Archive:  Year 4 - Sunday, March 14, 2010 "Rising Tide"

It is with the utmost pleasure that I confidently announce, Winter is over and we have survived it.  My running water has returned in full force, and after careful inspection it is clear – there are no leaks.  Open water surrounds every boat, and the River is both tall and alive.  There may be a renegade snowstorm before it’s all said and done, but Winter has, most assuredly, lost her sting.  Alleluia.  

As reality has it, of course, each season carries with it it’s own set of challenges, and Spring is no exception.  Already the River has risen over a foot a day for the last several days and the debris she is carrying with her is ominous.  Huge trees, large solid slabs of ice – and boaters.  

As difficult as it is to shift from summer to winter in terms of temperature; it is as difficult to shift form winter to summer, in terms of atmosphere.  For the last five months, the same 8 cars have been in the parking lot.  Since November, I have been walking my dog with no leash, under the sparkling stars, in my pj’s and dirty hair without a second thought.  Then, usually on the same day I am enraptured to find I can stand under the hot sun in a t-shirt, some douch-bag I’ve never seen before crosses the parking lot to give me a patronizing, ‘you know you have to leash your dog’ or ‘the sign says you can’t park in the launch’.  

And you want to say, ‘Listen idiot, my unleashed dog and I have been hammering out a survival on this River while you were going from heated garage to heated skyway and not giving a second thought to your $100,000 yacht that you wouldn’t know how to take care of if there was a gun to your head!’  

I want to thump my chest with entitlement and scoff at them for their soft, land-lubbered existence.


But this is wrong.  It’s wrong, in part, because the boaters are quite right – the dogs are supposed to be leashed, and we can’t park in the launch…  But it’s also wrong because that is what I love most about the River, and especially about this marina.  It doesn’t belong to any of us.  I may spend more time here than most, but it makes me no more the ‘owner’ than it does the coyotes.  People come to the River because that is what rivers do – they draw things to them.  Any of us on her shores, whether for an afternoon or decade, only ever see what is quickly passing by.  The few rules we all agree to:  be respectful of each others’ property, and don’t be a dick – do, definitely, include keeping your dog leashed.  And so I will.

As long as the boaters are here.  

Before the boaters come back, however, and before the snow has all retreated, there is another sign that Spring is coming.  Something that now, after three years, is beginning to feel like a tradition to me.  It is the annual Polar Bear Plunge into Lake Calhoun.  I first heard about the Plunge from a cop I worked with at Crisis Company.  After I had screamed foul obscenities at him for several hours during a training, he concluded that I would make a good emcee for this event.  The Plunges are organized at various places around the state by Minnesota Law Enforcement and raise money for Special Olympics.  It is a great organization and an awesome event that gets cooler and more streamlined every year.  The first year, I announced and encouraged the plungers but did not plunge.  Last year I plunged for the first time, and this year – a team of wild horses couldn’t have kept me out of the water.

This is not to say that anything about the plunge is necessarily enjoyable.  It’s intimidating, painful, and counter-intuitive… Which, naturally, makes it glorious and exciting.  And even if at the beginning of the day I was not so keen on jumping into 33-degree water – after watching over 1500 people do it, I am compelled to.  It turns out that ‘if everyone else jumps into a freezing lake…’ so will I.  Sorry, Ma.

Myself, Melby and Rich - the cop who originally duped me into this whole thing - were the last ones to plunge.  We signaled the official close of the event.  The good news – a dramatic swansong.  The bad news – the hot tubs are disgusting.  The best news – the event had record turnout and raised over $300,000.  Let’s hear it for the happy marriage of a good cause, and bad judgment.

And speaking of bad judgment, I have again committed myself to The Mississippi River Challenge this year.  This is the annual 2-day kayak journey from Coon Rapids to Hastings.  Paddlers navigate three locks, travel over 50 miles, and camp overnight in Fort Snelling.  Last summer was my first time paddling and it was no less than magical.  I spend more time on the River than most people, obviously, and I saw things I had never even heard of before.  The front-seat look at the inside of the locks, the skylines of both downtowns, and all without the constant whir of a motor.  Stunning. 

Stunning, and also a fundraiser.  The sponsor of the Challenge, The Friends of the Mississippi River, is an organization that cleans and protects the River throughout the Twin Cities.  They do everything from garbage pick-up along the shoreline, to environmental legislation.  I like them.  I vouch for them.  And if you are so inclined, I would appreciate your help in meeting my goal to give them money:  You can do so here.  


And in the meantime, day-by-day, Winter subsides and Spring continues to stretch her legs.  In mere weeks I will take the shrink wrap off The Road and let her blink back real air and a full view.  Once she is dusted off and naked again there is some maintenance to do.  The decks need to be resurfaced and painted.  The hull could use a sandblast.  The canvas is sun-bleached and patchy…  The fun, good, hard work that is mostly portrayed as montage in any good 80’s film. 

For now, I am only really focused on the potential flooding.  As it stands now, the water levels have been going up steadily, but predictably.  The level has another 15’ to go before we would even raise an eyebrow.  If it goes up another 20’, however, as some are saying it will, we would need to be prepared to canoe to our cars…  Fine. 

It’s Spring - by god - and I’ll take it.

Next Post: April 13, 2010 "The Best of the Worst"

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