Friday, July 24th, 2020

I’ve got a little fold-up cart I use to wheel my kayak from our yard to the lake and back. You can pay anywhere from fifty bucks to hundred dollars and more for one of these little carts; I paid fifty bucks because I’m a cheapskate. The cart served me well for many years until one day about a month ago it just couldn’t any more. I took the kayak down to the lake, paddled around, and brought it back home. Fully intending to take it out again the next day I left the kayak on the cart; normally I would hang on a pair of J-hooks and stow the cart in the garage. Well, I didn’t take it out the next day, or the next. In fact, the kayak sat on the cart for a full week before I noticed it was leaning a little farther to one side than it should have been, and when I checked to find out why, I found the hub of one of the wheels had broken off. I guess it could bear the weight of the kayak for short trips to the lake and back, but a full week of that was just too much. Well, I probably would have broken down if I’d had to carry a kayak for a week, too.

I ordered a new pair of wheels through Amazon; I’m pretty sure they shipped from China because it took more than a week for them to get here. If they’d come from an Amazon warehouse here in the states, they would’ve been on our doorstep half an hour after I hit ‘send.’ I had to make a slight modification to the cart to put the wheels on, a project that took all of 30 minutes, but I couldn’t take the kayak out that day because it was Thursday and I had to do some work for the office that evening. It sure would be nice if I could retire again and stay retired this time.

But I took today off from work because I’d planned to do a little traveling this summer, maybe take the kayak up nort dere to do a some paddling where I couldn’t hear highway traffic. Maybe I could’ve done that anyway – lots of people are traveling, camping, carrying on as normal – but I can’t shake the idea that it’s not responsible to travel unnecessarily while the pandemic is killing a thousand people a day, so I took the days off but stayed home instead of traveling.

I carted the kayak down to the lake for a paddle this morning. The new wheels work great, by the way. Oldest technology in the world, why wouldn’t they? I got solid tires this time around so I wouldn’t have to worry about getting a flat, which really happened to me a couple times. It’s a trip that’s all of four blocks long and somehow I got a flat tire, twice.

There’s a public park with a beach at the end of the road where I usually put the kayak in. It’s normally deserted, or every once in a while there’s maybe one person there playing fetch with their dogs. This particular morning, though, there was a teenage girl with a clipboard wearing a t-shirt with “STAFF” across the back, surrounded by pool floaties. There was just one kid in swim trunks but clearly she was expecting a lot more. “Swimming lessons?” I asked her. “No, day camp,” she answered. Wow, day camp. I don’t know why that surprised me more than swimming lessons. Either one would have seemed more that a little risky during a pandemic.

I paddled slowly across Wicawak Bay, then out onto Lake Monona. I had no thought about where to go until then and decided on a whim to paddle all the way across the lake to Monona Bay. It’s a pretty big lake and I’d paddled across it two or three times but I had never before gone straight across the lake and under the John Nolan Parkway to visit Brittingham Park. Looked like today was going to be the day.

The lake was warm as bath water, or at least the surface water was; there was just enough of a breeze to cool me off and clear away the stink that rose off the weeds, but not enough that I had to fight it; and the sky was a deep, dark blue over my head, fading to pastel blue at the horizon. I could have asked for a more perfect day to go on a long paddle, but why? This one was as good as perfect.

I’ve got a lake kayak. It’s twice as long as the kind of kayak you would get if you rented one from a lakeside vendor. It’s very sleek and moves through the water with very little effort, so even if I’m just dipping the paddle blades in to keep moving, I move about as fast as a person can trot. Even so, after I passed the markers at the entrance to Wickawak Bay there weren’t a lot of cues along the way to give me a sense that I was moving. There’s a big white buoy a little ways out from the bay with the warning “ROCK” painted on it. I usually make that my first way point because it’s easy to see from the bay. After that, all I can to is draw a bead on the highest bridge along the causeway and keep the bow pointed at it.

There are three or four bridges along the causeway, but there’s only one bridge high enough to get under. The other bridges leave maybe a ten or twelve inch gap between the water and the deck beams and I’m sure lots of people on paddle boards have squeaked under them on a dare, but I wasn’t on a dare and didn’t feel much like scrunching way down into the cockpit. Much easier to glide under the high bridge.

Beyond the causeway bridge, I still had to cross a small lagoon between the John Nolan Parkway and the Wisconsin Central railroad to get to Monona Bay. The railroad trestle is a bit of a tighter squeeze but not crazy tight; there were people on stand-up paddle boards ducking under it without trouble. The worst thing about the trestle is the smell; they’re dripping with creosote to prevent rot, and even from a distance they reek of it. Thank goodness for a freshening breeze.

I didn’t go all the way around Monona Bay, just as far as the edge of Brittingham Park before I started to make a long, slow turn back toward the railroad trestle.

staycation | 6:31 am CDT
Category: daily drivel
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