Cruising Cal at 50

“To believe that we have all the time in the world is not only stupid, but also takes away our appreciation of life, for where there is no awareness of death, boredom and discontent quickly set in. The warrior knows that his death is constantly stalking him; therefore whatever time he has left is a most priceless gift. Knowing that his time cannot last, the warrior savors his gift to the full, and enjoys every moment of this precious time. This is what is known as living on the edge.”

— Theun Mares, from Return of the Warriors, pg. 146.

A similar version of this story was published in the November/December 2001 issue of American Whitewater.

The next story is dedicated to the memory of Randy Kennedy, who lived every day as if it were his last on Earth. Randy loved to paddle, loved people (especially women), and loved to dance, and he rarely wasted a moment of his precious life. His good nature and gregarious personality were legendary in the kayak world, and his paddling skills were solid. Randy had the best memory for rapids of anyone I have ever met, and when I complimented him on it, he would humbly reply that it was because he had hit every rock in that river at some point in his life.

He often told me that the years he spent guiding rafts and camping on the American River in California were the best years of his life. Together, we ran dozens of rivers on three continents and enjoyed some of the most spectacular places in the world. He paddled Class V whitewater for more than 25 years, and when the rivers froze, he put on his backcountry skis and descended the slopes of lofty summits, dodging a few avalanches along the way. 

Randy was a gregarious Georgia boy with a strong southern accent, and his Spanish was very entertaining.  On our last trip to South America (See Earth Quake in the Colca) we taught him how to say “I speak Spanish like a Chilean Cow” and he used it for his opening line to flirt with the gals in the market. The gals were very impressed. He often joked that he was planning to write a book called “Spanish fer Y’aal”.

He moved to the city because he was tired of being poor, but the smog and stress destroyed him, and he died of natural causes while skiing in one of his favorite places. He is deeply missed by his many friends, but his life affirming spirit will always be with us.

Two old boaters and a Datsun pickup are headed west across the vast Nevada desert. One is reliving a happy childhood, while the other is trying to hang on to one.

U. S. Route 50 is an old, two-lane road that threads its way through the middle of the great state of Nevada. It is has often been called “The Loneliest Road in America,” and deserves the honor. “Lonely” is rapidly becoming a vanishing word in an American West that used to be so lonely. It is something that many of us have learned to cherish.

We drive through a very pleasant landscape of small mountains, lots of rolling hills, and a town every 150 miles or so. The winter storms have dumped just enough moisture to sprout the wild flowers, and everything is green and blooming.

The miles roll away quickly as we groove on some great bluegrass music and tell stories of previous adventures. We camp in a sagebrush patch in the middle of nowhere and sleep under a brilliant sky, while a band of local coyotes entertain us with their evening symphony.

Dancing on the Edge of an Endangered Planet

Table of Contents


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *