“River Gone Wild” – Albany 2005

It's 11:37 PM, Thursday night and we are finally here. Phoenix Inn, Albany. One of the nicest places we stay during the season and they have a truly great staff. I like this place a lot. I am drinking a drink, my feet are free of shoes finally and I am looking forward to seeing the river tommorro. Night...

Welcome to Albany!

Boy, lots of stuff going on in Albany, BBQ cookoffs, amazing cars and car show, Karaoke contests, outdoor moives, Hydro racing, Sprint Boat racing and us, all together one heck of a weekend for this town. There was even more going on than that, I just don't remember all of it.
l
We had twelve starters:
a-class
Dave & Darren Provost, Wing Boat, A-182 Risky Business,  SB Ford 438/Peckham
b-class
Duane and Gary Labrum (South Idaho Duane and Gary) Eagle, 163 Tuff-N-Nuff, SB Chevy derivative/Labrum
Steve Hanlin and Steve Davis , Eagle, 188 White Lightning, SB Chevy derivative/Zoller
Seth Bogner and Lindsay (oops!!), Wing Boat, 177 Exhibitionist, SB Chevy based/Bogner
bbfx class
Dean Saxon and John Nicklason, Eagle , 70 Adrenaline Rush, 502 Crate motor/Zoller
sbfx class
Merv and Poppy George, Eagle, FX13 Yellow Hammer, 350 zz4/Zoller
Paul Bagshaw and Dan Mahoney, big Kwik Kraft, FX15 Raven, 350 zz4 straight off the crate
Jesse LaForest and Lynn Mouser , Wing Boat, FX16 Thunderbolt, 350 zz4 partial, vortec heads/LaForest
Don Ruddick and Pete Nesbitt , small Kwik Kraft, FX09 Mountain Honey, 350 zz4
sj class (exhibition)
Gary Weaver and Dusty Brodie, SJ08, short Eagle SJ, wedges
Greg and Pamela Boice, SJ001, standard Eagle SJ, extension & wedges
George Edwards and  Tad Bell, SJ05, standard Eagle SJ, Chrunyk style nozzle

These folks fed us both days, breakfast and lunch and boy did we appreciate that!

A class- Randy Sundberg was here with his a-boat but the motor was zero compression, something that must have happened at the last race, so they weren't running. The motor literally won’t run. I am curious to hear what it was. Dave and Darren Provost on the other hand are in top form. The big/little 438 cubic inch small block Ford just sings now after a long and painful development process and Dave’s flagship wing hull is becoming a solidly fast piece of hardware. Dave said it pretty much sucks not having anybody to race. I would add, especially now that it’s all working so good.

B-class, Steve Hanlin and Steve Davis have first in points sewn up after running consistent, smart races all year. The Labrum brothers are in solid second place in the points, and are here with a brand new motor that is not cooperating. They have been fighting it since they got here. Seth Bogner is here ready to run, but looking for a little more speed or actually trying to find the speed he lost along the way somewhere. Hopefully he runs across the two mph I lost back in 2003 also. Two stout B-class competitors were eliminated earlier at Riggins and Grants Pass, both casualties of accidents that totalled their hulls. Brodie Miller’s beautiful Eagle racked and split after a big wind gust picked him up and then splatted him onto the top of a 15 foot sandbar in Idaho. Scott Adams also gorgeous Eagle, walleyed and flat like a flounder on the left side after a bad hop and subsequent collision with water at Grants Pass.

BBFX class- Dean Saxon and John Nicklason are here and ready in their usual seamless fashion. It was pointed out to me that Dean, even though alone in BBFX, runs each race as if he had the devil himself chasing him. Dean always shows a lot of class, always has the big picture in mind, as in putting on a show for the spectators. Also, I would guess, it’s a hell of a lot more fun to drive faster than it is to drive slower.

FX class- Coming into this last race for 2005, Merv George and Paul Bagshaw are separated by around 150 points, Merv leading. Paul has placed himself in shooting distance with his take no prisoners driving style, but this river because of it's long straights and benign water favors a plain old fast boat. Merv has concentrated on a steady pull all season, consistently finishing every leg of every race, even on seven cylinders, even with new dents, staying fast but not hanging it out too awful much. Even though Paul has made one of the hardest charges with the least able equipment that I can ever remember seeing, the boat he is driving is giving away about 3 mph to Merv and I have a feeling that it will tell here at Albany.

