Carcasses and Canoes in South Texas
This was a big weekend for Team Paddlefish. It was the Texas Water Safari Marathon (aka, “The Prelim Race”) which is a 40-mile sprint from Cuero to Victoria. We decided to take this opportunity to load up as a team the day before and drive the length of the race route, scouting portages and logging GPS coordinates. Here’s the 3-day overview…
Friday was all about scouting the river for the Big Race in June and getting settled in Cuero for the next day’s prelim race. Everything was fairly straightforward along the San Marcos until we reached the Gonzales Dam. It’s a big one and we were staring in awe at the 750 yard portage required to avoid plummeting to our certain death when Tosh nudged me and pointed, “There’s your floating livestock.”
Sure enough a dead cow was floating down the river. We decided we couldn’t miss an opportunity to witness a cow come over such a large dam so we hustled down below and captured it with my shaky camerawork:
As we piled back in the car Banning noted, “So our portage plan at Gonzales ? Don’t follow the dead cow.”
Not long after the surreal cow incident we stumbled upon yet another carcass. We were nearing Cuero, the well-known headquarters for Chupacabra sightings, and sure enough we found our own chupacabra carcass in the middle of a dirt road. No lie.
Unfortunately we didn’t have time to call the press, we had to move on.
I can’t remember where we were on down the road, but in the continued theme of death and decay we found these skulls hanging on a barbed wire fence:
After a long day on the road, we cruised back to Cuero where the canoe hatch had turned on. Suddenly there were safari canoe on trucks at every turn, which definitely churned up the prelim race hype. After a nice texmex meal at Rosie’s, I went to my room to prepare race food for the next day and watched We Are Marshall as I drifted off to sleep. I thought it was a nice underdog story on the eve of Paddlefish’s biggest race to date.
We made it to the Cuero 236 bridge the next morning and the race scene was already jumping. Things went smoothly as we geared up the aluminum beast.
It was a sight to see roughly 90 boats load into the water and bob in place until start time. It was a weekend of many firsts, not the least of which was learning to navigate a mass of boats and paddles and find space from the pack. But we had a great race. Weather was hot but not miserable. Our handoffs with our team captain were smooth. I had one sinking spell midday but managed it with a little water, a bite of food, and some stretching – in place of course. There was no time for bankside breaks.
We literally had our fannies in those seats for the entire race. We didn’t leave those seats until we crossed the finish line after 6 hours and 25 minutes.
After the race we drove to Port Aransas where we cleaned up, enjoyed a gorgeous evening on the water, had some good food and even better conversation. It was fun to break down the day and get more and more fired up for the real deal in June.
But celebration was tempered because the weekend of paddling wasn’t quite done…
We left Port Aransas about 6am to meet a group at the Tivoli Bridge that was going to do a 15-ish mile training run. Since we were all the way down in South Texas, we really wanted to experience the bay crossing that comprises the final stretch of the Safari route.
We started on the Guadalupe about 9 miles up from the bay. This last stretch of the Guad was cool as all get out. So different than the river I know and love way up near New Braunfels. This part was narrow and the foliage was exotic. Cactus, palms, elephant ears, colorful flowering plants. It enveloped you one last time before pushing you out into San Antonio Bay.
The bay. We had ridiculously superb weather conditions for today’s bay crossing, something I’m told we should not expect during the race in June. The bay was calm, and what little wind we had was at our back. It was a relatively smooth and brisk bay crossing, but we did have to fight the paddling tedium with our new favorite pastime…singing our guts out. John Denver, Willie Nelson, Jimmy Buffet, Janis Joplin, Johnny Cash.
Any good song ideas for us to belt out while we’re paddling?
Even though we didn’t see one of the much ballyhooed alligators, it was a trip with a number of firsts for us. We learned a ton. Pushed our bodies just a little bit farther, and got even more excited for June. And I have now officially seen the finish line with my very own eyes. THANK YOU TEAM CAPTAINS!
41 days until the Texas Water Safari…