Thursday, July 22, 2010

On the River with the Geezer and the Gimp

The Swift River in Belchertown has ice cold clear water, so clear you can see the trout darting alongside your boat as you paddle upstream from the put in off Cold Spring Road in Belchertown. This narrow winding river is the perfect place to be on a 90 degree day, with its refreshing pockets of cool air above the water.

I joined Bob and Charlie this week on the river, for a welcome respite from office, programs and continuous logistics. Self proclaimed the Geezer and the Gimp, they've been adventure buddies ever since meeting at an outdoor program 15 years ago. They cycle or paddle together each week, exploring and re-exploring trails and rivers all over the place. Charlie is quadriplegic, an avid nature lover, sails in Boston Harbor with Piers Park Sailing, and teaches wheelchair mobility skills at rehab hospitals. Bob must be somewhere close to 80, has a lifelong love affair with motorcycles and boats, and publishes an intriguing magazine called Messing About in Boats.

Besides all this, they are crazy inventors, sharing a passionate genius for practical mechanics that requires no engineering drawings, nothing expensive, digital, or high tech. Their style is to spout ideas and start building. Both have workshops at home. Together they have built a bicycle to suit their cycling need six times until perfected - a combination handcycle and footpedaled tandem with motor for the long hills. They also salvage bikes and rebuild handcycles to give away to anyone in need who will use them well. Charlie's self styled paddling grips are shown in the photo, perfect for keeping his hands attached to the paddle, but still easy to slip out of if necessary.

Paddling with these two was a real treat. Our lively conversations covered a variety of product ideas, personal stories, and nature lore. Charlie was wearing a Free Wheelchair Mission T-shirt and from him I learned about this low tech, low cost wheelchair designed to be put into the hands of people around the globe who need them most. As we enjoyed the simple pleasure of a couple hours on the river, I was refreshed by the true inspiration of these two people who have so purely devoted their lives to doing what they love and sharing it with others so freely.

If you want to paddle on the Swift River, you'll be happy to notice, as I was, that there is an accessible portapotty on site.

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