“The ramblings and grumblings of author Ad Hudler”

If you drink beer and no one sees you ... are you truly drunk?
Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Here's my recent AdVentures column for Nashville Lifestyles magazine: Canoeing on the Harpeth River:

 The sign behind the counter at Tip-A-Canoe confuses us. It says something like, $187.50 alcohol penalty. We assume it's a joke, like the T-shirt message on the guy standing next to me: Paddle Faster! I hear banjos!
I look at my companion, confused. "No beer on a canoe ride?" I ask. "Surely they're not serious. … $187.50? What's that about?"
I'd canoed and kayaked in Minnesota, Belize, California, Amsterdam, Colorado, Florida – most of the time with a small cooler of beer in hand. A canoe ride without beer makes no sense. It is an incomplete equation. A canoe ride without beer is like a canoe ride without water or paddles.
Still, I'm a consummate rule-follower, and I fight the urge to return my cooler to the truck.
"No one's gonna say anything," my friend assures me.
"Like don't-ask-don't-tell in the military, right?"
We board the van that transports all the canoes and people to their drop-off spot. With us is a group of giggling-girl teenage missionaries and their adult female leader who have traveled from Memphis for the day. The leader eyes my cooler (hungrily?). Does she know? I wonder, nervously. Will she tell on me? As I mentally prepare to break a rule or law, I remind myself that even Jesus drank wine.
Most of the area's canoe-rental companies, located just minutes west of Nashville, are clustered on a bend in the Harpeth River. At Tip-A-Canoe, you can choose from a variety of rides, ranging from one hour to eight hours, which includes an overnight rustic camping trip. We've chosen the 2-hour, 7-mile trip, which will take us from the Kingston Springs ballpark, back to the Tip-A-Canoe headquarters where we parked.
The Harpeth is a Class-1 river, the lowest ranking on the scare-scale. The smooth current and occasional, minimal rapids are reminiscent of a lazy-river ride in an amusement park. Occasionally, we must steer. At times we scrape bottom and must scoot forward to dislodge the craft from the gravel. Our mandatory life preservers seem to be overkill.
The spectacular views from the water, including plant-adorned cliffs that reach upward for nearly 100 feet, almost make me forget about the contents of our cooler. Almost. I am thirsty.
We paddle up to a sandbar and pull the canoe ashore. I'm nervous, still unsure. Is the quirky $187.50 penalty actual state law or the whim of some pious manager?
I soon realize we have no cups, so we cloak our beers in bandanas and look left, look right, and hope for the best.


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