Whitewater Rafting and other Adventures

Brian, Mike and Chrissy at Sand Rock
Brian, Mike, Chrissy, Sassy and Radar at Sand Rock

October in the south is when folks start emerging from their air-conditioned homes, cars and stores to explore the great outdoors. With arms wide open I welcomed the cooler air and a friend from the north! Danielle came down late September into early October to say, “Hi” and see what Bama had to offer. Well, Bama doesn’t offer much, so we drove to Florida and explored some caverns, met a crazy tour-guide named Frank who likes talking about wet and glossy things, almost ran out of gas near a prison (because I’m AWESOME) and got a picture of Danielle in a VW Thing! The next day we drove east to Georgia where D and I ventured into a ghetto-fab Piggly Wiggly and explored the “Little Grand Canyon” (aka: Providence Canyon). We hiked around, DIDN’T abide by posted signage, discovered a hidden graveyard, and took lots of pictures! It was a great few days and D, you’re welcome back any time!

October 9th, Brian, Chrissy and their two dogs, Radar and Sassy joined us for some climbing and camping up at Sand Rock. The weather was beautiful and, of course, with beautiful weather comes a bountiful supply of people! Sand Rock was the most crowded we’ve seen it since May! The weekend had a few “firsts”… It was Chrissy’s first time climbing, she did great! Despite her fear of heights she gave it the good ol’ “college try”! Brian hadn’t climbed in years and managed to climb all the way to the top of Misty, a classic 5.10 route that is pretty sustained! Way to go Brian!! We all went to Little River to check out the scenery and cool off in the river. It was AWESOME! Not only were the crowds gone, but the water was super refreshing and there was some foliage surrounding the swimming hole! It was beautiful! Mike was the first to jump in, which is surprising because he’s usually the one standing in the background, making funny noises as he slowly and painfully eases into the cold water. Ha ha ha! Brian was next and there I stood, at the edge of the rock, knowing I HAD to jump in so as to prevent Mike from having bragging rights… I hemmed and hawed and then, finally, about 10 minutes later I made the plunge! Brrrrr!! That water was much cooler than it was during our last visit! I’d say by about 10 degrees! It was the kind of cold that instantly takes your breath away. Now it was Chrissy’s turn… She, like me, had to think long and hard about it. Was it worth it? After some nagging from her husband (ha ha ha) and some lighthearted convincing from me, the two of us jumped in together on the count of three. All and all it was a great weekend with good friends and excellent weather!

This past weekend Mike and I packed up the bikes and headed for the Gulf coast! Once again, the weather couldn’t have been more perfect! I had on jeans, a t-shirt and my mesh jacket and was totally comfortable! It wasn’t too hot or too cold, the sun was out, shining bright, it was just perfect! After filling up the tanks in Dothan we rode south for over 100 miles without stopping until we reached the coast! Now, life isn’t always perfect and here’s where the trip may have gone a little south (no pun intended)… We were planning on pulling up to one of the many coastal state parks and getting a camping site for the evening. My friend Sarah LOVES to plan ahead, she had asked if we had made a reservation the night before, we replied with a confident “No”. We figured what would be the chances of these places being booked solid in the off-season. Well… We should have listened to Sarah! Every coastal state park, BOOKED! I couldn’t believe it! Now what?!? I guess we’ll have to check out the nearest hotel (sigh). A few minutes down the road we found ourselves alone, in a dirt parking lot, staring in wonderment at the Dixie Belle Motel… I’m sure your imagination is coming up with something similar to what we were standing in front of. The women behind the counter was very nice, she got us a room for a small sum of money (at least compared to what others in the area were charging (we’re cheap)). We unlocked the door to our room, greeting us was a pungent smell of bad perfume. I wondered if/what other ghastly odor they were trying to mask with this equally disgusting perfume. All and all, I’ve seen and smelled worse. You really couldn’t beat the price! We treated ourselves to a nice meal at a local eatery. A mescaline salad topped with vinaigrette, fresh mozzarella and tomatoes paired with oven-fresh bread followed by a brick oven pizza. Of course, I left room for dessert and chose a Belgian chocolate mousse! YUM! The next morning, I was happy to have awaken without feeling itchy, as I feared a possible bedbug invasion. We were on the road by 9, on our way to St. Joesph Bay Peninsula State Park. We rode to park’s boundary and then found a beach to explore. The water was crystal clear and calm as can be. There were little crabs all scattered about the shoreline. Mike was wading out in the shallows and accidentally scared off a large Stingray. We found out later from some locals that you’re supposed to drag your feet as you wade around so as to scare the Stingrays off, unless you enjoy getting speared… There were tons of butterflies and some flying fish! It was a beautiful display of nature at it’s finest! By noon we were on the road again, heading for some lunch at a little Mexican joint. After stuffing our stomachs we hopped on the bikes and headed home. We made a quick pit-stop on the way home to touch some raw cotton! Sounds weird doesn’t it?!? Ha ha ha! We’ve seen these cotton fields all over Alabama and Florida and wondered what raw cotton felt like. Well, it turns out it feels pretty much the same. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I’m glad I now know. Ha ha ha! Later that evening we arrived home in one piece, well, four pieces if you’re counting both Mike and I and our bikes. It was great to finally get out on the bikes for a long ride in great weather!

Seeing as my last post prior to this was in the beginning of July, I feel the need to give you a summary of the goings on between then and now, excluding the aforementioned.

At the end of July I found myself on a flight out to Las Vegas for work. I was going out there to attend Cosmoprof. A large, annual event for the beauty industry. It was a great time! I experienced a lot of new things in a whirlwind of a week! I had only one late afternoon where I was able to lay by the pool, in the mere 110 degree heat, waited on by servers who came around with everything from margaritas to a little spoon fulls of cool aloe-vera. It was lovely!

