Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Every Float Trip Has At Least One European

Very similar to the use of the term hoosier, I'm not sure it's well known or not in St Louis that float trips are mostly a regional thing. I can guarantee not too many peeps know what a float trip is up in Chicago and just doing a Google search for the term "float trip" brings up mostly Missouri float trips. Perhaps it's just the terminology. Surely people in other states get on rafts and float down rivers for fun, right? Oh yes - they certainly do. The only difference is they call it rafting and it usually includes white water.
For those unfamiliar with just regular 'floating', here's the breakdown of what's involved. First of all, you camp. Second, you sit on a raft for what's supposed to be 6 hours or so and gently float down the river. Third, you just get absolutely wasted. And that's about it. Well, my description is a little unfair. There are obviously many good things about them because people around here absolutely love float trips and seemingly look forward to them every Summer.
Now any regular reader of this here blog might be asking themselves why I would ever go on a trip that involves a body of water considering my past notes on the subject. That's a fair question. My only answer is that this is something I have brought upon myself. It's such a part of the St Louis lifestyle that, if I didn't at least try it, I wouldn't be truly experiencing St Louis. Besides, I was promised a very low occurrence of dead bodies in these rivers. I thought it best not to check their sources.
Not Our Campsite

Now for a quick rundown of the trip and please keep in mind that I don't enjoy camping, rafting is boring to me, and I don't get wasted (hangovers):

The camping was actually just fine. The Huzzah Valley Resort was one of the nicer campsites I have been to. If it weren't for the unruly guests this weekend I would consider their showers, although a bit low on pressure, on the high-end as far as campsites go. Unfortunately someone decided to do some unmentionable things to one of the shower stalls. And, yes, the unmentionable thing is probably what you assume, unless you're assuming that someone painted the stall in Unicorn blood. Why would you assume that? Gross... And dangerous.
Other than cleanliness, my other big problem with camping is sleep comfort. I can sleep in the craziest of positions and be completely fine. But turn the temperature a little bit too high and I'm tossing and turning. Being that camping usually takes place in the Summer, I usually have trouble sleeping. Luckily this time the temp was just about perfect at night. Right around 70 or under. Can't beat that with a camping stick.
The star activity of the weekend is the float itself, of course. Everyone packs up their coolers with all the finest wine spritzers (read: cheap beer) and piles into either multi-person rafts or two-person canoes. And then... they just sit back and float. Yes, this sounds like a nice relaxing fun time with some friends. And for me it would be except for a few small problems. First of all, we were sitting in these rafts on the river for something like 8 hours. 8!!! I was long ready for it to be over by 5. This is entirely too long although I assume it would be much faster in the canoe. Second, the drunken people are often waaaay too drunk. One good example I should cite was the massive 20 person beach brawl we witnessed about 2 hours in. This wasn't just a bunch of people kind of wrestling around. No, this was serious haymakers being thrown - and landed. And not just by guys! The girls were fighting too. Serious fighting. Like multiple kicks to the head fighting. It was ridiculous, dangerous and there was no one there to stop it. I actually feared someone could die. As we floated away after about 10 minutes of fighting it was still going on. It was ridiculous, but did give me the opportunity to pretend that one of those dudes said something along the lines of, "Welcome to the float trip, Bitch."
There were some funny moments too. Perhaps the highlight of the strange drunken behavior of the river folk was the gentleman offering to wash people with a bar of soap. This inspired one of the most quoted sentences of the weekend. A girl on a nearby raft points to me and says, "He's obviously European, wash him!" The good news was that I wasn't washed- I was, however, confused as to why I'd be "obviously European." According to the drunk girl it was what I was wearing. Please note that it was a white t-shirt, black shorts and sunglasses.
Overall, I'd give the entire weekend experience a 3 out of 10, but again this is personal preference. I certainly can see why it could be appealing to some people. As for why this is such a regional thing, I would guess it's because of Missouri's rivers. They are generally slow-moving, lazy rivers and there are lots of them. If they had more white water I would assume everyone would be just calling it rafting. In it's current state, however, you are unmistakably floating.
So here's something a little different for us here. I just picked up the new iPhone and one of it's many lovely features is a video camera. I planned on taking a lot of video of this trip and editing it together but with the wildness on the river I was very cautious of taking it out of the water-proof bag. That being the case, this should still give you a little bit of an idea of what floating is like minus some of the serious drunken behavior. Listen carefully on the bus we took back clip though. You should be able to hear what much of the day was like. You can probably also sense my enthusiasm for it. Plus, you'll see that I brought Oscar on this trip. I had no idea of how he'd react. Let's just say he would probably give it a 2 out of 10. So without further ado, the first of what will likely be many Arch Observer videos.
Oh, I'd also like to comment on the tons of feedback I received on the terrible picture of me at the top of the page there. Yes, Mom, friends, anonymous people and mythological creatures, I know it's a terrible picture. It's probably the worst pic I've ever taken and that's exactly why I love it! Unfortunately, it's also apparently a distraction so I'm considering changing it. Eh. Maybe the problem is that I just look too European. Yeah, probably.

