Saturday, August 21, 2010

Bow to the Wind

To balance out the last couple of days of cycling, I intend to paddle most of the day, but first I bike out to the closest bagel/coffee shop to get my shot of caffeine and carbohydrates. Wheeling the kayak across the top of the lock gate to the put in spot on the other side is tricky, as the catwalk is barely wider than the kayak but I manage with a bit of back and forthing in the middle bend where the gates meet. On my right paddle blade I adhere one of the Troy Bike Rescue stickers the group gave me and with it I wave goodbye to them as I enter the lock.

Lock Master standing on the catwalk on which I had to wheel the kayak across

This is the part where the Erie Canal starts to join the Mohawk River -- sometimes they meet, sometimes the canal cuts its own straighter, lock-stepped path while the river is left to its natural whims, intertwining like a couple just getting to know each other. It certainly feels more like a river, the banks are gentle sandy slopes, my paddle sometimes hitting bottom when I get too close to shore.

The wind has shifted today, and I am now going against a stiff headwind. When I stop paddling it is strong enough to push me upstream against the current. When I cycle against a headwind, I usually find it discouraging, as if suddenly I am robbed of power, but i feel differently when I am kayaking. It is more of a challenge and, strangely, it gives an illusion of speed because of the wind-whipped waves lapping at my bow and the air blowing against my face. If I don't look at my slow progress against the shoreline, I can almost believe I am going faster than normal.

Despite being a Saturday, there are hardly any boats on the canal. I encounter less than ten in the entire day of paddling. On the water I definitely meet a lot less people, and the ones I come across have barely enough time to wave or smile as they pass me on their faster craft. It's fine by me, as similar to cycling, I find paddling alone very meditative, even more so. It's not long before my brain just churns away at just about anything it wants to think of. I am seldom ever bored on my own. Someone who was interested in doing a long solo bike tour once asked me how I can handle it because they didn't think they could stand being lonely. I told them "If you know the difference between loneliness and solitude you can do it." That's what makes you value the company of other people when they are around, and appreciate the inward reflection being alone affords you. One of my favourite websites is, and i just love this brilliant talk by Elizabeth Gilbert on nurturing creativity. I think it is mostly in solitude that you can commune with the disembodied genius she mentions.

A strong wind from the east on this part of the continent usually means rain, and the sky starts to show signs it will pour sometime soon. I find a marina with an easy place to take out the kayak. At the dockside cafe, i munch on a sloppy pulled pork sandwich, then find a motel for the night out of the wind and rain.

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