Wandering Around Out There With A Canoe On My Head

Canoecopia 2012 – Day 1

by Preston
March 10, 2012
Flying from Buffalo to Chicago, then on to Madison

I woke up this morning at 3:00 am. Normally this would have been a cruel thing to do to myself, but I had no problems waking even before the alarm went off because of the same adrenaline that gets kids up at Christmas. Today I was finally going to Canoecopia.

A cornucopia of paddlesports!

Canoecopia claims to be the largest paddlesports exposition in the world, and there is no reason not to believe them. I’ve looked online for these types of shows, I’ve been to them in Ontario, and now that I’ve walked through (part) of the show, I’ll give them the world title. It’s organized by Rutabaga, an outdoor and paddlesports store located in Madison, Wisconsin (technically Minona). Based on their organization of this event and reading the Rutabaga story, these guys are obviously very passionate about paddling. Based on their website, their facebook account and a few communications I’ve had with them, they also seem like a fun group of people. Put that together, and you’re bound to have a great event.

The presentations, demos and workshops make this event - and there are a lot of them

Not being rich and famous, I was reluctant to go to Canoecopia in years past because it seemed like a lot of money to get down here. I asked everyone I knew who had been whether or not it was worth it, and the answer kept coming back “Yes”. So this morning I was on a plane to Wisconsin after an early morning drive to the Buffalo Airport – it’s ridiculously cheaper than from Toronto – to see the show for myself.

The Best Laid Plans

My plan was to get a room at a hotel right across from the show, saving money not having to rent a car. Even better was the fact that Canoecopia has a group rate (information found on their helpful website), so more saving. Everything was working out, except that I found out that there is nothing within (reasonable) walking distance of my hotel.  I found this out the hard way, when I needed to replace some toiletries kindly taken from me by the airport security people (I totally think they’re all brushing their teeth and coating themselves in deodorant right now, laughing at me). I walked and walked and walked – on some not-so-pedestrian-safe roads to find nothing to help me.

Strange and wonderful sites at Canoecopia - like a cedar laminate kayak paddle with a plastic shaft.

When I finally got into Canoecopia, I started to take a few pictures when disaster struck – disaster for a blogger at least – my camera didn’t have a memory card. Until I get home and find it sticking out of my computer there, I’m going to blame the TSA people again, who are of course looking at all my pictures as we speak, laughing at me.

Seriously Nice

I frantically made my way back to my hotel, and upon asking advise as to getting a taxi to somewhere that would take me to get a new memory card (internal grumble about how much all this is going to cost), it solidified a thought I’ve been having: People in Wisconsin are very, very nice. From the airport staff, to the shuttle driver, to the hotel staff, they’re all super, super nice. (American readers may wonder why us Canadians are surprised by that when we visit. Unfair generalities, Sorry.) They put me on a shuttle, taxied me to the nearest Walgreens (whose staff was again super, super nice) where I got a new memory card and everything I needed to keep from stinking walking around at the show. Oh, and get this, the guy waited for me and drove me right back to the show.

Lots of Canadians in attendance, not to mention Ontarians - including the folks from the Wabakimi Project

At this point you might be saying to yourself that a lot of hotels have shuttle service, what’s the big deal? Fair enough, but it wasn’t that they helped me, but how nicely they did so. Imagine a smiling face uttering “No Prahblem” with a mid-west accent. This was my day.

What about the Show?

Oh yes, the show. It’s big. Today’s hours were from 4 to 9, and having missed an hour, I could only do so much. What makes these shows great are the presentations and guest speakers, and Canoecopia has a lot of great topics and outdoor experts. So many, in fact, that I barely got a chance to see many exhibitors yet, and it’s like that all weekend. I did get a few peaks, and will discuss that more tomorrow.

Pam and Andy from Upnorthica.com

One presentation that stands out was by UpNorthica‘s Andy and Pam Wright, titled “Fun with Smoke ‘n’ Ash”. They recalled their trip through Wabakimi Provincial Park when a forest fire was burning and they had a lot of decisions to make to keep one step ahead of the smoke and flames. They wrote up this adventure in a series of posts which I had followed, and really enjoyed hearing about the adventure first hand (with some pretty impressive slide show tools). Appropriately, they ended with some safety tips when dealing with fire during a trip.

Anyway, I’m having a great time, talking with all kinds of people about my favourite subject – paddling the outdoors. Exhausted from a long day, I’m off to bed. (Between all the airport terminals, the fruitless walkabout around the hotel and the show, I’ve worn quite a bit off my shoes today.) I’ll have a bit more to talk about tomorrow, hopefully including pictures.

Off to dream of TSA agents with allergic reactions to Canadian toothpaste.

Nancy Postscript

For those of you worried about how Nancy’s doing without me. She’s fine. I’m getting regular picture updates, and it appears that she’s having a great time with her other dog friends.

Special thanks to Badger Paddles, who let me hang out at their booth and talk paddles with people passing by.
  • I said it on Facebook and I am going to say it again here…..Preston, you are the best “Show Photographeur” at Canoecopia. Thanks to you I got to enjoy the show even though I could not be there in person.
    Now, I just want to know how you did getting all your “show loot” back through Customs on your way home 🙂

  • Thanks Lauren. You’re too nice. I got the loot home without much problem. The border officer thought it was a little weird to travel all that way for an outdoor show, but they let me go.

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    Preston and Nancy the dog pose with a Paddle in the Park Contest paddle
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