For the past month my only exercise had been sprinting to the airport at the end of the day to catch a flight to another city for the next day's training.
Upon my arrival (late) Friday night Helen informed me that she had arranged a very special anniversary surprise for us on Sunday. I had no clue what this could possibly be about other than one of San Francisco's fabulous restaurants.
Saturday as we were wandering the streets around Knob Hill (a rather aerobic experience) Helen casually announced that we needed to go shopping. For what? I inquired. For clothes she replied. But I thought you brought clothes I said. No, clothes for you she replied. But I brought clothes I protested (not being a shopper a heart), You don't have the right ones she informed me. Mid afternoon as we walked down the street on the edge of the Tenderloin district Helen stopped and said, we can shop here. I started to wonder as we entered the Goodwill Store. A half an hour later we emerged with sweatshirt, pants, old tennis shoes and a cap. I began to wonder about the nature of this very special anniversary surprise.
Sunday morning we arose at about 4:30 am so that we could hike down Knob Hill to rent a car. I now knew we had a 1.5-2 hour drive ahead but to where? We headed north across to Golden Gate Bridge at daybreak which was a beautiful sight. Continued north into Marin County and soon started heading west toward the coast. After a brief breakfast at a bar we entered the Los Reyes national park area. We kept on driving until there were only dunes and grasses by the side of the road no signs of civilization. Still we continued westward.
Finally we turned into a road that looked like bleached white gravel but turned out to be crushed oyster shells. We were entering Johnson's Oyster Farm. So we are going bobbing for oysters I ventured. You will know soon enough she replied.
As we rounded the final bend into Johnson's parking lot I spotted the kayaks on the beach. Now it all began to make sense. We parked and walked down to the mud flats where the tide had already gone out. The guides welcomed us to our all day sea kayak adventure.
We milled about as the rest of the twenty or so participants arrived. We were in a large bay that opened into the ocean to the south of us, too far away to see from the beach. Many were experienced kayakers and were excited about the day. During our brief training and orientation our leader noted that these two person kayaks we would be using were often called marriage busters because of the coordination they required to operate them properly. Undaunted (well more that there was no turning back at this point) we launched our kayak into smooth clear water of the pacific ocean.
Helen and I have worked together on numerous projects in the past. When we are in sync we are a dynamite team. When we are not in sync well.......... Today was not a physically in sync day. I was also out of shape and getting burned to a crisp. We were always lagging behind so the experienced group would wait (and rest up) and when we caught up immediately strike out on the next leg. By the time we finally arrived out near the point for lunch I was contemplating whether I wanted to head back or just have them bury my body here in the sand. Helen was wondering if we were about to end our marriage on our anniversary. But honey she said it looked like such a guy thing.
To put it in perspective, the day was beautiful, the sea was smooth as glass and the water so clear you could see all the way to the bottom. Seals popped up all around and looked us over, leopard sharks glided beneath our kayaks, sea slugs crawled on the ocean floor and cormorants dove for fish all around us. The sights, sounds and feelings were spectacular. It was wonderful..
For the return trip we split up. Helen went with an instructor and I went with a more experienced kayaker. We had no trouble keeping up with the group. By now I had my second wind and was really starting to enjoy it. The afternoon was glorious. By the time we returned to Johnson's oyster farm in the late afternoon we were both exhausted but knew we had survived (and so did our marriage)
The spectacular seafood meal in the evening capped by taking the cable car home helped make a great ending to an anniversary we will not forget.
I called Helen from a pay phone in Jacksonville Florida later in the week. I asked how she described our kayak experience to her friends. I tell them that on our anniversary I tried to kill you she said. Funny how we think I said, that's the line i'm using too.