Albany 2003 - River gone Wild

One of Judy Himebach's great pictures. No boats, but a great picture, don't you agree?

The run up: We left Klamath, California pulling Raven at 4:30 pm, drove through enough heat to kill off our coastie mold, arrived in Albany, exit 233, at 11:30. Bob McKellar ran with us towing the Wooldridge, Jackie McKellar and Morgan Heuberger came up the coast then over at Coos Bay to keep the little Ford six-cylinder towing Cavefish (soon to be re-christened) from overheating. They went on to Morgan’s parent’s house in Stayton. They got in about midnight.

We stayed at the Day’s Inn at exit 233, our room was downstairs (the basement?), the window was level with the ground. Kind of neat, a unique view for sure, something we are always looking for! In the parking lot were several hot air balloon team’s rigs and a pickup with a Sulky in the back (a kind of horse-drawn rickshaw thing with two bicycle fragile wheels. The horses run with this odd gait, not galloping but sort of walking really, really fast).

Next morning we all headed across the freeway looking for breakfast, then the river and then a launch ramp, in that order. Stopped at a little place on the right on highway 20 and were served breakfast by a very busy and harassed waitress. Bob commented that he had heard of having food thrown at you in a restaurant but had never figured they actually threw it. Breakfast was good even after having been tossed in our general direction. Some guys on the fire prevention crew came in for breakfast also, asked about the boats and told us how to find the Bowman Park boat ramp.

We met Paul Luhrs at Bowman park, I had talked to him several times via email and it was nice to actually meet him. Paul had been drifting and fishing and he rode back up with us in the scout boat, Bob’s Wooldridge, about three miles to get his truck and pointed out stuff to avoid along the way. There were mile markers on the river, set up on road construction sawhorses. Different, and not a bad idea either.

We drove to Corvallis and back and looked over the Willamette. Eleven miles and not an excuse to lift anywhere in sight. A couple of chutes, one worth running the other had too many sharp bends in it to make it profitable. A tiny little bit of bumpy water, a few shallow spots, but no big deal and one spine of rock sticking out that was easy to see.  We also found duckweed, and not knowing much about it, stayed well way away from it. I assume it’ll plug your pump just about right now.

Back at Bowman Park, Bob left me at the wheel of his boat and backed the trailer in. Big mistake! I had shut it off, and when I restarted it I lifted the idle lever, turned the key and away it went! I mean it took right off, headed right for the dock, like it was trying to commit sideways! I am going “Oh Shit!”, panicking, trying to pull it into reverse, which of course it isn’t going to let me do since I have the idle lever up. By the time I figure it all out and just shut off the key, the goofy thing is halfway up on the dock! That boat is a jeep, it is in four wheel drive all the time, it climbed most of the way up on that dock and that was only at a fast idle. Talk about embarrassing! At least everyone watching got a good laugh out of it, including Bob! My stunt prompted Paul Luhrs to ask Bob, “And that guy is going to be driving a race boat?” I don’t know what Bob said but probably something like, “Oh, he drives like that all the time”. I do have a defense, there are fewer levers, switches and stuff like that in my boat and I know what they all do! AND, they are all on the CORRECT side of the boat.  … I am a dork… At least I didn’t sink the boat or run over Morgan. (He was standing on the dock, but he can move pretty fast when he has to.)


Morgan and Jackie (soon to be newlyweds) or should I say, the Bride and the Groom, tested Cavefish. Even if it’s outclassed now, the little boat always did have a lot of heart, it sure ran its guts out for us, and it makes me feel good to see it competing again. Morgan’s first race turns out to be his home river, he being from Stayton, Oregon! Another interesting note about these two is that Jackie McKellar is a third generation river racer, her grandfather, Jack McKellar having won the first race on the Klamath in 1939 when they raced from Yreka to the ocean and her dad, Bob McKellar, having raced hydros for 15 years or so. Morgan we are just dragging into it! He’s spent the last month or so of evenings with aluminum filings in his hair, working on boats.

Jeff and Kris Bradley showed up ready for a scout trip/boat ride wearing their sunglasses and flip-flops, dropped “Morning Wood” in the river and went off and did the Willamette. Lynn says they get the vote for cutest couple! I agree. Bet ya didn’t expect that one did ya Jeff? Hmmm, The Wood looks a lot faster than the last time I saw it, what’s up? I would guess Kris weighs no more than 95 pounds, so that’s somewhat of a saving over Dustin (sometimes known as Kurt) but there has to be more. Jeff told me that its Bondo in all the right places. Good old Bondo!

