June 29, 2009

New Braunfels Tubing Trip, Part II: Things are heating up!

Thanks for tuning in for Part II of the New Braunfels blog series. If you haven’t already done so, be sure to read Part I before proceeding.

Just to recap, the five of us (Joe, Kristi, Brent, Jimmy, and Cheryl) arrived in New Braunfels (NB) Saturday. We kick around our camp site Saturday afternoon and evening. After much joviality and comradery, we turned in for the night in anticipation of hitting the river the next day, Sunday.

The sun was up early and bright Sunday morning, and eventually we all rolled out of our tents. I had premade some sausage, egg, and cheese breakfast tacos, and we just threw them over the fire to heat up. We each made a sandwich to serve as our lunch as we floated down the river. Because we had to rent a tube just for the cooler, we repacked everything we would need as we floated down the river into one large cooler. Once all of the logistics were squared away, we changed into our swim suits and water shoes and covered ourselves with sunblock. By about 11:00 we walked over to the river outfitter, paid for our tube rentals and patiently waited for the "short yellow bus" to take us to our drop off point.

The tubing “laws” are different depending on which river you float in NB. For example, the Comal River requires that your cooler be smaller then 16 quarts. Where as, on the Guadalupe River, the cooler size doesn’t matter. Also you can not drink alcohol within the city limits of NB. Parts of the Comal run through the city limits, so alcohol consumption is prohibited. On the contrary, there are not any tubing trips down the Guadalupe that run through city limits, so anything goes – except glass. You can not have glass containers on either river.

Now most of us agreed that one of the biggest bummers of the weekend was that the river levels were really low and the flow was extremely slow (I'm a poet and I didn't know it). We considered floating the Comal which did not have these problems, but then we were limited in cooler size and drinking activities. We decided to stick with the Guadalupe for convenience despite the river being low.

River outfitters were only taking tubers up the river about 1.5 miles for a 6 hour float. There were parts of the river that were so low you had to pick up your tube and walk through them. And in yet other parts of the river, the flow was literally moving backwards. We linked all of our tubes together and took turns being the navigator -- the person who would pull along the tube convoy (this is not a hard job, just not exactly relaxing).

Despite the river being low, we still had a great time and met several entertaining people along the way. From the frat boys that Joe chugged beer with to the large group we shared the “short yellow bus” with. The most memorable of our fellow floaters were Germany and Ben. We met up with them in the latter portion of our float down the river. As the afternoon was drawing to a close and the beer supplies running low, we gratefully pulled our tubes out of the river directly to our camp site (gotta love the convenience) with our two new friends from Houston, Germany and Ben. (We referred to Germany as such because she had moved to Texas from Germany when she was 16.)

It just so happened that our next door neighbors decided not to stay over Sunday night due to the heat, so our new friends moved into their camp site. Our party of five has now grown to seven. Brent and Germany hit it off immediately and spent a good portion of the evening becoming better acquainted.

I later heard that it got up to 102F that day. I frequently and generously applied suncreen, SPF 50, at least once an hour. I was in the sun ALL DAY (with not much of a base tan to start with), and I was successful in avoiding a sunburn. The rest of them were not so lucky resulting in everything from basic peeling (Joe) to blistering knees (Jimmy) to beet red stomach and ankles (Brent).

After a yummy dinner of rib-eye steaks, Joe and I decided to take a dip in the river to cool off again before it got too dark. This is when the day took a turn for the worse. As you may know, you have to wear water shoes (or old tennis) in the water, because the floor of the river can be very jagged and dangerous to tender skin. My husband, bless his heart, jumped into the river (about 3 feet deep) feet first WITHOUT anything on his feet. He briefly complained of hurting his foot and then seemed to move past it as he swam further out into the river. After a few minutes past and the pain started setting in, he reached down a touched his foot to check for damaged. It was at this moment that the reality of his injury set in. He later stated that he reached down and felt his skin flapping in the water.

As he hustled back towards the river banks, he hollered to the crew, “EMERGENCY!! EVERYBODY STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING! I broke my foot. I need to go to the emergency room. QUICK! Get a towel.” Our friends momentarily paused to soak up the gravity of what he was saying. Then everyone bustled into motion, including myself.

Let me reiterate that it was now almost completely night and it was definitely hard to see. I dug through the utility box and located the first aid kit (What is it boy scouts say? Be Prepared). As I was digging through the kit to locate supplies appropriate for dressing my husband’s foot, he lost patience with us. Apparently, we were not moving fast enough. He demanded that Jimmy hand him the bottle of Jack Daniels so that he could disinfect his wound the Wild West way while further insisting that we find an emergency room. Thank God at that exact moment, I found the disinfecting wipes and talked him out of it.

