I alluded to my terrible float trip experience in an earlier post, but I do believe it’s time to actually turn it into a full story (as a side note, I will probably be copying and pasting this into a Trip Advisor review, because I’m lazy and because other people need to know that they should never, ever, ever stay at the cabins at Aker’s Ferry, MO). The trip itself was back in June, so even if I were not suffering from PTSD about this trip, it would still be recent enough for me to remember.
I should note that this whole thing was booked by my friend Matt, so I blame him entirely for all of the awful things that follow (fuck you, Matt! Just kidding. But I’m kinda not). Things started off pretty uneventfully. There were 8 of us signed up to go on a float on the Current River and a 2 night stay at a cabin there, which should have been totally fine because we checked the website ahead of time and saw pictures of a pretty nice cabin with plenty of sleeping arrangements for all of us (some of the guys would have to share beds but we’re not homophobic and we were also going to be really inebriated). Kyle, Matt, Glenn and myself started our days early, picked up some supplies and set out on the road first to make sure the cabin was in order for when Jeremy, Liz, Mike & Mel arrived later. That was pretty much the end of things going right.
The first half of our group arrived out in Aker’s Ferry in the late afternoon to check in. As soon as we got out of the car, a black cat walked up to me and sat at my feet for some pets, which was totally cool with me because I love animals and I’m not really superstitious (which is actually kind of strange, considering all the other ways my mind is warped). In retrospect, this may have been an omen and perhaps I should be re-evaluating my stance on superstition. Now, despite this office we were at clearly being marked “Aker’s Ferry Cabin & Canoe Rental” we were told that this was not the place we were supposed to be checking in at, and were subsequently sent 2 miles down the road to a place with a horribly dilapidated sign that said “Jason Place.” Not “Jason’s Place.” No, it was “Jason Place,” because when you get down to the boonies in Missouri, there is no time to mess with proper grammar on your sign that has clearly survived both World Wars.
We checked in and made the short drive from the office to where our cabin was, getting to take a scenic drive through a graveyard of buses and canoes along the way; seriously, there were vehicles with weeds grown up around them and registration that expired in 2004, and I’m pretty sure some of the canoes lying about were actually stolen from the Native Americans. We pull up to our cabin and park amidst all of the overgrown weeds encircling the place; we can shrug off the weeds, it’s a cabin in the woods, not the Ritz-Carlton. From the outside, the cabin looks just like the pictures online, so things seem pretty okay. Random note here, I managed to cut my leg open on the bottom corner of the car door when getting out of the car, it seemed pretty innocuous but it will be brought up later. We open the door to the place and it actually looks pretty nice inside, until the smell hits us; just a monstrous accumulation of must and dampness. Again, it’s a cabin in the woods and we’re not a bunch of wusses, so this is something we can overcome by just airing the place out a little and getting irresponsibly drunk. Moving on.
There was also one of these on the back porch, which could have been pretty sweet,
but instead of water it was filled with dirt and bird shit
As we’re going through the cabin checking out the rooms, still relatively excited about the vacation as a whole, we notice the first major problem: the cabin is missing 2 of the twin beds that were advertised. But, there were 2 couches in the living room area, so that could be an option, right? At this point, we think we still might be in luck, because as it turns out, they’re both pull-out couches. It seemed like things were still going to be okay until we inspected the couches to find a laundry list of problems. One couch is just wet, not damp, wet. It is clearly the source of much of the mustiness in the cabin. The other couch is full of literally hundreds of dead ladybugs and beetles. And the mattresses on both of these sleeper sofas look like they were salvaged from the Titanic, air-dried, then used in the county jail for the next 50 years before finally being donated to Aker’s Ferry to be used in this cabin. Needless to say, nobody was willing to sleep on these, so it was back up to the office to try to secure the sleeping arrangements that we were promised.
“It looks like someone died in this room and someone else was just here waiting for it.” – Mike
The conversation at the office was confusing, to say the least. The lady working the front desk was willing to help us but she was new and had no idea how many beds were supposed to be in there. Another lady showed up and let us know that the two beds we were missing had been taken out of the cabin more than 2 years ago, which again, didn’t help our current situation and only told us that they apparently never update their website. A third lady said it didn’t matter how long ago the beds were taken out, we had paid for 8 people and were going to get sleeping arrangements for them. The third lady took charge and said she’d look in their storage and get us a full size bed to use. Seeing that we had found someone with initiative, we also commented about how the place smelled musty, encouraging the first lady (the new one) to give us half a can of Febreze to combat this. Whatever, that’d work; we headed back to the cabin.
