After taking in Hillsville’s July 4 activities, the family and I decided that a nice way to spend the next day would be to rent some tubes and leisurely float down the New River. Now, some of you may remember the last time the family and I decided to do something leisurely, yes, it was a horse ride. Well, that turned ugly when a vicious beast by the name of Sphincter tried to kill me. With Sphincter out of the picture, I was set for a relaxing drift down the river. Little did I know that the river had another thing in mind.
Although I had canoed down the river in years past, many years past, I had never tubed down the river. I found out that tubing is a bit different; the tubes are harder to handle than canoes, at least for me, due to a couple of ruptured discs in my neck and an ever-growing belly. If I leaned back in a relaxed position, my neck began to hurt, but if I leaned forward my belly hurt. So I never stayed in position for too long.
I also made the mistake of tethering the cooler tube to my own tube, so as to make sure liquid refreshment was nearby. You never want to be too far away from liquid refreshment on the river, because if you are too far away you only get one beer. That doesn’t make for proper tubing, especially for the paterfamilias of the family.
We were told that when our two and a half hour ride ended (we actually took a little over three hours to finish), we were to exit on the left side of the river. That seemed all well and good, except that the current not only took us down river, but toward the right bank. It was at one point after finally finding a relaxing position that allowed me to float without a care, that I realized I was about to bump into the right bank, which was, at this point, a rock cliff.
The rock was no problem, since I could just stick my feet out and push off. However, that proved to be harder than I thought. I would push off and begin paddling with my hands, but the combination of the tube cooler and an apparent vortex of death in this particular spot kept drawing me back to the bank. Finally, two members of our party paddled over and took the cooler tube, which lightened my weight and allowed me to break free of the vortex.
Things went along rather smoothly for a while, but then the river showed its ugly side once again. Yes, you guessed it, another vortex of death. Only this time it wasn’t me who was struggling to break free of its grasp, it was the Mistress of the Manor and the Young Master. They were tethered together and while trying to free themselves from the vortex, the Mistress took a header into the river. I gave her a score of 9.0, I deducted a point for flailing.
When she bobbed right up, I thought everything was all right, but then she again disappeared underneath the water. She bobbed up again, but once again down she went. It was then I realized she was in trouble. I began to paddle, but our son-in-law, now known as the Hero, was quicker to react than I, possibly because of my proximity to the cooler tube at the beginning, and got to her first.
As it turned out, the real problem was not the depth of the water – the Mistress can swim – or the vortex, but the sliminess of the nearby rock, which allowed no hand hold to be obtained. So, once we got the Mistress back into her tube, we tethered all five of us together and began to paddle back to the middle of the river, where we rejoiced until my daughter, the Fair Maiden, was hit with motion sickness. The river just keeps coming at you, my friends.
However, we soon learned that we weren’t the only ones the river was taking a toll on. Yes, nearby was a mother, who was trying to keep an eye on about a million kids. Okay, I think there were only seven, but they were spread over a 100-yard stretch of the river, with the oldest one being around eight years old. All of a sudden, we heard a splash and a scream. We turned to see one of the young girls – she looked to be about four – had fallen out of her tube.
If this had been a movie, the mother would have said “I’m coming to save you!” and dived into the water, but, hey, this is real life. Instead, the mother said “Now, see what you’ve done!” “How are you going to get back into the tube?” and “I’m not getting wet!” Luckily, the little girl was wearing a life vest, which we all had forgotten to wear, and after floundering around in the water for a while, managed to climb back into the tube.
After gathering the younguns’ close to her, the mother then realized that one of her ilk had managed to put about 100 yards between himself and the group. The group began to holler and wave for the adventurous tyke to come back. He did, oh so slowly, using his flip flop for flippers. As we neared the end of our adventure, the aforementioned adventurous tyke was floating nearby. Every 30 seconds, he would ask “How much longer until we get out?” “Where do we get out?” “Can you see where we get out?”
If I hadn’t been so tired from padding out of deadly vortexes, watching my beloved bob up and down in the water, and attempting to avoid big rocks and one especially huge tree trunk, I might have said, with an ominous tone, “Kid, once the river has you, there’s no getting out.” But I didn’t have the heart, because I, like the kid, was ready for the fun to end.