Sunday, November 25, 2007

Illinois River Trip

Dan and I rafted the Illinois River on November 17th and 18th. Rogue River Journeys, SOU White Water Club, SOU Outdoor Program, and the Galice Resort made this trip possible. This trip was my first down the Illinois River, and we were expecting a lot of precipitation. The flow of the river can spike quickly on the Illinois, so I found myself with some apprehension when we showed up to the put-in and it was pouring down rain. The level was already close to 3,000 cfs and rising quickly. I, personally, was not sure if we should continue on with trip, however Dan and Will have been on the river several times (Will alone has rafted the Illinois 11 times), so I put my trust in them and their judgment. We rigged our boats quickly in an attempt to stay ahead of the rising water.

There were five rafts and five kayakers on the trip. I was going to be paddle assist with Leland Fulton in Will’s raft. I was happy to be in a boat with Will because of his experience in boating and on this river. We had a long distance to go on Saturday so we didn’t mess around a whole lot for the first few hours. Our time was spent reading and running most of the class IV rapids and one of the rafts almost flipped three times, causing the guide to swim a rapid and his passenger to swim another rapid. I was extremely impressed with the beauty of the canyon, the speed of the water, and the giant waves and holes in the first six miles.

The first rapid where I really started to understand how powerful this river was is called York Creek Rapid. York Creek Rapid is an s-curve rapid and our boat was the lead boat so we got through the rapid first. Once through the rapid we eddied out and set up safety. Watching the other four boats come through the rapid was the first time I realized how fast the river was moving. The 18 miles leading up to the Green Wall Rapid went by very quickly due to the speed of the river.

At Green Wall, we stopped to scout. Scouting took about an hour because of the long hike to get to a location we could scout from. Once back in our boat, we ran the rapid as the second boat. Chip’s boat ran lead and while they plunged into a big hole, they had a really solid line. As we entered into the rapid we were aiming to run the left side of the monster whole which would take us right over a rock and then would allow us to hug the left side of the rapid the rest of the way down. However, instead of flowing right over the rock, we got hung up and spun around 180 degrees, dropping into the big hole backwards. Leland almost got sucked out of the boat, but somehow managed to stay in. Will recovered quickly and spun the boat back around.

However, a few seconds later we got hung up on another rock and were facing upstream dropping into another hole. Somehow we all stayed in the boat and Will got us facing downstream in time to miss the big flip rock on river right. Exhausted, we caught an eddy on the left and set up for safety. We watched every other boat have a clean solid run through Green Wall. After Green Wall is a three-mile gorge that is consistent and fast with big waves, holes and countless class IV rapids. The wave trains in this gorge section were the biggest waves I have ever seen. We camped below Collier Creek at a camp framed by waterfalls.

The camp is the best river camp I have stayed at. After setting up the kitchen and some tarps, Dan and I set up our tent and devoured some Kettle Chips. The Chips were the all new Organic Chipotle and they were amazing!!!

Day two started slowly as people worked off their hangovers and then moved quickly once we were on the water. It took us only an hour to travel eight river miles to the take-out. At the take-out, Dan and I shared some Sour-Cream and Dill Kettle chips and then settled down in the shuttle van and began the long drive back to the Selma House. A few hours latter and a rescue lock-smith we were all safely back in Ashland.

This was my best river trip ever!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Halloween in Ashland

Halloween in Ashland is an important event every year. The festivities bring in people from near and far, and it is an extraordinary experience.

The festivities begin with a parade through downtown Ashland. Children watch the parade of incredibly costumed people, then trick-or-treat at the stores.

As the evening closes in, the older (and what I mean by older is a more college-aged crowd) begins to overtake the plaza. It is a crowd large enough to close down the entire plaza. It is really just a big public party filled with drunk adults dressed in elaborate costumes. Of course the bars around town are happening as well. Most charge a $5-10 cover fee to get inside and warm up with a drink or two.

Travis "Cheddar Beer" and Verelle "Tuscan Three Cheese" began their Halloween festivities at their home with Buffalo Bleu Kettle Chips (we think there should be a pumpkin flavor!), pumpkin flavored beer, and a photo shoot. Travis dressed as a hot air balloon. Verelle dressed as a disgruntled housewife.
Click on the photo to see it larger.

Even the cat got dressed up.
Then they headed with their posse downtown. Photos of this would be posted, but unfortunately their camera was stolen. Boo!

A Wedding: Team Kettle Style

On June 30th of this year, Travis "Cheddar Beer" Caldwell was married to Verelle "Tuscan Three Cheese" Stuck by their pastor Dan "Buffalo Bleu" Thurber. The wedding took place at Red Ridge Farms, an herb farm, in the beautiful Willamette Valley. It is located in the heart of wine country, not far from Verelle's hometown of Carlton. The farm is gorgeous, abundant with lavender fields, vineyard views and even complete with an elegant guest room for the newlyweds to stay in on their wedding night.
It was a beautiful ceremony. Dan was ordained online just for the occasion, and he did a wonderful job. Of course Kettle Chips and plenty of Talledega Nights movie jokes were mentioned. Surrounded by less than fifty of Travis and Verelle's close family and friends, it was a very intimate.
The reception that followed included lots of champagne and wonderful organic food provided by Whole Foods catering service.
There was a dance lesson given by a couple of excellent dance instructors from Arthur Murray Dance Studio to the wedding party and all of the guests. They taught east coast swing and the box step. It was a hit, and by the end of the lesson, everybody was gettin' down.

Of course, the night had to include a marriage certificate signing/Kettle Chips photo shoot! By this time we had all consumed a sufficient amount of champagne and were having a great time!
To top off the night, the wedding party watched fireworks from the St. Paul Rodeo that was taking place a few miles away amidst the glowing full moon. Truly, it was a perfect evening!