The tubes were rented and the sunscreen had been applied, we were ready for the float trip of our lives….
~ The events that are about to unfold are being told from the best of my memory. Some events I’ve blocked out, others are still raw and most of the ones which offer up the nocturnal nightmares are being dealt with appropriately, with tequila.
It had been a great vacation with friends. The open air was surrounding us and we had been appropriately lazy for three days straight. If we weren’t doing a quick load of laundry or whipping up something for the kids to eat, we were sitting in the Frio River water. When you didn’t find us there you could usually locate us up the street, possibly looking for souvenirs, buying ice for the coolers or picking up a pecan pie from the sweetest old woman inside a hut. Someone should write a book about her one day. She’d beat the pants off the Old Woman who lived in a shoe or Old Lady who swallowed a fly. This was the Old Grandmother who made pie.
The picturesque grandmother who made pies all night long, then sold them quickly every morning with a smile on her face, stole my heart. She had the perfect life. I peaked my head in to her little window on the third day and let her know how wonderful it smelled just being around her. She smiled and sweetly said that the smells were free. She was a doll and I wanted to climb in and sit with her. She was a quick little reminder that we all have the ability to be so happy just doing what we love.
Without the generosity and encouragement of our sweet friends we wouldn’t have been in the Frio River, last summer, in the first place. The opportunity to leave the world behind was offered as soon as we approached the hills of south Texas. Our connection was lost and the phones put in the glove boxes of the trucks we arrived in. We’ll see you in five days world.
It seemed almost instantaneously that I’d taken on a reflective mindset and allowed all that was stirring in my heart to take the front seat. Our friends made plans to work hard at making sure we experienced everything they enjoyed about being in Hill Country and around the river. Every event was timeless, salt of the earth and full of family vibes.
Everything my heart was aching for during a time where personal growth was being challenged.
I had deduced that the trip would be moments of relaxation, reflection, rejuvenation, rebuilding and recovering. I’d figured that I was coming out the other side of an internal struggle and this trip was the crowning moment. The celebration of sorts. The time to face forward and walk away from struggle into the light of a new path. Silly me. ~
I lay here in the Frio face up and in “starfish form”, my eyes towards the sky, deciding whether or not it would just be easier to die. You see, I heard them coming and there wasn’t a thing I could do. Not an ounce of fight left in my body. I began reflecting on where it all started going wrong once the youth group, made up of Christian teenagers, started tubing straight over the top of me…
This morning was similar to the previous mornings we’d had on the Frio, so far. We’d woken up and stretched our arms, then I headed outside to the front deck for a nice cold coffee. Hey, when you’re in Texas during the month of July and it’s 90 degrees by 8:00 am, you drink your coffee via the ice-cold cooler and the Starbucks Mocha bottle it comes in, let’s not get crazy and start brewing hot coffee. Stick to the plan. Drink Iced Mocha coffee from Starbucks and then switch to Sweet Tea Vodka and lemonade by brunch. It’s hot and we’re in Texas, you do as the locals do and you learn to like it.
The buzz (not that kind of buzz) had already started. Who’s going tubing?
“Not me! I’m not!” said some of the older people we were vacationing with this week. Here’s that defining moment where I should have stopped to consider the much wiser and more experienced vacationers.
At what point do we obtain enough knowledge to automatically recognize that we should follow the smart people? It reminds me of the month Hurricane Ike hit the Clear Lake Area, a few years back. Days leading up to the hurricane making landfall, I spoke with my father on the telephone.
He and I were going over our family’s strategy for staying safe. Growing up in Tornado Alley had taught me how to react with moments to spare when it came to severe weather, information that was pretty much useless now that we lived here. Being allowed days to ponder whether or not the strong weather would change direction was new for us. It allowed us to thoroughly think through if we needed to evacuate or not. Give me an inch and I’ll take a mile, so I pondered left and I pondered right when deciding to evacuate. Since our family had only been Texans for a few months, I was watching the locals. I told Dad that it was hard to determine whether or not we should go, because there didn’t seem to be a definite impression on whether or not to take our stuff and run.
Native Texans were staying put and it seemed most transplants were packing up. I’d grown up around storms, so I wasn’t scared. What I did know about hurricanes I’d learned from watching the Weather Channel, so I was a little jittery. I remember my dad telling me to follow the smart people and that he didn’t want to see me hanging from a palm tree, while watching weather updates from Kansas.
Five years later and I’m still not watching the correct smart people, but I digress.
