THE CAST OF CHARACTERS
This has been a good group.
Bear: The atmosphere is set by Bear, who has been a model river guide. I believe that the tone of the trip and conduct of everyone is set at the top, and in this Bear does a fine job. In particular, he takes very seriously the responsibility to be good Canyon citizens. If he were to freely allow litter or disregard his rules himself, then we most likely would as well. Instead, he lives his rules of where to pee, how to leave a kitchen site, etc. to a T and we consequently do the same. He is also very friendly with everyone and shows no signs of either playing favorites or making fun of people explicitly or implicitly. His treatment of us has been readily adopted by all. Thank goodness for Bear. Bear is a P.E and Art teacher at a Southern California high school. I'm sure he is a student favorite. He's been doing that for 27 years, I think, and has been doing this rafting things for 26 (since June of 1973!). He's make 174 trips.
Besides Dad, I've spent most of my time talking to Ray and Mike. They are both super guys. They have both made the trip much more fun for me.
My fellow "Big Dog," Mike, is a Delta pilot who lives near Marietta. He is a Naval Academy graduate, and I could tell that he was an Academy graduate before he told me. He has some military-like habits, in particular the ability to fire off a quick answer that sounds like it comes more from memorization than from thought. I've seen that with quite a few officers I know. However, deeper questions, like those about personalities or society, get deeper, thoughtful replies that take longer to come out. That is the sign that said 'Academy' to me. A sign of a very thorough education. Mike is also in the Naval Air Reserves and is flying domestically as Captain for Delta these days so he flies a ton. Over 10000 hours. 100 times my 100. He also likes to heli-ski.
Mike has been my best hiking partner other than Dad. There didn't seem to be anything he wouldn't do or anywhere he wouldn't go. He seemed certain to do it if I'd do it or did it, and a few times I did something because he had. By now, we just look to one another when something challenging comes up and just raise an eyebrow and nod a head and we're off.
We've talked about a lot of stuff, more than I can even write about sensibly, but Mike has been a good listener and patient explainer. He also has kept a sharp eye out for animals and points them out to me, and we discuss the geology frequently. I am just having a lot of fun with Mike and am very glad he is on the trip.
His wife, Noreen, is a good match for Mike. She's been a very good sport all the time about the trip, and makes all the hikes with us. She also can give him back her share of smart comments, and often outdoes him. She's been a flight attendant for Delta for 29 years and has been all over the world. She has that flight attendant attitude that I really like. Like Aunt Judy, it's sort of a "world traveler who's seen so many people and places that there's no point in being snobby about how much more I've seen than you" thing. She is very nice. Sincerely nice. I like her, too.
Ray is the other person I've talked to most. Ray is a very cool guy. Like Rita said, he is pretty much a perfect guy - very smart, very friendly, very even-tempered, in good shape, adventurous, compassionate, thoughtful. He is going to climb Kilamanjaro soon. He goes sailing and scuba diving a lot and basically just does lots of cool stuff. And not cocky in the least. He has made me feel like an equal from day one. He just retired from being an orthodontist and is apparently enjoying himself. It sounds like he did OK before he retired, too. He had nice things to say to Dad and I think Dad really likes Ray a lot. Hopefully Ray will be a positive influence on Dad, who needs more balance than what he's got. I know that Ray has gotten Dad fired up about sailing again. That's good. I hpe that I am able to have a friend like Ray close by, in some way, all my life. He has the right take on things and he is extremely interesting, to boot.
His wife is Rita, who has been a trooper through the trip especially after getting a scorpion bit on her butt in the middle of the night. I think that she enjoys camping but this trip is pushing it for her. She's pretty and she has a pretty daughter (who isn't Ray's) my age. She and Ray have been married for two years. Rita is the daintiest of the women and maybe for that reason I feel more protective of her. Weird. Anyway, she and Ray make a fun couple.
Gary and Kathy are the only couple who have spent most of their time up front on the raft. Gary always is leaning back on the third row with a soggy unlit cigar in his mouth and an almost bored look on his face. I don't think he's bored, though. I think it's the practiced nonchalance of an airline pilot, which Gary is for Delta. Gary is a lot like Uncle Ed was - say what's on your mind, which most of the time is entertaining as hell. This also makes him the center of attention often, either when he says something loud and funny or when the group looks to him to do so. Gary flew a gunship in Vietnam.
Kathy is an awesome lady. She sat next to me in the very front for many rapids with a big smile on her face, all but covered by her rainsuit. I don't think I ever heard anything close to a complaint from her the whole time. She is an entrepreneur now but used to program in COBOL and FORTRAN, which I fully respect. She really should learn web stuff and she'd make a ton more money if she wanted. She and Gary don't have any kids, but Gary said that she's their nieces and nephews' favorite aunt. He wouldn't admit it, but he's got to be their favorite uncle, too. I hope they appreciate what a cool aunt and uncle they have.
I didn't talk too much with the other Atlanta couple, Ed and Genie. Ed would best be described as, I guess, gruff. Not nearly as gregarious as the other guys. He wasn't big into pleasantries, even from the start. He was also the most openly assertive about his opinions on the trip. I think Ed is a good guy - he certainly said some of the nicest things to Bear and did some nice things for the others than I saw. But generally I think Ed likes to get down to business. Ed owns a car business, but I don't see him as the sleazy car salesman type. I would guess that he is more likely to have a well-run business with good prices - his sales pitch would be something like, "You don't want to buy this car? Really? OK - look somewhere else. But I'm telling you now you're going to be disappointed someplace else." And he would say it not as a ploy, but as the truth. And he'd be right.
Genie might be, overall, the least jazzed about the trip. I haven't had a chance to talk to her much at all but will hopefully get the chance. My impression is that Genie is very good in her element, but a raft in the Grand Canyon is not her element.
The two Germans, Douglas and Horst, are an interesting addition to the trip. Douglas is a schoolteacher in Germany and he acts, well, like a German schoolteacher. He seems very patient (especially with Horst) and soft-spoken with a quiet reserve that makes it look like he really knows what is going on. He is a nice person and his English is pretty darned good. He is also well-educated (if there is such a thing) in American culture. HE gets a lot of jokes I wouldn't expect him to. He has had to act as Horst's interpreter and has only a few times appeared at all frustrated. Douglas never did tell anyone, as far as I know, exactly what it is he teaches in Germany. The kids are around 9th grade, though. He also looks like he's in good shape. I need to ask him how he stays fit.
Horst is a tall guy of I guess around 60 or so. While mountain climbing 25 years ago, he was involved in a rockslide that mangled his knee. AS a result, it is fused straight. I didn't even notice this until we'd been on the river a day. He does amazingly well with it. He overcomes the problem with a ton of determination. He does anything anyone else does, from riding in the front to jumping down waterfalls to the Little Colorado rapid run in his life jacket. He is often one of the first to go - he doesn't have to wait to see if it's safe. He has a tendency to make exclamations in all sorts of languages and even some odd noises. Gary does a good job of finding an appropriate response most of the time. Horst's English is pretty poor (still better than my German!) and he didn't speak Russian. So I haven't talked to him hardly at all. Too bad. I'll bet he's an interesting person. After all, Douglas like him. They manage to keep one another entertained all the time. I think it's neat to hear the German spoken as we go through the Canyon. It reminds me that it isn't 'our' canyon, it is the world's and we were fortunate to inherit it in our borders. It is our responsibility to maintain it for the world and the future.
All in all, a super group. I wouldn't change a thing. Well, maybe if they were all beautiful young intelligent single women. :) Bear, Dad, George, and I would've have fun then! Especially Bear and me!