Who ever knew one drain could give me so much trouble? With the search for the drainwhale going full speed over the summer as the combatants counted down the days to a new semester and return to Rochester, it was only a matter of time until someone lost, and lost big.
In that soggy mess that wished desperately to be the first day of spring, a grey stone church loomed enormous in the mist over endless rows of graves. It was just like Zoë dreamed of, shrouded in bespoke fog. She had spring break, I had four classes I was more than ready to skip. Only one thing could spoil the setting for a perfect explore: a locked door. More about that later… first we had a wide open church to see!
A congregation of pigeons formed the only flock remaining in the moldering pews, their flapping wings the only approximation of the falling organ’s hymns.
We didn’t dare look inside…
What better to follow that than a mandatory two hour recital of organ music at Eastman, the second half of which consisted of many, many disturbing interpretations of this:
Finally free from twelve-tone tyranny, we wasted most of the afternoon getting lost on wrong buses looking for nonexistent drains, and pondering the sealed doors of the psych ward. For lack of anything better, there was always a subway.
Believe it or not, this worked. There was paint in those cans!
Everyone has that time they think they know it all. These last few days have been mine, looking for the whale of all drains, the deep, giant tunnels of mythic proportions. UER can be a very intimidating place for those it takes in as its own… and I wasn’t doing so well at it yet. I thought I might be able to get a few friends together, find ALL the drains, without even a car, and be that underdog story they hoped for. We found drains… tiny, useless drains, long unclimbable drains, drains that brought out the inner DiCaprio — everything but what we needed.
One of my rare drain photos that don’t suck. It’s a long way up…
The local wildlife
My heart will go … bleccchh!
Unfortunately, we found the wrong end of what has to be one of the largest water slides ever built. All attempts to climb it were promptly refudiated by the brick, water and algae.
Groundhog Day holds a special significance to Rochester explorers. It’s always been a day to go down to the subway, check out the latest graffiti, and gorge yourself on Dinosaur BBQ afterwards, taking the place over with 50 rowdy people covered in tunnel dust. This year’s event was no exception… a few of my favorite graffitis of the year:
When the revolution comes, will your bicycle be ready?
I never did know quite what to think of meeting people from the Internet, least of all to go exploring in some unknown, supposedly dangerous location. Some combination of sanity and remnants of my parents’ sheltering brainwash kept me reading the forums on UER for years before I dared post, let alone go to a meetup with the friendly local serial-trespassers. I’m not sure why I picked this day of any. Nothing about it screamed “exploring”: it was about -5 degrees, and I was dragging around yet another pounding Chi Phi hangover. As soon as I met these people, one thing was clear. These were real explorers. Looking back on it, I had one job — to become part of that rarefied group. Needless to say, I stepped right off on the wrong foot, and just about every pas was faux from then on. Starting with getting and bringing everything UER said I’d need, from the useful (flashlight, water bottle) to the downright useless and ridiculous (hard hat, goggles and a respirator; 4 flashlights; black ski mask)
So once I came this far, I figured I’d just go for it. They brought me out to the drains for some training. I’d read something once about some so-called ‘drainers’ in Australia… I never thought I was about to become one. Unfortunately for them, I ended up taking a liking to sloshing around in freezing subterranean water, and wanted to go back again and again.
(note from 2013: sorry about the ancient phone pictures here… smartphones weren’t a thing yet, and I didn’t even think I was a photographer)
The elusive, and troublesome, drainwhale in its natural habitat: