Saturday, September 20, 2008

Calleva is not liable for anything that happens

"After being knocked in the head from behind, the perpetrator was dragged from the cloakroom at a fine Italian restaurant downtown, his belly full with a meal with a group of corrupt mafia congressmen. He was tucked into the trunk of the Ferrari by Guido and driven off to Great Falls, not more than a mile from where Mario, the master of DC, had a nice estate with a vineyardette and horses. He threw the wench's body down, down the falls, and sped back to New York without."

About 7 people a year die in the Falls each year, with many more daring rescues. Most of the time these people don't die in the Falls, for it just doesn't happen, and anyway, the rescuers can find you, easy. Where the people die, though, is in Mather's Gorge, the steepest rapids in the eastern U.S.

At about 8:15, we boarded the 'watermelon bus', an old school bus painted green, and looked like one in Pennsylvania which watermelons are sold from. The clutch didn't burn up on Chillum Road, but I was a little nervous; the ancient engine roared and creaked along in heavy rush hour traffic across town to Sangamore and the one-lane bridge. After crossing the Potomac on the Legion, we were driven down Georgetown Pike, a nice, countrylike road that rolled around nice mansions with horses in the green yard. Like a wilderness bootcamp, we pumped up 7 rafts with a broken pump, a deamonish contest that emphasized tough love. For lunch, we had pitas and hummus. Yes, what if a pita was your last meal? We got briefed at a scenic overlook overlooking the great falls. "Wouldn't it be fun to raft down that?" Actually yes. It has been done intentionally. Soon, we were down the steep crevasse with a rusted pipe down the middle(?!) I was careful not to get wet; I don't want my clothes to get wet, but what. There has to be a situation in every adventure trip. This one was a suction hole in the floor of the raft that let in water. I was in the 'sweeper' boat, frankly, not the funnest of boats. All we do is tail and make sure everything is OK. Neither did we have a peer captain, responsible for steering the craft as the others obeyed commands, which is part of the teambuilding and mutual trust thing.
The first time my shoes really got wet was when we went down the first rapid. I was so worried about falling out and getting wet! But, the puddle on the floor grew. As we came around a bend, it was preplanned madness; ship hopping and mutiny! Again, as the sweeper boat, we came in late, so we had some forced fun- Captain Taylor pushes us into the water So what with it, I thought, I was already so wet. The class III lifevest, with the headrest kept us afloat, but made it practically impossible to reboard without assistance.

Soon, we had our first rescue mission. Captain Reed had grounded his boat on a protruding rock by being different. They didn't seem to understand the concept of friction, but whatever, they were 'scrubs' (rookies). Pulling over past the last set of dandy rapids, we were tested to swim across the rushing water to the Virginee side. Yes, with all clothes and shoes on, and, of course, lifevest. The current had a vector force of 40 degrees. Being instructed to swim at 45 degrees, we had barely moved upstream. Then came the endurance part: Swimming straight upstream for a length. Made it, so did everyone else. Then we just floated back downstream, after a bit of socializing. Was our team built yet? My watertight Swiss army watch said it was 1:45pm, a little time left. It was cliffjumping time. Sometimes, I dislike the feeling of freefall. So anything over five or six feet, it's a challenge, and that was the theme of the day. Peer pressure made me do it, and that was the theme of the day. I analyzed the decent; just as long as there were nop protrusions, I would be alright. Luckily, I didn't think twice before taking the soothing plunge.

The lifevest and all took the rushing wind out of the equation, and it was enjoyable. But I wasn't alright, I was informed; I had fallen within one foot of the rock surface, and it was 'fortunate' that I didn't hit anything on the fall. When asked about this, I was like :"Oh dear" "Oh dear on your life?" Now it was some time for Physics in Motion. How would I have been damaged if I would have hit the tiny, rounded outcrop? Not time for this. We were all inadvertently shivering. We continued on the final stretch, dumped out the boat, and carried it over, and across the canal. Th watermelon bus was there, and I got out of the soaking shirt and shoes. The ride home was surely forgettable. It was 3:30 when we arrived back at school. I threw on my subway pants, and got an E2 home to shower- I was itching a little. Was my team built? I'm not sure, but for others, they were built, probably. But it was never a terrifying, death-defying experience. We can't all die young.

I took a nice sip of Potomac water from the tap before writing this. Cool to the taste. No wonder about the shivering.

I hope you're feeling better, A.J.! (He had a carrot mishap)

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