I live with a toober, a person obsessed with tubing in Texas. Every chance Geoff gets to go tubing, he will take it. Even drifting into a snake ball hasn’t stopped him from floating. He has tubing regalia: an adorably gay mesh tee, cherished cut-off denim shorts, water shoes, and koozie with a neck string. His affection for tubing exceeds that of many of us and like a small, adventuresome child, Geoff often finds himself excitedly planning tubing trips without the support of others. Until recently, the most worthwhile tubing was at least 30 miles away from Austin and required a lot of pre-planning and flaking out on friend’s parts.
That is why we were extrememly excited to discover that tubing in East Austin was suddenly a thing. I guess it had always been a thing, but with the opening of East Austin Tubes, at least we know it’s legal. I think? We had been patrons of the Extremely Public Beach (previously known as the Secret Beach) and always wondered what tubing through the area would be like. Now we had the chance!
For those of you who don’t know, the tubing occurs in Town Lake east of the dam on Pleasant Valley. Is that Town Lake at that point? Is it called something else? Lady Bird Lake? Bird Lady Lake Town annex? Damn Gross Dam Water Lake? I’ve never lived in a state where bodies of water have multiple names. I’m not quite sure where East Side Tubes starts since we took our own tubes to the river and jumped in near the dam. One float with shuttle ride at East Side Tubes costs $15, and though I always encourage people to support local businesses, if you’re feeling poor, you can easily bring your own tube to the river. As for shuttling, park one car under the Montopolis Bridge (where the float will end) and park the other car at the baseball diamonds on Pleasant Valley (where the float begins).
I’m not a poo-pooer of things, but I will tell you this: tubing in East Austin will make you want to shower for three hours. When you swim or tube in most bodies of water and see a light sheen on the top of the water, you usually take solace in knowing that it is sunscreen. Not on Town Lake. For all I know we were swimming in 100% petroleum. You don’t really have to worry about snake balls or similar fears that are common with most tubing trips for it appears to be impossible for many animals to successfully live in this area. In fact, I was more concerned about staph. What you most have to worry about is cutting yourself on a discarded car bumper or shopping cart lodged in the murky water. Every time I ran my fingers through algae and river grass under water, I had to remind myself it wasn’t human hair (sadly, this is not a joke). Since tubing is relatively new to this area, there aren’t many regulations put in place or enforced, so it’s common to find floating beer cans and strange lone men possibly pooping in the water.
The icing on the cake and what sums up the entire tubing trip for me is when we arrived at our destination, an area under the Montopolis bridge populated by parents and small children wading in still water, I saw a ten year-old boy both equal parts terrified and excited to pick up a stabbing knife he found at the base of the bridge. When his parents noticed what he did, they yelled at him to put it down, which he did, and then continued to stare at it bewildered for another five minutes. Me, standing roughly ten feet from the boy, was also transfixed. Is this what we’re all swimming in? Did we just happen upon a crime scene? But more importantly, will our butts grow an eyeball tomorrow?
I don’t want to discourage you from tubing in Austin and I most definitely don’t want to discourage you from supporting locals businesses. If you don’t feel like making the 30+ minute plus drive to San Marcos, New Braunfels, etc. to tube, Town Lake is doable, but I will tell you that the 30 minute drive is worth the luxury of not sitting in congealed water. If you do go, wear a full bodysuit and most definitely don’t take your kids- they’re magnets for stabbing knives.