Sunday, April 25, 2010

Release…The Sprinter!

In support of our free spirit tendencies, Heather and I teamed up to buy and build the ultimate multisport van this winter. We were looking for a diamond in the rough and we found her in Golden in the form of a 2005 Dodge Sprinter. These Mercedes Turbodiesel driven wonders get 23+mpg at 8500 lbs and 22 feet long. Need I say more? We spent 2 weeks removing the vinyl branding aka burning our finger tips with heat guns on 32 degree nights after work until we had her as white as a baby’s bottom. Her dad, Buck, spent an afternoon laying the tile laminate floating floor as we anticipated some dripping kayak gear and muddy bike tires. We threw 18” alloy wheels from a Mercedes G500 SUV on for bling bling value so we don’t get the cops called on us when bandit camping in high end neighborhoods who mistake it for a passenger Eurovan!

Next stop was a visit to the boys at Vanworks,, in Fort Collins, CO who specialize in custom van conversions. In short, these talented craftsmen can make anything out of anything. Dale and crew did the whole customization from the power system to cabinets and everything between. They added a shore line so the vehicle could be plugged in to our trusty friends all over Colorado. When plugged in the heater, home theater system, fridge, microwave, and other high consumption electronics can run directly from shore power. We added a 2 amp solar system to keep the batteries topped off while we’re out frolicking in the mountains. As any vegabond camper knows, a hot shower was first on our list of must haves for our home away from home. Vanworks put a water output from our sink to a external shower system that heats the water before sending it to the shower head mounted to the back door. (photo) This system doubles as our muddy bike washing station and stinky paddle clothing diffuser.

Another key component the promising van camper can’t skimp on is the ceiling vent and mood lights. Colorado, being the high mountain climate it is, made us pass on A/C. The ceiling vent keeps the humidity from building up and temperature down. We went with movie theater style LED mood lights along the perimeter of the ceiling courtesy of Barry from Jersey at Vanworks who gave mood lights two thumbs up. The finishing touch was the fold down toy hauler bed that converts into a dinette and table when necessary. Jim from Vanworks recovered the vintage fabric on the bed and seats with bling bling black neoprene compliments of Prijon Wildwasser kayaks in Boulder.
My high school days clearly resurfaced when it came to the audio system and I didn't want to let my high school friend BJ Rumph down when he came to town. We went with a single 10” sub under the passenger seat but heavy on everything else with around 600 watts pushing the 6 mid and high drivers. With movies like Top Gun and 300 in the DVD collection, Mike from Vanworks couldn’t pass on having the DVD integrate into the audio system or doubling down on the wall insulation to keep the neighbors from calling our cover when we’re camping across the street! did the front door panel speakers custom for Sprinters.

The finishing touches were some of our favorites. To the left, Vanworks custom made sweet ceiling cabinets to house the microwave and my endless collection of KEEN's!

We just got the crown jewel.... personalized license plates. As many of my childhood friends will remember, my brother Josh was the king of van travel even as a young 20 year old in Oklahoma with several VW Eurovan restorations going on at one time. Because we just upsized the size of our van compared to his daily driver (photo shown on the right circa 1999...the first adventure race I ever did with some college

friends..silly Team Radical), JOSHUA2 seemed fitting for the tags. One distinct memory I carry forward from his nature is to be passionate about living life and pack it all in to one day as you never know how the next page reads. Even though I never liked to fish as much as he did, I paid attention and reeled when he said reel. (see below)! His spirit lives on one road trip at a time. Heather picked up where he left off and fishes the same Arkansas River from it's headwaters in our beloved Buena Vista, Colorado.

Shot of the Week...Where's the Airport? Shoshone 3000 cfs and rising....

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Chicagoland Adventure Racing Camp...and the 6 Lb. Burrito Brothers!

So I spent last weekend near Chicago, Illinois at Gerry Voelliger's Team High Profile Adventure Racing Camp with 180 adventure racers from 10 states and support staff. It's very real that adventure racing on a grassroots level continues to flourish in the Midwest and Gerry Voelliger is a big part of that success. I tell you this event director and his staff put on an outstanding camp. Gerry's enthusiasm for all things adventure is contagious and this camps stands alone for providing high quality instruction and will jump start any budding adventure racer's knowledge base 100fold in 3 days at a great price. World champion adventure racer Robyn Bennicasa was on staff last year. None of us are sure how Gerry gets his instructors but I'd say it's because if you knew Gerry you just can't turn down a request. He's the fire chief in Bettendorf, Iowa and just has a big brother vibe about him.

I was on staff to provide paddling instruction and all support all other programs related to adventure racing ie navigation, fixed ropes, foot care, in race tactics, etc. KEEN, Clif Bar, and Immersion Research came through for camp participants with the most schwag I've ever seen at an event and the campers loved it all. After 5-6 capsizes in the Mississippi during the field paddling session I'm certain campers found a new appreciation for proper clothing layers. My favorite camp memory was looking on shore and seeing 3 shall I say Rugby'esque campers recently removed from the frigid water (see below) huddled around each other buck naked still pointing fingers at who really tipped the canoe. They came to enjoy the namesake "The 6 LB Burrito Brothers" given to them by Gerry V. These guys traveled all the way from Nebraska and just reminded me of all the human experiences one amasses in the sport of adventure racing. Every second is a screenplay in the making. I enjoyed the racing spirit of these 3 guys, Casey especially, and I look forward to hearing stories of their future success .

Here is a photo of some paddling technique demonstrating how to get maximum power transfer from your body to the kayak/canoe using releasable foot and thigh straps. Note...never do this with straps that don't release instantaneously or you'll have a longer upside down experience than necessary!

Here's a photo of the Wakarusa River that racers honed their paddling skills on. Who knew a class 2 whitewater river runs through these fields surrounding Camp Benson? The river pulses through an otherwise agricultural backdrop and simply carves out some magnificent scenery with surrounding bat caves and high bluffs.

Special thanks to Active Endeavors owner Matt Ostrum who continues to foster the sport of adventure racing in the Chicago market and was an early supporter in my development when I was just a spunky 22 year old who was just learning to paddle on this very stretch of river. Repaying my debt to him working this camp was the least I could do and Gerry V and staff are just simply outstanding. Special thanks also to professional photographer Greg Boll who took all of these action photos. All photos can be viewed online at

Photos by Greg Boll. Mississippi Pallisades State Park.

Next Up...
1. June 5-13th Wildwater World Championships in Sort, Spain
2. June 23-27th Paddling Solo Support/Navigation for Prolific American paddler Andy Corra's Attempt to Break Ian Adamson's Guiness 24 Hour World Kayak Distance Record on the Yukon River in Yukon Territory (yep, this will be one the story of all stories race fans!)