Well folks, I'm sunburned and all pooped out now, but I had a great weekend. My father-in-law took my sons camping, and my wife and I joined her roller-derby friends at a rented house in New Braunfels for a group vacation. After hours of driving the backroads of Texas' Hill Country, we arrived Thursday night, and hung out, drinking beer and telling stories. It was there that I was given my official roller derby name. As a non-skating participant (videographer), I didn't choose my name; it was forced upon me. Although the name was not insulting, it's not fit to print here, but for the weekend, I was not Steve, I was B.D. (to use the initials).
On Friday and Saturday, I floated down the Guadalupe river on a big black inner-tube that had a plastic bottom attached with straps around it. Friday's float was mostly a nice, relaxing one with just a few of the group there. Fluffy (my wife) had decided to join Tata and her husband Captain Motorboater in a pilgrimage to a semi-famous barbecue joint in Lockhart, so I joined with a group of her friends that I had just met, and didn't have my wife as a crutch. I know it may be hard to believe, but I'm not naturally social, and I typically will try to blend into the scenery when I'm in a place where I don't know anyone. But something about this group really made me feel at ease— and I can see why Fluffy likes them so much.
We had no sooner launched ourselves into the water Friday afternoon, when the clouds opened up and deluged us with cold, annoying, driving rain. Yet, we were there to get wet anyhow, and the rain did finally give way to sunshine only a short time later. We only floated for 2 or 3 hours Friday, on a wide, slow part of the river, where there was only one "rapid", which was a man-made dam with one spillway just a little deeper than the others.
Friday night was another night of drinking and partying at the house, but I only had a few and went to bed early. Fluffy and I had our own bedroom, which was only separated from the front porch by a window, so we got to hear all the drama well into the night. It seems one of the girls there had gotten drunk and inappropriate (even for this crowd) and her boyfriend basically broke up with her there in a loud argument.
I was surprisingly energetic Saturday morning. Fluffy didn't sleep well because several scorpions had been spotted in the house, and one person had been stung. She says she kept imagining them crawling on her in the bed. We all grabbed our gear and headed down to one of the local outfitters, Gruene River Company. They supplied the tubes, and the transportation up-river from their location in Gruene. We rode an old beat-up short school bus, towing a beat-up trailer full of inner tubes and inflatable rafts and kayaks.
So, I think there were about 21 of us there for what I am now calling the "clusterfloat". Once we launched, on what was supposed to be a 4-hour float, we tried to stay connected as a group - either by holding onto one another's tubes, or lashing them together with rope like Fluffy and I did. We rented an extra tube to put our small cooler in. The first half of the float was pretty nice and relaxing - even if a little loud at times from the cackling of some of the more talkative girls. There were a few mild rapids to go through, and they were mostly fun. At best, you got accelerated forward and bounced around a bit, and at worst, the plastic bottom of the tube would catch on some of the rocks, and you would have to stand up and take your tube forward or to another part of the current.
The not-so-fun part of Saturday's adventure was toward the end, when we went down this rapid that really was too dangerous to do in tubes. It was one of these things where we didn't know the river, and didn't know what was ahead until it was too late. It was so loud with the rushing water that we couldn't even hear others warn us. I don't know for sure what the drop was, but Fluffy and I think it was 10 - 15 feet over the course of maybe 50 feet of boulders. I damned near came out of my tube, and several people did. The woman in front of me did come out of hers, and got her leg bashed against one of the rocks. Somehow I managed to stay on, and she didn't drown. One of the guys was thrown out of his tube, hit his head, and was pulled under for a bit.
We got everyone's tubes back to them and regrouped after that. Then the river went into wide, slow mode for awhile, and it seemed like the wind was blowing us upriver as hard as the current was trying to take us down. We had to paddle just to keep moving. I think quite a few of the folks considered themselves to be done with tubing after that rapid. But the only way out was to continue on until we reached the outfitter's place along the river, so that last couple hours seemed like it took forever. My arms are worn out from that. Also toward the end, it became apparent that I didn't apply enough sunscreen to my legs, which began to burn. I did put some on, but I think it was too late.
After what seemed like forever, we got back to the tube place and returned our tubes. The consensus was that short floats are good, long floats are bad. My thought was that I want to do this again, but in a kayak instead of a tube. And even though it may look goofy, I'd want to wear a helmet.
Saturday night, Fluffy and I went out by ourselves and ate dinner at a Mexican place in Gruene, which was just awesome. We got a good night's sleep Saturday night, and left fairly early on Sunday to come back.
Here are some links I meant to post on Thursday, but ran out of time before I had to leave for our vacation:
Last week's "Texas Progressive Time" show features DCTA President Jim Cline, with an update on the A-Train. Cline also appeared at the Lewisville City Council meeting on Monday and announced that they had received federal approval to begin using the new Stadler cars. Cline said they had one step remaining and that it should be done quickly.
When science gives you the answers you don't want, just outlaw science. Right, North Carolina? While you're at it, you can solve your budget problems by mandating that 1 + 1 = 2.4. You've been smoking from the same bowl as Texas legislators, eh?