[Note: Happy 50th post to me!]


Meg Gartland said...

Ao I laughed out loud at this....mainly cause it contained mainly your damn dog or my fat ass with your damn dog!!! Puppies with fans...great added bonus...a little unrelated. You should have added the part where I was interviewed saying I was a virgin floater having HELL OF A TIME...I give it a 7 out of 10!!!!

Rahsaan Taylor said...

This is probably your best post yet and that is saying a lot. Truly hilarious.

Teresa said...

I am digging the video addition, especially with the good background music. Sorry your float trip experience was only a 3, but I think it is great that you gave it a shot!

Julie Hayes Kreun said...

You make me laugh, Jim. You really make me laugh. I'm still laughing.

michael said...

that sounds like the worst thing a human could ever put themselves through, but at least there were dogs and beer. and buses

Anonymous said...

I really like the soundtrack.

Jennifer said...

hmmmm, this reminds me of a certain Wisconsin "float trip" we all took back in the day with Jeff and Jenna minus a life-threatening thunderstorm.

bridget said...

I'm with you...not a big fan of float trips. My all time least favorite "float" trip was actually a "carry" trip...the water was so low, we literally carried our canoe most of the way. Love the video.

bridget said...

By the way...I saw on www.stlouislivemusic.wordpress.com that Matt & Kim will be at Off Broadway on August 23...I know you blogged about them earlier and thought you might be interested.

kfourcat said...

Hilarious, I have been on way too many float trips to count.

Jim Barnthouse said...

Yep, totally going to that. Thanks for the heads up!

quirken said...

I consider it a compliment to be called European. Also, you are old. Have some fun!

quirken said...

(There is no way I would have had fun on this trip.)

Anonymous said...

Great post! Mostly because of the Oscar footage. Also, thanks for explaining the float trip thing. I grew up in STL, but never went on one, other than driving a pontoon in Osage Beach once-if that counts. Never knew what I was missing out on and thanks to you I now do.
Side note: I have the same Ray Bans, perhaps when I come to STL and you show me around (as promised in a prior post) we'll drive around wearing them...or...not.

Courtney said...

I will make a quick distinction here that I uphold: The Float Trip v. Floating. The Float Trip is exactly what you experienced…pile into the Huzzah with coolers of Nattie Light, poorboys and jello shots and wait for the mayhem. It’s a watery roadway of hoosiers and d-nozzles.

Now Floating…that is an experience to savor, my friend. I suggest the Current River with its clear, cool spring-fed water, gravel bars for bonfires, and caves to explore. It’s not as crowded, but its not unsocial either. Way better than a Float Trip. Give Missouri Floating a try.


Brooke said...

that. was. awesome.
i always thought you'd make an excellent collumnist. but now i find i'd totally watch your tv show on PBS.

you've hit a new high. tres impressive.

i need to stop being scared of editing my thousands of hours of digital film clips that i've done nothing with.

Brooke said...

PS - this doesn't look much less hellish than my "carry trip" (ala Bridget) down the Kankakee river in a canoe that lasted 8 hours. As much as I love to retell my tales of conquoring the "Mighty Kank", as I like to call it, the truth is, when actually experiencing it in the seventh hour, I totally prayed for the sweet hands of death. Sometimes I wished that death apon myself. Mostly though, for my canoe partner who shal remain nameless. But who I am married to.