River Guide, PART II

Wednesday morning, I was functioning on less than four hours of sleep, but I felt serenely energetic. I thought back to last night. I had never done karaoke before, and I have a very-small-but-still-present fear of performing in front of an audience...but I ended up singing three songs. I even sang one song with Forrest! Also, to bike around town in 70-degree weather late at night surrounded by cliffs and canyons was just so freeing. I kind of felt as if I was in the “Wonder Years” or something. I don't know why I thought that, that was just the first television show that came to my mind. That small-town feeling of close proximity, trust, and freedom was alive in me and I wanted it to stay.

When I woke up, Forrest was already up, getting ready to leave town. The night before, Kyle mentioned that I could take his bike to work, but I couldn't adjust the seat, so Forrest ended up taking me to work. I was happy about this because we had gotten some good talks in during our bike ride, and it was nice to have an official opportunity to say goodbye.

Chuck, the guy who was to be my Wednesday river guide partner, had already left for the dam, so I rode through the tunnel with other guides. So far, I had done two morning trips and one evening trip. Today, I was to experience a Tauck, or a morning specialty tour. Chuck is an older man who has lived in Page for about 32 years. As a result, a lot of his information came from both study and personal experience.

Hearing Chuck speak was like hearing a wise man talk about “the way things were,” and it made his stories way more refreshing and detailed than anything I had heard so far. It was because of this that he was able to connect with all types of ages, but especially the young, bold kids on the boat. His jokes were clever and interactive. He took time to play with kids, sometimes faking like he was going to pour water on them. They would scream in mock fear; it was clear that they were really having a good time being on Chuck's boat.

With Chuck, I got a full spectrum of the river guide. You could tell that he was passionate his job, and everything he did was done thoroughly. He made sure to take care of himself, his boat, others – everything and everyone. And while he had everything taken care of, he was never Type-A about it. His ways were matter-of-fact. He knew what needed to be done, so he got it done. Whether you wanted to help or not was fine by him. I found his approach unique.

Chuck was also “turning” that day, and I thought that was even more awesome, because every day I would hear a lot of the river guides complain about having to do more than one trip a day. “I don't mind it,” Chuck would tell me. “Being out on the river in this beautiful place is a privilege. If I get to do it more than once, lucky me, that's all.” Chuck said a lot of inspiring things, delivered in such a way that they could make you easily miss their importance because he said them so simply. I'll never forget one thing he said while he was trying to explain to passengers how their happiness was a priority to him:

I always say that the difference between an adventure and an ordeal is attitude. My job here at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area is to start you on the positive route.”


Wow. I felt a little guilty upon hearing that one. Tauck trips are quicker than normal, so we ended around 10:45am. I drove the boat on the way back, during which Chuck gave me a little advice on reading the river for hazards, shallow water, etc. Easy had done something similar the day before. It was obvious that Chuck “just knew” many things about boating, so I wasn't the best at grasping what he was trying to tell me. Nevertheless, we made it back safely. It was on this day that the wind picked up, and wind always makes boat-driving harder. Chuck thought the weather conditions were perfect to practice parking in. If I could maneuver a boat in the wind, I could maneuver it in any situation.  At this point, I had driven a pontoon boat once before, so I took on the task with more confidence than I would previously. I failed miserably. Everyone was waiting for us, so Chuck took over, after commending me for my effort.

A lot of the river guides were turning that day, so I rode back with only Drew and another guide, Kyle Davis. Despite the fact that my two most recent trips were informative and smooth, and despite the fact that I had two episodes of hands-on training, I still felt compelled to pull Drew aside and let him know that I still wasn't feeling Friday. I hated myself a little bit, but I was still convinced that even trying to run a trip on Friday was a bad idea.

I stressed to Drew that I was happy to be in Page, happy to be working with CRD, and that I wasn't throwing away the opportunity that millions of people would die for, I was just too fearful. “I really feel like I've been putting myself out of my comfort zone,” I told him, “but I think the Friday trip would be going too far.” Why I was repeating myself to another CRD boss so soon after I had said basically the same thing to Korey the morning before was beyond me. I kept talking, and Drew eventually stopped me:

You know Michelle, I've set Friday up for success. Whether you give the short safety spiel at the beginning of the trip, or if you walk up with the passengers and explain the petroglyph site for a few minutes, you'll still be doing more than you are right now. Don't just shut the entire trip down. You need to keep stretching that zone. Limits are good, but they should continue to be stretched, even if just a little bit.”


Wow again. These CRD folks are too good. “Oh” (how many times did I say this as a response this week??) was my response to Drew's thought. The idea of a contribution compromise NEVER occurred to me. I was too concerned with getting a supposed disaster out of the way, that I gave up my ability to think of alternatives. At that moment, I felt so grateful for Drew's wisdom, and let a lot of anxiety go. I had been telling myself this all week, but I told myself again: “Que sera, sera, Michelle. Keep on keepin' on.” I believed it a lot more this time.

