Joe Hobby reflects on Lake Life - Carolina Country

The First Ride

Lake life reflections

By Joe Hobby

The First Ride

I won’t get much sleep tonight. And that’s to be expected because yesterday, I put my personal watercraft in the lake, tuned up and ready for summer. Since the weather forecast promises a warm, clear morning, it’s time for the season’s first ride on the jet ski. That always means a sleepless night of anticipation for me.

From the first time I ever rode a jet ski, something resonated inside. I’m not the guy who jumps wakes and zig zags across choppy water, even though my chiropractor would love that. Instead, you will find me on the lake in the early morning when the day is new and the water is as smooth as a baby’s skin. That’s when I’ll be carving long, lazy turns, exploring sloughs, and looking at houses I can’t afford. All the while listening to the low, steady drone of the motor. It’s a peaceful, tranquil feeling.

At last, the sun peeked over the eastern horizon. I got up, ate a quick breakfast, and walked out on the deck. The world was still quiet. Lake Norman looked like a watercolor painting. It was time to go over a short checklist. A charged cell phone, my driver’s licence and boat registration—check. Finally, I grabbed a cheap pair of sunglasses. I highly recommend wearing them for a jet ski ride. Over a period of time, I have amassed a drawer full of them, so I’m totally unfazed if they blow off my face and into the water. I slipped on my life jacket, grabbed the keys and headed down the steps to the dock.

Finally, it was time. I turned the jet ski around and took a minute to take in the view. The water stretched out calmly for miles. The sky was a soft blue. Slowly, I got to a comfortable speed, allowing the ski to plane out smoothly.

Once on the pier, I approached the Kawasaki and pulled off its cover. The ski’s red and black colors shone deeply, still gleaming from a recent wax job. I unhooked it from the port, inserted the key and started the engine. It cranked instantly, as if it couldn’t wait either. Together we slid into the water.

For the next 3 to 4 minutes I headed up the channel just above idle speed. This is a trick my mechanic gave me to prolong motor life—warm it up properly! It’s difficult to do. The teenager in me wants to rock and roll immediately, but the adult makes sure I finish a slow dance first. I’m not sure, but I think it’s called maturity.

Finally, it was time. I turned the jet ski around and took a minute to take in the view. The water stretched out calmly for miles. The sky was a soft blue. Slowly, I got to a comfortable speed, allowing the ski to plane out smoothly. Then after about a quarter mile, I squeezed the accelerator hard.

It leapt out of the water. In an instant I was going 60 miles an hour. I screamed like a kid on a roller coaster. Houses zipped by as I began to make long wide turns. Within a few seconds I was on the main channel, which seemed to be completely deserted, except for a few fishermen. I slowed down to about 40 miles per hour, which is my perfect cruising speed, and began to look around.

Joe Hobby

Joe Hobby

Lake Norman is a beautiful place, especially when you thread your way up some of the creeks that feed the main channel. Eventually, the homes become few and far between, giving you an opportunity to truly admire God’s handiwork. Oak and hickory trees were festooned with new green leaves. Occasionally a striped bass would break the water to get its morning meal. Once I was deeper in the backwater, I cut off my ski, and just listened for a couple of minutes. It was silent. Peaceful, perfect silence. I marveled at it all. It never gets old.

I headed back towards the main channel and began to sing. It’s not uncommon for me break into a song or two on a morning ski ride. Today it was the Allman Brothers, the Beatles and Steely Dan. It’s a good thing the roar of the engine drowns me out. This always reminds me of an old commercial for motorcycle insurance where the rider is singing, and the announcer says, “If you ride, you get it.” That’s a true statement—on a motorcycle and a jet ski.

Finally, it was time to get back to the house. So, I turned around, and with one more burst of speed headed home. After about a half mile, I looked to my left, and the wind blew my sunglasses off into the water. It’s no big deal—I didn’t even look back.

There was too much in front of me to see.

About the Author

Joe Hobby is a comedian and a syndicated columnist who wrote for Jay Leno for many years. Find more of his stories on his blog ( and follow him on Facebook @Joe Hobby Comedian-Writer

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