These are experiences in every boys life that become a touchstone of going maturity. Sometimes it's scary or awkward, as first times usually are, but they become adventures that he'll remember for the rest of his life.
On a family vacation when I was about 10 years old I experienced my first time with one of the wonders of Mother Nature. I took my first trip into a cave.
We were driving from Michigan to Florida down I-75, and once you cross into Tennessee you're hit with a seemingly never ending barrage of billboards for 3 big tourist attractions: Rock City, Ruby Falls and the Lost Sea. I had picked up a brochure for the Lost Sea, and became quite curious about the "world's largest underground lake."
Look at that tiny little boat floating in that vast underground chamber. To our super advanced futuristic 2008 eyes that picture of the boat looks pretty suspicious. But to the eyes of a kid back in the day before the internets it looked totally real, and a amazing adventure. Who knows what kind of strange cave creatures could be swimming in that water?
I suggested to my parents we should see the Lost Sea, and surprisingly with no resistance they agreed.
Here's a funny note for future travelers to the Lost Sea. I don't know if this is still true, but once you exit the interstate there are Lost Sea signs directing you that read, "15 minutes to the Lost Sea" and "5 minutes to the Lost Sea." None of the signs gave you the actual distance. Maybe they thought listing the actual distance would be off putting to motorists. All I know is that these signs frustrated my father because it took a lot longer to reach the Lost Sea than the signs had told us.
Once we arrived at the Lost Sea me and my father bought tickets (my mother decided to wait for us spelunkers above ground). Once inside the entrance building there are glass doors to the ominous entrance tunnel.
Seeing that entrance tunnel for the first time was a little intimidating as kid. The thought quickly went through my head that maybe I didn't want to see the Lost Sea after all. But before I had time to give it a second thought we were quickly ushered down the tunnel to our waiting tour group.
Front and back of a newer Lost Sea brochure
Well I won't go into great detail, but my experience at the Lost Sea was awesome and it started a lifelong fascination with caves.
During my adventure in the Lost Sea it never occurred to me that the picture of the boat on brochure was grossly exaggerated. It was just cool to take a boat ride in a cave - even if I didn't discover any strange new cave creatures.