Saturday, October 27, 2012

Rogue River Trip 2012

Once again this year Emily and I joined our rafting friends for a 3 day trip down the Wild & Scenic section of the Rogue River in southern Oregon.  This river is one of the qualifying rivers if you plan to run the Grand Canyon without a guide and is one of the most beautiful in the country.  Emily and I unfortunately had to drive down from Ridgefield, WA to meet everyone at Cody and Nicole’s place in Shedd, OR just south of Corvallis off I-5.  

We got there around 9pm and everything seemed to be pretty much packed up.  We had 4 rafts this year including Stella, the Beaver Boat, Martin’s, Nicole’s Zoo Raft and Adam (Mahogany Driftwood) had his Cat Boat.  A lot of people were also in costumes as it was the weekend before Halloween so Em and I felt a little out of place without one.  Chris holm was simply wearing a wig and ridiculous hipster Ray-Ban type sunglasses he picked up for $5 at a gas station.

As usual it was an interesting ride in the van with Ben and a lot of drinks got passed around in the back with Bryan staying straight sober behind the wheel putting up with all the debauchery.  We had a fun drunken stop at a gas station near Roseburg where we encountered another van similar to Bryan’s also pulling rafts.  Everyone went inside to grab snacks and try on funny hats found in the store while Ben and Bryan chatted with the other rafters about their plans.  

Turns out we had another chance to chat with them inside our van as we had to pick up 4-5 of them when their van’s engine imploded.  We had 24 total people spread out between Bryan’s van and a rental van behind us who thought it was our van that was fire!  After dropping the other rafters off at their cabins (yes, cabins) we continued on and got to the put-in around 1am where we quickly set up our tents and fell asleep.  

In the morning we took our time getting up and onto the river, everyone making sure that they had their costumes on and ready to party.  Lets see, we had Holm as Rick James, Bryan as batman, Rob as some mexican dude, several caped crusaders, a fembot, a white Hancock (Will Smith Movie), and even Quail Man.  One of us even had on a hip belt of liquor nips.  We loaded up the Beaver and Pirate flags strapped the FAILdinosour in for the ride of his life.

It was a few hours before we came to Rainee Falls, the only class V rapid on the river.  As usual we all got out of our boats to check it out, but this year was a bit more funny to observe with Rick James and the Dark Knight looking out over the falls with throw bags ready.  Chris and I stood by and videotaped all the rafts successfully going over the falls this year.  I got a great video of a bunch of cute river otters playing in the rapids before panning to Ben’s boat slaying the falls with the Dark Knight looking on.  Once again Nicole was kind enough to pull over after they made it through and have a throw bag ready for Chris and I who would tackle it in our IK’s.  We had watched the two other double IK’s go through and get destroyed this year so we didn’t hold up much hope of ourselves cleaning it.

We hurried back to our boats and, like last year, a group of people gave us bewildered looks when we said we were headed to the main chute.  I followed Chris again who now has a bit more river experience than I with his recently purchased hardshell boat and full dry suit getup.  I saw him plunge over the falls out of site and figured if he ate it I might as well too and took a slight turn to the right towards the biggest drop I could see.  

When I went over I plunged deep into the froth and then the front of the boat was sticking straight towards the sky with me backflipping out.  Next thing I knew my butt was actually sitting deep on the bottom of the river.  Thankfully, the current grabbed down deep and I shot out far downstream from the falls where I resurfaced.  The video of us actually loses track of me because I was carried so far downstream underwater...

After organizing from Rainee Falls we all stopped for some lunch and I mentioned to Emily how cool it was to see all the river otters around the falls and told her now she just needed to see a bear in the wild.  Literally, as I said those words I looked up and then said, “like that one” while pointing to a small black bear on the opposite side of the river.  She was pretty excited to finally see a wild bear before she turned 30 as I promised her.    That was just the start of the wildlife on the trip too.  Later Emily and Ben’s boat would see a buck swimming across the river, a skunk, and another bear with two cubs looking at them from rocks on the shore.  We also saw better views of the otters and baby otters just downstream of Rainee and throughout the trip we saw egrets, eagles, king fishers and blue herons along the shore.

Our first night on the river was nice as we set up camp.  The moon came out and we could see stars.  We had a great Cajun dinner with shrimp but my heart burn was killing me so it was tough to eat.  I instead busied myself with finishing the bailey’s I had brought with a big cup of milk.  We had a nice campfire and Chris, Adam and Martin provided the music for the group.  It was also the night that Natalie one the “crazy girl” card for the trip.... or maybe not.  It’s hard to label someone as “crazy” when they are an aspiring actress with an energetic personality that makes everyone laugh.  At first when she started “scat-rapping” to the music like a nutball I yelled out “we have a winner!” to the great amusement of Sarah but after a weekend with Natalie I don’t think she is crazy, I just think air gives her the same reaction that cocaine does to other people.... 

