While in Boulder last week I decided to take some time to enjoy the local color and native festivities. Wednesday morning found me hiking up the trail / bike path at the University of Colorado campus. The trail follows the split off of the Colorado river, (Yes. ‘A river runs through it’), and runs from the top of campus, past the park, past the library, then dog legs to the right as it runs under Broadway.
It’s a beautifully maintained piece of land, as it would seem everything is in Boulder, with spots along both sides of the river with picnic tables, swing sets and mini-beaches – perfect for your four legged companion to wade in as far as you will allow.
I’m told it’s quite common for the college students to walk to the local Conoco, buy a tube for $12 (“+ tax!”) – ignore the numerous signs disclaiming that these tubes are ‘for automotive purposes only’, though they clearly stock up for river runs, as the box of unopened tubes is 3 rows deep and stacked almost six feet in the air. So I get my tube, I fill it up, and off I go – a very tall, very pale man in his (gulp) very late 30’s – appropriately clad in a bathing suit and t-shirt… Teva’s on my feet, Ray Ban’s on my face… I’m ready to go!
45 minutes later – I’m still walking with this ridiculous tube over my arm. I’m passing people right and left; Bicyclers, joggers, runners, walkers – groups of people sitting on the river’s edge; A Boy Scout troop, several couples canoodling under the summer sun, people with dogs, workers on their lunch break, students reading, homeless people bathing… All of them looking at me like I have something on my face. I was told this was common place, yet you would think I was dressed in drag and doing the hula.
At one point, I saw a guy standing next to his bicycle changing out of his work clothes & putting on riding gear -completely naked – in plain site – while his girlfriend ‘stood lookout’.
“Sorry about him”, she said embarrassingly.
“No problem” I responded. “Are you next or did I come to the show late”?.
Her embarrassment turned to flirtatious banter: “Nah, I usually try to change in the privacy of my own home”. So, not the girlfriend?…
“That’s too bad.” I said. “Looks like he could teach you a thing or two about indecent exposure…” She laughed. On I walked….
About an hour into the trek, I start noticing the river itself. It’s getting fairly rocky. I’m seeing whitecaps. There are some drop-offs that are rather pronounced…. I’m getting nervous. It’s time to get in the drink. I pick my spot and slide down to the water’s edge. I didn’t see the gentleman walking past until he started talking to me…
“You sure you want to do that”?
“Sure. Why not?” I said
“You aren’t from around here are you?”
“What gave it away?” I started in to the water. Flowing a little fast, and REALLY cold…
“You got the right idea, but your timing is a little off.” He said. “What’s usually a calm river through the summer is almost a class 4 rapid in some spots now. We’ve had a lot of rain this year. You need some pretty big stones to do that now.”
“Nah. How bad can it be?” I’m getting a little nervous.
“Well, Okey dokey then”, he said as he started walking again. “Have fun!”
I’m hip deep now. I can’t feel my feet. I try sitting in the tube and hold on to the embankment while I balance the load – and by load, I mean yours truly… Who designed this thing? Clearly the ‘ass to tube’ ratio is off. There seems to be no way to keep my center of gravity in the damn center. Not to mention that any ‘stones’ I had are ducking for cover at this point… Literally.
“You ever done this before?” My buddy was back…
“I’ve been white water rafting, but the only tube I’ve been on was being pulled at 30 mph behind a ski boat…” I’m in the tube at this point – holding on to the shore for dear life – trying like hell to look comfortable and failing miserably. Since I’m sitting in the tube with my legs over the rim, I’m wet from my thighs to the small of my back. It’s so cold I’m having trouble breathing normally…
“They’re not really the same you know. There’s no way you are going down this bad boy with out flipping over…”
“I’m starting to realize that. Any suggestions?”
“Get your ass out of that river, boy!” Smiling as he left, with the few teeth he had left, I heard him mutter; “Damn college boy’s got no sense at all…”
Hard to argue with logic like that…
So there I am. Half wet. An hour from the hotel. Standing at the precipice of a cautionary tale of man vs. Mother Nature, when it hits me; This exactly the kind of thing I would have done 10 years with out thinking twice. Do I want to be ‘that guy’? You know. The old one that has great stories, but are all 20 years old- Can’t sit on the couch with out moaning- Walks a flight of stairs and you hear his knees cracking from across the room…
The river, if possible, seems to be moving faster.
Apparently – I am that guy.
I look to make sure no one is around as I hoist my soaking petard out of the water & climb to up the embankment to the trail.
That’s when the perp walk began. Watch any cop show or movie and you’ll see it. The part where they catch the guy and all the cops line up on both sides of the hallway / alley and degrade the bad guy by staring him down. Head hung low. Guilt and shame written all over his face. He walks the gauntlet to his impending moment of reckoning.
I passed many people on the walk back. None of them looked at me fondly. None of them looked surprised to see me walking rather than floating past them.
Bicyclers, joggers, walkers, runners. ” Hey Dude, you are supposed to go DOWN the river!”
People sitting on the embankment. “Colder than it looks, isn’t it?”
Yeah, yeah, yeah…
The damn Scouts are laughing. I better keep walking. Nothing says ‘call the local Sheriff’ like a tourist that looses his temper with a bunch of Boy Scouts….
I’m not really ashamed. A little embarrassed maybe….But hey – I got to take a nice walk. Twice. Got to see the campus, which was pretty. Got to show off my handy new donut from hell. All in all – not a bad day. Most of all, I don’t have frost bite and my skull is in exactly the same condition it was when I woke up this morning. I bet, if I wait long enough, I’ll be able to find my privates again…
Truth be told, a good time was had by all… and by ‘all’, I mean all the people that watched me taking my walk of shame. (No, not really). The lesson here is obvious. If I am still doing the things in my 40’s that I was doing in my 20’s , I probably won’t get to see my 50’s. and I’m OK with that. Really. ‘course another option is that I can afford better health insurance now, so what the hell?
‘Course, this is just how things look through my eyes. Your view may be different….