Shooting the Hooch (118th new thing).

July 30, 2011 § Leave a comment

A brief warning: this post is long and photoless (a camera shouldn’t get wet), but there is a cool video at the end. You should read it all, and not even think about skipping ahead!

Day 118 was Fourth of July (I know, I am so far behind in posting). Our friends Cooper and Michelle were planning a trip down the Chattahoochee on the holiday, so Patrick and I along with our friend Melanie joined the group to “Shoot the Hooch.” Shooting said Hooch is something in my many years of living in Georgia I had never before done.

We met the 20-person plus entourage at the drop off point near I-75 and I-285 at about 1PM. We filled Melanie’s soft-sided Jets cooler with mini Budweisers and other canned beer and then secured the icebox into a kiddie float I had bought at the drug store earlier. It was a little air-filled turtle made for kids under three, complete with three inch leg holes in the bottom.  It was perfect for keeping a small soft-sided cooler afloat on the river (or so I hoped) I had also brought along the super long 25 foot leash of Murphy’s that we purchased for his training class several months ago and never used. I figured we could tie it between someone’s rented inner tube and the handle of the turtle beer float so our beverages never drifted too far. Genius, I thought.

Once everyone had gathered and acquired rented floats or inflated their purchased ones, our large group set down to the river with Cooper’s home built flotilla leading the way. The flotilla was a masterpiece of wooden boards affixed to mattress springs resting on a series of inner tubes to create a 4x 8 foot floating stage. Individuals could attach themselves to the display that held coolers, dry goods, and occasionally people.

Patrick, Melanie, and I shoved ourselves off the dock by the river and connected the cooler (it floats!) and our tubes to each other prepared for our leisurely journey downstream. Once everyone had done the same, the group started down the river.

We had gotten about a hundred yards when Patrick realized that his tube was rapidly deflating. Half the air had gone out of the floating device and more was escaping as we went along. Melanie and I stood up on the rocky river floor (I didn’t realize it was so shallow!) while he went back to the rental kiosk and switched out tubes.

Meanwhile Garth Brooks’ song lyrics came tumbling through the sky at us. The thunder rolled. Mel and I stood in the cold water for about fifteen minutes waiting as the sky grew gradually darker. By the time Patrick returned, one flip-flop broken on the tedious journey, fat raindrops were beginning to spread over the water.

With the rest of our large group several minutes ahead of us and my car keys riding along with them, we decided to brave the weather and continue. So did the other fifty people or so floating along around us. We made it under the interstate bridge and secured ourselves to some dangerous looking concrete spike coming up from the river to wait out the torrential downpour and flashes of lighting that had beat us to the final bridge. It was scary. Wasn’t open water supposed to be the worst place to be in a thunderstorm?? The bolts of lightning flashing down from the sky seemed perilously close.

After several mini Budweisers the storm passed, and we headed out from our sanctuary into the drizzle that was still peppering the Chattahoochee. We wondered how far our friends had gotten before they too must have stopped. We didn’t have to go far before Cooper’s flotilla caught our eye resting on the raised bank on the right side of the river. We scooched over to the bank, and I went on a scouting expedition while Melanie kept shoeless Patrick company in the water.

I climbed the giant mud bank and wandered to the right, seemingly walking in some strange park with random park benches, or maybe even simply the back yard of the town home neighborhood that backed up to the river. Once I meandered back along the water I heard my name being called. I looked up to see a raging party of wet comrades throwing down on one of the homes’ back porch. Nice. They had found a drunken soiree while Patrick, Melanie, and I clung for life under a bridge. I joined the festivities and gratefully accepted the full-size beer that was offered before I went back to the bank to report my findings. After a few more minutes of gathering up the group we all headed back to our Chattahoochee River adventure.

We had a nice smooth relaxing ride for a while after the great thunderstorm debacle. Melanie, Patrick, and I floated comfortably along, connected by Murphy’s 25-foot leash, pausing occasionally to hop ourselves over a shallow patch of rocks.

Our next pit stop came when a raucous group of revelers congregated on either side of the river. On the right were a bunch of Fourth of July party people on their secret river beach. On the left thrill-seekers leapt from a thirty foot partake in the adventure. Michelle jumped with a back flip flair. Melanie climbed nimbly to the top, and I followed, imbued with the excitement of trying something new.

Melanie leapt off as I was navigating through the dirt and bumps on the path to the summit. Once I arrived at the big rock’s peak I realized there wasn’t too much of a queue. A couple of people building the courage to take the plunge and a few others just chilling. I felt my nerves rise into my throat, but I pushed the feeling back into my stomach and stepped forward. And jumped.

I can tell you specifically what I was thinking as I fell through the air: Cannonball! But fortunately, I managed to straighten out slightly right before impact with the waves, so instead of slapping my entire back against the river surface, I managed to only injure my butt. I swam back to the surface with the hugest wedgie I have ever experienced.

Soon we moved back to floating downriver as all the beer people had brought dwindled to naught. The journey was supposed to take three hours tops, and we had already been waterlogged for more than that. But the sun with its rays warm on our skin, was out in full force at this point, so the mood was still very pleasant.

Until the next thunderstorm. This time we all huddled on a small beachy area just off the river. There was no bridge or town home in which to shelter. We all became soaking wet and cold. By this time I think the general thought was, “Just stop raining and let us be done with this!”

Eventually it did stop pouring and we headed down the final stretch of floating.  It was short and easy except for the disembarking at the end where you had to wade both yourself and your tube through a pretty strong current to get to shore.  I nearly lost my own flip-flop at that point and worried about Patrick and his one bare foot just ahead. Melanie was the smart one with her river shoes. Finally, we turned in our tubes and jumped on a bus headed back to where we began.

Despite two horrendous thunderstorms, one lost flip-flop, and a giant wedgie-inducing jump, the day was great fun and the company more than fantastic. The storms were merely an annoyance, and maybe an extra few hundred words in this post. I definitely want to Shoot the Hooch again, but on a guaranteed sunny day, and maybe with a proper pair of river shoes, and not some silly pair of flip-flops.

Ross, the group photographer with his waterproof camera case made a cool video to commemorate the whole experience. Check it out. My jump is at 0:59. Yeah, I held my nose.

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