We met Kyle Patrick who is doing most of the promoting and organizing as well as racing his sprinter. He told us we were launching out of another park just up river, Takena Park, as Bowman Park was reserved for a wedding. Takena Park was kind of cool, tucked in next to the two bridges of Highway 20. The actual boat ramp was right between the Highway 20 bridges. Complete with a dock and it’s paved, very deluxe compared to what we are used to at home. The bridges have red lights on the pillars and greens lights in the center of the spans. Navigation stuff I guess. I kept waiting for a freighter or a tugboat to come by, but I guess they can’t run in a foot and a half of water.

The hydros were racing too, they had almost a full turn out. The spectators love those little rockets, I enjoy watching them too and am getting to know more about them. Maybe I can get a checkride in one someday. I watched Bob McKellar, Troy and Derek take Derek’s motor partially apart and re-assemble it. Talk about ease of maintenance. Funny thing though, is it takes a dirty big pipe wrench to get the Jesus nut off! The props are amazing to look at, but I was told you can’t tell much by looking at them, the difference between a good one and a not so good one is not discernable by eye. They look like some kind of witchcraft to me. I did see one that was obviously not a good one anymore, it had been run through some skinny water and both blades were bent 90 degrees about halfway up.

Here is the jets that came to race and also the first days start order:

177 “Exhibitionist” Seth Bogner & Mitch Gomes and one un-comfortable passenger from Glide, Oregon
22S “Silver Boat” Rich and Tammy Boice from Grants Pass, Oregon
16 “Raven” Lynn Mouser & Jesse LaForest (us) from Klamath, California
42 “Morning Wood” Jeff & Kris Bradley From Wilderville, Oregon
22R “CaveFish” Morgan Heuberger and Jackie McKellar from Klamath, California
5  Kyle Patrick and Mark Mills Saturday, a pretty lady Sunday, from Albany, Oregon
45  Andy Weaver and Randy Raschein

We spent the evening at Wyatt’s, a pub on the main drag in Albany, with most of the racers. Talked boats, racing and went outside periodically and sat on the curb and watched the cruisers from the rod run go by. Lots of nice cars! My favorite was one very nice 66 Chevelle SS 396. It sounded like the 375 horse one, too.

Saturday

The drivers meeting was 8 am at Takena Park, and was ably conducted by Doug Ely and Larry Darnielle. I think I know how much those two like race boats, makes me feel kinda bad leaving them on the beach while we go have most of the fun.

The schedule for the day was:
9 am, jetboats run to Corvallis
10 am jetboats return to Albany

12 noon hydros run to Corvallis, regroup, run back to Albany, regroup, run back to Corvallis, regroup and then back to Albany. They did rolling starts, which looks crazy and is pretty amazing to see.

1 am jetboats run to Corvallis
2 am jetboats run back to Albany

This was the single best setup for safety I have ever seen at any race. Extremely well organized by Corporal Ryan Moody of the Benton County Sheriff's Department who also worked the Grants Pass race, this was a very capable team, all in touch by radio and more than prepared for just about anything that might have happened. Gives me a warm feeling to know somebody is ready and willing to save my silly butt if I do something really stupid. Thanks very much!

The Albany Democrat-Herald dispatched Sean Wolfe to cover the race and Andy Cripe to photograph it. The paper carried a very good article on the front page on Sunday. I talked to Sean a little, but I am horrible to interview, can never think of anything memorable to say. That's ok, because there is always someone else around who can!

The basic theme for the event was fun run, take your time, and put on a good show, wave at the spectators. So, of course, everybody ran just as hard as they possibly could, like always. It’s what we do. They did wave a lot though. The feeling in the pits was relaxed, we were all having fun, just enjoying the nice weather and good company.

up and back a couple of times

On the first run up we were catching Rich and Tammy Boice in their brand new, not even painted, wing hull. That was wrong. They should have been able to walk away from us like we were tied to a stump. We found out at the top that their oil pressure kept dropping on them, so they were nursing the motor. I had really wanted to see what the new wing boat would do. I was sure they would be lots faster than we would, I was looking forward to seeing it ripping.

There were very few spectators along the course on the first up run, but their numbers grew each leg. On the second down leg, we came honking around one sweeping left hander and there were two guys sitting in lawn chairs up to there calves about 40 feet out in the river! They had cool drinks and were waving and smiling! We turned a little bit right to give them lots of room and waved back. It looked like a great way to watch the race, but I made a point of remembering that spot so I wouldn’t improve my line between them and the beach. Truly, I would have to be going through the overhanging willows to even get close to them but the first time I saw them it startled me anyway.

