Sunday, October 6, 2013

The New River day 2

(National memorial to Project Overlord in Bedford, Virginia.)

In August I took a car trip for my summer vacation through West Virginia and extreme western Virginia, rafting for two days on the New River and seeing three minor league baseball games in two different stadiums in West Virginia.  In Virginia I saw the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford and the Natural Bridge.
(Natural Bridge in Virginia.)

The second day on the river, with another outfit, was just as much fun as the first day.  We rafted the rapids, swam in the river, jumped off a tall rock and paddled under the tall suspension bridge, with nary a mishap, although I am certain that we came within a hairsbreadth three times of flipping the raft over.  The guide later allowed as to how, once, he too thought for a moment that we were going over.
(It gets busy in a hurry in the rapids.)

Afterwards, during happy hour at the lodge, they played a videotape of a boat in some rapids from earlier that morning, which was truly spectacular (canoeists precede the raft groups down the river and tape them shooting each rapids).  It was so good I'm going to describe it because, well, that was the same river we went down an hour later.
(That day's swimming hole.)

A boat went into some boiling water in the standard setup--four rowers on each side and the guide across the back gunwale calling out rowing commands, back-rowing and sliding across the back as necessary for balance.  The boat went into a hole in the water, flexed, turned sideways and virtually stopped.  In came the next tall roller that the bottom of the raft rolled up on sideways (the establishment slowed the video action down here for effect) and suddenly the raft was broadside straight up and down.  The four rowers atop this anomaly clung to the upper gunwale momentarily and then started cascading down the open side into the four bottom rowers and took them all with them over the lower side of the boat into the roiling water.
(Different day, different rock, same long ways down.)

Here the boat slammed back down, fortunately upright, into the water.  The only one left in the boat was the guide who stood up, looking incredibly shocked.  His boat was now empty except for him!  The guides in the bar observing this on the tape started cheering and someone said excitedly, "Look, Norm got rid of all of them!"
(Yeah, it was cool on the river.)

As the tape rolled on, you could see the guide immediately get down to business once his initial shock passed.  He ignored the one rower who, though in the water outside the boat, was clinging to the gunwale.  He reached out for the closest person in the river who was detached from the boat and pulled her into the boat.  Then he reached out for the next closest detached person and pulled her in.  Those two started pulling remaining swimmers into the boat as the guide went back to rowing to get close to the remaining swimmers.  The last one pulled into the boat was the bedraggled swimmer who had never once let her death grip upon the gunwale go.
(It's a long way down to the river from the modern suspension bridge.) 

Fortunately the boat never went over which would have made the rescue a lot more difficult.  Also fortunate was that most rapids on the New River, although quite vigorous, are short.  It was fascinating to see how quickly and professionally this rescue unfolded.
(The old and the new: The old 2-lane highway bridge, front; the new 4-lane highway bridge, back.)

No comments: