A Trip South…Part One

I have always had a passion for seeing new places and experiencing different cultures.  So when I was asked to join Sam and the eNRG management team for a scouting trip down to Ecuador my reply was “Hell ya!!”.  I’d never been to South America and this would be a paddle-focused trip.  Let’s go!

Sam and I arrived early, to enjoy a little “us” time before the others arrived, and to make sure logistics were good to go.  He had hired a personal driver with a 10 passenger van plus secured accommodations everywhere we were visiting (another treat as I’m typically the person figuring logistics for personal and client-based trips).  In Quito I was pleasantly surprised to find our lodging really cute–a clean hostel owned by a Dutch man who had run this little venture “Aries Cabins” for 27 years, having married an Ecuadorian woman and relocated there.  While his bedside manner was “sharp” he knows his stuff and his service is great.

After a much-needed night of sleep Sam and I ventured out, with Favian, our Ecuadorian driver who was to become the backbone of our trip.  We first went to the Center of the Earth–the equator.  It was a fascinating visit and learned fun facts relative to the equator that I’d never known, and even though explained, still holds mystery and thoughts of “what the f$#k!”?! How?  Why?  For example, we learned that you are about 2 kg lighter in weight on the equator.  We learned there are contingencies of Ecuadorian people who practiced “head shrinking” and finally, never, ever pee in the rivers in the Amazon basin! (I will spare you details but if you’re interested Google “candiru”)…

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On to Quito!!  Sam and I arranged to meet up with Favian and his brother after a few hours so we could explore, at our pace the sites of Colonial Quito.  It is a beautiful and vibrant city (reminiscent of many towns we’d explored just a few months back in Europe).  A fabulous experience nonetheless. The opportunity to speak Spanish and learn the city from a local’s perspective is, in my mind, priceless even considering Favian drove us WELL out of way to pick up and drop off his brother.  That’s alright…kind of how this stuff goes.

A side note here for anyway new to travel and reading this blog as a resource.  My luggage got lost.  Again. Same as our flight into Paris. When flying internationally I recommend you pack a minimum of two pairs of underwear, toothbrush/toothpaste and a change of clothes.  It helps a ton, particularly when you get run through the many iterations of where your luggage is. I was told no less than four stories…none true…regarding the location and arrival time of my pack.  It did finally arrive around noon about 36 hours later.  Do yourself the favor and prepare.  Just in case.  Good luck.

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The rest of our crew arrived about the same time as my luggage.  After some repacking we left Quito bound for Banos (a small town which reminded me vaguely of Sayulita, Mexico…a sort of hippie, international traveler-welcome town with cute shops and  a friendly energy).  However, we stopped along the way for lunch at a traditional restaurant serving a standard, single lunch option.  Rice, salad (don’t eat lettuce or tomatoes in South America) and a meat/gravy entree.  The meat, we were explained by Favian, was stomach.  I will always TRY everything.  While I didn’t prefer the taste, others in our group enjoyed it.  This wouldn’t be the first of many diverse meals we ate. And as I said, I’ll always try.

We ventured on…and if you’re interest is peaked, please stay tuned.  The adventures began from there.

Thanks for listening…

Sue

Another Trail Tales

Another Trail Tales: A Conversation With Inspiring Community Members happened this last Tuesday.  This month, I had co-host Denny Dragan up there with me.  I wrote about Denny last summer as one of the people that really supported me through my MCL tear.  He was, in fact, my physical therapist (and probably as much my emotional therapist).  Denny is the kind of guy that makes every single person he talks with seem like they’re the most important person in the world.  Great guy and was relieved to have him up there with me this last week.

We talked with two guests, Rick Wright and Adam Short.  Rick is a long-time whitewater paddler in the Bend area.  He’s a true community member, sitting on the board of both the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council and the Downtown Association, and is extremely humble and well spoken.  His story was poignant and the audience had a ton of questions for him.  It was awesome to get some real dialog going!  This was a big part of Jaymo’s and my vision for this talk series. I particularly liked hearing about his assistance to paddlers who get into trouble on the rapid in front of his house.  Appropriately named after him “Wright Stuff”, it’s the first of the serious rapids on the town stretch “Riverhouse” and has given many paddlers a run for their money.

