When I was fourteen I was all geared up to go to summer camp when I heard the news that while I was gone my cousins would be going on a tubing trip to Georgia. It was truly terrible timing as I hated to miss out on anything with my cousins, especially the opportunity to float down a dang river. Ever since then I’ve seen the pictures from that trip and been jealous of the kids that got to go.
The tubing mecca of northwest Georgia is in Helen. I’ve been to Helen a couple times but I’d never gotten the chance to go down the Chattahoochee. This year I was determined to go.
Come rain or shine
Unfortunately, the morning we were supposed to hit the river an absolute monsoon blew in. It wasn’t a drizzle or a light mist – it was a downpour. I tried to wrap my mind around the disappointment that was not getting to go tubing when one of the kids piped up ‘why don’t we just go in the rain.’
I quickly called the tubing company and was assured, “Yes, ma’am. We tube in the rain.”
And that was that. I loaded up the kids and we hit it.
There are two major tubing operations in Helen.
We went with Cool River. It was two dollars more but I thought it might be a ‘you pay for what you get’ kinda thing. Plus, just between you and me, the other company made a point to say that ‘nudity is not permitted’ and I figured ‘let’s just go with the company that doesn’t have to say it but assumes we know it.’
It’s a cheap sport:
- One trip down the river: $5
- All day: $9
- Groups of 10+: $4 per person
- Kids 3 and under tube FREE
That explains it…
I assumed we’d have to all wear life jackets and water shoes and watch a safety video and sign a million releases. But no, you hand them the money and they hand you a tube and put you on a bus – a little disconcerting, actually. I made the younger kids wear life jackets but to be honest I was relieved not to have to fool with one.
The bus driver jokingly, well, half jokingly anyway, said “What kind of parents take their kids tubing in this weather?”
One of the kids piped up “Oh, she’s not our Mom. She’s our Aunt!”
The bus driver chuckled and said “Ah, that explains it!”
We rode the bus a few miles up the river and they let us off and drove away.
As you can see by the kids clothes and hair they were already soaked from the rain before we even got near the water. It was a chilly 72 degrees outside.
(Note: Sorry for the quality of the pictures but what do you expect from a waterproof disposable camera with the words ‘Tube the Hooch!’ on it.)
James wasn’t too sure about all this business in the rain. He was cold, he was wet, blah, blah, blah. I had to give him quite the pep talk. It went something like this:
“Today has the opportunity to be one of the best memories of your childhood. It’s up to you right now to stop thinking about the rain and the cold and just concentrate on having a good time.”
Kinda poetic, huh?
The other kids were 100% on board.
We had the chance to strap our tubes together but I didn’t know whether or not that was important so I didn’t get the straps. Big mistake. There was no way to make myself go faster or the kids go slower. So, as soon as we hit the water they quickly floated off while I slowly floated after them.
Lesson 1: Straps are a MUST
The solitude was kinda nice. Honestly, rain or no rain, I could have tubed all day. I mean, I could have tubed all day if it wasn’t for those meddling kids.
One thing they don’t warn you about it what to do when someone loses a tube. Henry, the seven year old, lost his tube at one point and I had to jump out of my tube and wade through the river trying to catch it. Sharp rocks and underwater obstacles do not make for an easy tube catch. By the time I caught up with it I had already let a few choice words fly.
Lesson 2: Be prepared to run
About that time these two clearly southern gentlemen floated up. If you live in the South, think Rick and Bubba – that’s exactly what they looked and sounded like. Rick and Bubba are radio personalities in Alabama who have a syndicated show.
Hmmm…how to describe them…I mean, If I were to make a guess…
And it would be an educated guess because I was born and raised in the South and know about these things.
…I would assume their names were Cletus and Big Un. They were large men and this was clearly not their first time to float down the ‘Hooch. These boys were country with a capital C. Their accents were straight out of a courtroom drama set in the south.
I verbally warned them, “You may not want to float near me. My son lost his tube a few minutes ago and I had to retrieve it. I’ve used a few ugly words about it.’
They just grinned and Bubba said: “Ma’am, I do believe in situations like these the Lord gives us a special dispensation”
A special dispensation? Good gravy, sometimes I just love the south.
As we floated along together we passed several smoking barrels. I don’t mean that figuratively. I mean it literally. There were barrels beside the river that were smoking.
I asked the men what they thought they were. They drolly answered, “Well, it’s either boiled peanuts or meth. We’re in Georgia so it could go either way.”
No lie, that’s what they said. Of course, I’ve seen Breaking Bad so I know the meth option is pretty improbable.
Lesson 3: Embrace Local Culture
As we got closer to the city center we began to float by hotels and restaurants. You just haven’t lived ’til you’ve swamped your tube and had to get back in it while onlookers make suggestions.
“You gone need to git in shallower water, hun!”
Now, when we first got to the river I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt over my swimsuit. During the ‘catch Henry’s tube’ debacle I took both off to try to improvise a rope system.
Just…just don’t ask and oh, of course it didn’t work. It wasn’t my fault! Those shorts and shirt were slackers and didn’t want to pull their weight. I stuck the disgraced clothing on my tube and went back to the business of floating.
As we passed this hotel a lady shouted out to me: “Honey, I think I saw your shorts float by a few minutes ago!”
Sure enough, the shorts were gone and so was the t-shirt. A sacrifice to the river gods of the Chattahoochee.
Lesson 4: Sacrifices must be made
I mean, I loved tubing and can’t wait to do it again but… It was a little er…uncomfortable…to be floating in a swimsuit just steps away from people eating lunch. I kept expecting them to begin pelting me with french fries. Heck, it would have been worth it. I’d ‘tube the Hooch’ tomorrow if I could.
And, if I were you, I’d put it on my ‘Must Do When in Georgia’ list.