Cheap-As Tubes and the Clark-Fork River

I have visited 41 of the United States. As of last week, state number 42: Montana.

Missoula is, quite literally, on fire. The town smells like s’mores burning over green wood, still hydrated and fleshy. But I needed a mountain break, so I got one on a long layover. Another flight attendant, Summer, and I grabbed the cheapest tubes we could find: $7 at Ace Hardware.

Back east, we call it Tubing. In Missoula, they call it Floating.

Ready to go with our $7 tubes!

In retrospect, we should have shelled out the $40 for the deluxe, two-person tube with a cooler in the middle. And probably another $9 for some beer. But this was an adventure.

“We’re supposed to ask you to let us off at the best spot,” we told the number 4 bus driver. He nodded. “Keep your tubes in the back, out of the way and I’ll let you know where to get off.”

More tubers hopped on the free shuttle, and we rode for about 20 minutes. The locals chatted with us, offering advice on where we should get in.

“Here, we’re getting off!” some ladies pointed and dragged their (much larger and more durable) tubes off the bus. We followed them down to the river and they snapped our photo.

Rolllin’ on the river

We looked brave, but we were a bit wussy getting in. Mud sucked my toes in as the shock of icy water shot up my legs. Sneakers tied around my neck like a hunting trophy—a vain attempt to keep them dry-ish—I sloshed into my tube and pushed into the current.

It was exactly the break from the world, from moving, from packing, and from social media that I needed. Two hours floating along with my phone safely tucked away in plastic, I enjoyed every minute of it.

Looking at this video it’s unclear how I didn’t stay above water, but I swear I hit a rapid smack on!

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If you head to Missoula and want more tubing spots, check out this great list from the Kingfisher Fly Shop.

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