Sunday, October 28, 2007

Seattle Recap - Part 1

Monday, November 5th

I loved Seattle. I didn't want to go. Of course, the tour leaves the not-so-great cities, so it must also leave my favorite. I was on a plane to Boise at 6:45 AM on Monday.

The last week in Seattle was the best week of the tour. Sheila Marie arrived on Friday the 19th and we really took advantage of a week together in a wonderful place. Her week long visit will need more than one blog entry - so this is the first in the series. We'll begin before her arrival:

In preparation for Ken's departure to Australia (he'll be in Oz until the second week in December - they're launching an Australian Tour of Spamalot and Ken was tapped to help get it off the ground) we welcomed Lisa Ann Chernoff to Team Spamalot Stage Management. She's a friend of Francesca's and is currently based in Seattle. Lisa joined us in the middle of the Seattle engagement and will stay with us through East Lansing. She is great and we're all pleased to have her with us.


Stage Management in Ken's absence: JV, Lisa and Francesca

Sheila arrived late Friday night. She had been in New Orleans on business Wednesday and Thursday, went in to the office on Friday, took the train to Newark Friday afternoon and made the cross-country flight Friday evening. Suffice to say, she was pretty beat by the time she made it to the apartment on Friday.

Saturday we headed straight for the sidewalk creperie. They whip up both sweet and savory crepes to order from a little stand on the street under the Washington State Convention Center. I must have eaten at least a half dozen crepes during my stay.



From there, we made a quick visit to the market. We shopped a bit for the ingredients to some of Sheila's favorite meals and took in the sights.


The first Starbucks...

Of course, I had two shows on Saturday so our sight-seeing had to be cut short. Which was fine with Sheila Marie, I think, as she was still a bit jet lagged. After the second show, however, Mitchell had arranged a trip to a haunted house. On the fall social calendar, a haunted house is a can't miss event for my wife. The haunted house Mitchell chose was run by a local radio station. There was an enormous line, but we skipped the line as VIPs! We had a great time shuffling along in the semi-dark waiting for masked teenagers to jump out at us.


Bright and early on Monday morning Sheila Marie and I took off in a rental car for points north. We drove up to Anacortes where we boarded a great big ferry boat for the hour ride to Friday Harbor. We ate breakfast on the island and did some poking around in the shops until the captain of our whale watching boat called. When I booked the whale watching trip, there weren't enough reservations to guarantee a trip. The night before, the charter company called and said that another couple had signed up - we might be able to go out on a small boat. Monday morning, Captain Ivan called and let us know we would be headed out on the big boat!





The whale watching trip was, in a word, amazing. There are 3 pods of resident orcas in the Puget Sound area. Each pod is a family of about 25 whales headed by its oldest female. The resident orcas eat fish - the salmon that make the Pacific Northwest so famous are their favorite food. There are also some transient orcas that move in and out of the Puget Sound. They don't hang out with their families, travel in smaller groups, and eat seals and other bigger animals. On Monday, there were no transient orcas around, but all three pods of resident orcas were all hanging out together - meaning that there were around 80 whales all in close proximity!!! Captain Ivan motored us quite a ways south to check out the whales. Along the way, we stopped to see Harbor Seals and Stellar Sea Lions lounging on the rocks. The seals looked puppies with their long whiskers and cute faces. The sea lions were enormous and sort of scary looking. The male sea lions grow to more than 9 feet in length and more than 2,000 pounds!


These are the harbor seals sunning on a rock. (JB, our naturalist, took these photos with his long lens.) Seals can't turn their flippers around to pull themselves along the beach, so they're very awkward when they're on land.



A Stellar Sea Lion. They're the biggest member of the seal family. They growl like bears - even from more than a hundred yards away, we could hear them clearly.

When we reached the whales - they were everywhere. The captain cut the motor on the flat seas under sunny skies and you could hear the whales blowing all around us. The crew lowered the hydrophone and we could here the whales clicking and squealing in every direction. We must have seen more than 50 individual whales. Some of them we saw often enough that I began to be able to identify them (the markings on their tails, the shape of their dorsal fin and their white body patterns are all a little different).



Too soon, it was time to head back to port. We must have spent nearly two hours with the whales, but it flew by. On the way back to port, there was a bald eagle perched on the rocks. It's easy to forget how big a bald eagle is, but when you see one, it's a very impressive animal! (Fun fact: an eagle's back talon contains a tendon that acts as a ratchet. Once the eagle seizes its prey, the "ratchet" is engaged. The bird can not let go of whatever it is holding until it sets the prey on solid ground and relieves the weight. Of course, this is meant to help an eagle hold onto a thrashing fish; but if the eagle gets ahold of a fish that is too big, it cannot let go and may actually drown.)