The injury was on the arch of his left foot. Rather then the rocky rumble digging straight into the flesh (vertical) , he suffered a horizontal injury that basically removed many layers (a thick chunk) of skin, leaving it hanging on by one side. After the initial bleeding stopped, I disinfected the wound, covered it with an antibacterial cream, and dressed the wound with sterile gauze and wrapped it with an ace bandage. It was a fairly nasty injury, and Joe hobbled around for the rest of the weekend (and the next 10 days or so). For now, the crisis was over and the emergency room avoided.

Jimmy, being the ever-outgoing character he is, also met a dude at a camp site from across the river while taking a post-tubing swim. Next thing we know, this guy popped over to our campsite with a guitar. It was getting late. Joe and I had an exhausting day, and so we decided to turn in. We gradually drifted off to the comedic (slightly obnoxious) singing/guitar antics of our across-the-river neighbor.

Joe and I woke up around 7:30 Monday morning. We both needed to use the restroom and absolutely refused to use the porta-potties. Since we forgot to pack shampoo and body soap, we decided to head up to the corner Shell a mile or so away to use decent restrooms and purchase shower toiletries. After a day and a half in the river we felt fairly funktified, so we headed back to the camp grounds to use their token showers (Yes, I did say "token showers". You had to pay a dollar for one token that would buy you 10 minutes). After we showered, brushed our teeth, and put on some fresh clean clothes, we headed back to the campsite to start disassembling everything. Gradually, the late night partiers started crawling out of the tents. Quietly we all got to work packing up our gear, knowing that our great vacation was drawing to a close.

After saying our goodbyes and exchanging info with our new Houston buddies, we threw our last few personal effects into the back of the Explorer and set off. Jimmy and Cheryl decided to skip the BBQ lunch. It is rare that we make it to this part of the world. So Joe, Brent, and I took the slight detour through Lockhart, TX , the Barbeque Capital of Texas. The lunch of ribs, sausage, and brisket was the perfect end to this camping adventure.

What’s next? Part III. Get the words straight from the horses’ mouth – Jimmy, Brent, Joe, and I weigh in on our own personal best, worst, funniest, etc…

June 24, 2009

New Braunfels Tubing Trip, Part I: In the beginning...

A blog so good that it has to be serialized. As much as I would like to just dump it all on you at once, I assure you that it would be much too much to digest all at once. So, here is part 1 of 3 of the long anticipated New Braunfels camping/tubing trip.

Most of us are trying to tighten the belt a bit these days. It just is not a good time in the world to spend frivolously. Joe and I knew that we would not embark on an extravagent trip this year, but that is no reason to deprive ourselves of some quality vacation fun. Two years ago, with our good friend Brent (aka Fire Master B), we took a long weekend trip down to New Braunfels, TX for tubing. It was such a blast, and we have been talking about it ever since. So, it seemed only natural that we make it back to New Braunfels again.

We had been talking about camping/tubing in New Braunfels for months. Brent, Joe, and I finally set a date for the second weekend in June and we made the reservations about a month out. It is highly unlikely to get a decent campsite reservation during peak season at ANY campsite on the New Braunfels river with one month advance reservations. Oh, you can camp, but you will be stuck with "overflow, first-come first serve" camping which sucks (I would recommend making your reservations a good 6 months in advance). So, the fact the I got a river side camp site with one month notice is next to a miracle. It just so happens that I called literally two minutes after someone else had cancelled. So, we lucked our way into a riverside camp site with electricity.

For those of you who have been camping with me or have heard me talk about camping, I take a very planned and practical approach to my camp trip planning. I plan all the meals for the weekend; I cook and prepare as much food in advance as I can; I keep a stocked utility bin with everything from steak knives to rain panchos to batteries to first aid kits. As soon as the camp site reservation was made (and paid for in advance). I started down my pre-trip checklist : menu, grocery list, laundry, restock utility bin, travel arrangements, etc...

The plan was to spend two nights in New Braunfels (NB) over the weekend of June 13-15. We would leave Saturday morning, and return Monday afternoon. This is a very strong NB strategy in order to maximize our fun and minimize the annoying drunk college students (Yes, I know! I was one of them once upon a time). The plan was to arrive Saturday afternoon, set up camp, and just kick around the camp site Saturday evening. The vast majority of people hit the river on Saturday, so we were able to avoid the bulk of the tubing crowd. Instead, we hit the river on Sunday when there are still enough people to make the journey entertaining without it getting to be too crowded or irksome. After the river, we would camp over one last night and depart Monday morning. On our way back we would take a detour through Lockhart, TX, the Barbeque Capital of Texas, for some good grub.

