“Do Something New! Tube down the Tuckasegee River!” by Joan Y. Edwards
I went to the mountains of North Carolina with my daughter, Lorrie to take her daughter, Kylie for orientation at Western Carolina University. I went there, Lorrie went there, and now Kylie is the third generation to attend Western Carolina University. I went to hang out with Kirstyn, Lorrie’s younger daughter and high school Sophomore, while Kylie was busy with college stuff.
Kirstyn asked me, “Maw Maw Joan, do you want to go tubing with Mom and me?”
My thoughts went to when I went to Western Carolina College, students tubed down the Tuckasegee River using the inner tubes from tires. Other students thought it was dangerous at that time. Now it’s a sporting event worldwide.
I told them that I wanted to be with them, but I wasn’t sure about tubing. So I called to get more information and find out whether the dam was releasing water. If it released water today, the river would be too high and dangerous for tubing. The number was busy so the lady called me back and stated, “Tubing down the Tuckasegee River…is like a lazy river.”
I said to myself, “I’ve been on the lazy river at the Landmark Resort in Myrtle Beach. If it’s like that, I’ll be able to do it just fine.”
Before I left the motel, I put sunscreen on. I had my bathing suit on. I put on sunscreen. Now mind you, I had on my socks and shoes. Later I took off my socks and donned a pair of boating shoes.
When we went for our safety tour before getting our tubes, I asked, “How can I keep from going in circles like I did in a boat on a lake one time?”
They laughed and said, “Don’t use one paddle. Use your hands.” I kept that in mind.
I got on a strong very wide yellow tube with a back rest and two handles. Now feature this. I’m five foot four inches tall, but my arms are short. This floating tube was wider than my arms could stretch. My hands couldn’t reach over the edges of the float. If one reached over, the other was nowhere near the edge of the float.
The idea according to what I’ve watched is for you to flutter your hands behind you. Do you push the water forward with your hands? Do you push the water backwards with your hands? Do you do one hand and then the other? Do you do both hands at one time? Do you flutter kick your feet while you’re doing your hands? These are all skills you should know before you go tubing. After my tubing trip, I looked online to find tips to move your tube on the river. I didn’t find any. If outfitting companies did that, it would be enormously helpful.
The gentleman pushed me out towards the middle of the Tuckasegee. My hand paddling took me from the center of the river to the edge of the water near logs and fallen trees.
My plan was to be out in the middle and float gently down the river for three miles to the Get Out area before the next concrete bridge with cars crossing over on it. However, my plan didn’t work.
Three men shouted from the top of the ridge near the store like the people in Mr. Mom, “You’re doing it wrong.”
Did they think that I thought I was doing it right? They could have motioned how to move my hands, but they didn’t. So I was stuck with my trial by error detection strokes.
My daughter, Lorrie and my granddaughter, Kirstyn enjoyed the luxury of floating in mild waters in the center of the Tuckasegee, while I studied the pickup stick antics of the fallen logs, trees with branches that grabbed me as I floated along the edge of the waterway. I pushed myself off with my feet against the rocks and found myself happily in the middle of the water! I flutter kicked along nicely for about three minutes.
It was peaceful in the center waters of the Tuckasegee River. The sun’s beams touched me. My sunscreen worked great. My arms and upper legs were good. I didn’t notice my feet and lower legs getting pink where I forgot to put sunscreen.
A magnetic attraction on the left shore pulled me toward it. I pushed myself off with my feet against a huge rock this time. It was slippery but still afforded me the pleasure of scooting me back to the center lane of the river again. I flutter kicked merrily, merrily down the stream for three more minutes.
Lorrie and Kirstyn floated way ahead of me in the center lane of the river. They had no trouble guiding their tubes. They were tubing professionals. They stopped in one area and waited for me.
“What’s been taking you so long? We’ve waited a long time for you. It seemed liked hours?”
I laughed and said, “I’ve been touring.”
We floated with each other for a while.
Afterwards I did a little left bank sightseeing, a little center lane floating, and a little right bank sightseeing in that order for a long time.
This time Kirstyn waited for me. We didn’t float together for long. The wind and current had a different plan of their own. They put random.org in charge of choosing sides for me.
One time I got locked in an area on a rocky area. I did a little rockin’ and rollin’ back and forth to get me back into the moving water. I was thankful that this was a sturdy tube.
I said to myself. “I hope when I get to the Get Out area on the left near the concrete bridge that I’ll be on that side.”
