Monday, October 14, 2013

My "Friday" Venture - Part Two

Well I finally had an opportunity to test drive my canoe-toting apparatus introduced in My "Friday" Venture - Part One. Yesterday, I loaded up the canoe, hitched it to my folding bike, trailed it to the nearest lake (approximately 5 km) and below is an account of the outcome.

In the picture above you see the complete rig shortly after I arrived at the lake. There were absolutely no embarrassing en-route mishaps to report. I won't go into the imagined travesties I conjured though. I was as nervous as an expectant father but it was all for not. No calamities. Happily, I would not be caught on the front page of our local newspaper, coyly gathering my accouterments off of a busy intersection. No. It didn't happen. I was overcome with relief.

Now for the big test. Would it float? After a short while...well...maybe a not-so-short while, I got the whole thing rigged up and ready to go.

What you can't see in this picture are the cars parked here and there. It seems that many folks use this spot for a mid-day sojourn. I wanted to appear as nonchalant about the assembly process as possible so as to keep the eyes of prying skeptics at bay. So I went about the business of putting the various bits together with the air of complete, but I'll admit, contrived confidence. I have a small solo canoe. It weighs 38 pounds and is just under 14 feet in length. I had to fit my self-made canoe-caddy and my folding bike in the bow and stern respectively. With additional weight of the stadium seat and a 10 pound anchor, I had approximately 75 pounds of gear in the tiny boat. Of course the picture is without 155 pounds of me. That's the part I wasn't sure of.

Once I had everything in place ready to go, I allowed myself a furtive glance to see if anyone was watching. I feared that if I made eye-contact anyone who may be watching, would risk complete betrayal of my insecurities. It appeared that my final act of folding up the bike and placing it among what was now looking like a distressed albatross, drew several onlookers away from what brought them there. I won't say it was a crowd, but there were sufficient witnesses to capture the pending calamity should it sink once I inserted myself into the barge. Their unexpressed expectation of something apocalyptic was palpable. There was no turning back. I must step into the boat and I must do it with the assertiveness of a bull fighter. What I would have done had it sunk is unclear to me. I suppose drowning would have been an option had it been deeper but a mere foot or two of water would have made my rescue highly probable and thus only add to my embarrassment. So the moment of truth was upon me. Without further delay I put one foot in and then the other and there I was. Much to my surprise I was completely buoyant! Of course, filled with the awareness that I was still being watched, I sat in my seat as if I expected nothing less. Then I pulled my paddle from the throng of bundles in front of me and began to paddle away, hoping that my progress through the water would be adequate enough to convince the onlookers that this contraption had a useful purpose. Much to my subdued delight, all was good. Even a small gaggle of geese seem to applaud as I paddled up the lake. I was overcome with a warm gush of satisfaction.

So it worked. I was elated. Now for the trip home. Retracing my route guaranteed no surprises so that is the route I chose. And there weren't any surprises for the most part. All except one..or two...that is. In order to get home I have to cross a fairly long bridge on the route. This bridge is a busy one with a lot of vehicles. However, it has two major flaws. It has a narrow sidewalk and a very large curb meaning that when you commit to crossing it with the entourage I was toting, there is no turning back. On the trip to the lake this was not a problem. However, I was not as lucky on the return trip. As I was midway across, a teenager pushing a baby stroller began her trip across the bridge from the other side. I thought that she would see that passing me would be a problem and and that she would prudently elect to wait till I passed. But she didn't. Did I mention she was a teenager? She was deep into a conversation with someone on her cell phone. When she got to me I heard "Just a minute, I gotta get around this guy." With the beam of the canoe pushed right up against the railing, there was only a centimeter or two of clearance for her to navigate by me without scraping the side of my beloved canoe or of course, toppling the stroller, baby and all, over the curb and into the flow of traffic. It is a good thing she interrupted her conversation because I don't think she would have made it if she hadn't. Not a word was said. Each of us just carried on.

I had not taken more than a few steps when another pedestrian event posed a similar problem. This time a woman had started across the bridge from the opposite side pushing an elderly lady in a wheelchair. Their attention was diverted to a group of ducks swimming in the river below so they just crept along, seemingly unaware of the challenge that awaited both of us. I suspected the wheelchair would be a smidgen wider than the stroller so I began to strategize before they got to me. I was right. Neither one of us could pass without some innovative problem solving. Drivers in each direction began to slow down. I was hoping none of them worked for the local newspaper. Asking the elderly lady to remover herself from the safety of her wheelchair and step out into the flow of traffic from a curb that was about a foot high, seemed a trifle insensitive so I began to unfasten some of the stays on the boat so that I could tilt it on its side enough for her to pass. This was a satisfactory solution but an awkward one and they were quickly on their way as was I. The rest of the return trip was delightfully uneventful.

With the completion of this stage of my experiment I think that I can now confidently replace the word venture to adventure in the title of this blog. I now know that a trip down the Chippewa River and a return trip via a canoe-toting folding bike is possible. Unfortunately, I am running out of good weather so I fear that I will have to postpone this final stage until next spring. However, I have enjoyed this experience immensely. I am sure many people think that I am crazy but a few generous souls have voiced their approval. They seem to "get it" in the way that I wanted them to. A neighbor down the street was compelled to stop me to announce her excitement about the project and asked me if she could video tape it. She felt compelled to add that she was from Texas and that no one would ever dream of doing anything quite this "green" there. This is what I had hoped for. Perhaps there are a few more folks out there that think like my neighbor.