“If we all fart tonight it might make this place smell better.” – Liz
As we waited for our bed to arrive, we spent a bit more time looking around the cabin. It was then that we realized we had no working lights in the living room, loft area, hallway and one bedroom. There was a giant chandelier that was supposed to light the front of the living room and the loft area, but none of the lights worked in it. There was a smaller light fixture in the back of the living room with one working bulb. Being grown-ups with critical thinking skills, we determined that the bulbs were fine the large chandelier, there was just no power flowing to it, so we pilfered the light bulbs from that and spread them out amongst the other fixtures, giving us a mostly lit living room, hallway and bedroom, but still a dark loft. When lady #3 and her helper arrived with our new bed, we informed her of this problem and she said she’d pass on the information so we could get a lamp in the loft. She also agreed with our assertion that the cabin smelled terrible and offered her own fix for us: shoving a dryer sheet in the air conditioning vent (which, admittedly, did help). And finally, continuing her string of helpfulness, she pointed out that I was bleeding profusely from the gash in my leg (remember the car door?).
“Our cabin has more bibles than light bulbs.” – Ryan
“Jesus can turn water into wine and potatoes into French fries.” – Matt
“Is there seriously a bible in the bathroom?” – Mel
“I needed something to read.” – Ryan
Having secured our necessary sleeping arrangements, made efforts to remove the funk from the cabin, and with the knowledge that we had a lamp on the way, the 4 of us decided we would start making some dinner for when the other half of the party arrived (we also decided that it was long past time for us to start drinking). There were dishes and cutlery available for us there at the cabin, but it all looked like it could use a wash so we turned on the sink and let it run for just a minute to heat up. The smell that escaped from that faucet is forever etched in my nostrils as one of the most outwardly offensive stenches I have ever come across. Imagine you’re in a swamp where the entire population of fish has died and floated to the surface to rot, and you’re holding a can of week-old dog food, and you’ve also got a mad case of gangrene on your foot, and everyone else with you is throwing up forever. That is basically the smell coming from the pipes in that cabin. From this most foul of odors we determined a few things: We could not use this water to wash the dishes, we could not use this water to cook food, we could not use this water to take showers and I could not use this water to clean out the cut on my leg (unless I actually did want to get gangrene and take the smell with me wherever I went).
“Here, let me shove this fucking dryer sheet in the air conditioner. That’ll fix it.” – Matt
“If I drop a couple of logs down the air vent, how many dryer sheets do you think they’ll shove in the vent trying to fix it?” – Mike
At times like this, with your back against a wall and a deep desire to make carne asada and Mexican rice (that’s what we were making for dinner), life separates the men from the boys. And damnit, we were men. We coated the pans with aluminum foil to cook the meat in. I disassembled a deep fryer that we had brought and used the basin as a pot to cook rice in and we used bottled water to cook and clean with. We also sprayed a bunch more of the Febreze because now the cabin smelled like rancid asshole water mixed with the aforementioned mustiness. I also dumped a bunch of hand sanitizer on my leg to clean out that cut (thanks, Germ-X!). By the time the rest of our friends arrived, they had a great dinner prepared for them, our lamp had been delivered and the cabin was well lit, the beds were as they should be and Kyle and I were three sheets to the wind and trying to light a bonfire (safety first!). After staying up a few more hours drinking, we all retired for the night so we could get drunk and navigate the river in canoes the following morning. It’s worth noting that Matt took a shower with a bottle of water and a wash cloth. The rest of us figured the river would do just fine.
The float itself was pretty uneventful. Mike and Mel flipped their canoe 10 feet from where we pushed off. Matt and Glenn flipped 20 feet past that (and then flipped 4 more times before they were done). Kyle and I probably wouldn’t have flipped, but a little over halfway through the float I got really bold and decided to be Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic (that’s my 2nd Titanic reference in this post); I was king of the world for 15 seconds and then I was on my ass in the river (Kyle was not happy about this). Jeremy and Liz were the only ones not to flip, however, along the river Liz found a rope swing that she face-planted off of into the river and I think a person can only take so much punishment in one day, so I’m kind of okay with that. We finished the float and waited patiently for the bus to pick us up and take us back home. The bus driver had other plans, however, as he pulled up to the shore, got out of the bus and declared that he was on break. We sat and watched him eat a Styrofoam container full of Chinese food for the next 30 minutes. For the record, that was exactly what I wanted to do after spending hours floating in a canoe and drinking beer.
Seriously though, I looked exactly this cool right before I looked like an idiot.
