Friday, July 31, 2015

West Virginia / Pittsburgh Recap Part III: The Physical Activity Portion of the Trip

We packed all of our physical exertion into the last two days of our stay: hiking, shuffleboard, rafting, horseback riding (for one of us, anyway), and yoga.

On Tuesday we decided to go hiking. We left our Ergo carrier in my car at home, which was a bummer. Jo brought us a Bjorn carrier borrowed from one of her friends, but it didn’t have the waist band attachment and Coco is just too heavy to carry with only the shoulder straps (as David discovered after our short trip to Blackwater Falls). We picked up an inexpensive carrier on our way just to have as a back up, and it had the waist strap, but we quickly learned that when it comes to baby carriers, you get what you pay for. The $70 price difference between the Ergo and the cheap brands shows up in the fit and the adjustments and the padding. The one we got was not very comfortable to wear for long.

We went to the nearby wildlife refuge to learn about the area (like how it was totally decimated by logging in the late 19th and early 20th century) and to get some trail maps, and then we set out. We probably should have taken the boardwalked trail that was stroller friendly, but we decided to be adventurous.

Two minutes into our hike, it started misting. Five minutes in, it was seriously raining, Zuzu had fallen down in the mud, and Coco was wailing in the carrier on David’s back.

photo by David. I'm wearing the poncho. Desperate times, my friends.
We called it a day and headed back to the condo. The afternoon ended up being 75 degrees and overcast, but Zuzu still begged to go swimming, and David took her (such a good dad!).

We spent the evening playing shuffleboard which was so much fun that I want my parents to get a shuffleboard put in their backyard. (We had to google the rules, and modified them slightly to make it more fun, but I really did love it.)

David and I played as a team against my parents. We lost.

Zuzu provided obstacles and entertainment.
Have I mentioned that our condo had two bedrooms? One with a queen bed and one with two twin beds. It was a no-frills kind of place, but at least it was clean. We set the pack & play up in the room with the queen bed and my parents took the two twins. In retrospect, we might have been more comfortable having two beds because there wasn’t a rocking chair, so I’d nurse Coco in our bed and then she didn’t want to go back to the pack & play. My vacation plan was just to nurse her back to bed as the quickest and easiest way to get her settled when she woke up at night, but she caught on to that quickly and was soon snacking FOUR TIMES a night. Because why not? I was always a little nervous that she’d roll off the edge or that Zuzu would elbow her in the face, so I didn’t sleep well at all, and occasionally I’d get her back in the pack & play for a long stretch. Overall it was not very comfortable or restful.

Watching shuffleboard before bed.
Wednesday was our last day in West Virginia, so we made the most of it. David and my dad and I went white-water rafting in duckies. I’d never heard of a ducky before, but they are one-person inflatable boats, about the size of a kayak.

I'm leading the pack here, David's in the middle, my dad is in the back.
It was so much fun, but definitely a little outside my comfort zone. You really had to work to stay in them and upright on class II and class III rapids! I spilled out at the very bottom of one set of rapids—I thought I’d made it through, and just when I started to relax, my ducky went sideways over a rock and dumped me out. My dad came up behind me and was able to help me get back in—not easy to pull yourself up into a boat with just upper arm strength! Especially when my muscles were all shaky from the strain and the adrenaline of paddling my way through the rapids.

I'm in front, David is right behind.
The rapids on the Cheat River were not as extreme as the Green River we rafted in Whistler (obviously the elevation was lower), but being in the little duckies meant that we were really down in the water in a way that we weren’t in the big raft. It was definitely thrilling, especially for someone like me who isn’t an expert by any means! I’d never used a kayak-style paddle before this trip, so it was a real learning experience for me. My dad got a little cocky and decided to "surf" one of the rapids. He copied our guide and did really well... until he tried to get out of it.

Our guide watches as my dad "surfs" in the ducky.
And watches as he spills.

