Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Riding the "Superior" surf & chasing girls ....

"When I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my pen has glean'd my teeming brain,
Before high-piled books, in charactery,
Hold like rich garners the full ripen'd grain;"

John Keats
Some lines from: "When I Have Fears"

Racing & canoeing have one thing in common ....

I would consider myself to be a "sort of" stock car racing fan. I watch a few races on television during the course of the season, and one of the items on my "bucket list" is to see a race at Talladega in Alabama. Better track than Daytona, I think. Race speeds there once topped 200 mph (that is as in miles-per-hour) until political correctness caught up with racing and restrictor plates to limit the speed to around 185 mph became required there. The single lap speed record at Talladega is 216 mph.

When I first started watching stock car racing in the 1990s, "my driver" quickly became Ernie Irvin. He skipped his high school graduation so he could drive in a race. Reminiscent of my own youth, but I at least attended the ceremony before heading out for Flying Cloud Airport in Eden Prairie (that's in Minnesota for you far-awayers). Never mind why. Ernie was a California boy, by the way, and had the words, "No Fear," painted on his helmet. He retired from racing after a pair of near-fatal crashes.

This has been the long way of leading up to the subject of conquering one's own fears. A young lady asked via email how I overcome fear when canoeing on Lake Superior. This was my answer:

How girls, women, ladies, do it (overcome fear), I have no idea. With guys, it often is peer pressure. I'm not just talking about little boys, either. Liquor often has something to do with it. Showing off for girls frequently enters the picture. (Yep, right, I'm not just talking about little boys, either.) How does one master fear when there are no peers, no liquor, no girls around? By doing, but by studying and practicing on gentler ground (or water) before doing the real thing.

When I arrived at a newspaper on the shores of Lake Superior in mid-winter and mentioned that I could not wait to get a canoe into the lake, one of the reporters wrote my obituary as a joke. I learned that the children of a very prominent family had drowned in a canoe accident at some ridiculous date like 1910, and that had done it for canoeing on the lake in that region ever since.

I have to admit, Superior is big water, and it did make me nervous simply because of its sheer size, its rapid changes of weather and waves, the unpredictability of winds, its chilling water temperature, not to mention the looks of doom on the faces of people who knew of my plans. Cutting to the chase, I first launched my canoe on one gray and cloudy day in April, with a stiff wind and three- to four-foot swells running -- much larger than any I had previously encountered with my canoe.

I went out about a half-mile offshore and lay down in the canoe. That is a Native American maneuver, as reported by an early Minnesota fur trader. Lie down to distribute your weight evenly, and allow the wind and the waves to carry you to safety. Lying there, it appears as though the waves will come down into the canoe and right on top of you. They don't, but it is an "interesting" position in which to watch them. Within 10 minutes, I no longer had any fear of the lake, and I began to "play" with it.

I learned how to surf on the waves with my canoe, how to run with the waves, into them and parallel to them. I took my canoe into the sheer rock cliffs, and learned how to gauge the rebound action of the waves off the cliffs, and to navigate beside the rocks without smashing into them. I could not have done these things without having considerable practice behind me on small lakes and in rivers. Inside of a few hours on a single afternoon, I had fallen in love with Superior, and the lake had become "The Lake."

Plenty of respect, yes, but no fear. I recall one time when, within the span of five minutes or so, gentle swells had become five- to six-foot waves. And, there was no wind. The reaction to an earlier storm 150 miles away had reached my side of "The Lake" without warning. “She, The Lake,” is a living entity, and always requires her lovers to treat her with respect, as well as affection.

Within a matter of months, it was not unusual for 10 or 12 others to join me on weekend canoe trips on "The Lake" or on area rivers. The newspaper-types among us sometimes wrote our own obituaries for entertainment bravado and competition at our evening campfires. Some boys forever will be boys ....

How can a guy chase girls if ....

I have no consistent pattern to exercise. I'll do it for a few months, maybe a few years. Then, I'll stop doing it for a few months, maybe a few years.

