My aunt Donna is the one person I can always count on to provide an adventure. The phrase “off the beaten path” was invented for people like her as she would much rather see the view or have the experience no one else has had rather than follow the trails blazed by others. She and I are kindred spirits that way.
That said, we were honestly trying to play it safe yesterday when we rented a boat to go up the White River to visit a little town called Calico Rock. There were several little alcoves and lagoons off the river that we passed right up, unsure of the water depth or the hazards in the water. We stayed in the center of the river and continued on, the only goal being to arrive at Calico Rock, have lunch and come back.
But there’s something about people like me and Donna that makes adventure find us, even if we’re not looking for it.
The first half of the day, we took our planned trip up to Calico Rock to have lunch. It’s about an 18-mile trip by car. There are no other recreational boats for rent in this area except for old, worn out fishing boats, so we figured in one of these boats it would take us well over an hour. Needless to say, the boat was not fast or very comfortable, so we took it easy – well, you have no choice but to take it easy when driving a boat that doesn’t go over 20 miles per hour – but we also stopped a few places along the river to admire the houses along the river bank and look at the landscaping as Donna took mental notes for ideas on her own house. In the end, it took us about an hour and 45 minutes to get there.
I’ll write a separate blog about the experience in Calico Rock. It’s a cute little town that has, for the most part, turned into a ghost town, at least the historical side of town. It was fun to look around and find out more about the history of the once bustling town.
After we had lunch, we boarded the boat once again and headed back down the river towards Mountain View. It took a lot less time for the return trip since we were going downstream, so we made it back with four hours to spare before the boat had to be returned.
“We could keep going,” Donna said. “We could go down towards Guion and I’ll show you the property we looked at, where the flood washed 13 homes completely away.”
“Ok. Let’s go!” I said.
We made one stop at a dock in Mountain View to get drinks, then, in an effort to give Donna, who had been driving the boat all day, a break, I told her I’d take over. I’ve never driven a boat in my life but I was a quick study and we were once again cruisin’ down the river.
We went down the river, passing the cabin we rented a few years ago when the idea for Donna and Jo Ann to move here started to form. We passed Donna and Jo Ann’s house, looking at all of the trees that had floated down river and came to rest where their property ends at the river bank. Then we passed the house of the guy down the street from them who has a beautifully landscaped back yard where he created a little beach along the river front. As we continued around what’s known as Round Bottom, where the river takes a turn and the land from an aerial view looks like a big, round bottom, the engine started to sputter. Then it quit.
At that moment it occurred to me that I had thought about checking the gas when we returned from Calico Rock. We had even stopped at that dock to get drinks. But in the excitement of deciding what to do with the four remaining hours we had, we didn’t check the gas tank. A quick peek inside the gas container, it was confirmed: we is a bunch of idiots.
This particular area is in the middle of huge bluffs. Very picturesque, but bad for cell phone signals. “We should get up to shore and I can climb up the hill a bit to see if I can get coverage,” Donna said.
“Ok, let’s just grab the paddles and … Um, where are the paddles? There are NO FREAKIN’ PADDLES IN THIS BOAT!”
We is big, big idiots.
We saw a big tree hanging off the side of the bank over the water and we hoped the boat would continue floating in that direction. It did. So, we were able to grab the branches and pull the boat towards shore far enough for the water to become shallow enough to get out. I jumped in, sank in mud but managed to pull my feet out of the mud enough to pull us to shore and tie the boat to a tree.
I stayed with the boat while Donna took off up the bank. Her signal wasn’t good at all so she decided to call my aunt Jo and try to get the message across to her that we needed her to call Jack’s, where we rented the boat, to have them come down with gas. The call would go through but it was fuzzy and then it would disconnect.
As I sat in the boat, I could heard Donna screaming into the phone “JO. WE’RE OUT OF GAS!” Then it would echo down the walls of the bluff … OUT OF GASSSS, GASSS, GASS, GAS ….
NEED HELPPPPP, HELPPPP, HELPPP, HELPP, HELP ….
JOOOO!!! CAN YOU HEAR MEEEEE, MEEEE, MEEE, MEE, ME????
After a few minutes of this, Donna screamed down and said she was walking a bit further up the bank. She returned about 15 minutes later and said she finally got Jo to understand, she called Jack’s and Kevin from Jack’s was on his way. So we waited.
And laughed at our stupidity.