 Our group was small—it was the three of us in duckies plus our guide in a ducky and a mom and her twelve-year-old daughter and a grandpa and his twelve-year-old grandson in a raft with a guide behind us.  The water level was such that rafts and duckies could both go—it had rained so it was up pretty high, but if it had been any higher they wouldn’t have sent out duckies, and if it gets low people can’t really take rafts. I asked our guide if people usually self-select pretty well, or if they ever get people out there on the river who have no business being there (I wasn’t sure I had any business being there at the time, but by the end I definitely felt more confident!) He said people usually take their advice—the mom and daughter had asked about being in a double ducky but since it was the daughter’s first time and the mom hadn’t rowed since college, the owner told them they’d have more fun in a raft (and they did!).

My dad

When I learned they had a double ducky, I said (joking) to David, “Oh, honey, we could have been in a double-ducky together! How romantic! Why didn’t you reserve that?” Our guide laughed and said, “We call that the Divorce Boat. It works better for a parent and child.” (Though my dad and I both noted we are WELL BEYOND the stage where that would have worked for us. We could barely share a minivan for twelve days.)

We stopped a couple places along the river to jump off rocks and had the option to swim. It was pleasantly warm in the sun, and the river was actually much warmer than I’d expected, but towards the end it got overcast and chilly since we were wet from swimming (and spilling, in my case).

David jumps 
I'm such a dork waving at the camera guy. Next time, I'll play it cool.
We went over one big set of class III rapids toward the end of our trip that had an undercut rock. Our guide went ahead to stand by the rock, basically so he could push us away or pull us out if we got past him. This rock had an opening where water flowed through that was big enough to suck in a ducky, but not big enough to let it out on the other side. Scary! That warning was enough to give me the energy to paddle forcefully to the other side of the river and make it through the rapids.

The only trick to staying up in the ducky is to keep the boat facing forward. If you get turned sideways, it’s so easy to spill out. The only problem is that it’s SO EASY to get turned sideways. It was seriously an upper body and core workout, but so much fun.

I highly recommend the Blackwater Outdoor Adventure company if you’re in the Canaan Valley area. I even bought myself a souvenir t-shirt that has a map of the section of the Cheat River that we rafted, with all the named rapids. The one where I spilled was called the Wind Rapids. My dad got fancy surfing his ducky sideways after the Rocking Horse Rapids and ended up spilling out pretty spectacularly as well. (Of course we paid $20 for the CD of photos, worth it if only to get this series.)

We were pretty worn out by the end of it, and I was ready to see the baby, so we headed back to the condo where my mom had kept the girls entertained all on her own that morning. Zuzu was psyched for a horsie ride, so we headed up to the petting zoo that was next door to the condo property, and paid $15 for the VIP petting zoo experience. 

This entitled her to a t-shirt, a cowboy hat, a horseback ride, and a big ol' can of feed for the animals in the barn. 

She's so ready to ride a horse!

Very serious cowgirl. Also, let's thank Bullet for staying alive through this experience.
She was really pumped about getting up on the horse, whose name was Bullet but who, bless his heart, looked like he had one foot in the grave. The petting zoo was obviously his retirement home. When he took his first step, Zuzu's eyes got really big and she grabbed the saddle horn. I thought maybe she would freak out and bail, but she was just fine. Bullet plodded along very nicely with Zuzu on his back, and she chattered to the woman leading the horse the entire way, asking her a million questions ("What dis horse's name? Where you get him from? What dat horse's name? Where he going?" etc.). 

We'd seen a group going on a trail ride as we walked up, so when Bullet got to the end of the road and they turned around to come back, Zuzu kept asking why they weren't going the other way. Evidently she was expecting a full trail ride as a VIP perk. It seemed obvious to me that Bullet wasn't up for that kind of exercise! 

In the barn, we fed a cute little donkey and some llamas and a cute little sheep, and a bitchy little pony named Tinkerbell who butted everyone else out of the way in her effort to eat ALL THE FOOD. David was trying to put some food in Zuzu's hand and Tinkerbell BIT HIM on the thigh because he wasn't feeding her. It was hilarious to me because I wasn't the one who got bit, but you better believe I stayed away from Tinkerbell after that. We also saw some bunny rabbits (including tiny little babies!) and a goat, and we left very satisfied that we'd gotten our money's worth. VIP petting zoo experience, for sure.

