Pat and Mark's Excellent Gorge Adventure (long)
Copywright 1992 Poole's Productions
It reminded me of my days in second grade when I sent my
two boxtops and twenty cents in for that "spy decoder ring".
I would run home and search for it in the mail box every day
for six to eight weeks. The week prior to my Gorge trip felt
like those six to eight weeks, kindof like when you have to
pee and can't find a bathroom.
I was restless with the anticipation of my experience, and
envisioned myself doing all those tricks I had seen on the
"Hard Winds a Blowin" video. I had watched it countless times,
to the point that I believed the sailors would recognize me
when I arrived in town. My favorite was Pete, "Mr. Duck Gybe",
when he states quite convincingly "..its the ONLY way to turn..".
I believed, and committed myself becoming a follower of duckgybeism.
I had already perfected slamgybeism and launchgybeism, it was time
to go on.
Pat and I left Orlando for Portland at 7:06am on Tuesday, August 11.
I was introduced to Pat three years ago, prior to my pursuit of
windsurfing. I remember him saying with a smile "..you can try my
board this weekend, meet me at the river!". Now, with over two
thousand dollars of equipment in my garage and a painful stingray
encounter, I was making my pilgrimage to "the mecca", without my
wife. She doesn't like Pat. She says she does, but with that look,
you know, the one like when she says "..have a good time". We
were to attend a conference in Portland for two days, Wednesday
and Thursday, then gorge action Friday through Monday.
We had brought sails, fins, harnesses, lines, wetsuits,
the Gorge Guide, and that Charles Manson crazed look in our eyes.
I also brought a radio controlled glider, after hearing about all
the slope-soaring sites in the area(netnews, of course).
After reading the Gorge Guide, the American Airlines guide, Outdoor
magazine, and 7 hours of travel time, we landed in Portland,
flying right by Mt. Hood on our landing approach. "Its HOT here", I
said. We picked up our 4wd Chevy Blazer at Alamo around noon
and headed for Hood River to check it out, even though we wouldn't
be sailing until Friday. "Roll down the window, its HOT". This made
things worse. I've never felt heat like that, not even in Florida.
The air was hot, the breeze was hot, and putting your hand out of
the truck window felt like sticking your hand in front of a
blow-dryer. This is Oregon?? The local radio station reported
near-100 temperatures for the next three days, with the wind coming
from the east.
We arrived at Hood River only to notice glass-like conditions, with
people water-skiing at the Hatchery. Not good. Since we didn't need to
be back in Portland until the next morning, we had alot of time to
drive around and check out the area. After crossing the bridge at
Hood River into Washington, we headed east and saw a sign for the
"Wind Ranch", which someone had mentioned on the net.
There we met Carl Meinberg, yes, "Mr. Monkey Gybe" on the
"Hard Winds a Blowin" video. Couldn't believe it. He owns and runs
the Wind Ranch, which has several areas for camping, showers, and a
few small rooms for rent on a monthly basis. Carl belongs in the
gorge. Carl IS the gorge. He's been there for 8 years, knows the
scoop on everything, likes everyone he meets, and will certainly
make you laugh. We decided to stay for the evening and drive
to Portland for the conference early the next morning. When we
walked into his house to register, we saw a glider on the floor.
"You fly??", I prompted. "Yep, and there's a great place to
launch just around the corner". Carl took us to the spot, and
everything was going great until I turned on my transmitter and
crashed his plane. Turns out we both had the same channel, and
neither of us thought to ask the other. Stupid. It wasn't a
total loss, but he'll be spending a few evenings rebuilding those
wings. According to Carl, several of the locals fly RC gliders when
the wind isn't strong enough to windsurf.
Back at the ranch, we also saw Mr. Duck Gybe, Pete, in the
flesh. Yes, TWO heros in one day. Pete was looking for a guy that
had borrowed a sail from him six months ago. Pete didn't recognize
me at all, but he too was really a friendly guy, and happy about the
fact that I recognized him from the video. He works at the
Sailboard Warehouse rental shop, you can find him sitting in a
chair made out of cut-up snow skis. Classic.
That night at the ranch, in the heat, without AC, we noted that
every ten minutes of so a loud gun would fire off in the distance.
This was a "peach popper", an automated gun that fires blanks to
scare birds away from the fruit trees. Back in my college days,
I would've substituted those blanks for some number 8 shot and
taken a few birds out of here. The guns went off all night,
and at some point a train came right through our room, I'm sure
of it. The ranch is great, and next time I'll make every effort
to stay there. And bring a few shells.