We woke up in camp to beautiful fog sitting on the hillsides around us.  We ate a great breakfast of potatoes, pancakes, eggs and of course bacon before hitting the river.  This part of the trip is always my favorite as we passed by the Rogue River Ranch where we got lunch and bed told the group of all the animals he personally had shown his raft, traveled through Mule Creek Canyon and Coffee Pot rapids and negotiated Blossom Bar all in the same day.  It had rained the night before so some of our gear was wet and it continued raining throughout the day which was ok because we were all in our wet suits anyway on a river...

After we all made it through Blossom Bar without a problem the real drinking began with the now annual birthday cake vodka shots and plenty of bag wine being slapped by everyone.  We tied up and became raftzilla and watched as other groups of rafters and kayakers nervously, but speedily, passed us with only a few stopping to sample our bourbon and beer on the way by.  This party seemed to carry onwards through a lot of flat water until it began to get pretty dark.  Several other groups at camps insisted they wanted none of us near them and one person even shoved our kayakers off of shore.  When we finally pulled up to a flat gravel bar we noticed that Holm was nowhere in sight.  

This sent me into a panic as I knew he was pretty drunk.  I got pretty mad at anyone (Ben) who seemed to be setting up their tents while Holm was missing on the river without any of his gear for the night.  Thankfully, Adam and Sarah jumped in his cat boat and rowed up stream until they found Holm who was nearly blacked out paddling in the wrong direction.  They yelled to him and after grabbing his attention he of course paddled up to them like it was nothing.... When he got back to camp I simply told him to never pull that shit again but I was pretty freaked out as it was then several hours after dark... Yes he had a dry suit, but it may have gotten cold for him over the night and it’s always important for the group to stick together.

Once again we had a fun campfire with shinanigans from Natalie and music from the guys.  Holm was pretty burnt out but we did get him to play a bit of music as well.  We were able to pick up the Beavers vs. Washington game and unfortunately, thanks to some stupid plays by our starter quarterback we lost the game by 3 points ending our 6 game winning streak this season.  It rained pretty hard all night again once we were in our tents so it was nice to not have to worry about sleeping in the wet stuff again on Sunday night.

On Sunday we had a pretty chill day on the river without any dangerous rapids to think about.  We stopped for lunch at the natural waterslide on the side of the river that seemed to blow Natalie’s mind.  All the newbies took the falls except Emily who had bruised herself up pretty good and sprained her thumb looking for Holm the night before.  She spent the day on the gear boat with Cody instead of paddling on Ben’s boat.  Before we left the waterfall Adam showed me a secret geocache under a bridge and some of the stuff he had put in it years before as this was now the 11th time on the river for him.

Near the takeout we encountered several cool fog banks sitting on the river marking the end of rafting season for a few cold months.  We were off the river by about 4:00pm and Bryan’s dad, who once again graciously shuttled the vans for us, had cooked us up a big pot of chili and a pot of chicken noodle soup, both fantastic.  We packed up all the gear and loaded the rafts on the trailer with Adams massive Cat Boat on top of all the others.  Nicole, Sarah, Em, Chris and I all loaded into what thankfully turned out to be the quiet van with Bryan’s dad for the ride over the coast range back to Roseburg and I-5.  

On the way down the dirt forest road we could see Adam’s boat leaning a bit on top of the other rafts and tried honking and flashing our lights at them but Bryan is a speed demon and didn’t notice.  Right before he was going to pull over and check the gear the cat boat snapped free and flipped through the air onto it’s rafting seat skidding down the road.  Miraculously nothing else was really damaged but I felt bad that Adam’s brand new John Deer seat had been crushed by the weight as well as the pots that were used for dinner.  Once we got everything strapped up again we had a relaxing ride home to Shedd with just one quick stop for drinks and snacks and refueling.  Em and I helped unpack for a bit at Shedd and were back at our place in Ridgefield by 1am.

For a 3 day trip down this river it costs anywhere from $500 to $1500 dollars.  We did it all for just $70 each and Chris and I both got kayaks and gear for $40 each on top of that.  We saw a ton of wildlife, ate and drank like kings and queens and all came out pretty much unscratched.  My only loss were my sunglasses which I think may have been left on the rocks at the takeout or swallowed by the Rogue at some point.  They are all our good friends and we look forward to rafting with them all again after ski season which started for me as soon as I hit play on the ski videos on my iphone on the van ride back.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Ellie's 6th Birthday Visit

I just got back to Oregon from a wonderful 3 day weekend with my daughter in Fort Wayne, IN.  Nicolette and her moved a year ago and I haven’t seen her in over a year so it was definitely time to visit my awesome daughter.  She had no idea that I was coming and the last time I talked to her she was really sad that she hadn’t seen me in a long time.  It was pretty tough not telling her then that I was nearly on my way! 

