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Posts Tagged ‘kayaking’

Lodi, CA: Paddling and Pubs Get Political

Canoe Vibes - Paddling in California - Stop the Tunnels

I wasn’t sure if I should do it.

In the revolving door of perpetual political one-sidedness – an internet feed full of my-way-or-the-highway cyber stances on deleted confidential email threads and misunderstood second amendment threats – my finger hovered hesitantly over the send button outside of Ollie’s Pub.

You can’t miss the message. I drove north on the five from a hazy fourth of July weekend in LA to Lodi, California – pronounced load-eye not load-y, to save you the laughter from the local bartenders that made me sweat. The fence signs, bumper stickers, and billboards from twenty miles out all the way to the patio at Ollie’s where I sat enjoying my Lagunitas IPA all preached one message: Stop the Tunnels.

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San Francisco, CA: Hangin’ with Willie in McCovey’s Cove

Mark Vlaskamp Canoe Vibes San Francisco

This is Willie McCovey. It’s a statue; it’s not Stretch himself.

In the sixties and seventies, Willie was one of the best hitters in baseball. Spending most of his time at first base for the San Francisco Giants, he earned his paycheck by making pitcher’s knees buckle from sixty feet and six inches away in the lefty batter’s box. When Stretch came up to bat, Giants fans would all shift over toward the right field deck at Candlestick Park with hopes of catching a souvenir – a shift defensive players could have benefitted from too if that defensive mindset hadn’t been forty years before it’s time.

Willie never played on the field backing up to China Basin, feeding Mission Creek and then San Francisco Bay – but his namesake cove, built and named twenty years after his retirement – is now a paddler’s monopoly on blasted home run souvenirs.

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Madawaska Valley, ON: Being A Beginner Again

Mark Vlaskamp | Canoe Vibes | Algonquin Canoe Trip

Algonquin laughs at people who rush it, people like me.

What I lacked in time, I made up for with an open schedule, an over-abundance of trail mix, and a powered down cell phone – distraction free to escape non-road-trip-friendly international data charges. For me, it wasn’t about covering all the ground between the Georgian Bay and the Ottawa River, paddling the 2,400 lakes, or mastering all 7,653 square kilometers (metric, eh?) of Algonquin Provincial Park’s canoe routes. My detour through Canada was all about confirming Algonquin’s reality and doing the best that I could – a wandering foreigner trying to keep his head above water. It’s a canoeist’s paradise but the Instagram location tag that I’ve appreciated from afar for years has held only a slightly more stable place in my reality than Narnia, Neverland, and Santa’s North Pole.

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Boynton Beach, FL: Big Fish & Bigger Parties

Canoe Vibes | Deep Blue Kayak Fishing | Offshore Kayak Fishing

Eric McDonald – a Michigan transplant now giving autographs to South Florida pizza delivery guys for his offshore kayak fishing celebrity-ish status – opened my 6 am charter with an apology.

“I just need one. Sorry, man. I’m feeling a little rough.”

He cracked the top on one of the previous night’s surviving Corona Lights and handed me the other, a selfless gesture guided by the assumption that I couldn’t be feeling much better than he. Within minutes, beers number forty-seven and forty-eight were finished to round out our Thursday night party.

With only a six-hour nap in between, it was better late than never.

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Gibsonton, Florida: The Greatest Show on Earth

Mark Vlaskamp Canoe Vibes Redfish Tamp Florida

Grady Stiles – stage named Lobster Boy, personifying every historically accurate, culturally-exaggerated, American Horror Story ‘carnie-ism’ on the laundry list of what it takes to be the most famous freak in the traveling show, never fancied spending his free time in metropolitan Tampa, Florida. That’s because he preferred the secluded mangroves of Gibsonton. As does kayak fishing guide Derick Burgos of Phatfish Kayak Charters.

One of them was drawn to the Gibsonton – where various self-proclaimed carnival and circus entertainers spend the offseason – by the vicinity to their former employer, Ringling Brothers’, winter operation in Tampa and Sarasota. The other was drawn to the plentiful fishery. One of them used the seclusion to hide his lobster hand disability (ectrodactyly), alcoholism, and eventual murder of a family member while the other uses the deep channel pockets to land big redfish on his client’s small plastic boats.

Both have logged countless hours wandering Alfia River.

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