Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | December 6, 2012

Reading the River

Preparing for the 2013 Texas Water Safari

As Doyle and I continue our training to compete in the 2013 Texas Water Safari, we scheduled another lesson with Holly Orr of Paddle With Style. Holly is a multi-safari finisher and a respected paddling instructor. Lots of the folks who compete in canoe and kayak races in Texas have spent time with Holly. Our last lesson with her focused on paddling technique. It’s amazing how making what seem like minor adjustments can make major differences. However, today’s lesson was about more than tweaking our paddling technique, it was about learning to read the river.

Reading the river is essential to having a safe and successful experience on the water. As water flows downstream, it both influences and is influenced by the things it encounters along the way and consequently behaves in particular ways. Today we learned the importance of staying alert, looking ahead, and considering how to approach everything from ripples to rapids and sweepers to eddies. After making mistakes in reading the river on our last training run, today was a much more enjoyable experience as we paddled down the same technical section of the river. We definitely made the right call in scheduling today’s lesson with Holly.

At the end of our lesson with Holly, our good friend Dorsey Ward met us at our take-out point where Highway 20 crosses the San Marcos River outside of the small town of Fentress. Dorsey had driven all the way from Katy just to spend an hour with us. And, he had stopped by Luling Bar-B-Q to pick up several links of their delicious sausage and a loaf of bread. We enjoyed a relaxed roadside picnic near Dorsey’s childhood home. He shared a couple of stories about his childhood in Fentress and also encouraged us to persevere in our adventure.

I was really glad to see Dorsey and so thankful for his kindness in picking up some of the best sausage in the Lone Star State. My son Jonathan introduced me to Luling Bar-B-Q last year when we passed through Luling on our way to train on the San Marcos River. It’s one of those cool small town eateries where diners slather homemade Bar-B-Q sauce on perfectly seasoned meat and then eat it under the watchful eye of John Wayne, the patron saint of cowboys, whose photos adorn the paneled walls. If your travels ever take you through Luling, be sure to stop at Luling Bar-B-Q. You won’t be disappointed. Today’s adventure was made even more enjoyable because of the opportunity to have another lesson with Holly and to enjoy good food and fellowship with our friend Dorsey.

TWS Training Luling BBQ

Doyle outside of Luling Bar-B-Q en route to the San Marcos River.

TWS Training Omar and Dorsey

With Dorsey outside of the small town of Fentress.

TWS Training D and O

Feeling more encouraged after our lesson with Holly and fellowship with Dorsey.


  1. I truly enjoy reading your blogs Omar. Excited to hear about your adventure with Doyle as the journey continues on the river front.

    • Thanks so much, Mechele. Today was a good day on the river. We are feeling better about our progress and are determined to stay on track with our training.

  2. Omar, our family was also recently introduced to Luling BBQ by the Epsteins and we absolutely love it! I’m proud of you and Doyle and look forward to your updates as you prepare for the journey. Have a blessed day!

    • Thanks for your encouraging words. We’re going to keep practicing and paddling so that we’ll be ready to do the TWS next June.

  3. I came across your blog as I searched for information about the TWS 2013. I am trying to get a buddy of mine to do it with me. I am curious how long you guys have been training and if it is too late for my buddy and I to start. He lives in Schertz and I in Kyle so logistics will be difficult at times. I would love to take on this adventure and this Holly you speak of…where is she located. First time reader of your blog and I really like your thoughts on the Sandy Hook situation. Also I work in Lockhart so don’t forget about their BBQ tradition (although I secretly prefer Luling) haha.

    • Hey Garrett…

      Thanks for your comment. No, it’s not too late to start training. The first year that my son decided to do the TWS, he and his partner did not start training until March, just a few months before the race. If you have not done much paddling with your partner, then I suggest scheduling a couple of lessons with Holly Orr. Her website is You will find her contact info there. I will also email you my cell number so that you can call if you have any questions. I hope to see you on the river.


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