WHO: Kim Young, 49, of Chelsea
WHERE: Bonne Terre, Mo.
WHEN: Three days in October
WHY: To go scuba diving in the Bonne Terre Mine, a freshwater diving site.
ON THE GO: ''After 9/11, I've been on a travel binge. I decided there's no reason to wait," Young said. ''I was going everywhere, but since I started to dive, now I do almost all dive travel."
MISSOURI?: ''When I first learned how to scuba dive, you learn that cave diving is really different. I read about the Bonne Terre Mine and it sounded like cave diving for dummies. It's 60 feet deep. It's lit up. There's no thermocline, where the water changes temperature. It's always 58 degrees. And you're not going to go wandering off on your own in the 17 miles in the caverns. I figured, 'How much trouble could I possibly get into?' "
GEARING UP: In her ''Tropical Traveler" specialized luggage, Young packed fins, booties, equipment and tools, regulators, a mask, snorkel, gloves, and a wet suit. She made dive arrangements through West End Diving Centers (www.2dive.com, 314-209-7200), which also leads walking and boating trips at the mine. She stayed at a former rail depot near the abandoned mine. ''When they told me the caboose was available, I thought that was such a kitschy thing. It was bright yellow and very Victorian. I expected to see the guys from 'Wild Wild West.' "
TAKING THE PLUNGE: After orientation, Young went off in a small group with a lead diver and a rescue diver. ''We started to go through and explore sections of the mine. Even with half a million watts of light, it wasn't enough for me. I was breathing fast; I was absolutely panicked. I'd never worn a wet suit. It was dark. It was cold. I'm used to diving in the Caribbean." The rescue diver noticed her labored breathing and took her to the waiting kayak at the top. As she took her weights off, ''I got a charley horse in my calf," she said. ''Trying to massage it, I dropped the weights, shifted my balance, slid under the kayak, and knocked the regulator out of my mouth."
BACK FOR MORE: Young rested, then came back for the third dive of the day. ''We had to crawl through these caverns and the holes got smaller. I started sinking; apparently I had too much weight. We were in a 217-foot pit. It was not 60 feet." She overcompensated by pumping too much air into her buoyancy compensator and came up so fast that she hit her head on the roof of the cavern. ''I start seeing stars, and then my vision starts to close in. So the rescue diver drags me back out of this hole into a place where's there's a big air pocket. Once we rested he said, 'We can go catch up with them.' I told him, 'Are you crazy? I think this would be a good time to end the day.' "
ONCE MORE, WITH FEELING: The next day, Young was chilled before even submerging. ''I was in the water 5 minutes. I bagged the second dive. I think I'm going to stick to caves you can walk through." The Bonne Terre Mine calls itself ''the Bonaire of the North," Young said. ''Now that I've gotten back from the real Bonaire, I have to say, 'Not in your dreams.' "
ALL WAS NOT LOST: Young returned to her favorite pre-scuba activity: shopping. ''I whiled away Columbus Day in historic St. Charles, famed starting point of Lewis and Clark, and featuring 10 blocks of brick-paved streets and early-Victorian storefronts. It was shopping heaven. That's the kind of travel I used to do."