Tuesday was awesome! Well, getting up at 5 am was a bummer, but it was totally worth it. Ryan’s friend Juan picked us up at 6 am and we drove for about three hours to Hico, West Virginia.
We had only been in West Virginia for a short while when, driving in the middle lane of a three-land highway, we noticed the Dodge Durango a quarter mile in front of us swerve a bit, and then a large object go flying from the front of the truck and go hurtling into the median. The driver had just hit a deer. I’ve never seen anything that large fly so far. Up ahead was a turnoff on the side of the highway, and the guy pulled over. We also turned out to make sure he was okay. We accidentally passed him, but after a couple of seconds, he drove up to let us know he was okay. There was a big crack above his grill, and the truck was making a hissing noise, which he hoped was his air conditioner rather than his radiator. But he drove off and seemed relatively okay.
Not long after that, we arrived at North American River Runners – a whitewater rafting company owned by our friend Heather’s family – rather early. We hung out for a bit hoping the weather would go from chilly and overcast to sunny and maybe not too humid.
Finally it was time to go, so our trip leader Mike gathered everyone together to hand out paddles, helmets, and life vests. In addition to the four of us, there were three other couples on the trip, plus another guide named Casey. We all got on the bus and Mike started to read off all the obligatory safety disclaimers and instructions. Suddenly they realized they were missing someone – our videoboater, Keith. They can’t charge $38 for a video if they don’t have anyone taking the footage!
The bus ride was about 20 minutes or so to the put-in, and then we all got off the bus, climbed into the rafts, and started the trip. The first half of the Lower New River trip is pretty slow – not too many rapids. There was one very good hole called “Surprise”, which our guide took us right into, causing Ryan, Dave, and Juan to spill spectacularly out of the raft. I was proud of myself for staying in – I’ve never yet involuntarily left a raft while whitewater rafting, and I’m aiming to keep my record intact.
Unfortunately we didn’t take a camera, but the river was beautiful and we had an awesome time. We had lunch on a random beach along the river (sandwiches, chips, salads, etc) and then proceeded with the trip. The second half of the trip had a lot of great Class II to Class IV+ rapids. Toward the end, we had a chance to all get in the water and float for a while. Then, just before the New River Gorge Bridge, we got back in the raft, hit a few more rapids, then landed at the take-out.
As we got on the bus, we were encouraged to take drinks out of the cooler. Dave, Ryan, and Juan enjoyed (at least they pretended to) cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon while I sipped on my Sprite.
Once we got back to headquarters, we got ready to shower and change into dry clothes. We were walking through the parking lot and ran into Heather’s dad, also president of NARR, Frank Lukacs. A bit later we hung out with him in the gift shop as he told us various stories, including his recent marathon run in Big Sur, California. He’s a character and it was great to spend some time with him.
They played the video of our trip and we got a chance to see what some of our rapid hits looked like from an outsider’s point of view. We did really great – I was proud of how the four of us did at paddling and getting through some really intense rapids.
Afterwards, we asked for restaurant recommendations, and ended up eathing dinner at a BBQ place called Dirty Ernie’s Rib Pit. It was perfect – the typical BBQ place with both TVs and a juke box, peanut shells, and cheap pitchers of beer. We all got BBQ pork ribs and they were YUMMY.
Then we headed home. I sat in the front and chatted with Juan, who is from Puerto Rico, in Spanish (to keep him awake and to practice my Spanish) while Dave and Ryan dozed off in the back seat. We made it home around 9 pm, very sleepy and ready for bed.