Swimming Upstream

It’s been one year since I featured my father’s battle with Alzheimer’s (read Happy Birthday, Dad!), and I’m pleased to report that on the day of his 94th birthday…

smiles.jpg

…he continues his fight against inevitable debility. In fact, it appears that he is more fit than the year before.

Last year, Dad’s sedentary existence and subsequent lack of stamina was draining his psyche and physical condition. It was becoming apparent that the Use-It-or-Lose-It paradigm was taking over, but fortunately, Dad’s vigilance prevailed.

There was no magic pill or panacea to persuade him. Instead, it was his will to keep moving that helped him battle his personal perfect storm–assisted by diet and exercise.

One year ago, I found myself enabling Dad’s Clean-Your-Plate appetite by repeatedly up-sizing his wardrobe to accommodate his ballooning waistline. Unbeknownst to me, the Memory Care staff had endorsed an unwritten and unspoken Snack and Dessert Proclamation:

 If a 90-year-old man wants a cookie, let him eat one.

But Dad would eat two…or more. He was growing sideways effortlessly with reckless abandon. Belts and elastic waistbands had yielded to suspenders. At 5 feet-2 inches, Dad was tipping the scales at 220 pounds, and it was impacting his ability to balance and breathe without wheezing.

And so I returned him to his love of swimming–his preferred sport for fitness. Growing up, I recalled his need to visit the “Y” religiously every Wednesday to swim laps, take a schvitz and a enjoy a rub-down to blow off the steam of life’s hard-boiled expectations.

And while there was no illusion of recapturing the pleasure of Dad’s “Y” Wednesdays or restoring Dad’s forever-lost cognitive functioning, I anticipated his muscle memory might still respond to water therapy.

I was introduced to Patrick, a licensed physical therapist who was willing to accompany Dad into the pool, and work with him twice a week. After a short period of time, the almost-immediate payoff of sounder sleep, noticeable weight loss, and increased energy and awareness supported my vision of Dad swimming every other day, three times a week.



To date, many of Dad’s vital signs continue to improve. His blood pressure has dropped. He eats less and exercises more, which has resulted in 30 pounds of weight loss in 4 months.

Radio Man

Nevertheless, Dad continues to lose ground to his dementia demons. Steady bouts of “nobody home” syndrome are occasionally interrupted by scattered moments of recognition, and immediately replaced by confusion and silence. 

Struggling for the right words almost always results in stuttering followed by resignation. Lingering name-to-face recognition has been replaced by nuanced sweetheart or honey familiarity. Prompting with closed questions works some of the time, but for the most part, Dad has sunk into an eternal state of bliss that many around him find soothing and reassuring. 

Could his passivity be a cover for his acquiescence? Maybe, but I’m not really sure if it makes a difference or even matters.

siblings (4)

Because whether Dad realizes it or not, the victory of survival is always worthy of a celebration.

Rack ’em Up!

Yesterday’s adventure had me scouring the neighborhood for a ladder that was tall enough to reach our 14 foot-high dining room ceiling.

An email alert to our newly adopted community produced immediate fruit, but none of the produce was ripe for the climbing. Of the many responses, either the ladders were too short, or it was the wrong type (extension variety instead of A-frame)–nothing that would allow me to swap out a newly delivered lighting fixture in time for the scheduled delivery and installation of a long-awaited pool table the following day.

high ceilings (2)

While I struck out on ladders, it was a fine way to meet some of my neighbors, and learn about the joys and hazards of living in St. Augustine.

I  discovered that two hurricanes within an 11-month period (Matthew and Irma) after a 62-year respite (Dora in 1964) left our neighborhood shaken, but not stirred, with rising water from the Intracoastal Waterway barely penetrating the fence-line perimeter, while gale-force winds and blowing debris delivered negligible roof damage to a few homes, leaving our Madeira community relatively intact.

Additionally, the close proximity to the St. Johns County government complex and the beauty of sharing the same electrical grid resulted in a near, immediate restoral of power.

