Monday, July 30, 2007

Missing Paddlers

Last week was really strange... we had two weird situations that we have never experienced before... and on two separate occasions. Here's what happened on the South Fork American river trip last week...

We had just checked-in a bunch of people that morning for a Chili Bar run. There were multiple reservations... party of 6, party of 12, party of 8, etc etc... lots of paperwork to collect. Anyway, the head guide collects release forms and has the guests sign in on the California State Parks forms. We ask the guests to board the bus or wait near the bus. As soon as everyone is checked-in, we take off for the Chili Bar put-in. If everyone is on time, we're usually out of there around 9:20am.

When we got to the put-in and boarded the rafts, the guides noticed that 3 people were missing. They were on a reservation for 3 people for a 2-day Combo rafting trip. They were missing and presumed to have been left behind at Camp Lotus. Guides checked the manifest and it showed they signed in and were checked-in. Where did the paddlers go? Apparently, they did not wait near the bus or anywhere near where the rest of the 70+ people were. They missed the white water trip.

Luckily, the guides got word to Camp Lotus to have the guest stay put, and the crew would pick them up when they stopped mid-point at Lotus for lunch. The wayward guests were picked up around noon and finished the day on the Gorge run. All's well that ends well.

Then two days later, another Full River run. The day was really hot... around 102 degrees. The guests who demanded a full river were definitely not in shape to do 21 miles. By the time they got to Camp Lotus for the lunch break, this group was exhausted. As they got back on the rafts after lunch, one person was missing. Panic set-in, as the guides could not find this person anywhere in the campground. The guides ran up to the store, the bathrooms and every other place in the area. Suddenly, one of the guides yelled over, "I found him!" The guest was curled up in his own car, sound asleep. At least they found the person before someone called the sheriff's department to start dragging the river for the guy's body.

The guides wrote a very terse commentary regarding these two incidents. Comments ranged from, "... guests don't listen to us... guests keep wandering off without telling anyone... guests gave me a heart attack when we couldn't find them..." and on and on.

What we suggest to anyone traveling in a group: have a buddy. Someone who will take care of your "personal space." In other words, if you have to go to the bathroom, your buddy will make sure that you are not left behind. If you have to go to your car or the camp store, tell you buddy so that they make sure that the bus doesn't leave you behind. If you are going to the photography shop to look at your photos at night, tell a guide or your buddy so that when dinner is served they save you a plate until you get back. In other words, please communicate with our staff and your buddy.

When a client is missing, our first inclination is to look at that beautiful river next to the campground. We have to assume that you may be in the water, if we can't find you anywhere else. The sickening feeling that a missing person may be in trouble in the water is the most overwhelmingly awful feeling. Your brain starts racing and your stomach starts churning. All you want is to find that person.

After finding the person safe in his car, the head guide breathed a sigh of relief. But, man, you should have read the dissertation that he wrote on the trip manifest! Not the normal "...smooth trip..." that we usually get back at the office.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

More Grist from Sollie

Hi Y'all,So last night I was a little depressed being American... oh, and I ate Sea Cucumber, but it wasn't the worst thing I tried yesterday.

So we got up early last night, and went on this great hike to the waterfalls - they call them water curtains. How cute. It was much like crossing suspension bridges and tunnels through areas in California. From there, we ate, and for the first time, I was needing a little comfort food so I indulged in hash browns. Mumm greezy.

So from there, we went to this high school which was a giant place, almost college-like but a private high school for 800 students. They had 11 piano classrooms and 3 tea ceremony classroom. Wild. Oh, and they were very green - no air conditioning to waste energy. Doh.

From there we went to the Buddhist University, which was amazing. Someone is donating major money for this place. It too was awesome, and they treated us to a vegetarian lunch. They only serve veggies - some Buddhist thing about not wanting to kill animals. Also, there were sleeping dogs all over the campus - wouldn't want to disturb anything.

At this time they ran out of things to show us, and we drove to some random places... went to the beach... super rocky, but I did buy some melon ice cream. Went to a fish museum/store. They had a few fish, but sold lots of dried fish. Hummm. From there to some Japanese WWII hotel/art exhibit.

