Rafting on Ouachita

20130720-Rockport Rafting-001

If my graduation trip to the Grand Canyon is going to work well, Bryan and I ought to have some idea about how oar rafts work. One pretty afternoon, our friend Debo offered to show us how to row one of their rafts. I sort of understood the way the raft worked but had a hard time getting my arms to work well with my brain in order to make it go where I wanted it to go. I could get it down the river ok, and I could turn it in circles in the middle of the river, but actually catching eddies along the sides of the stream were really more than I could figure out.

20130720-Rockport Rafting-002

Bryan did better than me in the ‘how to make this thing go where I want it to’ department, but his big advantage is that he has about twelve times more upper body strength than I do, so he was able to row longer and harder and actually get the boat to behave better than I was. My primary job for the last two thirds of the trip was taking pictures and jumping up and down on the air-filled raft in order to make people laugh at me.

20130720-Rockport Rafting-003

As is the case on most summer weekend afternoons, when we got to Rockport we found lots of friends in lots of boats. As fun as it is to play at Rockport, it’s just as much fun to watch others work on surfing and tricks at the ledge. People in rental canoes and flotillas of tubers wander down and through the group, too, and on a good day there are extra boats around – rafts and duckies and standup paddleboards to play with.

20130720-Rockport Rafting-004

I’d wanted to take Cowper’s Star raft for another trip down the river, but I should have known better – there were games to play. Tanya Sacomani and I helped paddle the raft into a hole where we were able to park it for awhile, the upstream motion of the wave holding us steady against the downstream motion of the river current. We pulled cans of beer out of our pfds and drank them as the boat pitched and Bryan took pictures.

20130720-Rockport Rafting-007

Usually, a trip to Rockport means an afternoon in the water followed by a long supper with friends at some area Mexican place, and this day wasn’t any different. Sure, we could save time by making the half-hour drive to the ledge, staying for an hour or two, and then driving straight back home. But we never, ever do. It’s funny how these trips have become just as much about the friends as about the boats and the water.

I Do Love to Plan a Trip

Mandy has the doctors’ blessings to keep playing; she’s learning how to protect her back and mitigate her pain. And so we’re launching ourselves, without the usual time to plan, into our summer adventures. Our friend Britt had planned to go with her on a two-week train-and-bike trip to northern New York, but they decided they weren’t up to the back-to-back 70-mile days that it would require. They’ve put their heads together and decided to go on a two-week rambling road trip to the Badlands, Corn Palace, Mount Rushmore, Glacier, and Arches. She’s gone to Tulsa for her three-week visit, leaving the rest of us to plan their trip. Britt’s planning the route and the side trips and the car campgrounds and the dayhikes they’ll do. Earlier this week, Britt tucked three pages of notes under my windshield wiper in the office parking lot.

2013 07 12 Britts Trip Notes for Blog Continue reading “I Do Love to Plan a Trip”

The Wedding in NOLA

Bryan’s little brother Michael got married.


I haven’t been involved the hustle that comes before weddings since getting ready for my own. It was fun to be caught in the edge of the whirlwind. As soon as we arrived in town, Mandy left again with the cluster of people headed to the wedding rehearsal. Bryan and I stayed behind to get the rehearsal dinner heated up and on the table – pans of pasta, french bread, salad, fruit, petits fours, brownies. And then there was the surge of people in the house after the rehearsal, more people than I’d imagined, stuffed into the big kitchen, laughing and talking, excited about being part of something happy. I got a plate of food and a Hurricane and retreated to a chair in the backyard.


At some point the next afternoon, Juliana and some people I didn’t know rushed into the house and took over the kitchen, with its big marble countertop, to make pralines. We went to do a few errands, an dress (black and white, but that’s fine) and about Aunt Dot’s dress (classy and gold-and-white, completely perfect.)


The day of the wedding was another whirlwind, though a somewhat more controlled one. We slept late and Bryan painted Mandy’s toenails. We scratched our heads over her tan lines, which she’d been working to smooth out, without much success. Julie did Mandy’s hair and makeup in the kitchen before running home to get herself and the baby ready to go. We fussed over Mandy’s dress and made sure her things were packed before sending her off for pictures.


I’d never seen Bryan’s dad or brothers in suits, and I was impressed by how handsome they looked. Michael met us at the car to open the door, a sudden gentleman escorting his grandma into the wedding hall. Kevin was there, and JD, dressed in dark suits and white vests and Chuck Taylors and boutonni√®res. It was a combination of classy and silly, and they all pulled it off very well. I was proud of each of them.


