Thursday, August 28, 2008

The gory details

My mother called as I was just walking in the door asking if I went paragliding today.  No, I did not.  (More later.)

Wil asks for the gory details.  Okey doke...

(Oh, hey, sorry for all that coding a couple of entries ago.  I wrote those in Word while I was on the train and forgot to convert to text first.)

Wednesday:  The "Heaven on Earth" tour.  (Really.  That's what it's called.)

I am picked up for my tour by Christopher, the guide from Captain Jack's.  There's a family of three (mom and two kids) already in the van.  They're doing the kayaking/hiking thing, whereas I'm doing kayaking/horseback riding.  They're a nice group -- kinda New Agey.  (The mom's a massage therapist and yoga instructor.  Went on a spiritual retreaty thing in South America.)  Anyway, very nice, friendly folks.  On the drive up to Gaviota, we get to know each other (and Christopher -- who just graduated college with a degree in religious studies, particularly Judaism and Islam as practiced today in the Middle East -- kinda nice to meet someone who's actual plan in life is to help bring peace to the planet).

We're kayaking from Refugio Beach.  Ocean.  Those annoying flat, sit-on-top kayaks, rather than the more traditional sit-in-the-little-opening ones.  (I'm certain there's a really good reason for taking sit-on-top ones out; probably they're more stable or something.  In my limited kayaking experience, I just prefer the sit-inside ones.  More manueverable and you don't get nearly as wet.  Or sunburnt.)

Before we go out, Christopher offers us anti-nausea pills.  The family takes them.  I don't, explaining that I don't get seasick.  Even while saying this, I realized that it meant I would be ralphing over the side of my kayak by the end of the day.

After our basic briefing on how to kayak, Christopher takes us out, one-by-one.  We walk into the ocean (cold!) about waist-deep.  Christopher is holding the kayak.  He waits for a break between the waves crashing toward the shore, and then gives you the "go" to jump on the kayak and then paddle like hell till you get out beyond the waves.  Once we were all out there (with no problems at all) we started paddling up the coast a bit -- keeping a big distance between us and the shore.  (And the rocks near the shore.  And the waves that would throw you into them.)

Paddle, paddle, paddle, rest.  Paddle, paddle, paddle, rest. 
(It eventally got warm enough for me to just take my jacket off and throw it in the general vicinity of my knees, where it was getting completely soggy.  The kayak had a single bit of bungee cord, which was holding my water on the kayak, but there wasn't another one within reach where I could attach the jacket.)  At one point, I remember that the tour description said something about Pirate Stories, so I asked Christopher if he was going to tell us some pirate stories.  He gathered us all around and told us about the only pirate on the West Coast.  Interesting story.  Long story.  After, we started to head back.

At this point, it dawned on me that I didn't feel so good.  Asked Christopher if he happened to have any hard candy (which is generally all I need to ward off any signs of seasickness).  He doesn't.  I paddle a bit more, but it isn't helping.  I admit to Christopher that I may, in fact, be seasick.  He says this probably was because of when we stopped for the pirate story, since all we did was sit there and rock around in the water.  He may be right.  I go back to paddling, but I'm too spent to go any great distance without stopping, and stopping brings back the nausea.  I give in and ask Christopher if he has a rope.  He attaches a tow line to my kayak and starts paddling us both to shore.  I feel like a failure and try to paddle along, whether it's helping or not.

We lose the family.  Christopher stops to call after them.  Stopping is making me feel worse.  I tell Christopher to drop the tow rope and he can go back for them and I'll paddle on ahead, but he doesn't want us to get that far apart.  The family eventually catches up.  The daughter had been seasick over the side of her kayak, so the mom was tending to her.  Makes sense.  (The daughter, I note, took the seasickness pills.  I convince myself that this proves it wouldn't have mattered if I had taken them.)

Together we paddle towards the shore.  When we're very nearly there, the inevitable happens and I lose my breakfast over the side of the kayak.  Twice.  We keep going.  Eventually, we're out beyond the waves, but in a direct line to the beach.  We're going to do this one at a time.  Christopher undoes the tow rope, says he's just going to power in, and I should follow along at my usual leisurely pace.  He'll meet me at the waist-deep place were we got in, steady the kayak, and get me out.  (Seasick daughter will follow; then the rest of the family.)

