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HomeNL-2014-04 Brazos River

Getting Paid to Paddle
Feb. 19, 2014

by John Rich

At work we had some fellow employees visiting from Canada for a week, so the boss figured it would be a good opportunity to perform some "team building" with folks we normally only talk to on the phone or by e-email.  We decided to take a half-day off of work and paddle the Brazos River.  The chosen stretch of river was from San Felipe to I-10, a six-mile run that contains four small rapids, and sand bars containing fossils and petrified wood.
The first thing I noticed is that the put-in under the FM-1458 bridge has changed a bit - some fill dirt has been added to the embankment, and the well-worn path down to the waterline no longer exists.  Instead, there is now a narrow little ridge you must traverse, only wide enough for about your shoe.  I did this with an 80-lb canoe on my shoulders.  Watch your step!
HCC member Charles Zipprian brought along the personal boats of his own and two of his son's, and John Rich brought his tandem canoe.  John teamed up with Ippo, an Italian who works in the United Kingdom, Houston employee Humberto teamed up with Mike from Canada, Pearson from Canada went in a solo kayak, and Charles brought up the rear in his usual solo personal kayak, running the sweep position taking care of stragglers.  So, we had six people in four boats.  Charles & I were the only experienced paddlers.  Humberto had paddled only once before, and the other three had never been in a canoe or kayak.  Should be entertaining, right?

About half-way through the trip one participant was happily paddling away, but didn't happen to notice that he was going nowhere.  Charles came up behind him and pointed out to him that he was aground on a submerged rock.  And at the first rapid, a tandem pair got stuck on a rock at the top of the rapids, and spent about 10 minutes there pushing with their paddles and rocking the boat, before they finally got free, only to spin around and go down the rapid backwards.  Ha!  A good time was had by all. 

With Ippo in the front of my boat, I didn't get any photos of him paddling, because all I ever saw was his backside.  He did a great job of providing populsion for my boat so I didn't have to work as hard as usual.  Although he quickly forgot my lesson about paddling with the blade vertical in the water, and he was doing continuous sweep strokes.  That, of course tried to turn my boat, so I had to counter with sweep strokes of my own on the opposite side in back, to maintain a line.  And sometimes instead of picking the blade up out of the water cleanly at the back of his stroke, he was still pushing water as the blade emerged, resulting in water being thrown backwards... onto me!  But luckily, it was a warm day.
When we stopped to scout the first, and largest, rapid, I picked up a turtle I spied on the bottom of the shallow water, told the big boss to hold out his hand, and I placed the turtle in his palm.  It was amazing to see the power that small turtle held to turn a full-grown adult and powerful businessman into an awed little kid again.  It was a magic time-machine turtle, that instantly takes 30 years off your life..

At the last rapid we pulled aside on the rock and gravel bar for a leg stretch break.  We wandered and found numerous small pieces of petrified wood, and even a few fossilized bones.  The most interesting one, found by Charles, seemed to be an incisor tooth from a horse, and since it was fossilized, it would be an ancient horse that lived many thousands of years ago.  Colorful rocks were also available, and my favorites were a small jade-green pebble, and another egg-sized rock that was blood red with two parallel veins of quartz running through it, so smooth it looked as if it had been through a tumbler to polish it.
The outdoors on a fine day makes a much better work environment than a windowless office building.  And the coolest thing about this trip is that we were getting regular company pay to paddle!  The team-building exercise really worked, and I feel a much closer and a more cooperative spirit with my Canadian counterparts.  I'll try and recommend it more often for the future.  In fact, I'm thinking that we would work together even better if we Houston employees were to visit the Canadian office this summer and paddle a nice Canadian river...


 The author, John Rich