Meanwhile, it was beginning to feel like I was sitting behind the eight ball, but things have a way of working out when working tirelessly to carve out one’s little slice of heaven on earth.

Fortunately, a last-minute phone call to Smith Electric produced instant results. A crew arrived hours later…

Smith Electric

with an 8-foot step-ladder and a 6 foot 7 inch electrician to dismantle the existing fixture…

out with the old

and prepare the connections…

preparing the connections

to hang and balance the replacing fixture…

attaching globes

on the heels of the Pool Table Doctor’s arrival.

leveling the frame

Paul made quick work of placing and leveling the base;

positioning the slate slabs

stacking the slate slabs;

2 slabs.jpg

and shimming the playing surface.

leveling the slate

Joaquin was nearby, building the rails and pockets…

building rails and pockets

while Paul was joining the slabs together with sealing wax.

sealing the gaps with wax

Together, they finished felting the cushions.

felting the cushions

Soon it was time to stretch the wine-colored felt across the table–a quirky color that Leah and I felt was befitting the carved ball and claw table leg design.

positioning the felt (2)

After trimming the excess cloth, and attaching the rails…

attaching rails

our Olhausen table was lit and ready for play. The entire process took 2½ hours, and the result–

end result

worthy of a picture, and many future hours of fun.

Rack ’em up. It’s my turn to break!

 

Catch of the Day

Leah and I travelled with fishing rods strapped to the Airstream’s interior for one-year, cross-country. The constant sight of them was a nagging reminder of the possibility of learning a new sport together, and the unrequited taste of something “fresh” to grill, for we never found an opportunity to cast a line. However, now that we’ve become middle-aged Floridians, we felt the timing was right to immerse ourselves–hook, line and sinker.

After closing on our St. Augustine house in February, our realtor presented us with a gift certificate for a half-day charter with Captain Robert, his son, but our date on the water would have to wait four additional months to fulfill until we returned as full-time residents, and eventually settled in.

Leah had two immediate concerns with being out on the water: what to do for her new-founded sea sickness, and what kind of potty provisions would be provided. I, on the other hand just wanted reassurance that there would be space for my son Nate, who was temporarily residing with us in Florida after his apartment lease and job contract in suburban Albany, New York expired at the end of May.

A phone call to Captain Robert two weeks ago reserved our place, and addressed Leah’s anxieties: taking one tablet of Dramamine the night before and the day of the boat ride should allay her nausea; and a toilet seat placed atop a five-gallon Western Marine bucket should provide maximum comfort and embarrassment. And yes, bringing Nate along would be fine.

On the day of our trip, a newish Pathfinder 2500, a true fishing machine was waiting for us dockside…

our ride1 (2)

at the Conch House Marina…

Conch House Marina

at daybreak.

daubreak

We headed out on a picture-perfect morning…

Yamaha 300

with sea swells gently lullaby-rocking us in our search for bait a couple of miles from shore. Robert pulled up near a flock of diving birds in search of breakfast, and cast a net.

casting for bait

Moments later, he emptied a bulging swarm of pogies…

bait for the day

a delicious snack for lurking king mackerel.

bait on deck

We cruised about nine miles out from shore to an area already brimming with half a dozen fishing boats.

neighbors

I wondered about the wisdom of competing with the other boats, but Robert had a hunch. He set up three lines–two shallow, one deep, and we waited…

setting the lines

but not very long. In an hour’s time, we each took turns reeling in our target. First, Leah and me,

our catch

and then Nate,

Nate reels in a king

bringing his trophy home.

Nate with his fish

We pushed out another three miles in hopes of landing a sailfish, or wrangling a redfish, but after a couple of fights, we came up short–minus the bait and hook. Robert postulated that it was probably a shark or a barracuda making a meal of what was already on the line, but we’ll never know.

