The Dan River Boat Race at The Weirs

The day of the boat race came and it rained. It wasn’t a hard rain, just persistent. The racers lined up their kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards by the launch. Thirty-two were registered.

The Rescue Squad was down by the weirs ready to handle whatever came at them. They would man the weirs when the first boat was spotted.

A spotter stood on the first weir and watched. And it rained.

Right around ten o’clock, the first of the “open” boats came through. The races leaving from here would only be racing two miles (I think) but there was an “open” category that was put in further upstream for a 6 mile course.

This, by the way, is a racing kayak.

I was not previously aware of racing kayaks. The second boat through was a local river expert riding an Epic.

Like the first boat, he had no trouble coming through the weirs.

It looks like he might have gotten some water on the last weir but it could have been the angle of the shot. I didn’t notice this until I got home and he had continued on with no issues.

Meanwhile, the other racers had moved their boats onto the launch.

And they began setting off in two minute increments.

I never did figure out where they came out of the water. It was a little cold and a little damp and I was distracted by getting a coffee and a warm apple fritter in downtown Madison at the Mad Bean.

Maybe next year I can actually run the race. Not in a racing kayak. Too rich for my blood. But there were people in canoes and regular kayaks too.

I did finally figure out how you get on the water here though. I was looking up the park but I should have been looking up MadTown Tubing.

Instructions for how to get on the water with MadTown Tubing:

Call (336) 548-2789 to make a reservation for a tube or a sit-on-top kayak.

Go to MadTown Tubing in Downtown Madison at 102 North Water Street. You can park directly across from the Tubing headquarters or you can park in the public parking lot a few blocks up the road in the heart of the shopping district. You will probably want to wrap up there anyway eating in one of the restaurants or having a recreational beverage (there is a coffee house, and craft brewery, and a distillery?).

Have a fun, safe time on the river.

Support a local merchant.

Leave some love on the MadTown Facebook Page.

One word of caution: Do not call the Town of Madison’s number that is posted on the Madison River Park Facebook page. They will tell you that the town owns the park but has nothing to do with getting people out on the river. They didn’t seem super happy about the influx of calls they’ve been getting lately. MadTown Tubing is run by the town’s Parks and Rec Department.

Great Outdoor Provisions Has Kayaks

I still haven’t made it to Bob’s Up The Creek Outfitters in Moneta (VA) yet so it may be premature to say that Great Outdoor Provisions Company is my favorite local outfitter. But I could go out on a limb…

And, another thing, I am not so sure about this “kayak shortage”.

Great Outdoors has kayaks and they don’t look especially picked over. It’s not about price either. They have the FeelFree Move kayak available at $549. I don’t know if I like sit-on-tops but, if I do, this is pretty and half the price of a Dagger Katana. So, if I am going to be in love with each new kayak I see and the prices are going to vary wildly, how do I pick my “forever kayak”? What is it that I actually want?

So, here’s what I like about going to an outfitter. They know kayaks. The salesman I spoke to was a fan of Jackson kayaks. He explained that for what I am wanting a kayak for – lakes and rivers with less than class 2 rapids – the Dagger Katana is not a good fit. He explained that there are kayaks made for the sea, kayaks made for whitewater, and kayaks made for flatwater. He suggested two kayaks to look at. Both are pricey (but still less than the Katana):

The LiquidLogic Remix says that it “excels in whitewater yet carries speed across flat, calm lakes”.

The Venture Flex says that it allows you to “explore canals, take short coastal trips, enjoy a tranquil day on the lake, or float along gentle rivers”.

I may be completely off of the Dagger now. It’s an elite kayak but I feel embarrassed by my basic kayak when next to a LiquidLogic kayak, even if they are made for two entirely different things. LiquidLogic stands out as a top brand around here. It’s like having a Trapper Keeper when I was in 8th grade. Sure, a regular binder would do but a Trapper Keeper was just better for some reason.

I do not want to thrill seek and bang my head against rocks. A crazy whitewater experience is not on my “to do” list. But I can’t shake the envy/respect I am getting for the LiquidLogic line. Now that I know that they make a crossover, I have something else to think about.

And so I get to the other great thing about Great Outdoors.

They share a parking lot with World of Beers.

