Kayak for a Cause VI – The Day Before

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“Oh shit.”

That’s what I said as I stood on Calf’s Pasture Beach, looking across the water for Long Island.

I scratched my head and walked down the beach. The volunteers were hard at work unloading the kayaks and preparing for tomorrow’s 13.2 mile long paddle across Long Island Sound.

Again, I gazed across the water for Long Island.

“Oh shit.” I repeated. Realizing for the first time that Long Island is so far away, YOU CAN’T EVEN SEE IT FROM CONNECTICUT!

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After a brief (and by “brief,” I mean “day-long”) panic attack, I decided to look for the silver lining.

The water on Long Island Sound doesn’t look any choppier than the water on the Harbor. (At least once you get out past Ft. McHenry.) So that’s good. Although the current looks stronger. So that’s bad.

The kayaks are slimmer than the ones I usually take, which means they’ll go faster and will be easier to keep in a straight line. So that’s good. Although they’ll be less stable in the water. Meaning I might fall in. So that’s bad.

At this point, I’m hyperventilating into a paper bag and working up a mental last will and testament.

I pulled myself together and decided there’s only one thing to do: find a Sports Authority and buy more impressive looking stuff.

I loaded up on sweat-wicking swag. A black top. Black shorts. Black water socks. Black arm bands. And a black visor. If I had an eye patch, I’d look like an Under Armour pirate. (Although I guess then it would be Under YAAAAAAAARMOUR.)

Anyway, here are pictures from Calf’s Pasture Beach:

kayaks

kayaks

kayaks

This is a picture of the kayaks lined up in front of one of those telescope thingys.

kayaks

The telescope is there because you can’t see Long Island with the naked eye. So you need a telescope.

Fuck.

“At least the ride up this morning was easy,” I say to myself, oozing sarcasm.

I left the house around 7:30. I made great time too. No traffic in Baltimore. No traffic on the Jersey Turnpike. No traffic in Manhattan.
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(Delaware Memorial Bridge)

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(George Washington Bridge, NYC)

But then I hit New Rochelle. As I cruised down the Hutchinson River Parkway, sharing Ben Folds with anyone who had their window down, I noticed that something smelled funny.

Not funny ha-ha either.

Funny uh-oh.

A moment later, the funny smell was accompanied by a funny noise. Specifically: “whump whump whump.”

I pulled off at the first exit, got out of the car and walked around the passenger side, fully knowing what was wrong before I even rounded the fender. (But halfheartedly hoping that I’d hit a gopher instead.)

There was no gopher.

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Two hours, a trip to the Mamaroneck Mobil station, and two new tires later, I was Norwalk-bound.

Norwalk is a bit like Annapolis, but without the charm. It actually reminds me of a very tiny Baltimore about 10 years ago. I really like Norwalk. Not so much for what it is, but for what it could be. From what I can tell, Norwalk is just starting to realize its potential.

Norwalk

The town is right on the water. In fact, the Norwalk harbor splits the town in half, so there’s a ton of waterfront real estate. The problem is, there’s no public access. No waterfront promenade or park or storefronts or anything. Just a bunch of parking lots, private marinas and industrial buildings. It could be so much nicer.

Especially because they already have the start of something great: a neighborhood called SoNo (South Norwalk). The main section runs for 2 blocks along Washington Street, where old buildings have been transformed into swanky restaurants, coffee shops and boutiques.

Norwalk

Norwalk

Norwalk

Norwalk

The shops are separated from the waterfront by less than a block. But there are barriers. A busy intersection. A parking lot. Some marinas. With a few brick sidewalks, some extra trees and benches, they could have a really great waterfront park. I give it 5 years before the whole neighborhood is completely transformed.

Norwalk also has the Cook’s Nook. A great little kitchen store on Route 1. It’s kind of like Fante’s in Philadelphia. They have just about every kitchen gadget you could imagine. But it’s all on deep discount. Everything is half-off the sticker price.

I could’ve done some serious damage. But somehow I harnessed incredible willpower. I walked out with a pair of small glass storage jars and two black oven mitts. (To match my Under Armour?).

Here are 2 random pictures from SoNo that would make for good rock album cover art:

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For dinner, I went to South Norwalk Seaport Seafood.

south norwalk seafood

Jeff recommended it. It was an old-school fish house, right on the water. Diners sit at picnic tables on the outside deck and burn through oyster crackers and cocktail sauce like most places go through ketchup.

I started with the New England Clam Chowder, cause when in Rome…er, I mean, Connecticut.

chowda

It was a 10. Legal Seafoods probably has the best clam chowder I’ve had. This one might be better. (Of course, I’d have to do a side by side comparison to be sure…)

For the main course, I got the lobster salad sandwich.

lobsta roll

It was very good. Although I was having entrée envy over the next table’s food. They had fried clams and a heaping bowl of gorgeous steamers.

Afterwards, I went to Stew Leonard’s. Stew Leonard’s is “The World’s Largest Dairy Store.” As featured on “Ripley’s Believe It Or Not.”
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I was skeptical. You might even say I was leaning towards “Or Not.” But, having been there in person, I definitely Believe It. Stew Leonard’s is big. Certainly bigger than any dairy store I’ve ever seen.

But more importantly, they have what is quite possible the best soft serve ice cream on the planet. Believe it or not.

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Also, the little plastic cone holder is the greatest invention of all time. It keeps the ice cream from dripping all over your hands. Why didn’t I think of that?!?!

Inside, Stew Leonard’s is filled with really disturbing animatronic food. It sings to you while you’re shopping. Either that, or someone spiked my soft serve.

stew leonards

stew leonards

stew leonards

Is it just me, or is this absolutely terrifying?

stew leonards

Outside, they have sheep. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s like the lobster tank. You point to which one you want to eat.

sheep

Regardless, sheep are considerably cuter than I realized. I left Stew Leonard’s wondering if Natty would get along with a sheep if I smuggled one home.

sheep

sheep

sheep

Back at the hotel, I laid out my Under Armour suit, set the alarm for 5:30, and clicked off the lights.

Then I stared at the ceiling, replaying the image of the kayaks on Calf Pasture Beach. And the hazy void where Long Island was supposed to be.

What have I gotten myself into?

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