When I finally neared the Get Out area on the left, guess where I was? You’re right. I was clearly on the right side investigating that area. I said to myself, “What can I do? If the water’s not too deep, I’ll climb the bank and walk across the bridge dragging my tube behind me.”
But, alas and alack, the water on the right was deep, way over my head deep, and the rocks were too slippery to get out. So I did the best hand and feet movements to get to the center where Lorrie stood on a sandbar waiting to catch my hand. Hip Hip Hooray!
Lorrie reached toward me and I reached toward her. She grabbed my hand. Alas, one of her shoes came off and she said, “Reach out farther with your arm, Mom.”
When I reached our farther with my arm, my hat hit the back rest of the tube and flew off.
Lorrie said, “Oh no. I’m sorry, Mom. I’ll buy you a new one.”
I told her, “Don’t worry about it. A fisherman can use it as a net to catch fish or a fish can use it to lay eggs. And it’s biodegradable.”
A young man from the tubing outfitters named Jerrard came out to help Lorrie retrieve me. He grabbed my tube. I asked, “Would you hold onto my daughter, too? She lost one of her shoes and it’s slippery.”
He did. He pulled me in the tube closer to the shore and stopped. He announced, “It’s shallow here.”
I tried to get out and announced, “These rocks are very slippery. I can’t get out.”
Jerrard said, “I can take you up to the shore.”
I said, “That would be great. Thank you.”
When I finally got to shore, I climbed out. I was a little dizzy and wobbly. (two and a half hours of zig-zagging back and forth across the Tuckaseegee River can do that to you). There were no steps or staggered layers to climb at the Get Out area. I put my denim jacket on the ground and used it as leverage to climb. The denim wasn’t slippery. When I got to the top of the hill, I stood up and was no longer wobbly. I checked my feet. They were bright red from the tops of my feet up to the sock line. Uh Oh! I’d forgotten to sunscreen that area after I took my socks off.
Jerrard drove us back to the main store.
I was glad that I went. I just wished I had more control of where I traveled on the river.
My story had a heroine and a hero, Lorrie and Jerrard. They not only helped me but didn’t make fun of me either. “Thank you, Lorrie and Jerrard.”
I asked Lorrie what she was going to tell Carl if she wasn’t able to keep me from passing the bridge Get Out area. She said, “Last we heard, Mother was floating down the Mississippi River.”
If you’re fishing on the Tuckasegee and you find a pretty cloche straw hat with a black ribbon or a black boat shoe, let me know.
I contacted Tuckasegee Outfitters. I told him that it would really help those who’ve never gone tubing to see a video to learn how to move their hands to move them where they want to go. I told him that it would let his customers know that he truly cared about them and their safety. He said, “I think that’s a great idea. I’ll do that. It won’t be right away, but I’ll plan a video to help.”
After this experience, I created a list of things to help you and others have a good tubing experience.
Joan’s Safety Checklist for Tubing
- Find out from the outfitting company if the dam is releasing water the day you’re planning to go. High water makes it too dangerous for tubing.
- Never go alone.
- Ask for written directions or a video showing how to move hands to keep your tube in the center flow of the water before signing the papers agreeing to go. If the place offers guided tubing, I recommend first time tubers might want to do that.
- Wear water or boat shoes that stay on your feet.
- Wear a bathing suit.
- Put sunscreen on after you put on your bathing suit and boat shoes.
- Wear a short sleeve white-color shirt to repel the sun and give you easy maneuverability.
- Wear a hat (one with a tie to go around your neck would be good)
- Bring a bottle of water (one that can attach to you) to drink.
- Go to bathroom right before you leave.
- Wear a life-preserver jacket. Make sure all buckles are secure.
- Make sure the tube is a strong vinyl plastic that will withstand branches, rocks, and logs.
- Leave valuables locked in your car.
- Leave the keys to your car with the outfitter in his safe (usually, they have a safe).
- Tell a friend or family member where you are, the phone number of the outfitter, and the estimated time you should arrive at the Get Out area. Call them when you’re out.
River Tubing Directory. “River Tubing Checklist:” http://www.rivertubing.info/RiverTubingChecklist.htm
Kayaking on the Tuckaseegee River looks simple enough!
- Wikipedia. “Tuckasegee River:”
- “Smoky Mountain River Rat:” http://smokymtnriverrat.com/
- “How to Row a Boat:” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uHn94aJPSeo
- “John Hazlett Loses His Drift Boat:”
- “Tuckasegee Outfitters:” http://www.raftnc.com
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Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards, Author
Copyright © 2016 Joan Y. Edwards
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