Spring has finally hit the Palouse. I know, it is raining today, but the temperature is in the high 40’s rather than 30’s, my daffodils are blooming, and the truck is at the shop having it’s summer tires put on. Spring means I put a final coat of wax on the skis, pull out the mountain bike, and I start checking hydrographs rather than snow reports. I am a serial monogamist with my sports. Winter is for skiing, Spring means I can bike, and Summer around the corner means I need to start getting boats ready. I’ve lain awake at night fretting about boats. The new Sotar frame is wider than Jim’s was. Will the old oars fit? Do I have a set that will work or can be cut down to fit? Jim always took care of all of this….I am still learning. Luckily, there are good resources, both on the web and friends.

I have 6 boats. It seems like far too many for one girl to own, and in a vow of simplicity, I think I should sell some off. But…how can I? We have the big round gear boat…required to carry a kitchen, gear, and passengers on all of my favorite ID rivers. The yellow cat is so versatile. It can carry lunch for a week, one or 2 passengers, and could haul enough gear for a light weight 2 person multi-day trip. Then there is the Sotar…the play boat. I sold Jim’s bikes to

build a new frame that would fit Emerald and I. It is beautiful. I have 2 inflatable kayaks, which are fun and hardly take up any space. They cost a lot when we bought them, I wouldn’t get much out of resale, and they make an awesome bed…or couch. The last boat is a beautiful wooden canoe gifted to Jim and I by his parents. It gets used the least, but suits my fantasies of lazy summer days in my future. I do have bits and pieces to sell. Jim’s custom Sotar frame and short oars, a set of oar weights that we used when the kids were too small to hold oars out of the water, a stern frame that never got used in place of a paddle raft, a motor mount for a motor that only Jim could get to run. But…I can’t sell any boats. They all have individual uses, they all carry memories, they all hold potential….and they all require set up, fitting, and maintenance.


John was here this weekend, and when I told him I wanted to get the new frame on the Sotar, he offered to help me get the tubes down from the rafters and hold them long enough to get essential straps onto the frame. I’m getting better at saying, “Why yes, thank you, that would be very nice!” as opposed to my usual, “No, I can do this myself.” John has heard me talk about boats, heard me lament about selling, has seen a small fraction of them stored in my garage..and seen pictures of the rest. When I popped open the strap bag, his eyes grew big, and he asked exactly how much I thought all of our boating stuff was worth. Straps alone could probably feed a family of 4 for 2 months. I honestly could not answer. 15 years of accumulation. 15 years of buying something, then selling it to buy something else. A few straps thrown in when a new dry bag was needed. Constant tweaking of the river kitchen and the pooper set up. Jim loved his gear. He was also a public school teacher in Idaho. He was constantly robbing Peter to pay Paul. He spent hours on the internet, bought and sold stuff at gear swaps, could always schmooze a good deal, rarely paid retail. John owns a bike store in Missoula, MT. He doesn’t even know exactly how many bikes he owns, and I am pretty sure he couldn’t put a dollar sign beside their total worth. He understands gear, understands individual use, gets the idea of potential. A custom frame is a custom frame….whether it is on a bicycle or on a cataraft. Both need an understanding of the user, the environment where they will be used, and the physics of the machine itself.  I know how to fit a person to a set of oars to a frame to a boat. John knows how to fit a person to a bike.

John has spent more time in Moscow than I have spent in Missoula lately. I have a son in his final semester of high school and volunteer commitments that require some weekend hours. He can make phone calls and do some of his work via the internet when he is here, my job is not so portable. Long distance relationships are difficult. There is a reluctance to share precious weekend time together with other people or other activities. There is self-imposed pressure to fit all the work and all the chores into a 4 day work week to free up time on the weekends. There is apprehension about whether I fit into how he likes to spend his time off, nervousness about how he fits in with all of my wonderful and wacky friends. There is information on the NRS website to help me in finding the right oars to fit my new custom Sotar frame. John tells me there is software that helps him when he is fitting a person to a bike. I can’t find any resources on the internet or the computer that will tell me how John and I fit together. Not a believer in astrology, I have to trust what my gut tells me about how John and I fit. I do know that my hand feels good in his, that my head rests easily in the crook of his shoulder, that his kisses make me smile, and that we both sleep better when we are in the same town. I’m going to get a new road bike. John will help me with the fit. John will get drug out onto a river sometime this summer. I’ll make sure he has a boat that fits. As far as us, guess I’ll just have to continue to listen to that small, still voice within. Right now…it is saying, “we just fit.”

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