- By Pam LeBlanc American-Statesman Staff
Earlier this year, I wrote about how I’ve declared 2017 my Year of Adventure.
I’m embracing all kinds of challenges, and so far I’ve leaped off a 10-meter platform into a swimming pool, run a naked 5K, rappelled down a 38-story building while dressed as Wonder Woman and attempted a water ski jump. (Yes, I’m still in one piece, and no, I don’t have an enhanced insurance plan.)
While sharing stories of my adrenaline-fueled 12 months, I invited other readers to share their own adventures. The stories and calls flooded in. Here are some of our favorites.
Sail away with me
“In the late 1960s, my dad persuaded my mom that they should build a sailboat in the backyard, sell all their stuff and sail away to the Caribbean for a few years to explore. They already had three children but figured they were small so the boat wouldn’t have to be big or expensive.
Many people had similar boat dreams in California then, but my Dad was an engineer and could actually figure out how to build a boat. They bought an unfinished fiberglass shell and had it delivered to the backyard. They learned enough Morse code to get a radio license, had the boat hauled to the coast and sold the house.
As a teenager I’m afraid I did not have a good attitude toward the whole scheme.
My parents and my younger sister and brother and I spent most of 1980 traveling around Mexico and Central America on the Bold Venture. We went through the Panama Canal. My brother and sister did correspondence school (horrible!), and I free-read. We called my grandparents by shortwave and phone-patch about once a month. We avoided two civil wars and did not swim in any bay where the sharks looked longer than the dinghy.
We arrived in Texas just before the start of the next hurricane season. We were out of money, and we all had to relearn wearing shoes so we could move ashore and get jobs. After a few months, I packed my things and moved to school, a different person from the one who didn’t want to go adventuring in the first place.
The older I get, the more amazed I am that my dad did this and we went along with it. We navigated without long-range navigation or GPS. No part of the boat ever broke so badly that my parents couldn’t fix it.”
— Cathey Carter
It’s the climb
“In June, 10 Austinites between the ages of 15 and 50-something flew to Tanzania to climb up Mount Kilimanjaro. The idea materialized last winter, during a weekly exercise session in my driveway. Since my wife, Gretchen, is a travel adviser, she suggested that the group do something challenging like climb a mountain. Surprisingly, several of her workout buddies accepted the challenge, and the trip was on. We were eight females and two token guys.
What none of the participants fully grasped ahead of time was that we would be primitive camping on an African mountain for seven nights, including one at 16,000 feet and one in the actual crater on summit day at 19,000-feet plus. It is cold, there is no oxygen, and there is really nothing that you can do to prepare for it. Naiveté proved helpful, because on several nights whimpers and sobs to the tune of ‘What are we doing here?’ and ‘Why did we do this?’ could be heard emanating from one tent or another. Our little citified group, code-named ‘Austin Adventurists,’ would surely have been much smaller had everyone known what true camping really entails.
Wally Berg, who has been leading climbs on mountains all over the world for several decades, led our group. All we civilians had to do was prepare. Some of us began running the Hill of Life, hiking up and down with a 20-pound dumbbell in a backpack, breaking in our hiking boots, working on our breathing, running Lady Bird Lake and psyching up. Others, like our 15-year-old daughter, did absolutely nothing except bake great cookies and watch ‘Glee’ with her daddy.
Experiences like this are great, because regardless of the amount of preparation that one does, there are always surprises. Being able to adapt, overcome adversity and that little voice of doubt and persevere are what make things memorable. The toughest times are the most enriching.
Of all of the things that I took away from the Kilimanjaro experience, the most enriching was spending nine days with guys whose job it was to make our lives on that hill as pleasant as possible. Their grace and positivity under duress were exemplary, and all of us took something profound away from it because of them.”
— Les Canter
Better safe than sorry?
“To me, adventure usually does not involve a guide, usually does involve someone saying, ‘Ricky, please don’t,’ and is usually solo — like floating the irrigation channel on a cheap air mattress from Balmorhea park to Balmorhea city. Or diving at night, alone, because no one else would go. Or swimming through a culvert at Blanco State Park.
Often, the line between adventurous and stupid is blurry.
So I’ve been working on a quote. I’ve been whittling on it for a while trying to make it more manageable. It still needs work, and a grammarian.
‘Better safe than sorry’ is our national mantra. The thing is, ‘sorry’ has two meanings: 1. Regretful, 2. Pitiful. The more we obsess about the first, the more we become the second.”
