Paddling is a time-tested way that explorers travelled in pre-automotive days of old. Think of rivers as highways and you’ll quickly understand how handy a large waterway was for early touring entertainers like Jerry Lewis and Dick Clark. Thick history books (with very few pictures) will tell you all you ever wanted to know (and more) about the routes that Lewis & Clark took on their early tours together.
Today let’s focus on a trip I took on the Illinois River near Tahlequah, Oklahoma. You might be wondering why a river called the Illinois is in Oklahoma, well, you wouldn’t be the only one wondering that. A panel of expert hydrologists determined that when the river was a teenager it wasn’t getting along with its parents so it ran away from home.
Illinois’s loss is Oklahoma’s gain, so I decided to hop on the river for a 5 mile trip before it changed its mind.
The good folks at Peyton’s Place rented me a kayak and drove me and 7 other floaters in a short school bus to a drop off point in the river.
I was about to launch in the river when the helpful Peyton’s Place guide said, “hold on, you haven’t got a paddle.” I thought that was cool of him to remind me, so I gave him a tip. The tip I gave him was “always follow your dreams.”
Soon I was drifting past rafters with portable MP3 players to a quiet strech of river where I could collect my scattered thoughts.
To test my strength and to boost my self-esteem, I paddled as hard as I could, reaching a top speed of 6.5 miles per hour on a fast piece of river.
As I was powering through the water (and perhaps hallucinating from my effort), in the rippling waves and currents of the river, I thought I saw the smiling faces of Jerry Lewis and Dick Clark winking and saying "good job."