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Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Brush With Fame 

Way back when the Earth was young and I was in College (Go Gauchos!) I worked as a whitewater guide. I was never one of the cool cats working the Toulemne or the Grand Canyon, but I did have tons of fun on the South and Middle Forks of the American and the Rogue.

The way Middle Fork of the American trips were done back then you could do a one or two day trip over the same stretch of river. The one day version got kind of long and the two day trips had not the longest water time ever. So there I was working a two day and the rumor was that Arnold Schwarzenegger was doing a one-day with a different company that would arrive at the takeout on the same day as my two-day.

Things have since changed, but at the time the Middle Fork take-out was horrible. It was right upstream of an un-runnable rapid. To get to it you had to drive a long way on dirt roads and at the last little bit drive down a very steep, very rutted, very dusty road where the least miscue would plunge you down a cliff to your death or dismemberment. Naturally, we made the passengers walk up this hill to get on the bus. But the equipment truck had to drive down to the water's edge to get the boats and other gear.

For those of you who have never been whitewater rafting, it's considered cool of the passengers to help carry the gear up to the take-out truck. That way everybody gets on their way as soon as possible.

So my trip got to the take-out without sighting Arnie. Our passengers helped get everything up to the truck and then were set on their way walking the quarter to half mile to the waiting bus. About the time we were done getting the boats and gear onto the truck Arnie's trip pulled up to the take-out. The head boatman and I conducted a final beach check to make sure nothing had been left behind, sent the truck on its way and began our own walk to the bus. As we passed under some trees (shade!) we encountered Arnie. He was standing alone in the shade wearing his lifejacket and leaning on his paddle. (digression - lifejackets are for providing floatation if you fall out of a boat. They are not fashion accessories, so if you're not in a boat, don't wear one. You just look silly if you do). Arnie was not helping his guides get the gear to the take-out truck. We made eye-contact, but since in this situation I was the cool one, I elected to let him open the conversation (digression - I'm 5'10" tall, Arnie and I were about eye to eye, he is no more than 6' tall). He must have been too shy since he didn't say anything.

So there you have it, Arnold Schwarzenegger is of average height, lame, and a dork.

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