A Pedal Boat for One

I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time. To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating. I love be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude. -HDT

When I got to the rental counter the cashier said, “Pedal boat for how many people?”

“Just me.”

“Just you?”


“Would you like a water bike instead?”

“No, a pedal boat is fine.”

I get my life jacket and walk down to the dock. There are two dock guys, a middle-aged guy and a what looks like a teenage boy. “Whatdya get?” the older guy asks.

“A pedal boat.”

“A pedal boat… for you and who else?” he asked, looking around to see if there was a person hiding behind me.

“Just me.”

“Just you! You’re going to ride a pedal boat all by yourself?”

“Yep. Just me.”

“Well which one are you going to put her in?” he asks the teenage boy.

“I guess the yellow one.”

The older guy turns to me. “Are you sure you don’t want a water bike?”

“Yes. I’m sure.”

After they finally agree that the yellow pedal boat is the best option, the teenager steadies the boat for me while I awkwardly throw myself on.

“All by yourself today, huh?” he asks as I pedal away from the dock.

Gray's Lake, Des Moines, Iowa - Photo Credit Terra Ash Bruxvoort

Gray’s Lake, Des Moines, Iowa – Photo Credit Terra Ash Bruxvoort

It takes me a little while to figure out how to pedal and steer the boat by myself. A couple takes off from the dock shortly after me and I’m moving at roughly the same speed as them. It doesn’t take that long before my quads start hurting, but pedal boating by yourself certainly isn’t an impossible activity. It isn’t even a lonely one.

I’ve gone through many phases in my life. Periods where I’m extremely social and want to constantly be around others and periods where I’m alone frequently. I’m coming out of an extremely social period and moving into a loner period, and it seems like everyone has something to say about it.

Doing things alone has never scared me. I was an only child growing up on a farm and I rarely had friends to play with. I spent most of my free time by myself. A quiet child, I preferred to read alone in my room or draw pictures of characters I invented or wander around in the pasture behind the house I grew up in. As much as I enjoyed going to parties and spending time with my friends, I was just as content (if not more) to play by myself.

As an adult I’ve found that I prefer traveling alone, I frequently eat or go to concerts by myself and while I spend a lot of time with my friends I easily become withdrawn and introspective. Being alone has never meant being lonely to me. It’s just as worthy a state as being surrounded by others.

It’s only when I’m alone that I’m able to hear myself. Sometimes I think people who are afraid of being alone don’t want to hear or know themselves. They’re more interested in what others have to say about them.

For Memorial Day weekend I went to Minnesota for a music and camping festival. I was staying with a large group of happy, drunk people. A year ago I would have been right in the mix with them, but this year I found myself alone in the woods most mornings. Birdwatching and reading Thoreau were much more interesting to me than partying late into the night. It’s not to say one is better than the other. Both are necessary for a whole life.

Harmony Park, Clarks Grove, Minnesota -- Photo Credit Terra Ash Bruxvoort

Harmony Park, Clarks Grove, Minnesota — Photo Credit Terra Ash Bruxvoort

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2 thoughts on “A Pedal Boat for One

  1. Sometimes. it’s fun to be in the midst of a crowd, being a part of it and soaking in the energy but also remaining detached, as an observer or experiencer.
    I discovered that when I had to move to a massive city that was always fulk of noise and people. It was rarely ever quiet, except perhaps at 4 am, when I’d venture out to run or walk my dog.
    I prefer nature, but I do enjoy that crowded solitude from time to time, even still.

    • I sometimes enjoy solitude in the midst of a crowd, but it depends on the situation. Sometimes I find crowds stressful. Places with better people watching are always more comfortable to me.

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