After an easy red eye flight from PDX through Atlanta to Fort Wayne (easy because I took 4 sleeping pills) Nicolette picked me up at the airport with Ellie who was shaking with excitement when she saw me.  She latched onto me in a big hug and demanded that I sit in the back seat with her where she continued to lean over while buckled to hold me tight.  It was a pretty amazing feeling.  We grabbed some quick food at Wendy’s before heading over to Nicolette’s office for her to show Ellie off and show me her new working digs.  

Ellie and I left her at work for the remainder of the day and headed back to the apartment to let their cute King Charles Terrier out for a poo.  After some surprising coaxing I convinced Ellie to go to Toys R Us where she could pick out 5 items and I would choose one as a gift for her which she insisted upon as she wanted it to be a surprise.  While we went up and down the isles in the store she made me an impressive pot holder.  As we went along she picked out about 6-7 items including one that she really wanted for her birthday, a unicorn pillow pet that lit up the ceiling with stars.  She even “warned” me that it was the present she really wanted while still insisting that it be a “surprise”.  After a quick text to Nicolette to find out her grandma had already bought it for her I said ok and put it in the cart, only to take it out while she wasn’t looking at the checkout.  With her eyes closed and coat over her head I bought the rest of the toys anyway... including a Lite Brite which I remembered from childhood.

It was an effort to hide the big bag from her but I continued to insist I had only gotten her one surprise present.  I did get her a “LOVE” wooden sign for her to paint and send to me that she knew about.  She was ok with that not being a surprise.  Throughout the afternoon she was just filled with hilarious things to say to me.  At one point she said, “Dad, you are a pleasure to be around.” followed by, “Dad, what does pleasure mean?”.... adorable.  She is clearly a very bright little girl and while later reading books showed an effort to really understand the spelling and meaning of each word on the pages.  She is also into the counting stage of childhood, counting off numbers in nearly every thing she did.  

After Toys R Us we picked up Nicolette and headed to Granite City to have dinner with her mother Lucile and Stepfather John.  I really enjoyed the dinner and hopefully I did my best to impress them and reassure them that I care deeply about my daughter.  I also picked up the check as a small gesture of appreciation for all they do for her in my physical absence.  It was a great meal and Nicolette was shocked that I finished all my chicken asparagus pasta.  Thankfully, Lucile had brought an early present for Ellie, the pillow pet she had warned me about buying... This of course was the present Ellie really wanted and she first said, “uh oh... now I have two”, assuming I had also bought it for her.  I assured her that I had already known and she would only get one with my gift still a surprise to her...

When we got back to the apartment I was pretty tired and passed out around 8pm with Ellie in Nicolette’s bed which she gave us for the three nights I was there.  It was a wonderful feeling to fall asleep with my daughter’s arm wrapped over my chest.  She really does love her dad!  Charlie was left down in his crate but would join us the following night at my feet on the bed.  

Saturday was a big day for Ellie both in the amount of sugar she consumed as well as the number of presents she received.  After a quick breakfast of Lucky Charms and coffee we headed to her soccer game.  She was on an undefeated team called Philedelphia with gold colored jerseys and was the only girl.  The coach sat her on the sideline for most of the game but I got to see her play a bit.  Apparently, she really likes her coach.  She got a few kicks of the ball in but mostly it seemed she just chased the group of boys up and down the field following the ball from a distance.  It was freezing out so when the game ended and I had gotten over a hundred photos I was happy to leave and head back to the house to get her changed for her birthday party.  

Nicolette gave me a laundry list of things to do and I knew getting a 6 year old changed and putting ear rings in her ears (never done that before) would be a challenge, but back at the apartment I invented a game of picking her up off the couch and dropping her onto it that she loved.  In exchange for a new piece of her birthday outfit I would raise her higher until she was fully clothed and her head was touching the ceiling.  I’ve found with Ellie that deals work best to get her to do things without throwing a fit.  That was an easy deal.  I was also surprised at how trusting she was of me to put her rainbow ear rings in!  Hooray!  

We made it to Franke Park for her party just 5 minutes after 3 pm when the party started.  All her friends with there and most of her relatives.  Lucile and John came up to say hello and I was introduced to all of her aunts, uncles and cousins.  Nicolette had a magician at the party who amazed the children with magic for about 45 minutes despite his broken foot and cast which made him hop around during the performance.  The funniest part of the performance was watching this 30 yr old guy who worked with Nicolette be completely blown away with each trip.  He actually looked distressed that he couldn’t figure out how the magician was doing it.  I figured out the tricks he did on most of them but there were a couple that still baffled me as well.  The children were all thoroughly amazed.  

