It’s the very beginning of May but it’s pretty much summer in Texas. And as any native Texan knows, that means the temperatures are rising and they are rising fast! In Texas, you will often hear people say Texas only has three seasons: Almost summer, Summer and Winter (although “winter” is highly subjective and is about a two week time period that could be anywhere from October to March). But once “almost summer” comes into full force…. it get’s hot, very quickly.

Because of our long periods of intense heat, you get pretty innovative when it comes to how you keep cool. Yes obviously AC is a necessity down south but as kids, when our parents kicked us out for being inside for too long, and it was hotter than hell the first mission was keeping cool. Before the community pool opened nearby, my brother and I would make homemade water parks using painter’s tarps, all the hoses and sprinklers we could find, giant plastic storage buckets and our swing set. I’m sure my parents were insanely thrilled over the water bill but it was cheaper than going to a real water park and a hell of a lot closer with NO LINES! We did occasionally make the trip to the #1 water park in the world, Schlitterbahn however. And ever since I can remember I have loved the water. I don’t remember my first introduction to water (that wasn’t a bath). I think my mom’s told me I was probably around 18 months. My mom loved to swim so she got my brother and I in swim lessons as soon as possible and I’ve been part fish ever since.

One sure fire way to know you have hit “Almost Summer” is when the rain storms hit. I starting writing this post last week during one of these storms, but my power went out and my computer crashed and the post didn’t get saved…. (yup, I’m bitter about that. Moving on)! I used to be terrified of these storms, but I have grown to love them. The thunder, the lightning, the crazy pounding rain on the roof and sometimes the wind. Dogs hate it but humans love it. It’s our own natural sound/white noise machine! And besides making for great sleep, these storms fill all the rivers and lakes across the state! Once the majority of the storms are over, you know it’s summer and that means find any place to cool off that you can!

Usually, the rains just fill up the rivers and lakes enough for the summer season of tubers (people, like myself, who pay to rent the actual inflation tubes from old tires to sit our butts in and float down the rivers) and boaters. It’s rare for the rivers to ever overflow. However I do have a very keen memory of this happening, one time. I was between 8 and 10. My family drove up to the Texas Hill Country, where there are more rivers and lakes than I can name. The “almost summer” rains had been heavy but we went anyways. Once we arrived, the place we would usually rent tubes from told us the only way to be on the river was to raft it with a guide. Our beloved lazy river that can take 8 hours to do the long look, was now a raging rapid machine. A family meeting took place, we talked it over, we rafted. It was so hot that day. Like hot enough you wish you could peel your skin off! So it was my family on 4 and our guide “Grizz” rafting down the river. I must have asked a million times when I could get in the water. I just wanted to cool down and the splashes from the rapids could only last so long! So as the story goes, at one point my father and Grizz exchanged looks and the next thing I knew, I was in the water! It was fast and it was COLD! BUT IT FELT AMAZING!!! I was torn between being mad about being thrown in and being so relieved to not be baking! I have spent many summers of that very same river since.

But a similar experience happened when I was in Europe for a month at 18. We were in Tignes, France. In the morning people were skiing (in July) and in the afternoon we were rafting! It took me a while for my mind to fully comprehend those two things occurring in the same place on the same day. But nonetheless, it totally happened. When we got to the rafting place we broke up into several boats. They had us put on wet suits (which referring back to my previous rafting experience made no sense), a rain jacket, life vests and helmets. I must admit I was highly skeptical that all of that was necessary…. but to my surprise, it was. The rapids were nuts! It was such a rush. The adrenaline junkie in me was on a major high. The views were amazing. It was all very surreal but again, I started feeling like I was cooking inside my own skin. I needed to cool off. So barring the language barrier between my french rafting guide and myself, when we came to a calm spot on the river, I jumped in. If I had any preconceived idea that this water would be exactly like the water back in Texas, I was HORRIBLY mistaken!  This, this was ice water and I had just willingly thrown myself into it. I could not get back in that freaking raft fast enough. Everyone laughed at the few of us who jumped in. We all had the same expression of shock and desperation trying to get back in the boats.

But whether of my own will or someone forcing me, I am glad I took the plunge.