Thursday, August 1, 2013

We Shouldn't Be Alive: A Paddle Boat Story

Some other titles that would work for this post:

"I Forgot to Pack the Sunscreen and it Costs $15 in the General Store"

"The Snack Shack Only Takes Cash but All I Have is $2.63 and a Debit Card"

"Who Needs Flip Flops at the Lake? Socks and Tennis Shoes Are The Obvious Choice When Sand and Water are Involved."

"Only Braggers Remember to Pack Towels"

"Cell Service is a 10 Mile Drive Back Into Town or You Can Hike Up That Direction about 4.5 Miles. Here's a Map."

"Year Round History Lessons: The Summer I Showed My Kids How To Use a Pay Phone"

My favorite thing about living in California is its variation of landscapes. A couple of weeks ago we drove 90 miles west to spend some time at the ocean, and yesterday we decided to go the other direction and spend a day in the mountains. 

I'd heard from some friends about a lake nestled in a forest in the middle of the Sierra Nevadas, so I decided that's where we would go. Since it was a weekday, the kids and I headed off on this adventure by ourselves, with little expectation other than a day spent out of the confines of our house.

During the in-depth 5 minutes of planning I did prior to departure, I learned there was a marina where visitors could rent a variety of boats. Since I am in no way qualified to operate any aquatic vehicle equipped with a motor, I told the kids we could try out the paddle boats.

Did you read that last sentence? I SUGGESTED TO MY CHILDREN WITHOUT THEIR PROMPTING that we would rent a paddle boat.

So we get to the lake and it's beautiful and picturesque and, while I am perfectly content hanging out with my feet in the cool, clear mountain water, the kids are all paddleboatspaddleboatspaddleboats. So, we head over to the marina to rent a paddle boat. They offer the option of a one or two hour rental, and I almost went with two, but thankfully common sense finally set in and I thought, "You're already being an idiot - try to reign it in," so I changed my mind at the last minute and said, "You know, I think one hour will be plenty of time."

They hand me my rental receipt, our bright orange life vests, and direct us to the dock. The girl working the paddle boats pulls a bright yellow one over to the edge and points at us to get in. We oblige, expecting some sort of direction, but instead she shoves us out into the lake with her foot, and waves.

Me: " does this work?"

Girl: "You paddle. With your feet."

Me: "I know that much. I mean, does it steer?"

Girl: "Oh, yeah. That metal circle thing in the middle is meant for steering. Have it back in an hour. Have fun!" I can't be sure, but I think she may have laughed maniacally when she said that last bit.

I also should have tuned into the word "meant" when she described the steering situation.

We manage to get out of the docking area and into the open lake relatively easy, meaning we didn't hit any other boats. It was sunny and breezy and beautiful. We enjoy the scenery and the company of one another and wave at other watercraft passerby's.

We spend a few minutes just sitting in the boat, rocking on the gentle waves, when I look at my watch and decide we better turn around and head back. 

My plan was to spend the first half hour paddling out into the lake, so we could spend the last half getting back to the marina. Makes sense, yes? Like hell it does.

It would have been helpful had I taken into consideration some basic physics before we took off on our little outing. Like which way the wind was blowing, hence the direction the current was flowing, hence the ease at which we reached the other side of the lake. Things that are important considerations when taking a boat all Flintstone-style out into a large body of water.

We turn the boat around and start pedaling. It is now that I realize that things seem to be slower going than they were coming, so I decided to find a point of reference. That way we could tell if we were making progress. I pick a cabin with a green roof on the side of the lake.

I'm like, "Okay, kids. We've got 20 minutes to get back to the dock. Let's get after it." So we start pedaling. And pedaling. And pedaling. We were really giving it hell for like 10 minutes. I look to the side of the lake and what do I see?


We're in the same. exact. spot. We're never going to get back. We are going to die in the middle of this lake on a paddle boat. And I won't even be able to call and tell my husband goodbye because we are 10 miles away from a cell signal. Stupid great outdoors.

I try to contain my urge to freak the freak out. Plus my legs were seriously burning and I needed a break. Only 2 people could pedal at a time and I had been pedaling the entire trip with the kids taking turns. So, I did the only logical thing I could think of.

I made my two kids pedal while I sat in the back and gathered my thoughts and wondered if someone would come save us if I jumped up and down on the back of the boat waving and screaming. However, that seemed a little extreme at this point so after a few minutes of resting, I reclaimed my position as captain and got serious.

"Okay, kids. This time I'm for real. We gotta get this boat back or they are going to charge me for another hour and I will not have that. I will not. Pedal!"

So again we pedal. We are focused and determined. We are sweating. We are gutting it out. We are athletes. And we finally make it back to the dock. I almost fell backwards into the lake while getting out of the boat because of the jelly legs, but I threw my balance forward and landed on deck. They also didn't charge me for the 7 extra minutes late it took us to return the boat, so that was good.

As I was checking to make sure we had gathered all our things from the boat, I noticed someone had etched a classy remark on the center of the boat.

Okay, it's not really visible in this picture so I'll help you out. It starts with 'F' and ends with 'You'.

Well you know what, little yellow paddle boat? Right back atcha.


  1. I loved - LOVED - the 2nd picture of the cabin that was, seemingly, even farther away than when you began pedaling, pedaling, pedaling. Aaahhhh, nature!

    Looked gorgeous!

  2. We just knew no good could come of this. You should have rented a speed boat! Driving a speedboat with no idea of what you are doing is still safer than the other guys who knows how to operate it but is drunk off his ass. Just sayin'

    Your Pals,

    Murphy & Stanley

  3. lmao!!! I am laughing so hard at this. That so happened to me and my kids last summer! That paddle boat made me its bitch! Great post!!!!

  4. This sounds like something that I would do. Completely!! Loved it :)

  5. Very funny. Something similar happened to me. Twice. I hope I've now learned. First time it was a rowboat and our arms gave out, plus one side was stronger than the other so we kept going in circles. Eventually had to be rescued by the teenager running the enterprise. Next time it was a paddleboat and I erroneously thought, okay, this time it'll be different because you're using your legs not your arms. It was not different.

  6. Why is it that seemingly simple and pleasurable activities often end -up with someone uttering those words? It's a mystery. FUNNY POST!

  7. No lie, just last night my kids were asking about paddle boats and I told them we could rent one sometime. How fun! Thanks for saving my family from a tragic "at sea" death in the middle of a lake. And thanks for the laugh, of course.

  8. I was simultaneously laughing and having an anxiety attack as I read this because I have so been there. After an paddle boating experience gone wrong on our honeymoon, the husband will never let me rent one again. And I'm totally okay with that.


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