It’s early and we’re all moving a bit slow after last night’s debauchery. “Bloody?” LeeAnn asks. Bloody Marys for the road are standard. Don’t be appalled – this is Texas; we do things here most States would scoff at. Growing up, my brother and I were trained to believe that putting cocktails in a red Dixie cup meant we were going for a family drive. I still can’t see those cups without thinking I need to put on my shoes. There is a ruggedness that lingers in this land, and it attaches itself to whoever lives here. A sense of being able to operate outside of the law and create your own rules to live by. I doubt that will ever change.
We pile into the Jeep and make our way to the river. As we’re standing there waiting to pay for our tubes, the sun beats down mercilessly and it’s only 10AM. We take turns slathering thick layers of sun block on our shoulders. The float is four hours; you don’t want to be caught unprotected.
The girls climb easily into the old yellow school bus while the boys struggle with the beer-laden coolers. The coolers fill up the aisles and we clamor around them, settling into the cracked vinyl seats. The air is hot and sticky, and the seats become sweaty instantly. We bounce along the bumpy gravel road, dust being kicked up on the dry dirt roads. Peering out the grimy windows I can see glimpses of the Brazos River between the tall Cypress trees and people already floating. My anticipation escalates. This is what I love about Austin – the river trips. The boys toss Jell-O shots to each other and I reach up and intercept one. Hip hop is on the radio and I smile.
The bus comes to a stop, and we tumble out along with the inner tubes and coolers. Thus begins the frenzied mess of claiming the lighter colored tubes and edging our way down the muddy slope to the riverbank. “Don’t tip the coolers!” someone yells. At this moment, the alcohol is our most critical concern. They tip anyway. Twice.
The water is cool and clear as it washes over the gray river stones. It’s spring-fed, which means icy temperatures to counter the hot Texas sun. I try to be graceful, but slipping is inevitable and I bounce into my tube with a giant splash. The current picks me up and someone throws me a beer. It’s time to float.