August 11, 2010

Rafting in West Virginia, part 3

Looky here!  I have raised the bar back to 3 times in a week.  Whew, my fingers are tired just thinking about it.

Lots going on at work, spent some time with a cool customer, they have the fun and young image and so I really need to connect more with them.  They get good "Buzz" and if you have stuff with them, you'll get good buzz.  I never really understood that until I stuck with a single industry for so long.  This office furniture stuff is kind of crazy.  I try to avoid mentioning the customer names because they have web crawlers that locate this kind of stuff and besides, I don't want to be an instrument of the man.

Day 3 of the white water trip.

We got up at 6 again to get the boys moving.  Had breakfast at Buffler's again, same menu, this time I focused a bit more on the fruit. 

Today our tour leader was a guy named Johnny.  Our group would be made up of 5 large rafts, each with a guide and up to 8 "guests".  Why they refer to us as guests I'll never know, when you're a guest in my house you don't work, you are served.  Here you have to help haul the boats up and down and all around.  We only had enough in our group to fill 2 rafts and then 4 of us were put with 2 others, a man and his young son.  There was also a full boat of couples and a full boat of housewives from Cincinnati (Johnny took the boatload of housewives).

Once again we suit up with a PFD, a helmet and this time a standard oar.  The first thing that I notice is that these are either a lot less work or the current is a lot faster.  Cool thing was we put in for this part of the adventure at the same place we got out yesterday.  So we're seeing quite a long stretch of the river over 2 days, very cool.

The day passed even more lazily than with the duckies because there was less paddling.  There wee lots of rapids and they were closer together.  Just like the day before we had lunch on a beach.  It was hot and humid, but whenever we got to flat water the guides offered that we could get out and swim.  The water temp was still about 80.

This leg had a Jump Rock was about as cool as the one the day before.  The cool thing that they had was a spot that they called Karma Cavern.  It went like this, you jumped in about 5 feet off this big rock and you landed in a fairly strong current.  The current sucked you down, under water into a really large and deep hole.  It was like this for me:  Our boat pulled up and I've got butterflies in my stomach, I'd heard that this will suck you under water for 10 seconds.  I'm not sure I want to try , but the boys are already lining up to jump, Ian and Spencer are behind my boat, can I let them see me pass on this?  No way!  I get out and get in line with the rest of the lemmings.  As I wait I can barely hear Johnny telling them where to jump because of the noise of the white water roaring around the rocks.  Soon enough it's my turn, with Ian and Spencer now getting out of the boat to get in line I knew that I had no option, I had to jump.  I asked Johnny to point out where to land.  He smirked and pointed to a spot about 5 feet out and 2 feet up river, "there's the best spot to land, right there!" he said to me.  I crossed my arms over my life jacket, used one hand to hold my glasses in place and leaped.  I landed right where he said I should!  Swoosh, I went straight down, just like jumping off into a a pool, but I seemed to go down for a really long time.  I had no sensation of rising, only going iwth the current.  Would my life jacket be enough to lift me up?  5 seconds.  How long could I go?  Should I kick my feet to go up?  No, remember the warning, when you're in the river keep your feet from the rocks, foot entrapment is a real an scary deal.  8 seconds. Am I drifting up?  I am, nearly to the surface.  I turn my face down in an attempt to slow my rise to the top.  Finally I break the surface and am on top.  I look around and see Johnny, 50 feet away, he nods at me and says; "Good one." and then turns to tell the next to jump.  It was totally awesome!  I wanted to swim back up stream and do it again.

I was able to watch Ian and Spencer take the plunge from the unique position of floating in the river.  I don't know if they hit it as well, but I was really proud to see them go as hard as they could trying.

The rest of the day was great, but by comparison, nothing to write home (aka to you) about.

