We had two things on our list today: 1) go tubing at New River Junction and 2) go riding on the mountain bike trails that criss-cross the hills just outside of our campground. Because of the way the sun works and its direct influence on the way that we work, the obvious choice was to head to NRJ first, get in some quality tubing, hopefully eat some corn dogs from their concession stand, and then in the afternoon head back to camp, do a slight costume change, and return to the woods for a spot of light, no-pressure MTB shredding.
GPS told us that NRJ was only about five miles from our campground. And GPS doesn’t lie. Nearly all downhill, we coasted to the river, stopping only to pose with a playful group of Alpacas. Benedict was festooned in a collector’s edition Yingfa Speedo-style swimsuit featuring a lightning storm graphic, and on top he wore his famous cut off denim vest. Combined with his wool cycling cap and rimless spectacles, his look could very well be interpreted as Yankee Civil War Ghost Hunk. Whatever the case, once we arrived at the NRJ the crowd and employees were awestruck by his presence. It was an impressive sight. (As you can see for yourself below.)
We selected our tubes, stashed our bikes and ventured to the concession stand. It was appalling. No corn dogs, no pizza, no hamburgers, no fountain drinks; just a rack of candy and some small bags of chips. The thrill of tubing was all but wiped away when confronted with this unexpected reality. Not only had we built our hopes up for corn dogs but we were counting on them nutritionally for lunch, for sustenance, for the life-giving energy that only corn dogs can provide. It was too much wrap our heads around. We needed space, we needed time to reassess. Our move was obvious, it was the only move: we simply needed to get on our tubes and float.
“They say boredom is good, that spacing-out is necessary for big creativity, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a situation better suited to spacing out then slowly floating a tranquil river on an inner tube, under a bright blue cloudless sky.”
So we floated, we spaced, we let our fingertips drag in the water, we let our jaws hang slack, we followed the little birds as they skittered through the air, and we eavesdropped on all the drama going on between Trey and Jenn: how he’s no good for her, how she wants to cheat on him with Abe. This is how you get bored, this is how you marinate creativity. Can you even imagine the great works Picasso would have created had he just made the time to chase imaginary corn dogs while floating a river? Of course you can’t—neither can I—but at least we can appreciate the speculation.
But like all good things, our tubing experience had to come to an end. Yes we ran the rapids—we are amateur adventurers first and foremost, and we have a rep to live up to. After proving ourselves to the other tubers we exited the river, witnessed a women with “Daddy’s Girl” tattooed on her lower back smoke cigarettes while standing in the water, and caught the tubing commuter bus back the start of the float.
BANG. FLASH. GENIUS. Why don’t we just have a pizza delivered!? We weren’t that far away from Blacksburg, and a savory pie would be SUCH an excellent substitute for some c-dogs. Calls were made but our inquiries were denied, we were out of delivery range by a mile or two. Clearly, the pizza places of Blacksburg have no vision, no heart, no spirit of adventure. They were unwilling to take a chance, unwilling to accept an outsized tip, unwilling to help feed their fellow man. We refused to let our ship sink, wasn’t there something we could do? BANG. FLASH. GENIUS. Lightning strikes twice: we’ll order the pizza, hire an Uber to take us in, resupply, and Uber back out. Like I said, textbook ’80s Outdoor Adventure.
In a little over an hour our expeditionary force returned with three outsized pizzas, ENORMOUS pizzas, like each pizza was the size of a kiddy pool. Pizzas of this magnitude were not expected. According to the teenaged clerk, the “Virginia Slice” is so famous that “Everybody knows about it.” So we’re the thick ones. Makes sense. Regardless, we now had an excessive amount of pizza–I can’t believe I just wrote that, but it was true. We shared with tubers, we shared with staff, and we still had to lash almost an entire pie to the front of Moi’s bike. Fortunately his rig was equipped with the aptly named Specialized “Pizza Rack.” We didn’t set out to push the limits of the Pizza Rack’s, capabilities but push the limits we did.
After the pizza gorging finished, a motion was put forth to return to camp. All were in favor. Our sunburns were starting to announce themselves and we still needed to get some trail riding in.
On the way back to camp Daniel stopped to take photos of a puppy farm. It was a whole thing. But I wrote about it in a caption below, so you’ll get to it.
We changed and rode. These modern adventure bikes worked marvelously. All in all we spent around two hours ripping through the woods working off pizza and trying not to crash. What a way to end a day of tubing. Back home we cooked dinner, attempted to eat some more pizza, and talked with Kate. She’d ridden out to meet us after seeing on Sarah’s Instagram that we were in the area.
I must admit, I was a little worried about having Kate join us. Not because I am scared of strangers; I’m not. And not because we aren’t charming, funny, and kind; we are. But at this point we’d spent over two weeks together in close quarters. We had inside jokes that had inside jokes and, though we were certainly still on our best behavior, I think it would be fair to say that Sarah and Mary, our paragons of polite society, had maybe come down to our level more than the rest of us had risen to theirs. Turns out it wasn’t a problem, turns out we’re easier to like than we thought. Turns out we might actually be good people. Or perhaps Kate is just as bad as us. Turns out we drank some wine and made a giant fire. Turns out we fell asleep around midnight and turns out sometime between then and dawn Daniel saw a man run through our camp with his dog. Turns out this could have been a ghost ultra-runner, a really creepy athlete, or just a heavy vibe dream brought on by the gravity of a full moon. Turns out our day was nearly perfect.