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Awakening Your Inner Hero

I Need You. It's true. Need is the right word. We really do need each other.

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Sometimes, we human beings like to believe we are independent. That may be the silliest idea we could ever entertain.

A few years ago, my wife Wendy and I bought a new, used car—a 2014 Nissan Murano. We loved it from the moment it backed off the truck and landed in our ever-grateful possession. Smooth riding, decent gas mileage, a cool bronze color, all-wheel drive, seat heaters to die for and even a steering wheel warmer that brings joy to every winter drive. The perfect car in every way imaginable—except one.

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We are kayakers, and when we put our old kayak rack on the top of our new Murano, we couldn't reach high enough to get them on. It was a sad moment. Our total dependency on a proper-height vehicle smacked us in the gut. We were now kayak-less kayak lovers.

Wendy did the research and found a rack called the Hullavator made by Thule. It's made for people like us who are too short and or too old to reach their beloved kayaks. We looked online, and like so much recreational gear these days, they were nowhere to be found. COVID-19 has impacted both the supply and the demand. More people want to get outside and enjoy the mask-less natural world and fewer people are showing up to work to manufacture them. Two months wait? Four months? No one really could predict. "Sold Out" was the only thing we knew for sure. Our rack need went unfulfilled.

More than a year flew by and sadly, we never paddled once. Anxiety and depression were settling in. These times were taking their toll on us. You probably can relate. Then we made the move of our lifetime, in mid-December, when we sold our home in Flagstaff and moved up to Bend, the paddle capital of America.

Water, water everywhere and racks of all kinds on a huge percentage of vehicles. We searched Bend's rack suppliers and there was not a new or used kayak rack to be found. Spring arrived; no racks. Summer; no racks. Then, mid-August and finally we got a call from our local Cascade Racks. Their shipment had arrived!

"If you want one, you better get down here," was the message left on Wendy's voicemail. We screamed with joy!

Paddle heaven was now at our fingertips. We scheduled our first paddle date, but where should we do our Central Oregon maiden voyage? The answer to nearly all of our questions can be answered with just one or two well-worded Google searches. We depend upon Google as much as we depend upon Siri and our morning coffee.

Click. Click. There it was, right in front of us, the precise information we needed, entitled "10 Lakes, 10 Days." And who was the author? None other than Nicole Vulcan, the editor of this very newspaper, the Source Weekly. She paddled 10 lakes in 10 days—while she was going to work every day. Amazing! She must need her kayak as much as we do.

I printed her article and studied it as we drove out of town Sunday morning. We were going to paddle a modest one lake in one day and were totally ecstatic. We clearly needed Vulcan to satisfy our adventurous spirits.

In little less than an hour's drive from home we arrived at Lava Lake. To our surprise, the parking lot was nearly empty. There were only a few paddlers on the shimmering water. Unaware of time, which is our goal on the weekends these days, we strolled our way over to the Lodge. They had it all for us outdoor fun-seekers. Eggs, good beer, chips, fishing supplies, shampoo, gourmet coffees, and then, to our surprise, what looked like a chipmunk in the display case next to the register. Odd.

One thing led to another.

Joie, the cool fellow running the Lodge, introduced us to his pet golden-mantled ground squirrel. He and his wife, Melissa, rescued Squeaky during the heatwave earlier this summer. After nearly three weeks of bottle feeding Pedialyte and then milk, Joie took Squeaky outside to release him into his natural environment, which had been their intention from the beginning. He wouldn't budge from Joie's feet.

"This is where I want to be," Squeaky clearly communicated.

In desperation, Joie drove him nearly a mile away. That should do it, right? No, in three days Squeaky found his way back home, right back to Joie's feet! Now he spends his happy days playing on Joie's head and shoulders when he isn't enjoying his spacious indoor home at the check-out counter at Lava Lake Lodge.

Independence is truly a myth.
It simply does not exist.
Look around.
Ask Squeaky.
I hope you do.

Oh, and our paddle around Lava Lake was beyond memorable.

Thank you, everyone who made it happen!

—Burt Gershater is a counselor, leadership trainer, speaker and writer. He can be reached at info@burtgershater.com.

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