Friday, October 14, 2011

By Bike and Boat I Go

My broken foot is now in an air cast that is worn with a sneaker allowing me more flexibility and more opportunity for sporty activities. Of course I latched onto this news with zeal.

After examining an X-Ray of my foot bone last week, my orthopedic doctor told me that I could start using a stationary bicycle while using the stirrup air cast for support.

“How about a real bike?” I asked him.

“Just don’t fall off,” he replied, warning that sometimes people find that their balance is shaky after being off of one foot for so long.

So I dusted off my bike and tried tooling around the neighborhood. Yes, it was a bit weird at first because my left hip flexors, calf and quad muscles are so far behind my right side developmentally. It felt bizarre, but so gratifying to be able to use my left leg muscles again in a concentrated way.

After passing the neighborhood street test, Craig and I took our bikes to our section of the paved East Coast Greenway trail, just a few minutes from our home. It’s a long stretch of flat walking/biking trails that I greatly missed using. The scenery is beautiful and everyone that we passed gives a warm finger wave from their bike handles or a smile and a nod of their helmeted head. I love it. I love everything about that trial.

My wheel (or was it my joints?) squeaked obnoxiously with every revolution. Both are in need of air, grease, and a tune-up – each of us a little out of practice. Regardless of the squeaky soundtrack, Craig and I had a great time together at a slow pace with a good, steady cadence.

It was liberating and fun and romantic. With Craig there as support providing the spotting, I was able to get my confidence and bike legs back again. Later in the week I went back for a solo trip along the quiet trail. The leaves had just transformed into colors of fiery reds and oranges and the trail offered the unique perspective of cutting right through them. I flew over the dried, yellowed leaves that had fallen and scattered across the path creating that distinctive autumn crunch sound as the bike tires rolled over them. The sun created intricate shadows and patterns amid the tree-lined, farm-lined and marsh land landscapes that I biked past.

At the end of my hour-long ride, I hoisted my bike into the back of my borrowed Jeep on my own and felt sweaty and dirty with foliage flecks and bike chain grease – fantastic.

After missing an entire summer of kayaking opportunities while in the hospital and recovering in Manhattan, we took advantage of the Indian Summer that was this past Columbus Day weekend. So as to not make the adventure too challenging, Craig and I ditched one car down river then did a long 3.5-hour paddle toward it along the picturesque Farmington River. It was near 80 degrees, hot enough for tank tops and shorts. Hot enough for Craig to take an unexpected dip into the murky river water after a not-so-graceful transfer from dock to kayak. We were so concerned about me getting safely into the kayak with my bum foot that neither of us considered that Craig might capsize.

It was quite an ironic situation to watch from my stable kayak vantage point a little down river. I saw him take the confident step from the crew house boat launch onto the kayak floor. The boat tipped a little toward the dock then it continued to roll and I realized he was far beyond the balance point and the kayak was bottom up.

He came up for air from the murk shouting: “Oh, shit!” many times over, while grasping in panic at the water all around him. I fervently glanced around at the contents in my boat and realized that yes, I had our lunches in my dry bag, but his kayak was holding the dry box with our cell phones and car keys. I processed the pieces and realized the origins of the “Oh shits” and understood why he was continually diving the 10 feet down to the river bottom shouting to me: “The keys! The car keys!”

Meanwhile his kayak (with its storage section flipped open: fail!) and paddle were floating past me downstream. He couldn’t leave the spot where he dumped it for fear that he’d never find the keys. So like a gull diving for fish he kept at it with deep breaths and forged through river plants and sludgy mud struggling to keep his eyes open peering through the silty water. 

“You’ve got to get my kayak,” he shouted in between river dives.

“I got you babe,” I yelled back. Oh shit. Oh shit. I thought to myself not knowing how I was going to catch up to his boat, flip it over, secure it to my kayak and paddle them both together against the current and back to Craig. I have minimal upper body strength. I would be in big trouble if I fell into the no-doubt bacteria laden water, still full of junk from this summer’s hurricane and river swelling. Swimming in river water isn't exactly on the post-transplant "allowed" list. I also had no use of my left foot, so balancing and maneuvering were made extra difficult.

By some organic miracle I was able to grab the kayak with my paddle and lodge us into a downed branch so that I could tie it up without putting myself any further down river. The tree trunk dam lasted long enough for me to be able to fashion my life jacket into a rope between our kayaks and with Craig’s kayak trailing behind like an awkwardly placed motorcycle side-car, I paddled against the river current toward my husband.

In the meantime after consecutive, exhausting dives, Craig came up with the keys and the dry box with the cell phones, which he dangled at me from afar. Redemption! The only loss was his sunglasses and a bike lock we planned to use to tie up the kayaks at the end of the route – not a bad sacrifice.

With all my might I hauled those kayaks back to the dock where Craig sat soaking wet, river vegetation stuck to his goosebumped skin, eyes red from the sand they were no doubt filled with.

“Don’t worry, I got you babe!” I said again as I pulled up parking his kayak next to him like an expert backing a trailer in, impressed by my own strength and ingenuity in the situation. I couldn’t believe Craig dumped it. More so, I could not believe that he located most of our belongings. He was breathless, coughing up dirty water and swallowing pride – not smiling.

I kept it quiet and cool as he got into his kayak and we floated into the center of the river. When I felt the drama had settled some, I looked at him again and said: “Is it okay to laugh now?”

We both burst out in laughter and then I started in teasing him with corny jokes, which lasted pretty much the entire journey: “Nice day for a swim, eh?”

It was nice to be on the upside of the kayak of life for once. Nobody’s invincible; everybody gets a little off balance sometimes. But when we do, it's nice to know that someone else is there. Once again we proved to each other that we make a pretty good team when shit hits the fan or keys splash the river – or whatever metaphor the day might bring.


  1. SUCH FUN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Yankee ingenuity sees you both through - what a great laugh that gave me! So glad a great time occurred after a splash, dive, dive,dive and retrieve mode.....too funny. So glad you found the important items cells and keys!

  3. This blog have very nice pictures of very beautiful places. I really appreciate your blog.