Additional evidence of my creeping insanity…

For the second year in a row, I decided to suspend common sense even more than usual, and participate in the Polar Bear Plunge to benefit Washington Special Olympics. Each year, approximately 100 of us from around the Tri-Cities jump into the January waters of the Columbia River in Kennewick, then swim or dog paddle our way back to shore in search of a warm towel and a hot cocoa.

Last year I did my first plunge, and raised nearly $1,700 for Special Olympics. I also found out that it’s a lot of fun.
So this year, the big day dawned, foggy and cold (27 F) but not bitterly so. Still, not a day you’d normally hope to jump in the river.

Laura and I went out for our usual Saturday morning routine down at the bagel shop — I read the local paper over breakfast of an “everything” bagel for me, toasted with smoked salmon cream cheese, Laura reads whatever book she’s working on while nibbling on a raisin bagel. We did so with a bit more urgency than usual, since I had some errands to run before heading down to registration at 10:30 a.m.

Time flies when you’re having fun.

By the time we got to the park, the fog had burned off, and the thermometer read 37 degrees F (where it pretty much topped out for the day). The sun broke through a high overcast and I felt almost like I was getting away with something, especially knowing that it was probably colder in Atlanta than up here at 46 degrees N latitude!

Here’s the scene we found when we arrived:

This year, I jumped as part of a team — “Team Battelle,” made up of co-workers from the Laboratory. We gathered in the sidelines during the preliminary festivities, and I tried to reassure them that this would all be a lot of fun.

Thereby assuring that I’ll have even less credibility around the office than I do already.

In our region, the Plunge is co-sponsored by Law Enforcement agencies, so they are out in various forms and functions, both as polar bears and to keep the polar bears safe:

Some of them even did a little impromtu line dance in the water. Got to get that blood moving!

As the time neared, I always have a brief moment where I wonder WTF I have gotten myself into. This is what that looks like:

At around 11:50, they announced the costume contest. I didn’t wear a costume this year, but this guy did:

Then, around noon, Santa paid for his elaborate costume by being the first to jump — er, get pushed, into the water:

The next group in was, I think, local law enforcement (the badge taped to the guy’s chest is a clue).

The guy getting carried in is the chief of police, if memory serves me…

The little girl on daddy’s back is our youngest polar bear cub — only 4 years old. Don’t worry — ALL of us felt like she looks for a few minutes. You get over it quickly.

Finally, it was time for Team Battelle to jump in. Somehow, I always get stuck at the deep end of the dock, even though I’m a poor (slow) swimmer.

I wasn’t about to take the Nikon into the water (besides, my son Sean was very capably using it to take these pics) but I did bring along a disposable waterproof camera:

which afforded me a view from the dock:

finally, the count down came: 3 – 2 – 1….

Remember I told you that we ALL looked like someone had taken our candy away?

Proud to say, though, that I still had the presence of mind to stop when my feet found bottom, and take a picture. But I’m a slow swimmer so it’s mostly of butts:

But by the time I got my feet on dry ground, it was all smiles!

All in all, our group raised more than $4,000 — not bad for a bunch of nerds!
That’ll keep you warm.

The endorphin rush was every bit as good as I remembered from last year. What a great time! And the timing was perfect — 4 hours later, the rain started, the wind kicked up….and of course the sun went down. In fact, here’s what the morning looked like on Sunday:

What a difference a day makes!

Thanks again to all who donated. Remember that the fundraising site remains active until mid-February. So you can still donate if you want to!

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