We trolled around for another hour looking for activity, but the sonar was quiet,

sonar

and Leah was pensive…

Leah on the Atlantic

perhaps wondering how awkward it might be if she needed to use the bucket.

“Do you need to go?” I wondered.

“I can hold it in,” she asserted.

It was decided that we should start back, but stop mid-way and resume our search. Again, the kings were biting, one for me,

reeling in (2)

and one for Leah,

Leah and her 2nd king

but we had already agreed that we had enough meat for the day, so both were released. Nate was determined to even the score by catching his second fish of the day, but his time had run out, and we headed for shore.

safe harbor (2)

Yet there was no need for disappointment, since Nate had reeled in the biggest catch of the day.

Catch of the Day

Robert was equally adept with a knife, making short time of filleting our king mackerels…

making fillets

which generated about 20 pounds of steaks.

Egrets of all sizes were standing by, ready to take advantage of all scraps that might come their way.

waiting for scraps

On Robert’s advice, we ate grilled mackerel that night.

I prepared a marinade made of: ¼ cup orange juice, ¼ cup soy sauce, 2 tbsp. canola oil, 1 tbsp. lemon juice, 1 tbsp. ketchup, 1 clove of garlic, oregano, parsley, salt and pepper and soaked our fillets for 2 hours, which rendered a rich and smoky taste when cooked.

Kudos to our Skipper, and thanks for a meal fit for a king mackerel.

Chapel Hill

There’s a triumvirate of college basketball competing in the middle of North Carolina, with rival sectors drawn by Duke’s Blue Devils at Durham, and North Carolina State’s Wolfpack at Raleigh, but completed by the Tar Heels of Carolina in the bucolic setting of Chapel Hill.

Campus map

In fact, consolidated ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference) championships by the three powerhouses represent 48 titles out of 64 seasons, for a 75% margin of victory. Even now, as I write this, Carolina has defeated Duke 74-69 to compete against Virginia for its 19th ACC Championship and a place at the NCAA Championship table.

With a long legacy of league leadership, Leah and I concluded that a look around Chapel Hill might offer some insight into Carolina’s dominance.

Holding up the world

The campus was abustle, as classes were winding down in anticipation of Spring Break, and time was running out for research papers due by March 9th.

Clock Tower

We wound our way around to the sports complex where the public address system at Kenan Memorial Stadium blared a recitation of upcoming Tar Heel dates for Spring sports, which piqued our interest. Perhaps we could find the answers to some of our questions here, so we entered the Charlie Justice Hall of Honor.

Choo Choo

We were overwhelmed by the floor to ceiling showcases of memorabilia, photographs, trophies and historical artifacts detailing the history of Carolina football. As I positioned my camera to my eye to capture the glory days of Lawrence Taylor, I was suddenly greeted by the authoritative voice of an attendant behind a long arc of a desk who demanded to know our business.

“Uh, we were looking for access to the stadium, and though it might be through here,” I suggested.

“There is absolutely no photography allowed in the building,” she insisted. “Especially when the athletes are in the weight room.”

At the end of a corridor lined with decorated Tar Heel helmets on one side, and an assortment of NFL helmets on the other, was a glass wall offering a view of several oversized students pressing, curling, squatting and deadlifting 250 pounds or more.

I put my camera by my side. “If you could just tell us how to get to the stadium, we’ll be on our way,” I back-pedaled, not wanting her to think I was spying for a competing organization.

Pointing, she offered matter-of-factly,” Through those doors, and takes the stairs to the left of Choo Choo.”

We mounted the stairs, filed past security’s bag search, and entered a cavernous oval overlooking the first level.

Kenan Memorial Stadium

On the field, the Denver lacrosse squad was completing drills before their opening scrum with the Tar Heels.

lacrosse

When the match began, the 63,000 missing fans could not drown out the rap and disco music excerpts that echoed throughout the stands. Leah and I left with the score tied at 1 after 17 minutes of playing time, and with no greater appreciation for rap and disco music.

