Sunday, August 24, 2014

Hudson River Paddle Part 4: Hitting the Road, And A Fine Day in Ithaca

The 4-day work week before my big trip wound down fast. I was busy at work, but I was pretty much ready. I had a last whim on the provisions side - did you know that eggs don't need to be refrigerated when they're straight from the chicken? They come out of the bird with a protective coating, along with other less appetizing substances that makes the USDA require that chicken eggs for commercial sale be power-washed, which is what makes them need refrigeration. Well, I'd chicken-sat for my friends with the Brooklyn backyard chickens last winter and because they had a mostly new flock (their old flock had been "liberated" by a raccoon) that wasn't laying yet, they'd told me that I had a rain check for some eggs in the summertime. Decided to cash that in for some eggs that could go camping, they said the girls were laying well and to stop by, I got stuck late at work on Wednesday night but they left the eggs out on the front porch for me. What a treat THAT was for breakfasts, especially the morning after the night I'd intentionally left the pot greasy after sauteeing pasta with sausage, squash, onions and two kinds of cheese - that made for a fantastic scramble!  Yum. I kept the eggs in a little plastic carton behind my seat in the cockpit - it's good that my friends don't have a rooster 'cause I might have hatched out chicks.

Thursday night I worked late again but when I was done, I was DONE - time to go get the car! Turns out that you can't do the Enterprise pick up at one location, drop off at another unless you do it from a large location like an airport, the smaller ones need to know that their stock is coming back. The main problem with this is that that meant that my first time behind the wheel since last summer was at night, and immediate highway driving instead of warming up in my nice familiar quiet neighborhood. As I mentioned in a comment on Part 3, this led to probably the single most frightening moment of the entire trip, when I went to merge onto the Belt Parkway and discovered that the one thing I'd missed on my pre-flight check at the rental lot was driver's side rear view mirror adjustment - figured this out when I went to check on traffic as I merged. Aieeeee! Fortunately traffic was pretty sparse at that hour, I survived the merge, pulled off again at the next exit, fixed the mirror, breathed a minute or two to let the adrenaline level off, then hit the road again and made it home in one piece. It's just this kind of infrequent-driver stupid moment that always makes me get the best insurance they have available - so far it's just been extra money for Enterprise but I always have this feeling that the one time I go for the cheaper version will be the time I seriously break something.

Loaded up the car the next morning, gambling slightly with an alternate-side parking spot - I was bringing down big armloads of stuff and there just didn't seem to be anything legal close to the front door. Worked out OK though, my lucky day. I went to the club and AGAIN it was my lucky day, a couple of my clubmates were there so I didn't have to muscle my rather heavy 16-foot boat onto the roof by myself (I have done that but it's so much nicer to have help). I. also gave me a great sendoff - I told him what I was up to and his face lit up and he said "I'm going to tell you something that may not sound good, but I mean it in the best way - you are a jerk! Just like I am a jerk! Always going off and doing things on my own that I shouldn't do on my own, because I love doing things on my own!". I burst out laughing and said "I'm going to take that as a huge compliment, and yes, if that's being a jerk, then I'm definitely a jerk." And having received such a suitable benediction, the Romany and I hit the road.

The drive ended up being very, very long as construction slowed traffic that had flowed smoothly last year to a crawl, but everything went well. Fortunately Louise, my friend who organizes the kayakers for Women Swimmin', had suggested I get there early to drop gear off; the extra time ended up being just enough to get me to the Friday night boater safety meeting on time. The meeting went well, I was able to drop the gear off afterwards, and then at the home of the folks who are kind enough to put me up, I had a tomato and some basil from my garden with slices of a mozzarella and prosciutto roll that I picked up at a local grocery. A 2nd tomato, along with a bottle of wine, became a gift for my hosts - a little bit of coals-to-Newcastle since this area abounds with wonderful fresh produce, but I enjoyed giving them something I grew myself in Brooklyn (and these were GOOD tomatoes). 

The next morning, we were all up bright and early for Women Swimmin' 2014. Louise, in fact, was up dark and early - as one of the participants in the go/no-go call, which is made at 5:15 a.m., she had to be there early (she's staying with the same folks who put me up while she works out building a small home in the area); since there'd been weather damage to the parking lot at the Ithaca Yacht Club, I left the rental car at the house and rode in with my host, who's also on the Kayak Safety Team. That worked out great, we were there a little before 5:30 (KST "star formation", our pre-race gathering in front of the yacht club, was at 5:45 sharp). 

Oh-dark-thirty at the Ithaca Yacht Club (it's really darker than it looks, the camera just couldn't accept how early it was)

Kayaks on the water

Star formation forming up

Paddles up!

