For the fifth year in a row, the Romantic Adventures Race Team completed Chattajack – a 31-mile kayak race from Chattanooga to Nickjack lake on the Tennessee River.
This year, Romantic Adventures team member Tami Rose won a buckle for completing the race for five consecutive years – This race is pretty much the equivalent of a marathon on the water, and the team managed to complete it in just over six hours. Congratulations to all of the racers!
You may ask yourself why Romantic Adventures supports a kayaking team. But it is just a matter of meeting people where they are at. I believe in the power of kayaking to build community and create lasting outdoor memories. Plus, it gets people outside and active, which is always a good thing.
As the owner of Romantic Adventures, I have had some pretty interesting experiences being introduced to people out in public. Some people love me, and some hate me and blame all of their relationship problems on me.
I have on several occasions had charities refuse my ‘dirty’ money because they don’t understand or believe in my store to create a positive impact in the community.
Taking care of the Earth and the environment around me has always been a core value for me, though, all the way back to my days in my junior high summers spent reseeding the mountains around me in California after the Santa Ana winds kicked up a bad fire season.
Kayaking seemed like a great way to interact with people in a healthy environment and support an environmentally responsible cause without too much confrontation or kerfuffle. (Except when we are talking crap to each other while waiting for the starting gun, of course.)
You can kayak nearly anywhere…
As the owner of Romantic Adventures, I get to travel a bit and go to different areas of the country to meet with vendors and make deals here or there, and I have to say Kayaking has been an amazing way to experience the country and the world.
I have paddled the Colorado River from Hoover Dam south. And had an amazing experience on the river with the Red Bull Ariel team practicing for a competition the next day.
It’s always an interesting juxtaposition to be gliding down the river under your own power with only the splash of your paddle hitting the water, thinking you could exist anywhere in the scope of history and may have stepped back in time as you see geological ages pressed into the layers of stone around you; and then zoom! Modern life reminds you it is all around you.
The Detroit River…
While kayaking, I also got a private tour of some of the homes on the Detroit river that blew my mind. Detroit rum runners put the ‘organized’ in crime back in the day as they bought riverside properties and fast boats that could run to Canada where liquor was legal and raced back down the river and slung their boats into riverside garages where they could offload in private.
Compared to the waters of the Mississippi around Vicksburg, the Detroit river seemed like a mere trickle. But we sat and watched container ships stacked so high they seemed like skyscrapers roll by with no problem, and when we got hot, we rolled out of our kayaks for a swim up the channel and watched otters play on the banks.
The Mississippi River…
Speaking of the Mississippi River, the Romantic Adventures Race team has raced that one too. The race team usually consists of Kelly Mcginnis and Tami Rose in a 19 ft long sea kayak decked out in our logo and tribal markings so we can be sure to make an impression as we roll down the river.
I had one of the most visceral times of my life on the Mississippi as commercial traffic is usually stopped for the BLUZ CRUZ 26-mile race down the Mississippi river, but one year, a huge commercial barge tried to beat the bell as we were just starting down the river and gunned his giant engines to make it by us, creating a six-foot high wake on his way by!
OMG! I thought I was going to die on the water that day (Even though we were in the 19 ft tandem sea kayak that took it without a shiver.). I usually sit up front, and I have never lifted so far into the air out of the water in that boat as when we hit that wake! It was a super windy day, too, so we had crazy conditions for the whole race. The river had been near flood stage and was dropping, and we screamed down that course towards Vicksburg.
That was the race we cemented our friendship with our best set of rivals for tandem glory when we snuck up on our favorite competitors in the yahoo river channel near the end of the race as we watched them battle the current fighting to go upstream to the finish line in the middle of the water, while we snuck by them by paddling through the weeds close to shore and gave a blood-curdling war cry as we passed them. It was a short-lived advantage, and they overtook us again, but it was a Chinese fire drill in their boat for a moment.
We shared a good laugh and a cold beer at the end of the race, and no one cared what store I owned. It was a good day.
The Tennessee River Gorge
The Tennessee river gorge is so unspeakably beautiful it reminds me of the Hudson River school of painters from the 19th century who tried in vain to capture the great beauty they found in the countryside on the River.
Chattajack is one of the premier races in the Southeast and is always well-organized and generous in its prizes and motivations. Much of the funds raised by the race and the auction for racing gear held after the big event go to support the Tennessee River Gorge Trust Our monetary contributions in paying our fees for the race aid in their ecological and conservancy efforts within the gorge.
It is an amazing race to be a part of because there are so many different competitors in so many different kinds of vessels. People come from all over the South East and the world to compete in this race. It is fun to hear all the different accents and see all the different styles of craft and paddlers that take to the river on those dark, cold mornings to test themselves against the river.
Chattajack started as a Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP) race, but you can see a little bit of anything on the water, from sleek Epic Surf skis to multi-person crewed outriggers that sing cadence to keep in sync. To giant sea kayaks decked out with Hearts and tribal markings that remind me of my Hawaiian heritage.
The race is usually held in the latter part of October, and the Gorge is almost always in the midst of turning its leaves all shades of Red and gold and green. It is high enough in elevation that the clouds chase across the mountain tops and hint at wind directions as you switch back and forth on the water between the peaks of the mountains.
There are outrigger teams that come in from Hawaii because it is a landscape so few islanders can even imagine still exists.
Your mind plays tricks on you as you gut through an endurance event like this one. The air is so clear you swear you could reach out and touch those clouds and eat them like cotton candy.
There are eagles that make their home on the Gorge, and quite often, I see them near the 26-mile marker and think that they are rooting for me and encouraging me on; because the last five miles of the race are definitely the hardest.
I often see fish jump and assure Kelly that those are just mermaids flipping their tails and keeping an eye on our progress because I and Aquaman are very tight. (Yes, I do love Jason Mamoa – don’t judge me.)
Far and away though, the best part of the race is the people who gather for it. It is the most positive, supportive, collegial, and respectful group of people I have ever had the pleasure to be around.
One of the highlights for me this year was watching the top three women clamoring clumsily onto the podiums to receive their awards because we were tired, and the podiums are very tall steps up for women, so the second-place winner helped to haul the first-place winner up to her spot, and they shared a very genuine congratulatory cheek kiss.
They were so happy to be done and so happy to support other competitors it was a gift to see people getting along like that.
My family thanksgiving dinners were never that warm. It is a very special kind of camaraderie that develops in a contest like Chattajack.
It becomes a place where you have to reach deep inside yourself for the will not to quit. And you recognize that it is not a feat of athleticism but of pure mental will and character and love of your fellow participants that drive you to completion. Because you can’t let them down and because no one will ever understand who you are at your core more than the ones who were paddling beside you and gutting it out too. And when you see another buckle around town, you know the kind of heart that lies behind it.
Why Not Support Kayaking?
Romantic Adventures supports Kayaking because it brings out the best in people because it is our dharma to help people experience their very best lives, and Sometimes that includes me.
“Lokaha Samansta Sukino Bhovantu“