|They have a canoe. (near the Saco River in Maine)|
In 1989, Jerry decided he wanted — no, needed — a canoe. We were living in Southern Connecticut on the Long Island Sound at the time. There were beautiful salt marshes, small and large rivers, idyllic lakes. What this meant was that everywhere we went we saw cars with canoes strapped to their roofs. And every time Jerry spotted one of those canoe-carrying cars, he would say, “They have a canoe.”
In 1990, we bought a brand-new Isuzu Trooper… because it would look really good with a canoe on top. One extremely foggy early morning in summer, we went with our good friend Judy — an avid hiker and camper who was visiting from Seattle — rented a beat-up aluminum canoe for about $25 for the day, and paddled into the Connecticut River to see how it felt. The fact that the fog was so thick that we couldn’t see more than two-feet in front of us was a bit off-putting. But, we appeared to be the only ones on the river and it was quiet and serene. We were able to paddle around some of the small islands and marshes. We shared the water with birds we had only been able to see from a distance before. Coming out of the fog, we were stunned to find ourselves face to face with a magnificent pair of mute swans. When you’re down at water-level with a pair of mute swans you’re struck by how huge they actually are. And how much damage they could actually do if they so chose. Which is why we paddled as fast as we could when the male rose up off the water with his wings spread and his held high and back. Huge.
We paddled for hours. The fog had lifted and it was getting warm, so we decided to head back upriver to return the canoe and head home. We paddled out of a peaceful cove to find that the serenity we had experienced earlier in the day was gone. Powerboats and cabin cruisers flew by. The trip was no longer bliss. Each time a boat whizzed past us, we aimed for the shore to avoid being swamped. I began to get a bit frantic. At one point, we shot into a tiny beach, paddling so fast that the front of the canoe wedged into the muddy shore. A snake sunning on the shore was taken completely by surprise by our sudden arrival. It coiled and lifted it’s head, ready to strike. To avoid the snake, I leaned my upper body so far back that the back of my head was nearly in Judy’s lap. Jerry burst out laughing when he saw what I was cowering from. It was nothing but a harmless rat snake, he told me. Harmless? Not to the rats. It was a snake. It was ready to strike. And if it could eat a rat, I figured it could do me some damage.
But, except for the rat snake, the attack swan, and the powerboats, I had to admit I had a really good time. The basic lesson learned was that the Connecticut River wasn’t a great place for me to be canoeing.
So, I finally caved and we bought a canoe. But, not just any canoe. We bought a 16-foot Mad River canoe in beige with taupe and wood trim to match our white Isuzu Trooper with its taupe trim and taupe leather interior. It really looked great on top of the car.
We had a canoe.
I suddenly became very frugal or, perhaps, penny-wise/pound foolish (well, that really wasn’t anything new for me). Our canoe, top-of-the-line paddles, life jackets, seat cushions, and additional canoeing paraphernalia, to my great consternation, cost us approximately $1,600.
The first time we took our own canoe into the water, we had a very relaxing paddle through some salt marshes. I have to admit it was bliss. When we were done, we strapped our canoe to the top of the matching Trooper and I told Jerry, “Well, that trip cost us $1,600.”
The following weekend, we took our canoe out on Lake Quonnipaug in our little town of Guilford. The lake was picturesque and charming. And boats with motors were not allowed. It was, again, bliss. As we paddled at the far end of the lake, away from the few summer cottages and year-round homes, a snapping turtle the size of a Volkswagen Beetle appeared to our left and swam directly under the canoe. The tail was still well to our left while the enormous head had already passed to our right. I was fascinated. Jerry’s comment: “Paddle fast!” Odd. He wasn’t even the least bit concerned when I was nearly eaten by a snake.
The rest of our paddle was uneventful. When we strapped the canoe back on top of the matching Trooper that day, I told Jerry, “Well, that trip cost us $800.”
Over the next couple of years, there were some more blissful trips around Connecticut salt marshes and along the Saco River in Maine, as well as a rained-out camping trip in the Green Mountains of Vermont when the canoe spent the entire time strapped to the top of the matching Trooper. In early 1993, Jerry was surprised to be offered a new position in San Diego. A huge moving van arrived and our Mad River canoe, the matching Trooper, and everything else we owned, were loaded and taken on a week-long drive across the country.
When we arrived in San Diego, we were disappointed to discover that, even with all that ocean, we had very limited local options for the blissful canoeing we were used to. To top it off, the canoe would not fit in the garage of our condo, so we had to pay for storage — making it even more difficult to get use of the canoe. We soon sold the canoe and all the paraphernalia for next to nothing. We kept the matching Isuzu Trooper.
I told Jerry, “Well that cost us about $160 a trip.”
About a year later, as we were driving by Mission Bay, Jerry had a revelation. “They have a kayak,” he announced.