Adam was also a great guest, and turns out, the husband of a friend of mine which made it all the more interesting to me.  This is so typical of Bend…we truly are still a small community.  Adam was a pro-snowboarder and like many pro athletes realized his run had an expiration date.  He determined to go back to school and became a PA at Desert Orthopedics. He helps people who’ve been injured via his work while raising his family of three kids and wife Tammy (awesome dancer, teacher and human).

The night was good, but here’s my “secret”.  I was barely functional having been to the ER just two nights before.  I’d spent the previous 2 days sleeping and surviving in considerable pain.  I was only partially coherent when “interviewing” these guests.  I won’t go into detail other than to say it was stomach-related and meant a clear liquid diet for several days.  No bueno.  I hate the feeling of being helpless and alone in my studio.  It’s a scary feeling, perhaps worse than the pain. I’m on the mend now which I’m grateful for, but I am more grateful for a few people who supported me in this. A friend who called and stopped by with medication and well wishes, and Denny who prior to the event, literally had me laying on the floor of the pub doing adjustments (upstairs before anyone arrived) trying to relieve my head/neck pain that had accrued from laying in bed so much.

It’s important to acknowledge that even when we feel alone, we’re probably not.  It truly is about community and I’m fortunate to be a part of an awesome one.  The greatest of thanks to those who helped….We’re paddling this canoe together after all!!  Thanks for listening.

A Next Conversation

It was a stunning fall morning on the back deck at Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe.  Myself and K.M. Collins, were laughing and chatting about my project “Trail Tales: A Conversation with Inspiring Community Members”, as she prepped the camera for a live interview.  This particular interview was important to me on multiple levels.  For one, it seems like “Tales”, a monthly event at the Deschutes Brewery is gaining some traction.  It’s a really personal project for me and perhaps I’m the most inspired out of anyone, talking with the potential guests and co-hosts. When people ask what it’s all about I describe the idea behind this monthly discussion, and I get fired up all over again!

The other reason this interview was important to me is that I know K.M. Collins on a personal level.  Collins and I first met awhile back…perhaps 5 years ago?!  Wow.  Time flies.  She was enthusiastic and positive, just getting into the sport of recreational paddleboarding. It was toward the end of the peak summer season, at a time when I was spending, on average 3-5 hours a day on the same stretch of flatwater, instructing beginning SUP group and private lessons.  I will never forget an interaction with her– I was getting ready to launch my small group of newbie students  (full disclosure, after teaching the same basic class maybe 100 times over the years, you can get burnt out).  Collins was returning from a solo paddle and said to me as I was setting out on the water “Yeah homie…are you totally excited to get out there?”.  In that moment I laughed to myself…ummmm no?  But something about her positivity and authenticity led me to consider something.  I might have uttered these same instructions to students over and over and over, but for these four paddlers it was the VERY FIRST TIME.  It was a pivotal moment.  Since that day I’ve reminded myself that I am privileged to be a part of these students’ experience.  I get to show them for the first time, in many cases, what paddleboarding is about.  I get to set the stage for an activity that, if it goes well, can enhance their life in many ways….health-wise if done for exercise.  Socially if paddling with friends.  Perhaps it’s a way to experience the water for those individuals who previously had no connection to the water.  This SUP instruction stuff is a gift!!  I was taking it for granted.

I appreciate Collins’ words that day for reminding me how fortunate I am, and also her continued enthusiasm with SUP and all kinds of other activities because she still keeps me on my toes. She is passionate about gaining accessibility to the water, for all people and especially women.  I admire her commitment–she exemplifies the inclusive, community-minded human.  Collins is the first to encourage a fellow woman to try out a sport, not only with words, but making herself present to help.

