Dragons — in Oregon!?!?

Some RVers are destination travelers: they know where they want to go, what they want to see. Some jackrabbit from one attraction to another — they want to visit all the oddball tourist attractions or follow their favorite sports team around the country, see national parks or local museums. Others are working, plying a trade, so they move from on job building roads or buildings or pipelines to another.

There’s a middle ground, where an RVer hears about something like the eclipse, then plan a travel route to be in the path of it, or maybe be in Pendleton, Oregon, when the big roundup is going on.

Some of us have favorite spots we’ve found in our journeys and we enjoy returning to them, and if something neat happens while we’re there, well, then… how cool is that?

That happened to us this past August, while we were in Joseph, Oregon. I saw something in the local newspaper about “Dragon Races” and, as it turned out, one of the managers or the RV park where we were staying was on the local racing team. We had to go!

The smoke we’d been trying to escape was getting worse in this corner of the state mostly because a new fire had broken out along the Columbia River to the northwest.

This far end of Wallowa Lake is like the bottom of a funnel, catching everything in it. We worried about the day of the race — too much smoke is never good for anybody. The day started with the bluest skies we’d seen in days, and hundreds of people turned out to see the races.

Dragon boat races are very popular around the Portland area where races attract hundreds of teams. Somewhere along the way, a group of Joseph and Enterprise residents decided to form their own team and the Wallowa Dragons was born. They don’t have their own boat, so they practiced all they could without one, which makes sense when you realize each boat has 20 paddlers, a caller, and someone at the tiller. Just getting everybody into the boat in the right place takes a lot of coordination!

Teams included a variety of folks — all ages, all with varying physical abilities, but every one of them possessing a competitive edge and a great sense of fun.

It took us a little while to figure out they had to row all the way out to the other side of the lake BEFORE they raced back! Talk about using a lot of energy before the real push!

The caller has the important job of beating the drum to keep all the paddlers in rhythm — the more in-sync they are, the faster the boat goes, right? Plus the caller has to have nerves of steel to sit on a little chair on a very narrow boat…!

The tiller makes sure the boat is always pointed in the right direction. The race is run in a pretty straight line, so getting that long, skinny boat out away from the pier and then turned around at the starting line is probably the trickiest part of the job for the tiller.

Sometimes there were long delays, maybe while the timing was figured out and the rankings were calculated from heat to heat, but it gave us spectators time to watch the crowd…

…and the paragliders, who were sailing off the top of Mount Howard nearby…

…and the sunbathers, who might or might not have been interested in the races:

Not only did this day’s races require a lot of coordination within the teams, we found out there was a lot of coordination across the teams. From sharing boats to sharing expertise, the whole experience was a great example how competitors can cooperate to spread their love of a sport. This was the Wallowa team’s second year competing — and they took three silver medals. All because others were willing to help them learn and practice and improve.

We could all learn a lesson from that, don’t you think?

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About Ellen

Fiction writer and photographer, I travel the country with my sweetheart of a husband as a "full-time RVer."
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