On our way back to port.


Nautical Sheila Marie.

Back on dry land, Sheila Marie and I checked into the Friday Harbor House. Our room was amazing. One wall of our room was composed of two sliding glass doors overlooking the marina. We had a fireplace and a raised jacuzzi tub - with a view of the water from the tub. It was the perfect setting to celebrate (only a little bit delayed) our 3rd anniversary.


Sheila taking in the view just after sunrise.

The good folks at the front desk recommended a local restaurant for dinner. It was a tiny place hidden around behind a landscaping business, but was a find. The Backdoor Kitchen was charming, with a small, but varied menu and a warm ambiance. We enjoyed our evening immensely.


The next morning, the sum streaming in through the glass doors woke us up early. This was the view:


video

That's the ferry making its first trip of the day.

We ate breakfast overlooking the marina, poked around the shops of Friday Harbor, and not long after were on the ferry as it made its way back to the mainland.


Sheila Marie on the return ferry trip with Mount Baker in the background. Shortly after this picture was taken, a group of dolphins was sighted near the ferry - all I saw were small splashes, though.

When we were back on terra firma, we sought out an apple orchard. Sheila and I have gone apple picking every year since we started dating. We even took a group apple picking the day before our wedding. I wasn't going to let life on tour mess that up! We went to Merritt Orchards in the aptly named Bayview, Washington. The orchard is situated between the Puget Sound and the Cascade Mountains and the store is housed in a bright red barn. The place couldn't be more picturesque.




Mount Baker behind the orchard and fields of dahlias.

The trip was a pretty great way to celebrate our anniversary!

More to come -

JV

Monday, October 15, 2007

Lots of Photos and a Little Seattle

Monday, October 15th

Week #1 in Seattle was busy, busy, busy.

Tuesday: Load-in
Wednesday: Load-in and Opening Night
Thursday: 2 Shows
Friday: Rehearsal and 1 Show
Saturday: 2 Shows
Sunday: 2 Shows

Not a lot of free time to explore the city, but my impression remains overwhelmingly positive. It's very urban feeling, but there's water, mountains and trees nearby. There are lots of restaurants, bars and shopping. I can walk to everything I need. I take the monorail to rehearsal. I'm very happy.

Today was my first real day to myself. After the long week, I really wanted an easy day off. I went down to the waterfront for lunch with Erik Hayden. We met up at Emmet Watson's Oyster Bar near the Pikes Place Market. Emmet Watson's is a homey little oyster bar. The menu is printed on brown paper bags and contains only oyster house favorites: fish and chips, chowders, clams, mussels and oysters. We washed down our seafood with some local beers and left happy men.

I wandered through the market picking up things for tonight's dinner. I got fresh fruits and veggies, cheese, a baguette and pate. I spent the balance of my day off in the kitchen putting together a big pot of corn chowder and listening to the baseball games. (Are the Rockies unstoppable?) Happiness.

I did snap a couple of photos with my cell phone this week:

The Paramount Theatre in Seattle


I found this one on the web. It's a pretty good representation of the interior of the Paramount. The theatre was built as a movie palace with stage shows. It's enormous (nearly 3,000 seats) and retains much of its opulence.


After the show on Thursday night a bunch of us went out to a brewpub called Six Arms. This is a shot of their brew-room.


The Washington Athletic Club hosted a party for us after the show on Friday night. There was plenty of wine, but no beer. I'd be willing to bet there aren't many photos of our crew guys all drinking wine. Cuz, Berg, Jeff and Tony.


A bunch of us went out for late night oysters last night. I snapped this photo of the Pikes Place Market on the walk home.


I also got back three rolls of film back from Snapfish. The first roll started in Salt Lake City and stretched to Denver. The second roll picked up at Cuz and Maggie's party and went through the crazy playoff ballgame. The last roll wrapped up the visit in Denver with photos from my second wardrobe road-trip. The highlights:

One last photo from Spiral Jetty: you can almost see how pink the water is in this photo.

Play-off baseball!




Deep into the thirteenth inning: Fran and her rally cap.

Rockies win!


They don't call it "Lookout Mountain" for nothin'.


Fran and the bison.



The pinkish circle in the bottom third of this photo is a fossilized dinosaur bone.