We got back to the cabin and found that the funk had gotten stronger while we were gone (or maybe we were just used to fresh air). The solution to that was for Mike to take one of Mel’s hair ties and tie it around the nozzle of a Febreze can (a brand new one that we brought), then chuck it into the cabin like a stink-busting grenade, because that is classic American ingenuity. Once the can ran out and the air was thick with fresh linen scent, it was naptime for some people, while Matt, Kyle and I got to work on dinner. We started frying up some fish in the deep fryer we brought (you know, the one I cooked rice in). And we started making baked beans in a wok because Matt was in charge of buying a pot to cook in and we can’t trust him with anything. Dinner preparation was slightly derailed by the discovery of black mold behind the refrigerator. Yes, the black mold that’s like a huge deal and has to be cleaned out by trained professionals in hazmat suits. When I say dinner preparations were derailed, I mean that we finished cooking and told everyone to stay the fuck out of the kitchen for the rest of ever.
The mold was not enough to keep us from devouring our food, because we were drunk and hungry (drungry). Though, dinner conversation was dominated by discussion about it, including plenty of (well-intentioned) paranoia. But, just talking about the black mold (and every other thing that was wrong since we had gotten there) wasn’t quite enough, as Mel announced that she had woken up from her nap to find mouse poop in her bed. Upon finished dinner, we did a full inspection of the place looking for more mold and any evidence of a mouse. We found no more mold, but there were plenty of mouse droppings around the cabin. We did, however, rationalize that in a cabin such as this, it’s pretty difficult to keep out mice due to its location in the woods, and furthermore that a mouse wasn’t really much of a threat to us. Liz was more disturbed about the mouse more than anyone, but we handled that situation by telling her the mouse was probably only playing in her hair while she was sleeping and mostly just wanted to snuggle up and share a pillow with her. She was not amused by this.
Meanwhile, I was quite amused with myself. I wonder why.
We spent most of that evening drinking outside around a fire and getting ourselves fired up to ask for a refund the following morning, since pretty much everything was bullshit. Mike, Mel, Liz & Jeremy all went to sleep in their rooms eventually, leaving the rest of us (the original landing party) to drink unnecessary amounts of liquor and cuss about the shitty place we were staying. Finally, we were drunk and sleepy enough that it was time to go to bed and we all headed up to the loft area. That was where our patience for all the bullshit of Aker’s Ferry came to a screeching halt. There were rodent droppings in our beds. Not mouse droppings, either. These were bigger. This was very clearly rat shit.
By this point, we’d brushed off a lot of issues. But the fact that there were very obviously rats crawling in our beds was a bit much. For one thing, I actually felt bad for teasing Liz about mice playing in her hair (clearly, the most important point to make here). I mean, the knowledge of rats crawling around us and our stuff was just downright icky (you can tell I’m an accomplished writer by my great vocabulary). We decided right away that we were not sleeping in those beds, but that didn’t leave us with many options. We considered sleeping outside, but there was rain in the forecast (also, I sometimes sleep with my mouth open and didn’t feel like eating bugs). The car was another option, but we’d have to either leave it running or roll down the windows to keep cool, which took it out of the equation (also the fact that I’d probably hurt myself on it again and we were almost out of hand sanitizer). What we eventually settled on doing was piling up all of the fold-up camping chairs around the wooden coffee table and wooden chairs in the living room and building an elevated fort, where we slept upright in the camping chairs. And I used an old beach towel as a blanket. It was fucking terrible. Don’t ever make this same decision unless your only other option is to sleep in a nest of spiders (at that point, suicide may be a viable option).
We got up the next morning (which was only a few hours of non-sleeping away) and got the hell out of there. We stopped at the office to complain (both offices, actually, because “Jason Place” sent us back to the original office) and as we were recounting all of the numerous issues with the place, the manager stopped us and said, “Well, there shouldn’t be any black mold in there. We’ve been fighting that off for a while.”
Uh….? What the hell? That was when my patience was officially done.
“Wait a fucking minute. Did you have somebody who knew what the hell they were doing come out to clean it or what? YOU FUCKING KNEW THAT WAS IN THERE AND YOU STILL RENTED IT OUT?! You’re giving us our money back for that fucking atrocity you call a cabin!”
“Well, I’m sorry your stay wasn’t good. I’ll give you a gift certificate for a free night’s stay here.”
“Why the hell would I come back? I'd feel more comfortable camping in a crack den. We’re not taking a gift certificate, we’re taking a refund.”
We got our refund for the cabin (we still paid for the float because that was the only thing that wasn’t awful) and put Aker’s Ferry in our rearview mirror for good. Nobody ever developed any symptoms from the mold, Matt is never in charge of another vacation and I have a scar on my leg from that stupid car door.