days, I don’t much care which answer I receive. Saturday was almost, but not quite one of those days, in part because winds weren’t expected to exceed 25 mile per hour gusts, partly because I wasn’t that frustrated with the course of my life on earth.

Last weekend I stayed off the water because, if I recall this correctly, we’d made an offer on a house, were trying to get our house decluttered, and I’d just started chiropractic treatment for my badly misaligned, somewhat hideously deformed body. I still had a fair amount of physical pain, and didn’t want to mess up the chiropractor’s work.

I put in at the public boat ramp in Coffee County, down the hill from the hunter’s check-in station off Old Brick Church Road. A sign up at the shuttered check-in informed one that bobcats could be taken (shot? killed?) at any Tennessee Wildlife Management Agency site. I’ve seen their tracks at Normandy Lake, and heard them nearby in the brush along the trail at Old Stone Fort (annoyed me being stalked, so I ran after them – never saw them, but sure heard them or it running surprised away from me).

I’d left my Snapdragon neoprene deck sprayskirt in the boat shed. Damn. However, rolled up in the car’s trunk was the sieve-leaky blue nylon NRS Kilt I’d planned to post to a friend at Nashville who’s got a plastic rec-boat. It would at least serve well enough to keep most of the paddle drip off me.

A word about those sprayskirts – the lighter-weight, coated nylon skirt is hot as hell in the warm weather, whereas the much heavier neoprene-decked, “breathable” fabric Snapdragon skirt (which cost three times as much as the NRS Kilt) has never this summer been a source of discomfort to me. The Snapdragon also keeps the cockpit dry when edging or when small wind-waves break over the deck. So I guess that fabric’s breathability is not just bogus sales puffing.

A set of steps from the street to the lake on the Franklin County shore of Woods Reservoir

A set of steps from the street to the lake on the Franklin County shore of Woods Reservoir

Maybe 7:30, 7:45 a.m. when I began paddling. Already the wind was blowing steadily, and I made for the small, evil-smelling bird rookery island. There I rested in the lee of one of the lake’s stouter duck-blinds, before crossing to the Franklin County shore. Watch (I finally bought a new watch) had 8:30 as I reached the shelter of the far shore. I wasn’t making very good time.

Paddling was easier heading along the shoreline to Morris Ferry Landing. Although I had no real distance goals in mind today, I planned to paddle out to the doomed vacation village, cafe, fuel dock, and campground to see whether the residents were really leaving, to witness the end of something I never in the first instance knew much about.

Morris Ferry Landing marina - that's Beech Point trailer in the distance

Morris Ferry Landing marina - that's 'Beech Point' trailer in the distance

Rustic slips gone vacant

Rustic slips gone vacant

Old pontoon boat apparently removed from a covered slip

Old pontoon boat apparently removed from a covered slip - cobwebs and bits of broken wood on deck

Still a number of pontoon and speedboats tied up to docks along the shore on my right as I paddled up. Saw right away that a number of vacation trailers on the hillside had been removed. The sun porch attached to the trailer of the woman with whom I spoke Labor Day Weekend, right next to the “Beech Point” trailer, had been gutted. I saw two men standing at the “Beech Point” trailer’s dock. They said they’d removed that trailer’s underpinnings, and that the owner was having it hauled off later to a nearby farm. The older of the two men said the United States military could pretty much do what it wants “in time of war – with everybody’s attention in Iraq and Afghanistan, nobody’s looking at what’s happening here.”

"Beech Point" trailer - underpinnings removed preperatory to its removal

"Beech Point" trailer - underpinnings removed Saturday preperatory to its removal

Removal of structure and deck that'd been affixed to a vacation trailer

Removal of structure and deck that'd been attached to a vacation trailer - not far from 'Beech Point"

Around the little point and right, I paddled into the marina area – still plenty of boats tied up, but most of the boat-shed slips were empty. An old pontoon boat, cobwebs and flakes of rotted wood on its deck, floated beside the shed. Back out into the lake, and past the cafe-store, I looked and could see that IV and his family were not in residence this weekend. A number of camper trailers were still set up further along the shore. A pile of plastic chairs and unidentifiable debris behind a red enclosed tractor sporting a bucket in front bespoke disruption and change.

