Lying on my back, I.

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I looked northwest, pulled over above next to the entrance to Kerrville-Schreiner Park, and saw the grey curtain dropping somewhere past Medina Highway, maybe even as far up as Hunt. I checked the native weather app on my iPhone and saw that rain wasn’t predicted here until 8pm. It was now 4:15.

8pm. 

I’ve fallen into the bad habit of relying on the weather app to tell me what’s going on outside, instead of actually sticking my head out the door. Or looking at Google Maps to check the route ahead rather than using common sense and an innate sense of good direction. (Which I’ve always had with respect to the compass, if not my choices.)

But there seemed to be enough wiggle room between what was visible in the northwest and my desired stand-up paddle-boarding session on the Guadalupe that I decided to take a chance.

I pulled into the park and heading down toward the lot. My season parking pass had expired in March, and I was hoping no official would notice. Especially since I didn’t have it with me, and especially since it was printed with the license plate of my old Ford Contour — for astute readers here (you 3 or 4), that vehicle I bought in February 2018 for $650 and sold in May, when it was no longer running, for $200 through Facebook Marketplace.

There were only about four other vehicles there — school had let out only an hour earlier and Friday afternoons on the Guadalupe are apparently not the thing to do. It was patchy sun, though, and hot. Felt good. I unstrapped the board — having not found my bungee cords nor the ratchet straps I’d bought, I used two white electrical extension cords I found in the garage, tied together with a bowline and square knots — and locked my valuables in the truck.

This truck is a 1988 Ford F-150, a gift from friends to my oldest son, now 20. It was a ranch truck and not driven that much, so in its first thirty years, it saw only 80,000 miles. The same month we got the truck, February 2018, we also got the aforementioned and short-lived Contour (I spent 15% of its total cost just to get it detailed on the inside, because its previous owner was a chain smoker and chain McDonalds customer and a chain not-cleaner-upper), and a 16-year-old Lexus with nearly 200k miles on it. Our total cost for three vehicles was $3,650. Two are still with us. My (heavily) used SUP board cost $40, including paddle, purchased from the very generous owner of Kerrville Kayak and Canoe.

I paddled hard up to the first set of visible tree trunks — 1/4 mile downriver? — then took a pause. I turned the board perpendicular to the river and lay on my back on the deck, looking at some of those clouds I’d seen to the west and north. I relaxed and breathed. Thinking that nothing on the shore really mattered that much right then. I decided I’d better not get too comfortable, so I turned to my stomach and did a plank on my elbows and toes, counting slowly to 30, my abdomen jiggling from months of fast food and inactivity, from driving and reliance on coffee for motivation.

I hopped back to my feet and paddled hard back upriver, with a warm slight breeze to my back, switching sides now and then with a hop. Four strokes on this side and switch grip; four strokes on the other side. HOP! Four strokes and four strokes more. HOP! I could feel my sides burning with a good burn.

A man called out from a small motorized boat with two raised fishing poles stuck near the transom, “You’re gonna be sore tomorrow!”

At first, I didn’t know how to respond. This guy didn’t know me; he didn’t know whether I did this every day or not and whether I’d be sore or not. I started to take offense.

Then I realized that, even 50 feet away, it was evident to any casual onlooker that my effort here was not a daily ritual.

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