Terre Haute Cruise

Wabash River Cruise
Terre Haute, IN
April 29, 2001

After one day of driving and helping set up the racecourse, and then another full day of racing ( in 2 classes no less...) the very last thing I wanted to do was to get out of bed- much less go for a long cruise! My knees were beat up from bottoming my massive Scat just about everywhere on the race track, and my thumb was pretty well blistered from my "death grip" on the throttle. Fortunately my "mental" alarm clock had wakened me at around 6:30 am, and by the 10:00 am cruise time I was actually feeling pretty good about it.

Drivers begin to converge for the 10AM pre-cruise meeting at the Fairbanks Park ramp.
Photo by Louis Bondurant

After the drivers meeting over 15 hovercraft head upstream and then do an about face for a camera run past the dock at Fairbanks Park. Photo by Louis Bondurant

We all met at Fairbanks Park and Nick Jokay held a drivers meeting about the planned cruise, and Chris Fitzgerald helped out with some river conditions and landmarks to watch for. Phase 1 of the cruise was supposed to be a 6 mile cruise downstream to the Federal Prison where Timothy McVeigh was to be executed in the near future. Returning from the prison the cruisers were given a choice to either cruise upstream to Clinton (22 miles one way), or trailer to Clinton and then Continue from that point upstream to Sugar Creek which was an additional 14 miles one way. Nick also asked that we do a "formation" pass with as many hovercrafts as possible for Louis Bondurant who was on the dock with a camera.

We finally hit the water with at least 16 hovercrafts! We flew upstream about 3/4 mile and then made our pass.... pretty neat to fly with that many craft at one time!! Once past the dock a few of us accelerated away from the main group. Kent Gano was in the lead with his Revtech machine , followed by me, and then Dennis Alm with Stephanie Lynch in his Starcruiser. Dennis and I cruised at about 35 mph and Kent pulled steadily away, and we finally lost sight of him. Kent flew past the prison without stopping. Dennis flew up the hill from the river, did a 180 and shut down his machine.

Kent Gano, Chris Fitzgerald, Tom Dienhart and Nick Jokay at the foot of the levee below the federal prison. Photo by Nick Jokay

Chris Barczynski Jr. and Tom Chapman lead Kent Gano in Chris' first place winning Sportsman hovercraft.
Photo by Mark Dial

I was next up the hill, and before I made it to the top a small truck with flashing lights was already descending the hill to where Dennis had parked. By the time I came to a stop there was a very humorless guard peering at us with that Dirty Harry "Make my day" kinda look in his eyes. As he reached down and touched his holster he said, "You must leave this property NOW!" We didn't waste any time getting back out on the water! Pretty unbelievable how fast how fast the US Marshal showed up...

We cruised back towards the launch ramp, and then stopped on a large sand beach for a few more pictures of the whole group together... 16 hovercrafts take up a lot of space, and it was pretty funny to watch the photographers in the bunch trying to get the whole group into the frame! Louis had the most graceful "dismount" from a tree branch about 6' in the air... degree of difficulty 9.2... we had to take off points because he took a step (.... or 6) on the landing! We all flew back to the launch ramp for the second phase of the cruise.

Nick Jokay and Michelle Hale In their Neoteric Racer.
Photo by Mark Dial

Cecil Scalf in his Questreck on a steeply banked tributary to the Wabash River.(Nick Jokay photo)

I decided to do the entire cruise, and flew to my car to grab another can of gas. Most people were driving to Clinton, or just driving home. Nick wanted everyone to meet in Clinton for the next leg of the cruise at 1:00 pm. Terry Chapman asked if I would mind taking his son, Chris, along for the 16 mile cruise to Clinton. I agreed, and Terry hauled my gas can for me. I decked Chris out in "Scat Wear".... rain suit, hearing protectors, life jacket... and then we flew down the ramp. We flew alone for a while just cruising slowly waiting for the others to catch up.

We cruised with Verdon and Linda Weber, Dennis Alm and Stephanie Lynch, Carl and Janet Gosuch, and Ron Ramsden. We stopped a few times to allow the slower crafts to catch up and we finally arrived at Clinton. I did a few high speed 360 spins to wake young Chris up... The Scat does a pretty good imitation of a really fast "Tilt-a-whirl". He loved it!! We arrived plenty early for lunch at the local Dairy Queen where Terry Chapman snuck in and paid for my burger! Thanks again Terry! After Lunch the last remaining cruisers assembled. Mike Lynch had 2 crafts with him; I noticed a damaged fan blade on one of his crafts. Mike decided to double up with son John for the trip. Nick Jokay was delayed at the launch when an object went through his fan. It took about 10 minutes for him to figure out that it was his sunglasses, and not some important part of the engine. Mike and Joanna Conners waited for Nick and the trio went ahead on the cruise in their Neoterics.

They completed the round trip to Sugar Creek, although they never did catch up with the rest of the gang. Dennis Alm with Stephanie Lynch, Linda and Verdon Weber with Marquis Songer, Ron Ramsden and myself all headed for Sugar Creek. Sugar Creek was AWESOME! My kind of water! Tight, close, lots of maneuvering around obstacles of all sorts including kayaks full of fishermen. We stopped for a few more pictures of the "Survivors" who had completed the entire cruise and then decided it was time to head back. I was low on fuel so I headed out at about 32 mph and just held it.

Joanna Conners checks on things back home. Mike Conners is her Questrek pilot. (Nick Jokay photo)

Andy Pittman and Mark Dial in Andy's Hovertreck.
Photo by Nick Jokay.

I glanced occasionally back to see where the others were, and about 3 miles from Clinton I couldn't see anyone behind me anymore. I pulled over and stopped. I checked my gas supply and figured I had just enough to get back to Fairbanks Park, and not much more. I waited... Finally after about an hour I heard a hovercraft coming from upstream. It was Dennis Alm with both Stephanie AND John Lynch on board. Mike's craft had died and the Webers had towed it to a boat landing. Dennis was on his way back to Clinton to retrieve the fuel pump off of the second Scat. I followed them to Clinton and removed the fuel pump for them. I didn't have the fuel to follow Dennis upstream so I headed to Fairbanks Park instead.

I arrived about an hour later on fumes. I parked the Scat near my trailer and talked to Chris Fitzgerald's and Nick Jokay's wives for a while and then loaded up my gear. Kent Gano came by and I asked him why he didn't cruise. He told me he did cruise, but that he had followed Chris Barczynski Jr., who had broken down a few times. Kent had gotten to Clinton after we had already left for Sugar Creek, and just turned around and went back to Fairbanks Park.

Mike and John Lynch posing with their Scat II.
Photo by Nick Jokay

So what more could you want from a weekend?? Great racing with a couple of second place finishes, and a great cruise with a total distance of over 86 miles, and good company! Good Job Nick!!