This years Canoecopia event in Madison was pretty similar to other years, which is a good thing. There was the usual mix of the old reliable stand by vendors, long time vendors with new stuff, and the new vendors. Even though a couple of us were lured in by a new vendor making three piece Greenland paddles, Northern Lights, this was a pretty light year for trading cash for paddle gear. I did meet a couple 'friend of a friend' folks at the exhibit hall and learned that about an hour after I had met them they had purchased four boats, but for the most part we looked and lusted after the gear. The talks were top notch again this year, with so many friends and acquaintances speaking that we almost had to flip a coin to see who we went to listen to. There seemed to be a bit more elbow room in the exhibit hall but the walls were lined in the speakers rooms. Lots and lots of knowledge and experience were being exchanged. It seems like more and more however, I am heading down there to touch base with old friends and make a couple new ones now and then. That is the constant of Canoecopia and it played out once again this year.
We met RacinRick and wife Jane at our little boutique hotel, which sits above one of the most venerable bar and restaurant complexes in the oldest part of Madison. Saturday morning found us heading for the convention center after picking up the FrugalFisherman who, true to form, stuck me for parking. We rendezvoused with the BadHatter and the aimless wandering began. Said three piece Greenland sticks were purchased by the BH and I for an upcoming paddle trip that involves commercial aircraft, and time and location were confirmed for the annual post Canoecopia debrief, the Crystal Corner Bar on Willy St. By 5pm a group from three states and four or five paddle clubs had been convened at the CC. After a modest and prudent number of IPA's, lagers, and stouts, we strolled the traditional half block to Jahmerica, one of the most beloved Jamacian jerk restaurants in the area. There we found respected Milwaukee instructors and lecturers, JB and Silbs, who had apparently confused the 'drink beer than eat' progression of the evening, just finishing up supper (closed circuit to JB: no Smutty Nose but Central Waters and Lake Louie IPA's on tap at the CC). One would think that by this point the commercial activity for the day might be over but that was not the case.
One more transaction needed to be completed. ChrisG from Boreal Shores had pawned his old, worn out Kokotat dry suit off on me last summer. I needed to do the same with my Tropos semi dry suit and the BadHatter was in a buying mood. Heated negotiations took place as we waited for our jerked chicken, pork, and ox tails, and I finally offered a nice discount if he would try the suit on in the restaurant. Having learned his negotiation and value skills from the FrugalFisherman, he quickly accepted the offer. So if you were driving down Willy St on your way to another establishment and saw a grinning fellow standing in the window of Jahmerica wearing a dry suit, this is the unlikely explanation.
When all the learning, shopping, and instruction are done the bottom line of this event, and indeed kayaking in general, is to have fun. I hope this is the kick off of another season of fun on the water and I have no reason to expect that it won't be. Spring has arrived early with the crocuses blooming, daylight savings time in effect, and the ice going out on Lake Monona literally while we watched. Just more signs that prime paddle season in the Great Lakes is just around the corner.