A Body in Motion

…stays in motion. Ah…Newton. More than just a fig-filled snack cookie, his laws of physics have endured the test of time. The Law of Inertia: a body in motion stays in motion, a body at rest stays at rest. The rest of that law says, “Unless acted on by an unbalanced force.” My entire life is an unbalanced force.

But I’m working on that.

Neal had a 4-day weekend in honor of Columbus Day this past weekend (or as they like to refer to it in L.A.: Indigenous Peoples Day). Blue still had school so we took the opportunity to do a couple of things that we haven’t yet attempted with Blue in tow. (Not that he can’t do them, he just won’t. Blue has to come around to things on his own terms. Like riding a bike and being in a boat. He has to decide he wants to do them or it’s just straight misery for everyone. Until then…) So, on Friday morning we kayaked the Naples Canals in Long Beach and we spent Monday morning biking from Torrance to Manhattan Beach along The Strand.

We have never lived in a place where the view is occasionally better from the water. But the general consensus around here is that much of southern California is like that, especially the canals. The Naples Canals in Long Beach and the Venice Canals in Venice Beach were intentionally designed to mimic the destinations for which they are named. Those early Californians thought of everything. Why travel around the world when you can just drop your boat in down the street? And so we set out for Long Beach, having a vague idea of where we were headed.

The biggest deterrent for doing something new (for me, anyway) is looking like a complete ass in front of people who know better. I was a canoe instructor for a summer during college so being in a kayak shouldn’t be a stretch of my abilities. But I have put it off for 15 years because I couldn’t exactly remember what to do. I mean…you get in the boat, you paddle, you try not to tip over. But it’s the details of how to do those 3 things that has kept me from even trying. Fortunately for me, Neal doesn’t really know what he’s doing either. And that is the biggest benefit to having a workout buddy. You are in this together, ass and all.

Our first misstep was attempting to rent kayaks from the Long Beach Recreational Center. They informed us that the Kayaks on the Water Company was one more building down. But we did find out that the Rec Center has an entire schedule of classes for everyone from preschoolers to adults and come January, Blue will be taking karate and ukulele lessons. And I have my eye on learning how to sail. So, all’s well that ends well.

Once we found the kayak rental company, we had to watch a short (and surprisingly entertaining) safety video. It talked about how to pass other watercraft, how to enter and exit the canals and where not to walk if you decide to dock and go into the Starbucks a mile up the bay. (As in “Do not walk on these stairs. They are slick. You will fall and break your neck and die.” They really said that. It was the best safety video I’ve ever seen.) Then we got our life jackets and paddles and pushed out into the water.

Getting in the kayak was shockingly simple. As with all boats, stay in the center and you’ll be fine. At least that little nugget of knowledge came back to me from a summer on the water. Once in, we had a decision to make: Starbucks or the canals? I needed to earn that cold brew frappe, so canals first!

The Naples canals were designed when Arthur Parsons decided to create an Italian-esque neighborhood on the marsh of the man-made Alamitos Bay. They also host the annual Naples Island Christmas Boat Parade, which has been held since 1946. We will definitely be back for that.

In the meantime…

we tried to keep it to the center and not accidentally plow into any boats that cost more than our house. We also docked at Starbucks (which was connected to a Barnes & Noble, could this day date get any better?) and when I suggested it would be easier to climb out of the water next to the stairs, Neal reminded me those were the Stairs of Death. I am just a statistic waiting to happen when he isn’t around.

We managed to kayak about 5 miles and, that night, I felt every single one of them in my shoulders, back and chest. I was so doused in peppermint oil that Neal’s eyes watered when he leaned over to kiss me goodnight. But by Saturday morning I felt great and ready to do it all over again. I’m not sure a kayak purchase is in our future, but if we want to rent some for the day, we know a guy.

Monday morning we packed up the bikes and headed to Torrance State Beach, which is the southern most point of The Strand, a cycling/pedestrian path that runs parallel to the Pacific Ocean. The Strand ends somewhere up near Santa Monica, 22 miles north of Torrance. I was pretty sure we would not be biking 44 miles before school pick-up, but Manhattan Beach seemed doable. And they have a Wahoo’s Tacos. The only reason we had been putting off this particular adventure is because Blue is vehemently opposed to getting on a bike. And I was fairly sure he would not be scootering 10 miles roundtrip. But that’s our parenting failure and one that we’ve been trying to remedy for almost 3 years now. Someday riding a bike is going to seem like the best idea ever and then we’ll never get him off of it. Until then…

Don’t mind us…we’re just riding along at 7 mph (yes, there are speed checkers posted along the path), gawking at the houses that we pass. More than one had a private putting green. How golf-obsessed do you have to be to say, “Honey, let’s not do that infinity pool with a built-in bar and hot tub. Let’s do a putting green instead!”?

At one point, between Hermosa Beach (where the path was thick with bikers, runners and skaters) and Manhattan Beach, I remarked to Neal how the traffic seemed to have cleared. Then we turned the corner and ran smack dab into a set of stairs. Apparently, we had missed the turn to go up to the street, but we are strong folk so we lugged those bikes up the stairs and tried to look like we meant to do that when we were reunited with the riders who hadn’t missed the turn.

After passing the Redondo Pier and Boardwalk, the path comes out at the street level and runs parallel to North Harbor Drive. And that’s the first time I ever saw a bike stoplight.


Dear Hilton Head Island, You need these. Love, Me. I’m usually not one for riding in the road (simply because everywhere else we’ve lived, “share the road” has meant “cars first, you second…try not to become street meat on your way to the library to return that book on crocheting”), but there are barriers between the cyclists and the cars. Never once did I feel like death was imminent.

Also, the entire path is pretty flat. So, while I probably did little to burn off the fried shrimp basket and Blue Moon beer we had on our way back through Redondo, at least I stayed in motion. And, according to Newton, that’s a good predictor of how the rest of the week will go.

Except yesterday I cleaned the house and put up Halloween decorations. But my vodka mule was gluten free, so there’s that. My friend, Karen, completed an adventure race a couple of weeks ago and you can read about that here. Sometimes you just have to get off the elliptical, set down the weights and get outside. If anyone wants to spend the morning in a boat or on a bike, I’m your girl. Let’s go!

One Reply to “A Body in Motion”

  1. My entire body aches from your canoe trip! All of it! I could do the bike ride, but canoeing is HARD!

    Totally different subject: There is a wine shop in LA called Wine Country. A woman named Sam works there and she is a wine whisperer. (Her specialty is European wines.) She used to write the best blog, too. If you get a chance to check it out, you should check it out. Tell her “Webb sent you.” you know?

    Glad you had fun on Neal’s days off! Expecting rain tomorrow, and then fall is finally coming to town.


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