Red tractor's work is complete

Red tractor's work is complete

Early yet, I thought I’d buy a cheeseburger at the cafe. Nine-thirty always brings the beginning of lunch-pangs. So I tied up at the dock, as I’ve tied up there before. In a porch swing by the front door sat a man who greeted me. So I sat down on a nearby padded bench and exchanged speech with him. Rick Braytenbah, if I’ve remembered correctly. Thing about talking with people while out paddling, without waterproof writing implements, I’ve got to rely upon a memory largely self-absorbed or taken with things of a non-evidentiary nature.

Rick Braytenbah outside the entrance of Morris Ferry Dock cafe/store

Rick Braytenbah outside the entrance of Morris Ferry Dock cafe/store

Mr. Braytenbah, a former Detroit resident and General Motors retiree, said the residents at Morris Ferry Landing got an official letter notifying them of their eviction about a week ago, although he thought the leaseholder was given legal notice some time ago. “It’s a slap in the face,” said Braytenbah of the eviction. With two sons in college “this is what I can afford,” he said. He talked about the homeowners’ attempts to fight the Arnold Engineering and Development Center commander’s decision. He said after having publicly announced his decision, the commander was unable to back down from it. Braytenbah said he thought it was likely the military had real reasons for the decision to evict the residents and leaseholder, but would probably never publicly state their true reason for fear of publicity and liability problems.

I joked that the time for clearing out former Soviet listening posts in the name of homeland security was long past. The Wall’s been down a long time. Let the hypothetical old spy have a quiet retirement, or find other means of preventing prn work besides forcing everyone out.

One of the many camper trailers at Morris Ferry Landing

One of the many camper trailers at Morris Ferry Landing

Braytenbah said he thought once the residential trailers, as opposed to camper-trailers, have been removed, the base commander might relent, as the original intent had not been to provide space for permanent dwelling houses. He said he was able to look at the matter unemotionally, and could see the military point of view. Additionally, looking at the structures maintained by the leaseholder, it is clear that they have not been sedulously kept up. The eviction and closure, we both agreed, is galling.

Inside the store, I bought and ate a chicken salad sandwich, stood and ate it while talking to a government employee and her husband. Good sandwich, and cheap, although I’d gone in thinking to get a cheeseburger. Good time to eat a cheeseburger, when you’re going to paddle a few miles. But the chicken salad’s a slightly healthier choice.

Stepping back outside, I saw that Braytenbah had been joined by a guy in uniform I’d met before, another man with a small child. I asked whether I could snap the group’s picture for the web, and they all cleared out except for Rick Braytenbah. “I’ll remember ‘Rick,’ but there’s no way I’ll remember your last name,” I said.

“You won’t even remember that,” he said, “But it’s easy to remember – ‘Bray’_’Ten’_’Bah’,” and then spelled it out. I’m sure I’ve got his first name, and the last two syllables of his last name, correct.

It was time to go. I was getting fat, having sat for awhile when I should have been paddling, then further compounded the sloth by eating a sandwich I probably didn’t need. So I said goodbye, walked to my boat, untied it, and paddled off. Back to the AEDC side of the lake.

Elder Island shoreline at my right as I returned to the AEDC side of the lake

Elder Island shoreline at my right as I returned to the AEDC side of the lake

The wind really pushed me along, especially in that narrow channel between the Franklin County shore and Elder Island. Even in that channel’s deeper water, a tan-colored weed was growing up thickly, visible beneath the surface. I wondered whether it represents some sort of ecological problem, and will crud up the water.

I rested out of the wind at the other end of Elder Island, then set off in a long, shallow arc to the UTSI beach next to the boat house. Water became choppy, became quartering “seas” as I crossed. The boat did fine, I made good progress, although by the feel of the paddle, I wasn’t making much headway. A lot of water splashed onto even the back deck, which is unusual. The E68’s back deck normally remains close to bone dry.

A windy day for sailing - boats from Highland Rim Yachtclub

A windy day for sailing - boats from Highland Rim Yachtclub

When I looked to my right as drew nearer UTSI, I saw a number of sailboats getting underway. Highland Rim Yachtclub must’ve been having some sort of race or knockabout derby – looked like any class of sailboat qualified for whatever race required them to to around the big yellow floats towed into place by a pontoon boat and a runabout.

