Up a Creek With a Paddle

As soon as I settled at the hotel, I was out the door.  Why spend time at the hotel?  There was little else to do in walking distance, less to do in biking distance, and if I got in a car, I could drive anywhere.  I was again on assignment in Florida. I was fresh off of the airplane and still adjusting to the humidity and temperature.

There was a reason the accommodations were so inexpensive.  The air is filthy hummingbird tweet hot or miserable revenant cold and either way no one but those living there or sent there for work would dare set up a bunch of hotel nights, rent a car, and attempt to stay.  However, this works out to my advantage as when I work in the “off season” of anywhere that has an offseason, I get to upgrade and stay in much nicer places than the truck stop flop houses the budget of my department allows.  I can expense a room with a terrace overlooking the ocean.  I can stay at places with “resort” in the name and enjoy the hot tub, [clean] gym, and a room with a view of something other than a dumpster (which is a number of actual rooms I have stayed in).  Bethatasitmay, there are trade-offs.  I burn, blister, freeze, or otherwise am the lone drunkard at the hotel bar swirling my swizzle stick and pretending I am answering all these important business emails and not just putzing about on the Book of The Face.  It is lonely at times, but I get to chat with the hotel staff or the places I eat have seating without any wait, and I get entire parks, bays, estates, and beaches to myself.


I set a loss for getting any real work done and set off to find an adventure to fill up the remainder of my Sunday.  I had an early Monday, so I could not get into too much trouble.  I was too late after taking care of my ‘to do’ list to do much, but I managed to find a place to go kayaking close by and by close by I mean 35 minutes away by Sunday traffic which I am told is over an hour or more during the weekday.


The Kayak place didn’t look like much.  The area was very built up.  I passed a number of police having a guy spread eagle over the hood of his car (or maybe it was someone else’s since I have seen the TeeVee show Cops).  I turned into the parking lot and had to translate the parking sign which warned that during certain times I needed to pay the meter and that the meter was located somewhere far away but today at this hour, it didn’t matter.
I got prepared for a short kayak trip on the river.  This river feeds into the ocean and describes what is called an island. However, I don’t know how much of the isle was the product of nature and to what man offered some great dredging techniques and allows for more ample movement of the waters from sweet to salty.  The Wilton Manors is the former Colohatchee train stop that in the 1940s, like much of Florida was drained and repackaged to transplants and sold off for super-glamorous homes.  After the parking lot, I entered a nature center, and it seemed a little wild, the way Florida can suddenly turn wild and yet have enough plastic bottles and bags floating about and stuck in the trees to let you know you are safely close to Wo/Man/kind.  I got set up in my kayak, handed a paddle and a map and told, go out upstream and when you meet the larger river make a right, and the current will travel you down with ease, make another right, pass the railroad bridge, and you will be back in no time.  Seven miles, with about two and a half hours, before the place closes.  Didn’t seem like much of an issue.


I took to the water and made my way between the trees.  A small package passed me by on its way to the ocean.  The contents of the Ziplock(TM) baggie was what appeared to be two condoms, some “personal lubricant,” a brochure about safe sex, and something like a feather or maybe a sparkler or something else one could fit through a well-trained sphincter.  I moved beyond the shade, and into … people’s backyards.  After the initial few scant acres of nature, I was suddenly in the well-developed river.  Homes were close enough to touch. The “rejuvenating” island of the Manor was on one side and the other side of the creek the houses for the rest of humanity, the writhing sniggling breeding and sweating biomass that makes up much of our population in this Great and Storied Land.
The sun was finally out of the clouds, and the shade I assumed would continue had vanished.  I slathered on the lotion, a tube of questionable manufacture, unknown vintage, and suspect expiration date I bought at an All Only Total And Up For a Dollar Store, and hoped for the best.  At least I was not bored by the banks covered in endless trees and brush and wildlife.  I got to see laundry on one side and many flags on the other expressing community of one sort or another and some of them just inexplicable in nature.
I paddled on.  I dislike kayaks.  I prefer canoes.  I know, the this and the that, but I can move about a canoe as it’s a boat and a kayak is just a “floatie” best left for use in precarious situations where a canoe cannot fare well such as raging rapids or ice fishing with Nanook of the North.


As soon as I moved from the smaller river, sheltered as it was between the houses, I moved to the larger river hoping that my fighting against the current would be rewarded as promised by the lad who stuffed me in my craft and sent me on my way.  However, never trust the locals.  As soon as I entered the new waters, I was faced by a strong headwind and a tepid current erased by the incoming tide.  At least a late Sunday kept the boat traffic to a minimum, but occasionally a small fishing trip would pass by.  The sun came out followed by some bouts of pounding rain.  I drove hard into the wind and looked to catch some current or at least paddle in the lee of the windward gusts.  After passing some small mangroves and experiencing nature for a moment, I returned to the houses against the waters.  This time, both sides appeared well kept and larger that those before, not that I had been taking detailed field notes.  In time, I managed to get back to kayak rental dock and felt the fatigue of the previous hours.  I had made about seven miles in a little over two hours.


Now ready for the hotel bar, I paid my dues, chatted with the owner of the rental company (who handed me a fresh coconut and a pile of mango slices), and returned to the busy highways and the traffic that clogged paradise.  At the hotel, I slipped into the pool and watched the jets fly across the sky.  I thought of all the houses packed along the river banks, and the strangeness of the moments when nature returned, having been placed into such small corners of this new world as to almost not exist at all.


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