It was Mandy’s first bridesmaid gig, and she did a very nice job. Before the wedding, she helped Juliana get ready, and after the wedding she drank her officially-sanctioned Lemondrop without making a face. She looked lovely in the pictures and she danced with the little ones and she talked to the old people and she was gracious and thoughtful and she only ordered pineapple juice from the open bar and we were proud of her.


The rest of the weekend was good, spent in a sort of content wedding afterglow. On Saturday night, Mandy crashed on the couch next to Aunt Dot while Bryan and I went to supper at Deanie’s with my friend Cristina. We ate oysters and walked barefoot, far after dark, along the path at the edge of Lake Pontchartrain. On Sunday we had beignets for breakfast and took Emma to the bookstore. We ate lunch with Bryan’s grandma, and a sudden afternoon thunderstorm trapped us inside the seafood restaurant, and Mandy dumped an entire glass of ice water into her lap, and none of these details are really important but the total of all of them is.


Welcome to our family, Juliana.

Hey, Meat! Get In The Net!

When Bryan was a kid growing up just outside of New Orleans proper, his dad owned a small shrimp boat. He has lots of little-boy memories about waking up before dawn and trawling for shrimp. But the boat was gone long before Mandy and I were part of the family.

Louisiana shrimp boat at dawn
Louisiana shrimp boat at dawn (not the family boat).

Now Bryan’s dad’s (and brother) bought another little shrimp boat. He offered to take off work the Friday before Michael’s wedding so that Mandy and I could go trawling. Mandy was excited, because she loves shrimp and crab. “Hey meat! Get in the net!” She thought all this food-catching business was a great idea. Continue reading “Hey, Meat! Get In The Net!”

Birthday Boat Recovery

Bryan planned a perfect birthday trip for me. It was completely ridiculous and vaguely useful, and it sounded like a ton of fun.

Someone had found a jonboat pinned in a spot halfway through a ten-mile stretch of Cadron Creek, and we were going to go unpin it and get it out. It was far from simple: We’d need to put together a group of people to float down to the boat, then get the boat loose from the current that was pushing it up against a large rock in the middle of the creek. We’d need to take a kit of rope and webbing and pulleys to unpin the boat. We’d need to take a motor with us so that if the thing would float, we could ‘drive’ it a few more miles downstream to a takeout. Continue reading “Birthday Boat Recovery”

Rec School 2013

Last year, our trip to the ACC’s School of Recreational Kayaking was our first real instruction in boating. Mandy was out of town, so she missed it, but Bryan and I spent the weekend in our first kayaks, the LiquidLogic XPs, and we learned a lot. This year, we approached the school in a much different way. We’ve all become much better paddlers in the last year, but there’s still a tremendous amount to learn. Bryan pitched in as a ‘safety boater’ for one of the basic kayak classes; I borrowed a whitewater canoe and enrolled in the canoe class.


Mandy’s back kept us from making a decision about what she’d do for the weekend. At the last minute, she got the blessing of her new orthopedic doctor. He had some concerns about the body position required by a kayak – her hamstrings are very tight, which puts her lower back in a strained position – so he suggested a little time in a canoe. On very short notice, she borrowed a Spanish Fly from our friend Cole. She had a great weekend getting to know a new boat. Continue reading “Rec School 2013”

Crash and Burn

When Mandy was nine, she broke her right femur. Badly. We knew it had healed slightly longer than the other one. About a year ago, her lower back started to bother her. Her legs were still almost a centimeter different in length, so we added a lift to her shoes, and she felt a lot better.

Earlier this spring, Mandy’s back started to bother her again. At first we thought that she might need to be more consistent about wearing the lifted shoe, but when that didn’t solve the problem we took her in to the orthopedic doctor for another checkup. We got bad news: her damaged leg has continued to grow. Now the difference is between two and three centimeters. That’s quite a bit. Continue reading “Crash and Burn”

Ice Water School


We’ve been looking forward to Whitewater School since we started paddling with the Arkansas Canoe Club. As the class got closer and closer, we got more and more excited. Camping! In May! On the Mulberry River! With friends! It sounded like a great weekend. We like to paddle, and we like to learn stuff, and that was just going to make it better.

But then it was the week before class, and we couldn’t help but notice that the forecast predicted lows in the thirties for the weekend. And rain. Camping and paddling started sounding somewhat less appealing. Continue reading “Ice Water School”