Denver v NCU

However, we did fall in love with Patrick Dougherty’s installation of weaving whimsy…

signage.jpg

as we passed the front lawn of UNC’s Ackland Art Museum…

Step Right Up installation

on our way to the truck before the meter timed-out,

Step Right Up installation1

which served as a visual metaphor for the intricacies of basket(ball) art of a different sort.

With rain forecasted for most of the following day,

Letterman's Lane

we decided to take our investigation indoors where it mattered most.

Museum entrance

Inside the museum, we had the run of the court,

exhibits1

dodging and weaving around interactive exhibits detailing every aspect of the game…

exhibits

that contributed to the success of a program that became a pipeline to the NBA!

Tar Heels in the NBA

When gauging the quantitative results of the team, one need not look any further than the volume of awards.

trophies

And if all-time National Championships were a deciding factor, Carolina has seven.

National Championships

Only Kentucky with 8, and UCLA with 11 have more.

Yet aside from great coaching (Dean Smith and Roy Williams have contributed to the second highest all-time winning percentage at .739) and recruiting amazing talent, Carolina also has the X Factor–

Jordan.jpg

–arguably the greatest player to ever play the game–and the museum has devoted a shrine of artifacts in his name.

Michael Jordan

Most illuminating are correspondence letters from Coach K…

Duke letter

and Dean Smith…

letter

that directed Michael Jordan’s path and launched him on a career that would shatter records and inspire a new age of athletes…

2017 Champs

to become future role models in their own right and not much of a secret after all.

Football Follies

Traditionally, every professional team sport in America routinely celebrates a season midpoint known as the All-Star game….except for football. And for the most part, these exhibition events typically showcase the finest talent of the league franchises, usually selected by fans and coaches to honor the athletes who have amassed the season’s best stats…except for football.

Instead, the NFL currently slips its All Star game (called the Pro Bowl) between the Conference Finals (which determines the winners of the AFC and NFC) and the Super Bowl. As for talent, after excluding football’s best players heading to Super Bowl LII (Philadelphia Eagles vs. New England Patriots), player selection for this year’s Pro Bowl has been determined by fans, players and coaches in equal parts.

Pro Bowl enthusiasm among hand-core fans has flagged in recent years, now that warm and fuzzy football has replaced hard-nose hitting on gameday. The NFL punted the problem to the Players Association, who conceded that members may voluntarily decline to play due to injury concerns. But the league tackled player indifference by raising the stakes and incentivizing competitive play, with $64,000 awarded to every player on the winning side, while losers receive $32,000.

Thankfully, only the Super Bowl remains, before football passes the sports mantle to hockey, basketball, and the Winter Olympics. Fortunately for me, a very laid-back sports fan, uneven internet access and poor TV service from coast to coast prevented me from following the colossal collapse of the New York Giants (3-13), a four-time Super Bowl champion, and a perennial contender.

Nevertheless, with the Pro Bowl temporarily relocating from Hawaii’s Hula Bowl to Orlando’s newly renovated Camping World Stadium…

camping World Stadium

Life is Amazing

I decided to treat Leah to a last day of football. However, neither of us was counting on a day of downpours.

the approach

Rain was a constant interruption throughout the game–from the moment we arrived for the opening snap…

panorama

to the time we returned to the parking lot with minutes to play, and the AFC squad advancing to the goal line for an eventual 24-23 win.

TV cameraman (2)

In between, there were a few things to cheer about.

cheerleaders

Cowboy cheerleader

And then there was football, too.

kick 3

kick 4

The Pro Bowl was a game of two different halves, with the NFC holding a 20-3 half-time lead, capitalizing on dominant drives over darkening skies.

