Winter sometimes lasts forever here in the tundra. Every now and then we have to do something to remind us that spring will come. We pore over seed catalogs, start seedlings under grow lights, tap maple trees, and we head to the fairgrounds for a weekend to think about getting out on the road and the water.
A local bike shop and paddling shop each take over a building on the county fairgrounds in March. The bike shop has more bikes in one room than you usually see in one place (and they have a second room for tandems, recumbents, trikes, and folding bikes). If you want to try on a variety of bikes, it’s the place to go. Test rides are limited to an indoor test track, so you won’t get to try any major climbs. We came home a few thousand dollars lighter and 40 pounds heavier with a new e-bike for my wife. She and the neighbor now match, as they each got a new bike that day.
Canoecopia boast a huge selection of canoes and kayaks of ABS, Kevlar, fiberglass, and gorgeous woods. Any gear you can think of is there, from camp chairs to dry bags to car racks to camp trailers. You want to build your own boat or trailer from a kit? Here’s your chance.
In addition to buying things (or just window shopping), there are days of workshops. I attended one on preparing for your first overnight kayak trip, with features on what to bring and what to leave home. He talked about “must-haves” and “nice-to-haves”. In the “must-have” category, he included a gravity water filter system. Since you’re going to be on the water, there’s no reason to try to pack all the water you’ll need for cooking, washing, and drinking. With a gravity filtration system, you fill the “dirty” bag just before you arrive at camp and hang it somewhere. It will filter into the “clean” bag while you set up camp. No pumping, no chemicals. As a bonus, you could use the bag as a shower if necessary.
That seemed like a pretty good idea, but I hadn’t done my homework. I didn’t want to just buy the one he had. Lo and behold, my member rebate from REI arrived about that time so I did my homework and hit day 1 of the REI spring sale. The filtration system I had planned on was there but, better yet, my second choice was there and 45% off. For that price I could buy two and still save compared to my first choice. I bought one and saved the difference to spend on an ultralight and packable folding chair, for which I could also use a 20% off coupon. I saw too many folks on my coast-to-coast ride reclining in comfy chairs in front of their tents while I sat on the ground.
Also in his “must-have” list were dry bags. No matter how careful you are, the inside of a boat is not going to stay dry. I hadn’t gotten anything except a cell phone holder yet, since the bags are a bit pricey. After the workshop I headed back to the sale and found, on a lower rack, the previous year’s models (which appeared to be identical to the new ones except for the packaging) for half price. An assortment of dry bags was now mine.
From the workshop I went to the movies. They were showing an excerpt from the soon-to-be-released feature-length documentary “Greybeard: The Man, the Myth, the Mississippi”. (IMDB.com says it is on Amazon Prime. Neither Amazon Prime nor the filmmakers agree. The filmmakers told me they are still editing and have only the 30 minute short, not the feature length film, available for release.)
“Greybeard” is the tale of Dale Sanders, who put his canoe into the headwaters of the Mississippi on his 87th birthday, with the plan to arrive in the Gulf of Mexico 87 days later to reclaim the Guinness world record for the oldest person to canoe the length of the Mississippi. He already holds the records as the oldest through-hiker of the Appalachian Trail and rim-to-rim-to-rim (across and back again) in the Grand Canyon.
He is a wild man. Before the film, he danced up the aisle, cackling madly. After the film he stayed to answer questions and then returned to the canoe builder’s booth to show his canoe. In the film he admits to slowing down as he gets older, though in person he shows no sign of that. Paddling all day in the hot sun and into the wind might be a bit harder than answering questions after a movie.
Today the sun is shining brightly, melting last night’s wintry mix from the front steps. The temperature might get above freezing. The shallow bays are free of ice. Paddling season will return.