He goes in; I go after.  He's encouraging me in.  He then says, "Left drag!"  I hear it, but I do not process it.  I paddle left uncertainly, but I think that's wrong.  He says "Drag the paddle on the left!"  This is simultaneous to my sudden awareness of (a) the wave that came out of nowhere behind me; (b) Christopher running rather quickly toward my kayak; and (c) totally not making it in time.  Wave hits kayak from behind at an angle, goes right under it, and tosses me, kayak, and everything (except my tied-down water bottle) into the drink.  The water is actually shallow enough for me to stand up in it, but I land on my knees so I'm underwater, watching my jacket in front of me.  Christopher helps me up; and collects my kayak, paddle, and jacket while I walk up the beach, hair all stringy in my face, looking like a drowned rat, and coughing because of all the salt water I inhaled.

Christopher gets everyone else in without incident.  Somewhere along the line, I realize that my glasses are no longer on my face -- but Christopher couldn't really go looking for them while he had three other guests out there to bring in, so they're pretty much lost at sea.

Earlier, Christopher had mentioned showers.  I could really use one, and Christopher gives me a quarter (coin operated) and a towel, and points me in the direction of the shower building.  25 cents for two minutes of hot shower, and I manage to wash the ocean off of myself and come back feeling much more human.  He hands me my backpack (with my dry clothes in it), a plastic bag (for my wet ones) and another quarter, so I can shower and change.  Best value for fifty cents EVER.

Christopher leaves the kayak trailer in the parking lot at the beach and w
e go to lunch, at a little sandwich and salad place that has very nice chocolate chip cookies.  He talks about the hike the family is going to go on -- it's a mile and a half loop, followed by another 1/2-mile to the natural hot spring and back.  I think wistfully that I might like a natural hot spring, but also think that horseback riding is a way better idea right now.

The horseback riding was uneventful, which is to say it was very nice.  It was at a ranch where they have many overnight guests on the property, but I was the only one riding just then, so I got a private trail ride -- which was unexpected.  The guide was nice and friendly, and flirted with me in that way that some people do to pass the time, knowing that nothing will ever come of it.  And my horse was very docile, which I totally needed right then. 

Afterward, I went up to the bar (where, again, I was the only person) and used my Captain Jack's coupon for a glass of wine (screw the calories).  I sat on the couch staring at the wall (wondering who ever came up with the idea of mounting the head and neck of a deer you killed on your wall), nursing my wine and trying (not entirely successfully) not to doze off.

Eventually, Christopher came to pick me up.  As I piled back into the van, I asked how the hot spring was.  They didn't go.  After the mile and a half loop, they were too wiped to continue, so they just gave up and picked me up.

Back to the beach where we picked up the kayaks and asked the lifeguard if anyone found my glasses (no).  He told us to ask the folks in the kiosk at the entry point.  They gave us a form to fill out.  This was a State Beach, so I filled out an Official State of California Lost or Found Property Report.  That done, we headed back.

Now, I was going to this Italian place for my blind date that night.  The family had gone there for dinner the night before and, as it happened, had to go back that night as the daughter had left her retainer there.  So they offered to pick me up and drive me to the restaurant.  Awfully sweet of them, so I gratefully accepted and we swapped cell phone numbers.

Came back to the hotel room; got ready for the date.  (Yes, I chose jacuzzi over shower.)  Nice family picked me up and drove to the restaurant.  We were about five minutes late so she dropped me off while they went to find parking.  My date was just a bit later than I was, so we met up and got a table.  I turned off my cell phone, 'cause I think that's polite when you're on a date.

We ordered, ate, talked.  Standard stuff.  (He got two calls on his cell, but didn't take either one of them.)  He picked up the check. 

Here is what I didn't know was happening:  The family got there and picked up the retainer.  The kids wanted to check out my date, so they pretended to have to use the restroom so they could walk through the restaurant and see if they could spot me.  They found me (and my date) and then pointed us out to the mother, who also sneaked in to take a peek at him.  I found this adorable.

After dinner (tasty, but not exceptional), we leave.  He starts with the "Hey, nice meeting you, have a nice life" speech and I (annoyingly) have to interrupt this and ask if he'd drive me back to my hotel, which is further away than it had looked on the map.  He's a gentleman, so, of course, does this (and then we have a repeat of the "Have a nice life" scene).  As I'm going back in the hotel, I turn on my cell phone and find a voice mail from the family.  They had been checking in to see how the date went and if I needed a ride back.  (So sweet.)  I called back to thank her for the call and that's when I got the lowdown on them checking him out.  The daughter had told her mom, "Worst case scenario, she'll get a free dinner out of it," which turned out to be exactly the case.

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