Testing on Friday, Merv has some big problems. Don’t know what it is until later, the rocker arm adjusting nuts are worn out and a couple have backed off, one enough to let it toss a pushrod and the insides of a lifter. The Provosts help him find and fix it, good guys there!

Our boat (Jesse & Lynn) is particularly suited to this race course. It has the ability to outrun every other boat in FX class, but because of my lousy racecraft so far, even if Merv and Paul had stayed home they would still have beat us in total points and we are not in contention for either first or second in points. Jeff Bradley is all over us for points but their equipment is so thrashed after the previous races that he is not able to make it to Albany and is just watching somewhere upriver from a fiberglass ski boat. We are looking for a win here at Albany but I am more than a little pessimistic after the way the season has gone so far for us. Lynn tells me to bag it and lose the bad attitude.

The race is 6 legs, each 12.5 miles long, between Albany and Corvallis on Saturday followed on Sunday by two 43 miles legs, Albany to Harrisburg and back. The river is fairly tame, lots of straights, several really big sweepers, false channels, a few snag patches and no whitewater except for what you make yourself. There are a couple of rock shelves thrown in for diversity as well as weed mats scattered here and there. Some bridges to roar under too. The 43 mile run entails a lot of details to remember, I am trying to fiugre out how to use my GPS chart plotter to good advantage for this.

At the drivers meeting Saturday morning Deputy Ryan Moody, the coolest guy with the coolest job in Linn County, told us they had marked the dead end channels with detour signs. I live kinda in the middle of nowhere and my mind had a problem figuring this out- to me a detour is the slow way, so I was immediately confused, do we take the detour the sign is pointing at or do we NOT take the detour? I mean, if it’s a detour it’s slower because it doesn’t go all the way through and if you take it, you will be detoured (end of the tour, get out of the boat!) This was a source of much amusement for everyone else there and I am pleased to have been able to provide it. Follow the arrows dummy, they told me!

SATURDAY

We are out of Albany at 9 am. All good starts except Merv and Poppy who can’t get on top because there are weeds plugging their intake. I think this also got Don Ruddick and Pete Nesbitt. It costs Merv some time, 34 seconds I think. Round one to Paul.

The Labrums are running good, so it looks like they have the motor problems under control. Seth appears to be running well too.

Back down from Corvallis at 9:45. All good starts, we catch Paul, which is surprising, and pass him just above Bryant Park. Paul had run all the way down river with his beaver tail down, cost him about 34 seconds I think, only reason we were able to catch him in 10 miles. I think this one got blamed on Jerry because he wasn't there. Round two to Merv.

Up river again at 10:30, Steve Hanlin and Steve Davis are out, their faithful motor, after having powered them through the whole season without a hiccup had expired. On this leg, Merv was faster than Paul upriver, round three to Merv so that's two to one so far.

Getting ready for the fourth run,  the down run to Albany before the mid-break, Merv tried a hop to see if he could get on top, discovered he had weeds on the intake again, dashed back to shore and went diving to get them out. Got it done in time and made their start time. Round four and game to Merv, he ran all the rest of the day faster than Paul.

 This dual between Paul and Merv was great to watch all through the season, especially from the inside at each race. Paul fighting valiantly with inferior equipment, making up for what he lacked in speed with truly wizard driving, and actually making it pay, more than just occasionally. Merv holding his line, steadfastly making consistent runs, concentrating on finishes at every race and pulling it off no matter what fate was handing him and I won’t go into it here but he was getting tossed every curve ball there is.  Paul would likely have been closer and maybe ahead by Albany, but the motor in the boat I lent him had some way tired valve springs, it tossed a lifter twice and that hosed up the first race at Roseburg for them.

The next two legs saw no lead changes that I could see. We ran fastest in FX class every leg today. I was just waiting all day for the other shoe to fall but it never did. I marked that down as bad luck because that meant when I finally got the other boot, it would probably be somewhere on that 43-mile stretch between here and Harrisburg, and in the middle of nowhere. Oh well, weatherman says it will be cooler tomorrow. Might be a nice day to sit by the river.

