Sitting here on the banks of the AuGres River with Ruth in the little camper/trailer I built. She arrived Thursday night, and we’ve been taking it easy for the past couple of days. It’s Saturday evening, and I’ve finally pulled the laptop out of its waterproof case after lugging it in and out of the canoe for three weeks. The reason, Denise, I’ve been so “reticent” about writing, is that paddling, setting up and breaking down camp, boiling water for breakfast and dinner, and spreading sardines on crackers for lunch, takes a surprising amount of time. But I’m gradually streamlining the process, and hopefully will be doing a better job of posting to the blog.
I’d been paddling at least a few miles every day until I met up with Ruth. Longest day so far was about 14 miles. At this pace, I should make it back to the Mac Bridge in time for Obama’s second inauguration (assuming he does something about healthcare, the war(s), etc.). Seems most of the time I’m heading into the wind, when I clock about 2 mph. With the wind, I crank it up to a bit over 3 mph. I’ve used the sail three or four times, during some downwind stretches, and it speeds us up to over 4 mph. I fear, though, at the high sailing speeds that I may be missing things. At any rate, I prefer paddling. The sail, although it has a clear vinyl window, blocks the forward view more than I like. Both hands are busy controlling the loop of line attached on the sail at the “10” and “2” locations, and (as when paddling) I steer with my feet using the rudder pedals. In short, under sail it feels too much like driving a car. Paddling engages my body much more harmoniously. Twist from the waist away from the paddle side, plant the paddle straight into the water, twist toward the paddle side, pulling the boat to the paddle, slicing it out just after it passes the hips, then rewinding for the next stroke, and the next, and the next, switching to the other side when this one tires. The whole process a synchronous movement, emanating from the abdomen. The first few days I felt a few aches in my arms and shoulders, but after a week or son, my muscles firmed up, and my love handles started melting.
I’ve been camping most nights. The first couple of weeks it was pretty easy to find a quiet beach and stand of woods in which to pitch the tent. South of Alpena, it’s been more of a challenge, with many more cottages and small resorts along the way. But still, I’ve had no problems finding a place. A thunderstorm in the distance led me to pull over early one afternoon, onto a beach lined with cottages. It wasn’t long after I landed that a friendly couple on a stroll, Jim and Marijane, told me the property I was on had been for sale for years, and no one would care if I set up camp there. They said they owned a resort a few cottages down, and welcomed me to use their shower, which I did. Not long after I set up the tent, Jim wandered down the beach and presented me with a plate of trout wrapped in grape leaves, with lemon and little onions, which he had just grilled. The day before, on the beach of what used to be booming timber town, Alcona, a family invited me in for a piece of strawberry rhubarb pie. That was on the Fourth of July, and I left their home on glassy waters under a bright moon, with fireworks bursting in the distant sky. Stayed that night on the beach at Sturgeon Point lighthouse. Another day I was treated to a wonderful grilled cheese sandwich and a beer at a lovely cottage perched on a bluff overlooking the lake.
So far I’ve spent two nights in the homes of friends old and new, three in motels with Ruth, and two nights in our camper. The rest have been spent on the ground, which feels surprisingly cushy after a day’s paddle.
Well, it’s the crack of noon, and time to get back in the boat and catch a wave. Thanks so much for everyone’s well wishes. Bay City, here I come!