— Rick Du Rapeau
Lilac and me
“This past summer, my dog Lilac, a red Doberman, and I traveled 10,000 miles, biked 600 miles and flew 3,000 miles. I started by driving from Austin to Portland, Ore., where I hopped in an RV and drove to Girdwood, Alaska, stopping to visit Misty Fjords National Monument and Carcross, Yukon. I’m 79.
After returning to the lower 48, I helped lead a youth bike ride down the Pacific Coast, from Leggett, Calif., to Corte Madera. I hiked and biked in both the Williams Valley and the Kalmiopsis Wilderness of Oregon. We then joined friends in Palisade, Colo., to bike in the Colorado National Monument and eat the divine peaches grown there. I went from snow in the Yukon to 113 degrees in Arizona before returning to the delightful warmth of my favorite city, Austin.”
— Wally Kessler
The meaning of unmaintained
“About three years ago, four longtime Texas friends were touring the sites in Big Bend park and came upon a fork in the road while trying to determine the most direct route back to the Chisos Mountain Basin.
Left or right? We turned toward Black Gap Road, the unmaintained road in the park, and our adventure started. We commented on what ‘unmaintained’ meant. Little did we know, we would soon answer that question.
Lucky for us, our host (and driver), Kathy Bork of Alpine, had four-wheel drive. We almost immediately hit and stuck in a dry creek bed and needed outside direction about exiting the deep sand. Janis Berry, of Spring Branch, took the job of standing in front of the vehicle and motioning to zig or zag and when to move forward or back. Anne Thomas Quiroga and I — both from Austin — sat complacently in our seats and watched.
We finally got unstuck and moved on and over the next hill, only to hit a part of the road that had disappeared on one side. Again Janis stood in the road in front of the vehicle, directing Kathy about how to avoid falling into the void. I determined that the best course would be to evacuate the vehicle, as I was sure we would roll like a tumbleweed. Down the road, several additional dry creek beds required a long day of mental acuity and hands gripped on the steering wheel.
Luck was with us — even with a dwindling water supply and lack of cellphone coverage — as we rounded a curve and came back upon humanity.”
— Pat Boone
Try the creek
“I want to suggest a simple outdoor adventure that is lots of fun but is usually overlooked or not in people’s awareness at all — namely, to go hiking IN local streams. I have been doing these water hikes for years now, and I never get tired of them. You need sturdy water shoes or sneakers, plus a shallow stream such as Bull Creek, Barton Creek, Turkey Creek or Block House Creek. In terms of dealing with the Texas heat, this outdoor activity is literally cool as well, and the truly adventurous can swim through any deeper sections. Creek hiking has the added advantage that you usually don’t have to travel far to do it, since it’s often right in our local area. It’s a unique, peaceful way to enjoy nature from a different perspective.”
— Richard Lowenthal
A different kind of adventure
“I’m 93, and today was remarkably full of adventure, starting at 3 a.m., when this awful beeping started — beep, beep, beep, every few minutes. I thought it was my cellphone and hid it under a big pillow. That was no good, so I took it in the dining area, put it in a drawer, and — beep, beep, beep — it went on as loud as ever. I buried it under a pile of carpet scraps on the balcony — beep, beep, beep. Finally, I don’t know why, I checked my new cellphone, which hasn’t even been activated, and by golly that was what it was, the new cellphone wanting juice.
My cat came in at 9:30 a.m. and woke me up. I fed him and went to the bathroom. I opened the door into the hall and brought in the paper. I do that for my wife. She’s younger than I am but has a bad back.
I asked her if she wanted scrambled egg whites with diced onions, my specialty, and she said ‘a little.’ I had a can of pork and beans with Hellman’s light mayo along with the egg whites. Toast with honey, yes!
My balance is awful. I use a walker except when I’m in vestibular therapy. I go once a week. ‘You’re doing great,’ the therapist says, me staggering around. Balance has not helped with my neuropathy. I’m never really sure where my feet are. The concierge just called. Medicine delivery. Gotta take a break.
Be right back — I hope.”
— Tellmond Richter
In memory of
“On Aug. 30, 14 friends and co-workers will travel to Arusha, Tanzania, to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. We’re climbing to honor our friend, Jamie Dickey. This was a trip she always wanted to make, but she died of cancer in 2012.
Tim Geiss will lead our team, which is determined to keep Dickey’s memory alive. She touched the lives of so many. May we never forget her.”
— Cher Sanderson