15 years ago today, a raft guide yanked me out of my boat and dropped me in the Ocoee. 15 years ago today I agreed to a first date with a raft guide. 15 years ago today my life forever altered on its course.
15 years ago found me heading to the Ocoee with my brother and our friend Charlie to celebrate Charlie’s birthday with a rafting trip. Charlie was teaching Preston and me to kayak with the insistence that kayaking was so much better than rafting. Preston and I wanted Charlie to experience at least one rafting trip so that he would at least know what he was knocking. Reluctantly he agreed to give it a try, and his birthday seemed like a great chance for us to go. We loaded up in Charlie’s Volvo and headed down to Outland to meet up with our friend Josh, who had agreed to take us down the river for the day.
Josh had introduced me to Brinn a few weeks earlier. While hanging with Josh one evening before going out to dinner, this crazy beater came bouncing into Josh’s house to tell us all about his epic beat-down at Grumpy’s after snapping a Werner and chasing a borrowed canoe all the way below the ledge. Then he proceeded to share all of his bruises with us. While boaters have to deal with quite a bit of nudity as we are often changing quickly on the side of a road in cold temperatures, let me remind you that I was still a new boater at this point, and not at all comfortable with random guys letting their full moon shine. It was an eye-opening (or burning?) experience, for sure. Brinn managed to invite himself along to our dinner, and thus began his attempts to ask me out.
From there, Brinn and I didn’t manage to run into each other too often, as I lived an hour and half away and didn’t make it down to the Ocoee all that often as my beginner self tended to stick to local class II runs. Unbeknownst to me, Brinn had attempted to acquire my phone number during this period, but was denied by all he confronted. But he persisted, and finally we ran into each other again.
While out on the water for Charlie’s birthday, Brinn happen to notice Josh had a gal in his boat who wasn’t wearing gumby gear. To hear him tell the story, he told Country (another raft guide buddy) and some other friends who were out on a training trip with him, that they had to catch up with Josh’s boat to see who was in it. Brinn doesn’t believe in doing anything half way, nor does he just dip his toe in. This applies to flirting and swimming. He literally believes in diving in the deep end, which in this case meant pulling off a back flip into Torpedo right in front of our boat. Again, as a novice boater, I had no idea about Mystery Move, and had a slight heart attack when Josh’s crazy friend disappeared into the Ocoee. This crazy beater managed to pop up a few yards down river and got back to his raft and caught up with us once again just past Powerhouse. This time, when he paddled up to our raft, he leaned in as if he were going to speak to me, and proceeded to grab the back of my Lotus vest and yank me out of my boat. As he and his crew paddled away to a safe distance, he called out, “When are you going to let me take you out?” Josh promptly responded: “When they serve snow cones in hell!”
Josh’s retort must have stuck, because Brinn didn’t ask me out again after this, but he did magically show up at Outland later in the day while we were still around. I had decided to stay with my friend Alanna that night, and was looking for something to occupy myself with the next day since she had trips. She had her Ultrafuge with her, which was identical to mine and fit me like my own, so Brinn piped up and volunteered to take me down the river. When the next morning came around, however, he ended up spending most of his day passed out on a picnic table sleeping off his adventures from the night before, so I ended up spending the day in a book. Later that afternoon, a groggy Brinn apologized and insisted that I did not want him to lead me down the river that day. He missed out on taking me paddling that day, but he did leave with my phone number and a first date for the next Saturday.
Since that cold plunge into the Ocoee 15 years ago, I’ve swam on that river at least a dozen times, and Brinn’s been there to haul me out of the river every single time. We’ve been on countless ski trips together, dozens of movies (some bad, some good), concerts, and many adventures skiing on the lake. He’s sat through countless jump rounds at horse shows to watch my goes, and even taken care of the “honey hold” horse show boyfriend duties. I’ve watched him paddle big rivers, and he’s led me down small rivers. I helped him start a business while he saw me through two degrees. We bought our first house, and completed many of the renovations ourselves, with many still left ahead of us! Through the many good times, we’ve had each other, and even through the bad. I’ve sat in the waiting room through four surgeries now, and Brinn has sat in the ER with me as well.
Big things come in fives for Brinn and I. We married one another after dating 5 years, then had Ian five years after that. Now here we are at 15 years! I’m not sure what life altering events are in store for us this year, but I have a wealth of memories to look back on at this point. Words cannot even describe how much I love this beater who flashed me with his bruised rear when we first met. He pushes me out of my comfort zone and I make him use big words. He’s my person.