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June 27, 2006

One big highlight for me on this three week 5 country trip was spending some quality time with my partner Tony and his family. Tony, Dominique, Matthew, and Alexander were a joy to be around and play with. I am blessed to have such a great business partner as a friend. Matthew is currently at the Julliard School of the Arts in NYC for a drama camp and is destined to be a great comedian one day (funny boy that can entertain for hours!). Dominique and Kristine spent hours talking under the shade trees by the river. I never asked what they were talking about, but my lip reading skills saw the words “family”, “I felt like”, etc., etc. and I could tell that they were having some quality “sessions” with each other. Tony and I spent 99% of our time on non-business related discussions and it is really refreshing knowing that he trusts my abilities with Jackson Kayak as a business; and he has my back with the business and will always do his part to make sure we can follow our calling in the kayaking world and not fall short due to a short sighted, short-term focused group of shareholders (EJ/Tony, and key management)

I also got to enjoy the company of old time friends that I have known for decades. Toon (currently known as the owner of Kayak Session Magazine, and the organizer of the Rabioux and Lyon River Festivals), Arndt Schaflein, Uve Fischer, Shorschi, and more were all part of this trip. I got to spend the last two nights with Toon and his girlfriend Julie in Lyon. In Austria Arndt spent all day with us taking us to different rivers, to local restaurants, and river surfing. Arndt you may know from Kavu Day and Water of Wisdom has been laying low in paddling for the last two years recouperating from a dislocated shoulder. He is back in form now. He was also the designer of Riot’s Magnum kayak.

Of course nothing was better than spending quality time with Kristine, Emily, and Dane. Emily and Nick are dating officially now, which is interesting for me, since this is the first real boyfriend Emily has had. I must admit that I am quite lucky that Nick is her boyfriend. Nick is as nice of a kid as you can get and really knows what is important in life, even beyond kayaking. I am sure that it has something to do with his upbringing but, he certainly makes as big of an effort to do the right thing as any adult I know. Having a 16 year old daughter is a little different than an 8 year old daughter, I must admit. At 16 it is often more like having another adult in the house. Dane, on the other hand, maintains his youthful approach to life.

Traveling with the kids is something that is an incredible learning tool for both Kristine and I and the kids. Many people say to me that the travel we do represents some of the best educational opportunities we could offer the kids. While I wouldn’t disagree for a second, I feel that one of the most important things I have learned, is that no travel is necessary to achieve the same goals, but it really gives you so many more tools for learning, and examples, that you can’t get in a constant, predictable, controllable setting. Teaching the kids to appreciate what they have by having them first hand see people who are quite happy in situations that are so far less idea, with little to no possessions is easier than telling a kid to eat what is on their plate because kids are starving in China. However, that lesson, along with every other one isn’t learned automatically. In fact it is easy for both adults and kids to see the less fortunate and simply get an inflated sense of their importance in the world because of their current situation. Rarely does anyone want to focus their thoughts on what is truly important to them that they already have; because it is so much more exciting to focus on what you desire that you don’t yet have. While I am not religious in the traditional sense, I must admit that the saying of grace (thanks for what you already have) daily before eating, and in a family/friend setting is one of the most healthy exercises I can think of for everyone involved. This is something that the Jackson family doesn’t do as a habit, or in a traditional way; but I am considering adding it to our daily routine (if you could call what we do a routine). My kids are quite aware of their good fortune and share their wealth in so many ways that I have to cut them a little slack when they act indifferent from time to time. Dane made the mistake of answering the question, “How is it going?” yesterday when we were surfing at Lyon with; “I wish the water were higher.” I am not tolerant when it comes to complaining, and Dane could see on my face that I wasn’t impressed immediately and back-peddled. Kristine has to keep me from spending too much of my time trying to turn everything into a lesson and just let the kids be kids. I don’t know if I will ever be 100% comfortable with how I interact with my kids as a parent, but that goes with the territory. Until the day I die, I imagine feeling responsible for how things go in their lives to some extent.

The paddling in this trip was a good mix of playing, training, and competing. Freestyle on a wave in Lyon, Head to Head Boatercross Racing in Bremgarten, River Running in Austria, River Surfing in Austria, playing in Austria, and playing in Lyon upon our return. I got more fit here than before I got here. We did three sessions while in Silz with Arndt. River surfing where after flushing off the wave I would sprint to the shore (90 seconds), jump out of the water and run back to the bridge (90 seconds). I would do that over and over until completely dehydrated and then get lunch and go playing in the hole for a second session and then a third session running a river or more surfing. In Lyon these past few days we would paddle for 3 hours, eat lunch, and paddle for another 2 or more hours. Each time I flushed off the wave I sprinted to the shore which was about 60 seconds of hard paddling and a short walk back up to go again. We had no line so we got a bunch of rides. I am ready for my next competition at the Potomac Festival where last year I got knocked out of first place and of paddling for 5 weeks in an accident at the head to head extreme race on Great Falls. This time I hope to be fast enough that nobody can hit me because I am too far in the lead. Either way, I am ready to race and hopefully take the title of the Jackson Kayak Great Falls Race for myself in 2006.

I am now 1:45 minutes from Cincinnati and will soon be in Rock Island for the first time in 3 months to see my home. I can’t tell you how excited I am to see the Ratliff’s and the rest of the Jackson Kayak crew, as well as Kristine’s mom who we live with at the “Ranch” and our dogs, cats, and horses. I want to eat at the Foglight Foodhouse, which after eating in wonderful restaurants in France, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Italy, and all over the USA, I miss the Foglight and its homey atmosphere and incredible food. Seeing the house we are building after three months away is going to be another special treat. I can only imagine what it looks like now. It is the Jackson family dream house. A 3,500 square foot log house with a basement, a drive in kayaker’s garage, and big deck overlooking our fields and woods with no view of any neighbors and right by the river. This house is so much our dream house that it isn’t funny. Kristine and I have wanted to own our own house since we got married in 1988, 18 years ago. We didn’t want to buy any house, but we had an ideal that we were never prepared to bring to reality. We wanted a place that truly made sense to us as the Jackson family home. Kristine wanted horses. I wanted to be by the best river location and want to be home, not somewhere else. We wanted a safe place for the kids and a place that we could be self-sufficient if ever need be. We wanted a low cost of living, but an incredible location. We wanted one house that suited our lifestyle that we would never outgrow, but not to be extravagant. The RV became that home in 1997 and it wasn’t until 2003 that we decided that Rock Island was the location of our dream house. The property we bought was the exact spot for us. This spring we decided that the timing was right to build our house, and our dream house had been picked out at least three years ago. It has a big common room (great room), a huge deck outside, a big kitchen and dinning room (open to the great room) and is a perfect place for enjoying family and friends. As things go, it is taking longer and costing more to build than predicted, which was predicted. So, I am excited to see the progress on it! Keith Perryman is our general contractor and is as good as they get. All of the guys working on the house are top notch, so I feel quite relaxed about the job they are doing, even if I can’t be there to watch over them.

The next chapter of our lives is about to begin. Home for 10 days, then Potomac Festival and then up to the Ottawa to teach. Meanwhile, everyone, including me are hard at work on all things that have to do with kayaking, and Jackson Kayak and making your boats just right!

See you on the river in the USA and Canada now!

🙂 EJ