Upon returning from Vegas I had to quickly do my laundry and pack it up again for a white water rafting/camping trip up in Tennessee. Wait!! Did you say WHITE WATER RAFTING?!?!? Noooooo!!!! White water rafting is the ONE thing in life that completely freaks me out!! It’s the one thing I told myself I would be fine with never doing! Well, there I was… shivering in my life jacket, about to face some Class III and IV rapids… HELP! Mike, Phil, Sarah, John, Laura and I with our guide Crazy James (that’s what they called him, for real… god help me) headed off down the Ocoee River in Tennessee. At the end of the first Class III rapid we paddled through our boat abruptly dumped most of us out! I was included in that group! I was so traumatized that I barely recall the series of events. All I remember is coming out of the water, seeing only Phil in front of me, remembering that I have to hold on to my paddle and put my feet forward. Put my feet forward?!?! YEAH RIGHT!!! My head was barely staying above water!! I was trying to tread as much water as I could, mean while, Phil, bless his soul, swam up next to me trying to calm my panic-stricken self down, while simultaneous searching the river for his wife! I am FREAKING out at this point, my life is flashing before my eyes! I’m looking around in a state of panic, trying to find a rock to get up on or something, when I noticed Sarah, Phil’s wife, calmly floating a little ways behind me! Oh yeah… I forgot to mention, we’re probably floating down Class I rapids at this point, but it still scared the crap out of me! Our floating bodies finally caught up the the rafts in front of us and I grabbed and held on to the rope around that raft with every muscle in my body! There was no WAY I was letting go of that rope! Crazy James finally made his way down the river and plucked us up, one by one out of the river and plopped us back in the raft. PHEW! But wait, we still have over five miles of river to go!! Oh! And did I mention that one of the Class IV sections is where the 1996 Olympic were held, which can only mean one thing… It ain’t easy!! I had a new mantra, “stay in the raft… stay in the raft”. The rest of the ride I had my feet anchored so hard into the raft that I had blisters by the time I got out, but… I stayed in that raft for the rest of the trip! PHEW! I learned a new lesson, don’t ever, EVER go white water rafting again!

Whitewater Rafting on the Ocoee River
Whitewater Rafting in Tennessee

A few weeks after that traumatic event Mike, Phil, Sarah and I packed up our backpacks, or as Sarah likes to call them, book-bags, and did an overnight in Providence Canyon located in Lumpkin, Georgia. LUMPKIN, Georgia! Ha ha ha! I just love that name! Anyway, lesson number two, don’t ever, EVER go backpacking in 90+ degree weather again! I’ve never sweat so much in my entire life. My pants looked like I had peed myself and I never stopped sweating, even through the night! I’m pretty sure that the temperature never dropped below 90 degrees! YUCK! It was a pretty place and despite the insane heat, we still had a great time!

Our next trip involves a battleship, submarine, an old cemetery, awesome architecture and some mouth-watering Emeril Lagasse cuisine. You guessed it, Mobile, AL and New Orleans, LA! Labor Day weekend Mike and I set off to explore south-western Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. Our first stop was in Mobile where we toured the USS Alabama (battleship) and the USS Drum (submarine). That evening we ate dinner and watched the sun set from Dauphin Island. The next day we drove west through Mississippi and into Louisiana where we drove around the Lower 9th Ward. It’s amazing to see that the aftermath of Katrina is still evident even after five years. After walking around a bit and snapping a few photos, we headed into the city. We grabbed some eats and discovered that sipping an alcoholic beverage while walking down the street is totally legit in New Orleans… sweeeeeet! Ummmm… I’ll take a Margarita to go please! 🙂 My one and only mission was to tour one of the cemeteries in the city, specifically, the St. Louis cemetery #1 where Marie Laveau is buried. We power-walked — Boston style, to the cemetery to find a couple outside of the closed gates, speaking to a man within the gates. We came to find out that the cemetery was closed (it was Sunday and EVERYTHING is closed on Sunday down here) and it just so happens that we got there at the perfect time to join this unofficial cemetery tour. Dave, our unofficial tour-guide, had us jump the stone wall on the other side of the cemetery and commenced with our quick, unofficial tour. Dave seemed very informed, he guided us around to all of the popular tombs and filled our heads with all kinds of information. I was half listening and half taking as many pictures as I could squeeze into our short window of time. Dave even removed a few bricks from one of the tombs and let me put my camera in there to snap a photo. I got a nice shot of an old femur bone… sweeeet! Before I knew it, our tour was over, we grabbed a couple bills from our pockets handed them to Dave and thanked him for a job well done. Dave helped us scoot over the cast iron fence, grabbed his bagged 40 and followed suit. We all parted ways and continued with our day. I’m pretty sure that Dave gave us a much better tour than any legit guide would have. We walked into the French Quarter where we notice a lot of men wearing very little clothing. I, being the curious creature I am, wanted to know where all these minimally clothed men were heading, so I grabbed Mike and followed them into to the largest Gay Pride parade I’ve even seen! It was awesome, but I’m not sure Mike agreed with me! Cladly dressed men, dancing around the street, singing and having fun, what’s wrong with that?!? Anyway, after Mike had regrouped from our gay pride experience, we decided to dine at one of Emeril Lagasse’s restaurants, Nola. It was quite the experience. I’ve never been to a restaurant with such excellent customer service. For god’s sake, they’d fold your napkin when you got up to use the bathroom, it was amazing! The food was also quite delicious! It was an excellent weekend and I can’t wait to go back to New Orleans to explore some more!

Our optimistic approach to living in Alabama is continuing to pay off. We’re exploring new places, meeting great people and having a wonderful time while we’re here! I’ll continue, hopefully in a more timely manner, to update you on the places we see and the things we do! Until next time…