My question is this: At what temperature, exactly, does a Sea Ray begin to melt? This much I know, 101 degrees doesn't do it. It turns me into a puddle, and a cranky one at that, but it appeared to have little effect on the half-dozen rafted Sundancers I was visiting at the Potomac River installment of Sea Ray's annual Aquapalooza. Nor did it seem to bother my hosts, Alan and Diana Gross of the good ship Gross' Weinstube II. Maybe that's because they had gotten there in a far more civilized fashion--by water, cruising down that morning, along with their fellow "K-dockers," from Prince William Marina in nearby Occoquan, Va.
I, on the other hand, had come by land. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Since I would be visiting Occoquan by boat later in the summer for a story in the November issue, I thought the Aquapalooza event would be worth seeing, as a sidebar to that piece. But was it worth a two- or three-day round-trip by boat from Annapolis? No. So I made arrangements to drive down instead and experience it as a guest of the Grosses (friends of a friend, to simplify it), who go every year.
Like I said, it seemed like a good idea . . . back in June, before the weather gods turned the knob to "broil." Make no mistake, the visiting-with-the-Grosses part was delightful. But getting there had been quite an ordeal. The three bumper-to-bumper slow downs on I-95 were only the beginning. Once I got there (there being Tim's Rivershore Restaurant, a remote waterside outpost that looks out on the Potomac River from the broad mouth of Powell Creek), I discovered I wasn't there yet. Since approximately eight billion people attend the event by land, and since there is precious little parking at Tim's, one must park at an ad hoc lot three miles away and wait for a very occasional shuttle bus. Then, from the shuttle stop, one must walk a few hundred yards along the railroad tracks to Tim's, where those eight billion people are milling about.
But wait, there's more. From here, if one wants to join a boat party in progress, one must go out on the pier and find the line for the water taxi, which may or may not be driven by the Crankiest Water Taxi Driver Ever, who was deeply irritated with me for knowing only that I was going to the raft-up flying the white balloon. Since Alan Gross had said, "look for the raft-up with the white balloon," and since many of the raft-ups were flying balloons of various colors--presumably for easy identification by, say, a water taxi driver--it seemed like the obvious thing to tell him. But no. Oh, great, he said, not entirely under his breath, another moron who doesn't know where he's going! Being cranky myself by now, I disputed this--heatedly, but without raising my voice.
Then I gave up. It was too hot for arguing. Mr. Crankypants must've thought so too, because when I spotted the white balloon and pointed it out to him, he just turned the wheel and headed in that direction, without a word, without a snarl. And when I stepped aboard Gross' Weinstube II, the first words out of my mouth (after "Yes, please, a Yuengling") were something like: "Damn, I should've done this the civilized way, by boat!"