Snow and a Trip to the Mac Store

I haven’t written in several weeks, partly because my MacBook was in the shop for more than a week. (The week seemed like a month, as I was relegated to using my iPhone for my connection to the outside world. It’s a great device, but some things are just much better and/or much easier on a larger screen. Also, Grooveshark can’t be used on iPhone yet – but that’s another story.) The “macologist” help desk guys at The Mac Store did an excellent job, and my MacBook looks and feels like new.

Here’s a post on kids and technology that I found interesting. I frequently wonder if my generation will have early onset of carpal tunnel syndrome, since so many of my friends are constantly texting, tweeting, and working on computers 40+ hours at work, in addition to countless hours on their iPhones or laptops after work.

A few days before Thanksgiving, it snowed in Seattle. The morning started with a few white flakes that gradually started sticking to the pavement. Schools closed at the idea of snow, and during the evening commute, cars were abandoned on I-5. Capitol Hill residents started sledding down Denny Way with recycling bins, cookie sheets, and ironing boards… and drivers on Queen Anne hill slid down the hill, backward. It was branded “SNOMG” or snowpocolypse. Snow photos from the Seattle Times.

On Monday night, my usual 25-minute bus ride turned into a two-hour ordeal, which ended after walking across the Fremont Bridge in blowing snow. I wrapped my wool scarf over my nose and mouth, while wondering why I was so shocked at the cold. Two Seattle winters has clearly softened my tolerance for cold weather, and I have no love lost for snow.

It melted Thanksgiving Day and I was happy to see it vanish, much to the disappointment of my significant other. Being from Florida, he can’t relate to my hatred of snow (mostly, driving in snow, taking the bus in the snow, or being stuck on the bus for 2+ hours because it snowed.) Living on a steep hill makes me cautious, and I was happy to avoid an awkward carpool to a family Thanksgiving dinner, hosted in a suburb of Seattle. Of the roasted root vegetables, cinnamon mashed yams, and acorn squash with quinoa dishes that we made for Thanksgiving, the Quinoa-stuffed Acorn Squash was the favorite – a pretty easy recipe that we made again last weekend. Well worth the 1 hour of prep and cooking. The yams were good, too, but the acorn squash was delicious.

The Great Outdoors

It all started on Highway 12, by mile marker 180.

After a rainy night of camping and a breakfast of bagels, cream cheese, and a bottled coffee drink from PCC, we had arrived at the rafting site near the Tieton River, near Yakima, Washington. Camping hadn’t gone exactly as planned. I’d borrowed a tent and sleeping bag from my dad, but hadn’t asked about a tarp. We didn’t think about the possibility of camping in the rain, since Eastern Washington is usually dry, unlike Seattle.

The tent

The tent

Not taking a tarp was our big mistake. The sides of the tent were wet and the rain wasn’t letting up. So we slept in my Honda Civic, which actually went pretty well. The front seats are more comfortable to sleep in than I thought.

It was my first time rafting, and the first time I’d gone camping in two years. Although I’d hiked a trail at Mt. Rainier last summer, I hadn’t done many outdoor activities lately… dating a bicyclist doesn’t count.

I felt out of place, but my friend and I were both first timers, so we told ourselves “Here goes nothing…” and signed the release forms at the white tent the rafting company had set up. We both smiled when we saw four college girls who looked slightly more clueless than we were. With the borrowed synthetic pants, I thought I presented the illusion that I knew what I was doing. I’m sure it wasn’t convincing.

I was nervous as I pulled a damp, cool wetsuit over my clothes. By the time I received my helmet, life jacket and what I called a “rain slicker,” I was excited but very anxious. Would I fall out of the raft? When was the last time I went swimming… 2003 maybe?

Riding in the old yellow school bus on the way to the launch site, I noticed the bus driver’s old marathon t-shirt. His curly hair peaked out from underneath a weathered baseball cap. It wasn’t until we shuffled off the bus that I noticed the purple polish on his toenails. It added to my romanticized idea of what rafting life was like. I tried to imagine what it would it be like to wear a wetsuit or board shorts to work, instead of my standard jeans and black flats or boots. I imagined the pace of life was slower. I envisioned a life of riverside camp fires, and a wardrobe entirely from REI, the outdoor store where I’d climbed “the Pinnacle” twice and purchased my three rain jackets.

After hearing about the “river position,” the desirable position to take in the event you fell out of the raft, we divided into groups of 5 or 6, and practiced our paddling. Our guide explained that it was important to just start paddling when she commanded, then try to adopt the same rhythm as the other rafters. Not having much upper body strength, I was nervous that I’d be exhausted long before the end of our 3 hours on the river.

The river was shallow and not very wide, a category III, which meant the current moved pretty quickly. We rafted on the river through the canyon, an entirely different view than what we’d seen from the highway and our campsite. We paddled intermittently, at the commands of our guide, and avoided rocks, pools, and the two big obstacles called “High Noon” and “Waffle Wall.” The names sounded like something from the Old West or a Super Mario Brothers Nintendo game.

Our guide, Nikki, a mother of two girls, got certified in 1986. She’d married another rafting guide, and we’d meet her husband and two daughters, ages 7 and 9, at our lunch site. After almost two hours on the river, we got out of the raft and warmed up with hot tea around a campfire. They’d prepared a delicious lunch of warm roasted vegetables, chicken, salad and corn on the cob.

By lunchtime I was invigorated. I wasn’t completely inept on the river. I felt a sense of accomplishment after feeling the resistance of the river when I paddled. No one from our raft had fallen into the river, although two people had falled out of the other two rafts in our group. I’d surprised myself, which is a pretty good feeling.

At the take out point, we hoisted the raft on our shoulders and carried it over the river’s bank to the trailer. After pouring what felt like two inches of water from the boots, I peeled off the wetsuit and immediately regretted that I hadn’t brought towels, but at least we had dry clothes. We rinsed our wetsuits in the river and gave them to our guide’s daughters, who used paddles to stir the suits in makeshift laundry buckets.

We stopped at a fruit stand along the highway before we reached Yakima, at a Starbucks in Ellensburg, and we reached Seattle by 8 pm. We were home from the adventure.