If you are going to NB there are a few must haves: sunblock, water shoes or old tennies, plenty of water (to thin out the alcohol in your blood stream...and because NB can get so very HOT), and a bathing suit. We started planning some of the logistics, and before long we had two other people joining us -- Jimmy (Jimbo or Jumbo to his friends) and his friend Cheryl. We decided that Brent would ride down with us Saturday morning in the Explorer and Jimmy and Cheryl would leave around noon when Cheryl got off of work to join us later in the evening.

So around 9:00 Saturday morning, Joe and I arrived at Brent's house, loaded up his gear (we were packed to the hilt), and got on the road. We had a pleasant drive down to NB despite ongoing construction north of Waco and MAJOR traffic congestion through Austin due to the annual ROT Biker Rally (FYI...Take 183 towards the airport over to 71-Ben White to avoid downtown traffic).

We arrived at Camp Huaco Springs (part of the Rockin' R outfitters) to find that the property was on a good slice of prime river property. Although, the camp sites themselves are packed up next to each other like sardines. Half of the fun of camping in a place like NB is getting to know your neighbors. So, we were generally okay with that. We unloaded the cars, put up the tents, and just got settled into our spot. Over the next few hours, we checked in with Jimmy and Cheryl from time to time to check on their travel progress. They were running a bit behind, and furthermore, got caught up in the Rally traffic through Austin (despite our warning to detour around downtown). No biggie, we just didn't want to have to put up a tent in the dark -- there is not much worse on a camp trip then putting up a tent in the dark.

Eventually Jimmy and Cheryl arrived while we were cooking our dinner of hamburgers and brats. Their timing was good, because they brought the potato salad and Jimmy's homemade baked beans to accompany our burgers. While Joe finished with the cookout, Brent and I helped Jimmy and Cheryl get their tent up. After a full meal on our belly's we sat back in our camp chairs and finally relaxed after a full day. It was hot and we took frequent dips in the river to cool off.

The people watching along the river on a Saturday afternoon was incredible. Hundreds, possible thousands of people passed by our stretch of riverfront property all afternoon. By this point, most tubers had been floating the river for hours. This translates to hours of beer guzzeling in the hot sun. I will just let your imagination fill in the blanks.

The river traffic gradually tapered off and the sun dipped down beyond the tree line. Despite the pending dark, Jimmy decided he was ready to test drive his tube. Now, where the rest of us just decided to rent tubes from the river outfitters, Jimmy made an investment in his own river rube. After blowing up the tube, Jimmy decided to take the tube just a short distance around the bend to check out Slumber Falls rapids (which is within a walking distance). We already had a case of the giggles from the campsite banter and people watching, but Jimmy's three attempts to get settled into the tube kicked our giggles up to full roaring laughter. Admittedly our spirited mood may have been slightly lubricated by the beer.

Despite the hilarity, I had a monster headache. I retired to the tent to rest my head. It was relatively early in the evening, so I had hoped to get back in the saddle that evening once the Aleve kicked in. Next thing I know, my husband is laying beside me in the tent with an aching belly. We were a sad pair. After a while my headache dulled enough that I could join our friends for a few more hours of comradery. Eventually, we all started to fizzle out. Knowing that we would have an exhausting day on the river, we turned in.

Stay tuned for Part II of the New Braunfels blog series to find out why we almost went to the Emergency Room Sunday evening...

June 18, 2009

Return to Foster Farm

On Friday, March 27th, four friends set off on a camping adventure...

Okay, I know exactly what you are thinking..."March 27th? That was almost three months ago. Yes, I have been very delinquent. So, I only have 4 "official" blog followers. But judging from the number of people that have given me a hard time for my delinquent blogging, there are plenty of closet followers.

There are a lot of reasons for my delinquency. First of all, I couldn't find the cord to upload the pictures from my camera. Then, on the weekend of April 17th, Joe and I went ot Vegas for my cousin, Stephanie's wedding. Well, to my great dismay, I lost my camera in a cab. A dozen calls later to the cab campany's lost and found, and still no camera. Major bummer. Then our next camping trip, a family reunion (on my Mom's side) to Turner Falls, got cancelled because of bad weather. I guess I just lost my motivation.

So, no pictures to accompany this blog. Where was I... Oh yes. On Friday March 27th, four friends set off on a camping adventure. We had been trying for months to convince our dear friend K-Dog to accompany us on a camping trip. He works long hard hours, and getting him out of town for a weekend is damn near impossible. After much begging and pleading, he finally carved some time out for a camping trip. Brent was kind enough to host us out a Foster Farm for the weekend. So, around 7:00pm on Friday evening we set off on an hour drive to Lone Oak, Texas convoy style.

