Arctic Cowboys focused on Texas Water Safari for now

Arctic Cowboys focused on Texas Water Safari for now

 

Veteran canoe racers Jeff Wueste, Jimmy Harvey and West Hansen, left to right, pull into the boat ramp near Austin High School after a training run for the Texas Water Safari. Pam LeBlanc photo

West Hansen sloshed out of Lady Bird Lake yesterday, helped his teammates pull their three-person racing canoe ashore, and wiped the sweat from his face.

Hansen, who paddled the entire length of the Amazon River in 2012 and followed that up by paddling the whole Volga River in Russia two years later, learned something during the 10-plus mile training run: The boat’s trim is off, and the canoe racers need to make some adjustments to get the balance right.

“We’ll work on that by moving Jeff’s seat,” Hansen said after pulling the long, torpedo-shaped canoe, with the name That’s What She Said in bright green letters on the side, out of the water.

That’s easy stuff.

West Hansen, head of the Arctic Cowboys, paddled the entire Amazon River in 2012. Pam LeBlanc photo

The team is training for the upcoming Texas Water Safari, a grueling 260-mile paddling race from San Marcos to the town of Seadrift on the Texas coast. Paddlers in that race face everything from bobbing mats of logs to smallish alligators and swarms of biting insects as they make their way down the San Marcos and Guadalupe Rivers toward the finish line, many of them going without sleep for two or more days.

But these three paddlers – Hansen, Wueste and local pool business owner Jimmy Harvey – have a bigger mission hovering on the horizon. Hansen ultimately plans to lead the trio, dubbed the Arctic Cowboys, on a 1,900-mile kayaking expedition through the Northwest Passage in the Arctic.

Covid has cast some uncertainty on timing of that expedition. The trip hinges on how soon the Canadian government allows access into Nunavut, populated by the native Inuit people. The Northwest Passage, between Tuktoyaktuk and Pond Inlet, is currently closed due to the pandemic. Hansen is hopeful an efficient rollout of Covid-19 vaccine could allow them to make their attempt this summer, and says the team is “continuing to hurry up and wait.”

Jeff Wueste, Jimmy Harvey and West Hansen paddled more than 10 miles on Lady Bird Lake to prepare for the upcoming Texas Water Safari in June. Pam LeBlanc photo

In the meantime, yesterday’s much warmer training run showed them some scenery they won’t see in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago: Throngs of people on standup paddleboards, kayaks, inflatable rafts, canoes and rowing sculls, enjoying the balmy day.

And not a single chunk of floating ice or polar bear.

 

 

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National Parks Bucket Journal lets you log your adventures

National Parks Bucket Journal lets you log your adventures

The National Parks Bucket Journal features space for sketches, notes and details about your park visit. Pam LeBlanc photo

I’m heading to Colorado later this month to pick up a new toy: A 2021 Ford Transit kitted out by Wayfarer Vans with a bed, kitchen area and cabinets.

It’s a big step, I know. But last summer, Chris and I spent a week driving around Colorado in a similar campervan, and loved the freedom of being able to pull into a national forest, find a nice spot, and set up camp for the night. Nothing beats waking up early, pushing open the van’s back doors, and watching the world wake up, all from the comfort of your mobile bed.

We’ve spent the last few months ordering accessories for our van, from sheets and pillows to a Luggable Loo Portable Toilet, since our van is not equipped with a bathroom or shower. I’ve even ordered a customized name sticker for our van, which we’ve named Vincent VanGo.

I foresee plenty of road trips in my future, with lots of stops at national parks. I was thrilled when a copy of “National Parks Bucket Journal” arrived in the mail last week, compliments of the publisher, MyBucketJournals.com. The company makes an array of inexpensive journals focused on parks, states and special topics, like ballparks or historic battlefields.

I’m going to keep my journal in the new campervan I’m picking up later this month. Pam LeBlanc photo

My spiral bound book features pages for each of 62 national parks in the United States, from Acadia National Park to Zion National Park.

So far, I’ve already hit 25 national parks. My favorite? Glacier National Park in Montana, where I spent a night at Hole in the Wall backcountry site during a week-long backpacking trip. The Utah Parks, from Canyonlands to Arches, rank near the top, as do the granddaddies like Yosemite, Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon National Parks. I’ve also had a long-term love affair with Big Bend National Park in West Texas.

I’m hoping to make it to a few more in the next few years – especially Isle Royale in Michigan. (No campervans there – I’ll have to take a ferry over.) I’m putting the journal in the van to keep notes. It’s got maps and room for sketches, plus places to note when I was there, where I stayed, what wildlife I saw and who I traveled with.

Now that I’ve got a van, all I need to do is hit the road and start journaling.