Meanwhile, preparation for half-time festivities devolved into occasional swordplay on the sidelines,

preparing for half time

However, sword order was eventually restored after Dancing with the Stars winner Jordan Fisher emerged…

Jordan Fisher half-time talent

and took the makeshift stage for ten minutes of coordinated music and mayhem,

half time

eventually finishing with a flourish.

end zone pyrotechnics

When the game resumed, it seemed as if a different NFC squad had taken the field,

mascots1

allowing the AFC to roar back under increasingly sloppy conditions.

mascots

Naturally, the biggest score of the day occured at the concession stand, when food vendors raided my wallet for $32 in exchange for a cheesesteak, fries, Coors Lite, and a bottle of water.

But despite the puddles and the pouring rain,

rain puddles

we put on our game faces,

selfie (2)

and managed to convince ourselves that all of this was time and money well spent.

Ride ’em, Cowboy!

We drove into the storm until it surrounded us. Lightning was brewing in the distance and then it was beside us. “Do you think they’re gonna cancel if it’s raining?” inquired Leah.

I really didn’t have an answer. “I’m certain that rain or shine is pretty much the rule here. This event is sold out, and there are no rain-checks for this sort of thing,” I hoped.

As we were approaching Belle Fourche (known as the geographical center of America), the rain abated. We dodged a bullet, but the evening was early. We navigated our way through town by following the crowd.

Townsfolk were homesteading on their claim of sidewalk with folding chairs and coolers in an effort to capture the best view, hours before the fireworks. Leah and I were on our way to our first rodeo in the “official” middle of nowhere.

We picked up tickets at will call, and continued through a cowboy arcade of beer, buckles and bows, mixed with the sweet smell of manure. We were shown to our seats by an usher in his sixties. Wiping them dry, the usher cautioned, “I hope I only need to do this once.”

“How much did it rain here?” Leah wanted to know.

“Not so bad. Couldn’t tell ya if it’s gonna start up again, and I used to do weather forecasting for a living,” the usher confessed. “But you know what they say about South Dakota weather?… ‘If you don’t like the weather, wait fifteen minutes and it will change.'” I looked up from my seat. We were sitting in Row C, and the overhang eave was positioned perfectly over our heads.

“Could that explain why you’re an usher today?” I jested.

The usher turned back without hesitation. “That’s what my wife asks!”

The evening opened with a salute to America. Retired Sgt. 1st Class Dana Bowman, Special Forces maneuvered through a dark and gloomy sky, dangling from his Coca-Cola-sponsored parachute.

skydive salute

Bowman streamed into the arena amid cheers, proving to naysayers that the first double-amputee ever to reenlist in the military has the audacity to demonstrate that disability is only a state of mind.

skydive complete

The 98th Annual Black Hills Roundup attracted cowpokes from near and far,

chew and spit

each one competing for a share of $170,000 in prize money with a daring-do skill set that defies sanity. It’s risky business, but the guys on the rodeo circuit take a beating for eight seconds of work–often times coming up lame and short on funds.

thrown

Yet, if they don’t remount, there’ll be no payday. So riding injured is a way of life. The roundup was filled with traditional rodeo events:

