“Europeans drive vans with trailer.  Americans drive a Dodge Ram 3500 with a Cummins Turbo Deisel.”

We drove for 25 hours, Thursday through Saturday, and pulled into Salida on Saturday evening.  We drove Rich’s Dodge Ram pulling a trailer with our boats.  The truck did well, but we were glad to step away from the noise and vibration and stand up.  Rich, Mike and I all felt tired, tight, and hungry.  A good meal, a soak in the Circle R Motel hot tub, and a quick stretch were all we could do before we crashed.

I love being in Colorado.  I grew up in Boulder, and much of my early paddling was on the Arkansas River where we are having nationals.  It’s great to be in the mountians- Shavano, Antero, and Princeton are all right across the valley.  It’s taken me seven years in the northwest to start to feel at home in the Cascades as I do here.  The air here is dry- my paddling gear actually dries in less than a week, and the wind we get every afternoon dries us out.  The goal is to drink 1 to 1.5 gallons of water a day, which isn’t too hard when you get thirsty every ten minutes.

The Circle R Motel has a character that the Comfort Inn across the street lacks.  Lee and Pam, our hosts, have been helpful and let us spread boats and gear across the lawn, and their dog Pork Chop occasionally wanders into our room.  Space is tight with four men in the room (Ed Gordon arrived after an heroic drive from Truckee to join the west coast wildwater contingent).

Sunday morning morning we paddled the classic course a couple of times, and repeated in the afternoon.  The course will be about 21 minutes long for me, or a little less if I’m on, and ends in the biggest rapid on the course.  Bear Creek rapid is long, and will be difficult after 18 minutes of hard paddling through the chop and shallows above. 

Today we headed downriver to Cottonwood Rapid near Coldale, about 20 miles downstream.  We would sprint one run, walk up the railroad tracks to the top, and do another.  My KEEN river shoes kept my feet from being torn up by the rocks on the tracks, so it wasn’t hard to walk the rapid over and over.  After six runs down the sprint course, I feel like I’ve got the lines fairly well, and will only gain speed now by resting.  Our races are Thursday and Friday, so from now on I’m going to paddle a little less.  Balancing the rest required to peak for a big race and doing enough paddling to learn the course is always tough, but at least I’ve run this river before.  The courses seem to have come back to me quickly, and with two days to sharpen my lines, I should be able to go fast.  

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