Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Spend More Money!

Back at work... ho hum. Humdrum. Red rum.

The transition was eased somewhat by the fact that our fabulous friends Michelle and Russ were staying with us, en route to traveling around the world for an extended period of time. Traveling requires packing; packing requires luggage; and traveling for a long time requires some pretty great luggage. But Russ's daypack was old and worn and didn't measure up, so off we went to REI, where we shopped mightily.

I ogled the kayaks, amazed at how cheap some of the really cheap ones were. $279 for a decked boat, short and stubby and cute, for general all-round messing about in water? That's cheap! Of course, then you're in for $150 (or much more) for a nice lightweight paddle, and then a little dry bag or two, and a personal floatation device.

I decided not to splash out there and then. eBay and Craigslist will definitely be scoured though. Thing is, for safety reasons I am loath to paddle alone, and I am notoriously unsuccessful at getting Tim to take up outdoor hobbies with me. :(

Meanwhile, back, knee, pain, soreness, stiffness, blah, blah blah.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Paddling Your Own Kayak

As I had anticipated, a week of dedicated vacationing and lounging (see right) has restored some buoyancy to my spirits. The combination of a riverfront vacation house, two kayaks, and a canoe has further inspired me to get my behind out on the Russian River and paddle, a thing I don't do nearly enough considering I live two blocks from a river in my normal life.

In a previous, slightly less normal life, I skittered on the fringes of the river rat communi
ty. Working for Project RAFT (Russians and Americans For Teamwork), I was initiated into the adrenaline-soaked mysteries of pool and drop rapids, standing waves, river-wide holes, undercuts, highsiding, and other ways to harm oneself. My first foray on the South Fork of the American River happened on a cloudy Tuesday in May, and our crew consisted of two world-class river guides, a graphic designer, a Russian cosmonaut, his American translator, "Red Ted," and me. We got to the river and I promptly put my wetsuit on backwards.

Over the years, I got better, and I got to have some fairly nutty adventures that involved rivers, including serving as location manager and translator on the 1994 shoot of "A Glorious Way to Die." I became a fairly strong paddler of a raft and even passed guide school at Whitewater Voyages' annual spring academy. I knew and even roomed with some fabulous kayak gods and goddesses, who worked with me more or less diligently on their craft or sullen art. Once or twice I took a real kayak on rivers with little ripples, and twice I even rolled the kayak like a real paddler.

However, I have never felt completely at ease with the kayak. River kayaks are tippy and awkward to get in and out of; sea kayaks, while more stable, are heavy and hard to turn, especially the sit-on-top kind. But I continue to be attracted to them, especially around flattish, unchallenging water. Being on and in water has always been a passion of mi
ne. I used to have a battered river kayak that I would take out on the reservoir in Los Gatos.

So when we found this vacation house on the Russian River (now, alas, largely depleted of Russians) that came with kayaks, paddles, life jackets, and even a canoe, I was stoked beyond belief. I pictured myself spending hours out on the water every
day, growing mightier by the minute. As it happens, I have been out almost every day, though not for hours. My shoulders, lats, various core muscles and all the bits involved in a really good paddle stroke, are not very strong at the moment, so I can't do too much at one time. Plus young Jesse, who has a four-year-old's enthusiasm for doing everything the grownups do, has wanted to be in the boat all the time that I am in the boat. This has made paddling difficult, plus he gets cold more quickly than I. Also, there are winds and tides this close to the ocean that affect our ability to paddle easily. Finally, we have to drag the kayaks up and down a fairly steep bank to make sure that the tides and winds don't carry the boats away. Russ has kayaked too, as demonstrated at right.

Nevertheless. Paddling has happened. My arms are stronger. I have learned how to balance a boat with a four-year-old in it. I have a nasty sunburn on my secondary sexual characteristics. Tomorrow we have to leave, but I am resolved to paddle more once we get home. Paddling is fun.