Friday, September 10, 2010

Monday, July 19, 2010

Big Bubbles and Ear Troubles

My husband Tim and I got our gear together and met up with J.D. Emerson from BC Xtreme Sports at the Danville YWCA for our confined water classes. Joining J.D. were two of his instructors, Mike Bennet, and Shad Newman. Not long after we arrived, we were suited up in our diving gear and began to learn the necessary skills for our first open water dive. With three instructors and two students, there was lots of one-on-one instruction which made for much easier learning.

The skills that we learned weren't all that difficult. We learned to clear a full mask while under water, how to share air with a dive buddy that was out of air, and how to do a fin pivot (a little more challenging). We also had to take off our BDC and put it back on while submerged. I had only one small incident at the pool. I was having difficulty equalizing my left ear. I tried several times before my ear actually cleared and was able to decend to the full 12 feet of the pool. A little more on that later...

After about an hour and a half, we left the YWCA and were finally on our way to the J.M.R. Quarry in Blanch, NC. The quarry was beautiful, the water clear, and several catfish came up to the dock in hopes of being fed.

We donned our scuba gear and got into the water for our first of four open water dives before certification. Our fist dive was a "fun dive". The only purpose was to look around and enjoy the scenery. We saw many different species of fish as well as directional signs, an airplane hull, and there was even a Suzuki motorcycle that sat on the bottom of the quarry. I just had to hop on for a ride :P

I really enjoyed this dive and now know that scuba is something that I want to do for a very long time to come!

***I want to send out a special thank you to Shad for taking these pics for me. Didn't he do an amazing job? And he was even using a disposable waterproof camera from Wal-Mart! I'm pretty impressed with how they turned out!***

Our first dive lasted 28 minutes and we surfaced for an hour to enjoy a couple of hot dogs and fill out our diver's logs. (Great hot dogs by the way, J.D. Thanks!).

After an hour's surface interval, we began our second dive of the day. This time entry was a bit different. We did a giant step forward off the dock. I was a little worried about this because of the problems my back gives me, but I was able to do it without incident!

On the way to the bottom of the quarry, though, I had trouble with my ear again. I tried and tried but was still unable to equalize my left ear. As I was trying to do that, my weight belt started sliding off of my waist and before I knew it, it was around my knees and impossible to recover. The weight belt finally slid completely off of me and floated to the bottom of the quarry, as I, having no weight to keep me down, began to float to the top. Mike, one of the instructors, dove down to the bottom to recover my weights (SORRY MIKE !!!).

This incident ended my dive for the day, and unfortunately it ended it for Saturday as well. My left ear was ultimately diagnosed as infected Sunday and it will now be two weeks before I can complete the third and fourth dives to get my certification. I will be updating when I do get certified!

I have to tell you though, despite having trouble with my ear, I had one of the best times of my life my first time diving. I can't wait until my ear has cleared up to finish up my certification and to begin a LONG journey under the sea.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Earning My Fins

When I was a kid I remember watching "The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau" with my dad. I always wanted to be on the Calypso along side of this before-his-time pioneer of the deep. I longed to don the breathing apparatus and fins, and swim with the whales, sharks, and other beautiful marine creatures. Although I will never be a passenger on the Calypso, the rest of that fantasy is coming true... soon!

My husband Tim and I went to the local dive shop, BCXtreme Sports, and finally signed up for SCUBA classes. We plan on completing our certification on July 17th following the at-home studying of the PADI Diver's Manual, passing a series of PADI tests, confined water dive instruction in a pool, then finally four open water dives at the James M. Robertson Quarry in Blanch, NC. I am really excited about actually getting in the water, but before all that can happen we have to learn how to stay alive and healthy by learning all the physiological, mathematical, theoretical, and all that other "ical" stuff that goes along with it. Here is an example of what we have to learn and what we will be tested on:

Im kidding :P
The book is well written, easy to understand, and is interesting. Most is pretty much common sense. I don't forsee any trouble passing the tests.

Back to the dive shop...

We filled out a mountain of release forms and applications, almost as many as I signed when I went skydiving, and then began the fun part... shopping :) After the cost of certification, you have to have a few basic pieces of equipment. My husband and I each got a set of fins, boots, a mask, and a snorkle. The other equipment can be rented for very reasonable rates until we are ready to purchase our own. J.D. Emerson, the owner of BCXtreme Sports took good care of us by making sure all of our equipment was sized correctly and fit well. This is my bounty that I returned home with:

I will be testing sometime next week. Wish me luck on the dive table questions!!! (EEEeeeekkk)

The impossible missions are the only ones which succeed.- Jacques Cousteau

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

New on the Horizon...

I picked up up the phone yesterday and called up the local dive shop to ask about taking scuba diving lessons. The total for the class is $450.00 which includes the PADI course, closed water class, four open water dives, and certification. After speaking with J.D. Emerson of BCXTreme Sports in Danville, VA, I find myself even more excited about taking this class than I was originally.

