The Shuttle Driver
I felt it go POP! Three paddling sessions into our very compressed Bend, Oregon, summer I had partially torn my tricep pulling my bike out of a rack at the store. I can remember thinking "this can't be good".
Summer is short in the mountains where we live. The past winter we had snow accumulations to a level where I needed to climb on our roof and shovel it off. Warm weather is a precious thing to a paddler living in Bend. The prognosis was 8 to 12 weeks of rest.
Fortunately, 3 sessions were enough to finish the testing on our new V-1 inspired paddle, the Ekahi. Unfortunately, Meg and my friends were starting to spend their weekends doing downwinders in the Columbia Gorge. Part of me wanted to be with everyone. Our Gorge host is JD (aka Jay Davies); pioneer Gorge paddler, savior of souls on the water that need saving, sage wise man who wrote the book on paddling the Columbia River Hawaiian Style – riding downwind on the swells, and one of my closest friends. Summer is when we spend time together. The other part of me wanted to stay home, watch NASCAR on TV and wallow in self-pity. Meg doesn't understand NASCAR. Or self-pity. So, I went to the Gorge.
Downwind paddling is a point to point endeavor. It requires logistical planning to deliver the canoes and kayaks to the starting point and in the perfect scenario, a vehicle at the destination with food, drinks, dry clothes, and enough rack space to ferry gear and paddlers on to the next adventure. This is referred to as the "shuttle".
A non-paddling friend is the ideal person to shuttle downwinders. A soccer mom is the person to know if downwinding is something you want to do. That or a compelling hitch hiking sign. Meg and the crew where having to make due with me. Smiling on the outside because "I AM a happy camper." Internally near boiling over thinking about all the stock car racing I could be watching with my one good arm if I was back home. To top things off, I was watching Pete's two kids and his dog. And did I mention I was driving a minivan?
This went on for 5 weekends in a row. Multiple trips per day. Like a Sherpa carrying air bottles up Everest for a client. I dropped, picked up, and dropped again. As I was getting bored sitting in the parking lot waiting for the crew to arrive, I started driving ahead and scouting the wind. "JD the swell is inconsistent after Wind Mountain. I think it would be better to go back to East Point." I started to arrange gear in the van so we could find all the stuff four paddlers carry. I stopped at the store and bought treats. I helped carry boats up from the water. I rigged, derigged and strapped on extra paddles. I started helping my friends and thinking about all the things they have done for me for over the years. How selfless their giving to me has been, and what an ass I was being because I couldn't paddle for a few weeks. I thought about our close friend, who is the most talented athlete we have ever known, and how after all these years of daily training her heart is failing her. And like the Dr. Seuss's Grinch, when I started to give and find the joy in helping my friends, I found contentment in being the shuttle driver.
“Every day, think as you wake up, today I am fortunate to be alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others; to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry or think badly about others. I am going to benefit others as much as I can.” - Dalai Lama XIV