Monday, June 22, 2009

Butt Up!

In fast-n-furious vacation mode, I hit a minor jackpot when a work trip coincided with a planned rafting trip. Work paid to get me up to San Jose and back, and I extended the trip by a coupla days, as did the colleague I worked with who has family in that area.

My flight was easy, but my checked bag didn't show. But the airline assured me they knew where it was (back in BUR waiting for the next flight. The hotel was nice and gave me a bathrobe so I could let my travel clothes air out in case they became my work clothes the next day. (I'd gotten complacent about my "always pack a swimsuit and PJs in the carryon" rule.) The luggage arrived at 11:30pm via a shuttle service (my colleague had the rental car and took off for the time I could have collected it myself). At that point I was really grateful to be staying at the hotel for two nights so I didn't have to unpack and repack all within about 7 hours and then be conscious and unruffled for work.

The work stuff went fine. My colleague and I were doing a soft audit of a vendor who we are qualifying. The qual went ok but not smoothly so we went up to see if there was hope it would work smoothly in the future or if we should give up. I got the happy management song and dance, but it did look like they had fairly robust systems in place and we just had to work out some kinks and they'll be ok enough. Then next day was mostly a meet-n-greet because I wanted to see the facility and meet the people I was dealing with and putting my trust in to source some important materials. Their outfit is leaner than I expected, but seems to work ok, and I was glad to see it.

The second company's salesman has been trying hard for our business, and/or enjoys my company for lunch. He and his wife took me out for dinner on Thursday night. (I didn't even ask for dinner at company 1, I figured after a full day of sucking up they were kind of done with us.) I assured my vendor that I love chinese food and we went to a little place they like. It wound up being a little loud with graduation parties. I've honestly never seen an Indian family celebrating at a chinese restaurant before. Gotta love America - or at least the greater San Fransisco area for that. Then there were several other families including one graduate who had had my host's wife as an elementary school teacher! All that noise and chaos, and some low walls, meant we didn't really disturb anyone too much when I choked on my rice.

This paragraph is TMI. Skip to the next one if you don't like things gross.
And by choked, I mean almost called 911 choked. For some reason I choke on rice. It has happened to me since college. I get this very painful lump in my throat, make gagging noises that don't do anything to expel the rice, my eyes water, and I swallow convulsively for a few minutes until the lump goes down and I'm fine. This time, though, I tried to drink some water to help flush it down and it wouldn't go down! I didn't panic exactly, but I did worry and start testing my breathing. I had a little but not a lot. And this time I gagged up a pile of rice and broccoli. And mucous like there was no tomorrow. It didn't seem to stop either. So after the manager brought over some extra napkins and cleaned away my plate, I went to the bathroom - with the host's wife, I know better than to go alone in an emergency - I yakked up some more rice and mucous. Mom? This is why I don't own rice. Don't know why steak goes down fine and rice gets stuck but there you have it. Made a FANTASTIC impresson, I'm sure. Yet my host still schlepped me all the way to SF the next day.

After the rice incident, I met with friend A for lunch in the Mission District for Thai food. sigh. Yes with rice. I was very, very careful to take small bites, chew thoroughly, and alternate foods. My friend and I had a nice chat then she kindly dropped me and my bags off at the BART station. I took the BART to the east bay and got picked up by my 4th ride of the day and spent and enjoyable afternoon window shopping with my college roommate M. After dinner, she (M) hauled me up toward Sacramento to meet up with yet another friend M. The friend to friend connections all went very smoothly. I showed them pictures on my camera and in retaliation, my roommate showed me games on her Nintendo DS which she loves as much as I like making people look at my portable slideshow.

Funny how on vacation, I always wind up getting up early. Two days of early for work, then two days of early for fun. Saturday my friend and I geared up and met up with more friends and friends of friends for a rafting trip. I went with this group 3 years ago just after I moved out here (in lieu of Dershstock) and decided to give it another go. The rafting company provides two-man kayak like inflatable self-bailing rafts which are awesome, and 3-5 man rafts which are not. It's critical to have even numbers for this trip or someone will not have a good boat. With all the friends and friends of friends, we managed an even number. Whew! It did turn out that we got one boatmate from hell, but on the whole, things went well.

The river level was down a lot this year. That meant that instead of fewer rapids and longer stretches of calm, there were more small rapids with exposed, or barely exposed rocks. We all spent lots of time exercising our ab muscles rocking and shifting our weight trying to get unstuck from all the rocks we ran afoul of. Sometimes the cry of "butt up!" was the only warning I got in the back of the boat that we were even near a rock - they were sneaky. We navigated by waiting for other people to make it through cleanly and following them, or waiting until they got stuck and navigating around them, or knocking them off the rock only to get stuck ourselves.