It was there that group leader took me aside and said, do you want to try some stinky doba? Huh? Do you mean stinky tofu? Yeah, yeah, tofu. So we walked down the street to where I just knew there was an open sewage pipe. We walked into the hut, and he ordered up some of their stinkiest. Lots of people in the hut just eating away, and I am about to die of stench poisoning. Finally the offending food came out, we put some chili on it, and ate away. It tasted like regular tofu, but wowie! That smell. By the time we finished, everyone was on the bus, and waiting for us. I walked into the bus, and they all smelled me. Hahahahahaha.

From there we went to a restaurant for everyone else. Lots of fish stuff, but also a protozoa named Sea Cucumber was served. It reminded me of chicken Jello that Grandma Sophie used to serve.

Next up, a train back to Taipei. On the train, many of the principals were joking and being really loud. A meekish passenger from the train asked them to be quiet. They didn't. Later she stomped up to them and sternly told them to shut up as her baby was trying to sleep. They grinned and chuckled under their breath the way a 7th grader would when told to stop laughing at a classmate who just spurted milk out of their nose.

I was sitting next to one of our guides, and we had a discussion about how Americans appear rude and ugly on a world scale. Once we returned to the hotel, a part of my group decided to go to McDonalds because they didn't eat any of the dinner. The Taiwanese people may be the nicest people on the planet. I have been here a week and have only spent a few dimes on internet use.

Everything else in my 5-star trip they are paying for. Every person we run into is the kindest most gentlest person you can imagine, and our group is loud, thankless, craving McDonalds, and ordering beer and pork at the restaurants, and knowing not even the most basic Chinese words. I feel a bit embarrassed by the American tag today.

Off to Korea tomorrow. Not a moment too soon...


Sollie, is a long-time crew member of W.E.T. River Trips. A guide with an extraordinary sense of fair play, people-skills, guide skills and leadership. His observation is telling. As Americans, we need to keep the perspective of a guest when we travel to other countries. Respect their culture and their language. Try to learn at least a rudimentary level of communication such as "thank-you" or "good-bye." The locals will be impressed with your attempts. The world welcomes us, we just need to have a bit more manners out there.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Lunch Meat's Dog Dilemma

A new roommate arrived while the bloggers and skaters were in Europe. M, or Lunch Meat as he is affectionately called by his friends. He signed the contracts and knew that no pets were allowed at the rental house for the team. W.E.T. River Trips was searching myspace recently and came across a picture of M's dog in the kitchen of the rental. BUSTED. Here's his pitiful little story about "lying to the landlord." Growing up, coming of age, these teens are learning that life is tough. Sigh... the first-time renters are quickly learning the ins and outs of rental contracts... and grown-up life.

"Well it all happened the day after 4th of July...
My sister and her husband were leaving town and she had asked me if I could watch her dog. He's an old fart, so I figured as mellow as he is, that him staying with me at the house wouldn't be a problem. I did post a pic of the dog on myspace as a joke hoping to give Liz a scare... well, I guess W.E.T. got a hold of the picture before her and gave me a scare.

We all know nothing can be kept secret if its on "the space" and with that stated, you should know that I had no intentions of hiding anything.
Plus, I remember an old Full House episode where the girls tried to smuggle a dog into the house and Bob Sagget ended up finding out. The girls went through so much trouble to keep the pup a secret, but Mr. Tanner was just too much brains for the girls.

Since then, I always knew it was impossible to hide a dog in someone's house.
Anyhow, I'm sorry again, I should have asked and made sure it wasn't a problem. I hope we're even now... if not, let me know what I can do to make it up to you.
Sincerely Lunch Meat. :)
Whaaaaaaaa.... says the landlord... no pets, period.... not even fish.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Sollie, Taiwan, the Cove, SF Giants

Hi Y'all! So my phone keeps getting messages... I have 7 today, but no way of reaching any of them. Oh well, at least I can get to a computer now and then. Today, I ate a fried leaf...

