Surviving the Flu & Surprise on Lake Calhoun

The quarantine is over!  My probable H1N1-related fever had finally broken on Saturday and I desperately wanted to escape the second bedroom of our apartment.  Despite my previous post highlighting the experiences of my co-workers in the Boundary Waters, they had not yet returned from their adventure when my fever broke.

Although I had not quite yet fully healed, most of my symptoms were gone and I wanted to take advantage of the glorious sunshine that bathed the Twin Cities this weekend.  On Sunday, I made the short drive to my defacto standard kayaking location, Lake of the Isles and Lake Calhoun, and hopped on the water for some light paddling.

Lounging on Lake Calhoun

I paddled out to the center of Lake Calhoun and kicked my feet up for some lounging in the sun.  I was admiring the city skyline when I heard a loud speaker in the distance and the cheers of a crowd on the southern shore of Lake Calhoun.  After I turned around, I was surprised to see a gathering of anchored kayaks & canoes floating opposite of bleachers set up on the shore.

Surprise on the southern shore of Lake Calhoun

There were a number of people obviously anchored for the day just outside of some floating barriers.  A number of them had umbrellas, sun block and coolers with drinks and food.  Other than my 1L bottle of water, I had none of these things, but I had arrived late to the party.

Is there a fair going on?

What is this party?  I later found out it was the 70th-annual Minneapolis Aquatennial celebration.  This 9-day celebration has a unique competition – milk carton boat races!  How cool is that?  I paddled up to the competition just as it was finishing up (drats!), but it sounded like people make their own boats out of milk cartons and race them.  They come in serious or amusing designs, and were some of the most unique boats I’ve seen on Lake Calhoun.

Life guard on duty

There were a number of life guards and safety crew on call to help anyone that might have some trouble.  I can imagine more than one milk carton boat didn’t cross the finish line.

A crowd admiring a curious boat

A very long, skinny milk carton boat was being walked out to the starting line when I arrived.  This thing was truly massive, and I cannot imagine how many cartons were used to assemble this beast.  I couldn’t see them get into the boat, but I can imagine the boat was a bit ‘tippy’ with such a narrow beam. I also imagine this boat only raced in a straight line.

Quite the curious boat

There were quite a few people gathered on shore to watch the races.  I enjoyed my spot on the water, as I never imagined I’d spend the afternoon watching milk carton boat races while reclining in my inflatable kayak.  Come to think of it, I couldn’t really move or breathe without pain just a couple days before.

There were barriers keeping me from the food

I do enjoy fair-style food, but I think I will pack a lunch next year and enjoy the full competition from the water.  I definitely will need to pack the kayak with sunblock, an anchor, food and drinks.

Climbing walls and bouncy houses

There were quite a few activities for families, including a climbing wall, bungee-assisted moon-walking, and a bouncy-house style inflatable playhouse.  Perhaps I can bring our (soon-to-be) daughter here one year.

Paddling a long milk-jug boat

The long, skinny milk carton boat was quite speedy.  I could count 10 people with oars, ranging from young to older.  Low drag and lots of paddlers, that seems to be a good combination.  I am fairly certain they were going faster than I could paddle my inflatable kayak.

Go USS Colon Cruiser, Go!

Each of the boats had a sponsor.  I’m pretty sure the ’sponsors’ were just a group of enthusiastic co-workers, as I can’t imagine they were financially supported.  The comically named S.S. Colon Cruiser was sponsored by a department of a local hospital.  Perhaps this means we’ll see the Finzel Crystal Cruiser next year?  Hmm….tempting, very tempting.

Lounging while watching the races

The long, skinny boat was racing the S.S. Colon Cruiser.  I’m afraid a 4-person crew paddling a double-hulled milk jug boat is not the fastest combination.  Despite their best efforts, the S.S. Colon Cruiser came in a distant second place.  Everyone looked like they were enjoying themselves though, so no hurt feelings were on the water.

Paddling back to the dock

I headed back to my familiar launching dock on Lake of the Isles.  I had escaped the self-imposed prison of my second bedroom, saw the sun, and enjoyed a truly unique sight on the waters of Lake Calhoun.  I’d say it was a good day.

Water levels seem to be up

I’m happy to say that the water level appears to be up a bit on the lakes, but still low for the year.  Luckily the water was quite still and enjoyable to admire.  I may not be floating in the Boundary Waters, but at least I am out on the water.

Baby ducklings!

As my boat sat in the sun to dry, I managed to photograph a family of ducks swimming by the dock.  They didn’t seem to appreciate my paparazzi-like chasing of them to get a good photo.  I managed to capture this shot, and figured I’d stressed them out enough.  You can see the extensive plant growth that was filling the lake in this shot.

Lovely sight

One last photo before I packed the inflatable kayak back in the car.  Although I missed out on my Boundary Waters trip, I still made the best of a bad situation.  I’m happy to say that my flu symptoms were not terribly bad, and I seemed to have pulled through OK.  My pregnant wife seemed to escape the flu, so that was a tremendous relief.  How many more kayak trips can I squeeze in before our daughter is born?  I hope a couple more, but we’ll see!

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