Like most grandparents, C.L. Moffitt likes spending time with his grandson, Aaron Wood. But the places they’ve spent time together are a little unusual.
They’ve bonded during a kayaking trip down the Chattahoochee, while climbing up a mountain in North Carolina and biking to Panama City. A trip to Atlanta Motor Speedway for the Richard Petty Driving Experience is next.
“They permit you to drive over 150 miles an hour,” C.L. said.
“He doesn’t realize he’s 78,” his wife, Joyce Moffitt, added.
But how did their adventures begin? Aaron, 29, points to his grandfather. “None of it was my idea.”
The trips began after C.L. sold his boat and was looking for “a different way to enjoy the summer.” C.L. said he’d always enjoyed the outdoors, so he and Aaron decided to try canoeing. They later switched to a kayak, after deciding it would be a more stable vessel for their journey down the river.
They practiced at night in the swimming pool at the Spring Harbor retirement community. C.L.’s daughter and Aaron’s mother, Carol Ann, said their kayaking lessons became “quite the talk.”
“The security guard came by and said, ‘I’m not moving that,’” C.L. said. “Pretty soon a crowd had formed.”
Aaron and C.L. set their kayaking trip for May 2010. It took the pair four days to kayak from Columbus to the point where the Chattahoochee and the Flint Rivers converge. They took along a pontoon boat as a support vessel and slept in it on sandbars and along the banks.
“We kayaked through swamps and all,” C.L. said. “I really enjoyed a lot of it. The river was pristine. We saw some wildlife. We had a very enjoyable time.”
He said the adventure brought him closer with his grandson in a way he hadn’t been before.
“Aaron and I had never done a bonding period. It was the type of bonding that’s hard to do in an everyday setting of eating and working and normal entertaining.”
“He was making memories with his grandson,” Joyce added.
They made more memories together on their next adventure, a climb up Mt. Mitchell in North Carolina. Mountain climbing was also C.L.’s idea, but Aaron went along with it.
“I woke up one day and the next thing I know I’m halfway up a mountain,” he said. “The key is not to think about it. Just do it.”
Grandfather and grandson completed the hike during two cold days in November, climbing to the peak, hiking down to make camp for the night, then walking down to the base the next day.
Scaling the highest peak east of the Mississippi was the most exhausting of their adventures, C.L. said.
“I’ve been tired many times in my life, but that was the tiredest,” he said. “It was like walking down stair steps, but there were rocks and very few levels.”
Carol Ann suggested their next challenge: A bike ride from Columbus to Panama City. Aaron and C.L. practiced on the Riverwalk before embarking on their trip in July. They completed the 200 miles in four days, sleeping in campgrounds along the way.
“The heat was the worse part of the bike ride,” C.L. said.
Now, C.L. wants to ride in a hot air balloon in October. This is news to Aaron.
“I haven’t heard of that yet,” he said.
Aaron and C.L. say they’ve always been close and talk several times a week, but taking on these challenges and testing their capabilities together has enhanced their relationship.
“Normally, neither of us are great conversationalists. I think by being together we related in words as well as thoughts,” he said. “I think we got a lot closer. I don’t think anything else could have brought us closer.”
They put more trust in each other, C.L. said. Aaron looks out for him and they keep each other going through the tough spots.
“Maybe because Aaron was there, I didn’t want to give up. I kept going,” C.L. said.
“I was just trying to keep up,” Aaron said.
For Aaron, the trips have given him new experiences, as well as someone to share them with.
“I never would of thought about riding a bike all the way to Florida,” he said. “From my experience I’ve just enjoyed the trips. One day you’re not going to have the time with them, so make the time now.”
C.L. also encouraged other grandparents and grandchildren to spend time with one another. He has fond memories of his time with his grandfather, but he said he worried that TV and video games created a separation between generations.
“These days there doesn’t seem to be time for that type of bonding,” he said. “You have to schedule time and make time with all your grandchildren.”
He recommended other grandparents select age-appropriate activities that their grandchildren will enjoy.
“If I’d of known that I would have told you I was into gardening or maybe crosswood puzzles,” Aaron joked.
“Now you’ve got no excuse,” C.L. said with a smile.
Sara Pauff, 706-320-4469