Monday, August 1, 2011

Bikerafting 101

Words by Greg
Photos by Greg and Mike

There comes a time in every man's life when he wants it all. Fame? Glory? Riches? -- Pshaw! That's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the time in a man's life when he wants to ride his bike and float his boat.

Oh sure, I suppose some men want a giant diesel truck and a jet boat. And that may be a similar urge, corrupted by wayward technology and poor self esteem. I myself, however, have always been comfortable in keeping my desires more humble, simple, and cheap --er, affordable. And I will always claim that this tendency resulted from a deeply felt philosophical desire to minimize my impact on the natural environment, to avoid undue complexity in my life, and to "leave a mark" on society that will be easily erased and not cause any lasting damage.

At this, I believe, I have been a success. (There are detractors who will claim that I have simply never gotten my act together, that an awkward personality coupled with a lack of ambition has saddled me with my lowly status. That my great personal success is in reality a complete failure. But what? Sour grapes, I say! Sour grapes!)

Nonetheless, it has indeed been over a dozen years since I unburdened myself of the ownership of a motor vehicle (a.k.a. "car") and decided to "simplify" my life, which I mistakenly assumed required that I A. have at least half-a-dozen bikes at any one time, and B. could not have a boat. --Just because most boats -- even "minimal" boats like kayaks, inflatable kayaks -- "require" a way of dragging them around when they're not in the water. And though I've shared boats, borrowed boats, rented boats, floated on other people's boats, I thought that it was not my destiny to have a boat of my own.

But, ah! Then along comes this new phenomenon ( --that is not really new, but where have I been? I don't know.) called bikerafting. Which, though I'd heard of it, wasn't really made real for me until Mike got one of these tiny, capable inflatable boats and shined a light into the darkness of my boatless-ness. Then he acted as a conduit between me, my low budget, and a heck-of-a-deal on a not-completely-used-up antique packraft. I applied a bit of my own fortitude and a bunch of glue, and Wa La! I became a packrafter!

The next logical step was to become a bikerafter. I inflated my little raft in Trina's yard and used several straps to lash my town bike onto the front. This done, things looked great, and there was no problem floating upon the grass. So onward! I deflated and strapped the raft to the bike and rode off to the river with Mike. The big, wide, flowing mass of water was rather intimidating to me, not knowing if the bike would drag the little boat to the bottom or not. So, with Mike's supervision, I inflated my raft and then strapped my bike to the bow and floated out into a nearby shallow pond, where, indeed, the raft floated with both me and the bike onboard. This was a good sign.

We carried our laden boats the few steps between the pond and the mighty river, and shoved off from shore. Not bad! The little raft was floating happily, if somewhat low in the water. Maneuverability was pretty good. And the river did most of the work. We languidly floated on through town, past bridges and cottonwood trees and sand banks and places where the river bike path had washed into the water during the spring flood.

We landed at a popular boat launch area and smugly assembled our bikes, flattened and loaded our rafts, and rode away. Success! Our little trip through town had officially turned me into bikerafter. And widened my eyes to the true beauty of the concept: no shuttle. The traditional scourge of river rafting is that one has to find a way to get a boat to the top of the run, and have another vehicle at the bottom with which to run back to the top again to pick up the vehicle at the top. But this bikerafting thing... Ride to the top, float down, ride home. Simple. Sweet. Effective.

It's a wonder I didn't think of it myself.

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