Not-So-Gently Down the Stream

I’ve never considered myself Super Girl, but after canoeing on the Loxahatchee River last weekend, I can honestly say that I’m fairly useless in the strength department.

Remember that ad for Charles Atlas body building where the skinny guy gets sand kicked in his face by the muscly guy? That’s me, but fatter and in a one-piece.

We had two canoes - one for my husband and me, and another for the kids. No matter how hard we paddled - I mean, we were heaving and hoeing like no tomorrow - the kids went gliding on ahead of us.

“How did they get up there so fast?” I said. “Maybe because they’re lighter.” The seven bottles of water, jumbo sunscreen and bottle of bug spray was surely weighing down our boat. Not to mention the extra 50 pounds of body fat we were packing. Meanwhile, the teenagers, dehydrated, bug-bitten, baking in the sun, and skinny, didn’t give a rat’s ass. They had speed.

And they had more precision and finesse than we did, too. We got to a very narrow section of the river, where it was getting potentially alligatory and the water had those floating pieces of green stagnation on it. Brackish, my husband said. This is creepy and I’m a little bit scared, I said.

“Where are they?” I was fending off a big tree branch with my paddle. We kept running into the shoreline, bouncing back and forth like a canoe-shaped pinball. “I don’t think they came down here. It’s too narrow.”

Occasionally we would encounter another canoe coming the other way. No, they hadn’t seen our kids, but they did see some red spiders that jumped into their boat. I mentally added Red Spiders to the list of things I was fearing about this canoe trip - just above Fear #3: Drowning in Brackish Water and right under Fear #1: Having a Deliverance Experience.

We never did catch up with the kids. They reached a point of the river where even they didn’t feel up to the challenge, so they turned around and found us. They heard me talking to the fish, begging them not to jump into our boat, and they paddled right past us.

“But these fish, they are jumping so high!” I whined. “They could have spiders on them. Or slime.”

As the kids’ canoe glided past us, I noticed their paddles were moving in perfect synchronization. They looked like a small crew team out of uniform. That was the problem: My husband and I were not working together. I was paddling with every ounce of strength in my body and he . . . he . . . what was he doing back there anyway?

“You’re paddling aren’t you?” I was afraid to turn around, because every time I moved, the boat tipped a little bit, putting me closer to Fear #3.

“Yeah, sure. I’m paddling,” he said.

I could have sworn I heard a beer can being popped.

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