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The Trip You Don’t Take

I’m living in an alternate reality right now, imagining what would have happened if I and a couple of friends had pressed on with a camping trip we had been planning for weeks out to Sandy Hook.

What happened was, bad weather was predicted all week, and when it came down to it, lots of little thunderstorms were popping up west of the region, predicted to dot the back half of the weekend with rain, gusts, and electricity. The first two are OK, but the last is not acceptable. Besides, who wants to camp in the rain?

So there we were, at the dock, 0830 in the morning, and we decided to try a day trip instead.

We took off across the Hudson and headed south. We made good time, considering it was slack tide. We were at Hoboken in just about half an hour, when we decided to check the weather.

In its lovely monotone, the weather station told us – I paraphrase here – “severe weather watch in Middlesex, Passaic, and Morris Counties . . .Westchester and Dutchess counties . . .storms moving 15 to 20 miles per hour”. We later heard from friends above the GWB that there was quite a downpour, and lightning in the distance. Looking uptown, you could almost see a blanket of water enveloping the area north of 125th street, on both sides of the river. Yet, to the south, a ball of light was forming in the same humidity, sunlight relayed through tiny water particles.

We decided to turn back even earlier than we planned. We stopped at Pier 40, then paddled against the current back towards Pier 96. Along the way we caught some awesome tugboat wake, easily 3-4 feet, twice because there were two of them. They were on their way to the annual tugboat race (derby? It’s more than a race), which became an issue for us once we got to about Pier 84. The police, coast guard, and coast guard auxiliary gave us conflicting advice on how to go around it. Ultimately we ended up paddling up the middle of the channel, partly escorted by two very likely bored auxiliary crews.

We got back around noon, played a bit, then unpacked and washed. We compared notes with friends. Apparently there had been lightning further uptown, and some rain, ad more was expected all up and down the harbor area.

“Now begins the second guessing,” said one of my friends.

“Now? I’ve been second guessing for the past hour,” I said. “We better get some really terrible weather tomorrow to justify this.”

And so, in some alternate reality, we did paddle to Sandy Hook, or South Beach at least, and we did camp, and see the sites, and admire the ocean. But here, in what I know as real life, I went to a friend’s birthday party instead, came home and cleaned up, rested. The trip you don’t take can be as exhausting as the one that you do take.

Published in 2013 Backpaddle Camping Downtown Boathouse New York New York City

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