JV

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Seattle, Day #1

Tuesday, October 9th

First, a message to hotel owners everywhere: Come into the 21st century - purchase fitted bottom sheets. Using a flat sheet isn't working. I wake up in the morning all tangled in a sheet that isn't secured to the mattress. No matter how nice your hotel is, I don't want to touch the mattress. Thank you, in advance.

Now that that's out of the way...

Yesterday afternoon I boarded a plane bound for Seattle. From the air I observed that there are a whole lot of mountains between Denver and Seattle. 3 hours of mountains. Wow. The show will open on Wednesday here in Seattle to give the trucks time to cross all those mountains, so I had the evening free last night. I walked and walked around downtown Seattle.

My first impression is entirely positive. The hotel (where I'm staying until my apartment becomes available) is around the corner from the theatre and the convention center, so there's plenty to do within an easy walk. I walked down Pike Street to the Public Market. I didn't explore it to thoroughly, but the guys throwing fish were readily apparent. I walked through the shopping districts (Sheila and I should have no problem spending my paycheck while she's here) and I ended up strolling along the water. So glad to be back in a town with lots of water. The view across the Puget Sound is amazing: there are even more mountains.

This afternoon I'll head to the theatre to observe the load-in. This is our last load-in with Ken for awhile (he heads to Australia near the end of our engagement in Seattle to help tech the Australian tour), so I had better have some idea what goes on at the load-in before I have to do one in Boise. Our first week in Seattle looks like it will be a busy one. Load-in Tuesday and Wednesday. Two shows on Thursday (to make up for the one we missed on Tuesday). A rehearsal with Ben Davis (our soon-to-be Galahad) Friday afternoon and show Friday night. Then the 4 shows on Saturday and Sunday. We'll also be rehearsing our new swing this week and for the coming two weeks. Not a lot of time for sightseeing, I'm afraid.

I stole a few pictures from Fran's blog of the week that was:

The October Baseball crew: Tony, Vera, Patrick, JV & Michael


The Rockies win!


Cuz & Maggie at home.


Cuz at his grill.


We named this guy "Big Daddy". Obviously the bull of the part of the Denver Bison Herd that we were able to see. Such crazy looking animals.

Last night I was also able to listen to the Yankees game in its sad entirety. (My hotel doesn't have TBS, so I was spared the visuals. Hooray, however, for XM!) I won't recount it here; suffice to say it made me both angry and sad - so many wasted opportunities. I'm not as sure as George Steinbrenner seems to be how to "fix" the team. Whatever they do, I hope the Yankees' Front Office doesn't lose Jorge Posada to free agency. I did get choked up at the thought that I may not ever see Joe Torre in a Yankees uniform again (as I did on Sunday at the thought that Roger Clemens' last appearance in any baseball uniform was such a sad disaster).

I will let this photo from the Times be the last word on the subject.



JV

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Wardrobe Road-Trip #2

Saturday, October 6th

On Wednesday the Wardrobe Department (abbreviated, this time - Roy's sister was in town, so he hung out with her instead) and I took a second road-trip. Fran and Wayne picked me up in their PT Cruiser Wednesday morning and we headed west. Our first stop was Buffalo Bill’s gravesite.

William Cody is buried in a Denver City Park: Lookout Mountain. While the park is geographically in Golden Colorado, it is owned and maintained by Denver. Denver maintains a “necklace” of city-owned parks well outside of town. The mountain park system was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. Cody died in Denver at was buried in the foothills overlooking Denver and the Great Plains with the Rocky Mountains rising dramatically at his back. The view from his gravesite is spectacular.

Buffalo Bill's grave. People throw coins onto it. Weird.

Nearby, the city of Denver maintains one of two city-owned bison herds! They live in Genesee Park, also in the foothills. The herd was begun in 1914 with a few specimens from the wild herds of Yellowstone. Since then, the herd has grown and spawned a second herd. The city maintains about 24 cows and 2 bulls in each herd. The animals we saw have a large area within which to roam free (500 acres at Genesee Park). They even have a special bison tunnel that allows them to pass under I-70 and to another large pasture! When we arrived, the animals were hanging out very near to the fence that keeps them off the roadway, so they were easy to see. They are magnificent animals: great big bodies with enormous heads. They were just lying around and grazing, but I can imagine how impressive they must be on the run.

