Canoe Vibes | Appomattox River Company | Kayak Fishing Briery Creek

Farmville, VA: Sips of Reality, Served Over IPA Cider

I looked at the menu, looked down at the date on my phone, and looked back at the menu – this time slightly more focused on the price column, then the appetizers section in the left corner, finally ending my gaze down at the small print surrounding the $3.99 side dishes.



Road Trip Reality – The Monthly Budget is King

It’s not that I’m broke; it’s that responsible monthly budgeting is the single most important part of my road tripping reality. It’s where my bills get paid, my expenses get covered, and – unlike most road trippers – my IRA gets funded. Wasted money today results in fewer days on the road come August, or September, or even October. Money comes in, choices get made, money goes out, and practicing the art of delayed gratification is mastered. It’s a reality that gets swept under the rug with most #VanLifers and kayak fishing road warriors, instead choosing to focus solely on mind-blowing Instagram photos piling up likes, hashtags, and debt.

You know what I can’t eat? Instagram likes. You want to know what can’t buy me a house? Pro deals. Guess what employers don’t care about on resumes? Fish.

The forced perspective that life on the road gives is that of entertainment: new species, big views, and a cat that acts like a dog. Those are all the key parts of my trip. But the less entertaining parts deserve highlighting the same: budgeting, working late hours in weird places, coordinating schedules, and living real life off of the water.

Some things are real and some things are real(ly) cool but virtually useless in the real world. My second stop in Virginia helped me further separate the two.

It was May 29th and – with only two days until the much-anticipated calendar turn over to June – the monthly budget wasn’t going to take kindly to a $14.99 lunch on the way out of town.

I walked out. Damn that $100 hotel in Asheville last week!



Road Trip Reality – It’s Always Friday Night

I pulled out of the restaurant parking lot, went with a Plan B for lunch while discovering there is no such thing as a Mid-Atlantic McDonald’s Hot and Spicy McChicken, and set my GPS to Farmville, VA – though the locals will let you know the central Virginia municipality just off of US-15 is actually Farmvegas. Unless you’re into high-end, luxury furniture from Green Front, the history of Senator Byrd’s mid-twentieth century integration resistance campaign, or specialty paddlesports, the extent of your familiarity with the booming metropolis of Farmville probably caps out at the annoying Facebook notification game requests from Benny, your high school acquaintance still selling dope and managing simulated, first person, video game farms from his mom’s basement in your hometown.

I’m welcomed into the city limits with a text from Vince – Brian Vincent, the marketing, media, and anything-else-he-can-help-with guy at Appomattox River Company.

“Pick up a six-pack of Bold Rock IPA Cider.”

He mixed me an Old Dominion-inspired cocktail that would have made even Tommy Jefferson smile down at the local pride Vince had for his mixers: ice and a shot of Virginia’s A. Smith Bowman Small Batch Bourbon, filled to the top with Nelson County’s Bold Rock IPA Cider.

We covered the boring kayak fishing industry gossip before falling into deeper – and much more relevant-to-reality – wormholes of politics, family, sports, and outdoor culture, served with a refreshed drink at the turn of every subject.

That’s the thing about road trips. Every night is a Friday night, even this Monday night with Vince. Every night you are someone’s out of town house guest, dinner date, or fishing partner that is an outlet to entertain, reminisce, and booze. I wouldn’t trade all seven of my Friday nights for seven Mondays, but I’m over thirty Friday nights – and ten pounds – into this trip; I could use a Monday night or two every once in a while.

Six drinks later I crashed; Vince supposedly made it up until the Warriors took game seven from the Thunder.



Road Trip Reality – Fishing is a Hobby

He called it ‘Farmville time’ as he walked out the door fifteen minutes after the car was loaded, the gear was packed, and the last sip of coffee was stomached. But it had nothing to do with Farmville.

It had more to do with the simple fact that fishing is a hobby. Within different parts of our niche kayak fishing industry, social-ish promotional circles, and even less truth-based online social forums, kayak fishing is glorified well beyond the point of an average hobby. With kayak-fishing-is-life and kayak-fish-or-die mentalities apotheosized among adult strangers looking to feel like a part of something bigger, it’s nice to be reminded that kayak fishing holds it’s rightful place behind reality for some well-grounded folks.

You know what’s real? I’ll tell you. The game of Candy Land that got started on the Vincent family’s living room ottoman between me and a righteously confident four-year-old card counter was real. The delicious home cooked country grits paired with genuine – yet exhausted – conversation about travel, family, and business was real. Vince’s 15-minute delay handling family business before heading to the launch was real and so was our early call off of the water.



