A Last Resort, where it all began.

Traditions have this cool way of sneaking up on you.  A neat idea turns into something that your year is just not complete without.  As time passes, the tradition morphs and changes as do the people involved.  Yet, the emotions invoked remain.  The fondness with which you look back on the tradition grows with each passing year. ***

To understand why our annual float trip is so dear to my heart, I am going to take you all back to the beginning.  All the way back to Rich’s Last Resort.  I am going to be completely honest here, I cannot remember the year.  It was in the 2001-03 range.  Often times with traditions like these, the memories begin to blur together and form one big warm fuzzy rather than year after year of individual memories.  I DO remember the month and day!  It was September 15th.  Justin’s birthday!

We meet at McStop bright and early, a group of about 15 of us.  Except it wasn’t bright.  It was a cold and dreary day for our first float trip.  We drove like 15 hours (ok maybe a little less) all the way to the Big Piney.  Besides Keith and myself the group was composed of many of my very favorite people.  We had all gone to high school together, grown up together.  We have a really special group with a very special bond.  These people are family to me.

The float itself… was disasterous.  As previously mentioned, it was mid-Septmeber.  Maybe not the best time to book a float trip.  Whatever.  We were young.  It was COLD.  The water had a skim of frost.  Not really, but it felt like it.  It also drizzled about half of the float.  Most of the guys actually bailed!  We were in rafts, so they didn’t leave anyone entirely alone but still!  They took off, in shorts and water shoes, through a random cow field.  They hiked like 3 miles back to the camp.  Their legs were scratched to pieces and I am pretty sure there was some poison ivy involved.  Yet they beat us they left behind in the rafts!  That wasn’t ALL bad though, they had a good fire and dinner going by the time we finally returned.  Lots of apples too.  We were young enough that it didn’t really bother us to sleep in our cars, as most of us did not own tents.  We survived.  I am not sure if you would have asked us that next morning if we would have ever agreed to go again though.

Luckily, time heals all wounds.  (alternate version- we were all young and kidless and ready for some summer fun)  We tried again the next year.  Some changes in the cast of characters.  Change of venue.  Plus- A CAMPER!!  The ladies were all quite happy about this!  However, Bennett Springs State Park was not a fan of our group.  Nor was the Dallas County Sheriff.  We don’t go there anymore.  (note- if you do, DO NOT PARK ON THE GRASS.  OR THE ROAD.  Better yet, just don’t go.  This trip  sealed that up for me.)  The next year brought more changes in characters and another location change.  Plus a torrential downpour the night before the float which soaked all of our stuff.  That, combined with age, caused us to seek out more substantial shelter the following year.

Eagle’s Nest Lodge.  Oh my.  It was more substantial than a tent.  It was also worse than most foreclosed homes I have been in, and there are some doozies folks!  The old stained couch sat on bricks.  Random fist holes in the 70’s wood paneling.  I will refrain from describing the mattresses… or bugs.  BUT!!  There was a BATHROOM!  SHOWER!  STOVE!  FRIDGE!  IT.WAS.AWESOME!!  That was also the longest float evvvvvvvvvvvver.  I think we were on the water over 12 hours.  But, when you have a floating party with 3-5 large rafts bungee corded together, you tend to not move very quickly.

The next year Cari found us some beautiful NEW and CLEAN cabins!!  We went to this place on the Gasconade several years.  It was one of these that I did not float.  The only one I have missed over the years!  I was pregnant.  Not hugely, but enough I didn’t want to be stuck on the river with a bunch of rowdy folks for hours on end.  Plus, I am part midget.  I am entirely uncoordinated.  Getting me into the raft is much like those greased pig contests they used to have at fairs.  Or so I would guess.  Anyway, considering bladder size with pregnancy plus the added girth, it just seemed like bad news!  I could not, however, miss out completely.  So I went down with everyone and hung out Friday night and hung out.  I was so happy I did.  These people just make my heart happy.  They were also the first to find out that Isabelle was Isabelle and not Hoss or some other ridiculous boy name Keith would pick.  I told them just before they got on the water and I went home… before we told our families!  (This is the first my sister has heard of this.  Lori, simmer down.  Its been 6 years.  You found out later that day.)