From the bison herd, we went to visit the Mother Cabrini Shrine. Maria Francesca Cabrini was born in 1850 in Lombardy, Italy. In 1889 she came to New York after founding her own order (The Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus). After her death in 1917 Mother Cabrini was canonized as the first American Saint (she became an American citizen in 1909) and declared the Patroness of Immigrants. She traveled the country (and the world) establishing orphanages, schools, nurseries and other social institutions. What is now the Mother Cabrini Shrine was founded as a summer camp for orphans. The central feature of the shrine is set of 376 steps that climb to the top of a hill with the Stations of the Cross and central events in the life of Jesus illustrated along the way. At the top of the hill is a giant statue of Jesus. When we were there the statue was under renovation, so we could only climb to the 350th step – that was plenty. At the base of the hill are a small chapel and a spring that purportedly is at the site that Mother Cabrini hit a rock with her staff and produced water. (This is the same Mother Cabrini for which Cabrini Boulevard and Mother Cabrini High School in my neighborhood of Washington Heights are named. She is enshrined under the alter at Saint Francis Cabrini Shrine on Fort Washington Ave. Her body is said to be incorrupt – a sign of her saintliness.)

From the shrine, we went to Red Rocks Park. Red Rocks is another of the Denver Mountain Parks and is most famous for its amphitheatre. The theatre has played host to all manner of big name music acts since its creation in 1906. The modern amphitheatre was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1941 and seats 9.450 people between the enormous sandstone formations. The rocks are of the same formation as the Garden of the Gods. Like Garden of the Gods, the rocks project out of the earth at odd angles. Fran is a big U2 fan, so this was a sort of pilgrimage for her (I guess that would make the second pilgrimage of the day!). We had a tasty lunch in the cafĂ© built in to the rocks. I enjoyed some buffalo chili and I have to admit that it was a little weird to be eating an animal that I had so recently been marveling at…

The amphitheatre at Red Rocks

Our last stop of the day was Dinosaur Ridge. We had a little trouble locating Dinosaur Ridge and drove around in the foothills for a bit, but we eventually located the visitor’s center. There we picked up a map and guide to the pertinent sites. What is now Dinosaur Ridge was as part of the Morrison Formation created between 148 and 155 million years ago during the Jurassic period. On view along Dinosaur Ridge are footprints of two different species (uncovered on the hillside during road construction for nearby Red Rocks), traces of ancient rivers and plants, as well as fossilized dinosaur bones visible in the exposed rock of the hillside. I have to admit that Fran and I found this stop on our road-trip a bit disappointing. Neither of us was exactly sure what we had hoped to see, but this wasn’t it. The dinosaur footprints look faked. Clearly, they aren’t (the place is a National Natural Monument), but they are in white limestone and have been shaded with a darker color to help them stand out. The effect is like kids handprints in cement. The fossilized bones haven’t been excavated at all, so they appear as cider-colored smudges in the sandstone and bear no relation to the bones you might see in a museum. I’m sure that a good tour guide could make the place really come alive and be super-interesting, but our self-guided pamphlet wasn’t doing it.
Dinosaur footprints - see what I mean, they look a little fake.

I’m so glad that I got to spend another day with my pals in the wardrobe department. (Roy, Wayne and I also took a late night trip up into the mountains to the casinos of Blackhawk, Colorado last week. I won $10 during our short stay!) We had such a good time in Utah and I’m happy to report the chemistry worked a second time – I wonder what we’ll find to do in the coming weeks?!?

The balance of the week was mostly taken up with professional considerations. We’ve been rehearsing a new company member: Ben Davis will take over as Sir Galahad in Seattle. We also welcomed Peter Lawrence and BT McNichol who watched a couple of shows and gave some notes to the company on Thursday and Friday. We’re right in the middle of the 5 show weekend, so my time in Denver is coming to an end. We’ll be off to Seattle on Monday!

A few words about baseball:

My hopes of a Yankees v. Cubbies World Series have been dashed. I really feel for the fans in Chicago – the Diamondbacks?!? Who knew? I kept thinking to myself this afternoon as I watched the Cubs game: “is there a more beautiful baseball park than the Friendly Confines?” I hope that whoever buys the Cubs doesn’t follow Stienbrenner’s lead. Wrigley Field is a cathedral.

The Yankees broke my heart twice the week. It took a Biblical Plague of insects (it should be pointed out) to help the Tribe over the top on Friday night. The mayflies crawling all over Joba were disgusting. The series comes home to New York on Sunday – Let’s Go Yankees!!!


