I’ve lived in Boulder for thirty years and have never participated in one of its most celebrated events. Boulderites are known for their green standards. They’re concerned about their carbon footprint. They are all about recycling, organics, and commuting with the environment in mind. Since the Boulder Creek rushes wild a couple of streets from the beloved Pearl Street pedestrian mall, the City Court House, and the Public Library to name a few prime locations, it makes sense that Boulder would host a Tube to Work Day.
My husband Danny works for The Colorado Group, a commercial real estate company. When their secretary and social director, Amanda, sent around an email looking for participants, I said, “Sign me up!” She purchased a bunch of inner tubes and made arrangements to carpool to the event.
The 12th Annual Tube to Work Day 2019 arrived!
Wearing closed toed shoes and a helmet, hundreds of participants trickled upstream, tubes in hand, to Eben G. Fine park. Organizers postponed the drenching commute by one week because the creek rose to dangerous levels. There have been many deaths due to rafting this year in Colorado. Boulder officials didn’t take any chances. EMT’s stood by.
We were oblivious!
Armed with a Monster Energy Drink and appropriate work attire, Danny and I chose our inner tubes. I thought mine would keep me super dry and comfortable. Then I noticed the webbing in the bottom. The water would be icy cold mountain snowmelt. I shivered thinking about it. And yet it couldn’t be as cold as the Polar Plunge, could it?
When the gate opened, commuters were released in groups of around twenty down the stream. As I approached the rushing water, I wondered how I’d hang onto my raft let alone stay in it. How would I get inside?
Just before I plopped into my tube, no grace required, by the way, I noticed a long tree branch just above the rushing water. “Someone’s going to get clotheslined,” I said to Danny.
That someone was me! Watch for the pink hair flashing under the limb as I get smacked from behind. Danny floats by in his white shirt.
Thank God for hand holds. I clutched them so tight, I bruised my little finger next to my ring.
Oh, man. No one warned us about bumping our rumps on stumps or in this case boulders. With the high water level, we splashed, banged and bonked several of those suckers just under the waterline. I don’t remember thwacking my arm or my ankle but the river left its marks. Danny conked a bridge pylon, glad for the helmet that protected his cranium.
Halfway through my Wild Ride, I got stuck in an eddy. At first, it was nice to catch my breath and recover after all that screaming. I’m not usually a screamer. I don’t scream when I’m scared or when I’m on a ride, but man did I scream. Then I couldn’t get back into the flow. “Help me!” I shouted and reached out to several other tubers who weren’t in the right position. Finally a guy grabbed my hand and released me back into the rapids. When I looked back to thank him, he was stuck. Oopsy.
After that little break, I embraced the rest of the whitewater trip, raising up my butt to try to avoid rocks, if I saw them coming. I waved to the onlookers and missed a piece of bacon tied to a string. Others snatched Bloody Mary’s handed out by the cheering crowd.
Finally, tubers stood or tried to stand up to get out of the creek at Boulder’s Central Park. I almost rushed right by! An EMT stood watching. “Can I get a hand?”
He grabbed my tube and I wrestled it out of the melee. Even though it had been bitter cold and I was soaking wet, adrenaline must have kept my motor running at a high internal temperature.
A party awaited us. Hot coffee, pastries, bagels, egg burritos and juices sat were provided. I chugged a cup of coffee and wandered around collecting free swag.
At 10:30, the park cleared out. Oh, yeah. The work part of the day! Amanda drove us back to the parking lot and I said my goodbyes.
I’m not sure how anyone sat down to work. Next year, I’m wearing two pair of bike shorts. Youch!
It was terrifying, exciting, and painful. Would I do it again next year? Hell, yes!
Have you ever commuted by bike, train, or some other creative method? Would you ever consider commuting by inner tube?
Photo and video credit: Janine Thurston
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