A winter canoe trip adventure
The Schwietzer Road bridge over the Grand River. The last I heard, it hadn’t tumbled into the river.
For canoeists, the most frequently asked question is, “Where do you go canoeing?”
For me, the answer is simple. I generally don’t know until the last minute.
That’s because water levels and weather conditions dictate where I go.
Being retired gives me a little more leeway, but I didn’t make the decision for my last trip until the morning of. It came down to heading south and paddling the Walhonding and Muskingum rivers from Six Mile Dam to Dresden, or heading north to the Grand River. Earlier weather forecasts called for rain and 37 degrees in both places on Tuesday. Not fun.
But, on Sunday morning, the northern forecast had changed to colder temperatures and all snow Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. The clincher was three inches of snow early Sunday afternoon.
When I pulled into the Grand River Canoe Livery, Bob Three Spirits and his family had two log splitters going and were working their way through a huge pile of wood. I didn’t want to distract them, so I just slipped on down the hill to the canoe landing and set up a base camp.
On Monday morning, after a leisurely breakfast, I drove up the hill to the livery and made arrangements to take my Canubaru downstream.
Bob started his Ranger pickup truck, but couldn’t get the four-wheel drive to work.
He tried to start his Chevy Blazer, but it wouldn’t turn over.
“You’re jinxing me,” Bob said.
Fortunately — or not — he managed to get one of his old canoe livery vans started. It was mid ’80s model Dodge that bore a striking resemblance to the Possum Lodge van on the Red Green Show.
We dropped off my Canubaru at the Tote Road landing. Bob pointed to a house across the river and said, “Just remember to look for the house with three dormers, and that will tell you you’re coming up to the landing.”
It was kind of a unique house with three dormers on the side facing the river. There was a small window in the middle one and large windows on the left and right dormers.
Bob said he needed to gas up before heading back to the livery. What he didn’t say is he was running on fumes. Apparently, we ran out of gas as the van rolled up to the pumps. After gassing it up, Bob couldn’t get it started.
We went inside the gas station and got a cup of coffee, hoping the van might start if it sat for awhile. The main topic of conversation was whether I was a jinx in general, or just Bob’s private jinx.
After coffee, and spraying half a can of ether down the carburetor, the van started.
When we got back to the livery, I asked Bob how much he wanted for helping set up my shuttle.
“Nothing,” he responded. “Just don’t jinx me anymore.”
I’m not superstitious, but as I paddled slowly down the Grand — enjoying the wildlife and solitude — I began to wonder if Bob wasn’t right about me being a jinx.
When I arrived at the canoe landing, firefighters from the Austinburg Volunteer Fire Department were hosing down the smoldering ruins of the three-dormer house.
I drove back to base camp, where I spent a sleepless night listening for a mob of vigilantes bent on tar-and-feathering me.
On Tuesday morning, I slipped out of Ashtabula County — just before the big snowstorm hit.