It was a fun interview and hopefully you can check it out (I don’t have the link yet, but stay tuned).  In the meantime, if you’re around the Bend area on October 9th from 7-8:30pm (ish), come check out Trail Tales:

Trail Tales: A Conversation with Inspiring Community Members Oct 9

Thanks for listening, and hope to see you there!!

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K.M. Collins kicking it with a fellow paddler…

A Day with Dad

I’ve written of my dad before, but it’s been awhile.  To sum up, my dad is in later stages of Alzheimers disease. At times, I’m still in disbelief, even though it’s been evident for almost a decade.  This last weekend Sam and I took my dad and sister down a stretch of the North Santiam river.  For my dad, it was his second year in a row he’s rafted this same stretch with us. Last year he sat upright and even grabbed a paddle and tried to help. Regardless of the direction he was paddling, it was still an attempt.  This year, not so much.

Recently I’ve begun a project with a friend doing monthly “talks” at a pub. Our “show” is called Trail Tales: A Conversation with Inspiring Community  Members.  The point is to engage with individuals from our community that are experts or exceptional…mmmm not sure what descriptors work best here…in the outdoor industry.  However, the reason we choose our guests is for their outstanding involvement in the community. Their achievements as humans.  While it would be impossible to interview my dad (he barely talks at this point) I think he’d qualify.  Note: perhaps I’m not objective but isn’t that how a daughter should view her dad?

I can’t actually say my dad was ever an exceptional athlete.  But he’d try anything.  He did the occasional whitewater rafting and also kayaked a class III section of the Owyhee, with basically no experience, following the lines and instructions his experienced friends told him.  He was a runner (ran the Boston marathon three times) and later a triathlete.  In his youth he was a football player (and played in the band, which led to funny stories he’d tell us of playing at half-time in his band uniform). What stands out in my mind was his involvement with community and his generosity to his friends, family and strangers.

I remember when his best friend became tragically ill with a brain tumor.  The final month of the man’s life was very much a struggle, and his petite wife was challenged to meet his basic needs (Bob was a tall man therefore caring for his basic functions while essentially dying at home was unbelievably tough for her).  Eventually my dad stepped in to give her breaks.  He helped in all the ways a person must when helping someone who lacks the ability to take care of their own needs…bodily functions, bathing, etc.  I can’t imagine it was easy for my dad, but he took it in stride and with love. Cruelly ironic with the situation as it is now–the dynamic is not lost on me when I help.

When putting together a legal plan for my mom and dad after his diagnosis, we sought the help of a local attorney who knew and had worked with my dad.  He was a lawyer in Salem for most of his life…well liked and respected.  It was only when we visited this particular attorney did we learn of his career-long compassion. She wouldn’t allow us to pay her because she “couldn’t in good faith charge us…your dad helped so many people for little or no fee”.

I find myself wondering, when I write these posts, what my point is.  What’s the message?  In a writing class I’d be criticized for rambling and not having a clear intro, middle and end to these “stories”.  Maybe that’s why I enjoy the blog format so much—YOU don’t have to read them and I’m not being graded…haha!  My point with this particular post?  Well two-fold:  One, I’ve been writing and talking with people recently about the importance of community and helping one another out.  We’re all paddling this canoe together.  I believe my dad exemplified this well. Two, I love and respect my dad for being an incredible human and I realize the older I get, we haven’t all been as fortunate.  I’m grateful, and if you feel that way too about your dad, give him a call today. Or email.  Or text.  Whatever works for you, but let him know you care.

Thanks for listening….

Rapids of Life

I’ve written about my belief that being on (or in) the water is therapy for me, and I think for many, many others.  People of way more noteworthiness than myself claim there is a scientific explanation for this.  Something to do, literally, with negative ions.  Regardless of the reason, it’s a thing for me.  I’m also fortunate enough to have worked with, at this point in my life, thousands of people in and on water.  Currently I’ve begun working with a fascinating human that I’m hugely impressed with, for all he is…and isn’t… and his tenacity to meet his own life challenges.  Feels a little too personal to write about him, but it does bring up a bigger point for me, and waterways as a metaphor for life.

