Saturday, July 21, 2012

Treasure Hunting Hovercraft Style 2

Phil and I tried everything to get my hover started and after about 15 minutes of no success we started talking about options. About two hundred yards from us was a private boat ramp that Phil thought we might be able to use so he jumped in the river and started walking up toward the ramp to ask the owner if we could use it to drag my hover out of the river. While Phil was walking up to the neighbors I kept messing with the hover and getting things ready to tow it by hand up to the neighbors or anchor it to Phil’s dock if that was my only option. Phil came back after about 15 minutes and said the neighbor was good with us using his ramp so Phil said "I'm already wet so I might as well tow the hover up to the ramp, my wife is on her way home so she can take you to your vehicle and you can meet me over at the ramp and we'll load this thing up. With that he took the rope and with hover in tow began to walk toward the ramp. I climbed the hill back up to his house and waited for his wife. When Dee arrived we headed to my car and retrieved it and the trailer then it was back to the private ramp. When I got back there I backed down the long hill to the boat ramp and did what I seldom do, I backed my trailer into the water to load my hover. When I backed up I noticed the trailer seemed to stop so we decided that was far enough and floated the hover up onto the trailer. I strapped it down and started to pull out. My front wheel drive dug in and then spun the tires, I backed up and got a little bit of a nudge and tried again and with that the vehicle moved about a foot and a half and dropped off the concrete onto gravel and spun again. After about 5 tries of doing that Phil said he thought I was stuck in the river mud with the back of the trailer, he felt around on the back of the trailer and sure enough I had scooped up about a thousand pounds of mud and it was keeping me from pulling out. We floated the hover off the trailer again and I tried to pull the empty trailer out of the water but still it wouldn't budge, so Phil said he would get his all-wheel drive SUV and pull it out. So Dee went to get their other vehicle, when she got back we pulled on the trailer and it still wouldn't budge so Phil checked the back of the trailer and it was embedded in the mud about two feet. We decided that we would have to get some of the mud off the back of the trailer and so Phil and I proceeded to shovel the mud with our feet. It was like pushing lead powder and in the 103 degree temperature I was feeling the effects of the heat. All the time we were trying to do this I kept thinking, "Great I come out here to treasure hunt and all I get is one problem after another". After about 10 minutes we finally got enough mud off the back of the trailer for Dee to pull the trailer ahead enough to get out of the mud, we then pushed the hover up on the trailer with two of us pushing and Dee pulling the front with a rope and the hover went about two thirds of the way up on the trailer and stopped. The hover was full of water in the inner hull and was too heavy to lift so Phil suggested we strap it down pull off the ramp turn around on the hill leading to the ramp and let the hover slide up the rest of the way on the trailer. This guy was smart he obviously had done this before and at this point with the sun beating down on us and I was ready to just leave the thing in the ater and let it float away forever. Phil is an interesting guy he always stays calm and just figures out whatever he has to make it work, last winter he was out fishing by himself, tripped while moving around in his boat an fell into the freezing cold river with no life jacket on. As he fell into the water his head struck the boat motor and cut his head just above the eye, he managed to pull himself back into the boat soaking wet and bleeding he motored back to his house about a mile away climbed the 200 feet up the 40% grade hill to his house and got patched up. All I can say is "he is amazing" not real bright sometimes (no life jacket and alone) but he is also amazing. After loading my brick of a hover on the trailer strapping it down and moving up to the top of the hill we switched the trailer over to my vehicle and I was ready to go. The home owners had left and were now back so I could meet them and thank them for allowing me to use there ramp, Mike the homeowner said, "No problem if you ever want to use the ramp again feel free". He offered us a cool adult beverage to help soothe the wounded ego and refresh ourselves after the ordeal but by then all I could think of was getting this hover home and collapsing in a chair and licking my wounds so I declined thanked them and headed toward the house. "How disappointing", I thought, "I had all these plans of finding treasure and all I got was frustrated and cost Phil, his wife and two perfect strangers some grief" all that and no treasure! Then it dawned on me, Phil, Dee, had just spent 3 hours of their Saturday in 103 degree heat helping me load my hover onto the trailer at a perfect strangers ramp who has offered to allow me to use it whenever I want to. I guess I found some real treasure after all, it wasn't the precious metal I could exchange for money it was incredible friendship and generosity of the people who helped me. Treasure is not someone else’s lost valuables it is friendship and kindness and with that I realized Me and my hover became a little richer that day and I found a treasure that is rare and extremely valuable.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Treasure hunting hovercraft style