Aside from a couple of large rapids though, it's mostly a river you can do drunk and backwards. And we did some of it drunk and backwards. I think I drank more on saturday than I usually do in a month of sundays. I did manage not to do any of the river upside down - only getting badly stuck under one set of shrubs at the very end of the second day - although the same can't be said for everyone in our group. One couple lost one paddle and bent their remaining paddle. Fortunately someone was picking up floating paddles and redistributing them, or was at least willing to trade a paddle for beer. One of our peeps gave a found paddle to the guy "paddling" with an adult blow up doll (named Beyonce).

Everyone managed to get down the Cache Creek one way or another, with varying degrees of being wet. And the wetness wasn't all from dumping out or splashing. Did I mention the drunk part? There were also water toys. Probably the bit that most amused me was was when one of the bigger boats came by with 3 guys and a girl who shot at us with one supersoaker. Most of our group had just beached for some down time and to collect our errant rafts. Almost as one, 6 supersoakers came up out of the bottoms of our boats and returned fire. The look on the first boaters' faces was priceless! I have no idea how many if those supersoakers came home with us but we were prepared for none. It's the same river where I found my so attractive "rafting hat" that I keep in the back of my car for emergency sun protection; pretty much everything exits the raft at some point.

The rafting is a two day affair with camping in between. We staked out a good campsite and got the tents up. Then proceeded to get sunburned while sitting around drinking. There was more sitting around this year because the first day's river run was shorter due to construction. A couple from our group decided to use the time to take a "short walk" and wound up summiting a nearby hill only returned at dusk, missing the huge feast of appetizers and dinner they serve to keep us fat and happy. One pound potatoes, I kid you not. Usually they do some disco kind of thing, but not this year. I'm not sure if it was the temporary campsite or what, but being the weekend of the solstice we would have welcomed more group activity to burn up the daylight. We'd met some people (ok, drunken Irishmen) on the river who would have been fun to hang around with more.

I was surprised that I managed to wake up fairly easily after a night of very gusty winds and chittering bats and, well, sleeping in a tent with no air mattress. The sleeping bag was pretty padded, as advertised, but still. I'd hydrated fairly well and made it to breakfast and got the camp broken back down and my stuff packed up to be on the first bus. There was some confusion though and I didn't get to raft with my other friend because we didn't get the timing right and she missed the first bus out (or we took off without the last two, there are varying opinions). We did meet up later and spent more time swapping boat partners the second day since two of the first day rafters elected to bail on the second day. It was a little weird being the exact same run as the day before rather than an extension, but it worked out ok. The second day was faster since we were going home after, with some drinking, but not much. The last half of my run was spent with a young teenage girl with my first name. The all otter boat!

Finally, having manged to keep the sunburn on my shins to a dull pink, and picking up the picture of our boat shooting the big rapid with me looking serious and friend S looking zen with her eyes shut and her paddle straight overhead (which I only vaguely remember her doing since she paddled a lot early in the rapid and I was focused on steering), we headed out. I got a much needed shower, reassembled all my goods while friend M drove me back to the airport.

Despite checking in only 4 hours before the Southwest flight, I still got a great boarding number and was in the second row. Which put me across from my second big celebrity sighting! Seth Green was in the first row! They made him put a bag up over the second row due to no stowage space for carryons in his row, so he wound up getting off right in front of me. I'm pretty sure the 6'5" or so guy he was traveling with was at least part bodyguard. I gotta tell ya, I knew SG was short, but, dang! He comes up to just over my collarbone. Still cute though. I managed not to give into the impulse to nudge him down the stairs or initiate conversation or rest my chin on his hat.

All in all a thoroughly successful trip, full of friends, small bits of drama, lots of water for splashing in, not lots of water for bathing in, food, shared tasty beverages, a chance celebrity sighting, and the work went smoothly.

Next week, Alaska. Friend M from the rafting and I will be traveling together to meet up with another book club friend and doing touristy stuff and local stuff. Expectations are high.


Alaskan Hellcat said...

expectations are high huh??? Dang, nothing like a little pressure!!!


Friend M said...

Re: Seth Green ... "or rest my chin on his hat." ROFLMAO! Oh, God. I would have paid good money to see you do that, probably while surreptitiously keeping your eyes cast heavenward in innocence. I was wondering how short he'd be in person. Lucky you! LOL!

I have three things to say about the weekend's rafting trip:
1. Electrical tape breathe's right
2. Drunk and backwards
3. You are more fun in a tent than anyone I've ever met.

Will Alaska survive our visit? Me thinks not!

Friend M