I will definately be updating when I start my classes!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Something I REALLY Want To Try

Doesn't this look like fun? Has anyone ever been kite surfing before? I would love to hear about your experience!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Ohhhhh That Water Looks Cold

The three amigos, Tim, Boots, and I had a two hour break after our zip line tour. We decided to walk around the area near Wildwater Rafting where our ride downstream would take place. The view of the river was amazing. We stopped off to take a few pictures next to the river. "That water sure looks cold", said my husband. Boots agreed. I raised an eyebrow. "How does water *look* cold?" I asked flatly. "I don't know, said my husband, but it does". Again my friend agreed.

We watched as several kayaks and canoes floated down stream while enjoying a beer on a picnic bench. Before the beer I was consuming was even half empty, I realized I had forgotten my pack with all my stuff in it. In a rush, I went searching for it, never to finish my poor, over priced beer. I did find my pack (thanks to honest tourists) and we made our way to the rafting site.

Wildwater is a rafting business nestled in the side of a mountain along side the Nantahala River in Bryson City, NC. We arrived there a few minutes early, got checked in and waited for the van ride to the drop-off point where we would board our rubber rafts. The clouds were moving in quickly and when we did get into the van the rain started to pour down like never before. The three of us agreed that we would certainly be washed away, never to see dry land again. The van climbed the mountain road until we came to an abrupt stop. Traffic was backed up and was not moving. I silently rejoiced in the fact that it was giving the rain time to ease up... which it did. It was just sprinkling a bit when we were dropped off at the boat launch area.

We were introduced to our guide, and given instructions on what to do. We carried the raft across tons of gravel to the river (my ankle was still aching terribly from the sprain I had suffered and then re-injured during the zip line. I did drop my end of the raft twice :P (sorry guys).

With Boots and I positioned at the front of the raft and Tim and our guide at the rear, we began floating down the river, paddling, resting, chatting. At the very first rapid, the raft tossed upward then dove in bow-first. A huge wall of water crashed down on the two of us ladies that were given the "privilege" of sitting in the front of the boat. The water, which was only 48 degrees, completely engulfed me and I screamed out in shock. It definitely woke me up.

We went over a few more rapids, enjoyed the mountain scenery, and took in the mountain air (and water) for a little over two hours. The scenery was breathtaking. There was a fog that hovered over the surface of the river and a mist of clouds embraced the blue-gray tops of the mountains. The majestic green trees bowed over the clear river, and the sound of the rapids filled the otherwise quiet air.

The last rapid we descended was the most fun, but ended our trip down the Nantahala River. I was soaked to the bone, cold, and waterlogged, but at the same time I had a great first time experience with whitewater rafting. I'm definitely ready to go with Boots to a river she has braved with much bigger, stronger rapids. I just hope the water there doesn't *look* as cold as the Nantahala.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Feeling Zippy

My husband Tim and I were wanting a short getaway this past weekend. He called me from work and asked me to google the Nantahala River in North Carolina and look into whitewater rafting. I immediately pulled up my trusty search engine and within minutes was on the Nantahala River Rafting site. I looked around a bit and found the whitewater rafting but was sidetracked by something unusual. There was a link to a zipline canopy tour in the area. I texted Tim back to call me when he got a free miunute. I had found another adventure!

We set up reservations on Wednesday and I called up my friend Boots. This was something that she hadn't experienced yet either. She was up for the challenge and on Friday afternoon after work the three of us made our way to Bryson City, North Carolina.

We arrived at Nantahala Gorge Canopy Tours and were given all the necessary equipment: a harness with a pulley system, a hard hat, and some heavy leather gloves. When we were all dressed and ready to go, our guides took us out to the practice lines to instruct us on safety and technique. I was actually suprised the briefing lasted MUCH longer than the briefing we got when we went skydiving. The waiver form we had to sign was much much shorter though as Boots pointed out.

The lines ran from tree to tree onto platforms as high as 70 feet in the air. In total there were 11 ziplines, the longest of which was a little over 600 feet long, 6 rope bridges, and 3 small transfer bridges. Some of the bridges had planks missing and there were no rails to hold to. There were only rope supports for the bridge and the cable that ran down the middle. The course covered 3/4 of a mile and the tour lasted a little over two hours.

The transfer bridges were what I worried about the most. I had sprained my ankle two nights before while taking the dog out. One of the requirements was that you were in good health and had no casts of any kind, hard or soft. I had been using a gel cast the day before just to stand. I wasn't afforded that luxury on this trip. I had to hide my injury and did so with the help of Boots' injinuity. She suggested I duct tape my ankle and cover said injury with a sock. Everything went well though and I was able to complete the course with the exception of one zipline and one bridge before I rolled my ankle again. I was in a bit of pain but wasn't able to let anyone know as we were all in tight proximity.

As I crossed the last (long) bridge, I made my footing slow and sure. I had gotten half way across the bridge when Tim stepped onto the planks behind me and began to bounce, unaware that I had been injured again. Still not able to give away my injury, I turned and yelled "stop it!". I think he (and the rest of the tour) thought I had gotten freaked out at the bridge. It worked out well though. He did stop and I made it to the other side of the bridge without incident.

We all zipped safely to the last platform, and posed for a group picture that our guide, Dion, graciously snapped for us. From left to right... Me, My husband Tim, and my friend Boots.

We were now off to the next adventure of the day... Whitewater Rafting. Post to come.