Monday, June 19, 2006

I Say Float, You Say Where

This coming weekend my friend Lilleee is going on a float trip, the same float trip with the same people from last year, minus one. That one would be me.

See, last year Lilleee asked me to accompany her on this yearly trip and I agreed because what sounds better than ‘float’ and ‘trip’ in the same sentence? I conjured up all kinds of images of myself lying languorously upon a black innertube, floating lethargically down a glistening river, making occasional forays into the attached ice chest for a cold beer and maybe even a sandwich.

That Saturday morning Lilleee and I left Little Rock in our cute little tank tops and pony tails, sunglasses perched perkily atop our heads. Our two person tent was shoved into the back of my trunk, along with enough foodstuffs to feed a small Romanian army. Neither of us had sleeping bags but being in the midst of a three-month long heat wave, we were none too concerned with that situation. I’d stripped the foam mattress from my bed the night before and slipped two light coverlets into my travel bag, content that those items would more than serve their purpose of protecting us from flying tent critters and bumpy ground. Well, that and some heavy duty bug spray.

We arrived in the heat of early afternoon, the sun swirling so close to the baked earth I had Indiana Jones-esque images of someone stumbling upon my dried and mummified corpse in fifty years, the pink polish on my toes still faintly visible, my hair dry and lifeless, grayed from the accumulation of dusty sand.

Within two hours we’d folded our sweaty bodies back inside my Honda, giving thanks to the Blessed Air Conditioning Gods and the local Sonic for supplying us with gallon sized cups of cherry limeades. We then perused the local Wal-Mart for travel-sized folding chairs and a pair of shorts that I could deem Of Acceptable Length. I hadn’t purchased a pair of shorts since 1999 and even those were for a summer spent as a counselor at an over priveledged white kid camp and all I got out of that situation was a raging case of mono and a really unfortunate tan line. But after only an hour spent in heat equal to the fourth level of Dante’s Inferno, I was more than willing to toss my pride and don shorts that not only showcased my frightening paleness but the jiggly bits as well.

On the way back to camp we stopped in a moderately deserted strip mall parking lot so I could stand between the front and rear passenger doors while stripping off my soaked-with-sweat cotton pants. I was beyond caring who or what saw my naked ass and all I can say is whatever residual embarrassment there was regarding stripping down in front of a busy highway was completely negated by the instant relief I felt in pulling on vented nylon shorts.

Back at camp we plopped our newly purchased lawn chairs around the nonexistent campfire while swigging bottle after bottle of gatorade and water. Never in my life has Gatorade tasted so good. By six pm I would have traded my car for a case of the stuff, if only for the fact that it meant I could remain seated in relative discomfort while having someone hand me a bottle rather than exert any kind of physical effort which would easily have pushed me into the zone of utter and extreme discomfort.

I think we ate hamburgers that night but I really couldn’t tell you.

The next morning the whole camp was up at dawn, eager for the traditional camp breakfast of bacon and eggs and an early start on the float trip. But the thing about cooking bacon on a small portable stove is that it takes longer than just driving into town and getting a bacon biscuit already. All of this, combined with the the amount of money our fellow campers had spent on air mattresses and battery-less air pumps and vented tents and plastic tarps and special cooking stoves and cooking utensils and travel ice chests made me wish I’d just put my foot down about making a McDonalds run and pinky-swearing that I’d never tell anyone about our little cave-in to capitalist conformism. I’d have maintained our staunch devoutness to Camping Regulations until the day I died or until someone bribed me with some Hawaiian coconut syrup and crunchy waffles, whichever came first.

By ten am we’d driven in our respective vehicles to the drop-off point, the point where everyone else who’d purchased five-hundred dollars worth of camping equipment to pitch tent on flat, tree-less ground was waiting to catch the hourly bus to whatever part of the river someone had deemed acceptable to begin floating upon. About that time I started to pick up on conversation that involved placing ice chests inside... something that definitely wasn’t an innertube. Because innertubes have holes for you to sidle your ample backside into while your arms and legs drop lazily over the sides. They do not, however, have places in which you may place an ice chest.

Then I heard talk of paddles and I started to have that itchy, sinking feeling in my stomach. One doesn’t need a paddle on an innertube. One only needs the gentle river current to push one along.

And then someone had to go and loudly proclaim their excitement over the low-water level and how much fun it was going to be going over the rapids this year.

Er, rapids?


YoJ said...

Oh shit! So much for lounging on the tube huh? Will we get to read another installment of you, screaming & clutching to dear life while going down the rapids?

Is Arkansas really that desert like? I've never seen it.


oakland heidi said...

I had a similar horrific tube trip experience last year. I received an email yesterday afternoon inviting me to go again this year. I laughed outloud and forwarded it on to Blair.

At the end of the day I had lost my shoes, was bruised and battered, had "tire rash" all over my back, sides, and arms, was burnt, and had to hike barefoot in the dark up a huge crumbling embankment only to reach the top and discover that no one was sober enough to drive us back to the camp. I wasn't about to attempt to drive this giant truck, which was stick, in my sunstroked state. I was so hungry I was seeing spots.

Truly horrific.

I'm glad you are home safe and not melting on some god foraken stretch of still water. Suck on some ice cubes and revel in the whir of your fan.

Carl from L.A. said...

I went on a river rafting trip years ago in Utah, down the Colorado River, near the tail end of the rafting season. You would have enjoyed that one - catered lunch, leisure waterflow, and a kayak big enough that I could have brought a cooler (at least one big enough for a couple of bottles).

Also visited Four Corners and the infamous Devil's Highway (US Hwy 666) on that same trip.

Love road trips.

colter said...

If you won't be floating this weekend, I'm having a cookout at the house on Saturday around 4 if you'd like to come. We also may have the writing group again Sunday night, but I'm waiting to hear back from Natalie.

rob said...

Mmmm...what's hotter than a bruised ass and lumbar traction?

That does it for me every time.