Oh, just an update: I spent a week in Tennessee visiting family and The Farm with Irene, Rob and Gin. From there, I flew to Taiwan for an educational understanding tour for principals in America. They basically sent us around the nation, and we toured colleges and universities, and they still haven't told us why we are here. However, they are treating us like kings.

So, I have been here in Taiwan a few days, and the coolest thing I saw, was in a night market; a 15-foot boa slithering around on the floor. Today, I ate fried stuff. Yup, just like a Taiwan State Fair. I also ate a fried flower and a fried taro root. Mummmm. Greezy. So I woke up at 5 am and we got on a bus to the train station. I was hoping we would be on a bullet train but sadly this one didn't seem to go faster than 20 mph.

We arrived in some town Hulain (sic). Sounds close. We ate a meal at a place that if it wasn't in Taiwan could easily have been a forgotten place in Mexico. There were no signs for the restaurant, dogs sleeping on the dirt floor, stumps for seats, palm leaves for a room, and squat pots for restrooms, and a monkey chained to a tree, but the food was great. I think I will deep fry some leaves when I get home.

Afterwards, we went up to a National Park and drove through this Slot Canyon 9000 feet deep. With a river running through it! Just in case you were wondering , it was all runnable whitewater.

We arrived at our motel and watched the natives do a dance and use some clubs to make a rice paste. Mummmmm rice paste...

After that, I went upstairs and watched the Home Run Derby on ESPN Taiwan - I think I saw Jason in some W.E.T. river rafts out there in McCovey Cove. I wandered down to the game room and spent the last hour teaching the locals to play ping pong. They don't even know how to hold the paddle upright. Rookies.

Hey guys - did my dirt catch on fire? I received an e-mail from a resident who lives in Coloma and thinks my property caught on fire. Can you have one of the guides check on it?

I will be in Taiwan for a few more days, then off to Korea for a week where I will meet up with Irene. Good times...

NOTE from W.E.T.: On Monday, July 9th, the crazy guides from the W.E.T. crew took a couple of rafts, a partying spirit to the Cove to try to catch a $1M ball. It was a party. Last year, it was chaos but the organizers this year had set up a parking lot just for the crazies. The W.E.T. boats made ESPN, SacBee, Major League Baseball and the rest of the world out there. But the best picture came from the Official Site of the San Francisco Giants. Yeh, its a good pic.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

KD and Barcy Nightlife

Today is day 14 of my trip to Barcelona, Spain. I had never been to Europe and was not too sure as to what to expect. The trip was solely planned around one thing and one thing only; skateboarding. To the average person, Spain's architecture is amazing and beautiful. In the eye of a skateboarder, we see a giant playground. Not only is the city itself perfect for skateboarding, but so is everything that comes with it.

For example, the weather is cooler, and as far as the laws for skateboarding on the streets, mellow indeed. There is no real reason that the police are more giving out here with skateboarders. But after two weeks of skating around, I have a theory. The fact that skateboarding is less familiar here in Spain, it has only begun to blossom, and has only been around for maybe 10 years or so. Therefore, compared to California, or just America in general, skateboarding in Spain has not had enough time to become a problem. Which for now, is AWESOME for skateboarders.

I came over here to skate and then got here and realized I had a new plan. Don't get me wrong, I have been skating non-stop and taking advantage of how much fun it is, but came across a different comfort zone. Obviously, being in another country where they speak a different language is going to take you out of your comfort zone right? Well, I had never really thought about it until I got here and jumped right into it. For me, the thing I really enjoyed is meeting people from other countries. But, very sadly trying to communicate with each other with the bits and pieces of words we know from each others languages was a bit frustrating.

One night, the skate crew and I decided to go out to the clubs and check out the Spanish night life. Luckily, the drinking age over here is only 18 which was a recipe for disaster for us, right? HA HA HA. So at one point, we were all together dancing and having a good time in a club called FELLINIS. I decided to go outside to get some fresh air for a few minutes, and I found myself at another bar separated from the crew.

