- The Frio River is a secluded alternative to the usually packed New Braunfels scene.
Maybe it's because I'm not a native Texan, but from the first time I plopped my ass in a scalding hot, donut-hole tube and launched into the slow crawl of the river, I loathed the experience from the core of my being.
Sure, the cypress trees are utterly gorgeous. And the floating cooler with built-in speakers is one of the greatest feats of American ingenuity since the Wright brothers turned their bicycle shop into an airplane factory (by the way, a speaker-cooler is the only way to truly appreciate the collected works of Kid Rock).
But laying in a sluggish river, frying my nerd-pale skin and surrounded by a who's who of frat stars unofficially sponsored by Bud Light, the typical tubing trip is my vision of a floating waiting area from hell.
Other than the superfluous spelling, I've got the perfect anecdote for why tubing, at least in New Braunfels, blows. In 2012, before the city banned cans and disposable containers on the rivers, the municipal government held a public hearing.
At the civic circus, an anti-ban zealot had to be hauled away by the police, an effected business owner threw bandz of cash at the council a la 2 Chainz and some righteous lawyer promised to override the injustice in court.
I'm no teetotal prude, but if outdoor boozing/polluting gets a city psyched enough to make a municipal hearing sound like buffet lunch at a Tampa strip club — police presence, bandz, lawsuit allegations; check, check and check — something is rotten in the state of South Texas.
But not all is lost for anti-social haters determined to hit the water, particularly if it's their first time and they just want to try it out.
The first option is simply to visit the popular spots early, riding the Comal chute or the easy-going Guadalupe before the crowds — both rivers are once again can-friendly. Rental spots in the area open as early as 9 a.m., so you can get in the river and out for lunch before the masses roll in.
The alternative is the Frio River in Concan, about 84 miles West of San Antonio. What you pay for in driving time you make up for in seclusion, with far less tubers out on the cold, spring-fed water. There are plenty of outfitters and rental spots, though if you're cruising for some boozing, buy in San Antonio. Alcohol-free counties surround the Frio River and you don't want to be left hanging dry.
With blue-green water, decidedly less humans and limestone bluffs for ogling and diving, the Frio is the prime tubing experience for the true tube hater.