Yesterday, September 11th, we celebrated Mary's 51st birthday in the grande style she had requested: by floating down the Rio Grande with inner tubes! Although Mary had her own inner tubing adventure on the Rio Grande several months ago, her greatest wish had been to tube down the river with myself and our son, Rene, so we honored her request and made it happen!
It was a lovely September day here in northern New Mexico, with the temperatures hovering around 82 degrees. After a riverside picnic and other preparations, we hit the river around 2pm, not knowing if we would make it all the way to the second vehicle which was parked almost four miles downstream. With three tubes and an extra raft carrying "supplies" (local beer, peanuts and water!), the intrepid trio set out on our sojourn with high hopes and spirits.
Being late in the season, the river was somewhat low, with some areas less than a foot deep. Experienced in such things, Mary intelligently taught us how to position our bodies in order to avoid major injuries to our coccyx bones. No matter the water level, the scenery was breathtaking as always, with the high Pilar cliffs towering above us as herons, ducks and other birds marked our passage.
Happily, there were five rapids that were great fun and quite exciting, although nothing felt truly dangerous since this is a part of the river quite popular for leisurely inner tubing. We each shot through the rapids without mishap, although Mary did have one complete dunking early on!
As the sun began to sink below the cliffs to our right, the ambient temperature did begin to drop around 5pm, and we dragged ourselves out of the river, with Keith and Rene experiencing marked chattering of the teeth (a strange sensation which I recall as usually being reserved for winter sports).
Up on the road, we quickly warmed in the sun as a personable fisherman befriended us and another friendly passerby stopped spontaneously to offer to take a group photo. Moments later, an equally friendly pair of women in a pickup truck stopped and gave Rene a ride upriver to our van, cementing the fact that people here in New Mexico are quick to be friendly and quick to lend a helping hand.
Changing out of our wet clothes, we drove to the nearby town of Dixon for a lovely birthday dinner, the owner of the restaurant gifting Mary with a birthday surprise: a homemade pinon (pine nut) cookie topped with local vanilla ice cream! The entire staff came out to sing "Happy Birthday", and the birthday girl beamed in delight.
It was a great day, a memorable day, and I have no doubt that Mary will live up to her new self-description: "fifty-one and full of fun!"
Happy Birthday, Mary! We love you so!