Row, Row, Row Your Boat

A few weeks (or months) ago Michelle and I were watching TV and a commercial for something (not sure what) came on and there were people in innertubes floating on a river. We looked at each other and went, “Hmmm, float trip sounds fun!” My family used to do float trips every summer, but as time has gone by and the family has become more dispersed around the country, the float trips have gone the way of the dodo. If memory serves (and it doesn’t always), our last trip was in 2005. That is a LONG time to go without a float trip.

So Michelle and I started looking around to decide where we’d want to go. We both love floating on the Meramec River because it’s nice and calm, so we settled in on doing the float that Meramec Caverns does. It’s familiar to us and with it just being us and not the million people that makes up my family we thought it was a great idea. I called them and made the reservation.

Then we didn’t think about it again for awhile.

Melissa and her family arrived, and the trip was going to be mostly for them since they were going to be in town visiting. Zack kept questioning our logic about taking two young kids on a float trip. It didn’t make sense to him. The day before the float he goes, “Neither of them can swim.” I assured him that I have been taking small children on float trips since my kids were little and that it would be alright.

As we were packing up for our trip, I thought I’d give the caverns a call to make sure that I went to the correct place to meet and pay for the trip. They gave me specific directions to the boat ramp and we loaded up and headed out the door with our good bags in tow.

We had more food than we could possibly eat, but with the two kids I wanted to make sure that if they wanted something that I had it. This surprises nobody who knows me.

We headed towards the river – a two hour drive from my house. We were supposed to be there half hour before the 11am start time, so naturally I made sure we left at 8am so that we had plenty of time for potty breaks and so we could be there early. As we ALL know, if you’re not 15 minutes early you are late!

We took the exit that the GPS told us, AND that the person at the help desk told me to. I followed her directions down to the Visitor’s Center (which I was supposed to pass and then take the fork to the right). But nothing looked familiar to me. I felt like I was at the wrong place. So I stopped in the Visitor’s Center to ask. They told me that I needed to go to the LEFT at the fork in the road and head to the Grill to pay for the float. This was different than what I was told on the phone, but I was at the INFORMATION desk at the Visitor’s Center and figured they would know.

They didn’t.

We got to the grill and I said I needed to pay for the float trip. She looked confused and told me that I had to go to the boat ramp to pay for the trip (the boat ramp was to the RIGHT at the fork in the road).

So we headed back down the road passed where the fork in the road was and made it to the boat ramp.

I walked in and said, “I’m here for my 11:00am float and need to get it paid for.” She said, “Our next float is at 11:30.” I politely disagreed with her and pulled up my calendar with all the information I had written down from when I originally reserved it, AND from when I called to get directions. She goes, “Well, that says Meramec Caverns. This is Meramec State Park.” I said that I had called the Caverns and they told me that the float started at the boat ramp and gave me specific directions to the boat ramp.

It was her turn to be confused. She called the Caverns to see if my name was on the list with them because it wasn’t on the State Park’s list. They confirmed that we were on the list. So they told me I needed to go to the Caverns, which was the next exit up. I explained again that the Caverns had told me that I needed to go to the boat ramp. AND I told her that the guy at the INFORMATION DESK had told me I needed to pay at the Grill. She rolled her eyes and goes, “They’re stupid.” I informed her that I had used different words.

So…..back into the cars we all loaded and headed towards the Cavern. By this time it was 10:30am. We were no longer early. And we were no longer on time. We were officially late. The lady at the boat ramp (who thinks her colleagues are stupid) said that she had let them know we were on our way and that it would take us 15 minutes to get there.

And it took us exactly 15 minutes to get there.

As we pulled off the next exit and headed towards the Cavern everything started looking familiar. I was groaning and cursing all the way from the boat ramp to the Cavern. I know this comes as a huge shock to your system.

I got everything paid for. Signed my life away. Headed for the buses. We got all loaded up into the packed bus and the bus driver began making his announcements.

“Welcome to Meramec Caverns. We’ll be heading out in just a few minutes. You’ll end your float trip here where your cars are parked. You’ll begin your float trip…..”

Wait for it.

Wait for it.

Wait for it.

“….at the boat ramp in Meramec State Park.”

::and the crowd goes wild::

I looked back at Zack, knowing he would understand my frustration. “UGH, incompetence!!!” He nods solemnly in agreement.

Down the curvy road we headed. Back to where we had just come from. And the “under the breath” cursing continued the whole way. Along with the smart ass comments from my kids, “Hey, this looks familiar!” Again and again.

I was either eating or talking – not sure why my face is weird.

FINALLY! On the river!

You can see that we had just left the boat ramp when I took this picture. I wanted to get my phone into the dry case before anything happened to it.

I had just snapped that picture when we saw water patrol heading our direction. We all looked at each other because kids have to be two years old to be on the raft and Maddox doesn’t turn two for a couple of months. My overactive guilt complex was certain they were coming for us. Michelle laughed at me and goes, “Don’t you smell the weed, Mom?” Hah. Nope! But the canoe just in front of us was pulled of the river and searched. And weed was confiscated. Our trip started of with a bang!

We were all settled in and got in front of the main blockade of floaters and Zack asked, “Is the river like this the whole way?” I was a little confused. “Well, yes. Why?” He kind of smirked a little and explained that every float he’d been on was class 2 and 3 rapids. I didn’t even stop to think about him growing up in California and how his float trip experiences would have been different than ours. I burst out laughing and said, “Is THAT why you were so concerned about the kids coming???” He nodded and admitted that he thought I was insane.

It wasn’t too long before we exited the raft and just floated and swam in the water as we made our way down the river. Zack said to Melissa, “We should do this again. Often.”

Peaceful. Calm. Missouri float trips. Officially Zack Approved.

Great day on the river. The kids did really well, with a few tantrums here and there due to heat, tiredness, or hunger. But all that was to be expected.

Mara had time for a single wave on our way home and then she passed out! Maddox was in the other car and passed out as well. Kiddos were exhausted!

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