flying cowboy
Bareback Riding
The cowboys ride one handed and cannot touch themselves or the horse with their free hand. The cowboys spur the horse from shoulder to rigging, trying to make a qualified ride of 8 seconds. Cowboys are judged on their control and spurring technique, and the horses are judged on their power, speed, and agility. A good score in the bareback riding is in the mid 80’s.
steer wrestler
Steer Wrestling
Steer wrestling is a timed event, and cowboys compete against each other and the clock. Bulldoggers start out in the box just like the tie-down and team ropers. The barrier is placed across the box and the steer is loaded into the roping chute. As soon as the cowboy nods his head the steer is released and he charges after it on his horse. The steer wrestler catches up to the steer as quickly as possible and then leans over, jumps off of his horse and grabs the steer by its head. A winning time is usually between 3 to 4 seconds, but these big boys keep getting faster and faster. Breaking the barrier in the steer wrestling results in a 10 second penalty which effectively puts you out of the money. The bulldogger then plants his feet and tosses the steer onto its side, thereby stopping the clock.
saddle bronc
Saddle Bronc Riding
As with bareback riding, the mark out rule is in effect. The cowboy spurs from the front of the horse, back to the skirt of the saddle in an arcing motion. The cowboy must constantly lift on the hack rein to keep his seat in the saddle. Scoring is the same as in all the roughstock events with 1-25 points given to the cowboy and 1-25 points for the animal by each of the two judges. Cowboys are judged on control, spur motion, and timing. Saddle broncs are judged on their bucking ability. A good score in the saddle bronc riding is in the high 80’s.
bull rider before
Bull Riding
As with bareback riding, and saddle bronc, bull riders ride with one hand and cannot touch themselves or their bull with the free hand. Doing so results in a no score. Two judges give 1-25 points for the cowboys performance and 1-25 points for the animals performance. 100 points being the maximum, and is considered a perfect ride. Cowboys can spur for extra points, but just staying on the bull for 8 seconds is the main priority. A good score in the bull riding is in the 90’s. There has been one perfect score of 100 in the PRCA.
bull rider after
 Thrown Bullrider
roping
Team Roping
Team roping is the only team event in rodeo. The two cowboys involved in team roping have unique goals. The first, known as the header, does just what the name implies and ropes the head of the cattle. The other cowboy, known as the heeler, ropes the heels or legs. The header is the first out trying to rope the head as quickly as possible without breaking the barrier. Once the catch is made the header dallies and turns the steer left. This opens up the way for the heeler to work his magic and rope the legs. The clock is stopped when there is no slack in both ropes and the horses face each other. If the barrier is broken a 10 second penalty is added to the time. Also, if the heeler manages to catch only one leg, then a 5 second penalty is added. In addition to these penalties there are only 3 legal catches that the header can make. These are: both horns – one horn and the head – the neck.

Barrelman Dennis Halstead provided slapstick shtick between events, while concessions provided corn dogs, cookies, and coffee.

clown

Not to be outdone, Cowboy Kenny Bartram and his protege performed X-Game stunts on their steel horses after all the real horses had been stabled for the night.

flying cycle

And if that wasn’t enough, the night finished with a flurry of fireworks.

fireworks1fieworks3fireworks2fireworks4

It rained for much of the drive back to the Airstream in Rapid City, making the trip longer than necessary, but a time for reflection. The America I witnessed tonight was spirited and inspiring.

It was cathartic for the cowboys to chew tobacco, drink beer and raise hell, while young families dressed their kids in patriotic onesies, and showed off their newest Western boots. It was an evening dedicated to perpetual promotion–from the ads, the banners, the announcements, the props, to the flag-waving riders.

Banner girl

And it was a chance to see how important rodeo is to the qualifiers, and applaud how they risk their futures to compete and entertain the crowd.

But more than anything, I was grateful that I would wake up tomorrow feeling better than the cowboys.

* Description and Rules provided by PRCA.

 

Hiking Hat Trick–First Goal

At the risk of becoming too comfortable with scheduling only two activities a day during our destination stay, our last full day before moving on from Big Bend presented an opportunity to squeeze in three. That’s right…we were going for the hiking hat-trick!

By rights, we were being overly ambitious—biting off far more than we should ever chew—but as we’ve found since starting out, time is not our friend. Not to be melodramatic, but we may never pass this way again…and if we do (whether in this life or as Shirley MacLaine), it may not be with the same get-up-and-go. So, while we still can, we will continue to fool our bodies into believing we are first-round draft picks.

Typically, before dropping anchor, we’ll have researched most meaningful possibilities in our area. Then we’ll cherry pick around our common interests based on associated cost (we’re on a budget!), reasonability (is it safe and sane?), and time (is there enough of it?). By adopting this strategy, we’ve managed to stay focused and in sync.