The entire way back along the AEDC shore was against the wind, and the effort made me happy. At the former Girl Scout camp Tannassie, now an AEDC Department of Defense, government contractor, or AEDC supporter’s club (paid annual membership) facility and recipient of a rumored $385,000.00 in improvements in the form of five small, rustic cabins and bath-house repainting, it looked like a group was having a child’s birthday party.

Docked yachtclub flagship - made me wish I had an FKO burgee to display

Docked yacht club flagship - made me wish I had an FKO burgee to display

A crew appeared to be setting up a pavilion of some sort at the rec-beach. At the Highland Rim Yacht Club beach, a number of families had set up chairs and picnic gear, kids played in the water, and one boat at its slip displayed a number of burgees, pennants, little flags the meanings of which I could not divine. A teenage girl in a bikini shouted “Hello,” and “Goodbye,” as I paddled past.

Once around the point past the officers’ club beach, the wind was at my back again, and I raced the wind-waves. The surfing sensation felt fast, but plowing into the backs of the waves seemed to slow me.

Most of the pictures I took can be found here.

Another, possibly last, look at Morris Ferry landing

Another, possibly last, look at Morris Ferry landing

Lost Creek Branch, Broken Umbrella

Lost Creek Branch, Tims Ford Lake

Sunday evening, and I’ve just reread this after mowing the lawn, running the line-trimmer and the leaf-blower. I am a man in need of an editor, or a man who needs to run a line-trimmer around the edges of his prose.

Now that I’m cartopping, I’m less freaked out about leaving the house later in the day to paddle. Caution-Lady actually got out of the house before I did, taking Little Squall with her to scrapbook with friends at Name Removed Denominational Church.

I’m noticing wear on the E68’s keelstrips, toward the bow, and have only noticed since I’ve been keeping the the kayak assembled. Probably I need to spend part of an afternoon out back with the boat, needle and thread, patching material and the soldering-iron. Been noticing also some bow flex, too, and am wondering whether I’m cinching the bow tie-down too much. The distance between the 850’s rack-bars is certainly less than 1/3 the boat’s length.

Predicted high temperature today was 74 degrees Fahrenheit, and when I left the house the temperature was in the low 60s. Grass, car, inverted boat’s hull were all still wet from the rain that’d been falling earlier this morning. Stopped by my mom’s house (it was on the way) to say hello to a family friend from California childhood, a contemporary of my mother’s, who is now teaching at Tulane and contemplating retirement and a return the Golden State.

Water temperature’s been in the low to middle 60s, so I’ve left off wearing the drysuit. Instead, I’ve been wearing cutoff knee-length thermal bottoms under NRS Black Rock splash pants, an unfortunately form-fitting short-sleeved garment under a bicyclist’s 3/4 sleeved jersey. Today I brought a long-sleeved splash-jacket folded under bungies on the back deck, but Monday, when it was a bit cooler, I wore it. Sealskinz waterproof socks, Chota light mukluks, a WWII USN watch-cap, and a PFD completed the outfit. Also, although I feel foolish with them on, I wore my sunglasses.

Brought a map in case I got farther down the branch than I had previously. I knew to expect some islands and the dam if I got far enough. Brought the Round-Up golf umbrella hoping to sail part of the way back north to the put-in should the winds continue to blow as predicted.

I put in at Lost Creek public access area boat ramp (Moore County), and the wind blew strong from the south and west. Without any real distance goal in mind, I paddled south after crossing the water to the far bank. Didn’t stop to explore the shoreline, having already done that last year. Just paddled steadily against the wind to see how far I’d get. Last year I got as far as Anderton Branch, but did not explore it. This time (now yesterday, as I’ve picked up writing again Sunday morning), I didn’t explore it either because it didn’t compel my interest. As I approached the point at Finney Hole, the wind got stronger, and I could see chop being blown in the channel straight ahead.

At the point, there’s a covered dock, a large seawall, and steps up to a house I couldn’t see from my position in the water. That floating dock’s in the position most exposed to the wind that blew from the southwest. Nothing was tied up there, and the large sign affixed to it served as notice that the property is “For Sale.”

