Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Fat people & canoes

My mother is constantly coming up with things she'd like for us to do. My father & I are a little less-than-thrilled with most of these ideas, but every now & then I/we give in and go on an adventure. Such was the case last Saturday.

Urban Wilderness Canoe Adventures was doing free canoe trips on the Ohio River. Mom saw a story about it in the paper and decided this was exactly what we needed. Uh, right. Dad just laughed, but I agreed to go, thinking she'd lose interest or forget about it. Imagine my surprise when she emailed me the confirmation & list of suggested supplies for the trip. (sunscreen, lip balm, etc) Imagine my delight when I saw the forecast for the weekend was cold & rainy. The trips were only being put off in the event of storms, not simple rain. Ugh.

Saturday rolled around and the first miracle happened. The day started out fairly chilly, but the sun was out and not a cloud in sight. We were scheduled for the 12:45 trip and it had warmed up a good bit by the time we set out. Mom picked me up early and we went to Panera for lunch beforehand. Despite the urge to eat sweets from the bakery side, we were good and had protein packed sandwiches, thinking we might need the energy for the trip.

Second miracle- we found the park that the trip was starting from with no trouble. Anyone who remembers my descriptions of previous trips ANYWHERE with my mother will understand why I regarded this as a miracle. We had some time to kill before the trip, and decided it would be a good idea to hit the loo before going out in a small boat for who-knows-how-long.

The park bathrooms were in a little structure designed to look like it was going to fall over at any second. The door locks didn't work, the lights weren't working, and the toilets were METAL. COLD METAL- it hadn't warmed up THAT much. Nobody got stuck or walked in on, thankfully.

We made our way down the hill to the launch area. I was kind of expecting our fellow travelers to be a pack of  rich snots from the snooty areas of town. Instead, we had a fairly diverse group, mostly black & Hispanic, and quite a few kids. One little guy, about 3 years old, looked quite dubious about the whole thing, but when I saw him later, on the river, he seemed to be having a blast.

We were fitted for life jackets & paddles and given a briefing on what to do if someone falls into the river (nobody did) and on how to paddle. Then it was time to load up and hit the water. Each canoe held 9 adult sized guests & 1 tour guide. (our boat had 9. the other two had the kids divided up and had 10-12 people plus a guide) Mom & I asked to sit in the middle. We figured we were probably the heaviest on the boat so it made more sense to have us there to keep the weight balanced, plus the seats were wide enough for us to sit together. Getting in wasn't so bad. There was even enough room for my long legs!

Quick note on the canoes- they weren't the traditional canoes with sloping bottoms where you sat single file. These were custom built for groups, so passengers could sit 2-3 abreast, and had flat bottoms. Our guide told us that they were individually hand-crafted from reclaimed wood for their company and cost $4-6K each. Dillon, our guide, turned out to be from North Dakota so my ND-born mother was thrilled to chat with him about "home."

We started off paddling upstream, against the current. It was much easier than expected, especially once we worked out a rhythm to keep everyone paddling in sync. Well, mostly in sync. I always thought of the Ohio River as being fairly dirty & polluted, but the area we were in was quite clean & pleasant. The highlight of the ride was seeing several blue herons in flight. They skimmed over the water to sit on the shore and watch us.

I managed to paddle most of the way out & back. My back started spasming about halfway out, and my knees ached in sympathy. But I held on and was rather proud of myself for doing it. The trip back downstream was much easier, since we were going with the current. Then came the tricky part- Getting OUT of the canoe. It wasn't pretty or graceful, but I managed to finally lever myself up & out without hurting the guides who were trying to help me, tipping the canoe, or knocking Mom overboard. We limped back up the hill to turn in our paddles & life jackets and chatted with the city councilman & park representative whose offices sponsored the event. Mom exchanged contact info with 2 ladies from our canoe who worked for a non-profit organziation and were looking for volunteers. 

The third and greatest miracle? I was in a good bit of pain by the time I got home. Mom & I went shopping & had dinner at one of our favorite Chinese restaurants before she dropped me off. I took some aspirin (since my doctor refuses to give me REAL pain medication for my back) and a long nap. I woke up and staggered out to the living room...and then realized that I wasn't in nearly as much pain as I thought I would be. Then I thought, "oh, it'll hit me tomorrow." It didn't. I was fine! Well, as fine as I get.

So, despite the fact that fat people with bad backs & knees should probably NOT go canoeing, I had a really good time. They said they were coming back next year. We're going to keep our eyes out for that and go again!

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