Friday, August 22, 2014

Hudson River Paddle Part 3: Get ready, get set...

So I'd made my decision to go I think by sometime in June. It's really sort of amazing how long a couple of months can be!

I wasn't even talking about it much at first. I guess I was feeling a little superstitious. When I'd first realized I wanted to do this, I think the only person I told about it was my friend Jack up at Yonkers; his advice was "Yes! Go do it, don't tell anybody until you get back", which I kind of liked -- that way, if the trip ends up going disastrously wrong, you weren't bragging about it.

Beyond that, there wasn't that much prep I could do at that point. The stuff I needed, I either had or knew where I was going to borrow it.

Right there at the start, the trip just felt so far away, it hardly seemed real.

In July, it occurred to me that the trip was going to go from being so far away to being right around the corner pretty darned fast, so I started doing more paddling. The winter was a bad one for paddling so my sitting-in-the-boat stamina was low on the Spring Manhattan circumnavigation, so I started trying to get out two or three times a week, including some fairly long after-work paddles, no breaks, just getting out and moving the boat steadily. Felt good to re-institute those, I used to do that regularly but had gotten out of the habit - I really would do well to NOT let go of that until the weather and water temperatures start requiring more gear than I want to shlep to work.

I think I broke the news to TQ around the same time - had to tell him first, I knew he'd be bummed that I was doing this trip without him and I absolutely didn't want him to find out from anyone but me. He was disappointed, but then I did explain the part about wanting to try a solo trip of my own, and as a veteran of plenty of solo trips of his own, that was a yen he could understand. He was a little worried about me going on my own, but he could see where I was coming from.

Once I told him, I started telling more and more friends. It was funny, there were 2 basic responses - "That's so cool!" and "OMG, isn't that dangerous?" - and it was surprisingly hard to predict which response I was going to get from any given person.

I got asked whether I was going to carry something for self-defense, like a machete or a baseball bat or at least some pepper spray; didn't particularly think I needed to go armed, I felt like most of my campsites were going to be pretty secure, and I did have VHF and cell phone for contacting help if something untoward happened and I needed outside assistance. Considered the pepper spray more seriously than anything else but in the end didn't have time to get any and didn't really like the idea of carrying it anyways. Glad to say I never ran into a single situation where I would've wanted any of that stuff.

I did avoid posting about it on social media because there are, sadly, some creepy people out there in the world. I felt that the chances of one of them stumbling across the info that a mild-mannered middle-aged lady was going be doing a solo paddle down the Hudson at a certain point and then actually coming out on the river and making said middle-aged lady's life unhappy was infinitesmal - but I also figured, why put it out there at all? Hence my vagueness here and on Facebook.

The one night I nailed down early on was the stop in the Wappinger's Falls area - one of my oldest and best friends in NYC lives in that area (we worked together at Carnegie Hall in the early 90's, and she's the one who introduced me to the Irish music that I continue to enjoy to this day), and I was hoping to maybe have dinner with her, a hot shower, and a night on a mattress. I have another friend who comments here occasionally as "Dennis G. Moonstruck" who is a member of the Chelsea Yacht Club, right in the same area, so I got in touch with him about the possibility of keeping my loaded boat there overnight - he got right back to me and said yes, absolutely, Chelsea has a safe-harbor policy for passing boaters and I'd be more than welcome to leave my boat there, or even camp there if that would work better (and btw they have kayak storage there and it's a nice launch, so if you live in that neck of the woods, do visit their website!). Most excellent.

Kept going with my paddling - found out about One More Mile for Glicker, a thing that surfskiers were doing as a show of support for a clubmate and friend of mine who's fighting cancer right now - never actually put the sticker on my boat, I'm not really into stickers, but I did use that as inspiration to add a little more distance to each paddle than I otherwise might have done.

July seemed to just stretch on forever and then all the sudden August was right around the corner! I knew it was going to be that way, but yikes. Departure date was the 8th and with month-end close, the first week of any given month at work tends to whiz by in a blur.

Rented the car.

Confirmed with my friends in Ithaca that I'd be there.

Toted my basic camping stuff out to the club one weekend to get an idea how much hatch space I'd have to work with with the tent and stuff packed.

Borrowed the drybags and big waterbag from TQ, gave him the outline of my trip (including my projected pickup spot, Pier 40), and agreed to check in with him every

Checked in with Randy at New York Kayak about Pier 40 logistics

Started to check in with other friends along the river I was hoping to see while I was out there.

Started trying harder to confirm the Troy Motor Boat and Canoe Club as my starting point - I'd tried to contact them a couple of times in July, turned out that they'd been responding from different emails than the info email I'd plugged into my address book and their answers were ending up in the "possible spam" folder but I didn't figure that out until a better alternative had been suggested.

July 29th, I went up to Yonkers to paddle with Jack and Pat, my friends who'd done the Watertrail - we reviewed the route over dinner and they gave me great advice (plus Pat gave me the keys to the club, just in case).

July 30th, Pat emailed Scott Keller, who runs the Hudson River Greenway, and told him my woes with the motor boat club in Troy - he scolded me for not getting in touch immediately and then suggested the Waterford Harbor Canal Visitor Center as a better campsite.

The next week I went to finalize staying at Beczak, my last planned campsite of the trip. This one was not supposed to be a problem as people have stayed there regularly as the last Watertrail campsite before NYC - unfortunately they were under new management who apparently didn't know about that arrangement; fortunately my friends in Yonkers said that since that left me in a real bind, I could stay at the clubhouse. Lucky thing that Pat had given me keys - that really hadn't been the intent, but it was a fortuitous thing.

In the meantime, along with all of the logistical planning and of course the scramble to finish up everything at work that needed to be finished up before I went incommunicado for a week and a half - I did this! 

And more than just about anything else, getting all of this stuff put together in the living room made it feel like this trip was actually, really, truly going to happen! Woohoo!


Pandabonium said...

OMG Weren't you worried that some stricken airliner my drop out of the sky and land on you? (attempt at humor)

Did the car rental company know that you don't drive? Isn't that dangerous? (another feeble attempt at humor)

This trip IS so cool. And as a long time reader I know you would plan and prepare for the trip as best as could be done. The anticipation you must have felt is palpable.

bonnie said...

I always tell the car company that I don't drive much as I'm buying the full coverage insurance! So far it's all just extra money for them (knock wood). What I don't tell them is that I'm going to strap a kayak to the roof. There, what they don't know...

Probably the scariest part of the ENTIRE TRIP was when I drove out of the rental lot and discovered as I was merging onto the highway that I'd totally forgotten to adjust the rear-view mirror - looked to see who was coming up behind and HOLY CRAP I HAVE NO REAR VIEW!!! Survived the merge, pulled off at the next exit and sorted it out - but boy, that was SCARY.

I forgot the one unique response that was slightly disturbing. My friend Laurie B had done the trip with Cynthia Mount several years ago; when I told her I was going she started cracking up and said, "We ran into every pervert on the Hudson"!

She then translated that to "OK, it was just one flasher in a park where we were having lunch" when she realized she was freaking me out a little bit - the way she was laughing, though, it seemed like they didn't feel threatened.

Pandabonium said...