Thinking I knew my way around town, I decided to go with it and have a good time by myself.
I took a seat at the bar, and, within 5 minutes, I was chatting it up with 2 Spanish guys who lived here and 2 girls from Norway that spoke English and Spanish. The girls would interpret my English for the Spanish dudes and vice verse. They were surprised I was still out and about even though I was lost from my crew of team mates. The girls offered to hang out with the Spanish guys for the rest of the night, and, of course, I went with them.

We went to 2 more clubs and 1 more bar. Throughout the night, the Spanish dudes kept saying they wanted me to have a good time and kept buying my drinks. Being the gentlemen, I could not refuse a drink someone offers me. When the sun was coming up and the bars closed, we said our good nights and "nice meeting you's," and I took off in search of my destination; our apartment. Little did I realize, I was about a 30-minute walk from the apartment. After asking a million people for directions, I finally made it home by 6 in the morning.

The next day, my friends asked what happened to me the night before, and so I told them about my lost wild night. Then I realized I didn't even remember the Spanish guys' or the Norwegian girls' names. It was funny to think I had made friends and hung out with them all night long, but never got their names. The more and more people I meet now and see, I have concluded that it doesn't even matter if I get their names or not because it's more of a good-nature thing. Whether you speak English, Spanish or French or whatever, it's human nature to speak with one another and teach one another.

We still have another 4 days here in Spain and the weekend should be fun. Hopefully, I will have another story to tell before I come home. THANKS for reading ya'll... KD

Check out these resources on Skateboarding Barcelona:
Why skate Barcelona?
Thrasher Magazine Article
Barcelona Skate Tours
Barcelona Metropolitan Magazine
Against the Law

After skateboarding all day in your current heatwave in California, ya otta check out whitewater rafting. It'll give you the same thrill except no road rash. LOL... ollie-oop...

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Barcy Excerpts from the Teen Bloggers

W.E.T. River Trips has a brethren of young guides and bloggers working for us. They bring a youthful and enthusiastic lifestyle to our company. Many of them are also involved in surfing, kayaking, rafting, skateboarding and snowboarding programs and events because of their wide range of talents. They live the lifestyle. Our rafting news and California rafting news pages also highlight the lifestyle of the extreme sport outdoor enthusiast.

This month the young bloggers headed to Barcelona, Spain. Meeting with several other skateboarders and production crews, the 20-somethings joined pro skaters in Barcy (that's their nickname for this beautiful city) after their tour to end the trip as a vacation. And yes, W.E.T. ended up sponsoring more than just a few... the story of the card-eating ATM machine was one of the reasons given for the "extra" sponsorships...

Here are some excerpts:

July 2, 2007
"...last night I stayed at the new apartment for the first time. It's the epitomy of Spain. Woooooooo hoo. We are right next to a main street, so there's a bagillion people out at all times. Anyway, I hope my account s%!* is all correct... but whatever. Anyways, I miss you and I hope all is well..."

July 3, 2007
I have a butt load of money because Arthur just transfered 800 bucks online into my account cuz his card just got lost too. So I officially have everyones money in my account, so I technically don't have that much. Anyway, Danny seo is going to pick us up from the airport since you can't, but his car is too small so can you have a full tank and keys to the Subaru ready for Danny on next Wednesday... anyways, I'm having a lot of fun, and today I'm trying to relax because I've been going non-stop. Last night we went to the 'skater bar' called Bar Manola and they project skate videos on the wall, and everyone that goes there is a skate dude. We saw some pros... and blah blah. Then we went to NASTY MONDAYS. It was radddddddd. No one got carded except for poor Goober, but he talked his way in. We danced till 4 in the morning to all American songs... Beastie Boys, Joan Jett, Of Montreal... it was rad. Anyway, I'll keep you posted and I miss you guys a lot... it's super fun and you guys would love it."

Words from W.E.T.
KD had an encounter with a card-eating ATM machine in London... day 2 of the tour. This was the first of many card losses with the group. KD contacted his parents who contacted W.E.T. who contacted the only one in London who still had their debit card. So in went the money. (Read post above about the butt-load of money...) I think everyone had LL handle their funds. The crew also discovered that drinking was legal at 18 years. We didn't get many blogs after that.......