The Rockies continue their astonishing late season run. I’m super excited by and for them, but the fair-weather fandom here hurts my heart. While a team playing like the Rockies are certainly deserves a full house, a week ago Coors Field was less than half full. There were an awful lot of folks at Coors Field tonight holding signs that said “believe” that probably didn’t make it to more than one other game this season. The Rockies and the Diamondbacks playing for the NLCS – WHO KNEW?!?

Finally, TBS’s coverage is a joke. I don’t care how much they paid MLB for the rights to the playoffs, perhaps the playoffs should be covered by a network with a legitimate sports division.

JV

Thursday, October 4, 2007

October Baseball

Thursday, October 4th
Monday afternoon Cuz (our audio engineer) and his wife Maggie invited us all to their home for a barbecue. Cuz grilled buffalo burgers, Colorado trout and some portabella mushrooms. Maggie dished out some goodies from her garden: pickled peppers and carrots, fresh grapes and homemade apple crisp (with apples from their backyard tree).

Their home is adorable. It’s a little house on a city lot. Maggie is an artist (you can see some of her work here) and their home is filled with her work. The front yard is one big flower garden. The back of their home features a nice big deck that abuts the big, built-in, brick grill that Cuz manned so ably all afternoon. Maggie has a big vegetable garden, an apple tree and bunch of grape vines that grow alongside her art studio.

It was a relaxing afternoon. We hung out in the back yard, played with the Spamily dogs, and drank Cuz’s delicious margaritas.

The Colorado Rockies have been playing like a team possessed. When we went to the baseball game during the first week here in Denver, the Rockies were pretty much out of the play-off picture. They went on a late season winning streak that, combined with a late season collapse by the Mets and a less than amazing run by the Padres, put them right in the thick of things in the last week of the season. The Rockies won 13 of their final 14 games to force a one game wild card play-off on Monday with the Padres. Tickets went on sale Sunday evening (after the game became a reality). I scored 6 seats to the game with the repeated use of the refresh button on my browser and had no trouble finding 5 other folks to come to the game with me.

The first pitch of the game was scheduled for 5:37 on Monday night. By then, Denver was deep in the grip of baseball fever. The mood in town was electric as we headed to the park. The Air Force Academy provided a fly-over. We had great seats in the first two rows of the upper deck around past third base. Coors Field was packed to the rafters and everyone was rooting for the home team.

The view from our seats at the top of the game.

Monday night’s game was one of the most thrilling baseball games I have ever attended. I say that as a Yankee fan who has been to a couple of Yankees/Red Socks contests. Monday’s game was certainly the equal of the Yankees defeat of the Red Sucks in game 3 of the 2004 ALCS. The game had everything: the home team took an early lead, fell behind and caught back up, a grand slam, the umpires absolutely blew a homerun call that would have given the Rockies the win, and there was a heart-stopping play at the plate. The game went on and on. The Rockies Rookie of the Year candidate (Troy Tulowitzki) played late inning defense that was not to be believed to keep the Rockies alive inning after inning. In the top of the thirteenth inning, the Rockies bullpen gave up a two-run homer. All the air went out of the park. The crowd that had been wild all night long (we stood for 80% of the game) was suddenly morose. In the bottom of the thirteenth, the Rockies scored one and then another run to tie the game. With runners on the corners, the batter popped up to right field and the runner on third came home. The Rockies MVP candidate, Matt Holliday, dove head-first toward the plate as the throw came in from shallow right. The players crashed together, the ball popped loose and after an awful delay the home plate umpire called the runner safe. The ballpark erupted. The Rockies won 9-8. The centerfield gate opened and the Denver police roared around the warning track on motorcycles with lights flashing. A wild shirtless fan tried to circle the bases pursued by security guards. The centerfield scoreboard fired off volley after volley of silver and purple fireworks. Strangers embraced. We all screamed with what was left of our voices. It was after 10 PM – 4 and a half hours after the first pitch.

Holliday comes in to the plate.


Safe at home.

We must have hung around in the park for almost half an hour after the game just cheering and high-fiving. The atmosphere was electric. We climbed up 20 rows to have our pictures taken in the mile-high seats before we finally started to leave. When we made it out to the street, the police were containing the pandemonium. The major streets were open, but the fans streamed down the middle of the side streets cheering and chanting. Magical. None of us wanted to go straight home so we stopped in at the Rock Bottom Brewery for a celebratory drink and some food.

The Rockies went into the play-offs as the hottest team in major leagues. Denver has gone crazy for them. On the street the purple and black of the Rockies now outnumbers the orange and blue of the Broncos. Baseball fever has a-hold of Denver. I couldn’t be happier. I would hate to be the Phillies and have to play the hottest team in baseball… (The Phils dropped both of their home games (4-2 & 10-5) to put them in a big hole in the division series - the Rockies have a chance to wrap it up at home on Saturday.)

