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08.06.2004 - 8:39 p.m.


Between the two of us, JB is the far more adventurous one. My idea of a rockin' good time involves a Warren Ellis comic book and a comfy pair of Old Navy yoga pants; he'd rather be dehydrated and shivering at the top of Mt. Rainier. Evidence of our disparate personalities runs rampant throughout our house: from the runners in the carpet from him ferrying his giant scuba tanks back and forth, to the squashy half-moon dent in our living room couch that suspiciously matches the shape of my ass.

When JB proposed his idea for us to raft a whitewater section of the north Umpqua river, I initially agreed that it sounded like a fine summer outing. Hmm, I thought, I'll get some sun, take in a little scenery, enjoy the great outdoors...

Wait. Aren't river rapids, you know, dangerous? "Oh, no, no, no. It's only Class 3 and 4 rapids," he assured me. "Oh, and just one little bitty Class 5. No big deal."

According to the International Scale of River Difficulty, Class 4 rapids are described as "large, long and difficult...usually require precise maneuvering". Class 5? "Extended and often violent rapids with constricted passageways ."

The couch ass-dent was looking better and better to me.

JB then confessed that he had somehow managed to persuade the outfitter to issue us our own raft. Whoah, hold the damn phone, I said. Shouldn't we leave the driving to the, um, experienced river guides? The ones who presumably know how to avoid all the pointy fatal rocks and stuff? JB puffed up alarmingly in response. "NO," he said, as though I had recommended a particularly stupid course of action that included cramming bee-covered sticks up our nostrils. "We'll be FINE."

I had a few weeks to ponder various scenarios of my watery demise, but August arrived all too soon, and last Saturday I found myself wedged in a small boat bobbing on the surface of the Umpqua, aimed for a take-out 12 long miles downstream. The sun was shining, birds were calling in the calm blue afternoon sky, and my life vest was cinched so firmly around my ribcage my breath emerged in nervous Pomeranian squeaks.

"Relax," JB yelled breezily, while I practiced a fierce barnacle grip on the raft's slick surface. "I won't let anything happen to us."

Less than an hour went by before I was darkly reviewing that statement as I observed what appeared to be a good portion of the entire river pouring into the bottom of our boat. We had just shot like a wet bar of soap from a grumpy swirl of water and thwacked against a large boulder, where the flow of the current bent us in half. The moment seemed to call for a satisfying horror movie scream, but the best I could do was a loud startled bleat as our treacherous raft suddenly pointed its rubbery snout straight up in the air.

Later, I would pride myself on my lightning reaction, my ability to execute a heroic gesture that may in fact have saved us from grave injury. Without even taking the time to consider my own personal safety, I propelled myself upward (accompanied, I am told, by some exceedingly bad language) and landed with an elephantine bellyflop on the top of the raft, where my body weight tumbled us back from the edge of being flipped.

At the lunch break, one of our guides stood by while I struggled to the shore, bandy-legged with spent adrenaline. "Nice high side," he told JB with approval. "You guys were totally vertical." JB beamed happily, while I conjured up visions of nice safe activities that do NOT require you to be vertical, like sleeping.

The rest of the trip was refreshingly horizontal, and I put aside my fears of falling overboard/smashing my head open/being devoured by ferocious Sea Monkeys. I learned that rapids can be fun, and that rafts are really pretty resiliant, and that if you constantly shriek "WOO YEAHHH" while you're on the water, you annoy the blue fuck out of those bored river guides.

Most of the whitewater parts of the Umpqua are named, like Cardiac Arrest, Weird Weir, and Pinball (which does indeed hurl you from one bank to another, attempting to smear you into catfood). Not that I've been asked, but I put some effort behind updating the section names.

It Sure Is Nice Out Hey Is That An Eagle?
Class: I

Holy Shit That Water is Cold
Class: II

Whoah! Watch Out For That Rock
Class: III

You've Got to be Fucking Kidding Me
Class: IV

Oh My God We're All Going To Die
Class: V

I'm lucky to have JB in my life, for so many reasons, but especially because when I'm with him I have so many more exciting memories than I would have otherwise.

However, this weekend my ass has a hot date with the couch. And Warren Ellis? Here I come, baby.

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9 comments so far.

I have moved. - 1.03.2005
Obviously, a work in progress. - 12.27.2004
Happy holidays! - 12.24.2004
Listen, I am not a complete dick, it's not like I want Joe to die alone surrounded by cats or something. - 12.23.2004
Plus I am convinced my butt is extra big when it's upside down. - 12.22.2004

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