While I always advocate for skin care, sometimes sunburn is a battle scar of a great weekend.
And now, sitting here typing, I am periodically reaching over for aloe vera gel to rub on my tender lobster skin. How did I end up acting this irresponsible about sunscreen you ask? Well, it’s simple -- I fell asleep, while tubing on Deerfield River.
I’m going to blame it on sleep deprivation. After a really fun, but busy holiday weekend of picnics, fireworks, bonfires and a James Taylor concert at Tanglewood, I needed some serious R&R.
So, when my pals, Paul, Renee, Lynn, Dan and Matt, wanted to go tubing, I was thrilled at the idea. Laying in the water and working on my tan? Yes, please.
Deerfield River, which comes down from Vermont, runs along Route 2 and is one of the great secrets of the Berkshire/ Franklin county border. I am so experienced in tubing that I even upgraded from an intertube to a queen-size air mattress, which I love because I am propped up higher, able to stay dry, glide over rocks and spread my limbs out.
The river releases once a day, so as you get on it, so do 200 other people. Normally, I feel an energy charge from being around that many people and rushing into cold water, getting tossed around by some of the low-grade rapids. But last Sunday, I was in pure relaxation mode.
I had slathered on sunscreen, grabbed my shades and hopped on my mattress. Even though I started out with my friends, I knew the mattress moved faster and I would lose them, but we planned to meet at an island half-way down to reconnect. I waved goodbye to Lynn and turned over on my stomach, laid my head on my hands and felt the sun’s rays and my body melt into the mattress.
When I finally came to sometime later, I quickly realized I was the only person on the river.
"How long have I been asleep? How far could I be from where everyone else got off?"
I paddled over to the shore, dragging my large mattress out of the water and shoving it up the steep, dirt embankment that eventually led to a road. Which road I wasn’t sure. I wasn’t even sure which town I was in anymore.
"I could have been asleep for hours!" I thought. It’s hard to gauge time when you’re passed out. Cars flew by me.
"I’m in a bikini, standing on the side of a road with an air mattress," I thought.
I looked around. The only sign of human existence was one dilapidated, unoccupied-looking house that was sinking in the ground across from where I stood. I felt completely alone and panicked.
"I’m going to die here. This time you’ve outdone yourself. You feel asleep on a river," I thought, frantically.
More unfamiliar cars whizzed by. Finally, two leather-clad men in their 50s on bikes stopped.
"You look lost," the first one said flatly.
"Well, I kind of am. I fell asleep," I stammered.
The second man behind him cut me off. "Well, you can always come back to our camp if you want." I looked at him, then looked at the amount of exposed flesh I could potentially grind into the asphalt. And there’s also the old -- stranger danger!
"I appreciate it, but my ride will be here soon." A lie. I didn’t know when anyone was coming -- or if they were ever coming.
"Suit yourself. We’ll come back around here in half an hour to see if your friends show up." He smiled at me and took off, his buddy right behind him.
"Dan, please find me," I whined. I watched to make sure the dynamic bike duo was out of sight, then I sat on the hot metal guard rail, my brain racking for a plan. I could always follow the river back up. I just didn’t know how many hours that would be while dragging an air mattress.
Suddenly, I heard car-horn honks. I looked up to see Dan’s black pick-up truck coming down the road. I dropped my mattress to the ground and started jumping up and down.
"Where you have been knuckle-head?" Paul said from the passenger seat. "We saw you float down the river. We called out your name, but you kept going. You’re like four miles past the exit."
I jumped for joy.
"You’re here! I fell asleep and now there are strange men on bikes that are coming back for me." Paul looked confused.
Here’s what I learned: Never let yourself get too comfortable. If you do, it can turn into the worst sunburn of your life. I’ll go back to the river for tubing again, but with SPF 75 and an extra-large iced coffee.