It was a pretty frigid day with lots of wind blowing through the campground so I busied myself by weighing everything down including bracing the enormous rainbow cake that Danell had made for Ellie which was 5 layers of colored cake and took 2 days to make!  The children played pin the cloud on a cardboard rainbow and then took turns pulling strings on a a Sponge Bob piƱata.  Unfortunately, none of the strings opened the trap door as they should have and we adults had to rip it open ourselves.  Maybe next year we’ll just let them use a bat...

People were starting to leave because of the cold wind and temps so we hurried Ellie over to the table to open the myriad presents brought for her.  She was amazed and so excited that I had bought her all the gifts we had put into our shopping cart.  Her friends seemed a bit jealous of her 6 presents as well.  After she got through ripping through all of her gifts we hurriedly picked up and left for home with Ellie clutching her pillow pet she named “Twinkle” the whole way.  The whole party had lasted about 2 hours and Nicolette and I were both pretty tired from it.

Back at the apartment we had a relaxing night of ordering pizza and watching “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” which was a really cute animated film about a scientist who could make food rain from the sky and had the voice of Mr. T in it which was hilarious to me.  Nicolette and her friend Bob ended up going out for drinks around 9pm, leaving Ellie and I to hang out together.  I let her stay up pretty late and after watching a few shows of Sponge Bob together on the iPad we both fell asleep with Charlie cuddling up with us on the bed.  I woke up around 11:30 and asked for Nicolette to turn down the heat in the place when she got home which never happened because at 1am I got a text from her saying she was sleeping on Bob’s couch.

In the morning on Sunday Ellie woke up early and I convinced her to let me sleep in till 8:30am while she watched more Sponge Bob.  We then got up and got breakfast and played with her Lite Brite and some other toys until Nicolette got home around 10am.  After some coffee and Ellie getting dressed for the day we headed to the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo next to Franke Park to meet up with Danell, her husband Mark and their 4 children.  The zoo was open for the weekend for Halloween.  Most of the animals were in for the winter but a few were still in their enclosures for us to see.

We quickly made it around the zoo stopping to get Ellie’s card punched by various costumed characters who would also hand her candy in a bag.  It was only $16 total for the three of us to get in and we easily got half that back in candy for Ellie.  Danell and Mark pulled their 4 kids in a 3 seat wagon that Nicolette even jumped into at one point.  Managing one 6yr old was exhausting to me, but watching them manage 4 at the same time just seemed like chaotic insanity.  I don’t know how they did it.... I was a little disappointed that nobody besides me seemed interested in viewing any of the wildlife but I just continued on with the group holding Ellie’s hand along the way.  At one point we came to a bunch of geese and I took the time to put a few quarters in for corn to hand feed them.  Ellie put her hand out with me as well but got a bit nervous when they came close to eat out of mine.  

I hope that as she gets older she will be interested in and learn to respect and cherish all life, not just people.  When she is rough with Charlie she replies, “It’s ok daddy, he’s just a dog” which worries me as I want her to be more gentle and I want her to be safe from other dogs that may rip her face off if she treats them in the same manner.  I told her the story of Russ’ daughter Elise and how a dog nearly ripped her face off for being to rough with it.  I know she loves Charlie, I just hope that she learns to respect him and is more gentle with him.

After the zoo we headed over to Chuck E Cheese which I hadn’t been to in over 25 years.  Nearly instantly I got a headache in the place from all the noise and screaming children.  Ellie had a great time playing skeeball and climbing through the tubes hanging from the ceiling.  She won over 100 tickets while there.  I was hungry so got the salad bar as the pizza and other food was far overpriced and looked terrible.  Ellie took her time picking out the silly plastic prizes that took us probably $10 in tokens to get and we left with about 20 tokens for her to possibly use later in the week on her true birthday when Clay would be there.  

Back at the apartment we again played with her new toys and hung out until it was time for bed.  Ellie and I shared a big piece of the birthday cake Mike the magician had made for her and each had a glass of wine with it (hers very small).  She busied herself making a dog fort for Charlie upstairs and painting me a big rainbow as a surprise gift I was not open until I got back to Oregon.  Then, after Ellie took a bath we both crashed for the night with her again curling up next to me and Charlie spending the night with mom.  

On Monday we took Ellie over to Danell’s who took her to school while Nicolette drove me to the airport.  On the way we dropped off poor Charlie to get snipped overnight at the vet (horrible way for the dog to remember me by).  It was an uneventful flight home through Detroit and Minneapolis and I barely made my final flight to Portland where I returned to rain again.  It was a great trip and I definitely hope to make it back to Fort Wayne for each of her birthdays in the future.  Hopefully, as she gets older she will be able to visit me more often too.