By Mel Mann

Copyright © 2002, Mel Mann. No part of this page may be reproduced, linked, or copied without the express written permission of Mel Mann

Shuttles shouldn't be the most exciting part of a river trip but ...

We were trying a new run on a river in the far reaches that gets very little use so there was no available shuttle service. Since the put in was 50 miles up a logging road hitch hiking was out of the question and it was farther than we wanted to bicycle. We stopped at a service station "out back of beyond" to see if we could hire somebody to help with a shuttle. The attendant said her "old man" Dave was always driving around anyway so he might as well make a little beer money.

After dropping our gear 50 miles up a dirt road, and losing the toss to see who drove the shuttle, my partner Dennis returned to the gas station. The wife was gone but someone said the guy he wanted was in back. "Tell 'em you're looking for Big Dave." Big Dave was the six foot six greasy guy wearing Hell's Angel colors with his head under a car hood. Dennis told big Dave that his wife told Dennis that Big Dave would give him a ride up the river. Big Dave gave Dennis a look of the purest disgust Dennis had ever seen. Without a word he led Dennis to a chopper and got on. He jerked his thumb toward the little "chick seat" on the back for Dennis.

Dennis got on and they roared up the dirt road. Dennis was *interested* to learn that it is possible to put a Harley chopper into a full power slide to maintain your speed on gravel corners. As the Harley skittered around the corner sideways, like a cat on ice, but at 80 mph. Dennis had time to think back on his life and how good it had been. Meanwhile he was desperately looking for something to hold on to but found that the only hand holds were dangerously close to the muffler, which was red hot. Still, this seemed a lot less dangerous than grabbing Big Dave - the only other hand hold available.

As they got closer to the put in they turned on to a road that was narrow and rougher. Dennis started trying to get Dave to let him off to walk the rest of the way but Big Dave *insisted* on taking him all the way. This made Dennis wonder if Big Dave planned to improve his income potential by the simple method of shooting us and taking our gear.

When they finally reached our put-in and Big Dave finally let the somewhat shaken Dennis off the chopper. Dennis had self defense running through his mind trying to decide on whether to run for it or to play it cool and let Big Dave make the first move. He paid Big Dave and started to leave but Big Dave called him back and reached ominously into his pocket. This is it thought Dennis, here comes the gun, but instead Big Dave pulled a beer out of his pocket and handed it to Dennis and shook his hand. "You guys are crazy" he said. Then he gunned the Harley and roared of in the proverbial cloud of dust.

I'm not usually a lucky guy but I consider myself pretty lucky to have won that coin toss and missed what we still refer to as "the shuttle ride from hell". In a strange way, we also thought we were lucky when we got back to our car and found out that the gas tank had been siphoned dry. We just considered it homage to Big Dave and that chopper. We thought that it was lucky that at least he had enough gas to take him somewhere else.

Have fun out there,