Kevin came pretty quick with the gas. He stayed to make sure we were in good shape and off he went up-river, back towards Mountain View, and we continued on down-river towards Guion.
We made it to Guion about 30 minutes later. We slowed down and looked at the houses that survived the flood a few years ago and looked at the stilts that used to hold the homes that were swept away. Donna said she heard there were old locks then a dam beyon Guion, which we definitely did not want to go through in the boat, so it was best that we turn around. We headed back towards Mountain View.
We passed the scene of the gas incident, passed the house once again and continued upstream. There’s an island in the middle of the river that we navigated around. We checked the time and discovered we had a little less than an hour to get the boat back to the docks in time. We’d probably even have about 25 minutes to spare.
We were enjoying the sun and the breeze and I was thinking how much I was loving life at the moment when the engine made a weird noise, then just stopped. Then it started smoking.
Thinking the engine may have overheated, we waited a few minutes. The smoke stopped after a while, so we tried it again. It didn’t make any noises that would indicate it was trying to start again. We started to laugh.
I pointed out a baby calf on the banks of the river as Donna tried to call Jack’s again. There was no answer, so she called Jo. Once she hung up she asked where the calf had gone. I pointed to it off in the distance as I realized how quickly we were floating downstream.
Donna told Jo we were between their house and Angler’s, a restaurant on the river that is downstream from Jack’s, but closer to Angler’s. We had passed the house some time ago. Jo called back and said a guy named Randy was on the way.
As we waited on Randy we felt the boat floating faster and faster. Why, when we ran out of gas, did we not ask for paddles?! Our idiocy is astounding at this point.
We tried and tried to get the boat to float towards the banks so we could tie up and wait for Randy but the boat just wasn’t cooperating. We kept floating and floating and Randy was no where in sight.
Before we knew it, we were passing the boat launch that’s a few hundred feet from Donna and Jo’s house, which we had passed about 15 minutes before the engine quit. We couldn’t believe we had floated that far, that fast. “We’ve got to stop floating or Randy will never find us,” Donna said. “Oh, and was that thunder I just heard?”
“No, no it wasn’t,” I replied. “It was definitely not thunder. Nope, not thunder.” I thought if I said it enough times maybe it would be true.
Just then, a boat was going the other direction so we started waving our arms making the universal signal for “we’re screwed.” They quickly came over and we explained the situation and said someone was supposedly on the way, but we didn’t want to continue floating in the wrong direction. If they could just tow us to the boat launch or somewhere else we could tie up until help came, we would be forever grateful.
They decided to continue pulling us until Randy came since that sound that was definitely not thunder kept getting louder. We chugged, chugged, chugged along – no sign of Randy. We went on for a good 20 minutes and decided that had the angels in the boat not stopped, we would have floated back to Guion.
Finally, we see a boat. It was Kevin, the guy who brought us gas. He said Randy went all the way to the island looking for us and when he didn’t see us, he turned around. WHAT?!
Well, we were, indeed, near the island ABOUT 40 MINUTES AGO!! The river has this thing called currents!!
Do you see something ominous in the photo? The dark clouds maybe?! Right after I snapped the photo, Kevin stopped, pulled us to his boat and asked us to get in. We’d make better time with all of us in the head boat, since it looked like it was going to rain.
We got into his boat and a huge bolt of lightening was seen in the distance. Then, I kid you not – I can’t make this stuff up, the engine started to sputter. And then it was dead. “Have you ever just had one of those days,” Kevin said. I don’t know what you mean, Kevin.
Luckily, we had not used all of the gas that he had hand-delivered to us just hours before. He switched the tanks and we were, once again, on our way.
About the time we could almost see Jack’s I felt a splash that I didn’t think came from the river. I turned back and Kevin had his hand up in the air. “I can’t figure out if I am feeling the water splash or if it’s rain,” he said. Well, a few seconds later, it was clear what we were feeling was rain.
We finally made it back to the docks before the rain really set in. We met the infamous Randy. I agreed with Donna who said we were probably lucky Randy didn’t find us. It appeared Randy had been hitting the hooch all afternoon.
Once we finally made it home, we agreed it had still been fun. “Had none of this happened,” Donna said, “all we’d have to tell people is that we boated down to Calico Rock, had lunch, made great time coming back so decided to go to Guion, then came home. BORING!!”
This is why I love that woman.