 

 

 

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“Vanishing Postcards” podcast tells the stories of Texas

“Vanishing Postcards” podcast tells the stories of Texas

Evan Sterns drove 1,500 miles around Texas recording stories and creating 15 episodes of the “Vanishing Texas” podcast. Photo courtesy Evan Stern

Here in Texas, we love a good story, especially when it’s told in the scratchy voice or thick accent of someone who loves this larger-than-life state as much as we do.

The bartender at Dry Creek Café that overlooks Lake Austin, for example. An old-time conjunto musician in South Texas. Or the clerk behind the counter of one of those old country stores, where you can buy a can of Lone Star or a pickled egg from a glass jar.

“If there’s one thing I know it’s that Texas people love to talk and they’re good storytellers,” says Evan Stern, 39who grew up in Austin, pursued a career in acting and now lives in New York. His new podcast, “Vanishing Postcards,” debuts on April 8.

Evan Stern’s “Vanishing Postcards” podcasts launches on April 8. Photo courtesy Evan Stern

Stern describes the program as a travelogue in which listeners join him on a road trip to explore hidden dives and historic places.

“The idea of the show is I’m going around to places that don’t often make the pages of glossy magazines or brochures but are reflective of broader cultural histories,” Stern says.

He covered 1,500 miles in his car, visiting places like the Texas Conjunto Hall of Fame in San Benito, peach orchards in Fredericksburg, and dance halls, BBQ joints and country stores as he crafted 15 episodes, each about 25 minutes long. Dial one up and you’ll hear old-timers and local characters who describe the kind of Texas places that are slowly disappearing from our landscape.

“As horrible as the pandemic has been, it opened up the door for me to dedicate energy to this endeavor,” Stern says. “New Yorkers are great story tellers and they love to talk, but they’re incredibly pressed for time. It’s much easier to approach and talk to people here than it is there.”

Watch a trailer for the podcast here.

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/vanishing-postcards/id1544610020

 

 

 

To subscribe to “Vanishing Postcards,” go to:

Apple https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/vanishing-postcards/id1544610020

Spotify https://open.spotify.com/show/1Clt64mFbYfmYAauWWTgtm?si=CwovImKQRIKRigPIcgP6aQ

Google https://podcasts.google.com/feed/aHR0cHM6Ly9hbmNob3IuZm0vcy80MmZiNDc4NC9wb2RjYXN0L3Jzcw==

 

 

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Driftwood bike ride supports efforts to beautify Texas roadways

Driftwood bike ride supports efforts to beautify Texas roadways

Aaron Chamberlain, who road his bicycle around the perimeter of Texas, will lead an April 10 bike ride in Driftwood to support Scenic Texas. Photo by Tony Drewry

If you’ve ever pedaled a bicycle along a not-to-busy Hill Country roadway, you know that wildflowers and trees and the occasional mooing cow all contribute to making the ride a quintessential springtime experience in Texas.

On April 10, Scenic Texas, a nonprofit organization that works to preserve and enhance the state’s visual environment – and that means roadways, folks – will host a fund-raising bike ride around Driftwood.

The windy, 21-mile Ride for Scenic Texas will start and finish at Vista Brewing, 13551 RM 150, where riders will get a celebratory glass of beer (and maybe a virtual high five or two.)

Aaron Chamberlain, who recently circumnavigated the state of Texas on his bicycle and wrote about it for Texas Monthly, will kick off the ride. He’s also a co-founder of Austin Beer Guide, so cheers to that.

Registration is $125, which goes to support Scenic Texas’ efforts to create lovelier roads around the state. Those who sign up get a free drink and a T-shirt. Annual memberships are also available for $35.

Chamberlain wrote about his ride for Texas Monthly. Tony Drewry photo

 

Organizers are trying to keep the event Covid safe. Participants must wear a mask when they’re not riding or sitting at a table, and instead of a group start, cyclists can ride the route anytime between 8 a.m. and noon.

The event takes place in conjunction with a Driftwood Historical Conservation Society event that dedicates that stretch of road on FM 150 in front of the brewery as the Travis Heritage Trail. A group of residents is working to place the trail under the state’s Highway Beautification Code, which would ban junk yards, sanitary fills and billboards along the stretch of roadway.

“To best understand the scenic road you should ride it,” said Sarah Tober, executive director and president of Scenic Texas. “Nothing speaks clearer to you than the trees and wildflowers and nature than when you’re riding or running alongside it.”

The Ride for Scenic Texas, she says, is a celebration of the state’s scenic highways – and a push to create more of them.

Aaron Chamberlain’s ride around Texas covered roughly 3,000 miles. Tony Drewry photo

About Pam

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