Day 2 – On Sunday morning, we got up with the goal of leaving Burnsville, NC at 9 a.m. After taking some family pictures with Granddad and Grandee, we loaded up the van and headed down the mountain right on time. One of our goals for our trip is to have time in God’s Word together at the beginning of the day. Over the last few months, we’ve been studying the book of Matthew as a family so we just picked up where we left off. I read aloud the day’s passage in chapter 11 while Jimmy drove. We had a thought-provoking discussion about John the Baptist – why he would have sent his disciples to ask Jesus if He was the one John was waiting for even after he had baptized Jesus and heard the voice of God. We discussed how John the Baptist was probably doubting that Jesus was the Messiah because he was in prison. My kids surprised me with some of their insights into the passage. It was a sweet way to start the day. I-40 got more and more winding and more remote as we made our way to the Tennessee border. As we entered Tennessee, we rolled the windows down and blared “Rocky Top” (courtesy of our 99 cent 3-month Spotify Premium deal).
We had to be in Hartford, TN by 12:15 p.m. for our 1 p.m. rafting trip with an outfit called Rafting in the Smokies. I found this company on the Roadtrippers app I mentioned in my last blog. This rafting group just happened to pop up on our route and all the reviews were excellent. You could either choose from a leisurely float down the Pigeon River or the Class 3 or 4 rapids. I would have preferred the former, the rest of my family the latter. I knew that this trip was going to involve doing some things that were out of my comfort zone – so I signed us up for the Class 3 & 4 rapids. After all the rain we’ve had, I was concerned that the trip might be cancelled for high water. When I called the company before we left for our trip, a very energetic lady answered the phone and told me that the river is dam-controlled and “the more rain, the better!” Oh my, what have I gotten myself into?
Contrary to our family’s MO, we actually got to the rafting check-in spot early. We were able to check it all out, change into our bathing suits and water shoes, sign our waivers 😊, and wait to be called. We met a nice man who worked for the rafting company – he was like the Wal-mart greeter, just for rafting. He assured me that in 40 years of operation, they’ve never had a death or serious injury. Phew!
At 12:45 p.m., they fitted us for helmets, PFDs, and paddles. Two of our boys had GoPro cameras, so they rented two special helmets with a GoPro mount on top. We met our guide and all boarded the old school bus to the drop-in spot. Our guide, Russell, was an interesting guy. He lives in a “tiny house” on wheels and travels the country. He was a wealth of information about other destinations on our trip – he gave us hiking trail and restaurant recommendations out west. He kept saying, “Tell them Russ sent you.”
I must admit – I was really nervous. I just didn’t want to fall out of the raft. It seemed that everyone I talked to who had been whitewater rafting had either fallen out of the raft or had a raftmate fall out. But honestly, when we got in the raft and I put my feet under the “thort” I felt pretty secure. I thought that’s what the guide called it but I must be wrong because when I google it, I only find information about Thor. Anyway, it’s a cross brace part of the raft that you can tuck your feet under. Ok, I googled it. It’s actually a thwart. My feet were so far under it that I was starting to lose feeling in them. I love thwarts.
Our guide gave us great directions on paddling. The key is to paddle together so the guide doesn’t do all the work. Honestly, I got pretty wet and the water was really cold but it was an exhilarating experience. I think it was also really special because we got to work as a team and experience something together that none of us had done before. I would highly recommend whitewater rafting – even to the scaredy cats like me.
The other cool thing is that the weather was supposed to be iffy – a chance for storms all day. The rain stopped just before we got on the raft. The sun came out for our hour and a half trip (5 ½ miles of river). And then as soon as we got into our car with our sandwiches that we made that morning for lunch, the skies opened up. I thanked God for the weather.
2 other cool God moments: we made Blessing Bags for people that we meet along the way who may have a need. Jimmy also wrote a note from our family and included a booklet about the 4 spiritual laws of salvation in each bag. Russ, the bearded Viking-looking guy in the picture to the right, was telling us that he has 3 trips each day with only 20 minutes in between. He’s always starving. Jimmy decided to run back to find our guide after our trip and give him one of our blessing bags. It has lots of healthy snacks in it. Jimmy said that Russell’s eyes lit up when he gave him the bag. You never know what impact a simple gift will have on another soul. Also, Jimmy went to purchase some rafting pictures and somehow decided to change spots at the counter when he looked down and saw both of our GoPro cameras on the counter. The boys had left them there and gone back to the car. We’ve explained to the kids that this is our Road Trip Across America tour not the Leave Stuff All Over America Tour. Our first casualty may have been the GoPro cameras if Jimmy didn’t “happen” to see them.
After a satisfying picnic lunch in the car, we headed to Lacassas, Tennessee to spend the night with my college friend, Kate, and her family. On the way to her house, my GPS all of a sudden told me that we were going to get there an hour earlier than expected. How cool – we had driven into the Central Time Zone and gained an hour. To top it all off, my friend had a wonderful lasagna dinner waiting for us. And my husband Jimmy’s favorite part of the meal – chocolate chip cookie brownies. Thank you Lord for time with old friends and another special day!