My apologies for the length of this post. Long day, long post.
Tubing down the Delaware River is a long standing tradition on my side of the family. Laziness is wrought down through the centuries by blood.
It is my specialty.
This year we decided that the kids were finally big enough to learn the subtle and lackadaisical arts of tubing. It was with joy in my heart that I pushed off for Walmart to buy their first tubes for our very special day.
I walked down the river tube aisle, and my eyes were opened to a brave new world of comfort tubing. These new tubes have mesh supports on the bottom (to gently cradle my ass), a back support, AND CUPHOLDERS, because while practicing the fine art of the tube, your laziness quotient skyrockets when you no longer have to hold your own beer. There is simply no comparison to the sad, sack of shit, donuts of yesteryear.
I think I had that one.
Of course, I had to own one.
My new tube. It has CUPHOLDERS.
I also bought one in camo for the husband (color choices were limited), some little boats for the kids and a new party barge
Party Barge: The boat to which all other tubes tie. It carries the giant cooler where beer, juice boxes, samiches (you don’t eat sandwiches on the river, ye landlubbers, you eat samiches), and snacks reside. Most importantly it carries the keys to the finish car. It’s always a good idea to have transport back to your start point when
drunk tired from a long, hard day of doing absolutely nothing paddling down the river.
We packed everything we’d need for the day, including my prescription hat.
When I was sick last year if you remember that nightmare, the weird and horrible disease doctor prescribed a sombrero to protect my soft and supple skin. It was immediately dubbed the “prescription hat”.
Sort of like this, but it had a wider brim. Think “comedically large pinata”.
So maybe it’s not trendy. Maybe it’s three foot circumference is bothersome and sometimes dangerous… But I took the pom-poms off, and I don’t have a waxed mustache or poncho (anymore), so I wear my prescription hat. I ignore the smarmy comments made by my company, and I keep my soft and supple skin soft and supple. Or pallid and translucent, whatever. I brought it with me.
Since we’re planning to tube down a new part of the river (for everyone), we stopped at the river’s park ranger station (and gift shop) for a river map and some advice. The ranger there was old enough to have been present when the glacier melted, and the river was born, so I figured he might know a good spot to start our three-hour tour.
He said he did and handed me a slip of paper. According to his directions, start was 30 miles away.
Since the river is running at approximately .04 mph, that would make our trip…
I should have known better. This guy was so old he could have been appointed by Teddy Roosevelt himself. His walker was whittled from trees that have since gone extinct, and I’m pretty sure I saw him in the portrait of “Washington Crossing the Delaware” that hung by the register. It’s possible that he used to be a knowledgable ranger (and gift shop attendant). Maybe I should have bought a stuffed beaver or made a donation or something. Maybe you have to grease a few wrinkly cracked palms to get the good directions.
14.99 for correct directions.
After much driving and discussion we stopped, about a third of the way up our thirty mile trek, at a tiny beach that had somehow accommodated five thousand church members and their lunches (which I presumed to be fishes and loaves of bread) on a canoeing trip.
It was a million degrees outside and a trillion percent humidity. Since there were five thousand people on the tiny beach, we had to get ready on the steaming, crackling, asphalt. Halfway through blowing up our tubes, my flip flops melted into the parking lot.
We moved to the grass.
I opened up the kids’ new boats and noticed something strange…
This is not okay.
Holes. Leg holes. Boats aren’t supposed to have holes; this is widely known. The kids were stoked. Me, not so much. I could only see a screaming child, a missing big toe, blood spurting out the foot like a fountain and a happy snapping turtle. Plus, since there would be blood in the water, and sometimes bull sharks come up freshwater rivers, we would all be eaten and no one would ever know where to find our bodies because I just bought all new tubes. It was motioned and seconded that I lay off the National Geographic Channel for a while.
We made for the river bank, by then I was so sweaty that I had begun my own saltwater inlet. It’s quite possible that our part of the Delaware is now brackish. (Bull sharks like brackish water. Just saying.)
Everyone was concerned about getting past the five thousand Christians to the water with all our gear.
Everyone but me.
Get out of my damneth way, sayeth the tuber.
We all gathered at the river, and then quite unceremoniously, I plowed through that mass of Christian fellowship like a sweaty knife through righteous butter and got us into the water. They parted for me like the Red Sea. I was so ready to cool off in my brandy new palatial yellow tube- with cup holders.
Suck it, canoeing Christians.