Drew and I then got into an “Interp” discussion, and he suggested I visit the Page museum. River guides can go to the museum for free with a pass, and I had a whole half-day left, so I took advantage and visited right away. On my way to the museum, Dani called to check and see how I was doing for the week. I thought that was so sweet of her. It really helped to know that so many people cared not only that I wasn't slacking off, but also that I was having a good time and not suffering. By the time I got to the museum, I was smiling.

The museum was cool. I'm not a huge museum/history nerd, but I was so grateful to get the information from the “Interp” presented in nice displays, and supplemented with tons of extra stories. I stayed for an hour. I walked back to the CRD shop, getting ice cream on the way. At the shop, Drew, Adam, and I discussed the mission of One-Week job, and they teased me a bit about Job #8 that was coming up. I explained my “Deep Discourse” concept to Drew, and we planned to meet up and discuss some careerism topics before the end of the week.

I had walked around Page quite a bit at this point, so I went back to Korey's house to shower and relax. Kyle invited me out, but I decided to sleep early. Even though I had a later start the following day and could probably handle a late night, I decided to be greedy. I slept well.

9:30am the next morning, I showed up at the shop to run a Glen Canyon Airlines (GCA) trip with River Guide Kyle Davis. GCAs are considered full-day trips. They are a little longer because they require two beach stops, as opposed to the one stop that most trips see. Kyle is my age, and a recent college graduate as well. He has worked with CRD for six years, but his enthusiasm for the job doesn't seem to have waned at all. Kyle's technique for teaching was to give me constant information and encouragement, while pushing me a little bit by the hour. I felt as if I was literally in “Kyle's school of River Guides,” and I would definitely say that similar to my Tuesday time with Easy, Thursday brought a big boost of hope to my being.

Not only was Kyle great to train with, but the passengers on this particular trip were awe-inspiring. The majority of them were hearing-impaired. One of the passengers was the designated interpreter, so whenever Kyle or I spoke, we had to be sure to do so slowly. Everything that these passengers did was so full of life, and it was hard not to stare and grin. They would sign with passion, point at parts of the canyon with passion, jump in the water with passion, and laugh with passion. They would encourage me with passion.

Sometime during the trip, Kyle let the passengers know that it was my first week and that I was new/nervous. From that point on, they praised and lifted me up every chance they got. Halfway through the trip, I took over driving, something that I never could have imagined doing. It's one thing to drive with yourself and another guide in the boat, but to drive a boat full of passengers who completely trust you is another. The last scenario was one that I didn't think I could ever do, but this group was so very vocal about their faith in me, that on this Thursday, I took the wheel. I also found myself jumping in the cold water for the first time, another thing I never thought I'd do. Everyone cheered for me and kept repeating my name. It felt really good to hear all that. I felt loved, connected. I'm not sure how I ended up in the river; everyone just gave me so much of their strength.

Throughout the trip, Kyle and I learned a bunch of sign language, and I was reminded of how much I wanted

to learn the American Sign Language (ASL) back in the day. Kyle and I then discussed the language curriculum at the university level, and how ASL should be offered country-wide. Two of my uncles are hearing-impaired, and watching the passengers communicate with each other, I suddenly wished I could join in effortlessly. I vowed to study more after I got back home to Texas.

Thursday was my best trip of the week, by far. After we dropped everyone off at Lee's Ferry, Kyle kept telling me what a good job I had done, that I had basically led half the trip. I wasn't completely sure about that, but I decided not to fight anything, believe him, and say “thank you, only because of your guidance.” It felt like the right option.

I drove back to the dam during the second windy afternoon of the week, and Kyle worked hard to educate me (my third time with this) on how to navigate the river going upstream. He drew a few diagrams and gave me a few sayings, but they didn't really work. I knew he wanted the teaching session to be an indubitable success, but not everything can be. We arrived at the dam safely, and I thanked him many times for his help. On the way back to the shop, we discussed my feelings about working at the CRD. He told me how he understood because he used to be a bartender, and he had never experienced being that out-of-the-know before in his life. “That was the most stressful time,” he said. “I understand more of what you are going through now. I've been doing this for six years, so it all comes naturally for me. I think you're brave for doing what you're doing.” That was nice of him to say.

At the shop, Korey told me that he and I were going to be doing a trip together the next day. “I'm going to give you complete control,” he told me. “Do you feel ready?” I told him that working with Kyle was a great help, and that yes, I was ready. “Good,” he said. “It's all you tomorrow!”

Thursday night, Kyle (Seyler) was kind enough to make me dinner – fajitas! We watched reality television together, and then called it a night. Iggy, the brothers' black lab, woke me up early the next morning, but I probably would've done so on my own. After all, Friday was The Big Day.

So What About You?

When one is without one or more of his/her senses, do you think that the other senses amp up in order to compensate for the absence ?

A little random, but I've always wondered about this.

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