Around 10 years ago, my dad and his brother-in-law, "rented" out a plot of land their boss owns. It's tucked right up on a bank above the Muskegon river, set up with electrical outlets, an out house, some picnic tables, and a fire ring.
The first year, it was just our family, my aunt Mary & uncle Ron, and 2 or 3 other brothers & sisters of my dad's. He has 10 of them. All said, we had a LOT of extra room at the private campsite, which is hidden deep in the woods with no neighbors of any sort, and it was just relaxing.
Now, I missed the next few years. Three years ago, I came down for my friend's son's 2nd birthday party during the weekend, which had become a tradition for the 1st weekend of August. My car broke down, so I had to hunt my dad down, and get his extra car from him. That meant driving up to the camp site.
Me and my daughter stayed over night, and had fun, but we missed the big tubing trip, as we didn't show up until they were getting back. Last year, me and the girls drove down special for the weekend, coming down on Thursday. On Friday, me, the girls, and my step-mom decided to take a short tubing trip to the campsite- where Gillian screamed and cried the whole time, and I lost my keys. Not fun. It was redeemed, though, when we got my husband over there for his spare keys, and ditched the kids on Saturday to do the big tubing trip down the river with everyone. We loved it!
This year, we planned to camp, but then it got nixed. Come Friday, though, I was able to get all 3 kids gone for the whole weekend, so Nick and I woke up early on Saturday, made the almost 2 hour trek to the campsite (it's up north, so it's further away from us now that before), and did the tubing trip.
Let me just say, that it has grown over the years. What was once a 10-15 person trip, has now become a 45-50 person event. The once empty campsite is riddled with campers and RV's butt to nose, wall to wall, with just a bit of walking room aside. Cars and trucks line the long drive, tents are tucked up into small niches in the woods. It's a chance to see cousins, aunts, and uncles I only see once a year now. One uncle travels up from North Carolina, his only visit every year. One cousin flies in from Wisconsin. Some come up from south Michigan, making a 4 hour drive.
So, come Saturday, we drive up, and we wait for everyone to get ready. This involves 2 trips over to the landing to drop tubes off. Three years ago, my family dropped in at a place called HIgh Rollaway. That year, the river was low, they dropped in a bit late, and they didn't get off the river until almost 8. And by then, let's just say they were a tad chilly.
Last year, my mom (who is no longer married into this family, btw) volunteered to let the entire brood drop in at her place, which is located ON the river, and almost two hours closer to the campsite, by tube time. It's only a 10 minute drive from one place to the other, to give you a bit of insight on the length of time it takes to travel the river.
She allowed us to do the same this year, so we did. We followed the first load of tubes, which was probably around 20 tubes & rafts, all inflated. Aside from me and Nick, and my niece Morgan, 4 others stuck around to wait for the group. We inflated my mom's big party raft for me and Nick, and we moved all the tubes from up on the main area of the yard, down the steep steps to the river bank.
That's when I got a bright idea... you see, last summer, my brothers, me, and my uncle all camped out at my Moms for Labor Day weekend. Come Saturday, I went yard saling with my older brother's girlfriend, and my brother specifically told us, "Don't bring home any junk!" From there, it was a battle- find the crappiest thing we can find, and give it to him as a late birthday present. That item was a pair of mannequin legs from a yard sale for $1.50. We found a pair of shorts for him, as well, but ran out of luck on shoes. Anyway, the mannequin quickly became the life of the party, and was dubbed Rod by my brother.
Back to my idea... Rod had to come tubing. He'd already enjoyed his first (and second) camp out, his first swim, his first night with his legs sticking out of the bushes like a dead body, and now, he needed to tube. So, we fixed him up with a raft, and tube he did.
The tubing trip lasted about 4 hours, and it was slightly overcast for the last half, and we were chilly by the end. But, it was a decent trip. We had Rod in his raft, my neice Morgan (she's 14) in her tube, and me & Nick on the party raft, all hooked together, along with my invention- the Cloater. A floating cooler- just a soft sided 12 can cooler stuck into and tied up to a small kiddie inner tube, then attached to our raft so it floated next to us the whole way.
About halfway into the trip, right before the first "stop off" point, Nick started to hear a hissing sound, and it was apparent we had sprung a tiny leak. He pinched it shut while Morgan & I paddled to get there faster.
Once there, my brother, his girlfriend, my neice McKayla (she's 5), and my parents caught up to us to help us out. I found a repair patch kit for free at the canoe/tube rental place right there, and we got it patched good. After re-inflating the tube a bit to fullness, it was decided that Morgan & Rod are far lighter than me & Nick, so they were into the party tube, I was in the regular tube, and Nick got the raft.
The rest of the trip involved singing rather shoddy made up songs about diahreah and boogers (thanks to Morgan..), and a few cold drinks (I enjoyed me 5 Smirnoff Green Apples on the ride, while Nick enjoyed 3 Miller CHills, and 2 budlights), and a lot of laughs from the people who saw Rod.
All in all, it was an enjoyable trip, though we lost a lot of our momentum towards the end, and it was getting colder, and we all were ready to get out.
Now, I'd go into the rest of the evening, but that involves another 6 pack of drinks I put down, and while it was amusing for others to watch, I'm sure, I'm not so sure I'm ready to share. :)