Sometimes running has been the primary drill. I've never been a fanatic about it. I'll do it for a mile, three or four times a week, and maybe work it up to five miles before I say enough is enough and take a break. When I was a smoker, it was not unusual for me to begin the run with a cigarette in my mouth.

Only once did I belong to a gym. That lasted for a little more than two years. When I started, I did four routines over the span of about 15 minutes, and then spent 45 minutes visiting. By the time I said enough is enough, I was up to 20 routines lasting two and one-half to three hours, three or four times a week. It is amazing to me why any of us often turn a simple activity in a time-consuming, complex, ritualistic near-addiction.

Normally, my idea of exercise is to do a few pushups, a few sit-ups, a few other odds and ends over the span of about 20 minutes, five or six days a week. I have no desire to replace California's governor, either politically or in the movies.

Why do I mention this? Because, tomorrow I resume my exercise routine again. My last pushup or sit-up was the week of Thanksgiving. Three months is enough of a break this time. Besides, how can a guy chase girls if he cannot keep up with them?

What if the word verification system fails?

I tried leaving comments at a couple of blogs on the other side of oceana maximus Monday evening, but the word verification system was not working for me. Either that, or a few people were telling me to get lost all at the same time. Anyone else ever experience this sort of problem? Any suggestions?

Tuesday evening ---- it's all better now ....

Instead of music ....
John Keats ....
The entire poem: "When I Have Fears"

When I have fears that I may cease to be

Before my pen has glean'd my teeming brain,
Before high-piled books, in charactery,
Hold like rich garners the full ripen'd grain;
When I behold, upon the night's starr'd face,
Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,

And think that I may never live to trace
Their shadows, with the magic hand of chance;
And when I feel, fair creature of an hour,
That I shall never look upon thee more,
Never have relish in the faery power
Of unreflecting love; -- then on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think
Till love and fame to nothingness do sink.


Chocobo said...

I have always wanted to go kayaking on Lake Superior. I have never kayaked before, but it seems like an appropriate place. Most of the other lakes in this state strike me as too placid, too tame.

I think that this is just one of my fantasies of being alone in nature. I enjoy having time alone in my head (something that is very hard to come by in the big city), but every time I actually manage to get somewhere to be totally alone, I start to miss people . . . and then I remember how much work it is to camp by oneself, and then I pack the car up and go home. (I'm not a total wuss; this usually takes at least 3 days.)

Katy said...

I have phases where I'm terribly enthusiastic about meeting a nice chap. I go out for the evening with a few and they invariably turn out to be nice and charming. Equally invariably I decline a second date.

Then I lose interest in the idea again for a while. Repeat.

I guess it's me, not them.

You're not alone on the word verification thingy - I couldn't get it to work yesterday either.

TheChicGeek said...

Hi Fram :) I used to be afraid body-surfing in big waves until I started thinking of them as a giant natural washing machine. If I'd just relax flipping around in the crash from a wipeout would feel like a big massage, nice and tingly and refreshing. It's all about perspective, isn't it? I've done kayaking in the ocean too and that was fun.
As far as the whole dating thing, I agree with Katy. I do the exact same thing. I don't think I'm afraid though. If I met the right person I believe I would keep on going :)
Always fun to visit you! Have a Great Day!

Fram said...

Hi, Chocobo. My idea of camping is to do it on a river or wilderness lake where you pitch a tent, stay overnight, or maybe a day or two for "exploring," then paddle on and on and on.

I started with a canoe, and prefer it to a kayak. Sometimes I sleep right in the canoe; sometimes I am carrying supplies for a couple of weeks; sometimes it's easier to make a portage with; I think traveling in a canoe is more comfortable.

Fram said...

Katy, hi there. The word verification system is up and running again "over there."

Finding a nice person or an interesting person or a beautiful person really is pretty easy. Finding the right person is the elusive element, don't you think?

Fram said...

California surfer girl. I never would have guessed that a few days ago.

Hi, Kelly. I suppose next we'll discover that you sky dive every fourth Saturday of the month. It's fun to have you visit and to cruise your page, too.

Something special ....