Notice I didn’t say THIS birthday was epic. In fact, it could go down in the books as one of the worst days of my life, so it was hands down the worst birthday. I posted a vague Facebook status about it, so for those who were curious about my disaster day, I thought I would give a quick recap.
The best part of my birthday was my mom surprising me for the week and coming back from Mexico (where she and my dad retired earlier this year) so I wouldn’t be alone when I turned the big 3-0. My sister and her husband joined us for the weekend, so we had a houseful of guests. The first sign of impending doom was my mom’s flight being canceled in Dallas. Long story short, she made it to Atlanta about 16 hours after her scheduled arrival time.
That night our downstairs A/C went out and left us with a balmy (read: choking humidity) temp of 82.
The next morning (July 4) dawned, and my mom insisted that I do something that I really wanted to do. So without hesitation I loaded up my kayak first thing in the morning before everyone else was awake, and my mom and Sarah drove me 25 minutes to the drop off point on the Etowah River. I kayak this section several times a year (or did before Sarah was born), so I told my mom roughly what time to pick me up and set out.
Well I hadn’t really considered that it hadn’t rained in almost 6 weeks, so the usual steady flowing river was basically a lake, and after an hour and a half of pretty steady paddling, I started cramping in my lower abdomen area.
Now I’ve often been accused that I'm too adventurous or risky when it comes to solo outdoor adventures, but seeing as I was 14 weeks pregnant, I was alarmed and felt that I should rest. But I knew that if I attempted to just float down the river I wouldn’t get to the take-out point for probably another 6 hours, and it was already baking at 10 am. So I called my sister (who happens to be a nurse) and she concurred that I shouldn’t be paddling any longer.
“Just drop a pin and send it to me, and Riley and I will find you.”
Now imagine someone who is completely opposite of me. A girl who really only experiences the outdoors when she exits her car to walk into the nearest store or dwelling. My attempt to explain to her that there WAS NO take out point for several miles fell on deaf ears. However, my discomfort wasn’t abating, so I pulled up Maps, located what appeared to be a road that came pretty darn close to the river, and paddled to the edge of the water. I sent my location (Nations Dr in Canton—see below picture) and scrambled up a 70 degree angle hill to a completely empty field minus grass that came up to my armpits. No power lines, no roofs or roads in site. Nothing. I scrambled back down, sinking halfway up to my calves in sticky mud and scrambled back into the kayak and floated another 800 feet or so before trying again. I saw a picnic table up on the bank, so I dragged the kayak a couple of feet out of the water, and, grasping onto tree roots and digging my nails into the mud, literally climbed to the top.
I was faced with a barn that was obviously a home. Literally out in the middle of nowhere with nothing (not even a dirt road) in sight. Had this been anytime after sunset, I would have turned around, dove back into the boat, and spent the night with the snakes and mosquitos before I would have approached this place in the dark.
Now I try not to make assumptions about people without knowing them, but there were signs that alluded to the owners' enjoyment of their second amendment right, and from the lack of utilities connected to the house I imagined the people who lived there being akin to the mountain dwellers out of Deliverance.
Now keep in my mind I left EVERYTHING in the boat save my flip flops and iPhone (which I tried to hold in obvious sight so I would appear middle class and somewhat sane). I tried to be as noisy as possible, but from what I could see there were no vehicles (not even a 4 wheeler) in sight, but I knocked on the front door anyway and praise the Lord no one answered. I was still paranoid that I was going to see a curtain being parted by the barrel of a shotgun pointing in my direction, so I tried to keep my distance from the house while keeping my iPhone out in front of me. Kind of like how a dog will trot around with his favorite ball showing it off.
To make a very long story short, the next hour and a half were spent tramping through the woods trying to locate Jessica and Riley. It was infuriating because we were obviously in the same place (I could hear dogs barking nearby, and I could hear them on the other end of the line). But where I was was obviously NOT close to the actual paved road Jess and Riley were on. Barbed wire and fences blocked my every attempt to get out of what I was starting to imagine some kind of torture camp in a horror movie.
After sneaking behind several mobile homes (which I sincerely hope were not inhabited based on the state of them), Riley said he was out of the car and was walking towards the dogs barking. I hissed “are you wearing a hat? Take it off!”
He seemed utterly unaware that he, a young male wearing a hat, was more at risk of being shot than myself, a young pregnant woman.
After crawling through barbed wire fences and encountering an elderly couple picking blueberries who thankfully did not shoot us, I finally met up with him. Since I had already walked several miles (and exerted myself 5x more than I would have done had I just stayed in the dern boat), it was decided that Riley would continue in the kayak, and I would ride with my sister in their car to the original pickup point.
Jess and I stopped at Chic fil A on orders from my worried mother, and I inhaled a milkshake as we went down the bank of a river at the park and watched butterflies in the shade while we waited for Riley. It was an uneventful waiting period, minus finding the largest tick I’ve ever seen in my life ATTACHED TO MY STOMACH. I screamed for my sister to remove it. After all, she’s the medical one. Which is ironic because she’s completely grossed out by this kind of stuff.
She refused, saying “no you do it!” And I responded with “IT’S GOING TO EAT THE BABY” rather hysterically. So she complied and managed to remove it, but only after using a green leaf as a kind of napkin. I was imagining being diagnosed with Lyme disease at my next pre-natal appointment, at which point I shrieked, “THEY’RE PROBABLY ALL OVER ME!” as I frantically stripped down to my underwear on the riverbank (did I mention we were at a public park?) After raking my fingers through my hair several times and pulling my disgusting clothes back on, I got the very good news that some dear friends of ours graciously came and fixed our A/C for us!
Lo and behold, about an hour and a half later, Riley comes paddling down the river. We hurriedly load up the kayak and rush back to the house to meet a couple coming to view the dining suite I have for sale on Craigslist. We beat them to the house by about 2 minutes, and I rush inside to greet my mom and baby and perhaps wipe my face with a paper towel, but the second I open the door I’m practically knocked over by a wall of natural gas. The smell was astonishingly strong. I rushed in and yelled to my mom about what was going on, but she was completely unaware that anything was amiss. A glance at the stove and I noticed that the right burner was turned about a half an inch to the left. No flame. Just gas pouring out.
My mom had a severe sinus infection last year, and has been unable to taste or smell anything since.
My mingled exasperation and alarm was put on hold as Jess, Riley and myself run around the house throwing open all the doors and windows when the doorbell rings. I usher the Craigslist lady inside, apologizing for the smell, and she seemed rather alarmed by the entire scene. I can imagine I was a strange sight: mud stained clothes, deranged hair with various flora and fauna poking out, and I’m sure a rather unpleasant smell myself (which was hopefully masked by the choking gas). After looking at the table for about 1 minute and being totally enraptured, she goes back outside to her husband.
10 minutes later, the smell is starting to get slightly better, and I wander out to the front to find the lady apparently arguing with her husband who was refusing to come inside. She confessed in a stage whisper that her husband was a builder and recently witnessed a million dollar home go up in flames because of a gas leak. I assured him that we identified the problem and had the house almost aired out, so he agreed to come in. I don’t know if it was all the nervous energy or just the bizarre circumstances that led to my appearance, but they left without purchasing the set.
Fast forward to the evening, and we’re all choking down steak that we thankfully grilled outside. I think we were all just ready for the day to be over. We enjoyed homemade ice cream with a cookie cake, sang a quick chorus of “happy birthday” and I pretend to blow out the candles, which, by unanimous decision, were left unlit.