Friday, September 28, 2012

Hobby Hunt 2012

As I hang out in limbo in Florida, with one fairly time-consuming hobby firmly on the back burner right now, and one extremely time-consuming career also in hiatus, I've had a little spare time. So, I've spent the past 10 days or so hunting for a new hobby to fill the void.

This is not the first time I've gone down this road. In fact, the list of hobbies I have jumped into head first, often expending significant sums of money, and then quit just as quickly, is pretty long. There's guitar-- three months of lessons, actually a hobby-longevity-record. There was backpacking -- after being inspired by a book about someone hiking the Appalachian Trail, I drove on over to REI and bought ALL the equipment, sparing no expense, completely convinced that I'd found my newest obsession. That lasted for one trip. I tried knitting (got through about a third of a purple scarf). Jewelry-making (one necklace). Yoga (two classes).

Not to be deterred by my less than inspiring track record, I've jumped whole-heartedly into not one, but THREE new hobbies in the past week or so. Any bets on which, if any will last?

New Hobby #1 - Surfing

I wrote about this one already. I did one lesson and intended to get back out this week and try again. I didn't. I also intended to do some dryland exercises, per the suggestion of my instructor. I didn't. But I'm not entirely giving up hope on this one.

New Hobby #2- Scuba

I decided to get my scuba diving certification, so I used The Google to find Patrick, a local scuba instructor. Patrick's in his 40s, ex-Army, mustachioed, a strange combination between beach-bum-scuba-diver-chill and military....not so chill. It's kind of a dead time in these parts--- not a ton of vacationers, and the snowbirds haven't returned from their summer homes, so I'm getting private lessons. We move quickly through the curriculum, but still, it's taking forever.

I did not intent to squeeze myself into a wetsuit for at least another three months.
Phase One was the book learnin'. I got a textbook on Friday, and was told to be ready for an exam on Tuesday morning. I had the whole weekend to study. But of course, you can't change a zebra's stripes, so just as I did for 20 years as a student (and six years as a lawyer), I completely procrastinated. I spent the weekend playing in Miami, then shopped all day on Monday, finally cracking open the book Monday night and was hard. I thought I could flip through the text in an hour, no problem, it's just scuba. But no. It was physics and that sorta nonsense. Pressure, density, blah blah blah, stuff I haven't thought about in any way since high school. And really, I haven't done a whole lot of thinking since July. Out of my element!

I got through one chapter and my brain hurt a lot, so I went to bed, telling myself the same old story that I'd wake up early the next morning and be smarter and get through it then. No such luck, I ended up having to delay the exam, and I got yelled at for procrastinating. Back in my element!

I passed the exam, by the way, 96%. And, I argued persuasively that the questions I missed were worded very poorly. In time, Patrick ended up agreeing. So, I actually give myself a 100%. Thanks, law school.

Phase Two was a swim test. 200 yards of swimming and 10 minutes of treading. Given recent events, I was fairly confident on this one. Although I think I may have earned myself the "dorkiest scuba student ever" award when I put on my swim cap and swedish goggles and did flip turns during my little test in the tiny, 10 yard pool. In the end, I passed. Phew.

Phase Three was scuba-ing in a pool. We squeezed what is supposed to be five sessions into one long swim, working in the water for 3+ hours. The air was 86 degrees and the water was 85 degrees, and I almost quit when Patrick told me I needed to wear a wetsuit, but I decided to be a good sport and suck it up. Aside from roasting the whole time, things went well. The first time I went to breathe underwater through a regulator, I had a momentary sense of panic, but it resolved itself within seconds, and I was comfortable. Exhilarated, even.

Today, we drove 1.5 hours to a fresh-water spring in DeLeon, Florida, the famed "Fountain of Youth" discovered by Juan Ponce De Leon. Actually I have no idea what the story is behind this. Something about someone finding Florida while searching for the fountain of youth, and this was it. Anyway, the spring was 28 feet deep and not terribly scenic, but it was good practice for ascending and descending and swimming around under water (harder than you'd imagine to swim straight, and not keep going up and back down and up again). We did find a Superman figurine, though. And a Batman band-aid. I threw that one back.

Next week, we go to Palm Beach for a real dive with beautiful fish and blue water, and then I'll be officially certified and off on my own to do what I wish with this new hobby.

New Hobby #3 - Mountain Biking

It occured to me the other day that it may behoove me to start riding a bike again at some point. Unfortunately, I've left my trusty and beautiful Parlee in the care of my parents for the first part of my trip, in favor of renting bikes along the way. So I went to Bob's Bicycle Shop in Melbourne, FL to rent myself a bike. They set me up with a pretty sweet Scott mountain bike, and told me about a group that was meeting that night at a local park to do some single-track riding.

I've never done anything even resembling real mountain biking, and I'm a little afraid of strangers, so meeting up with a random group of experienced mountain bikers gave me the butterflies, but I told myself that these are the kinds of things I'm going to have to do during my travels if I want to avoid being Alone and Homesick the whole time. So I went home, carefully picked out an outfit (after asking the guy at the bike shop what people wear to mountain bike), put my hair into braids (I never do the pigtail thing, I'm not sure what it was about meeting up with a group of guys doing a rough and tumble sport that made me think a pink jersey and pigtails was appropriate), psyched myself up, and went on my way.

In the end, I'm so glad I did. The group (of five guys) could not have been more welcoming of someone who was a total noob (I mean, I was wearing running shoes!), and the leader of the group, Ben, was so kind and helpful, riding behind me, giving me turn-by-turn directions, and saying nice things like "you've got a real knack for this!" "nice catch!" "walking the bike up the hill is part of the fun!" "you're doing great!" "I'm impressed!" I'm sure he was lying but who cares. It was fun, I can see why people are hooked to mountain biking. It's a great workout, dodging trees and roots and palmetto branches, powering up hills in soft sand, descending over rocks right into ninety-degree turns. I never crashed (shock of all shocks) and emerged unscathed.

Post-ride with Ben, the leader/ cheerleader
Or so I thought, until I woke up in the middle of the next night, and couldn't get back to sleep because my ass hurt. Apparently, while biking, I bruised the hell out of my tailbone. At 4 AM, I remembered that bump, when I almost flew off the bike and landed with all my weight on the saddle. Didn't seem that notable at the time. It sure does now.

New Hobby #4- Swimming

Kidding. Kidding! I haven't been swimming! That's silly. Well, I went once. I just wanted the opportunity to post a picture of the beautiful outdoor pool in which I swam, because we Chicagoans never get to do that.

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