The ride home was on yet another converted prison, I mean school bus.  The guide that was with Ian and Spencer sat next to me and we talked about what a great couple of kids I had.  He was curious about why the Dad wouldn't be in the same boat, and all I said was they need their space, I pointed out that I was never far and normally fairly tuned in, but willing to let them learn from him.  That was impressive to him. I asked about what he was doing there.  I got a smirk that really reminded me of Larry and this response; "It's a life style choice."  He knows he doesn't have as much as others his age, but he was truly addicted to white water and being on the river.  Nice to see, when he was in his twenties, wonder how he'll do as he ages?

Later that night we had dinner at the Smokies, a fancy restaurant that made room for us and our buffet of hamburgers, hot dogs, baked beans, potato salad, chips and cookies.  A great meal?  Not so sure, it was the same as the previous, tasty, but boring.  Even the boys were talking about revolting if we had to eat the same food again on the next night.

Some of the adults went for a walk after dinner and we ended up on a platform overlooking the New River Gorge.  I took this with a timer, in it is me, Tom, Gil, Tim and Steve.  Missing from the adults were; Eric and Vicky (Tim's wife).  Great group of guys to hang with on this kind of adventure.

That night there was a band playing in the common area across the road and they had wings on sale for the low, low price of 3 wings for a buck.  We went and listed to the music.  It was really fun to watch these guys, no amps, a single microphone and they playing blue grass/folk/country/great music.  What a great way to end the day.

Have a great day!

August 10, 2010

Happy Birthday Larry

We'll it's been two days and already my West Virginia vacation seems but a distant memory.  I was going to skip tonight's installment, no big news there, I'm pretty hit or miss lately.

But how can I not give a Birthday Shout out to my Brother In Law Larry?  I can't.

I don't have the old shots of Larry that I do from our family, which is probably OK with Larry, but here's a few that I do have. 

Each summer we try to take a weekend and go hang out with Larry, Terri and Jake.  This was from quite awhile ago with Uncle Larry showing the boys the ropes on the raft.


 Larry and Spencer giving me the ride of my life.


 Larry and Terri stopped over on their way to a formal and so since they got all dressed up, we had to have a picture.


 Christmas one year, that's Larry hiding behind Jake and Spencer.


 A good shot from one of the summer weekends.

 This year at AutoRama.  Great truck!


 Serious Christmas pose

 Not so serious

 Here he took us to an area with a large herd of deer right near their home.


Finally, this is a shot I took a few years back adn have always liked.  Not sure if Larry does or not, but then again, I'm doing the typing, so he's not got much to say does he!

That's about it.  Larry, thanks for all that you do for us, I really appreciate your friendship and you're a great Brother!  Have an awesome year!


August 8, 2010

Workday at the ranch

Got up and out today and went to my Men's group.  Well, OK, it was just the two of us today.  Summer's pretty busy for everyone, you know it's true! 

We got after the trees today.  Holly had mowed while we were gone and pointed out that the trees all needed to have a trim so that you could mow under them without doing the GI Joe crawl behind the mower.  It's a pretty dangerous thing, having me trim, once I get going it's hard to stop.  You see, it starts out simple enough, small clippers.  Soon enough, that's not enough, I upgrade to the loppers that will take down a 1" thick branch, soon enough, it's not enough, I grab the bow saw and start getting after the bigger stuff.  After a few minutes I head to the shed and am usually cut off by Holly, she knows the chain saw is next and then it gets pretty scary!  She never lets me trim trees without her around, now you know why.

Day 2 of the white water trip.

Up at 6 to get the boys moving.  Figure we need to get to Buffler's, the breakfast buffet at the camp, by 7 to have time to get to the place to meet the guide by 8.  All you can eat with biscuits and gravy, eggs, bacon, sausage, cheesy hash browns and a never empty pot of good, dark coffee.  Oh, there was fresh fruit as well.  We all carbed up because we knew that we'd be on the river for quite awhile.

