Ladon Atkinson came into light at Glasgow on the MR340, he came upon us like most paddlers did on the race. As usual, we said hey in our enthusiastic voices and Madison with his now signature “SUP! ! ! ” LaDon said hey back and we chatted a bit. He was explaining to us how he wanted to drop out at the last checkpoint because he was exhausted and I think the solitude might have been taking a toll on him. LaDon seemed to be a pretty cool guy at first, that would change when he stuck with us the first night with him. He was not only a cool guy he would end up helping us navigate the river. He had the Pro Paddler app on an old dummy Android phone and none of us had the app. Even though the race was during a full moon, wing dams and buoy’s were very hard to see. Ladon would stick with us through the night letting us know which side of the river we needed to be on. This was literally a lifesaver. As he stuck with us we all had the chance to get to know him and we quickly found out that he was pretty similar to us. He was really funny and he could fire back jokes and pick-on’s with the best of us. Because we have 5 paddlers on one boat it was easy to keep a constant pace on the river, in LaDon’s case he was alone so when he would get tired, he would fall behind. We did not want to lose LaDon, we liked LaDon, we wanted to keep him. We slowed down to allow him to bring the bow of his boat right up in between the sponsons of our board. This created a drafting situation where he did not have to paddle as hard, he essentially could ride our wake to give himself a little rest.
When we got to Coopers Landing we found out that Elissa and Patricia “LaDon’s wife” had met and found out they were both teachers. This was pretty cool because it gave Elissa someone to talk to. Shortly we found out SHE was even as crazy as we are. When LaDon wanted to quit Patricia refused to let him, so like a good husband he pretty much had to say “Yes Dear” and got back in his boat and kept on going.
It was Thursday night when LaDon really got to know us, well, me I should say. As Shane and I were napping and I farting and snoring LaDon pretty much got to hear the orchestra that came from me. As we were arriving at Washington to beat the coming storm Kitty landed right at the city boat dock and as we hopped off we did not see LaDon, we looked out in the river and to our horror, we heard a faint “I need help”, he had passed the boat ramp and was being pushed up against the rocks just off the side of the boat ramp. He was to exhausted to paddle up against the current. As some of us secured Kitty, others ran over to help our new friend and fellow paddler. Luckily LaDon was able to get up the shoreline safely. Once we set up camp everyone pretty much passed out and let the storm pass. Early morning came and we all prepared to head to Klondike to prepare to push for the finish. Once back on the water it was like having a 6th paddler on the board, LaDon stuck with us as we made our way to the finish line. Once leaving Klondike we pushed for St Charles, the last few miles went pretty slow due to strong headwinds but once we all seen the last bridge and the Casino we all knew we were going to finish together. In fact, I believe LaDon only finished a couple minutes after we did. Once at the finish line we could all hang out and soak up the amazing feeling of finishing the race.
LaDon was not only a cool dude to start out with, through the race we all got to know each other, we shared laughs, we picked on each other and we grew a strong friendship. LaDon by the end of the race was not just a friend to us, He was part of the family, now if we can only get him up on a paddleboard we would except him a little better. But, I think he see’s the appeal.
I think I can speak for every one on our team when I say, Thank You for sticking with us LaDon we would have had a hard time staying safe at night if it was not for you and I think I can safely say we made your first MR340 a fun race. Patricia may have her hands full with him after he hangs out with us.