2019 Day 15: Death, taxes, and the sweep boat: the Grim Sweeper Cometh

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All but six teams are on the done side of the ledger. From the hundred years plus their youngest crew’s age worth of gaff rigged yarbidar, to the plucky +/- rowboats, to the rear guarding Craigslist Special of Team Try Baby Tri. Like every year so far, the teams at the wagging tail end of the R2AK are the colorful ones, but in that Turner Classic Movie way. Meaning: they’re slow.

Speed in no way equates to worthiness, and all of them will have stories to tell, but while their pace has allowed them to stretch their race budget by opting out of the heat shields, it does mess with our ability to bring you any story from the fleet you can’t get from staring at orange vessel-shaped blips on the tracker map. Until the psilocybins kick in and the blips start talking back, we’re as much in the dark as you—just staring at the tracker and twiddling our thumbs as they slowly transform into flippers.

Other than hitting refresh and watching our minds sublimate into hallucinogenic infinity, there’s not a lot to do up here in Ketchikan. Just sitting on the dock of the bay until the next 52 to 14 feet of storyline rings the bell and spills its contents, fresh and flopping, all over the internet. For now, we’re just pacing the hotel lobby along the geometric patterns on the carpet, feeding our Fitbit with fresh steps and making the other guests nervous enough to double lock their doors.

We’re keeping busy, thanks for asking. The following is an excerpt of a fictitious interview we just had with ourselves (reprinted and updated) about the only thing left to talk to ourselves about: the sweep boat, the hotly contested subject of race fans worldwide and the rolling disqualification line that’s making progress up the coast.

R2AK: Tell us about the Sweep Boat.

R2AK: The first rule about the sweep boat is, “Don’t talk about the sweep boat.”

R2AK: Hahahaha, good one. No really, does it exist?

R2AK: Of course it does, it left Victoria two days ago.

R2AK: Really, no one can see it on the tracker map.

R2AK: Of course not, because: tracker. If we didn’t spring for a functional one for the teams trying to win the race, why do you think we’d waste the few shekels we have left on the Sweeper? It’s not a race boat.

R2AK: That’s pretty weak. It seems like you could spare one for the central antagonist of the back of the race.

R2AK: Totally disagree, but point taken.

R2AK: So, where is it?

R2AK: Theoretically, it’s right around Johnstone Strait.

R2AK: And actually?

R2AK: Actually that’s none of your business. The chief weapon of the Sweep Boat is surprise…

R2AK: Spare me.

R2AK: OK, what if I told you that the sweep boat is a little green motor boat that has been cruising around the course for weeks? That’s how I’d do it, wouldn’t you? I mean, no one is going to drop out before Bella Bella anyway, so why wouldn’t you just go cruising when you felt like it, and then just Rosie Ruiz back in whenever the theoretical miles catch up to you? What if I told you that the sweep boat position isn’t much more accurate than the Santa Tracker that all of the weathermen put on the green screen on Christmas Eve?

R2AK: But they use satellites and stuff…

R2AK: Right, same satellites. We just clear out the Command Bunker when Santa NORAD needs to take it over.

R2AK: I can’t tell if you’re making fun of me right now. But given the inverse seasonality it seems like that kind of collaboration would work great. You wouldn’t need two sets of computers, the radar could be re-tuned from boats to sleighs, tunneling machines are expensive, and you could pool for maintenance and janitorial staff…

At that point we walked away. The conversation was starting to alternately drift and get redundant. We lost interest. As far as we know, those two parts of our subconscious are still talking about the finer points of the effect of prolonged exposure to low altitude radar on reindeer fertility, and whether or not the crew on the Sweep Boat have the same health plan as Santa’s elves (“Last I heard they were on an HSA…”).

Back to the point. Global warming, peer pressure, Wonder Woman’s jet—just because you can’t see a thing doesn’t mean it’s not real. And the tracker-less Sweep Boat is making ominous and theoretical progress up the coast, fangs out and a bone in her teeth. At 75 miles a day, the line of disqualification is in Johnstone strait tonight, Bella Bella by Monday, and it’s all over on the 29th. As long as they keep moving, Teams Ziska, Backwards AF, Wee Free Men, and Solveig seem to be clear of the hook. Team Funky Dory is in limbo, and Try Baby Tri should be feeling the heat and potentially the sound of the Sweeper’s approaching bow wake. As of this morning, they need to average somewhat more than 40 miles a day to reach Ketchikan in time. Right now Christian of Try Baby Tri has a daily average closer to 20 miles and 4 sexually explicit/suggestive texts. Unless his plan is to sink all 18’ of his hull into the sin dens of Bella Bella, there’s a “Don’t stop, don’t stop, almost… there” urgency that he should hear like a clarion call.

Death, taxes, and the sweep boat: the Grim Sweeper Cometh.

Clemency is a pleasant sounding impossibility—the boys of the Sweep ain’t Santa. They are hard forged, tough like a girl, give no quarter, and mean business. Did you ever wonder who the 63 people were who got free R2AK tattoos? Two of them are on the Sweep Boat’s reaper crew. We hear they’re getting a tat for each boat they run down. We’re hoping for a jailhouse teardrop—Lil Wayne will be proud. We’re pretty sure he’s real.

Stay tuned, race fans. There’s a race to the finish even here at the shovel end of the R2AK parade, and it looks like the finish line and the sweeper are running at even odds.

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