With the point on my right, I could see the dam straight ahead. I’d seen it about 12 years ago from the highway, and don’t remember it being as large as it seemed yesterday. The wind had a lot of fetch just there, pushing up scores of small wind waves which broke over my bow. Paddling straight into the wind is easy because the kayak’s most stable then, and Campsis Radicans tends to point into the wind, anyway. Again, I was glad I’d purchased and learned to use a Greenland style paddle. Less wind resistance, less required arm movement, easier on the joints. Mostly torso rotation and abdominal crunch type movement – large muscle groups designed to hold up all day under repetitive use.

I was paddling in the direction of The Narrows, toward what the map on my foredeck identified as the smallest of two nameless islands. My lower back had begun to ache. Before launching, I’d forgotten to inflate the Klepper seat pad I use to cushion my back in the E68. To my right I saw still water flanked by the windblown point now behind me and to my right, with a rocky outcropping of sorts protecting it from the wind to the right, ahead of me. I needed a stretch anyway, altered course and paddled in.

All along the lake’s shore deciduous trees are in bloom, and the smell of flowering things in the air was present in my awareness to as great a degree as the wind, and more so than the gasoline exhaust of the outboard fishing boats and other motorized craft on the lake. Once in the smallish sheltered bay the profuse trees in glorious white bloom spoke loud the joy of their existence in a language olfactory. Someplace heavenly on earth for which I gave thanks to the Creator. Found a place with bank sloping gradually enough to deeper water to enable me to get out, stretch, inflate the backrest. Back in the boat and feeling hungry, I ate a power bar snack significantly past the shelf-life printed on its wrapper.

Into the wind then, I paddled toward The Narrows and the smallest of the islands, having made up my mind to paddle around the former hilltop, then try umbrella sailing back up Lost Creek Branch. Tediously the wind waves broke against the kayak’s bow, and tiresome my paddling into the wind that spawned them. Close to the island, I saw the water benext its banks muddied by the lapping waves.

Around the windward tip of the island, remembering the swim I took this winter past, I carved a turn cautiously left. Not so much wind with the island on my left. A larger island to my right looked interesting. But because I hadn’t earlier made up my mind to paddle around it, as well, I took my umbrella from the foredeck bungies preparatory to sailing north. Thus, I rigidly adhered to my chosen itinerary.

Wind tugged the umbrella held by my left hand aloft, and the kayak’s bow dug in as the boat surged forward. Sailing maybe 50 yards before the umbrella inverted. This happened before, on my 25-mile day on Woods Reservoir, and I remembered to hold the inverted funnel-shape over my shoulder into the wind, which provided motive force, and bent the umbrella back into its usual configuration. I made another 30 yards or so, and the umbrella again inverted This time when I let the wind force it back into shape, a couple of its metal frame spokes snapped. I furled and stowed the broken thing. I took the paddle from the foredeck’s bungies, and made straight downwind seemingly pursued by legions of small wind waves. I experienced a surfing sensation as I raced them.

At Anderton Branch, now on my left, the wind howled from the west, and from this point on there was no more easy downwind paddling. More tedious paddling, million dollar houses, thoughts of what God has in mind for me, remembering that line from Sutton’s The No Asshole Rule, “I have enough.” Enough to be the only man on the lake moving his own boat competently with his own strength, enough to be married to Caution-Lady, to be father to Squally Boy, to have more than enough money to meet every one of our reasonable needs and most of our reasonable wants, to have found a church I can tolerate attending, to have two or three good friends, to perform work that uses my skills and abilities, work that sometimes serves to help others who are in need of help, to have robust good health and reasonable fitness at the age of 44, a cheap brick house in a mercifully forgotten neighborhood, and three nearby lakes to paddle. Some good. Certainly enough. All of it attributable only to the Almighty. Stuff I think about while paddling. Some days I manage to paddle without thinking about much of anything. Either way is fine.

Back at the top of Lost Creek Branch, I was pretty tired. Because I’m a goal-driven, obsessed freak, I still felt I had to paddle the keyhole under the causeway that crosses the top of the branch. Three local guys sat atop the concrete arch fishing. I greeted them, and politely asked whether I could pass without interfering with their fishing, and they said sure, that they’d just got there, anyway. I was too tired to paddle the entire impoundment’s shoreline, or to search for the actual flow of the Lost Creek. I just paddled in a large circle up there to satisfy my need to complete the course, then back through the concrete tunnel to the boat ramp.

No pictures today because Caution-Lady had the camera to get prints of baby photos. Paddling without feeling the need to snapshot document the journey was pleasant.