CanoeVibes   Arkansas   Mark Vlaskamp (1 Of 9)
CanoeVibes   Arkansas   Mark Vlaskamp (8 Of 9)
CanoeVibes   Arkansas   Mark Vlaskamp (9 Of 9)


Briery Creek Lake – the state owned 845-acre lake – is home to a Florida strain of largemouth bass that makes it rank among the best bass fisheries in the Mid-Atlantic. The ten pounders are there, probably around some steep ledge waiting for an unsuspecting bluegill. But they weren’t there for us.

I wanted one. I wanted a big one. I didn’t get it.

“If you’re not getting hung up every once in a while, you’re not doing it right” Vince reassured me after I caught my third unseen stump in a row, my turkey on the way to my eventual three hundred game.

The carp were heavy; the bass were not.

Vince sight casted one, I got frustrated with the fasting bass and tossed a dry fly at the visible and not-hungry-for-anything-I-had carp, and we had to get off the water and head back to the shop. It’s a reality most promotional cyber-anglers never concede: real life, including real work, is more important than fishing.



CanoeVibes   Arkansas   Mark Vlaskamp (1 Of 9)
CanoeVibes   Arkansas   Mark Vlaskamp (9 Of 9)
CanoeVibes   Arkansas   Mark Vlaskamp (8 Of 9)


So, we went to work grateful for the shot we had at a Briery Creek ten pounder.

To call it work feels wrong. We went to hang out with some buddies at a kayak shop, wrap boats, talk fishing, and sell some gear. Paddlers and anglers throughout the region congregate to the north bank of the Appomattox River to get their boats from Appomattox River Company, est. 1977. What was once a family lumber yard is now one of the largest specialty paddlesports retailers in the country, operating like a well-oiled machine after a long holiday weekend with all hands on deck.

They even let me burn some time wrapping boats and asking stupid questions.



CanoeVibes   Arkansas   Mark Vlaskamp (1 Of 9)
CanoeVibes   Arkansas   Mark Vlaskamp (8 Of 9)
CanoeVibes   Arkansas   Mark Vlaskamp (9 Of 9)
CanoeVibes   Vince   Mark Vlaskamp (10 Of 15)
CanoeVibes   Vince   Mark Vlaskamp (12 Of 15)
CanoeVibes   Vince   Mark Vlaskamp (11 Of 15)


Halfway through wrapping a Predator XL was when my insignificant vacation-lifestyle got blindsided by a little more Farmville reality. I got into a conversation with an overly-enthusiastic, grey, crew leader on the warehouse floor that had stories of the days when canoes were shipped in bulk parts and put together at the retail end, his long line of family ties to Appomattox River Company, and his love for the local rivers, communities, and people – it was real.

He paused. “What about you? What do you do?”

I have a spiel, but it was nothing that was going to impress him. It’s based on the imaginary value placed in some fairytale land of cyber-interactions and staged recreational adventure. It’s not real; it’s just a long vacation centered around a hobby – nothing more.

///

The trip was quick and I left fishless but the time spent in Farmville has been the most fun to develop into a written post. Without this added reflection of trying to get a pen to paper sans hero shots and big fish smiles, the Farmville journal entry was a little more challenging and a lot more rewarding than my normal stories. Thanks to everyone in the central VA that kept it real with me:
  • Vince – There aren’t a whole lot of people out there that get it. You do. I’ve always had mad respect for that and the trip to Farmvegas only magnified it heading into the future. You’ve got a great family down there – at home, in the warehouse, and on the water. While it won’t be at a tradeshow booth or demo anymore, I’ll see ya outside again soon.
  • Harriet – You might not have noticed, but I learned a lot from the whitewater travel conversations, the paddling industry comparisons, and the salad dressing 101 course. The hospitality from you was unreal and has since set an unreachable standard for the hosts lined up after my stay in Farmville. Thank you and take care of Vince for me.
  • Martha Lucy – Whattup, girl. I owe you a couple of board game rematches and one big footrace. While your dad swears it was overconfidence, I think you may have sized up my short legs, road trip diet, and growing waistline before so assertively crowning yourself as a faster sprinter than me. Kick ass is soccer this season.
  • ARC Crew – Thanks for letting the creepy guy with the mustache chill in the air conditioning while you busted your butts outside packing boats, handling customers, and catching up from the long holiday weekend. I’ve been to some impressive paddling businesses – both on the retailer and manufacturer ends – and Appomattox River Co. ranks up there with the best of them both socially and operationally.
  • Otis Otway Tucker III (pictured above) – Thanks for the perspective, Bo. You don’t know the impact it has had on a guy who tends to get caught up in some of the noise floating around paddlesports these days.

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Mark Vlaskamp

After four years as Marketing Director for Yak Gear, Mark now partners with creative outdoor brands and pursues the gray area between freelancing and (f)unemployment. Currently, he is floating between Austin and Houston, TX - still searching for new water, cool people, and cheap beer.

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