Tim entered his 34th year of life in June and to celebrate I had a big ole' surprise up my sleeve for MONTHS ahead of time. There are some things I happen to have learned make my husbands heart sing and I really wanted to make that happen for his birthday. He loves being outdoors, he loves one on one time with yours truly and he loves spending time with his BFF Josh. The first two things were pretty easy for me to make happen, but the last thing (getting he and Josh together) - it's only happened a handful of times since Tim and I started dating so I wasn't sure if I'd be able to score the perfect trifecfta.
The first thing I did was start scouting all the local campgrounds but ultimately the MAIN attraction would be:We are lucky to have this gem super close by and after living here for two years and hearing people rant and rave over it I was itching for Tim and I to check it out and what better time to surprise him with a visit than his birthday?! For those of you who are totally unfamiliar with the USNWC, here's a blurb from their website that better explains who/what they are:
The U.S. National Whitewater Center (USNWC) is a locally owned and operated, North Carolina 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Situated on over 500 acres of woodlands, the USNWC fosters an environment for people to come together to play outside.
Dedicated to promoting healthy and active lifestyles and developing environmental stewardship, the USNWC is home to the world’s largest man-made whitewater river, offering premier outdoor activities including whitewater rafting and kayaking, flatwater kayaking, mountain biking, rock climbing, zip lines, a canopy tour, rope courses and various team building activities.
Once I secured availability on the weekend I was considering, the next thing I needed to do was secure childcare. Originally I had planned to camp out on a Friday night and then spend Saturday at the center. Well, the campgrounds I found didn't put us any closer in proximity to the center so it seemed kind of crazy to camp in June vs. spending the night in the comforts (hello it's June and I'm pregnant) of our air conditioned home. I still really wanted a kid free night for the birthday boy and thanks to Melissa and Catina I was able to make that happen. I dropped the kids off on a Friday afternoon at Aunt Melissa's house and Aunt Catina pretty much took over from there allowing us to have all evening and the next day to celebrate!
The last, but probably most exciting part for me was trying to coordinate with Josh's wife Anna on getting the two of them down here (also kid free...no easy task because they've got 4) to surprise Tim and just hang out with us Friday and Saturday. Amazingly and thankfully they were able to work out child care for their 4 and come down early enough on Friday to be here when Tim (who had no clue about any of this) walked in the door. Oh man...so much fun. He was totally shocked and over the top excited. Despite not getting to see Josh and Anna near as much as we'd like, Tim and Josh picked right up where they left off and the time with them that weekend can only be described as precious. You can't always be totally raw and real with everyone you consider to be friends, but we can be that way with them and I find it not only refreshing but rewarding in a way too because when you strip it all back and just listen to one another such fresh perspective and encouragement can be gained. Anna is someone who I really admire as a woman of great faith and I collected some valuable wise "nuggets" (if you will) from our time that weekend.
Friday night we had a yummy steak dinner that I was able to prepare at my leisure (did y'all hear the angels singing as you read that because I did that night and then again as I typed it out) followed by Tim's favorite birthday cake...yellow with homemade chocolate butter cream frosting. We stayed up talking (with no interruptions, potty breaks or the doling out of appropriate disciplinary actions) and we felt like it was late but really we are just old and once our eyelids would no longer stay put, we all turned in for the evening. Lots of laughs, some deep conversation and some strolling down memory lane with friends...perfection.
Saturday morning I made us a big breakfast so we'd have lots of energy to take the whitewater center by storm: ha! Now for the pictures!
The setting is June...in North Carolina. It was HOT. Here is a picture of us looking all excited and not drenched with sweat. Yet!
I really wanted Tim to lead the way (which is his fave *total sarcasm*) so that we did everything he wanted to do. He elected to do the ziplines first. I wasn't sure being pregnant what all I would be allowed to do, but the guides never said a thing and since I've been so active, as long as I felt it would be safe - I was all in. Ziplines here we come!
The "mega zip" which is what we did first goes directly over the whitewater river and it's super long and super fast.
