I floated a river once in Colorado.
I have floated rivers in Texas 9 million times which consists of beer and a stereo and maybe tumping over a time or two. Getting Sunburned. Being Lazy. Slowly. Peacefully. Not so much the case in Colorado. If you hop on an inner tube, and jump in a river and expect to have the same Texas experience, please stop yourself immediately because you are dumb dumb dumb.
We were staying in Colorado with our family and friends, and we somehow thought a river float was a good idea. The man who owned the property…a dear family friend…kept mentioning things like, “You HAVE to stay to the right…you HAVE to or it will be hard for me to save you.” And, “If you get flipped, hold onto your tube with everything in you, don’t let go, and it will eventually pull you out of the rapids.” And “You cannot go under the bridge at the end…then you’ll be a goner…”
These felt like red flags. Truly. But again, I have “tubed” in Texas so many times…I was fine…Everything was fine.
The river was ice cold even in the heat of summer, and it was clearly moving way faster than a lazy Texas river. My tube instantly felt insufficient…there was no stopping our tubes racing down a river. There was a “small” drop off up ahead, and our guide/friend of the family/grossly-misinformed-man-when-it-comes-to-river-comparisons was shouting “Most people don’t get pulled under here, but if you do, hold on to that tube because the rapids are gonna pull you under”
This did not feel hopeful to me, and as I watched the two other folks go over what, at closer inspection, was some serious rapids with only TUBE, I could feel in my soul that I was going under…chubby girls…we don’t fare well in tubes on rivers…I tumped. I was sucked under into rapids. There was no battling it. So, I held on to that tube with my life and I hated my friend’s husband with every fiber of my being, and my much thinner friend for making it over this first nightmare.
The tube pulled me, thankfully, above water, but the current was going so fast I couldn’t get my feet under me. I was dragging and scraping my thighs and shins on the bottom of the river. And I could see it coming. The enormous boulder. I was barreling toward it. And I prayed a prayer I hope I never pray again, “Lord. Don’t knock me unconscious.” Not, “Lord, steer me clear of this boulder.” I was hitting the boulder and the way things were going I knew, I was hitting it with my face. My face slammed into the boulder and the force of the current did not stop with my body plastered, face first, into a giant rock. The river was not deterred. I was drug, still holding my damn inner tube, under the boulder face up at the speed of sound, scratching and scraping my face underneath the stupid mini mountain and came out on the other side. Bruised. Beaten. And holding the damn inner tube.
I managed to get back on after a few more minutes of stumbling and reaching for reeds and branches and really anything that might hold the big girl in a tankini who had lost her pride underneath a boulder. And that was about 5 minutes into the trip. The rest of the tubing adventure was me struggling to not panic and desperately listening to the screams and shouts and instructions of our “guide” who was now dead to me.
My face hurt from forehead to chin and I knew I looked like I had left a cabin in Colorado that morning and randomly gotten in a street fight. And lost. We were nearing the end. We were being desperately instructed to “Get to the left before the bridge!!!!” I was paddling with everything in me. I threw my body off my tube because the bridge was coming. I was half walking. Half swimming. Half tripping and slipping and falling to save my own life.
There was a young man fishing on the banks of the river. He was watching an overweight middle aged woman in her brown tankini fight herself and a river to get to the left. I could feel it happening as I used the last of my energy to push the tube and my body onto the river bank right beside him. My bottoms went rogue. They were at my ankles. I was laying face down next to him and there was no hope. I stood, full frontal nudity, for the worst X rated movie known to man…”Oh Sh*t.” Was all he said. And the last of my dignity went floating by.
So, consider this a public service announcement, a warning if you will: If someone suggests floating a river to you and you see no sign of a cooler or stereo or little ropes to tie your floats together…pull out…say no…think twice…especially if you describe yourself as “thick”. This is not your river. This is not your jam. Watch all the skinny athletic types tell you all you missed later. And for God’s sake, if you do decide to risk your life, wear a flipping one piece.
You will thank me for this later.