If you were one of the 2.5 million who read my last column, you may remember me saying something about spending my family vacation “testing the waters.” I’m happy to report that I did. And I survived. Mostly.
The first test involved my twelve year old granddaughteR. More of a baseball player than a swimmer, she nevertheless accepted my now realized as foolish challenge to a length of the pool. A short pool. She grumbled a bit about being better at backstroke, so I let her do that. She beat me handily. Well, then, I reasoned, I could probably take her at freestyle. Wrong. She beat me by half a body length – and by more than a half century, which was my consolation.
Next came a delightful hour and a half out into the Sound on my brother-in-law’s sailboat. Thankfully, I remembered to duck when the boom went flying by over my head and I got to take the wheel for a while, too. I love sailing.
So on to the boogie boards, probably my favorite thing to do in the ocean. There’s no feeling quite like it when a wave gets under your board and carries you smoothly up onto the beach. Some of you who are, like me, aging will certainly realize the problem with that – getting up. I was pleased, therefore, to find that the waves were tame enough that I seldom reached the shallows, ending up in water only hip deep, so the whole maneuver much less of an issue. Best of all was catching a wave with a bit of a boost from a second one. That time, I zipped happily almost to shore by the side of my newly-engaged granddaughter. We came up grinning at each other.
Water Test #4 was a kayak expedition on an inland river, Pat and I sharing paddling duties with our more muscular sons. Our goal, according to our oldest, was what appeared to be a Lego bridge somewhere off in the distance. He’s actually well known for letting you know the goal only after you’re too committed. I was glad to have that additional power behind me. For well over an hour, the bridge never seemed to get any bigger. In and among the reeds we skimmed, taking in the local wildlife: lesser blue heron, egrets, and even a dolphin who cruised along about 50 feet away. The neatest things were the oyster beds. Close up, we could see all the little oysters joyfully spitting into the air. It reminded me a little of the dancing water fountain that used to be a big attraction in Tower City. Or our kids. Anyway, the bridge eventually did show up as a rather large structure and we beached the boats beneath it. The reward for our efforts was a margarita at a local pub. Surprisingly, I detected only a little soreness the next day.
The last day of vacation dawned. Throughout the week, “Minute to Win It” contests had been held at night. There were four teams. I headed up one: The Granny Birds. Through the heroics of a grandson and a son-in-law, plus a stellar team effort water ballet that included a senior citizen, a pregnant woman and a six year old, we won the whole enchilada – a ride on a Waverunner. Now, a Waverunner is basically a floating motorcycle, only there are no roads, no lines, and I’d never been on one. After several futile protests, I donned my life jacket and goggles and headed out onto the Sound, me steering and my daughter sitting behind me. Quite simply, I was terrified. I tried a little throttle. It moved forward. A little more. It jumped like a jackrabbit. Whoa! I kept experimenting until my passenger muttered something about either seasickness or water in her face, I wasn’t quite sure. Now the Sound was nothing like Beartown Lakes. It had whitecaps, for Pete’s sake! Then the order “Floor it, Granny Bird!” came from behind and so I thought what the heck and I did.
The first few seconds were fun. However, the situation quickly deteriorated to the point where the Waverunner and I were parting company with increasing regularity and if I didn’t slow down, we were going to part company completely as we flew over the waves, or rather, off the top of half of them. It was like riding a galloping horse, something I was never very good at. Think “saddle sore.” I finally managed to let go of the accelerator, stopping, if not on a dime, then maybe a half dollar, and it was a good thing my daughter had a tight grip. I’ll spare you any further details. Safe to say it was more of the same for a half hour before I bailed. Well, not literally into the Sound, but I dismounted, so to speak, back at the barge and allowed my daughter to have a little fun on her own for the rest of the time. My arthritic neck felt it for a few days. The thing is, if I could be on a calm lake with a slightly smaller machine and could play around with it by myself for however long I wanted, I just might try it again. And if I don’t get that chance, well, I still have a notch on my belt.