Monday, May 15, 2006

Take This Boat...and Shuttle It

Canoes on the Illinois River
Canoes on the Illinois River,
originally uploaded by FreeWine.

With so much new rain in our part of the world, we had to think hard to decide where to dip our paddles this weekend. I wanted to rent a cabin. Since it was also Mother's Day, it didn't seem right to make the long-suffering mother of my cherished son sleep in a tent. Finally, we both decided that we would like to take the opportunity to paddle the Illinois River again before the Memorial Day rush.

Shuttle Skuttlebutt

More Illinois River outfitters were open this weekend than were open on our last journey down this river. However, this weekend we insisted on bringing our own kayaks. We had a fun trip as usual. We saw the Eagle again, but didn't manage to capture a good picture like last time.

I spoke to several outfitters on the phone and time after time they told me that they didn't want my business. I have heard that there are insurance problems with hauling non-outfitter owned boats, but that sounds like a lame excuse to me. I wonder if there is any enterprising folks running a taxi service in the area? Ultimately, I just needed a ride back to the put-in where we left the family car and kayak trailer.

Paddling outfitters beware, the growing trend of not shuttling private boats and passengers divides you from some of your most avid supporters and proponents. Tourism is a business that only thrives in the midst of strong support business networks. You don't build a strong network by isolating the largest nodes. The current strategy appears to be based on hoping I'm willing to wait in line to rent their leaky boats. Better cell phone transmition quality, more campsites with Wifi access and respecting the need for and value of services like shuttling private boats would gather much more of my coin than the current strategy.

Green River Floats is an exception to the rule. We called them on my cell phone from our take-out at War Eagle Landing. They arrived quickly and were happy to take us AND our two kayaks to our put-in at Riverside Resort. We gladly payed $20 for the service. Riverside Resort provided us with a decent cabin, but the lack of services for my boats means I really have no reason to choose their campground next time.

Can Your Hear Me Now...Good!

Although everywhere else I tried my cell phone on the Illinois River was a deadspot, I had full signal at War Eagle / Green River Landing. If I find out they have WIFI internet available there, I may have to come back and camp near there.

Speaking of wireless internet camping, I got word from Tom, at K-River Campground on the Kiamichi River, that you can now get Wifi access to compliment the camping at his paddle resort. Stop by KRiver.com for details.

One of the things I really love about the Buffalo River in nearby Gilbert, Arkansas is that my cell phone worked well everywhere I checked both on and off the river. IMHO, this now represents and important safety and commerce infrastructure need for Oklahoma's scenic rivers.

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