My buddy Phil lives on the Rock River, the other day I was talking to him about the draught in this area back in 1987. I told him back then I wanted to take the hover over to the Mississippi and use a metal detector to see if I could find anything of value. He said "I can get a metal detector, bring your hover down to my place and we'll see if we can find anything on the Rock". I wanted to get my hover out so I figured this was as good a reason as any so we made plans to meet up on Saturday and give it a try. I had my hover in the shop trying to take care of an annoying electrical problem and my mechanic finally thought he had it fixed so I planned to check it out first then stop by Phil’s place and we’d launch from there. When I arrived at the river where I planned on starting a trial run I was shocked at how low the river was and how much sand and gravel bars were exposed. It was interesting to see what the contour of this river bottom was really like I’d heard a lot of horror stories by boaters who never run their boats in the part of the river because there is a channel that keep shifting and boaters are constantly hitting rocks and breaking props. After eyeballing the small channel where there was some water flowing I could see why boaters don’t like this portion of the river. It was actually rather fun flying out there where I knew the boats could not go. As I took off from the launch and rounded the south corner of the Ace of Diamonds launch I was using I caught a glimpse of two Eagles just setting out on a flight, it was an awesome site. Then I noticed the bugs, thousands of them and my hover was spitting them up at me as I flew along. I thought I should have brought my helmet with a face shield. It’s the one bad thing about flying on a river in low water; I would imagine they have a perfect habitat for hatching out. Oh well got to take the good with the bad so on I went. My hover started perfectly at my house and at my launch site and now it was running really well no hesitation and lots of power. I felt like we were in for a great time on the river. As I approached Phil’s place I saw him standing out on what used to be his floating dock but it was now just a wood platform on some barrels sitting on dry ground. It’s actually a real shame when the river drops down this low but then it just reduces the number of boaters you have to watch out for. I pulled up to Phil’s dock area landed on some rather soft mud and shut the hover off so we could load up his gear. Now this is a guy who fishes nearly year round and in Northern Illinois that’s pretty amazing so I was a little surprised when he stepped up to his ankles in mud while trying to get into my hover. At any rate we got all of his stuff settled I unloaded some of the extras I brought that I really didn’t need and Phil settled into his spot in my hover. I asked if he was all set and he nodded to the affirmative and with that I hit the key and…. Nothing! The engine turned over but would not fire. Dang that really was not what I wanted to happen or should I say not happen. From that moment on it was call this friend, then my mechanic (who was not available) and then try a couple of things to get it going. I have tried to take Phil out on the hover several times but we just couldn’t seem to get the schedules together now here we were all set to go and nothing. The engine had no spark the hover just wouldn’t cooperate. To add to the situation the temperature was sitting at a cool 103 degrees and here we were stuck on the back by Phil’s dock and the closest boat ramp was 5 miles north of us or 15 miles south of us. Hovers are a blast when they run but they’re like a brick when not on cushion. Neither of these launches were a workable option for me. So now what? I’ll write more later about this experience but for now I’m going to go sip on something cool to drink while I ponder my next words.

Ok so this picture is a bit of an exaggeration but I think you get the point it was dry and really hot

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Rend Lake IL

Rend Lake Illinois a manmade lake in Southern IL is one of my least favorite places. It's nothing more than an oversized gravel pit with a lousy view of nothingness, why the state of Illinois decided to plunk this ugly body of water in this location is beyond me. The water in the main lake is typically too choppy to fly on due the fact that it is wide open and the wind blows across it creating some pretty rough water. There is very little landscape in this place pretty much flat very few hills, there are no houses along its shores because it is all State Park. Most of the bays are mud bottom which gives it a brown river water appearance, I suppose before the State of Illinois "aquired" this land from its residence it may have had some nice scenery but any of that was ruined by flooding over it. The bridges to the eastern backwater are low and make it difficult to pass under to arrive at anything worth viewing and in order to get to it you have to travel to the eastern side under I 57 which isn't the problem it is the next set of bridges that are really low and at high water a hover can't pass under them. The only two redeeming qualities of the entire area is the people, they for the most part, are warm and friendly, and the fact that on what should have been the busiest days of the year there are very few boats on the lake so it's pretty desolate. If you’re looking for a fun place to hover I would recommend you stay away from Rend Lake. About the only thing they have to offer is multiple prisons. Big Muddy, Pickneyville, Centralia, and Menard, to name a few. Seriously, give me a better reason to come to Southern IL.