Thursday, June 12, 2008

Story - Blast from the Past

A Blast from the Past
I am dating a member of the Walton Family. And the Walton’s, as you know, have many gatherings. This latest gathering was a camping trip by the American River. It was a beautiful, peaceful setting right next to the river that was going by calmly and serenely when we arrived late Friday.
Somewhere around 6 AM Saturday I hear this tumultuous roar and the river is no longer calm, but raging. I marveled at what was clearly a level three (or four) rapid below me. Apparently, they open the damn in the morning to get this river really going for rafting trips. And, apparently, Boyfriend and the younger set are all going. Ten minutes later, I’m informed I’m going too. What?
Have you ever done anything as an adult that you used to love doing as a child and wondered what ever possessed you to do them? Like eating S’mores? When I tried one as an adult, I nearly gagged. Climbing trees is another adult bozo no-no. Up is no problem; down is another story. Over forty jump roping became a near-death experience for me, and belly flops over the age of ten are a very, very bad idea. Skate boarding is also now out, as is the trampoline (just plain ugly) and drooling over the likes of David Cassidy. Things change. Do I grasp this concept? Apparently not, because what came out of my mouth was, “Cool! I haven’t been white water rafting for years!!” (“Years”, Sharon, check on the word “years” – it could serve to be key!)
They say that we forget pain. Which must be true or none of us would go on to have a second child. Cold is pain. I forgot about the part where rushing rivers never warm up and was immediately frozen solid upon getting in the raft in my little helmet and big life jacket. We sit through our safety lecture, learning things like how to position ourselves if we should fall out of the raft so that we can float down the river safely and use our legs to fend off the rocks. Alrightie then, I’ll be sure to do all that while I’m freaking out completely! I’m praying that this is an extreme case situation and not the norm on this river.
Then our guide announces that we are going to do something called “surfing”, which is really “fun”. This good time amounts to maneuvering the raft below a rock where water is rushing back in on itself, sitting down in the boat and holding on for dear life while the thing tips one direction to another, nearly flipping over and saturating you with ice cold water. I kept getting hammered by the waterfall and by the time he pulled us out of there, laughing with the maniacal glee I often associate with young, testosterone ridden males, I was sputtering like a cat. The equally youthful Walton’s were all over it when he suggested a repeat performance, but I was not so sure. I opted for a quick drop-off on the shore to “watch”, but was instantly met with a barrage of “Oh, come on, Sharon!”, “You can do it, Sharon!” and “Don’t be such a wuss, Sharon!” Boyfriend’s youngest daughter even offered to trade places with me after I brought up the whole drenched-by-waterfall issue and for a moment I almost succumbed to peer pressure. Then I remembered that people 25 years younger than me do not qualify as peers, so I pulled the Almost Fifty Card and got out. Off they went.
I’m here to tell you that this thing looks as harrowing as it feels. There they were, tipping precariously to the left and to the right, while the guide was doing the “yeehaw” thing and giving me the thumbs up. And then the youngest daughter was gone. Simply gone. I watched in horror until she finally reappeared on the opposite side of the boat, stuck in that darn waterfall. Of course they can’t pull her out there, or they will all wind up in the river, so she has to swim in sub-zero water, eyes as wide as Texas, until they can rescue her.
I looked at her in awe when they picked me up. “That would have been you!” she says to me. I’m quite aware of that fact. Fortunately it wasn’t me, because I doubt I would have been recounting the episode with the same excitement and pride that she was. There probably wouldn’t have been much pride involved when I burst into tears and proceeded to get back on the bus and abort the mission. But she’s a trooper and was laughing and slapping high-fives with her cousins as we set off down the river.
Golly! A whole ten minutes into the trip and so much to talk about already. The only upside of being soaking wet was that it was impossible for anyone to differentiate between the water on my face and the beads of sweat that were breaking out.
Another thing that I had apparently forgotten was my mother telling me, “Avoid the back end of the boat”, because here I was, in the very back of the boat next to the guide. Its tricky back there, because you can’t hook your feet the same way, and you can only hook one foot or you risk tossing the guide out of the raft, and, well, that would suck. He demonstrates how “easy” it is to just hook one foot and lean waaay out of the boat to use your oar, and how you can actually lift your other leg right up in the air and still keep your balance. Isn’t that nifty? By our second rapid he learned that me trying that wasn’t such a hot idea as I suddenly became airborne and he had to abandon guiding in the name of grabbing my life jacket to ensure I returned inside the boat instead of outside the boat. The boat did a full 180 at that point and we had to take a rapid backwards, but it was better than doing the darn thing solo, if you ask me.
After awhile I got back into the swing of it and was having a good time until I foolishly asked where we landed. Back at the campground, isn’t that convenient? Back at the campground on the other side of that crazy rapid I saw this morning? Yes, the crazy rapid that they named “Troublemaker”. Well, I figured if I could survive things like “Hospital Bar”, “Triple Threat”, and “Meat Grinder”, I could probably survive “Troublemaker”. If not, at least the swim would end near my towel.
I did survive Troublemaker, mostly due to another quick rescue from our guide, and I got out of the raft as enthusiastic and excited as everyone else. And that right there is just plain weird. If anyone tells you that you will find sheer terror and freezing cold to be an absolute blast, you would probably question their sanity, but there you have it.
After I finally regained the use of my frozen legs, I walked down to the edge of darling Troublemaker to sit in the sun and watch the other maniacs attempt this thing. After watching a large number of people go flying out of their rafts when doing this, I realized we must have been pretty good to have all stayed in. I must say I felt pretty darn proud of myself right about then. Not too shabby for a middle-aged chick.
That night by the campfire, however, I did draw the line when offered a S’more. After all, some things are better left in the past, right?

Photo - Leslie

Leslie and George! Here you go - your site will be up this morning at