John Coleman, is it straight to Hell for me? Or do I get to chill in purgatory for a while.
The family followed in my wake, and the Church group crashed back together behind us (drowning the Egyptians, of course.).
It’s hot. We pass around the gigantic tube of sunblock and enjoy the river. My niece decides to forgo the sunblock and fry herself to a nice boiled lobster red; on one side.
J and K were having a FANTASTIC time. J wanted a little more freedom to paddle around, so I untied him from my tube, intending to tie him to the party barge solo. Unfortunately, his tube came loose from the barge and me entirely.
It all happened in slow motion- I watched helplessly as his rope pulled off the barge. J realized that he was floating away from us into the wide river all on his own, and his little eyes turned to saucers. His mouth agape, his face lost all color— he was petrified. A petrified little face that grew smaller and smaller as the current slowly took him away.
My maternal instincts kicked in.
Me, on my way to rescue my son. Okay, it’s not me, but the sentiment is there.
I was Pamela Anderson on Baywatch. I slid elegantly from my tube into the deep water to rescue him. I began a graceful freestyle swim to retrieve my child while passing tubers quietly took pictures of my prodigious bosom and chilly chesticles. I had not forgotten to shave my armpits. I easily took control of J’s boat and brought it back to the group, where I re-tied him. Then, at my whistle, seabirds gathered underneath my outstretched arms and lifted me gracefully back into my tube, where I enjoyed the rest of my fruity rum concoction while everyone congratulated me on a flawless rescue.
Ahhh… If that were what had really happened.
In all actuality, I was the fat lady who plopped into the river and frantically doggy paddled towards the child with a giant sombrero on her head. I tired quickly from lack of exercise and sheer wet girth, and then took a break before returning to the group with my son and his sad, holey, boat.
I was unaware that my niece had her phone out and had been recording the entire rescue.
Slightly closer to reality.
It gets worse.
Once J was securely fastened to the barge, it was time for me to get back in my tube. Since the new tubes I bought for us have a mesh butt and back support, there is no hole. There was no flipping the tube over and coming up through the middle. I might not have fit through the center of a tube anyhow.
I went to my tube and hopped up onto the mesh middle, my ass hanging over the edge like somebody put the oreos on the bottom shelf. I suddenly found myself underneath a giant yellow umbrella.
This is bad.
Getting back in a tube from deep water isn’t ever easy, but it had been a while and about 100 pounds since I did it last, so it was going to take me a second try. No big whoop. I turned my tube over, mourned the lost contents of my cup holders, and came up out of the water like shamu, this time throwing a leg over to boost my fat ass into my palatial tube, but wondering slightly too late how exactly I would regain my seat; ass side down. I over balanced my weight and I was in the river once again, in my yellow submarine. I heard muffled laughter coming from the other side. I turned my tube over to find everyone laughing.
Was there help from my most dear? My family? Those who are supposed to love me the most?
My husband, my sister, my niece, and my two children, one of whom I had just saved from oblivion were all sitting in their tubes, snacks in hand, making jokes and laughing at my sad ass. Literally.
At this point I noticed that my niece had her phone out and was recording, for all posterity and future family functions, my great efforts to return my ass to it’s throne.
I took a slower approach. I clawed the upper half of my body up onto the tube. My ass told the story in flabby muscles as I tried to turn over. It was not to be.
The people who are supposed to be my support system began shouting useless help from their own tubes.
“Try not to fall in!”
“You weigh more than the tube!”
“Try to pull yourself back up onto the tube!”
“No, you have to turn over to get your butt in the seat.”
Eventually I made it back onto the tube, at which point I was immediately reminded that my lovely niece held several titles from her junior high and high school swimming days, and could have easily have gone after J, saving me much work and embarrassment.
I had forgotten that while in the throes of my Pamela Anderson moment.
Now, here is the point of contention: When I got back from the abyss, to tie J up to the barge and get back in my tube, I stuck my prescription hat on the party barge so I could see better. By the time I got back into my tube… A procedure which I am told may have taken slightly longer than I remember, my prescription hat was lost to the river… Forever.
I am aware that no one liked my prescription hat. It’s ugly, and people are always dodging it’s wide brim, which I’m told I used like a weapon, but I would never have thought any of my companions capable of haticide. To this day there has been no confession, no closure, and no healing. Sigh.
You’ll notice the lack of pictures here. They have been confiscated and no one will ever see them. Ever.