At the very next corner or the one after that was a big blue tent/awning with about ten people cheering us on. They were there both days and were having a great time! Another Gilligan’s Island in the making, like Mike’s place in Marysville. I kept looking when I had time, to see if I could spot Paul. Lynn saw him a couple of times, but I was not looking at the right times.

On the first run down I managed to drive right though one of the few shallow spots. It’s a chute on the left just a short ways up from Takena Park. I lined up about a quarter mile up river for a straight shot through it, unfortunately, my line intersected some barely wet gravel. It was a good line so I left it were it was pointed and just slid right on through. We made that shooshing noise, the nose dropped, back out in deep water (8 inches) nose picks up, we are gone. Big rocks and fixed objects, no way, but gravel is not a biggie, especially if you don’t have Bondo spots on your hull yet. I changed my entry for that chute so it wasn’t a straight line anymore, more of a dog leg.

Just above the power towers above the finish line was a beach full of people, the numbers there increased each leg too. I did my best to put on a good show, coming close to the beach (but not too close) whipping the rooster around and waving with Lynn at everybody we saw. I guess we could have thrown candy too, but I imagine getting hit by a Gummi Bear going 80 mph would not be all that much fun anyhow, so it’s probably just as well we didn’t. Marshmallows? Stuffed animals?

It was a fun day racing and watching the hydros race. More and more spectators kept appearing on the bridges and decks across the river as the day progressed.

I managed to get stuck in the gravel practically in front of the ramp. Three times! Little bitty rocks stuck in the grate, and a little bit of a cavitation on launch. Haven’t checked the impellers leading edges yet, but they are probably dinged.

Sunday

Sunday’s schedule was the same as Saturdays except we were only going to hang at the top end for a half an hour instead of the full hour. Everybody was right with it, no goof ups, the new racers did a great job.

Jeff Bradley was asked to chase the hydros in an attempt to also speed up the turn arounds for them too. He loaded up on fuel and took a diver and starter with him. This was possible because Jeff has installed what I believe is a first, a bench seat in a race boat. As long as the motor in his boat is running, he is grinning!

Seth and Mitch picked up a hitchhiker some where along the way. She didn't say much and had this stunned look on her face the whole time. I guess she realized who she was riding with and that her honor might be in danger.

Again, more spectators today each run today. Kyle was parked in the duckweed on the last leg down looking generally tired. Jeff and Kris were late getting back. Turns out they had run out of fuel just one corner up, cut it too close on the extra fuel to chase the hydros.

I gave a few rides, one to the raffle winner, boy he’s got a nice Corvette! It was a 62, I think, but maybe not. Also gave Ryan Moody a ride and Al, one of the promoters, sorry I didn’t catch your last name. And Paul too, he had gotten a ride in Cavefish at Bowman Park on Friday and I thought he might like a ride in Raven for balance.  By then I was just waiting for the motor to cough and quit, I had to be close on fuel. When I got home I measured (with the STICK) and I had about 2 gallons left. Not sure how much of that is available to the motor.

I happened to look in the back of Kyle's boat and saw a blade sticking out the side of the pump, not what it is supposed to be doing. Also some blue rubber gloves were hanging out of the hole in the pump. You don't suppose they ran over an EMT's go box and it got stuck in the intake? Just kidding, they had fun and I hope maybe he rethinks racing sprints and goes for whitewater.

Kyle had gotten plaques for the winners of each class and a perpetual trophy for the fastest overall. The perpetual trophy went to Seth and Mitch, but they have to bring it back next year and try and win it again!

I was surprised at the trophys, nice touch, it’s what me and Lynn really race for. I'd love to win a couple of those nice leather coats too, that would be something.

Thanks again to Kyle and the other promoters, Ryan Moody and the river patrol, Doug and Mrs. Ely and Larry Darnielle, all the friendly spectators and Albany for making this a good, safe, trouble free race.

2003 was a good year for Whitewater Marathon Jetboat Racing. Team Raven had several dumb-butt hiccups, but with Bob McKellar’s help and guidance I think we are on the right track now. I enjoyed the heck out of racing with all you jetters, and look forward to next year.

I guess we are losing Dave Provost for sure as Presidente Supremo, but we need to cut him loose so he can concentrate on putting together a good race effort for next year. He put a lot of energy into the big picture that could have been used to compete. For that, I am very thankful. Dave has left a high water mark for subsequent Presidents to shoot for and has added immeasurably to our sport. I gotta say it, somebody needs to step forward and be the Prez! It doesn't have to be a racer either, in fact it might be a good thing if it wasn't. Any takers?

We now are hard at putting together next years boat and race effort. Hopefully it will be the best yet. See you all at the banquet.


I just liked this picture....