Sunday, June 01, 2014

Jet Skiing (aka "Goodbye Cruel World")

It can be said - and it would be fair - that I'm a scaredy cat.

I'm OK with it, as weak as it makes me appear.

While I might play up a fear of the lizards here in Key West (nice to look at, and they'll stay away from me), it is quite safe to say that I'm none-too-fond of snakes, exposed heights (ladders), rejection, job loss, losing in a championship game, failing in a broadcast, and saying something stupid.

And as we got closer to coming to Key West, I kept waiting for the inevitable conversation...

Lisa: "Don't you want to go jet skiing, kayaking, hiking, snorkeling?" (take your pick among those and others)

Rob: "Um...sure."

It didn't take long for that to happen, and if you chose "jet skiing" then you either read the title of this post or saw the pictures.

My fear? Well...I'm not thrilled about drowning. I'm not thrilled about being the one that looks like an ass and holds everyone up. I also didn't want to fall off the damn thing. Lastly...I wasn't looking forward to flying on it.

But Lisa persisted, as she can, and convinced me to go. Initially, what was supposed to be a tandem ride turned into a solo for me, as Lisa and Roger each got a machine of their own.

I stayed mostly quiet in the moments leading up to the climbing on the machine, as Fearless Lisa (and Roger, also without fear at all), chatted and prepared.

We didn't get off to a good start, either, as we had a slight awkward beginning with the staff at Key West Water Tours. But our lead guide, Dante, and his assistant (in training) Phil, turned out to be really good guys.

I suited up in my life jacket, and climbed on board the blue and white Wave Runner with number 13 on it (I figured those were Yankees colors, and the number 13 is for Sean), and listened intently to everything that the guys said. They pushed me into the water and we were off for an over two-hour tour around Key West.

At first, I found steering the thing to be difficult, but the truth is that, the faster you go, the easier it gets. I veered off course once or twice, generally talking to myself the whole time, but we were soon out in the Gulf of Mexico. That gave us 10 minutes or so to get used to the machine. Lisa and Roger were, of course, flying. No big deal to them. Me? Just getting comfortable. I hit a few waves to get my bearings and balance. I opened the throttle up a little. I didn't curse a whole lot.

OK, we're good. So far.

Then Dante led us to a small canal where submarines were intended to be housed during World War II.

I followed instructions - let the others get about a four-second head start. I was happy to bring up the rear of our group of four jet skis (plus our guides).

But, er, Dante sort of sped off. So now it was sink...or swim...or just stay there.

Screw it.

I opened up the throttle, bringing up the rear of our group of four jet skis/wave runners.

The Gulf was just fine. It was fun riding. Then we hit the Atlantic...

The sea was angry, my friends. Like an old man returning soup at a Jewish Delicatessen...

I bounced. I flopped. I flew. The engine groaned. But a funny thing happened: I didn't fall. Oh sure, I got soaked, but I never lost my balance. For over two hours, I found bliss. I had no technology with me (so no pictures out there).

It exhilarated me and gave me a rush (hence the exhilaration) and a boost of confidence. I doubt that I will ever be a rugged outdoorsman type. I don't expect to be jumping out of a plane anytime soon, and I will never be thrilled to have a iguana standing at the base of my pool-side lounge. But I loved jet skiing every bit as much as I thought I might, even if I've lost what little edge I have left.

We roared around the Atlantic. We passed our hotel (I actually had enough confidence to point it our as we moved by). We went down to the Southernmost Point monument (which is truly the southernmost point that it is publicly accessible). Then we sped off, making the turn at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park, roaring past the giant cruise ship in the harbor, and next to Mallory Square.

Dante had an idea and went off course for a moment, stopping at a point in the open water where maybe - just maybe - we could see a dolphin.

While one might have hoped for Dan Marino or at least Jim Jensen, we were indeed fortunate enough to spot two dolphins briefly popping to the surface.

As we went back to our starting point, the feeling of pride and excitement finally kicked in. For Lisa, who of course rocked it, and Roger, this was no big deal. For me, well, it was good stuff. We were handed a complimentary beverage and toasted the success of a great day.

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