Saturday, August 9, 2008

White Water (part II)

Okay, athletes, you know that guy who shows up for a sport with all the coolest, latest equipment, but really has no idea what he's doing and is just a big turd out there?

Don't you hate that guy?

I hate to admit it, but in this case, I was that guy. And Ron had every reason to just treat me with disdain. Instead, he was encouraging, helpful and friendly every step of the way. We met up with two other kayakers and practiced surfing in the third pool. I just watched at first to remind myself how it is done. Ron showed me a dozen things that I was doing wrong, from how I was sitting in the kayak to how I was holding my paddle to how I was doing my eddy turns.

When we shot the rapid into pool 4 he led the way to show me the easiest line, and I did just fine. Successfully shooting a rapid is just one of the funnest things there is to do in life, and it's the reason I like whitewater, so it was great to be doing it again.

A couple pools down we ran into a dad with two kids, practicing some advanced shredding moves like these. I didn't catch this guy's name either, so let's also call him Ron. The second Ron had a Jackson Kayak like mine, and he could tell from the way my kayak was sitting in the water that I had my seat adjusted wrong, so he showed me how to move it forward. It was a tighter fit, but it gave me a lot more control and stability.

We shot several rapids successfully, some of them more than once, and I was starting to feel more confident. At some point we took a break and Ron and Ron got into a conversation about all the places they kayaked and how they compared. I had very little to add to this conversation ("I took a class once six years ago. There were rapids"), and I felt it was time for me to be heading on, since I still had a lot of driving to do.

There were two rapids between me and the end of the course. One I had shot previously and felt pretty good about, but the very last one looked pretty scary. Ron (the first Ron) encouraged me to go for it, and explained the best way to take it. He said he'd keep an eye on me. So I said my goodbyes to the Rons and shot down the next rapid just fine.

In the final pool, I edged close to the final rapid and just looked at it. I decided to skip it and just get out there. Then I changed my mind, a couple of times. It occurred to me that even though Ron was keeping an eye on me, he would be two pools away if anything went wrong.

The thought "but this is what I came here for" was the clincher, and I went for the final rapid. I was upside down under water before I had any idea what hit me. I tried and of course failed to roll back up, so I pulled the spray skirt and tried to extricate myself from the kayak. But with the new seat position, I was in much tighter and I worried for a moment that I might have trouble getting out.

I managed to free myself while still hanging on to my paddle, but the kayak got away from me in the swift current. I swam as hard as I could across the current (still clutching my paddle) to try to grab the kayak, as we passed the sign on the bank warning me to get out before the dam up ahead. The water got suddenly shallow and I banged my shins into some rocks, but I managed to grab my kayak and get to shore.

It took me a while to catch my breath, then I gathered my equipment, waved with my paddle at Ron and Ron, and trudged back up the stairs to my car.

Lessons learned? Plenty, but I'll save those for another time.

Friday, August 8, 2008

White Water

Six summers ago, Caleb and I took a whitewater kayaking course in Silverthorne, Colorado. I decided this was something I wanted to do on a regular basis, though I was concerned that, at 41, I was a bit old to be starting on such an active sport.

Three years after that I finally got around to buying a whitewater kayak.

Three years after that (i.e. now), I finally got around to taking that kayak out on the white water.

I met the guy at Edge Kayak Shop a little after 10, rented a life vest (forgot to bring mine), and got some advice on what to do at the whitewater course. By 10:30 I was carrying my kayak down the long set of steps, and then up the path to the top of the course. It's a long walk when carrying a kayak. One should, of course, never kayak alone, and I had no intention of doing so. There was one other person out on the course, a boogie-boarder in the 4th pool (there are 8 pools divided by rapids).

I got myself all set up, put in at the second pool (the rapid from pool 1 looked to gnarly), got used to kayaking in a current again, took the rapid into pool 3, and immediately capsized.

I am not too good at the Eskimo Roll, which is the correct way to right a capsized kayak, but I am pretty expert at the wet exit, which is where you lean forward, release the spray skirt, remove your kayak like a pair of pants (all upside-down under water, mind you), and then swim for shore trying to hang on to both your kayak and paddle before the current takes you to the next rapid.

As I panted on the shore, a memorial cross set up nearby reminded me that people do get themselves killed by doing this wrong. And the one other guy on the course had left some time while I was under water.

So I got the water out of my kayak, and sealed myself back in, but kept myself to just the second pool (the pool is called Marley), just practicing my eddy turns, for another half hour or so, waiting to see if any other kayakers showed up. I finally gave up, and, not wanting to risk any of the other rapids, dragged my kayak out, and carried it all the way down the path and up the stairs.

I got to the top of the stairs around noon, which is apparently the time when kayakers show up at the course. A few arrived as I was getting set to leave. One of them (I never caught his name, but let's call him "Ron") asked me if I was planning to go down to the course. I told him everything I just told you.

"Oh, you should come on the course," Ron said. "I'll help you out".

The prospect of carrying the stupid kayak all the way back to the pools again was not really appealing. On the other hand, isn't that what I came here for?

Stay Tuned...

The Too Long Drive

I left Bay Lake about three in the afternoon, and stopped in Minneapolis for a friend's birthday dinner, so I only made it as far as Clear Lake, Iowa on Tuesday.
On Wednesday I decided to try to get as far as I could. I drove 850 miles to Colorado Springs, much of the drive through pouring rain. My back was feeling it the next morning!

