December 30, 2004
Mr. Karen and I once gain went to Florida to visit his parents this holiday season, flying down on Christmas Day and back yesterday afternoon. We did something new this trip–canoeing in a state park that’s really quite close by their house but which we’d never been to before. It being our vacation, and a sleeping in kind of vacation at that, we got off to a late start and arrived at the park around lunchtime. When Mr. Karen went to the office to rent a canoe, the ranger told him we got the last one, which was somewhat puzzling, since we’d already been down to the water and seen several canoes there. It turned out that equipment was the real limiting factor; when Mr. Karen went to find paddles, the best two left had chunks missing from the blades. At least they had handles, though, which was more than some could claim.
We returned to the boat launch and picked the canoe with the fewest patches on the bottom and got underway. It had been a long time since I’d been in a canoe or a kayak, and I felt a bit unstable, a feeling which was not helped one little bit by recalling the alligator warning sign we’d read just before pushing off. Mr. Karen, who paddles many weekends each year, felt just fine. We soon worked out a compromise where I stopped talking about how tippy I felt and he stopped rocking our craft from side to side to demonstrate its stability.
After paddling a short, straight stretch that was more drainage ditch than wilderness, we got into a winding channel through the mangroves. We kept an eye out for alligators but saw only birds–egrets and a vulture and some I don’t know the names of. Other than the numbered posts every so often that reassured us we weren’t lost, it felt very isolated in a good way. Until we had to pee, that is. Mangrove swamps are not exactly filled with convenient places to land and drop trou.
Then we rounded a bend and saw two people on a beach, sea kayaks nearby. They were doing a funny little dance, kicking their feet and swinging their arms and torsos. Mr. Karen speculated that their feet had fallen asleep in their boats and they were just getting their circulation going again. It entertained me to imagine they were engaged in some goofy celebratory rite. Whatever it was, they stopped doing it when they noticed us paddling toward them.
As we got close, we saw another beach just a little ways down and figured we could land there and sneak back in the foliage to pee–provided there were no alligators, of course. So we paddled up onto it and I stepped out to pull the canoe farther up. My foot sank into the sandy soil until my ankle disappeared. Hmm, rather soft here. I rolled my pants legs higher and swung my other foot out of the boat a little higher up on the shore. It sank, too, up to mid-calf. But I figure that surely the ground would firm up once I got farther away from the water, I so I dragged the canoe up a bit to steady it and walked a couple more steps, which took some doing, since I had to free each leg and foot and sandal from the sucking muck before I could move it. Mr. Karen thought this was pretty funny, and I did, too, until I realized the ground wasn’t getting any more ground-like. If anything, I was sinking deeper and deeper and getting farther and farther from the boat and what if I got stuck and an alligator showed up and why was Mr. Karen just standing there laughing at me? He could pee of the side of the boat, too, which didn’t seem at all fair. Stupid bladder. Stupid mud. Stupid wilderness.
I gave up on the peeing idea and slowly made my way back to the canoe, muttering my protests about the whole expedition as I went. Since I’d churned up the water around the boat, I couldn’t get much of the mud off before I stepped back in, so we paddled over to the good beach (still being occupied by the dancing couple) where I swung my legs out and rinsed off the biggest globs of muck before we headed back to civilization. I kept scanning the shore and eventually found a tiny little patch of almost dry ground back in the mangroves, which I tested thoroughly with my paddle blade (what there was of it, that is) before I stepped out and did my business. At that point, I almost didn’t mind that my butt got bit up by the bugs that had come out as the wind died down.
After we got back to the launch and stowed the boat and gear, I made my way to the restroom to clean up. Now, it was a fairly nice day and a busy time of year, so there was a lot of traffic in the women’s room. There was only the one sink, but three stalls, so I made what seemed like the best choice and washed my sandals and feet in one of the toilets. I know, eeeewwww, but I still think the toilet was a lot cleaner than my mud and bird and alligator poop covered appendages. Once I rolled my pant legs back down, you could hardly tell anything had happened, provided you didn’t notice the splotches of mud on my backside, which I didn’t until after we got back to the house.
Next time we go, I’m bringing a pee bottle. And insect repellent. And maybe my own paddle.
One year ago, I wrote about my friend Pikachu. As of this moment, Pikachu 2 and I are Best Pals, which I think is as good as it gets.
Two years ago, I was still sick, but not so much that I couldn’t write about the Ford Field Cup of Fascination. This year at the game, we got Barry Sanders Cups of Fascination, issued in honor of his induction into the football Hall of Fame.