It's that time of year again...Everglades Challenge.
Since we have a scant handful of days to go and a list of chores that require attending, I'm reposting this blog from 2016:
All things being equal, I hope to post updates here on the blog during the Challenge and link them to the Spawn Facebook page.
And in case you need the shortcut, here's where the Challenger's Tracking map will appear on the WaterTribe website. (Note: the website will likely slow down during the Challenge. There are a lot of us clicking the "refresh" button.
So. Much. Happening in this photo.
All to the good: Let it be fodder for the imagination.
Absenthe, she tended to remind herself, does not make the heart grow fonder.
Her thoughts slid, like the needle finding its vinyl groove, to her long-ago college adventures, already three generations too late to know about the real Absenthe. A young dreamer 80 after the green fairy flitted through fin-de-ciecle Paris. In French, la fée verte, the fairy who inspired and drove artists mad. But maybe that was just the wormwood talking.
She knew the flavor –– anise, of course, always licorice –– and she knew how the emerald-green liquor clouded into the color of a mint milkshake when mixed with water.
"Give a chap a drink," they used to call across open space to one another, college kids with a yearning for Hemingway's sort of possibilities.
"Isn't it pretty to think so," was the correct response. A bit of self-conscious whimsy. A pose. Ersatz nostalgia with a wink.
They usually ended up with beer. It was cheaper and plentiful, and it was only much later that anyone laid hands on the heavy glass bottle that held a genuine green fairy.
But they were just college kids afternoon-drinking then, hoisting glass mugs of yellow beer, waxing gently ironic about their dreams.
She shook her head as she trudged along, and then caught the eye of a young person –– boy? girl? not that it mattered, a slim figure dressed entirely in black who probably thought she was a crazy old bat. Far ridere il polli.
She felt her shoulders rise in an exaggerated shrug and quickly added a neck roll to make herself look less ridiculous. Wormwood, she had been thinking, artemisia absenthium, a medicinal bitter herb.
Stopping to catch her breath and shift the shopping bag from left to right, she considered the plant. Silvery leaves dried like sage, with the scent –– what else? –– mildly licorice-scented. If she remembered her Culpeper's Complete Herbal (circa 1653), and she did, "This herb is good for something, for God made nothing in vain."
She expelled the irony in one sharp exhale: "Or anyway, Isn't it pretty to think so?"
Which explains, for instance, why cobbles from San Diego ended up in Boston, while rocks from Kurraba Point near Sydney, Australia floated all the way to Cornwall.
Tampa has a its own Ballast Point Park (formerly Jules Verne Park –– which is kind of cooler, no? –– after Verne's use of Tampa as the launch of his fictional From the Earth to the Moon). It's a good place NOT to run aground.
Back on track, fast forward to modern racing skiffs.
Instead of rocks, we see sailors leaning out from the side of the boat (confusingly called "hiking" since the people are generally sitting down) or suspended even farther from the center of effort by a wire.
<insert sound of tom-kick-crash: Ba-Bum-Tishhhhhh.>
Instead of me trying to write my way through how the OH2 works, here's a quick videoclip my sister Sarah Ellen Smith took of it.
It fills 30 or so gallons in five minutes of pumping (that's a sizable chunk of rail-meat that doesn't squawk or drink beer). The tank empties in about 45 seconds.
The weather has not permitted a heavy-air test, but the addition of a few gallons made a big difference in stability, especially when the boat is being rowed.
T-minus two weeks and a couple of days until the hundred+ craft launch from Fort DeSoto Beach.
Here's a stirring bagpipes-enlivened video of that moment. Listen for the guy who shouts, "Freedom!" at the 2-minute mark or so. I don't know who it is, but we love his spirit.
We'll camp in the Everglades National Park. It's not our first venture into this wilderness. It's a place less full of shady Spanish moss and swampy mud than one might expect.
It's pretty darned pleasant, actually: we pitch a tent on the sandy beach, maybe catch a few fishes, play with driftwood.
In general, the hazards that are most worrying on this venture off the map are, oh, I dunno –– mosquitoes, sunburn, getting stranded and having to be rescued.
THIS is not what I expected:
Mormon Key is our favored camping spot. George was almost 10 feet long last time they checked, and weighed in at 700 pounds. Good lawsey day.
More Everglades Challenge?
Okay, here's a story about the adventure race by the late great Meade Goudgeon. We'll miss seeing him on the beach this year.
The Challenge starts on March 3 off Fort DeSoto Beach.
"Years ago," wheezed the oldster, arthritic knuckles whitening on the handle of the deluxe walker. "Years ago, artists had to use rubylith to separate each color for a color print."
Honking into a worn handkerchief, the dusty wheezer raised watery eyes and continued. "Hours I spent over a drafting table, X-Acto blade in hand, separating colors. The eye-hand coordination alone --!"
After a long pause, the lecture continued. "It took years to learn the tricks of the trade. Nowadays, all it takes is a ninety-nine cent app. Putting artists out of business. I don't know how they make a living any more."
Yeah, artists mostly don't make a living.
In honor of all of us antiquities who remember cutting ruby to separate colors, here's a timelapse video of the Rubylith process...
But those 99-cent apps are really fun:
In this highly digitized age, it's nigh on impossible to grasp the amount of work that went into, for instance, the 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz. This link describes the Technicolor process.
Such an effort to give the viewing public ruby slippers!
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