Thursday evening, after two grueling days of conference boredom in
Portland, we traveled back to Hood River. The wind was blowing,
and the river was full of sails. Everywhere. That "have to pee"
feeling came back. We rushed to Big Winds to pick up our rental
stuff, and saw "Coach", the guy that says "..Sex is ***ing, Rock
and Roll is ***ing, but this is the MOST ***ive" in the video.
THREE heros. What a quote. What a Genious. He's part owner of
Big Winds and is there all the time. We threw our stuff in the
truck and headed for the Event Site. I rigged, sailed out, and
the wind died. No wonder everyone was leaving when we drove up.
Friday morning we arose at 7:20 to hear "Bart's Best Bet", a wind
forecast on radio station Q104. Bart said "4.0 to 4.5 all day".
Bart's full name is "Bingen (say BIN JIN) Bart", he also works for
Sailboard Warehouse, at the showroom on Oak street. We arrived at
the Event Site around 8:30am, noting 30mph winds from the west using
Pat's "annomometer", I call it a windomometer...what's an "anno?".
Everyone was rigging 5.0 so I rigged a 4.5 since I'm light(135 lbs)
and new to the gorge. Went out, slammed, came in. "Too much sail",
rigged my 3.9 and tried again. Perfect. I had a Mistral Stinger
with a slotted 9.5" fin, and used this combination and the 3.9 every
day. Friday the wind blew until 3:30pm, about the same on Saturday
with gusts to 40. Sunday morning the wind was light so we went to
another of the soaring sights to get some glider time. Carl was
there with a new set of wings, and two other guys were there trying
out a new plane. We flew all morning, the wind turned on around
noon and we sailed the Event Site again until 6pm. It was still
blowing strong when we left, but my arms and hands couldn't take
any more. The stories were true. The gorge honks.
My efforts to become a follower of duckgybeism were severely
impeded by the fact that I have become so good at slamgybeism and
launchgybeism. Its hard to change your beliefs.
I learned that everyone in the gorge is a weather expert, not everyone
can do gybes and forwards, and that the barges don't sound their
horns until someone is about to die. Saturday I was on a port tack
zipping to the Washington side when all of a sudden I noticed a barge
less than 100 yards upwind from me. I was so "zenned" that I had
never seen it coming. Then it blew its horn. I missed my gybe in
the panic(I miss them regardless), waterstarted in record time and
headed for the shore. Pat was on the far end of the channel, even
closer to the barge than I was. The barges expect YOU to look
out for THEM. Several barges passed through without ever sounding
their horn, and one got out of control as it headed towards the
Hatchery from the Hood River bridge. The barge got turned sideways
in the river, and the pilot had to reverse the engines and swing the
back end around to get straight. He was all over the river. Carl
had told us about guys getting their rigs eaten by barges. Watch out.
I also learned that you don't have to want to jump. It just happens.
The swells in the channel were three to four feet at times, with many
hitting and reflecting off of the rock wall on the Washington side.
This made for some strange swell patterns, and you couldn't help but
get air every now and then. I like air, and set new personal records
for height and distance, but never landed a BIG jump successfully.
Monday morning was dead, so we returned our equipment, hit all the
shops in town, and headed for Astoria where the Columbia dumps into
the Pacific. The July issue of OUTDOOR magazine has a great article
on the Columbia, describing its history, its greatness, and its
problems. The article states that according to Lloyds of London, the
waterway at Astoria is the third most dangerous in the world, due to
the enormous volume of water dumping into the ocean and the resultant
currents and standing waves. It is enormous, and you can see the
whitewater from miles away. This is the place where the Coast Guard
uses those rescue boats that can capsize and right themselves.
We left Portland for Orlando early Tuesday morning, and while at the
Portland airport saw an NBA player. Pat recognized him but we couldn't
figure out his name. We were walking right next to him, and I told Pat
to ask him who he was. Pat said, "nope, you ask him". So I said to
him, "Excuse me, but we're trying to figure out just who you are....".
He replied, "I've been trying to do that myself!!", and walked away.
We later discovered it was Buck Williams, apparently suffering from an
identity crisis. Yet another celebrity on our gorge trip, not quite
as exciting as Mr. Duck Gybe, put pretty good.
Our connecting flight in Dallas was overbooked, we took the bump and
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