Meet the/a President

An item that’s wavered on my list for a while has been “Meet the/a President.”  It’s not officially on the list, but still always in the back of my mind.  In ways, I feel like I’ve met the goal already.

In May of 2010 I took a trip with a couple friends to South Dakota.  My good friend grew up there, so it was somewhat of a reunion for her and a completely new experience for me.  We planned activities we’re seldom able to do in Florida, if at all: hiking, horseback riding through a mountain, camping, roasting marshmallows, driving down windy roads, oohing and aahhing at Mount Rushmore, gambling, and petting buffalo.  Ok, we didn’t really pet buffalo.  But we had a few buffalo burgers.  I’ve gotta say, I’m not a fan.

Anyway, we stayed a few nights in the small town of Rapid City before making our way to Mount Rushmore.  The city features statues of all the Presidents past, so we had great fun posing with each and every one.

When we finally saw Mount Rushmore, I was impressed.  It’s truly breathtaking and worth a visit.  I couldn’t believe the wave of patriotism that washed over me as I stood directly in front of the masterpiece.  The museum they have there does an excellent job describing the difficulty of so precisely blasting the side of a mountain piece by piece.  The spectacle wasn’t created with a computer or lasers; this thing was made by packs of dynamite, dedicated workers hanging by threads, and sheer bravery.

If visiting Mount Rushmore (or meeting a President) is on your list, I encourage you to visit the Black Hills of South Dakota.  It’s a great vacation for outdoorsy types.  Definitely go starting in June when the weather is nice and there is a decent amount of tourists.  Those little towns in that area thrive solely on tourism, so most things are shut down any time before early summer.

Kayak

I was a little nervous the first time I went kayaking.  The only thing I could compare it to at that time was canoeing, and the one and only time I’ve ever done that was a train wreck, to put it nicely.

When I sat down in the kayak and pushed off, I felt so…buoyant.  Never once have I felt like I would flip out or capsize.  The arm workout is great, but you get to sit back in a better position than a canoe.  On a hot day, the water dripping down off the paddle feels really nice.

Once I rented a triple kayak and although my friend in the middle couldn’t help paddle, she manned the camera and got some really cool shots.

Check out my guns.

Triple kayak fun

Beautiful scenery

One of my favorite places to kayak is Wekiwa Springs in the Orlando area.  I haven’t yet taken the plunge and kayaked in the ocean.  Maybe I should work out my arms a little more before I try that.

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I went canoeing with my mom, dad, and brother when I was probably 10 or so.  I was a scrawny little thing, weighing in around 65 pounds.  My parents decided to stick me in a canoe with my larger-than-life brother: 6’4”, 200 pounds, and seven years my senior.

Needless to say, he rocked and squirmed and I held on to my lifejacket with the fear of capsizing.  My parents laughed at my horrified face the whole time, so on the way back my mom partnered with my brother, and I relaxed as my dad rowed us along.  I think I got sun burnt, but it was better than the alternative.

My mom gained an appreciation for my initial endeavor after she flipped out the second time and lost her shoes.  I’ll never forget her holding up the lifejacket that had these words: “PLEASE HELP.”

Today, when I pass canoers, I remember that day and simultaneously feel grateful to have discovered kayaking.

Skydive

Legs back, arms crossed,…wait! What else do I do?

Sitting on the edge of a tin-can plane, hearing only wind and the sound of my heartbeat, I awaited the most amazing–and maybe the last–experience of my life.

My best friend and I prayed nervously before we made our jumps.

“God, please let us make it to the ground safely. And if not, please forgive us for being stupid.”

I was the first one to jump. I was determined to do everything I was supposed to. The video I watched just minutes before explained explicitly I could die.  My only job was to cross my arms in an X across my chest, and throw my knees behind me through the tandem diver’s legs. We rocked on the edge of the plane: one, two, three…

Exhilaration. The wind was so loud I couldn’t hear my thoughts. It didn’t matter since I wasn’t thinking anything at all, except maybe single words like wow, sky, wind, oh, sun, and wow.

That's me on the left, putting the suit on.

This was our plane. It was so small, there were no seats. Instead, we were packed in like sardines.

Flying high in the sky

Skydiving is so risky and crazy that it’s the most cliche item on anyone’s bucket list. Alas, it was on mine. Cliche as it is, I’m proud to say I crossed it off about 5 years ago when I was still a brace-faced baby. To this day, when I face a challenging experience, I recall that I jumped out of a plane at 13,000 feet, and suddenly whatever it is seems doable.

A few years ago, a movie came out called The Bucket List in which a couple guys set out to accomplish some dreams before they kicked the bucket. Even before that movie, I always had a mental list of risks to take, places to travel, people to meet, foods to taste, and so on. When the movie gained popularity, I thought it would be a nice idea to actually write my dreams down somewhere. Writing them down makes me feel committed to my dreams, and since then I’ve crossed several items off the list. When I accomplish one, I feel the need to add at least one more. When I experience something wonderful about this world and the people in it, I usually discover there is more for me to try.

My current list is below.

  • white water rafting
  • zip lining
  • run a 5K
  • be a model for a day
  • take a bubble bath in a clawfoot tub
  • eat caviar
  • eat foie gras
  • write a book
  • write my initials in wet cement
  • ride a gondola in Italy
  • ride in a hot air balloon
  • stand underneath a waterfall
  • slow dance with someone I love

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