Life is an ebb and flow.  Life is sometimes serene.  Beautiful.  Calm.  Other times it’s splash and giggle fun…adventurous, challenging but grand.  Other times you’re getting your ass kicked on tumultuous rapids.  And sometimes you’re falling off of your board or out of your boat swimming through the worst of the abyss, hitting rocks along the way.  Bumped and bruised–perhaps breaks, dislocations or worse.   I’m not trying to be dramatic or heroic.  It just IS.  Some of us deal with the hardships better than others.  Sometimes we handle our “swims” with stoicism and grace.  Other times we flail and kick, potentially screwing things up something fierce.

 

Like many of my posts I don’t have answers.  I don’t pretend I have the answers.  All I can hope is that in these times when you see another person getting crushed by the intensity of the waves, maybe toss them the throw rope.  Or if it warrants, the live bait rescue…ha!  Because sometimes we have to make ourselves vulnerable to help a fellow human.  I’ve found empathy in unexpected places lately. Admittedly, my challenges are pretty “first world”.  However I’m hugely grateful for the support, wherever I find it and we are, as a very wise person recently told me, paddling this canoe together.

Thanks for listening….

 

The Power of Portaging

I’m surrounded by paddlers who have  previously or are currently taking it to the extreme.  I mean EXTREME! First descents down rapids and/or waterfalls that really defy what humans should be able to do and survive.  Let alone do on a regular basis.  It leads me to ask the question….why? What is the reason that these individuals who admit they’re scared, physically affected and cognizant of the risk will place themselves in this situation? The answer, while differing on the adjectives, all state the need to overcome a challange…or even a fear, if you will. To press their abilities to the edge. It’s an interesting notion and one that fascinates me on many levels.  Again, why?

There are so many things to be fearful of, if we let ourselves worry our brains away. Not being able to pay the bills, losing loved ones, disease or our own fragility.  Perhaps this is why on some level we want to overcome a fear that is in our ability to control.  Perhaps.

On the other hand, is there strength in choosing NOT to run a rapid?  I think so.  Yesterday I was on a stretch of river I’ve run several times.  For me, it has a few rapids on it that challenge me.  I’ve never stood up through Spencer’s Hole on the North Santiam.  I’ve done it coming down to a knee several times.  Yesterday, however, I portaged the entire thing.  The water was running a little higher.  Again not really that big a deal. We even scouted it (which I think is worse for me…I’m almost better off, especially on a rapid I know, NOT seeing it first).  We chose the line I’d run ON my knees.  Sam ran it first, on his knees because I asked him to.  I saw the line and thought “yep that’s totally doable”.  For some reason though, I just didn’t want to do it.  At this point in my life I’m okay listening to “my gut”. Did I feel great in the moment skipping it?  Well, yes…and no.  I will admit a feeling of “failure”.  Like somehow it represented a weakness in me, my “badassery” (or lack thereof) or lesser skill in paddleboarding.  On the other hand, I felt a sense of relief, and was able to enjoy the rest of the run and giggle through Mill City falls which I swan-dived.  Hahaha.  For me THAT’S what it’s about.  If I’m not having fun there’s no point.

I guess there’s no real “aha” words of wisdom here but maybe a suggestion that we might place too much emphasis on “conquering” our challenges.  These, by the way, are self-appointed challenges and I’m fairly sure no one will think less of me as a human for having not run the rapid yesterday.  Bottom line, it scared me in that moment, and while I’m sure I would have lived through the swim, I’m gonna stick with having fun…most of the time. If I accomplish some harder lines along the way, and overcome some small, manageable fears, well that’s just fine. Everyone else…well onward, and choose what’s best for you!! (I won’t think any better or worse of you).

Thanks for listening…

Silly Sue SUP
Note the flatwater and “seriousness” of the situation…