Shuttle from Hell: A Love Story - Mountain Buzz

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Old 07-18-2019   #1
Sturgis, South Dakota
Paddling Since: 2003
Join Date: Feb 2014
Posts: 82
Shuttle from Hell: A Love Story

Just shared a story with Cascade's Eddy Epics--it involved an interesting Main Salmon Shuttle (and the reason I love Idaho). Thought some of you might like it.

Oh, and I'm interested in writing a general shuttle piece. There must be some pretty great shuttle disasters. Please share if you have the time.

Take care,


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Old 07-19-2019   #2
90Duck's Avatar
Bend, Oregon
Paddling Since: 1992
Join Date: Nov 2012
Posts: 427
Great story well told. We all boat with a "Bob"; or at least we should.
Show me your OOOOOO face
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Old 07-19-2019   #3
MT4Runner's Avatar
Kalispell, Montana
Paddling Since: 1997
Join Date: Apr 2012
Posts: 2,705
I love the way you write. Great story!

Way back when, I was a sea kayaker. I'd kayak everywhere. Big lakes, small ponds, the Pacific, the Puget Sound. Living in Missoula, MT, the Clark Fork and Bitterroot rivers were right out our back door. Good buddy of mine and I made plans to float from his place in East Missoula down to the far west side of town.

Oh, and a kid from my church wanted to be a kayaker so we invited him along. Dropped the kid's car at my work for the takeout shuttle, and ran my pickup and all the boats up to my buddy's place.

Floated through Missoula, saw several osprey, and not a lot of people. This was in the years before Brennan's Wave and few people used the river for recreation. Got to the takeout in the early evening and told the kid it was time to give me a ride back to Ryan's to get my pickup.

"I don't have my keys."


"I didn't want anyone to steal them, so I left them in your pickup."

And I couldn't borrow a work truck, because my work keys were on my my pickup. Fortunately, one of my coworkers left a set of keys in the ash tray of his work truck, and we salvaged the shuttle.

Never did invite that kid to shuttle again.

Then we took him one more time for a nice crossing on Flathead Lake to camp on an island for the night. He was still packing when we got to his house. 2 hours later, we headed up the road in the fading light of day. And a storm came up.

If we'd had 2 more hours, we'd have been across and could have sat out the storm in our tents.

So we drove 1.5 hours back home...and didn't invite that kid boating again. To this day, I'm pretty sure he's not a kayaker.
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Old 07-19-2019   #4
Sturgis, South Dakota
Paddling Since: 2003
Join Date: Feb 2014
Posts: 82
Me too...

Thanks. This summer I had someone leave the keys in a put-in vehicle...always fun. Thanks for the story.

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Old 07-19-2019   #5
Colorado, Colorado
Join Date: Mar 2014
Posts: 153
LOL that was a great read!
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Old 07-19-2019   #6
Ft jones, United States
Paddling Since: 1985
Join Date: Jun 2017
Posts: 52
The worst I did was change into a pair of shorts on day 3 of a Middle Fork trip, only to find the keys that were supposed to be in the envelope along with the cash back at Boundary Creek(back in the day when the Rangers were happy to pass them off to the shuttle companies)
Fortunately, we were driving back(in my uncle's rig) that way (aside from the 20+ miles into Boundary) anyhow, so it really wasn't the end of the world...
Definitely my worst shuttle goof.
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Old 07-20-2019   #7
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Bellevue, Idaho
Paddling Since: 1991
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 2,831
Another great piece Eric. I read it a few days ago.

I wouldn't say shuttle 'disasters', but here a few highlights (lowlights?) of 30 years of shuttling and being shuttled.

1) on the way to Cataract from Idaho. Toyota pickup disintegrated it's tranny in SLC. We then had to borrow a much older and less worthy Toyota pickup that should have blown up but didn't.

2) A friend brought in my rig to Cache Bar and my, new to me, trailer had sheared off a spring perch. A sat phone call to a good buddy in Darby who just happens to be a welder fixed that one. Thanks spider. About the only booze we had left was a handle of rum which mostly disappeared before spider arrived and repairs were completed.

