... a person has to find something else to do.
Besides riding motorcycles, I really like to kayak whitewater. I sort of backed way off on the kayaking while I had a small motorcycle-related business, due to the lack of time. Now I have time again, so I've been working to regain skills that had atrophied.
Motorcycling and kayaking actually complement each other well. If it's dry and sunny, hey! Great riding weather, I'll take the bike. If it's wet and rainy, hey! I'll get to go kayaking on local stuff in a day or so. It gives me the attitude that there is no bad weather here in NW Ohio, even though we do get a lot of rain‘«™.. It's difficult to stay down when you like *all* weather!
A kayak is essentially a single-track vehicle, but without the gyroscopes (wheels). They lean into turns, like motorcycles. They can also slide sideways into turns, like dirtbikes, if you have a lot of speed and momentum as you turn. And I find that if I've been riding the motorcycle a lot, and then I climb into the kayak, I'll be right at home. And vice-versa. Balance practice, either way‘«™
But, winter here in NW Ohio sucks this year. Roads are wet and in places, icy. I could normally get a single-track fix in my kayak when that happens, but I can't find anybody to go kayaking with me in the cold water. What to do?
Kayak Polo, in an indoor pool..! I've never played it before, but have seen pictures of it being palyed in Europe. It's a cross between soccer and demolition derby, but in boats. Indestructible plastic whitewater boats... It also helps whitewater skills, as you're being rammed and tossed about and trying to do 2-3 things at once‘«™
I was invited to the game by a Canadian friend, Jeff. Jeff runs a kayak Internet email list for kayakers in the Windsor area, and that's how I found out about the game. I'm on his list because they come down from Canada to kayak on the local rivers here, so I'm their "local guy in the know" when they come down here, able to point them to a good restaurant or a sauna. Not that they need me, as all river gauges are on the Net now‘«™ But kayaking is a sport best done with friends, for safety reasons. So more friends are better...
The game is in Ann Arbor, in the pool at Eastern Michigan University. Ann Arbor is about 100 miles from my work. Although he's Canadian, he's about as close to Ann Arbor as I am.
Another thing that my motorcycling and kayaking have in common is that it helps if you like to travel hundreds of miles if necessary for just the right conditions.
I pull into Powell's Pub (the rendezvous point), and look for the Canadians. I've seen photos of Canadians: Shania Twain, Ann Murray, William Shatner, Peter Jennings, and McGyver come to mind; I figure I'll know Canadians when I see them. I don‘«÷t see anybody that looks Canadian, but I do find the EMU people. Something about kayak people that's indentifiable if you're "in". Let's see - polypro clothes that have quite a bit of wear? Yes, that's a clue. At least it's how I find the four EMU paddlers huddled in the parking lot. That, and the roof racks‘«™
Eventually, Jeff "Have you driven over a PFD, lately?" Totten (the one Canadian) arrives. That's it for the Canadians..? Really? Yes, Jeff says that's it....
We convoy over to the EMU pool from the pub, following the EMU guys. They have parking stickers, and the route is circuitous, so I stay on them.
Everybody else gets inside the building ahead of me, so I end up lost, taking my boat through the hallways and doors of the physical education building, asking for directions to the pool. It seems to impress the women I meet, but I don't think it's impressing them in a good way. The first one I asked for directions laughed out loud, and didn't stop laughing as long as I stood there... All she could do was point the way, and then apologize for being rude between the her giggles‘«™.. If I had any pride, that would have shattered it.
Finally I make it into the pool area. The pool is huge, perhaps 4X the size of the lap pool I'm used to. Olympic-sized, maybe. An acre in size, perhaps? I've never swam in a pool that big. I'm not sure I've ever seen an indoor pool that big‘«™.
In one corner of the pool, the EMU Women's dive team is practicing from waaaaaaaaaay up there. The high dive scares the Hell out of me, in spite of the fact that I've done waterfalls in my kayak just as big. Waterfalls are different, the water is soft and foamy at the base of the falls. Pool water is hard water, no air bubbles in it‘«™.
The divers have no body fat at all, not that there's anything wrong with that. They are really something to see, so ummm, graceful! Yeah, that's the word: graceful.
And something I've never seen before: a harness while learning some dives. The harness pendulums the diver out away from the board while learning backflips. Neat!
There's also a woman being given kayak instruction, close to where we're going to be playing polo. She's catching on, but slowly.
We climb in our boats, loosen up, and practice our paddling skills. Sprint back and forth across the pool forward, sprint backward, paddle sideways with draw strokes. When I'm loosened up pretty well, I capsize on my right, rolling back upright maybe 15-20 times, then I do another 15-20 rolls on my left. That's one thing that's really neat about the kayak compared to the motorcycle: we can flip (crash), roll back up, and then continue on within just a few seconds, normally none the worse for the wear.
Then I try a roll using my life-jacket instead of a paddle. With less leverage, you have to really concentrate on technique. I've done it before, but it's been a while‘«™ Still works, so I pop off a dozen more with the life jacket, and then finally I try a roll with just my hands. Haven't done one that way since probably 1997 or so, and I roll upright the very first time. YEEeeeeesssss...!!!!! About like a slam-dunk in basketball. Kinda rare, and definitely very cool. I pop off a dozen more, and then I'm as ready as I'll ever be.
A pause, and Jeff and I talk a bit, about declining numbers of people joining boating clubs. That was why he started his kayak mailing list, not enough "joiners" in his area to keep a club alive. Yes, there were enough paddlers, but not necessarily enough joiners. So he started his list so that he'd have people to go boating with.