I’m finding it quite odd that most of the things that are on my short list of things to get my adrenaline going, I usually end up doing because of this blog. Not because I plan for it, but because one day, someone emails me and says, “Hey, you want to go kayaking?” and before my conservative side can kick in, I reply with a resounding “YES,” and just like that, I’ve signed up to traverse a river in nothing but a plastic kayak, and the guidance of someone who has done this before. That’s how I found myself at the riverbank at the Milwaukee Kayak Company.
The day that we went was quite warm. The site is quite unassuming, as it is in a boatyard, just off one of the main streets in the Third Ward. The location is set up with the kayaks housed in a tent of sorts, all separated by type and color. There are also paddleboards for the more adventurous travelers, but I’m not quite there yet. We were shown a map of the river, and instructed which way the wind was blowing, and also told where we shouldn’t saunter – like Lake Michigan. We were then fit for our kayaks (they have foot stops for you, so that your legs aren’t flopping around the boat) and shown how to hold our paddles. I was wearing a pair of jeans and that awesome white shirt because I didn’t think this through. The white shirt was just fine, but jeans, in water? Not a good look. So if you’re heading out to kayak, make sure to wear some shorts, even trunks, or a pair of quick dry pants.
When Shomari and I arrived to check in, we were greeted by the owner Beth, and two young gentlemen, who were all smiles, and that was good. They made small talk with me because I’m certain that I let them know fifty times over how nervous I was. Meanwhile, they continued to ready our kayaks and even gave me a hood of sorts – remarking that they hadn’t used one in quite some time. I laughed, they laughed, the hood stayed. There were options to carry our belongings in waterproof wet bags, but I didn’t, because I didn’t need anything extra in my kayak in case I did the impossible and tipped mine over. Spoiler alert – I didn’t tip over. Instead, I enjoyed a nice two-hour trek up the Milwaukee river. Looking at all of the new construction of loft apartments and restaurants along the river walk. There were people who waved at us, and plenty of seagulls who paddled aimlessly alongside our kayaks and before I knew it, I was smiling, and not tensed up. I was peacefully paddling, and taking in all of this city from an angle that I wouldn’t have dared considered any other time.
The water smelled just as I expected it to. Like the river of a huge city. I’m from Chicago, and the smell is comforting, go figure. It was also a great murky green that I have also come to love. Of course, that’s not from anything that Milwaukee Kayak Company has done. It’s just a part of the package, and if you let that stop you, you’re missing a huge point here. The purpose of jet setting to Milwaukee for a day date is to do stuff that you have never done. To experience the city in a way that you wouldn’t normally, and I did, and that makes me happy.
Our Visit Milwaukee guide, Katie, who was an experienced guide, let us know a lot about the riverside infrastructure and how much it had changed over the years. I enjoyed listening to her as the sun beamed down on my face, and I listened to the water lap over my kayak. Seeing other Milwaukee dwellers sitting and enjoying the riverfront also gave me pause, and let me know that I don’t really take time to enjoy my OWN city this way. I must put that on my list of things to do. Until then, I’ll let my windows down, and drive up 94 until I get to Milwaukee Kayak Company, where I know that the river will be good to me.