Un-Proud Mary

I learned something this week. I’m not meant to spend my life on the river. It was a close call because I was *this* close to  chucking my glamorous life in the city and spending my days floating down a river a la Huck Finn. Minus any racist overtones.

It seemed like a good idea. Girl-child’s youth group was going to inner-tube up in the mountains. I was chosen to accompany them, not based on my wicked river skills but because of my wicked-large vehicular module. They needed drivers. I know how to drive. A match made in heaven, right? So I signed up to drive. And that’s where the fun begins.

I knew I was in trouble from the beginning. When someone says “You can’t miss it,” and I still get lost, I should just cut my losses and go home. But the kids were counting on me. So I kept plugging.

Getting into the river was the hardest thing I have ever done. Did you know that tubing involves stuffing your bum-bum in a giant inner tube so that the only parts actually touching the water are feet and the most tender parts of the anatomy?  Did you also know that river water is cold? I bet you didn’t. That’s what I’m here for. To teach. And to drive.

It was hard, but I am brave. I did it. I let most of the kids get in first. Not because I am chicken, but because I was trained that there should always be an adult watching from behind for safety’s sake. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

Anyway, with only a few folks left behind me, I put my tube in the water and off I went. Or so I thought. I didn’t get very far before I hit a rock and dragged bottom. As in, my bottom. So far, rafting chafes more than it entertains. But I am one to persevere.

In a matter of moments, I realized I was alone on the river. As in, completely alone. It was as though my tookus suddenly dropped anchor in an iceberg, and I was left watching groups who started 1/4 mile up the river from me pass me at great speeds while I sat almost completely still. At one point I think  I actually started moving backward. No, really. Pretty soon, I couldn’t even hear other rafters.

I tried to pretend that this was solitude. And I almost believed it. Until I hit the first rock. A wide, wide river, flowing smoothly, not a rock in sight. Except for the one I was now bearing down on with new-found speed. Speed. Yes, now I find that current that everyone else was riding. Whee! OW!  Frickiddy-frack! Solitude is kind of ouchie.

I discovered that the rock had friends. A lot of friends. Some hidden a little better than others, and some of them just waiting to whack me in tush or grab my inner tube. I also discovered that rocks are slimy. Very, very slimy. When it became obvious that there was absolutely no way to float through one section of the river, I attempted to right myself and carry my tube to deeper water. And I fell. A lot. I found myself channeling my inner Yosemite Sam. I am not proud of it.

Finally, I found the deeper current, and it was really moving. I dropped tube and jumped in. And nearly flipped my raft. I could have died there. Except I had an audience. Tents were pitched here and there along the river. Everywhere I hit a rock, I could count on at least one camper sitting on the bank watching. I’m sure my plight would have been very, very funny if it hadn’t been so pitiful. I think I would rather have had them holding their sides and peeing their pants laughing at me than see the looks that so clearly said “Oh, sweet Lord, what is the matter with that woman?”

After an hour and a half of furious paddling and hauling my rig over rock and ’round bend, I finally came within sight of my group. It took another fifteen minutes for me to finally catch them and get out of the water. Sadly, the sun came out in full force, and I couldn’t float the river a second time, even if I had wanted to. And believe me, I didn’t want to.

So lesson learned. No more rafting. I’m hoping the next youth group trip will be something a little less fraught with peril. Like bungee jumping. Nothing could go wrong there, could it?

This was my view of the river. Not a rock in sight. Except for the one I’m about to hit. Story of my life.