How did I only miss one with 3 kids?  Sadly, there was one year there was no float.  We got Eli instead.  He was born a few weeks before our usual time frame.  We have changed locations yet again, a little closer to home.  Still in cabins.  We almost have it down to a science now.  We have gotten smarter about some things- this year we had dinner going in crock pots in the cabins before hitting the water rather than the usual trying to grill with flashlights and eating half raw meat because it is too dark to see and everyone is starving.  We have the most awesome cooler stereo (thanks Justin and Craig!) rather than someone buying a CD player the night before only for the batteries to die halfway through the float.  Rum gummy bears are so much better than jello shots.  Less work, less mess, just awesome.  Try them if you like to imbibe in spirits on occasion!  Cari finally, after losing probably 20 pairs of flip-flops over the years, got water shoes!

But some things, my favorite things, never change.  Justin and Ryan have never missed a year.  Yet, their approach could not be more different.  Justin will tell me he probably isn’t going to go, or ask if we are going to cancel it, or ask if there isn’t something else we can do on a regular basis as the float draws near.  I don’t get to see Ryan as often- or nearly enough!  But I think he may be the most excited of the bunch about the float every year.  He is one of the first ones up, and always raring to go with a big smile on his face!  He is our lead navigator and rarely gets in a raft, preferring to walk the float.  Kaleb usually helps him with this.  occasionally we get to see a back flip off the rafts from Keenan.  Keith is always rescuing some girls, unless he is inadvertently giving them a black eye (sorry Cindy!).  Or doing his obligatory pull-ups on some wayward tree branch…  No, it’s not me and a bunch of guys!  The ladies of the group are usually involved in very deep conversations.  Or karaoke.  I was telling Keith I am not sure what exactly it is about floating I love so much.  I think it is that I can just hang out with people I adore, with no outside distractions.  They can’t escape (without hiking through random pastures), they have to just sit back, relax and float.  Gorgeous surroundings, great friends, good music, lots of laughter.  How could I not love every minute of it?

We’d never make it anywhere without Cari and her mad organizing skillz!

SEE! Justin IS glad to be on the river! Maybe.

Ryan 🙂 Not in a raft, as usual!

Ashley and friends just afloatin’!

Aww! Justin and the always smiling Alisha.

Then there are the precious memories.  Not a float passes without me thinking about the amazing Johnny, what an inspiration he was to LIVE life, every minute of it… and how much I miss him!  Dallas County.  I can’t even think about it without smirking.  Milking the river for everything its worth, with a little help from friends.  JJ losing his keys to Woody(his old Jeep), in his backpack.  That was on his back.  Cari and the badger (aka bullfrog) in her tent.  The drowning little girl (much more funny in retrospect.  And yes, she was fine.  Physically anyway.)  Keith in shorts!!  Paddle fights.  The snoring.  O.M.G. THE SNORING!  Grape salad and ceiling fans.  Gilman versus the kyack.  Cherry drops from ceiling beams.  Poor sweet Ashley’s first float, and flat tire.  Part beagle smelling dogs.  Cruising the campground in Kaleb’s jeep.  Washers.  Pickle cake.  Shuttle van full of bullet holes.  Possessed oven.  Black eyes.  Broken bones.  Friends.

I know that to most people, that is all just a bunch of odd random weirdness.  Odd random weirdness makes the best memories.

I am so blessed to have such awesome people in my life (the ones that float, and the ones that don’t!).  Go out and make memories and don’t take the time with special people for granted.  Life is so very short.  Be sure to take the time to enjoy it.  Go floating!

*Cheers to next year!*
***Justin would be the exception to this rule.  His disdain for the entire event has remained fairly level over the years.  But he still joins us!

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