We hied ourselves to a place in Indiana called "Float Sixty", a new-agey kind of place in an otherwise nondescript office building where you pay money to relax in a pretty good approximation of a sensory deprivation tank.
On our way there, however, we were driving along the usual route I take when we go to Indiana, and overhead there was a big, big bird...and she exclaimed, "Was that a bald eagle?"
"I think it was!" Dark body, with a white tail, and a white head; I slowed the Jeep to a crawl and craned my neck to get a look at it, but it was circling and hard to see against the western sky.
First one I ever saw around here. The wikipedia entry says the entire US is their native habitat but it's really a rare thing in this area.
I'm hoping that seeing a bald eagle--a rare sight!--is a good omen for the future.
* * *
The tub is about six feet wide, maybe eight long, and has something like eighteen inches of water in it. The water is a saturated solution of epsom salt, magnesium sulfate, so the specific gravity is higher than that of the human body. It's warm, held at the right temperature so that it doesn't feel either cold or hot.
We had separate rooms. Peel down, take a quick shower, then get into the tub--and as advertised, you float, all right.
Even in my present overweight condition, I have trouble floating on my back in plain water; I've never really been able to float all that well and when I was a kid the only way I could float on my back was to hold my breath. If I exhaled, I'd sink. (I can float face-down, but of course I need a snorkel to do that.) But in the salt solution, no problem at all.
They had a little foam float ring, they called a "halo pillow", that you could put behind your head to help keep your head afloat. I used it. And there I lay on the water, in a quiet chamber, for an hour, occasionally bumping into the side of the tub but otherwise not having to move a muscle.
Having read things about sensory deprivation, I went into this thing with some expectations, and a lot of them were validated.
As I relaxed it became obvious that this wasn't anything like zero gravity, because I could still feel my weight; and in fact after I relaxed completely I could feel the pressure of the water against my back. I didn't hallucinate or anything, though I suppose I might have if I'd been in there longer than an hour; mainly I just lay there and relaxed and let my thoughts wander. I wasn't totally deprived of sensation, anyway, but as time wore on I stopped feeling my limbs and the sensation of water pressing on my back was going away. I could hear my heart beating, and in fact I could also hear the noise that the muscles in my throat were making as I held my airway open. With more time, I expect those would have been canceled out, too. The nerve pathways get tired of reporting the same sensation over and over again; that's how we get used to smells, for example, and if you stare at the same image for a long time it kind of fades out. So the same way my immobile limbs stopped reporting "there's X much pressure on the back side and we're still at Y angle" my ears stopped telling me about this or that noise and I gradually slipped into a comfortable state of complete relaxation. All I could hear was my heartbeat, the rumbling of the muscles in my soft palate, and the air going in and out.
Funny thing: every so often I'd feel my body give a little wiggle, with absolutely no other sensation; just a sudden shift that would change the angle of my shoulders to my pelvis. I think spinal muscles were relaxing, or doing something, but the only evidence I had of the action was feeling that tiny, sudden shift. I'd never feel it if I were laying in a bed, but on the utterly frictionless surface of a still pool of water....
And maybe five minutes after I got to that state, the warning light came on; and perhaps five minutes after that the pumps started circulating water in the tub again, indicating that my hour was up.
$60 for the first time. $90 for subsequent ones. I don't know if I'll go again, but it sure was pleasant.
* * *
By my estimate, that tub held 540 gallons of water. A quick search says that a saturated solution of epsom salts is about 115 grams per deciliter (100 milliliters) which amounts to 2 ounces of salts to 3.38 oz of water. That's 9.5 ounces of salts per gallon; so if the tub holds 540 gallons of water, it's something like 320 pounds of epsom salts to make a saturated solution.
The girl that guided us to our rooms and explained the procedure to us said the tubs used "1,000 lbs of epsom salt". I thought that sounded like a ludicrously high figure, but the quick searches I did say she was right...which means either I fucked up on my calculations, or my estimate of the size of the tub.
Either way, it explains why the normal price of the service is $90. Half a ton of epsom salts per bath--that doesn't exactly grow on trees.
* * *
As for me, I do feel considerably refreshed after the experience. Epsom salt is what people soak in to ease aches and pains, and this was bath salts on steroids. I'd expected to nod off, but did not. My entire body--even five hours later!--feels loose and relaxed, and based on that alone I think that the next time I start feeling really tense and anxious and wound up, this wouldn't be a bad way to relax and loosen up.
And the best part is, I didn't regress into a monkey-man.