In last week’s column I wrote most favorably about going with Cheryl to Shasta to attend a reunion with her childhood girlfriends.
I mentioned how I nearly bailed on the trip when I thought I’d be thrown together with strangers on a Lake Shasta houseboat for three days.
I couldn’t see myself sunning at Shasta, swimming at Shasta, fishing at Shasta. If there’s anything else people do on houseboats in the middle of a vast lake, I couldn’t see myself doing those activities either.
As it turned out, there was no houseboat. Chock it up to miscommunication.
But there was a patio boat.
The patio boat plan was more appealing. We would cruise for only four hours, not three days.
Duain, our organizer, said this was a good year for boating. Lots of water, less exposed shoreline. And Lake Shasta has floating toilets.
I envisioned an outhouse bobbing in the water as I, bladder about to explode, tried to leap over from our patio boat.
Surely I had misheard?
I should have clarified things right then and there, but my brain was overwhelmed by the larger issue: I would be floating in a dinky boat on an expansive body of water for an entire afternoon.
The very idea made me queasy.
That night, back in our motel room, I asked Cheryl if she had heard Duain utter the phrase “floating toilets.”
Indeed she had. And she had found it equally disturbing.
If such a thing as a “floating toilet” existed, wouldn’t we have heard about it?
The concept was fraught. Who wants to be stuck in the middle of a god-forsaken lake with bathroom issues, your only salvation being a floating Porta-Potty? I shuddered at the possibilities.
On the day of our boat ride, we all gathered for lunch at a restaurant overlooking the marina. I ate a BLT-A sandwich, but drank nothing.
My strategy was obvious: Shut down urine production, avoid any call of nature.
In (mostly) high spirits, our group of six climbed aboard a small canopied boat and headed out onto open water. Shasta is vast, with 365 miles of shoreline.
And a more intimidating fact: The lake’s maximum depth is 517 feet.
Yes, I can swim and the boat was equipped with life vests, but 517 feet!
As we meandered toward Shasta dam, past wild men on jet skis, Duain unfolded a map and pointed out coves with floating toilets. Apparently they were a real thing.
As we neared the dam, I was on the lookout for a possible “glory hole” like the one at Lake Berryessa capable of swallowing small boats.
Cheryl’s lifelong girlfriend Sue picked up on my concern, then amplified it. “Wouldn’t it be romantic, we demise together?” she said.
No, Sue. It would not be romantic.
Soon Duain was piloting us toward what I considered to be Shasta’s main attraction: a floating toilet.
There it was, a little shed with two little restrooms floating on a platform. We’d been on the water less than two hours, but as soon as Duain tied up, each of us jumped over for a visit.
Contrary to expectations, they were as clean as could be. No untoward incidents were reported.
Good job, Shasta!
As far as I was concerned, we could have ended the boat ride then and there. Viewed dam: check. Sampled floating toilet: check. Time to go home.
Only we didn’t. We still had another 90 minutes of rental time to burn off.
Duain asked if I’d like to pilot the boat. I said sure because I felt flattered. For the next hour and a half I furiously turned a tiny, minimally responsive steering wheel, somehow avoiding other boats, bridge piers and toilets.
It was exhausting. The next day I had a mild case of carpal tunnel.
Meanwhile, everyone else was in the back of the boat, eating animal cookies, swigging iced tea, partying like there was no tomorrow.
The highlights of my time at the helm were two. A duck flew straight at me, then landed and begged for food. On shore, a Native American family caught fish. Everything else was a blur of rugged scenery.
Would I do another patio boat rental?
Probably not, unless I were hosting a bunch of Shasta first-timers.
I’d show them the dam and the ring of exposed orange soil and rocks at the lake’s edge and we’d crawl under the engineering marvel that is the I-5 bridge.
Then I’d head straight for Shasta’s piece de resistance: the floating toilets.