SUNDAY

Today we run 43 miles upriver to Harrisburg, eat lunch if we make it, and run 43 miles back down river to Albany.  The reward for making it is you get to eat lunch. The take out at Harrisburg is problematic, single ramp and shallow getting to it. We will run past the ramp and up to the bridge, then putt back to the ramp and take out. Most of us will be refueling.

We start at 10 am, all the starts I saw (three) were good ones except for the Labrums who can’t get on top! I start and go by them,  I am looking back all the way, when I can, in the corners, but I never see their rooster. When they didn’t catch us anywhere on the 43 mile leg I just assumed they had put it on the trailer at the bottom end, but found out later that they had finally gotten rolling but the motor lunched about 3 miles below Harrisburg. Gary and Duane said it was one of those all-rods clattering lunches too. Ouch!

All the way up I am waiting, just waiting. The motor is howling and whining, the note doesn’t change it just keeps on pulling, mile after mile, corner after corner. We got lost at one spot, too many possible channels, slowed to about 65 and started looking. Lynn was waving at the deputies and spectators, pointing and trying for directions, but everyone just waved back at her.  I happened to glance at the GPS and saw the track from the preview run on Friday and it made it clear which channel we should be in. Wound it up and we are gone back to 81 mph again. Still, all the way up,  I was ready for the thing to croak right until we crossed the line at Harrisburg  Thankfully the boat just ignored me and kept right on laying out the miles while I whipped the wheel around and acted like I was in charge. Everybody made it except for Duane and Gary Labrum. Long ways to come (Idaho) to spend the afternoon on a sandbar while everybody blows by, sorry guys.

Seth and Lindsay came in just flying and since they were the last team standing in B-class, they were the winners for 2005! Seth was also the fastest boat for the first River Gone Wild run, three years ago and has his name on the trophy. They ran a three person crew that year.

After lunch and fuel, it was a cluster getting all the boats back in and up river to the start, I helped contribute greatly to that, so we all had to start at plus five minutes. (add five minutes to your start time)

Again, I am driving hard but not nutty, giving myself a half a chance at every sharp corner, expecting the motor to start loading down or some other goofy thing to start happening. But, the little red boat just keeps on singing away to itself and the miles just blow out the back. A real feeling of relief at the cement thing in Corvallis, I am back on known territory from here on. Motored all the way in, not a hitch or a hiccup.

Dave and Darren Provost ran the fastest overall for the entire weekend, and I mean fast!!!! Check the pic of the time sheet at the end of the story.


Bret Provost, Dave Provost, Duane Labrum, Gary Labrum and Roland Gammill.

Everybody that motored out of Harrisburg made it down OK. This includes three Sport Jets who raced as an exhibition class here. All started every leg, all finished every leg except for boat #05,“Budweiser”, driven by Gary Weaver and navigated by Dusty Brodie. They appeared to be the fasted boat, but experienced some fuel challenged moments and gathered up a penalty for refueling and then a DNF for running out of fuel anyway...  Greg and Pamela Boice running #001 are the 2004 World Champions in SJ class and won SJ handily,  but George Edwards and Tad Bell #05 get the go for it award for deciding to race three days before and then finding time to get the boat legal as well as adapt a nozzle that looks remarkably like a Chrunyk to their SJ pump. Well done all of you guys, and thanks for making it. You looked like you were having a lot of fun and I am looking forward to seeing some good racing in the future.

A very large thank you goes to Gary and Andy Weaver who spent a lot of time and a lot of money making this race happen. Another big thank you to the various groups in the area that put the whole weekend together, it really looks like it will turn into an even bigger weekend event for Albany, Corvallis and Harrisburg.

Last but far from least a really special thank you to Captain Joe Larson and the Linn County SAR volunteers, Benton County Deputy Ryan Moody, the Benton County deputies and all the SAR folks who are there pretty much on their own time to rescue us from our mistakes. We wouldn’t be racing without you folks, and believe me it is a damn nice feeling every single time I see one of your boats or PWCs along the river. Thanks.

Time to start plotting and planning for next year....