In the 2004 American League Championship series, Boston Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez stated in the post game interview after losing yet again to the New York Yankees: “They beat me. They’re that good right now. They’re that hot. I just tip my hat and call the Yankees my daddy.” This was due to longstanding dominance by the Yankees over the Red Sox. It led to raucous Bronx cheers in forthcoming games between the two when Martinez pitched in New York where fans chanted: “Who’s your daddy!” I could understand this rhetoric as I ended up having to tip my hat to Marge Cline.
Marge Cline is not my first outdoor adventure daddy
This was not the first time I have labeled a geographic feature my daddy. The Swallow Fork Trail earned the title after wearing me down for four miles straight up a Great Smoky Mountain ridge after already cresting an equally tough climb just a few hours earlier. The Concepcion Volcano in Nicaragua sure earned the right after a ten hour summit earlier this year. The Marge Cline Whitewater Course is the first body of water to lay claim to the daddy moniker over me.
Related: Swallow Fork Trail is my daddy
No one interviewed Traveling Ted after he capsized twice on the Marge Cline Whitewater course in Yorkville, Illinois. However, the once proud adventure traveler opined to fellow not whitewater kayaker The Working Moms Travels over a beer: “The water is that fast, it is hot, I could not handle the current and tipped. I tip my tilley hat to Marge Cline. She is my daddy.”
An unexpected daddy
It was an unexpected turn of events when the Aurora Tourism Bureau invited the erstwhile outdoor adventurer to enjoy Aurora. Instead he cried in his beer at the Southbank Original Barbeque and rued what might have been. I have canoed for over 30 years in all types of water and lakes including up to class II-III whitewater in places like Maine, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Missouri. I have sea kayaked Door County and done a little bit of whitewater kayaking on the Brule River in Wisconsin.
This may have been the problem. I suffered from overconfidence which led to the whitewater course filing for paternal rights. When Jeff from the Yak shack suggested I put a croakie on my sunglasses I felt like singing karaoke to “Take it easy” because that is what I thought this course would be. Instead, I left to the song of Agony of Defeat playing as I headed for an IPA to drown my sorrows at the nearby bar.
The day started out well. I listened patiently to our whitewater kayak instructor Jeff as he gave instruction on how to make a wet exit. Something I am glad I did because the skill became the one thing I worked on during the day. Jeff makes everyone tip at the beginning of the lesson to make sure you can complete the skill before moving on. I tipped and pulled my spray skirt off and exited.
Navigating the Marge Cline Whitewater Course
After we all passed the wet exit challenge, it was time to navigate the course. I felt a little tippy in the kayak, but I felt this was normal, and I would get used to it. I felt the same way when I sea kayaked in four foot swells in Door County, but I adjusted quickly and had no problem the rest of the day there.
Related: Sea kayaking Door County
The Marge Cline Whitewater course is a series of class II rapids that flow adjacent to the Glenn D. Palmer Dam in Yorkville, Illinois along the Fox River. The course can be accessed via the Bicentennial Riverfront Park. The 1,100 foot course allows watercraft to safely bypass the dangerous dam and provides a place where kayakers can play.
Navigating the course was actually somewhat easy. there are a series of well defined chutes. I made it through each rapids by hitting the “V”. This successful completion of the course just inflated my overconfidence.
Lunch at SOB
We enjoyed some tasty barbecue, beer, and nachos at Southbank Original Barbecue (SOB). Besides Francesca from the Working Mom’s Travels, we were joined by Julie and Homer from Open Wide the World and James from Enjoy Aurora. After lunch it was time to play in the rapids.
Playtime turns to swim time
Jeff wanted us to learn the peel out, surf, and an eddy turn. This second part of the class took place below the rapids just down from our lunch spot. A peel out is a basic maneuver where you paddle from quiet water or an eddy into the fast water at an angle and then just let the fast water take you downstream and turn the boat with the current. An “easy” maneuver I have done in a canoe hundreds of times.
Jeff used the acronym AMES to help us understand the lesson. “A” for aim, “m” for maneuver, “e” for edge, and “s” for sweep. I was eager to give it a shot, but unfortunately, I only did 3 of the 4 maneuvers right. My “s” turned out to be SH#T instead of sweep although not sure I got the whole expletive out before my mouth filled with water. Undaunted, I exercised the wet exit and drifted downstream to try again. The second time I almost made it, but the same result ensued.
Stick a fork in me
It took a lot of effort to wet exit, swim downstream and wrangle the water out of a full kayak. I was both mentally and physically fatigued at this point. After getting in the boat again, I headed for the fast current again, but doubt began to sink in. My confidence was shot. My get up and go, got up and went.
I decided that it was not my day. After strike 2 there would not be a strike 3. This SOB was heading to SOB for some beer. Sometimes you have to know when to fold em. It was time to tip my hat and call Marge Cline my daddy.
Highly recommend the class and the experience
Jeff from the Yak Shack provides and excellent service and class. My failures should not be pinned on his teaching. Julie and Homer killed it after I exited the scene. I think it is amazing that Illinois has this feature. Who would have thought you could whitewater kayak and have an adrenaline rush like this in Illinois.
Lessons learned from the experience
In the post below, Julie from Open Wide the World gives some tips on how to prepare for the course.
Here are a few more tips from my perspective:
- Be prepared for a mentally and physically taxing day. Come with your A game as you will need it. I worked late the night before. Not making any excuses, but I was tired from the beginning. If I knew the intensity of the class, I would have made sure to get more rest.
- Do not be overconfident and do not overestimate your outdoor adventure abilities. Jeff says people call him all the time wanting to learn whitewater kayaking and thinking they can kill it when they have had only a minimal experience in a regular kayak. Whitewater kayaking is much different from other kayaking and canoeing.
- Because you have the ability to do one outdoor activity well does not necessarily mean your experience will cross over immediately. It may give you a leg up, but don’t expect expert level kayaking right away if you are a competent canoe paddler.
The next time I come to Yorkville it will be below the Marge Cline Whitewater Course in a canoe. Someday I might return to attempt to peel out again in a whitewater kayak. I just hope the citizens of Yorkville will not chant “who’s your daddy,” from the banks when I hit the fast water. The Red Sox eventually overcame the Yankee domination, perhaps one day in the future I can tame the Marge Cline Whitewater course.
I was a guest of Enjoy Aurora for the day on a FAM trip. The cost of the kayak class and meals were complementary. This fact did not impact this post. The thoughts, opinions, photos, videos, and wet kayaking clothes were purely my own.
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