The hours had begun to pass. At lunchtime, I explained to my husband that it’s traditional to eat like otters while tubing. Put your samich on your belly and eat “entube”.
Real tubers don’t pull off the river just for lunch. Pshaw.
It was hot. The afternoon sun was bearing down on us. We, the whitest people, from the whitest family, with genes from the whitest country on Earth.
I, perhaps, the whitest of all.
I’m so white, that when I go outside in shorts, it’s recommended that everyone who looks my way use a pinhole projector. Otherwise the glare from my skin could blind them.
I do not tan. I turn lobster red, and then albino white again.
At this point I had slathered myself so totally with sunblock that anyone who touched me would have a half-inch of sun block on their finger for their trouble.
We started to look for our exit.
It had been 3 hours.
Around four hours we began to comment about how slow the river was running.
At five hours we decided to call our little troupe “The Minnow”.
Still nothing to indicate a bridge.
There were another group of tubers on the river with us, we’d seen them multiple times. They were well stocked. Their party barges- they had two- had huge coolers, and plastic bags of varying sizes. They had beers in hand constantly.
When next we passed them I asked where they were headed.
“Dunno,” random tuber said, “when we get tired, we’re going to stop and camp for the night.”
Hmmm… I ask a little more directly.
“Do you know how far it is to the ranger station?”
(Imagine a surprised and awed tone)
“Wow! You’re going all the way down there? You guys are troopers.” I heard a low whistle.
There is silence amongst the Minnow’s crew. We consult the map.
“Where did we start?”
“Where are we now?”
“Jesus the river is slow today”
“How long till we get there?”
At six hours The Crew of the Minnow began to doubt the existence of “The Bridge”
At seven hours, I saw mutiny in their eyes.
We ran out of everything. The children’s teeth were chattering and their little lips were blue because they refused to take their legs out of those stupid leg holes in their boats. My niece had not used a drop of sunblock. She looked like she spent the day in a microwave.
We were approaching 8 hours when a group of sprightly people who had not spent the entire day on the river passed us.
Shiny, happy people laughing– Fuck ’em.
I yelled over to those happy and hydrated people:
“Do you have any idea where we are on the river?”
Lovely woman, all fresh and cool, (bitch) paddling down the river said:
“Yeah, turtle beach is coming up on the left but if you want to get off there, you’ll have to hurry to get over in time.”
I asked: “How far is the ranger station?”
Another 3 hours.
This is karma, I know it. I’m being repaid for my treatment of God’s children back up at the start.
We all decided very quickly (and unanimously) to get off at turtle beach. Once it was decided, turtle beach came into view. We paddled. We paddled and paddled. We paddled till our arms fell off, and then we used our own detached arms to paddle some more.
Do you know what happens to your equilibrium after 8 hours on the river? The water turns to land, and the land to water. None of us could stand, plus the shore bottom was all muddy and slippery.
We were a red, wrinkled disaster, dehydrated and malnourished, tripping over ourselves in the shallows, over and over, faceplanting like we were all playing dizzy bat, or spin relay, until finally flopping our chapped, disheveled, muddy and broken bodies onto the shore like whales, beaching ourselves to die. People shielded their children’s eyes from the sight of us as we clawed up the sand.
When we finally adjusted to our surroundings we were staring up at the look-out stand of a Young Hot Lifeguard. This was a serious upswing in our current mise en scene.
I took my young and pretty niece with me (granted, right then she was looking kind of like a Life Savers Duo, half Jesus-Someone-please-call-an-ambulance-red and half dead fish white) to beg them to help us get back to the rangers station (and gift shop).
You should have seen it the NEXT day.
She smiled real purty like, and they put in a call to the ranger station (and gift shop) regarding a pick up for 4 sad sacks and two children (I think I heard something really quiet about child services). Anyway, they agreed to come.
They didn’t come.
It was agreed that they must have spoken to our old ranger friend from the morning, because it’s entirely possible that he never leaves the gift shop, and instead has simply grown into the ranger station, like that guy in Davy Jones Locker from Pirates of the Caribbean.
The husband called the rangers station (and gift shop) and gave them a talking to, such as he was able, in his zombified state.
It turned out that we should never have put our trust in a hot 16 year old lifeguard who was getting off work in 10 minutes to get the job done.
Finally our rescue came, strangely, in the form of our childhood pastors’ doppelgänger. Coincidence? Hmmmm…
Perhaps I should have confessed my sins.