But the long drive set me up with some extra time to do one more thing I'd been hoping to do on this vacation: take my kayak out on the Pueblo, Colorado Whitewater Course.

Bay Lake

After church on Sunday, Billy and I kayaked around Church Island. Billy brought two nice kayaks with him. His kayaks are lake kayaks, which mine is not, so it would have made sense for us to just use his kayaks, but I had dragged mine 1600 miles just to use it. My planned kayak trip in Minneapolis had fallen through, so gosh darn it I was going to paddle my own kayak.

It's really hard to keep up with a (keeled) lake kayak while maneuvering a (keelless) whitewater kayak. Billy got tired of waiting for me about 3/4 of the way around the island. At that point I stopped trying so hard to keep up and started enjoying the scenery. A bald eagle circled just overhead. It was the closest I've ever been to one.

My relatives own two different cabins on the lake, and I have a lot of relatives. So there always seems to be a good group of people at the lake to hang out with. Most of them like jet-skiing, tubing, water-skiing and fishing, which I like, too. But it was great to finally have someone else to kayak with. I'm going to have to plan my future lake trips to be there when Billy is there. And I'm going to have to get a lake kayak.

Each morning we kayaked from the cabin to Ruttger's (a resort across the lake), got pie and coffee there and kayaked back in time for lunch. Great fun and great exercise, and a good long time to talk and get to know each other.

My invitation to stay with Dean and Mary was extended to the whole week, as her other guests cancelled. Unfortunately, I could not spare the extra time. So I left on Tuesday afternoon. I'll post pictures later.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

God Decides to Baptise us All

This morning I went to the church service on Church Island. There were about 250 in attendance, including 8 from the Peterson clan.

The service happens in a small amphitheater overlooking the lake. A baby was baptized this morning, and at the very moment that the water was being sprinkled on the baby's head, a sudden downpour occurred, soaking the whole crowd.

Liking Oneself

When we were done in Iowa, we dispersed in every direction. Jake went south. Ariel went east. Nate and Mallo went west. Jerry? Well, who knows. And Rob and I went north.

We got to drive together from Cedar Falls to Saint Paul, a great drive for a long talk. We spoke of many things, but one was the subject of liking oneself.

Do you like yourself?

It's a given that it is good to like yourself, and it is bad to not like yourself. And I've thought about this a bit. What do we mean when we ask the question?

We could mean: Do you admire the person that you are?

We could mean: Do you enjoy the experience of being you?

That second meaning has rarely been a problem for me. Most mornings I wake up delighted with the prospect of getting to be me for another day. The first meaning has been more problematical, and has generally been in tension with the first.

The more I am enjoying being me, the less I admire the person I am, and vice-versa. I (try to) do thing that I know are good, but I don't enjoy it, or I do things that I enjoy, but they aren't doing anybody besides me any good. The trick is to try to get these things to converge instead of conflict.

For me, the work in Iowa (and earlier in New Orleans) is where enjoying myself and admiring myself come together. There's a general consensus all the way around that what we did in Iowa was a Good Thing. It was also very fulfilling. Working together with people I enjoy, ripping walls out of houses, seeing the pile of rubble grow as we make progress, it's just a blast.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Iowa Pix

The pictures are on-line.

I am on my way north to the Lake. More dispatches to come from there!

Air Conditioned -- Kitchenettes

On Friday we began a project that will keep teams busy for quite some time. Our destination was the Shady Rest MOTEL (Air Conditioned! Kitchenettes! No Vacancy). Once upon a time this was a riverside resort motel. It had long since been used as a "residential hotel" -- single rooms with a kitchenette for folks who can't afford anything fancier. There are fifteen units, so fifteen different families were rendered homeless at once.

The shady rest is on the (undesirable) north bank of the river. The south bank of the river is where the business district is. The south bank got sandbags to protect it from the flood. The north bank did not. I'll let you draw your own conclusions about that. It's reasonable to say that there is a certain amount of bitterness on the part of the residents of the north bank.

We got to make the human connection this time. Phyllis owns the Shady Rest and it is her livelihood. She needs to try to get back in business as soon as possible, but the task before her is both daunting and expensive. We got to have a good talk with Phyllis and to pray with her. Then we got to work. Much of the drywall had already been removed, but there is drywall behind the cabinets, sinks stoves, etc. that is not so easy to get to, especially for someone working on their own. So we set about removing the stoves, sinks, and counters, and then chipping through the drywall behind it.

We started by spreading out and working on a number of different rooms at once, but when Steve arrived he had us shift to a different strategy. As soon as one room is finished,Phyllis will be able to start renting that room out and generating some income. So we switched to focusing all our efforts on room 1 (well, room 1 and room 3, it would be way to crowded if we were all in one room. Maybe I'll tell you later why we couldn't work on room 2).

Honestly, we were all pretty exhausted by Friday, and the work was so daunting. We tried to get a lot done, but our energy had pretty well ebbed. When we were all spent, we headed off to Cold Stone Creamery for our well-deserved reward.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Quick Update: Relief work finished

I expect to have more to say about things, especially our final day working at the Shady Rest resort motel, in the near future. Meantime, I will just say that the week is now ended. Jake is now in Cedar Rapids with our friends the Wilsons, he will be headed to Chicago with them tomorrow. The rest of us spend one more night here in Cedar Falls, then we disperse to the winds. Rob and I will be together as far as Saint Paul.

Thanks Nicole for reading and commenting!