Friday, July 26, 2019

The River Wild

I didn't sign up for this

but my more adventurous friend, who is acting as the cruise director for our vacation, found the Level Three Whitewater Rafting Trip through an Urban Setting online, and cut to:

I am sweating it out on the shore of the James River in Richmond Virginia on a 100 degree day, listening to the river guide explain rowing directions as if my life depends on it. My life does, apparently, depend on it, because there's so much How-to-stay-in-the-boat and What-to-do-if-you-fly-out-of-the-boat directions, coupled with "Let's sign a waiver in case of Permanent Paralysis and/or Death" that even my adventurous friend is starting to get nervous.

But we all climb into the raft-- my husband (who has been whitewater rafting before and has fallen out of the boat and survived) my friend and her husband-- and our guide, twenty year old Kate, who I am skeptical about at first, but by the time this ride is over I will be singing her praises.

Kate is all business, shouting out when we should row forward and back, pointing out points of interest along the way. An old bridge that collapsed in a hurricane, the Hollywood cemetery on the hill where 18,000 confederate soldiers are buried, the Richmond skyline, the various rapids that we'll be rafting through.

The river is low and we immediately get stuck on a rock. Bounce up and down, Kate tells us, and we do, but it doesn't help in the slightest. Kate hops into the water, heaves us off the rock and then hops back in. She does that several times while the four of us bounce middle-aged-ly.

Do you ever feel like you're a sherpa? I ask her. You know, like one of those guides on Mount Everest who's paid to get people who should not be climbing Mount Everest up to the peak?

Kate just laughs, but I notice that she does not answer the question.

We slide and turn and bounce through rapids. We stop and eat trail mix on an island and talk about our bucket lists. Side note: whitewater rafting was not on my bucket list.

But I have to admit that I am enjoying this excursion until we get to the end and Kate asks us if we want to go back to the last section of churning water we'd just successfully made it through and do it again. There's this thing called surfing, which I still don't quite understand, where you row directly into the churning water until the front of your raft gets sucked down and then it's supposed to pop back up. My adventurous friend says no

and climbs out of the raft. Weirdly, I stay in. My husband and my friend's husband, with Kate's direction, row toward the churning water. The front of the boat gets sucked in. The two guys immediately flop out and the raft tilts straight up. It's a strange long moment watching them disappear into the foam, waiting for my turn to tumble out,

but I don't. As soon as the guys hit the water, the raft snaps back up and there's a few tense moments of looking for their heads in the spray and then a few more tense moments as my friend's husband swims to shore, but my husband loses his paddle and has to ride the next bit of rapids on his back. He makes it to the raft and Kate tells him that she's going to pull him in and I think, there's no way in hell this one hundred pound, twenty year old girl is going to be able to pull my husband onto the raft, but Boom,

she hauls him up.

We eat popsicles on the bus on the way back to our car. The next day we hike around the Hollywood cemetery and watch the white water from the shore. Would I do it again?

Nope. Am I glad I did it?