Thursday, August 11, 2005

Float the River


You might be wondering what Amanda meant with that whole “float the Boise River” business. So I’ll help you out. And if you’re ever in Boise and someone wants you to float the river with them, you’ll know exactly what to do, and you won’t look dumb.

Floating the river turns out to be exactly what it sounds like. Here's what you do:

Drive your car about two or three miles north of town to Barber Park, where you will pay $5 to park the car. Rent two inflated inner tubes at $6 each. A lengthy contract will be required for release of the tubes, which contains the following warning: FLOATING THE BOISE RIVER IS AN INHERENTLY DANGEROUS ACTIVITY THAT CAN RESULT IN SERIOUS INJURY AND/OR DEATH. THOSE FLOATING THE RIVER MAY ENCOUNTER DANGEROUS CONDITIONS INCLUDING FAST MOVING WATER, RAPIDS, INCLIMATE WEATHER, OTHER RAFTERS AND SWIMMERS, AND OBSTACLES. SOME OBSTACLES, INCLUDING ROCKS, TUBES, AND OTHER PERSONAL WATERCRAFT AND FLOATATION DEVICES MAY BE CAPSIZED, CAUGHT ON BRANCHES AND ROCKS, PUNCTURED, AND/OR DIFFICULT TO MANUEVER. INFANTS, SMALL CHILDREN, INDIVIDUALS WHO CANNOT SWIM, AND ANYONE SUFFERING FROM SERIOUS MEDICAL CONDITIONS SHOULD NOT FLOAT THE RIVER. PERSONAL FLOATATION DEVICES SHOULD BE WORN AT ALL TIMES. At this point, you picture a river similar to the one in the film Apocalypse Now, with smoldering rafts snagged on skeletal tree branches and emaciated birds pecking at the eyes of cowering floaters. You worry.

Pay for the tubes and join a hoard of Mormon youth groupers at a sandy shoal where all sorts of inflatable nautical vehicles are in various stages of deployment into the river. The water is ice cold, but as the air temperature hovers somewhere around 102 degrees, ice cold feels just fine.

Once in the water, position yourself on the tube so that you are with the direction of the current. Try as best you can to get ahead of the Mormon Hoard, who by this time have whipped themselves into a near Pentecostal frenzy. Signal to your friend (silently, with the eyes) GO! NOW! BEAR RIGHT AND BEAR FAST! She receives the signal, and as you both turn the first bend in the river, the M.H. and their resounding tumult slips behind you. All is still except the constant, soothing passage of water. You wonder if the warning in the contract was mere hyperbole, stop caring, and let the rhythm of the water lull you into a silly, grinning oblivion.

Floating turns out to be an optimal athletic activity, as it requires little to no physical involvement on your part. In fact, the most exertion you exert is trying not to fall off your tube when going over what initially appear to be vicious but turn out to be docile rapids. You remember reading that until a couple of years ago, floaters where allowed to bring alcoholic beverages along with them on their personal floatation devices, presumably so that they might meet their thirst needs on the long voyage. Lord only knows why the city outlawed this practice.

Float on, float on. Sing to yourself every song you can think of involving the words "float" and "merrily" (there will be two). See your friend floating a few yards behind you with a lazy smile on her contented face. Feel the warm sun, watch sparrows flit and fish test the surface of the water, nary an obstacle or gunboat in sight.

After a bit (how long is hard to say, time measurements are meaningless in an inner tube), you will hear a wavering, familiar chant growing steadily louder behind you. As it gets nearer, you recognize the chant as the controversial “tomahawk” chant employed by fans of the Atlanta Braves to express their approval for the home team. Confused, you try to figure out why what sounds like minions of Atlanta Braves fans would be floating the river. Then you see it – a legion of enormous, poorly steered inflatable rafts bearing down on you fast. The M.H. approaches with the “tomahawk” chant on their lips, presumably because riding in enormous, poorly steered inflatable rafts makes them feel like Native Americans, who ride in canoes.

You deftly maneuver your tube to the right bank of the river, hoping to God that the M.H. leaves you with your scalp intact. Suddenly the warning makes so much sense. Finally, the last of the brigade passes you by. You look back to make sure your friend has escaped the wake without capsizing or colliding with some other obstacle, which she has. Resume the float.

You float for a total of two hours, down to Ann Morrison park, which is in downtown Boise. There you get out of the river and turn in your tubes. From the park a shuttle (a converted yellow school bus painted white and re-dubbed “The White Whale”) will take you back to your car ($2 each). On the shuttle, you and your friend devise ways to make this activity cheaper while listening to the bus driver rant about the war in Iraq and getting cancer, among other things. You learn that he used to be a chef in Westwood (which, according to him, is near Santa Barbara), until he learned that he had contracted cancer (type undisclosed, though such information is requested by the passenger immediately behind the driver). You learn he quit being a chef because he “didn’t want to drop dead in his kitchen.” You pray he doesn’t drop dead driving this bus, either.

Despite the threat of sudden death and hail of brilliantly insane conspiracy theories, you and your friend are delivered safely to your car. Drive home and admire your new tan. You have completed the float.


Blogger emily said...

that sounds fun. don't forget to wear sunscreen.

11:38 AM  

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