Know what I love? Saxapahaw. Have you been yet? You should go!

My attitude needed turning around.  See, there was a blistering heat wave.  There was a show Wednesday that went badly.  Then there was a show Friday that went badly.  I’m chalking both experiences up to “misalignment of expectations,” and also the fact that there is very little that I will enjoy in 100+ degree heat.   But look how happy this crowd is, despite the less-than-ideal conditions:

The saving grace was the misting apparatus.  About six songs in, we were hot and cranky enough that we went and misted at the closest mist-er we could find, in the smoking area.  My friends misted; I shamelessly stood in front of the mist-er and flat-out showered.  I think I made inappropriate noises while doing so.  I don’t even care. I drenched myself.  I felt better.  We wandered towards the lawn and found an entire misting tent.  We misted again, with The Rosebuds.  We felt pretty hip.  Then we found a row of three little empty seats in the back, which I declared the Snarking Section, where we could sit and survey the outfits.  (By the way, well done, Raleigh, y’all looked good Friday night.  Particular nod to the girl from the Rosebuds: we loved your tangerine-colored ruffly dress.)

After the show, we had late-night nachos, on a sidewalk hot enough to broil said nachos.  Then there was an early Saturday a.m. volunteer shift, outdoors, until 1.  It was eleventy billion degrees, by 1.  I went home for a cold shower.  Did anyone else try that?  See, the problem is, when it’s eleventy billion degrees, you can’t even get cold tap water.  But it’s all fine now, because of the perfect evening in Saxapahaw.

Turns out, there is a bandevery summer Saturday, on this hillside.

Yes.  Yes, that is a cowboy playing pedal steel and singing honky tonk.  Back off girls.  I will fight you.

We ate dinner at the General Store.  It was a huge success.

Saxapahaw is a friendly place.  It feels like a real community.

And now I have fantasies about living there, next to the river.  Because what we were actually there to do, is go on a night kayak paddle.  It was amazing.

We hit the river as the sun was setting, and a storm was rolling in, off in the distance.  Here’s where my photos end.  I’m foolhardy enough to kayak in weather kind of like this:

but not foolhardy enough to try and hold on to my camera while paddling.

I eased my kayak out into the water,  and you’ll just have to take my word for it when I tell you that the view of the mist rising from the water into the golden sky beyond is well worth the trip.  It was breezy and pleasant, and the cicadas cranked up as we were loading the boats.  Other than the cicadas, the only sounds were gentle swishes of paddles in the water, and once a dog came out and barked at us from the shoreline.  Actually, I did a lot of thunking around with my paddle, while my friends Pocohantas and Sacajawea moved across surface soundlessly like water ninjas.  It was impressive.

As the last of the daylight faded, all you could see was the faint outlines of paddlers against the dark sky, and the wafting glowsticks tied to the back of each boat.  That is, until the lightning started. Then it was pretty much broad daylight.

Paddling in a lightning storm? Not sure I’d do that part again.  Our guide didn’t seem very concerned; he pointed out that the river is one of the lowest spots around.  He didn’t seem worried that a boater would be the tallest thing on a wide expanse of water, and that if you’re close enough to hear thunder, you’re too close to the lightning.   Our goal was to paddle downriver to an island and try to find some owls; we didn’t make it quite that far.  Our guide suddenly saw something in the distant storm he didn’t like, and turned us around.  “Spread your kayaks out,”  he said nonchalantly. “Try and keep at least 15 feet between boats.  Oh, and if you think about it, try not to lift your paddles too high.”

He zipped off ahead.  Our pace was significantly faster heading back. It got quiet again on the water, except for some fervent paddling and a stiff wind in the trees that sounded ominous and wet.  At one point I felt tingles shooting down my arm from all the paddling.  I dangled my arm in the water to cool it off, and because it was already spooky out, had an immediate vision of a Shrieking Eel:

And then I paddled faster. Pocohantas and Sacajawea did not seem ruffled by the storm or the shrieking eels. At one point, Pocohantas and I got into a recipe discussion. As I can barely walk and talk, let alone paddle out of a thunderstorm and talk, there was some boat entanglement while we figured out what to do with the mushrooms I have in my refrigerator. It was all dark and wobbly in the kerfuffle, and I did a Dick Cheney and (kind of gently) whacked Pocohantas with my paddle. She was a really good sport about it. Then the only sounds on the river were thunder, and hysterical laughter.

We made it to shore at the exact moment the skies opened up, and it started to rain for real. We hiked back to our cars, dodging frogs hopping across the parking lot, gleeful in the rain.

You will not believe this next part. When I got back into my car, rained-upon and pleasantly exhausted, I was cold enough to flip on the heat. And then I came to my senses, and enjoyed the feeling of being just a little too cold, for the first time in months.

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