Sunday, July 31, 2011

Cave Men

For my birthday earlier this year, Kristi and the kids gave me a great present - a Wild Cave Tour at Inner Space Caverns. Last summer we were there taking the regular walking tour when all of a sudden, this guy popped his head up out of a little hole a few feet from the trail. He was wearing a helmet with a light on it, and as he climbed out of the hole we could see that he was absolutely covered in mud and dirt. I was intrigued, so I asked our tour guide about him, and she told us the he was on the Wild Cave tour. I knew then that I had to do that.

So my birthday present this year was a Wild Cave Tour with any two friends I wanted to take with me. I knew right away who I wanted to take, but unfortunately neither Chuck Norris nor Ronald Reagan were available (the latter for obvious reasons), so I elected instead to take my brother, Adam, and my future brother-in-law, Johnny. You remember Adam and Johnny, right? So for their birthdays, we gave them each a ticket to the tour.

It took us awhile to coordinate our schedules and nail down a weekend to go, but we finally landed on July 30 as the date. Adam and Johnny were supposed to spend the night Friday night and we would leave for Austin early Saturday morning. We got a bit of a letdown on Friday, however, when Johnny called to say he wasn't feeling well and wouldn't be coming. I'll admit - I was bummed. It's nothing against Adam, but I really envisioned the three of us going together, and it just wouldn't be the same without Johnny. So when I got a text from Johnny that he was feeling better and was on his way, I breathed a big sigh of relief.

Johnny, Adam and I pulled out of Brenham at 8:30 and headed toward Austin. I enjoyed the ride there as we all talked and Adam shared information about the apartment he just got in Bryan for his upcoming semester at Blinn College. Johnny and I swapped horrible roommate stories. Although we had some very similar roommates, Johnny won because his story involved maggots and a puking dog. I just can't compete with that.

We pulled up to Inner Space Cavern right at 10:00, exactly on time. We joined the group that had already assembled for the tour and we all picked out a helmet, knee and elbow pads. Our guides, Billy and Brad ran through some basic instructions and some safety information. Then we headed down into the cave.

As a group, we decided that we wanted a more advanced route, so we started with an entrance called "Head First Hole," in which you literally had to squeeze through a tiny hole head first. It was a great way to start and set the expectations for the rest of the trip. It was exhilarating! Getting through that first hole reassured us that we could, in fact, do this. I think Adam was a little nervous about caving, but he warmed up quickly and was a good sport - he did all of the advanced "optional" stuff with me and Johnny that some of the guys on the tour opted out of.

The tour was amazing, and the quickest four hours I've had in a long, long time. I didn't take a camera down with me, but I wish I had (and I probably will if I do it again) because the sights down there are amazing. The tour was challenging. We spent most of the time crawling on our hands and knees and there were many times when we had to "Spider-man crawl" to get through some really tight tunnels. Anyone who is the slightest bit claustrophobic would have a tough time because there were some holes where you literally felt stuck and just had to keep wriggling until you maneuvered your way through.

On the tour, as we were crawling along, I started hearing ripping noises. Then I looked down and realized that I had ripped a huge hole in the crotch of my jeans. I felt sorry for the guy climbing and crawling behind me, which was usually Adam. But that's okay - early on the tour he stopped and apologized for not wearing a belt and that I might see his boxers.

We had a great day, and as we emerged from the cave the people on the walking tour and in the gift shop had a 50/50 reaction mix of "wow, that looks cool" and "wow, you guys are nuts!" Because seeing people climb up out of the hole we emerged from was how I found out about the tour, I was glad that a tour group got to see us emerge, too. It was fun to see their faces.

Johnny suggested a place called the Hangtown Grill for lunch, so we headed there after a quick outdoor shower and change of clothes. Then we headed home, tired but happy.

Thanks again to Kristi and the kids for giving me the tour for my birthday present and for giving me the opportunity to invite Adam and Johnny. And thanks to Adam and Johnny for going. I'm glad each of them went because it wouldn't have been as good without either of them. I'm looking forward to doing a lot more stuff with both of these guys. Up next with Adam: a weekend road trip, and with Johnny: Big Bend!



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