Saturday, May 24, 2014

Kayaking, With a Side of MRI

Our kayak!

Hub and I returned home last night from a Road Scholar kayaking adventure, five days paddling calm waters, making new friends, learning new skills and enjoying perfect spring weather.

Road Scholar is a non-profit intent on helping seniors fill their leisure hours, days, weeks, months and years with interesting, stimulating activities. Set your budget, choose an interest and location, and take off!

Our second Road Scholar program (cross country skiing our first three years ago) began unofficially with a road trip to Virginia - the Chincoteague/Assateague area, part of a chain of barrier islands along the Delmarva peninsula stretching from Delaware and Maryland into Virginia.

Years ago, decades actually but who is counting, our family spent a couple of days camping in the Chincoteague area in the midst of oppressive summer heat. The most memorable part of that trip was the hordes of mosquitos attacking us.

Mosquitoes or other bugs, biting or otherwise, did not plague us this trip, except for a few minutes one day at a state park. Once on the water, the bugs did not pursue us. Back on land, we retreated quickly to the air conditioned van. No bugs allowed.

The program officially began with a traditional Chesapeake Bay boil dinner - crabs, shrimp, oysters, corn, potatoes, and sausages cooked together in a huge metal pot. Once the smell of the crabs and shrimp becomes irresistible, the food is poured onto a long table. Following a quick lesson on the correct method of extracting meat from the crabs, everyone dug in.
Chesapeake Bay Boil

The days and evenings comprised leisurely paddling on mostly calm waters, lectures on the flora around and below our boats, the animals surrounding our kayaks, tidbits about the history of the area, and food ranging from adequate cafeteria fare to a great seafood boil, an afternoon barbecue, and two restaurant dinners.

The one exception to leisurely kayaking occurred on our late afternoon paddle. Meandering through calm waters, passing oyster traps, nesting birds, and NASA facilities, the skies grew increasingly menacing. We were aware rain was predicted later that evening, but a sudden loud voice piercing the stillness shook us up.

The NASA Wallops Island facility alerts employees about impending storms so equipment can be stored. The announcement, which can be heard over a great distance, motivated everyone to morph from a leisurely kayaking pace into let's-get-the-hell-out-of-here-fast mode.

We made it safely back to the van and indoors before the rain descended in powerful, steady sheets.

And for the record, the two-woman paddling team beat the other two-person male/female teams to the landing site.

Carol and Meredith, you were awesome!

Actually there was another exception to leisurely kayaking. We were paddling through very calm waters during low tide - so low that very little water remained in the tidal creek - not enough to paddle through. Our kayaks grounded in the muck and mud. We used our paddles to free the kayaks, and our trusty guides Jim and Alyssa (strong twenty-somethings) pushed the kayaks into deeper water when all else failed.

We earned our lunch that day.

Hub and I missed the last paddle in the bays between Chincoteague and Assateague islands. We spent the morning in the emergency room of the nearest hospital, 40 miles away. Extreme pain hinting at a possible serious problem, possibly appendicitis, landed the two of us in the car at 4:00 a.m.

There was a silver lining to the hours spent in the ER. Walking into the facility, I was placed on a gurney furnished with a thick plush mattress, fluffy pillow and warm blanket. Our accommodations at the Chincoteague Field Station (a.k.a. Marine Science Consortium) were less-than-plush dorm-quality. Once on the gurney, I immediately fell asleep.

Following tests, including a CAT scan and MRI detecting no problem, and medicated enough to feel no pain, we were sent on our way.

We rendezvoused with the group in time for a lunchtime barbecue, followed by an afternoon exploring Assateague Island's visitor centers and beach.

I was not going to miss a seafood dinner of scallops and shrimp at Bill's Seafood Restaurant, or the opportunity to wander a deserted beach Friday morning collecting shells.
Collecting shells along the beach

Our final evening a musical trio, the 3 Sheetz, regaled us with old Celtic sea songs and New World ballads.

All that fresh air and exercise takes its toll on older bodies! We were lucky to remain awake until dark...

Now we could use a vacation from our vacation. Instead I am writing this on a USAirways flight to Florida. Hub and I are on our way to babysit the grandkids while Mom and Dad enjoy a long, long weekend away. They told us they have a wedding, but I am skeptical...


  1. Busy, busy, busy! Have a good time with the grand kids.

  2. Sounds like a fun time. I've never been kayaking, but our children own their own. The seafood and walking on the beach looks inviting though.

  3. We've taken part in a couple of the day trips around here. We also participate in those offered by the Smithsonian. None involved kayaks, thank goodness.

  4. Wow! I'm glad they found nothing and the trip to the hospital was a good chance for a snooze. I see what you mean about needing a vacation from your vacation, and that's just what you got, right? :-)

  5. What great fun, well, except for the emergency room part! I'm going to check out the Road Scholar program.

  6. We've been on a couple of Road Scholar trips. One to a service project for Habitat for Humanity in Lafayette, Louisiana, and one to the Black Hills of South Dakota. On that one, I sat down wrong, created a perfect storm for my back, and have had tingling feet for the last three years! So pleasure and pain, like you.

  7. Never been on a Road Scholar ... but it's on my list of things to do. Thanks for the preview!

  8. Wow you guys definitely have a very busy life! Thank you for sharing this journey with us. My husband and I really enjoy reading your blog and look forward to many more in the future. Holidays are a wonderful thing and I just wish we could do many more with our family. Thank you for the inspiration, god bless, thanks.

    Kacey @ Glendale MRI