Getting Ready to Tread the Fox in our Tippy Canoe

(Originally published June 5, 2010, in The Kane County Chronicle)

I am so psyched! My son and I are participating in the 49


Mid-American Canoe & Kayak Race on the Fox River tomorrow.

“Hey Noah, I heard about this canoe race…” I ventured, a few days ago.

“You and me, Mom!” he shouted, high-fiving me. Yes! And I didn’t even have to talk him into it.

You see, I have an unrequited love of paddling.

Several years ago, when we lived in Maine, Noah and I ran out to buy strawberries and came home with two kayaks instead. I remembered that there was a ‘Friends and family sale’ happening at the Old Town Canoe company warehouse near our home – I was just a ‘friend-of-a-friend,’ but that didn’t slow me down – so off we went on our little detour, just to ‘have a look,’ and ended up snagging two gorgeous double-helix sit-on-top kayaks with nary a scratch for the bargain price of $75 each. Do you have any idea how much those bad boys retail for? Suffice it to say that I heard a choir of angels singing as I whipped out my checkbook and hoisted those yellow babies onto my truck. Thanks to my failure to pay attention to the slip-knot lecture in Girl-Scouts they almost slid completely off as we rounded the first corner, but eventually we all made it home in one piece. Just as Todd and baby Holly woke up from their naps.

“Those aren’t strawberries,” Todd said, shaking his head as he stared out the window, but he was a good sport about it. Sadly, we only got around to using them once before moving to Chicagoland five years ago. We hauled them all the way out here, but there was no storage in our fourth-floor condo or even a way to maneuver them into the elevator, so, long story short, I donated them to a special-needs camp. Good cause and all, but still, I wince when I think about it.

The fact that we eventually bought a house in Batavia and now could just hike two blocks and simply plunk our boats down onto Depot Pond – if we still had boats – and were feeling really strong – just makes me nuts. The lure of the river is louder than ever and tomorrow’s race has inspired me to get over my grief and get out there again.

Though I’ve tried white-water rafting (on the Nantahala and Ocoee rivers, down south) and other types of paddling, Noah and I have only paddled together a few times before – and never in a race – so this ought to be interesting. Usually we giggle and do a lot of unsynchronized paddling in circles, but perhaps we can find the ‘sweet spot’ and let the current carry us this time. Or maybe we’ll try ‘drafting.’ Isn’t that what race car drivers call it when they drive directly behind faster drivers and ‘ride their wind?’ Yeah, we’ll have to give that a try. It is a race, after all, so if we can just get a rhythm going and cooperate with each other …

Come to think of it, canoeing six miles from Batavia to McCullough Park in Aurora might be a perfect time for a ‘chat.’ Surely there’s some life lesson I haven’t gotten around to lecturing Noah about yet. He’ll be stuck in a boat with me for like, an hour, right? I’ll have to make sure I sit in the back so he can hear me. On second thought, I might do better just singing that catchy camp tune about the ‘tippy canoe,’ but I can’t remember how it goes. I do recall that old campaign slogan though, “Tippy canoe and Tyler too (no kids, I don’t actually ‘remember’ it – I’m not that old!).” I wonder how many times I’ll have to chant that before my firstborn tosses me overboard?

I told Noah I entered us into the adult/youth division. “We could win a trophy!” he said, excited. We’ll see, but I’ll be delighted if we simply make it to the finish line. You know, without tipping over and dunking ourselves in the drink with our ‘tippy’ canoe.

(look for part 2 in a few days…)

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