Tonight’s blog may be a little sketchy, dear reader, as your reliable narrator did find a lovely margarita in the local Mexican restaurant (within walking distance) of the high school in Calhoun, Georgia. After eight hours of sun a shot or two of tequila will do wonders for your sunburn.
We moved camp today. Starting at a red sky early morning (sailor take warning), clanking aluminum tent poles and zipping Gore-Tex echoed across the dewy grass of the Gilmer County High School practice field. On our way down to the one coffee station, we dropped our three tons of stuff off at the semi trailer truck hired to scoot belongings from Point A to Point B while the group spent the day shuffling down the Coosawattee (pronounced Coosa-Wah-TEE if you are a cool kid).
Ah, the group. I mentioned on GPB that this entire experience reminds me of a grunge version of a pleasure cruise. We’re all stuck together, and even though there are different activities on different decks (or gym rooms) for your continued entertainment, we are all stuck together. That means sharing showers, breaking bread at the same time, and facing difficult and unexpected conversations at inopportune moments (such as, “Hey, do you know where they keep the plunger?” while I’m finishing my peach cobbler). This level of intimacy sets my teeth on edge, generally. But it has been interesting to watch certain characters bloom in this environment, kinda like bacteria in a Petri dish.
For example, there’s Locker Room Lady. Locker Room Lady hangs out in the showers, naked, with all her wobbly bits exposed for heavens and paddlers to see. She puts on sunscreen while naked; she discusses her menopausal characteristics while naked; she looks for her lost contact on the floor while naked. She’s earned it, she claims. Like others of her ilk, she believes in a correlation between hard work during the day and loss of modesty at night. “Who would be modest after all we’ve been through together,” she asks, while digging through her mesh bag for a spare travel bottle of shampoo. Sorry, lady, but drifting down a river in a canoe does not count as “all we’ve been through,” in my book. I’m showering in my swimsuit.
Another personality I’ve enjoyed on this trip is Hula Girl. Hula girl brought hula hoops to Camp Paddle Georgia. She’s probably in her 40’s. A forty year old woman brought hula hoops. I know. I thought the same thing. Anyway, hula girl represents that ultra-fun strain of persona who cheerleads every minor accomplishment (“hey, we’re getting on the bus, yea!”) and spontaneously burst into song while paddling across the lake. Most of the time she picks especially annoying songs, like anything by the Beach Boys. Nothing makes you want to flip your canoe like hearing Hula Girl sing “Ba-bra-An-a-an.”
Today I spent the day with the Adopt-a-Geeks, aka Adopt-a-Stream testers. These guys work their way through Paddle Georgia, conducting water tests and chemical analysis tests at various spots along the river. Wise boaters watch the nerds to see if it’s safe to take a dip and wash off the extra sunscreen; if the water testers are dry, stay out of the river.
Big props to the city of Ellijay for taking in all of these characters, and good luck to Calhoun. So far, Calhoun High School rocks. Someone has music playing in the bathroom all the time, which is great for erasing the memory of Hula Girl’s singing, and they even sprung for shower curtains. And if you find yourself in Calhoun, I highly recommend El Pueblito for margaritas on Monday night. Day on the river or not, a drink on the rocks is a great investment, and could really help one get along with all the characters.