Setting out across the lake

By 6 am, we were heading out to string ourselves across the lake - when not actively helping out with matching up swimmers with appropriately-paced groups (they start in "pods" but inevitably there are fast swimmers and slow swimmers, the idea is that no swimmer swims unattended so part of what the KST does is matches up swimmers who are falling out of their "pods" with people who are swimming more their pace) we ended up marking the course - they have buoys but those can and do end up drifting, especially in the middle of the lake - when they do, the Kayak Safety Team fills in.

Passenger vessel Columbia at the dock, ready for the first swimmers to board. 2 boats make the runs across the lake, so the swimmers come by in waves. 

First wave! Right now, it's warmer in the water than the air - water temperature is a tricky business with this lake, as the lake can "turn over" without notice, bringing the cold water up from the deep and dropping the temperature from balmy to BRRRRR in a day - fortunately this year the lake stayed balmy for the swim. Now me, I was wishing I had a thermos of hot tea to sip!

Good morning, swimmers! Sun's just peeked over the high cliff on the east side of the lake.
Swimming strong

SUP'ers tend the Lavender Cap Mob (pods are distinguished by colorful caps)

Canoeists lead a swimmer 

Approaching the Ithaca Yacht Club

Dock's in sight!

Successful swimmers on the dock.

The funny thing about volunteering for an event that starts that early is that you go, and you put in what feels like a full day's work, and then you realize it's ten o'clock in the morning! My original original plan had been to pack up and leave for Albany immediately after the swim, and that would have worked ok, but I'd re-thought that plan long before the trip - Ithaca is a lovely area, the reason I wanted to come back and do it again the first place, before I even added the Hudson River spin, was because I had such a nice time last year, so why rush off? Besides, with having gotten up at 4:30 a.m. I realized that I might be better off NOT hitting the road again so soon - spend the day in Ithaca, get a good night's sleep and then head out on Sunday morning seemed like a much better plan. My hosts said it would be fine if I stayed a second night, although they had a family event to attend, and Louise was going to be a free bird as soon as the event wrapped. Originally she suggested blueberry picking and a hike and/or a swim, but there was a group who'd come from Rochester to help out, and it turned out that one of them had a friend with a lakefront home a couple of miles away from the yacht club, and Louise and I were invited to paddle there with them for a picnic on the friend's dock. Lovely! 

Started out with a little rolling, of course - wouldn't have wanted to earlier but now, with the sun properly up, the water was irresistable!

More rolling - 

Then it was time to Ease on down,

Ease on down

Ease on down the lake!

Lovely day on Lake Cayuga

 Unfortunately, just as we got there, Louise realized that she'd left a basket of safety team gear on the dock. She decided to paddle back, just to make sure it was OK - I offered to go back with her but she said she'd go back, get the stuff, load her boat on her car and then come back to get me. I didn't fight that too hard!

C., the gentleman who owned the place brought out a feast - fruit salad, pasta salad, cheese and crackers and fresh-grilled shish kebabs - eek, if I'd known I wouldn't have stuffed myself quite so much at the Women Swimmin' breakfast spread! - and we had a great time playing with C's tenant's dog Leo the Leapin' Lab (C. was very lucky in being able to buy the place after renting for a while; the lakeshore is so steep that instead of one big home, there are 3 small structures - a shared cabana, a smaller house, which he rents out, and a larger one, which is his home). Eventually C. couldn't resist the water himself anymore went in with the dog and the minute he'd gone in the rest of us did too. Sorry, no pix there but it was wonderful! 

Mama and baby duck went swimming by - C. had a great story about being adopted by a baby duck who'd lost its family - he said the duck was sort of rejected by the other ducks, and he felt bad for it, so first he started feeding the baby bread, then went and got proper duck food - baby got quite attached, grew up to healthy adulthood, then disappeared - he was afraid she'd gotten shot by one of the duck hunters but then the next spring, he and a friend were out in a boat when a duck came flying towards them, quacking loudly, and landed on their boat, and turned out to be C's orphan duckling (she had a certain pattern on her feathers that he recognized). He didn't think this was her but he likes to think she's still out there. 

Louise joined us after a while. After a few runs up and down the stairs that connected the buildings on the property, we realized that getting our kayaks up to the road was going to be awful, so D., the Rochester guy who was staying with C. on the lake, and I were told to paddle on down to the boat launch in Ithaca where Louise would meet us, we would load my boat, and drive D. back to get his car. 
Entrance to the Ithaca Inlet
That made for a very nice finish to the on-water part of the day. After that there was time for local ice cream, a nap in a hammock, and a little dinner (very little, the ice cream had been delicious), and then we went to a concert at Taughannock State Park, featuring the Sim Redmond Band, an Ithaca band that's very popular in Japan and Europe. They draw a good crowd in their hometown and with the full moon rising over Lake Cayuga...ahhh, summer just doesn't get much better.

The next morning, well rested and very relaxed, it was time to hit the road for Albany! 

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