I had an idea last week, to go kayaking with girlfriends today.
Over the weekend, the winds held steady at 30 blistering miles per hour — hair all over town was frizzy, on end, or tucked into hats.
But optimistic as ever, I was certain today would be calm, still, serene.
I’m a regular Pollyanna in my head.
Being Monday, it isn’t surprising that things didn’t go as I had envisioned.
(And there went Pollyanna.)
I have two kayaks at my disposal. One is hard plastic, a floating jewel of red, sit-upon loveliness.
The other is a Boat in a Bag — I don’t think that’s its official title. Kayak and flooring, seat, air pump, three-part paddle, one handy rucksack the size of the back seat of the pick-up.
Really. The bag filled the back seat, which I had once thought roomy, but good news, I can actually lift the bag all by myself. I felt quite strong.
Okay, so I collect three adult women, one more hard, ready-to-ride but pointier than my wee little red kayak, all of our accoutrement — water bottles, sunscreen, bug spray, extra clothing to replace wet items, snacks, water shoes, life jackets, paddles, etc. — and made for the creek I love to ride.
It isn’t far from the prairie. And creek isn’t the correct term; It’s a channel, really, extending off of a lake, that leads into a river winding into a bird sanctuary nearby. A lovely place to meander. Plus, it’s close to my favorite diner, its food made even more delicious by three hard hours of kayaking.
Once at the drop-in, we unloaded the two regular kayaks, then pulled the Boat Bag from the back and I started pumping air into its bits.
The pump is one of those that look like a TNT detonator, or the do-hickey for one of those train car jobbies you see in Charlie Chaplin films. Surprisingly difficult on the thighs, to hold that contraption down and repeatedly pull and push on its handle. My thighs were burning, calories flowing away, and I had yet to paddle an inch.
Once inflated, the kayak, surprisingly, acted more like a sail when we picked it up to get it to the water. That was my first clue, ignored, that perhaps the winds were not calm. Instead of thinking, “Oh, no, this is crazy, let’s bail and go get some pie,” I thought, “Wow, this boat is light and will be a cinch to drive. Aerodynamically speaking, this is the Corvette of the Creek.”
I’m not smart, did I mention that?
Once on the water, against the wind, the waves on the channel splashed across my bow, soaking me entirely after only a few seconds afloat. And of course, my friends’ boats, being less sail, more vessel, were able to accommodate the moody breezes far better than I, seated low in a plastic boat flung side to side as though unoccupied.
When I paddled left, the wind pointed me right. When I paddled right, the wind laughed and pointed me left. I saw far more of the banks than I did the river, and, using an upturned tree as a guidepost, I’ll bet I was stationary eighty percent of my time as well.
Oh. And the three-part paddle? Broke.
Envision my joy.
Twenty mile an hour winds, plastic sheeting for a vessel, one oar flipping back and forth over my head just to stay straight in the water — my shoulders are so bulky now that they touch my ears; really — soaked to the core and mumbling to myself, “You can do this. No biggie. No sweat. I mean, probably no sweat. Who can tell? I’m soaked through. Sweat, nasty river water, fish castings, probably snakes abound — oh, look, a turtle! — why has that rock not moved? Am I truly sitting still? Lovely day, lovely day, I do so love to go kayaking…”
And pure Stubborn over the course of an hour and fifteen minutes is all that got me the normally quick three-quarter mile distance to land at a still spot under a bridge vastly under-rated as shelter, oasis, and mecca for joy and release of spasming shoulder muscles ready to seize.
My friends stopped to check on me to be certain I wasn’t overturned or hadn’t turned back, but they couldn’t come back to see to me; they never would have resumed course. So I used them as beacons, lighthouses in the daytime, paddling to catch up to them.
But mostly I concentrated on my left lung and assuring it that it couldn’t pop, that it was supposed to work this hard, and isn’t cardio just awesome?
The trip back was a snap.
And I got the prize at the end: diner food that only occasionally shuddered its way to my mouth, one forkful at a time under duress and constant muscular complaint.
And I apologized heavily to the server for the wet booth seating after our departure. I assured her I had full bladder control, that we’d only been kayaking and things had been a bit breezy out there, so please excuse the damp conditions.
She looked at me as though I were daft, because only those not thinking clearly would go out on a day like that, right?
Yesterday, Tuesday, I drove by the channel of doom, armed with life preservers and ready to come to the aid of those in need, ready to see posted precautions out for boaters: danger! Stay off the water! Too risky and stupid for you to be on it today!
Calm. Not a breeze. Beautiful, glassy, evil water. And a two-seater kayak floated by, both participants waving joyfully, in the spirit of adventurers, yelling, “Great day to be on the water!”