It's a summer ritual 20-somethings across the country look forward to all year - the float trip...and a strange ritual at that. Basically you get shitfaced while floating down a river on a giant raft with a bunch of your friends, but after this year, the float trip will never be the same.
Kate, Sam, Baron and I piled into the car Friday afternoon and headed to what has now been deemed "River Diddle," which has been going on for about 3,000 years and has evolved into a weekend worthy of traveling across the country for - according to veteran River Diddlers - who also happen to have the entire trip down to a fine science including some bizarre yet strangely appealing traditions. I suppose anything that involves drinking continuously for a day and a half is bound to get interesting...
In fact, we started a brand new tradition on our way down to Noel, Missouri a.k.a hillbilly country - torture Lara with Baron's absolutely terrifyingly disgusting hand growth. A work accident left a finger on Baron's left hand with giant bubbly thing called a pyrogenic granuloma (look it up on Google images and try to not gag). One that was so bad that he actually had an appointment to have it removed by a PLASTIC SURGEON then have a motherfucking SKIN GRAPH to patch up the hole it was going to leave on Monday. This of course meant he had two and a half lovely days before it was loped off to chase me around torturing me with it much to everybody else's delight. Needless to say, even though I let Baron share an air mattress with me, I threatened a plague on his unborn children if his left hand even so much as brushed up against my hair in the middle of the night. This damn thing became so much a part of the trip that we actually named it - Ned the Nubbin.
After about a four hour drive, including a eventful stop at the Nevada, Mo., Wal-Mart for the trip's most important element - beer - and a Sonic somewhere, we pulled up to the River Ranch Resort on the Elk River where we proceeded to "camp" in a giant fraternity-esk cabin with multiple showers, toilets, bedrooms and 23 strangers playing beer pong - yes, my kind of camping. Of course Sam knew all of them being an almost veteran himself and we knew his sister Amanda and her boyfriend, but everybody else was new to the other three of us.
We made friends while enjoying gourmet Jell-o shots - fuzzy navel and caramel apple? Really? - which are apparently a highlight of night one of "River Diddle" along with multiple beer bongs, some game where you throw random objects at each other for no apparently reason and a rousing game of "what do you know, who would you do" while gawking at a skunk that decided to wander near our post just outside the cabin door. Wildlife while "camping," imagine that.
Of course, the really weird shit didn't happen until the next morning when everybody decided to get up at the crack of dawn. Me and my aching hungover head were woken up to cheerful squawking and cooler loading before 8 a.m. I'm going, why the FUCK are these people awake when we don't have to be on the river until after 11 a.m.? A girl started offering Sam mimosas about the time I crawled into bed with Kate in their nice dark bedroom until the bizarro world we apparently stepped into finally overcame us and we started getting ready at a decent time.
Groups of scary, tatooed white trash joined our almost seemingly normal group at the bus stop where we traveled thigh to thigh to waiting yellow rafts and canoes at the launch spot. As we loaded our precious commodities, also known as beer and beef jerky into our raft, others began plastering their canoes with random shit including a bouquet of plastic flowers, a naked Barbie, crepe paper dragons and a talking mechanical parrot. However the most "normal" canoe ornament, a windsock flag, got us in the most trouble when a pervy toothless man from a raft group we nicknamed the "Piridiots" or river pirates stole it from one of our groups and Kate took it upon herself to save it. Suddenly both our hats were snatched off our heads, I got mine back, but hers was taken back to the piridiots' raft and passed around. Somewhere between Kate screaming, "you owe me a beer hairy back man!" at one of them and me laughing hysterically, Baron flung off his glasses, dove into the river and rose out of the water like something out of Anaconda and tackled the hat stealer backwards into the water. Amazing.
Shortly after our piridiot encounter, it started to rain...and it rained the fucking ENTIRE rest of the trip. I cheered when we spotted the pullout point because as much fun as it is to perch on the edge of a raft shivering under a wet towel in nothing but a swimsuit for six hours with my pigtails plastered to my face and my nipples holding fast in the perma cut glass position, I was more than done with this little trip down the river.
After making it back to the cabin in one piece, fighting for the showers, dinner and gorging ourselves on gummy bears, we all passed out before midnight.
The next morning, we held a full on "Beerlympics" awards ceremony during the traditional buffet breakfast at a nearby Shoney's and guess what I made off with? A yellow "I'm Special" ribbon for putting up with Baron's nubbin...Dammit Ned.