Let me preface this by saying that it had been raining all week long. If my recollection serves me correctly, it had even rained a bit earlier Friday morning. But, the rain had stopped and the forecast was that it would be clear sailing the rest of the weekend. So, we moved forward with our plans.

So here was the plan -- when we arrived, we were going to hook up the trailer to the tractor, throw all of the gear into the trailer, and haul everything to the camp site. To our dismay, we realized that the tractor had a flat tire. And not just a slightly deflated tire. I am talking about the metal was touching the ground. Slight inconvenience.

Plan B -- We would load up the Explorer (maybe two loads) and drive the Explorer to the campsite and unload from there. As we assessed the terrain we realized that the most of the travel to the campsite was extremely muddy and swampy (I assure you the description of swampy is no exageration). There was a high possibility that if we had driven the Explorer into the swampy terrain that it would have gotten stuck in the mud. We couldn't chance this since we did not have the tractor (remember the flat) to haul the Explorer out. Now the situation was getting done right disasterous.

On to Plan C -- We would drive the Explorer as far as we felt would be safe, and then haul load after load (after load) using the ATV. So, we executed Plan C driving about 60% of the way to our destination. We got out and walked the rest of the way. Remember the swamps I mentioned...well, we had to wade through these swamps of ankle deep goock (I know that is not a real word). Our feet were soaked to the bone. It was cold and wet and things were definately not going well. Even the ever optimistic K-Dog started had a few moments of pessimism.

It took nearly two hours to get everything hauled to the camp site. I would estimate that it was about 10pm by this time. We had only the light of our flashlights to start making camp. It was a bit overwhelming. It was in the low 40s and we were wet. Out number one priority was to get a fire going. At least we had the foresight to gather some dry kindling from the barn before making our trek to the camp site. However, it took some time before we could find enough dry wood to start a fire. It was not easy going. We must have fumbled with the fire for about 20 minutes. Then Brent to the rescue. I don't know if it is his natural outdoor skills or his military training, but Brent had the fire up and going in a matter of minutes. It was for this great feat that Brent earned his camping name -- Fire Master B.

Things were starting to look up. We had a good fire going which helped to light up the camp site. Now we each set off to put up our tents and make up our homes for the next two nights. About an hour later, we were all set up with some food on the fire for dinner. Things were definately looking up. We proped our damp feet up to fire and tossed back a few drinks. Before we knew it, we were even joking about the tractor debaucle.

We got such a late start, it was only natural that the festivities went into the wee hours of the morning. I have no clue how late we were up. 3am? 4am? All I know is that I sleep like a baby.

Despite the bright morning sun, we all sleep in the next morning. By the time we got up and had some breakfast, it was almost noon. My memory is a little fuzzy from here. I know that there were a few trip to the house to take care of personal business. There was also some ATVing around the property. It wasn't long before we were back to the campsite drinking and jesting with each other. Like I said, Saturday was pretty fuzzy for me. Perhaps one of my fellow campers can offer some enlihgtening details in the blog comments.

The only thing that stands out in my mind was a interpretive dialogue of an owl interraction. It sounded as if the two owls might be "getting imtimate" with perhaps some reluctance from one of the parties. My husband offered up to the group his interpretation of the conversation that transpired. (Disclaimer -- this is slightly obscene. Not for the kiddos). It went something like this -- "I don't care if you have a headache. You better get down there, hoot your ass off for some Advil, and take this owl penis". Yes, obscene. But in the moment, it had us rolling on the dirt.

Sunday morning we mobilized at a decent hour. Well, all except Camp Master B. Even though he was awake, he refused to leave the comforts of the tent. For a good 30 mintues he carried on converation from inside the zipped up tent. It was then that he started refer to himself as "The Tent". I would throw a bottle of water into the tent and he would say "The Tent is pleased". In refering to the quantities of alcohol that he drank the night before, it would be "The Tent is hungover". After a while, K-Dog and I decided it was time for "The Tent" to get up off his lazy you know what. So we creep up to either side of the tent (the actual tent) and unhooked the rainfly. The bright morning sun flooded in and "The Tent was not pleased". Well, it was effective but the person formally know as "The Tent" was pissy about the whole thing. He soon got over it, because it was rather humorous.

So that was that. In summary, we polished off a big bottle of Jager, a big bottle of Vodka, and about 2 cases of beer. This blog is about 3 months late, but still worth sharing.

Coming soon...Tubing and camping in New Braunfels.