Paddle, paddle, paddle–portage–paddle…

Peabo Bryson, Whitney Houston and other throwbacks from the 80s and 90s music scene are alive and well. I know this because they’re are played continuously on the single radio station my car gets when the antenna is removed. I removed the antenna to do this:

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Isn’t it nice that they match? It took a little psychological push to sully my cute little car this way but I got over it when we pushed off and started downriver.

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Yesterday’s 12 mile paddle on the North River (out of Hanover MA) was an interesting exploration: it was with a Meetup group of like-minded if not similarly able people.. very early on the 20 or so participants were divided into those who actively paddle and those who paddle absentmindedly while chatting. The second group also had a handful of those whose kayaks were crappy little tubs that float but don’t track and I felt bad for them. There’s nothing worse than getting a few miles into a trip and realizing you’re working twice as hard as other people with better boats.

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It was sold as an easy trip downstream with the current, then a little socializing/lunch/swim if warm enough, and the trip back would be pleasantly aided by the incoming tide. Somehow this slipped by my “if it sounds too good to be true” radar, because it was too good to be true. The current never stopped or turned from flowing out, but we sort of broke even with a headwind on the way down and a tailwind on the way back.

While this river is pretty, it’s sort of dull too. Not much wildlife to be seen, even birds and turtles despite being protected by several preserves like the 116-acre Stetson Meadows. Just long “S” turns, a few historic markers showing where there were boatworks in the 1700s, and several beer-filled boats of college kids headed for a rope swing (no I didn’t, it was cool enough to wear a jacket!). Then there was this dreamhouse right on the water, a little converted boathouse that I’d be happy to move into tomorrow.

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I knew we were way off schedule before we landed at the halfway point. I’d told Mike to expect me back around 4 but everyone was so friendly chatting it up that we lingered on the beach for quite some time.

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The whole trip would have been an unremarkable paddle but fun way to meet people.. if it hadn’t been for that promise that we’d be riding the incoming tide on the way back.. because at about the 10 mile mark your arms are feeling done, the blisters are forming on your hands and you’ve had enough warm water to drink for a week.. that’s when we hit the Washington St. bridge, a high stone arch. –and we were surprised to be on the wrong end of whitewater (where was that rising, incoming tide, mister trip planner?).

Of course a couple of us gave it a go and tried to paddle up under the bridge against the water but there wasn’t enough leeway to get through the stream and off to the side before your energy gave out. So much for those paddling lessons I had in Maine a couple summers ago! We all had to climb out and drag our boats under the bridge on slippery riprap. I felt bad for those folks who weren’t really ready for a 12-mile day, who struggled with their boats throughout the whole trip and who probably thought they’d be home free at this point. It wasn’t an easy portage for the uninitiated.

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It seems everyone survived with good humor–with a story to tell at least. And I’m over worrying about my cute little car getting marked up by the boat on the roof. Because the owner of this Mercedes was doing it, and one of the women I landed with tossed her boat on top of a BMW for the ride home. Besides, I remember the words to those horrid 1980s ballads and I can sing along..

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Me in my silly Aussie hat.

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