An American Underwater Odyssey 50 Dives in 50 States
Remember the thead on the Buddy Board about whether there was a state without diving?
"Diving is more about exploration than athletic skill." Ballinger delivers that statement early in the introduction to this little dive travel book. Covering 50 states in 202 pages means that they are all going to get a pretty brief description unfortunately. This dive travel book describes the dives very well, but describes the travel and surface intervals better. He wanted to see America and SCUBA was a way to do it. He met some interesting characters along the way. He rates dives based on how memorable they are. In otherwords if dive was different from others and something happened to make it memorable, feeling around and not being able to see beyond his mask could be a better dive than 100 feet of Vis on a reef.
Unfortunately, Ballinger is doing many of his dives solo and has created (out of necessity) a very packed schedule. So, if his chosen site is having a bad day due to weather or visibility isn`t what it normally is, the sites story will be rather dreary. He could`ve done a better job of choosing his sites as well. Some turned out to be let downs as he writes them up. It seemed that at times, he was more interested in getting a dive, any dive, in in that state. Of course it`s easy to monday morning quarterback his decisions, after all, how many of us know enough about the entire country to find a great dive in every state? He doesn`t have the time to make up a disappointing diveon a later dive. He really means 50 dive trips in 50 states because sometimes he gets multiple dives in at several sites, usually on a boat trip it seemed.
Here are a few highlights that stuck in my head along with a great description of a Lake Tenkiller dive shop owner in my home state of Oklahoma.
Drift diving the Colorado River and finding a bowling ball for a souvenier.
Cavern and Beginner Cave certification in Florida and ending up in a Gay Kareoke bar.
A missile silo in Texas.
Oil rigs 70 miles off the coast of Mississippi with "universities of fish"
Another Oil Rig dive off of Louisanna found a lure snagged on the rig, and following the line, a rod and reel.
The Hottest dive site in the US. They mean the 90 to 97 degree water in the Homestead Crater, Utah.
A river dive in North Dakota that almost lost the Govenor in a 6 knot current with 5 feet of vis.
A disappointment was his failure to explain the story behind a great t-shirt one lady was wearing with the logo. S.A.P.S (SCUBA divers Against Pink Shit)
His conclusion chapter raises a couple of interesting points. Has our sport become more interested in commerce than diving. Where have the heros gone? We have magazines that are supposed to describe the sport but a lot of it is about what to buy not how to dive. In the 60s and 70s, Cousteau was a major figure inspiring people to dive and explore the oceans. There is no one with his kind of influence right now and that`s a shame. Ballinger talks about being inspired by the great adventurers like those who climb the highest mountains or sail around the world solo. This trek is more along the lines of a stunt than an epic adventure but it takes him to interesting places. He continuously confronts the fact that his preconceptions about a particular state are off. I think he may help to popularize a few spots that he dived in this story, but it might be better if people take his idea to explore to heart instead. You don`t have to do 50 states in a year like he did. Take your time and look for the really good dive sites on a day when they are at their best. I think Ballinger would`ve enjoyed his adventure a lot more if he hadn`t put a deadline on himself.
As always, you can find this book on Amazon.com.
I`m sure there are people here who prefer other sites to amazon. I use what I`m comfortable with and if you prefer Borders, Barnes & Noble etc. Go for it.