But on this particular day, we agreed, “Who cares what it costs! This is totally insane! We’ll never have enough time! So, let’s do it!” On this day, we would canoe down the Rio Grande and hike through Slot Canyon while at Big Bend Ranch State Park, then return next door to Big Bend National Park for a backcountry drive to Santa Elena Canyon, hike the Santa Elena Canyon Trail, and return through the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive.

Two days earlier, we reserved with Angell Expeditions for a Sunday float. For many, the holy grail is to raft through Santa Elena Canyon in the shadow of its 1500 feet canyon walls while attacking Class IV rapids. However, local outfitters were eschewing the Santa Elena junction put-in due to historically low water levels.

waders vertical

Instead, we agreed on a canoe trip through Dark Canyon in the State Park—not nearly as dramatic as the former—but at least we’d be floating on water, rather than pulling our boat across it.

We put in at Madera Canyon at 10:30 am.

River access

Angell ExpeditionsAnd found we had the whole river to ourselves.

3 tps in the distance w canoeIt was Mike, our river guide in one boat and us—with Leah at the bow and me at the helm—in the other.

Mike on the riverThe air temperature was equal to the water temperature at about 75°, and the wind was at our backs. It could not get any better, or be any easier…until we reached the first of three technical skill zones.

While not exactly Class IV water, the rocks and current still made the run challenging and fun. To avoid tipping the canoe, Mike had us stop each time to survey the water. We walked the shoreline, and watched how the fast-moving water was running in order to plan our route. After easily demonstrating the turns in his own canoe, Mike ceded the river to us to try for ourselves.

First time out, Leah panicked. “I’m not doing that. It’s too soon to go swimming. I’d rather walk it.”

“C’mon, Leah,” trying to encourage her. “It’ll be fun.”

“Not with you steering, it won’t!” she bellowed. “I’m not getting wet. Why don’t you do it with Mike.”

Mike agreed. With me in front, and Mike at the helm, we glided between the rocks, and sailed through the water effortlessly.

“See,” I crowed, “that wasn’t so bad.”

“Sure thing.” Leah was unimpressed. “I’ll do the next one,” she offered with uncertainty.

After 30 minutes of lazy floating, it was show-time yet again. We repeated the same set-up procedure as before, and Mike made it look just as easy as before, but these rapids were faster and rockier, and required more finesse.

fast water“With this one,” Mike warned, “it’s very easy to capsize, so if you feel the boat tipping, just step out onto the rocks.

“No problem,” I mustered.

“Yeah, right!” Leah mocked.

We valiantly headed into the white water, picking up momentum, and following all of Mike’s directions perfectly.

negotiating fast water“I don’t know about this,” Leah yelled.

“Just keep your paddle out of the water, and I’ll guide us through,” I yelled back.

Neal Leah rapidsI zigged when and where I was meant to zig, and zagged at the appropriate time and place, until…

“LOOK OUT!” Leah screamed.

…a very large boulder suddenly jumped directly in the path of the canoe, spoiling my perfect run. The boat got caught up on the rocks, turning it sideways just as Mike predicted, and the rushing water was forcing the boat over.

“DO SOMETHING!” Leah screamed.

So, I stepped out as instructed—keeping the boat steady—and pushed it through the last turn, while Leah traveled like Cleopatra.

“I’ll have you know that I had nothing to do with that. You told me to keep my oar out of the water, so it’s not my fault.” she gloated.

“It must be nice to be blameless and dry,” I said to myself.

With the wind gusting at 20 mph, we were quickly approaching the take-out area, yet it was only 12:30 pm. The tailwind had cut our expected float time in half.

Fandango location

Basking turtles“Is that it?” asked Leah.

“End of the line,” confirmed Mike. “This is where the truck is parked.”

Feeling badly, Mike added, “I know it seemed like a short trip, but if you’d like, we could head up to Slot Canyon and do a hike. It’s not like it’s out of my way.”

Leah and I exchanged glances. We had intended to hike the canyon on our own anyway.

“Absolutely,” said Leah.

So, we got in the truck and followed Mike over the mountain, on the way to our second goal.