JV

Whitewater Rafting?!?

Thursday, October 4th

Last Wednesday the Spamily took a tour drive south and west of Denver to the Arkansas River. I rode over with Nate and Esther and the drive was really nice. While we drove south to Colorado Springs, we were traveling parallel to the Rocky Mountains, but once we turned west, we were headed into the “foothills”. (In Michigan, the “foothills” would be big “mountains”.) We drove past Cheyenne Mountain. Cheyenne Mountain contains an entire city and command center buried within the mountain in case of a nuclear disaster. Creepy. We also passed through some of the high plains farmland. As we got closer to the Arkansas, there were some orchards and other farms irrigated with water from the river.

Piper had arranged a 3 hour rafting trip with an outfit called Raft Masters. They suited us up in river boots, wet suits, splash jackets and life vests before loading us into vans and hauling us to the beginning of our trip. The Arkansas is the most commercially rafted river in the world, but things were pretty quiet the day we were there. The summer rafting season was winding down – only Raft Masters and one other outfit were still offering trips. Before we pushed off, our guides gave us some paddling and safety instructions. Standing there on the beach in my wetsuit and splash jacket, it became clear that a waterproof jacket was going to keep me way to warm (it was warmer than 70 degrees in the sun with a water temperature of about 55 degrees). I shed the splash jacket as we headed onto the river.

The first half an hour of the river was smooth. We used it as an opportunity to practice our team paddling and maneuvers. I was in a boat with five other Spammers: Vera, Justin, Jen, Andrew and Jeff Brewer – we were a great mix of people and departments. Our guide was quick to complement us on our team work. After the first half-hour, things got more interesting. We passed through a series of “warm-up” rapids before the real fun began. The Arkansas features some challenging and exciting rapids of class 3, 4 and 4+ classifications. Our guide has been taking groups through the rapids for several years, but still each set of rapids was a blast! Our trip consisted of 3 boats of Spamily and one more boat of random folks. We went through each set of rapids one at a time, meaning we got to watch all the other boats and cheer them on.

Our boat hung up on the rocks only once and we quickly freed ourselves. Some of the other boats weren’t as lucky. Most memorably, one of the Spamalot boats hung up on a rock and dumped a few rafters in to the water on the low side – they quickly got back into the boat and eventually pushed off the rock, only to get stuck surfing in a whirlpool. It must have taken them a half dozen tries to get paddled out. We were all waiting down-river clapping and cheering.

The Arkansas passes through the Royal Gorge and the scenery is just spectacular. In the middle of the gorge the rock walls rise 1,100 feet nearly straight up on either side. All along the river run the tracks of the former Rio Grande line and a scenic railroad makes the same trip we did for those who don’t want to get wet. The river passes below the world’s highest suspension bridge. It spans the gorge at its highest point and was a trial run for the Golden Gate Bridge (now it’s a bridge to nowhere and a major tourist attraction).

After we passed out of the gorge, there was another hour of calmer water before we pulled our boat out of the water. The scenery was still spectacular. The mountains rose on both sides of the river, just a little less dramatically. A peregrine falcon soared above us and mule deer grazed along the banks. The river was running more slowly than at some other times of the year (the same 3+ hour trip we took runs only 45 minutes in the spring), but I was glad to have some time to take it all in.

When we finally pulled our boat out of the river it was after 4 PM and I had acquired pretty impressive sunburn. I put on sunscreen thinking I would be wearing a jacket. When I took the jacket off the wetsuit left my shoulders exposed. Now, when was the last time anyone saw my in the sun without my shoulders exposed? Their whiteness (at the beginning of the trip) was blinding; by Wednesday evening, their redness was equally surprising.

I was, admittedly, nervous about the trip right up to the moment we put the boat in the water. (When did I become this nervous Nelly?) Once we got underway, however, I had a blast. While the trip was certainly a workout, it was less physical while we were doing it than I had imagined. Both of the other Spamalot boats dumped folks into the river, but we were never even very close in our boat. It is safe to say that I had a blast!

I ordered some photos from the commercial photographer who staked out the big rapids in the middle of our trip, but that CD won’t arrive for a while. You can check out their website and see some action shots they captured from the trip. My boat is in shots 14 – 26 (you can find them easily – look for the guy with the screaming white shoulders).

JV