A group of friends and I were on a quest to spend a wonderful sunny Saturday away from work at the hospital, for some much-needed rest and relaxation lounging under the sun. We decided to take a float trip down the Illinois River in Watts, Oklahoma. We found a place, The Redneck Yacht Club Outfitters, that rented our group a couple of rafts. The name was priceless. We wanted a country experience, and boy did we get one.
After checking in and paying for the rafts, we followed the tan, tattooed guy (who was missing some teeth) down to the river’s edge. Unlike most float trips that I have been on, this particular one had the trip start at the outfitters and end at a location that needed you to be picked up at and brought back to your vehicle. Shouldn’t have been a problem, right? Boy, how naive we were. We planned on getting picked up at 4:30pm. We were told if we were later than 7pm, we would have an extra cost to pay. We were also given a phone number to call if we finished sooner or had any problems.
At 9:30am, we were off paddling away from shore, letting the current take us. After multiple stops to swim, and many more stops to get out and push the raft across the rocks because of the shallow water, our fun was starting to wane. The 6-mile-long river adventure, or so we were told, felt like it lasted forever. We finally made it to our ending point at 6:45pm and when we approached it, much to our surprise, there were about 60 people there waiting for a pickup as well — some had been waiting for over 2 hours already! (Many didn’t seem to mind though; they were out swimming in the water, drinking alcohol, and partying it up.) At 7:20pm, we recognized that tan, tattooed guy who put our rafts in the water — He was out swimming and floating in the water with some girls. We went over to talk to him to find out where the bus was to pick up people. What he told us made my jaw drop… “Oh, it’s coming back. It’s a 20 MINUTE DRIVE THERE AND BACK (SO A 40-MINUTE ROUND TRIP), and they are driving a van that holds about 6 people. WHAT?!?!?!? So now I’m going to have to wait… **math calculating** another 6 or 7 hours till we can get back to our car? I started to freak out. I was sunburned, hungry, angry, and exhausted and could feel the tears starting to form in my eyes. I just wanted to get home. But here I was, stuck in the middle of nowhere, without a vehicle, and with NO CELL SERVICE. So much for that “emergency phone number” the outfitters provided! I told my fiance I would probably be off the river and on my way home around 5pm. It was already 2.5 hours after that, and I was still at the river with no way of reaching him to let him know I was alive. And now I was being told that we’d still be here for a couple more hours? The s*** was about to hit the fan.
A short time later, an old rickety school bus came barreling down the gravel road driven by a lady in a blue one-piece bathing suit who seemed to be about 55 years old. Some of the people who were already on shore started gathering up their things and piled onto the bus. Two of our people with cars parked at the outfitters managed to get onboard, so at least they could drive their cars back down to pick up the rest of us. After they found seats on the bus, it appeared like there might be a few extra seats still available! I didn’t even hesitate… I dashed toward that bus, because I saw it as my ticket out of this place!
I found a seat fairly close to the bus driver, so I could hear the majority of the things she was saying while she was driving. What she said (as well as her driving) horrified me! She was driving a good 60 mph on a one lane, curvy, gravel road. “Isn’t this bus a lifesaver? I bought this bus from some lady for 550 bucks! Boy, am I glad I got it, it sure was a good buy. Though, I wasn’t sure if it would start because it hasn’t been driven in a little over 10 years.” …“Oh, I don’t have my bus driving license, just the regular one. But, thankfully I know how to drive stick shift from hauling hay when I was younger.” **gears grinding in the background** Some of the passengers on the bus were equally as bad! They were right along with her, acting like her driving was a roller coaster by putting their hands in the air and moving them from side-to-side in motion with the winding of the road. …Intoxicated idiots. As she was trying to negotiate the curves, I could just visualize our bus flipping over and careening down the hillside. This wasn’t the way I expected to die! —-in a bus driven by a reckless redneck, surrounded by drunken white trash. Thankfully, we all made it back to the Redneck Yacht Club campground in one piece.
While on the drive, we passed a smaller bus and a van that were heading down to the river to pick up more people. We were hoping our party was able to make it on the bus or van…but had no way of confirming, since there was, as I mentioned before, no cell service. We asked our bus driver lady if there was some way she could call her drivers to see if the rest of our people made it on that bus. Her response was, “I’ll get right on that.” Then she parked her bus and off she went inside. So while she did that, we decided we would wait a few minutes to see if our friends got off on the next 2 vehicles. Meanwhile, from the major bumpy drive on the gravel road, we needed to pee really, really badly. If they didn’t have bathrooms, we would have to go pop a squat in front of our car and/or pee in the bushes. Lo and behold, there were some public bathrooms used by the camping sites, though as you can well imagine, they were not pretty. It was this little shack, insulated inside by beer and wine cardboard boxes. The stall doors were wood panels that wouldn’t stay shut, nor did they lock. The toilets also wouldn’t flush, and the shack smelt like rotten eggs. But we would take small blessings as they came, because at least there was some toilet paper.
Once exiting that wonderful shack, we found our bus driver lady …wallowing in a small, above-ground pool filled with water that looked like it came straight from the river. We asked her if she was able to reach the other drivers to find out the whereabouts of our friends — which she hadn’t. She claimed that she couldn’t get a hold of them, but …”she had dirt in her teeth and had to get in the pool.” SERIOUSLY?!!! What… the… heck?!?!? (I don’t even get the logic in that statement… but ok then.) The next bus arrived and dropped off a handful of people; none of them ours. Then we watched as the driver went and parked the bus and headed off to a party at the campfire to have some beers. Finally, a third vehicle arrived, and our party was STILL not on board. How unconcerned can this outfitters be??? By this time, the sun was setting, and it was getting dark. We got into our vehicles and drove as quickly as we could to the river. Luckily, I had taken mental note of the roads traveled, and I was able to remember the different turns the bus took to get out of that place, so I could lead our drivers back down to the river’s edge. Not long after the sun set, we were able to find our way to the river, and by about 9:15pm, we got to the river’s edge — there were our friends, along with about 15 people still waiting for a ride up. We loaded up our cars, packed all of us in, and even took a few of the strangers with us as well who had cars parked at the outfitters, so at least they could bring their own vehicles down to pick up their parties. Halfway through, we did manage to pass the smaller bus heading down to get the rest of the people left down by the river.
Our fun-starting float trip turned into a very frustrating nightmare, which could have been disastrous had we gotten lost on the river, became injured, or worse. What an unconcerned outfitters! I personally will never trust the disorganized and unprofessional Redneck Yacht Club to take me floating the river again!