Niagara Falls, New York - I have no idea what to expect as I stand in front of the large yellow jet-propelled boat that will take me through the Niagara River Gorge and over the white-water rapids below Niagara Falls.
Wearing an old, damp wool sweater underneath a huge yellow rain slicker and a life jacket, all provided courtesy of Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours ( www.whirlpooljet.com ), I must look ridiculous, but I'm hoping this getup will protect me from the raging rapids. We've been warned to bring along a full change of clothing, including underwear.
I've always wanted to go white-water rafting but pictured a tame ride with mild rapids. When this opportunity presents itself during a trip to Niagara Falls, New York, my inner debate begins. Will it be worse than a roller coaster? Will I throw up? What if I fall in?
"They must know what they're doing," I reason.
Just then the guide explains that the captain is certified to rescue those who fall overboard. "Don't expect me to dive in," the guide adds. How reassuring.
Beside me sits Jonah, my 10-year-old son, who later tells me he had no idea what we were getting into. We'd ridden the Maid of the Mist earlier wearing silly-looking blue ponchos, and we'd barely been sprinkled.
Luckily, we don't have to sit up front, since children aren't allowed in the first three rows. The craft doesn't have seat belts, because in the event of a spill they could trap us under the boat. There's a bar to hold onto, which Jonah and I immediately white-knuckle.
Soon we're whizzing along at 105 kilometres per hour.
More warnings from our instructor: "Make sure to keep your heads up so you don't get knocked out by banging your head on the bar when the boat lurches."
The first jolt comes from a bitty level-three rapid. Some bumping, a quick turn, the calm before the storm, and then, whoosh, water pours into the boat. It's cold!
Over to Devil's Hole, where the white-water rapids are considered some of the world's most turbulent.
Here the 53-metre-high walls of the canyon narrow and the current flows at about 32 kilometres per hour. The waves are at least 4.5 to 8 metres high. Before I know it, we're moving through the air and struggling to catch our breath as wave upon wave of freezing cold water comes down on us. The sensation is initially like drowning, but then you come out of it grateful to be in one piece. Now I understand the need for a change of underwear - the water's made its way through the slicker and several layers of clothes and completely soaked my bra.
While we're catching our breath, the boat heads out toward the whirlpool, a level-six rapid, we're told, the most dangerous type there is.
My kid's next to me, so I keep smiling while wondering if I'll have the nerve to jump in and save him if the captain isn't fast enough. Just as my stomach starts to flip-flop, our guide announces that we'll be heading back. It's far too dangerous to navigate in this area. The relief is intense.
The beauty, history and grandeur of the Niagara Gorge are magnificent. But what this mom and her boy will remember about our time on the American side of the Falls is the place where we got soaking wet, freezing cold, felt a bit like we were drowning and had the time of our lives.