World of Beers is a regular restaurant with an extraordinary line up of beers. They have a nice indoors seating area, a great bar, and a beautiful large outdoors patio. Apparently, the latest thing is to not have a physical menu. Instead you scan the QR code and it is supposed to show up on your phone. Supposed to. When that didn’t work for me, my waitress dug out a paper beer menu.

This is just the BEER menu.

This is just the BEER menu. I had a Lost Coast Tangerine Wheat. It must be pretty popular because I’ve even seen it up here in Martinsville.

It was too hot of a day to try the Deep River Waffles & Syzurp. A North Carolina brown ale, 6.0 ABV, “A brown ale with added spices, syrup, and malts that would remind you of your favorite brekkie. Waffles, syrup, bacon, coffee … and more”. I will be going back as soon as there is the slightest chill in the air.

Actually, I just looked up the Deep River Brewing Company in Clayton, NC and it might be a fun trip to go straight to the source…

Not to bore anyone with food photos but, when you order a salad, do you have preconceived notions of what it should look like before it gets to you? Because the picture below is of the Wobb Cobb salad. Definitely unique. It tasted great so no complaints here. Just a little in awe.

A Wobb Cobb

Next step is to learn to move my kayak from point A to point B, by myself. I got a Rhino Rack for my car but have since learned that I have to put at least $300 more into it to be able to carry a kayak. This already costs more than my current kayak.

Plus, it whistles. It’s like having a giant flute tied to the top of my car. On good days, I’ve compared the sound to those Himalayan singing bowls. On bad days, it reminds me of the sound of a British ambulance I’ve heard on tv shows.

Instead of doubling down and buying J racks, I have backed up, accepted that I wasted a good chunk of change and, hoping not to waste more, ordered something cheaper.

I hope this works.

Wish me luck.

The Kayak Quest: Proof of Concept

We did it. A group of ladies who like to kayak proved that we can get our kayaks to the water and have ourselves a day of fun. It 100% helped that one of the ladies has a truck but it still counts.

It all started (for me) when a friend texted me the following:

It might help to mention that Henry County Virginia has excellent activity programs. There is a group called the 50+ Club that walks the trails, bicycles, and kayaks in addition to bowling, eating out, and getting special screenings of first run movies. They even have CrossFit trainings twice a week. Call and talk to Wanda. She can send you a catalog.

It didn’t take long until our group blossomed from two to four. Our instigator came and picked us up and we threw the kayaks in the back of her truck like we knew what we were doing. Our group became five once we arrived and found that another of our friends had also signed up without mentioning it.

There were two men from the County who were there to help us get the kayaks out of the truck and put them back in but we still feel like we had proven that we could do it.

We could get on the water.

Fairy Stone Park is best known around here for a well-maintained sandy beach with a lifeguard and a concession stand. The park is inside of a fee area but the launch, if you bring your own kayak, is on the other side of the lake directly across from the beach. Take Union Bridge Road. There is no fee.

If you would like to rent a kayak, a stand-up paddleboard, or a paddle boat, there is a place on the beach side to do this. You can barely make it out on the left in the photo above so here’s a blown up version.

Fairy Stone Park Lake is its own little body of water, distinct from Philpott but often kind of lumped in together. Now that I’ve been on it, I understand.

It is fed on one side by a creek and it ends at a spillway where any excess water runs over to Philpott Lake. The lake itself is fairly small. You can paddle all the way from one end to the other in a few minutes.

The spillway is oddly beautiful. The stonework looks like Depression Era CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) work.

Danger No Boats Allowed On Spillway or Dam No Swimming

It’s a good sized spillway.

There’s something about just watching water flow.

The spillway ends short of Philpott Lake below it and the water crashes through rock formations to get there.

Tips on Fairy Stone Park Lake:

The water is flat and easy. I packed my $40 E-Bay camera out of concern for damaging my main camera but that wasn’t necessary. I wouldn’t give that a second thought in the future.

The area by the creek is teeming with turtles, birds and other wildlife. It is also very shallow. I bet you could catch it with steam rising off of it with just a small temperature change.

Someone brings their dog out to the launch and leaves poo all over around the benches. Be forewarned.

The next trip is scheduled for August 26th so put in for your day off now and give Wanda a call to get registered.