Stay-At-Home Dad: Kankakee River canoe trip makes for fun, family outing
By Howard A. Ludwig August 8, 2013 9:40AM
The Ludwig Family, standing on the shores of the Kankakee River. | Supplied photo
Updated: September 12, 2013 6:15AM
Step aside Lewis and Clark, Bubba and Peter are the new faces of wilderness exploration.
My 7- and 5-year-old sons embarked on an exploratory journey of the Kankakee River last weekend. The Wife and I were among the crew. Our family of four conquered the gently flowing river on canoes, later declaring the waterway for the Ludwig family.
We arrived at the boat rental shop around noon. We traveled from Chicago’s Beverly community to Kankakee in about an hour. Traffic wasn’t a problem, despite our scheduled canoe trip coinciding with Chicago Bears Training Camp in nearby Bourbonnais.
Reed’s Canoe Trips in Kankakee provided our vessels as well as life jackets and paddles to navigate the shallow river. Our family of four fit comfortably within a standard canoe. Bubba and Peter sat on cushions in the hull of the boat. The Wife and I paddled from the bow and stern.
The canoe rental fee was $58, which included a bus trip to and from the rental lot. We paddled the 6-mile stretch of river in about 3 hours. Others took a more leisurely pace. One kayaker joked that we must have stashed a motor beneath our canoe.
We definitely enjoyed the trip, though a few things surprised me. First, I expected the river to meander through wilderness. In fact, there are homes along most of the riverbanks. This made me feel safe, but it also took away from the “Man vs. Wild” experience I was expecting.
The Ludwigs were also not the first to discover the Kankakee River. There were quite a few canoes on the water that Sunday morning in August. Most people were Reed’s customers, though others simply floated down the river in large, inflatable rafts with coolers in tow.
Bubba and Peter mostly told silly jokes and drank Gatorade while The Wife and I navigated the canoe. The boys also enjoyed dipping their hands in the water, which was fine as long as they splashed on opposite sides of the boat. The only time I felt like the canoe was going to tip was when my two explorers decided to simultaneously lean over the same side of the vessel.
We brought swimsuits but never used them. The water was chilly, and The Wife kinda freaked out after our bus driver told us about the non-poisonous snakes in the river.
We did pull up along one of the few uninhabited banks to have a snack. Bubba and Pete got a kick out of peeing in the weeds and trying to step on tadpoles.
My arms were tired, and I had sweated through my underwear by the time we reached the checkpoint. The boys were acting exceptionally silly, which is typically an indicator that they’re tired. As a result, the drive home was mandated quiet time. The Wife and Peter fell asleep. Bubba gazed out the window in an immobile stupor.
The minivan pulled into our concrete driveway a short time later. We parked in the garage, unloaded a cooler and went inside our comfortable house. That’s when realized that my boys aren’t growing up like Huck Finn. The best I can do is occasionally introduce them to outdoor adventures like the recent canoe trip.
Turns out, Bubba and Peter aren’t a threat to Lewis and Clark’s legacy after all.
Howard A. Ludwig is a former SouthtownStar business writer who traded his reporter’s notepad for a diaper bag, becoming a stay-at-home dad.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.