Soar through the air with a bird’s eye view of the U.S. National Whitewater Center on this one-of-a-kind 1,123 foot zip-line. Launch from the top of the 46 foot Mega Tower and fly over sections of Class III and IV whitewater. The Mega Zip is one of our more popular activities and is a must do if you are looking for a day of fun in Charlotte.
So exhilarating!!! I wish we had video because it was awesome.
Our next stop after the mega zip was the ropes obstacle course:
Now, we may look like we're having fun but let me assure you that it was super challenging. The goal was to start and finish the course without ever allowing your feet to touch the ground. It was tough. Our muscles were shaking and we were all super sweaty by the time we exited the course.
Josh and Anna kept referring to their Ninja Warrior skills (clearly they have 3 boys and 1 girl) to which I replied: huh? I have since been educated and it makes me laugh.
From the obstacle course, we went over to the high ropes courses - see crazy people up in the trees behind Josh and Anna. Yes, we went next :).
Truthfully, I felt great all day while we were there but this is probably where I struggled the most because as you can see in the picture below you were basically tight rope walking sideways and then there would be either ropes or boards (see left) to grab on to and slink your way sideways. The problem with the aforementioned scenario? A BIG BELLY!!! I would have to hold on and lean way back to be able to shimmy around every single one of those vertical points - super fun and kind of exhausting. Have no fear - I finished. You knew that already, right?
In the same area of the ropes course was the climb to zip. Here you see the climbing portion. Once you got up to the platform you essentially fell off or jumped off (whichever you prefer) and the zipline was some type of tension system that would free fall you and then slowly lower you once you got close the the ground. I needed someone to just push me off that platform. Once I was off the platform it was fun but taking that step? Oh.My.Word.
After our time in the ropes course section, we headed to the Whitewater Center restaurant called The Rivers Edge for lunch. Sweet tea, fried pickles, good hamburger...more fun convo with friends...need I say more? While we were dining we had a nice summer storm which kind of cleared the place out a bit and. We wrapped up lunch and then got suited up and walked down to the Catawba River where we all four attempted flatwater stand up paddle boarding for the first time (after they lifted the "out of the water" cautions due to the storm). I wish so much we had pictures of that part of our day but we had no cameras/phones with us on the river. It was beautiful and once we all got our "water legs" under us we all stayed up and really enjoyed it. There is a cool little youtube clip on the USNWC website you can watch here. So much fun...my fave activity of the day by far!
After paddle boarding, Josh and Anna had to hit the road because duty called and Josh had to put on his pastor hat for church the next day. I'm so thankful they made the time to come and we were able to have such (at the risk of sounding corny) quality time with them.
Tim and I had planned to do the rock wall after paddle boarding, but this Momma was d-o-n-e done. We put on dry clothes and headed back over to the River's Edge Restaurant where we were able to score primo seats along the patio and watch the white water rafters go by. They were also having a free concert (River Jam is a free series they do during the summer...all you do is pay for parking and you can hang out and listen to a different band every Saturday!) You can see the concert stage in the pic below. See what I mean, primo seats!
The particular rapid we were sitting near was one where rafters appeared to have a difficult time staying in their rafts. We saw newbies, experienced and guides all "bite the rapids". Quite entertaining.
Gettin' that one on one time. I may or may not have ordered fried pickles...again. Yum!
I know I planned it and it's not my birthday celebration to judge but it was an amazing day (if I do say so myself). I think Tim would agree. So much fun. I laughed on the way home because to have not had hardly any swelling the entire pregnancy....the white water center brought that to a grinding halt. Look at these poor sausages!
I owe a ton of thanks to my sister for keeping our kids - it was a MUCH needed break and we couldn't have taken it without her help. I also am so appreciative to the Gresham's too. I mean, they had to coordinate childcare and make the drive to see us and I'm just thankful they wanted to make Tim's birthday special in that way. We are already anxious to plan a return trip...I can't wait! Next time we'll get in that white water!