“I’ll stay and start the barbecue pit,” said my friend’s brother-in-law. (Needless to say, he was the smart one to watch, but I still can’t talk about how super important it was that I had an in-depth conversation with that guy before I agreed to go tubing. And, for the record, let it be known that he didn’t offer his advice either. There are places for people like him… 😉 It’s hot there, too.
Come on guys, the Petes are here, we need to take them tubing. Who’s up for it?
I encouraged them all. Come on guys lets all go. It’ll be fun.
I wanted to lazily float along in a tube, so I could dream about all the tree houses I had determined needed to be built along the river. Houses suspended above the ground, which would offer the perfect setting for creativity and an opportunity to dangle outside in the morning while drinking coffee. The perfect spot to allow myself time to consider Louis L’Amour, the author who shaped a lot of what I read for years.
For days leading up to the float trip I’d thought about who used to live in this part of our country, so I also had a date with the historical influences of modern Texas. The American Cowboys, Native Americans and Spanish settlers all lined these hills years ago looking for a way to co-exist. I wanted to visualize where they stood and how they looked. I wanted to soak up the hardship they must have endured just by being in these elements, which surely hadn’t changed much since then. They’d used this river to do plenty, so just by being on it, even if by inner tube, I’d catch a glimpse into that world. Huh huh…that’s what I had planned.
I’m pretty sure that’s everything I said,in my mind, as I listened to the others say they’d come along.
Lets get a move on already.
A few adults drove up to the local rent-a-tube and set us all up. Then they drove another pickup over to the rendezvous point, also known as Neal’s Crossing. It was beautifully arranged and logically it made sense. We would set off from the cabin, float around 5 miles and then drive back. We had the makings of a successful trip down river.
The coolers were packed and the children all had their swim shoes on. I layered a massive amount of sunscreen on these freckled arms and we each had an inner tube. Some wanted tubes with no bottoms in them, so their feet were free to kick along as they held on to the sides of the float like seasoned veterans. While others hand-picked tubes with back rests built-in, some prefered tubes with a floor, usually for children. We had tubes with strong handles which provided a special spot for a rope that connected us to the cooler’s inner tube.
We made sure everyone was satisfied. Drinks, food, sunscreen, bug spray, hats and sunglasses all had front row spots on our float trip. Oh did we pack snacks, lots of snacks, it was going to be a lazy float down river, we were going to have time to snack, drink and snap underwater photos of our friends. Maybe capture those little see through fish that seemed to live for chewing off our skin.
When planning the float trip, Amy even set aside time to play by the waterfall along the way, knowing from past experience that the amount of time we’d need to set aside for this side trip would be well worth it. The break welcomed. All of this topped off by a swim at the end over at Neal’s Crossing, they had an enormous slide the kids could go down and plenty of deep water to get our swim on. It’s also known as Pick-up point #2, if you chose to float past this place you’d have to walk back up the river to find a road, so you’d want to make sure you brought a watch with you, so you could time your arrival.
I liken this information to the dream we’ve all had. The one where you’re lost in a forest during the dead of night and the only place to find shelter is in an abandoned cabin that has a squeaky door, which scares you as you approach it. Now, you’re probably wondering why anyone would put themselves in the forest in the dead of night with no shelter in the first place, to then be terrified by a squeaky door. Well, then you’re going to wonder why we decided to float on a river that hadn’t had any rainfall in quite some time, to then fear the idea of floating past the final Pick-up point, too.
I’m getting ahead of myself.
None of us stopped to consider when it had actually rained last, at least not to my knowledge. I mean it was probably thought about in passing, but none of us worried about it. For three days we had watched the tubes pass us, while we sat in a deep part of the Frio near the rope swing and our cabin. The public seemed to be having a ball, but I hadn’t put two and two together. These people were just starting their float trip. They had just been dropped off about two blocks up the river. The fact that the majority of them had been floating along with someone pulling them didn’t cross my mind as weird.
Some people walked on float trips, right?
(Is it too soon to consider how our day could have gone had we seen the people who were just finishing their float trip? OOo, OOo, pick me! I bet we’d be singing a different tune.)
Not a word people, not a word. I know what you’re going to say and you can save it, okay?
Three women, one college-aged babysitter, two teenagers, four upper elementary aged children, one Pre-K child and ONE VERY BRAVE MAN, my husband, walked their tubes down the stairs in front of our cabin towards the adventure of a life-time. An Epic Journey, of sorts.
I was ready to dream up the best poetry, allow my personal creativity to take root again in my soul, and decide on the future of my life while tubing the Frio. We would relax, while hanging with people smart enough to get out of the cabin, and who welcomed an adventure through Texas Hill Country.
(Epic Journey, to be continued…)