SACRAMENTO, Calif. - After a morning of cleaning house and getting my writing stuff ready for what looks like Hell Week - starting Monday with two complicated stories due before noon - I took a water break Sunday afternoon.
The American River runs right behind my house. At night I can hear the coyotes running around, catching God-Knows-What, and howling. And from my front window I can see the kayaks and rowboats and fishing boats and canoes going by soooooo gracefully.
Today, I decided it was my turn, but like the tasks of Hercules, there were many challenges before I would skim the surface in my Santa Cruze kayak.
The first challenge was the dinghy (my lovely, battered 10-foot Kevlar Captain's Gig from Sabbatical) which was tied in the bed of my pickup truck. What to do with it? The people in the complex are nice, but condo association rules don't allow for leaving things around outside your garage at all - especially something as large as a boat.
So, I slid it into my parking space, figuring that if anyone came sliding around the corner and crushed it, well, I could use the insurance money to fix it up. The regulations don't say you can't park a boat in your spot. I suppose if you had a horse you could tether it there, provided you had some large garbage bags and... Oh, forget it.
Challenge number 2 was a little trickier. The kayak was stored in the back yard and had to be carried through the bedroom, down the hall and out the front door to the pickup. It's not that heavy, but kee-rist it was a tight fit getting by everything and into the back of the pickup.
But Challenge number 3 made me wistful for Mexico.
I drove to the nearest river access (about a half-mile) all ready with a check and application form filled out to buy a $60 season pass. The county charges $6 per day and so I decided I might as well commit and not have to pull out cash every time I wanted to go check out the nude beach. Oops! I mean paddle placidly on the river.
When I got to the access, the ranger station was closed and they had those damned little brown envelopes on the counter.
I didn't bring any cash or my wallet. I've had some pretty wet kayak experiences.
But then I saw a vision (chill out - not the beach), a vision in a ranger truck who I motioned to come over. She looked very official in the truck, its police band radio telling me I should be glad I was down on the river and not some other places around Sacramento at the moment: shootings, stabbings, thefts and vandalism. Just another Sunday in Sacratomato.
The ranger said she was sorry, but despite the $60 check I was waving wildly, the filled-out form in my hand and the closed ranger station, well, I had three options: put $6 in an envelope and deposit it, drive two miles in the opposite direction to the next river access to buy the pass (then drive back) or simply bag the whole expedition and go home..
I asked in my best, pathetic, whining, sad voice: "Couldn't you just give me a note or something to put on my dashboard for today? I'll get the pass later. I promise."
She said sure. For $6 she would drop the envelope in the little box herself.
Jaysus H. Kee-rist!
I went from Clark Kent to Superman to Incredible Hulk in about 15 seconds when I realized what this snotty ranger (who was sweating in a very unladylike manner, I must say )had said.
Smart ass. I hate a smart ass like that, probably because I'm so much the same way.
But I was not to be deterred.
I did a U-Turn and went to the next river access where the gate attendant took my $60 cheerfully and gave me a season's pass in about 10 seconds. Then I drove back to the access right near my house and launched the kayak, but not before I got to practice my Spanish to convince the families swimming that I needed some space.
I realized listening to the chatter and looking around that I was the only gringo at the park, except for the sweaty ranger who by then was giving tickets to people who hadn't put their money in the little brown envelopes. The families were having a great time and a couple of five-year-olds helped me get off the mudbank and onto the water.
Oh, and how was the kayaking?
A-1 fantastic, though I couldn't find the beach I had been told about.
But now I have a season's pass and a long hot summer ahead to, to, to... go kayaking.