After our caving adventure, our host had to bounce, so he sent us off with directions to a beautiful waterfall we could hike to. We drove back through Bend, admiring the waterfront parks, onto the road we were supposed to use to get to the waterfall, but the road was closed. We tried to go around, but quickly found ourselves going in circles, and gave up the quest, because we’d been distracted by the sight of that beautiful waterfront park, with a playground. We drove back to that.
As soon as we parked and started walking through the park, we noticed something even more appealing: People floating down the river in tubes and on stand-up paddle boards. We decided this was what we really wanted to spend the rest of our day doing, so we Googled a rental company, then drove back to our friend’s house to get bathing suits and towels. We wanted to strike quickly while the afternoon was still warm.
The folks at Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe got us on our way pretty easily. They issued us each a tube and a life jacket, and pointed the way for us to walk across a bridge and put in the river. The only thing I didn’t like about this tour company was that they asked me to add a tip to our bill for the staff to help us in and out of the water, but no one actually helped us in or out of the water, and we didn’t need any help anyway. So I’m still mystified about what and whom the tip was for.
After crossing the bridge with our big old tubes on our heads and shoulders, we saw that we had a choice to make. The first put-in spot was at the beginning of a small rapids, which adults and kids were enjoying like a water slide. A sign warned that the rapids was not for children, and that you must wear a helmet on them, and we had no helmets. However, after having so much fun body surfing a larger rapid on the Rogue River when she and Erik capsized, Nutmeg was dying to get into another rapid. I was torn: It certainly didn’t look dangerous, and there were plenty of helmetless kids already enjoying it, but ignoring the signs would make me a terrible parent. Toth wanted to ride it too. I had told the kids no, but they pretty much revolted and went ahead, and I let them go with a wave of my arm, saying, Jesuslike, “Parent yourselves!” Erik wasn’t pleased with me.
Toth and Nutmeg got through the rapids just fine, and begged to go through again, but we only had two hours with our rafts and needed to get going. Erik stayed close to those two, while I stuck with Pebbles, who as usual was more worried than the rest of us about this whole situation. We put our tubes in the water and soon began slowly floating, with me holding onto a strap of her tube to keep us together.
The bottoms of the tubes were made of mesh, so I rode with my butt in the middle, arms and legs splayed over the sides. I had purchased a dry bag for my phone so I could keep taking photos and listen to the Cubs game on the At Bat app. I was wearing a swim cover-up and a sunhat, in the hopes that I wouldn’t get too wet. However, the mesh bottom of the tube made sure that the bottom part of my cover-up was soaked right away. It was still a warm afternoon, although there were some clouds and forest fire smoke in the air, and the water wasn’t chilling, but it wasn’t bathwater either. I felt maybe a little cooler than I would have liked, but not shivering.
As we floated, we noticed some folks ahead of us had two things that we lacked: beers in cupholders, and a paddle. The beers are technically not allowed, but seemed like a good addition to a lazy afternoon on the river. The paddles really would have come in handy, because the current started pushing us over to one side, and there were parts of the river where we were supposed to stay toward the other side, like to go under a bridge without bumping into the bridge supports. I had to learn to paddle with my one free hand, while the other hand was occupied holding onto Pebbles’ tube. Eventually I talked her into using her own hand to hold onto my raft, so that I could steer us with both hands. We got the hang of it.
Relaxation ensued. We admired the backyards of riverfront houses. These people mostly had their own decks and kayaks, which seemed like a pretty good lifestyle. A couple of guys were floating on tubes that were tethered to their dock, reading books, which I wouldn’t mind doing of an afternoon. We saw ducks land and take off, and flowerbeds and trees. It was lovely.
After about 45 minutes we came to a park where we were supposed to get out of the river and board a shuttle. We thought it might be difficult to steer ourselves over to the side and haul out of the water, but it wasn’t terrible. As we took a few steps, we felt how much we’d been exerting ourselves while purportedly relaxing, but in general we felt good. I pulled my hand lotion out of my pocket and put in on my hands, which had been continually wet for the past 45 minutes, and then reapplied about 10 times. I have a thing with dry hands. We lined up to wait for the shuttle.
The shuttle was $3 per person, and they gave you a wristband so you could ride it all day once you’d paid. The staff put your tube in a trailer behind it. On board there was a convivial atmosphere, since everyone except the driver and the helper was in the middle of having a good time, and they played some fun music. They drove us upriver, past our tube rental place, to another park near where we had initially parked that afternoon. There, we noticed that another rental company was set up, and we could have rented for less from them, and had a shorter trip, since we would have started here, floated back to the shuttle stop, then rode the shuttle back here to turn in the tubes. Oh well. We hopped back in, changing up our groups a bit, and enjoyed a more confident float back to the rental shop as experts.
As we approached the shop, Nutmeg began begging to go back through the rapids. Now that I had seen it wasn’t scary, I was game too, so we “accidentally” missed the tube company and floated right past to the rapids. There was a little lineup, and Nutmeg managed to get ahead of me, and then it was finally my turn. I was nervous.
Well, I got soaked. You pretty much float awhile, then drop down a tiny waterfall and maybe your tube turns over or very likely a little tidal wave gushes into your tube, and one way or another, you’re glad you put your iPhone in a wet bag. We hauled out of the water, dripping, and slowly walked back to the shop. By this time we were a bit shivery, as it was probably about 5 p.m., but the glow of the fun afternoon sustained us. We used a bathroom/changing room at the shop to get dried off and dressed, and then hopped back into the car to search out a well-earned meal.
First we checked out Bend Brewing Company, because they were located right on the river, but we couldn’t get a table. However, they had a huge side lawn covered with Adirondack chairs, and you could buy beer and tacos outside, so we did that. The sun as going down, there were dogs everywhere, the scene was cool. However, we wanted more food than just a few street tacos, so we moved on after one beer and one taco.
On the way to our next stop, we fell into an adorable artsy little shop, where I bought an eclipse-related art postcard. We also noticed that stores and restaurants were getting all worked up about the coming eclipse crowds, and posting signs like this:
We found what we wanted at McMenamin’s Old St. Francis School. We were familiar with the McM’s “turn a school into a cool bar/restaurant/hotel” concept from Portland, where we’d enjoyed visiting Kennedy School. This location used to be a Catholic school, and it was all red brick outside and dark wood with murals inside. We took a seat on the patio and ordered some amazing cajun tater tots and, of course, a sampler of local beers.
We looked around the inside a bit as well, but we didn’t realize until friends told us later that there was a lot more to see there that we missed, like the Broom Closet bar, the secret bar and the beautiful soaking pool. I guess we should have picked up the self-guided tour pamphlet at the front desk!
On the way back to our car, we hit up Goody’s Soda Fountain & Candy, where they had not just ice cream but many flavors of frozen, raw, safe-to-eat cookie dough. Nutmeg had cookie dough and it was just as amazingly decadent as you would expect.
After yet another vacation day where we left nothing on the table, we headed back to our host’s house to crash. The next morning, we’d be Portland bound!