When we were at the rafting place, I'd seen a flyer for an outdoor yoga class in Blackwater Falls state park, which was near our condo. When I commented on it, owner of the rafting place said that his wife teaches the class. I said that I wished I had a mat, and he told me that she always has extras and just to give her a call if I wanted to go. So my mom and I decided to go to yoga before dinner. 

It was such a great decision--the stretching was exactly what I needed after my white-knuckle rafting earlier in the day, and the location at the park was gorgeous. The sun was warm, the breeze was cool, the leaves rustled gently as I breathed and stretched. It was a really good feeling.

For dinner that evening, we drove to a tiny town just past Davis called Thomas and had dinner at music café called the Purple Fiddle. They had live music that night, so we decided to pay the cover charge and stay to hear the band.

They were the Honey Dewdrops and they were SO great. There was a hipster couple there with two kids, and Zuzu walked over and introduced herself, instantly making friends with Amos and his two-year-old sister.

We kind of marveled at this because, as my mom commented, walking up to strangers and making friends with them is something I would NEVER have done as a kid. (Or as an adult, really.) Zuzu is just so much braver, cooler, and more social than I am.

She and her new friends played happily, though a little loudly, so we shushed them periodically. We had to interfere when Zuzu SAT HERSELF AT THE PIANO that was just off the stage. Most people were very nice about the kids being there, although David said there were a couple guys glaring at Zuzu and Amos when their shrill little voices got too loud. Eventually we sat Zuzu down with the iPad to babysit her and Amos joined us at our table at that point. His dad came over to make sure that was okay, and that’s when I discovered that Amos and his dad both had charming British accents. Super adorable.

Zuzu and her new (international) friend

We had dinner and beer and ice cream, and Zuzu and I did a little dancing to some of the band's faster songs, and then we called it a night and left between the band’s sets. I would have loved to stay for the second half, but by that point it was 9:30 pm and even though the girls were up until 10:30 or 11:00 many nights of our vacation, I like to pretend in public that they go to bed at a decent hour. Plus we had to pack up the condo to head to Pittsburgh the next morning. Check in tomorrow for the Pittsburgh portion of our trip!


  1. Traveling with a nursing baby is so hard! I was gone a week and Mary only slept through the night ONCE! She wanted the boob at all damn hours of the night!

    Iove that you went rafting! On my bucket list.

    And oh Bullet, a job well done. You can rest easy now, buddy.

  2. Okay these photos crack me up. Poncho ha, not your usual cute style. I love the double jumping wave. I miss playing/paddling rivers. Yoga looks awesome.

    Bode wishes he could have gone to that petting zoo. I'm impressed with Zuzu's social skills. Not suprised, just so different than me and Bode. Reminds me of my nephew Charlie who is super gregarious. Google: "Charlie Pape' Jesus, Girls, and Marcus Mariota" When outgoing kids talk to Bode he either ignores them, shirks away or says "no!" loudly regardless of what they say.

    Bode used to want to nurse all night long whenever we were on vacay. And since all I wanted was for him to go back to sleep, it perpetuated exhausting!

  3. I did some white water kayaking in this area about 10 years ago and it was so fun and scary! I wasn't sure I should be there either but I was leading a group of kids, so that was even scarier as I watched them all dump.

    And man, I know exactly what you mean with breastfeeding all night long, especially when you don't want to wake the whole house up. How do those babes catch on to our plans?

    Excited to see the pics of your brother's wedding next!

  4. OMG. Those rapids brought back horrible memories for me. I have such a fear of water. Mostly rushing water, but also jagged rocks in rushing water and rocks in which can SUCK IN A DUCKY BOAT that I'm on. You are a brave chick!

  5. Something about vacations... I weaned my daughter last March, and she rarely brings nursing up... A very occasional comment about missing it, not much more. But we've been on a trip for a week and she's even cried to nurse, and tells me she misses how milk made her tummy feel better!

    Your trip sounds so fun, and I'm beyond impressed that you did that ducky trip on your own! I'd love to do that someday.