George was our tour leader and he'd be in the full size raft with all the supplies for lunch.  Chris, an Eagle scout that's a guide, would be teaching the boys the rafting merit badge while we were on the water.  Dustin completed the team as the designated sweeper.  Chris and Dustin were in double duckies.  We were all in single duckies.  A duckie, for the uninitiated, is an inflatable kayak.  It gets it's name from the way it moves down the calm water, as you paddle you make the kayak waddle.

We all suit up with a life jacket or personal flotation device (PFD), a helmet and a double bladed kayak paddle.  Since all the kayaks are not the same the boys are off, trying to make sure that they get the coolest kayak that most suits their personality.  What does it say about me that I just waited until there was only one kayak left on the beach?  What ever, I just jumped in and started paddling.  The duckies handle pretty easy, but if you're not careful, you will be doing a lot of circles.  That's where Spencer was and while I was trying to help, I wasn't being effective and so Dustin pushed me aside and took over the lessons.  It was with relief and bittersweet sadness that I paddled away.  After a couple of warm up class 2/3 rapids it was determined that Spencer had chosen a raft with larger than normal tubes, and that was affecting his ability to paddle.  I asked if mine would be better for him and it was decided that it would.  A mid river transfer was attempted; Spencer managed to crawl into my duckie, I slipped into the river trying to climb into his duckie.  While attempting to climb into my new duckie I saw the difficulty of the high tube and had to be hoisted into the duckie by one of the guides. 

The days lazily passed, a rapids here, some paddling there, lunch on a beach.  It was hot and humid, but whenever we felt too hot, we'd slip over the side of the duckie and take a swim, if the water was calm that is.  The water temp was about 80, almost too warm some, but for me, just right! 

Jump Rock was pretty cool.  The guys took turns jumping and hamming for the cameras.  I even jumped just to show that I could.  Jump Rock was probably 15 feet up and the water was probably 12 to 15 feet deep.  Good time!

The main event for the day would be a series of rapids called; "Surprise".  Water was channeled just so over the submerged rocks in such a way that a 6 foot standing wave was in the middle of where we wanted to go.  Or was the wave the reason we wanted to go that way?  No matter, it was the call of the water!  Much coaching was being related to us from our guides; "Hit it in the middle!", "Keep paddling, don't stop or you'll get dumped!", "Follow where I go, not the guy that was in front of you."  That last one was pretty crazy hard to follow, I was 20 guys behind him, what chance did I have of seeing his line?

By this point Spencer had gotten out of his duckie and joined Dustin.  Dustin assured Spencer and me that this way he'd be sure to hit the wave in the middle and have the most fun.  Sounded like a plan and from this picture you tell Spencer was having a blast and you can see that Dustin really did get him to the center of the action!

Ian kind of slid off to the side and so he didn't get the full effect, but had fun all the same.

I hesitate to share my experience, but what the heck, not the first time my mouth wrote a check that my body had to cash and probably wont be the last time either.  It's best to view the whole sequence.

Here's the first, as you can see, I have my game face on, Charge!

I hit the wave, and have lost the grip on my paddle, not a good sign.

As I slid out of the duckie, I hear in my head, keep a hold of your duckie, it's your friend through the rapids.  As you can see in this shot, I tried.  Take my word for it, it's a lot harder than it appears.  After you've done this, it's a pretty great feeling to just sit and breathe.

The rest of the day on the river was calmer, but still fun.  That night we had dinner at the big top, hamburgers, hot dogs, baked beans, potato salad, chips and cookies.  A great meal. 

Not much going on that Sunday night so we hopped in the car and found our way down to this pretty cool lookout.  The bridge is an engineering marvel and the boys were happy to be able to climb around. 

The Young's, as you can see, are a manly group of men.

Across the street was a hill leading to a bluff.  Ian went after it and discovered that the sand was actually shale that was falling off the bluff.

I took this one of Spencer under the huge arch bridge.  The bridge is 836 feet tall.  I had to threaten to throw the boy off in order to get him to look this good for the camera.

Hope you're all having a great summer!