The Old Coot is careful?

This past summer I walked out the door to go for a kayak ride on the Susquehanna River. My wife gave me one of those, “Be Careful” good-byes. “I will,” I responded.

Of course, I would – an 80-year-old guy with poor balance, dragging a kayak a quarter mile to a steep bank, then down to the water, stepping in while holding the paddle and sliding down into the seat, hoping the kayak won’t shift and dump him (me) in the drink.

I had a life vest tucked behind the seat. I don’t wear it; it makes it cumbersome to paddle. State boating regulations only require that it be on board. If that’s good enough for the “nanny state,” it’s good enough for me.

On that day, I headed up stream; there was a stiff breeze at my back, creating white caps across the river. I stayed near the shore (following my wife’s order to “be careful”) where it was relatively calm, and started paddling.

Typically, I’ll take 50 strokes, rest for ten seconds, and repeat, until my arms get used to the abuse. I passed by the nursing home (hopefully not in my immediate future) and took a quick peek across the river to where I once had a small cabin overlooking the water. Everything looked ship-shape. Thanks to Chris, the present owner. 

I was headed to Hickories Park, about a 2-mile trip. I paddled past MJ’s Restaurant where a few folks on the deck waved, past Greg Kies’ car lot and up to the lighthouse. At that point, I figured I’d gone far enough, a quarter mile short of my goal.

I turned the kayak around, thinking I’d let the current carry me back home. But the wind was stronger than the current; my kayak didn’t move; I’d have to paddle back. Probably a good thing, because when I do drift down river I usually nod off; it’s a very relaxing ride; all you can see are trees along the shore and the sky above. I pretend I’m in the Adirondacks, not running parallel to a busy Route 17C. 

I made it back safely, dragged the kayak up the bank and to the house. It’s the result you get when you’re careful. Every parent exhorts the same “be careful” assertion whenever their kid heads out on a bicycle, and especially in the family sedan. It’s never taken seriously, and they know it, but if anything happens, it’s the perfect set-up for an “I told you so!” I avoid those like the plague!

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