3) Stopped for road construction in the Sawtooth valley on the way to the Middle Fork and my Explorer refused to start again. I am pretty good at bumping the contacts to get the solenoid going again. But no dice. Left it there for the week and jumped into two other rigs. We didn't have the right connection for the wiring harness for the rig that we swapped the trailer to, but found one laying in the junction at the left turn in Stanley. So that was not a disaster, but some sort of shuttle serendipity.

4) Twice I have destroyed bearings on the same trailer. Once on the way in to Boundary. We flipped it upside down on the top of another one and sent it out. I made arrangements to leave it in Stanley, but the shuttle company took it to Salmon had it 'fixed' there and gave me a large bill for the repair.

5) Same trailer and hub. Got back to Stanley late at night after a Middle Fork trip to find the bearing completely gone, like hub starting to fall off. I guess we are camping here. Thanks shuttle company for the sub-standard repair. And I check those bearings a lot. Have to say I'm a little gun shy of that trailer now.

6) Another trailer bearing (not mine) destroyed on the way to the Selway put in. About half way up Nez Perce Pass. Another double trailer ride back out to Darby for new hubs.

7) Not too bad, but hit a deer with fully loaded Explorer pulling a trailer with way too much stuff on it and six people inside. Thanks for keeping it on the road Dave. I know you felt bad, but I didn't. I think the headlight still worked too, even though it pointed pretty far North. Insurance payout was $1,700 and let me afford to go one another river trip that I didn't think I could. Turned out to be my daughters first Middle Fork off the top and it was awesome.

I always insist on hearing from everyone who has to travel that they made it home safe. I got the next day check in from one buddy who was doing the midnight drive home who had fallen asleep, hit a road sign with his mirror, which smashed the drivers side window with basically no other damage. He reported he did not have trouble staying awake after that as it was pretty chilly even with the heat full blast.

9) I was out cruising around Idaho one spring and went to meet some friends coming off the Middle Fork at 8 feet plus. There was carnage for sure. The paddle boat flipped and one other boat late in the day and people were scattered. A couple of them had to camp with another group and join up the next day. They got back together and finished in good form, but I am sure that night of not knowing was hard.

There was another group at the takeout with them that once they saw my relatively empty Tercel wagon begged me to help them. Apparently they had six or seven flips on the Middle Fork and were done. But they had planned on a Middle Fork Main. So their cars were at Spring Bar. So I packed five men and gear in with all my paddle stuff and off we went. I was bouncing off the walls with excitement for the runoff we were having and couldn't wait to get on the water.

And in a 10 hour drive you have to stop a few times. So I would stop at rapids I wanted to see like Sunbeam Dam, Kirkham, Big Falls, Amphitheater Hole and a couple of places on the North Fork. They dutifully got out and stretched trying to be excited with me, but they were over it. So maybe I was their shuttle nightmare.
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Old 07-20-2019   #8
Sturgis, South Dakota
Paddling Since: 2003
Join Date: Feb 2014
Posts: 82

That's a lot of boating to rack up that many shuttle gone wrong stories...nice work.

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Old 07-20-2019   #9
Golden, Colorado
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 235
The shuttle service I used was 30 minutes late once.

Do I get a Participation Trophy?
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Old 07-22-2019   #10
Boise, Idaho
Paddling Since: 2002
Join Date: Apr 2017
Posts: 38
Love it! Great story. We haven't had anything like that.

I did get to Pittsburgh Landing once and all the other vehicles were there except mine. Diane left a note on the dash of one of the other trucks saying she left me her personal rig; a Ford Expedition. My rig was in Council with a blown transmission.

We drove back to Boise, called Diane (Scotty's for those not familiar with the service) and arranged to drive back to Oregon to give her the vehicle. She met us halfway.

I will NEVER use anybody else. Talk about customer service. Some don't like Diane because she is a matter-of-fact talker. I love Diane because she is a matter-of-fact talker.

Side note on the Suburban. It was left at a mechanic/junk yard outside of Council. The owner was two weeks away from retiring. I thought it was going to cost me $3-4K. He said he had a Tahoe out back close to the same year that had been totaled with only 20k miles on it and the transmission was in great shape. He put it in and only charged me $1500.
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