Down upon the Suwanee River (Proud Boys Canoe trip)

If you happened to be way down upon the Suwanee river, a few weeks ago, far far away in Florida you would have come across a disorganized fleet of canoes going in the same direction.  There were 30 Proud Boys navigating its waters, with all sorts of camping gear.   They call themselves a men’s club with a patriot problem.  You would have witnessed a slingshot maritime confrontation,  evasive maneuvers and Bluetooth speakers playing various tunes,  from classic country to pop,  to Aladdin’s “Proud of your boy” song, or the sounds of a proud banjo.

The spirit of camaraderie and fellowship was immediately in the air at the meeting point.   Everyone decided to first have an old fashioned American breakfast.  As Proud Boys from all over Florida arrived, they mocked almost everything and took nothing seriously.   From South Florida to the panhandle, all were represented.  Many who only knew each other from social media groups, met for the first time, And others knew each other for years.  The group made their way to the canoe rental location after breakfast and came across a weird camping site with hippies.

We had arrived!  It was then time to pick up a partner!  The process was was pretty quick.   Practically everyone paired up with whoever was next to them at that moment.  Perhaps that shows the level of camaraderie and immediate kinship felt by the Proud Boys.  With papers signed & payments made, off they went to load the gear up to the canoe trailers driven by staff from the camping.  There was lots of heavy shit, backpacks, ice coolers, hundreds of beers, water, knives, hatchets, Bluetooth speakers, and basically everything you need to survive a nuclear apocalypse.

As we made our quick trip to the river with the canoes, we sang songs and played idiotic games like “My Asshole.”  The game was shown to us by Enrique.  Unfortunately, he completely forgot how the game was played, & only remembered that it was fun when he played it as a kid.

On our short journey, we ventured through what I believed to be the hippy-like trailer park in existence.   The site was inundated with coexist stickers and rainbow flags.  Proud Boys inside their van insisted to: “keep arms inside the vehicle at all times and please do not feed the hippies”.  Scary shit!

Once arrived at the river, it was time to grab the gear and load up the canoes.  The sun was bright and the weather was perfect to begin the trip down the river.

We had about 15 canoes total.  As we started to float away from the river bank, everyone marveled at the natural beauty and breathtaking sights.  Slingshot propelled paint balls began impacting in the water near some of the canoes.  “MISSED!” was heard as Proud Boys at the back of the group practiced their aim at the fastest canoes up front.

The landscape of the river was amazing.  It resembled an artist’s masterpiece with ancient trees at the sides, offering shadow to Proud Boys as they continued down the river to towards their destination.

It took four hours rowing through the Suwanee to reach the camping site chosen by those experienced boys that knew the river.  Everyone started to unload their gear and set up camp.   Tents were spread across the river bank.  Further inland, more tents were being set up,  hammocks started to appear in between the trees and the spots were christened “Hammock city” & “Tent city.”

First night:

As the sun went down,  fires were started,  and food was being prepared.  It included bacon, beef, & MRE’s. As chairs started to pull in close to the fire, there was laughter, & conversations about everything; politics, movies, women, marriage, kids, work, & professions.  Making fun of  liberals, of ourselves, and everyone else.    The topics were endless.  But everyone had something in common:  nothing was taken too seriously.  Beers and red wine was available.  We were in the middle of nowhere, under a sky full of stars and a blazing full moon. And yet, we were dining as if we were in a good restaurant.  We enjoyed cheese and a cup of red wine,  or a beer , bacon and rib eye steak.  Afterwards, we even had a cup of coffee, tea or soda.   The meals were plentiful and  everyone shared everything.  If anyone needed something, they only need to ask, and it was there.

The night progressed as proud boys drank their beers and other beverages.  Cuban cigars from Miami,  American cigars, beer, grilled food and laughter all night.  After a while, the usual Proud Boy meetup procedures started as any other PB meeting you may have in your respective city.  Many redoing their 2nd degree initiations,  others getting them for the first time.  Oaths and stations., under the stars, a full moon with a fire cracking in the back.

As the night continued, one by one, started to head to their tents completely tired after a long day of driving, rowing, grilling and drinking.

First morning:

We woke up to a breathtaking scenery, there was a fine and dense mist in the river.  The sun slowly began warming up the air giving an end to an unexpectedly cold night.  Gradually, everyone began to exit their tents,  preparing a quick breakfast in the fire to boil water to make some coffee and MREs.

Now everyone was awake.  It was time to play the “swim-chug-swim” game.  It consisted in taking a beer, swim across the river to the other side with it while under slingshot paintball fire,  drink the beer, then swim back and finish another one.    Our buddy Bobby won the competition.  As we say, Proud of Your Boy! (POYB!)

And now it was time to pack up, clear the camp area and continue to the next location.  The next site would be a camping site with bathrooms and shower.    I must admit that we we all needed it!

The next leg of the journey took 3 or 4 more hours of rowing.  It was a nice place and a heavenly hot showers. While some guys showered, others started a fire in a small grill in the camp and used the opportunity to make some hot dogs, boil some water for soups and other instant foods.

Electricity is available! I used the opportunity to charge my power bank and cell phone.

We continued our trip feeling refreshed with empty bowels,  and ready to keep rowing a few more hours to our next camping site.  It was a small beach in the river and white sand.  A nice spot, I thought. .

Once again, we beached the canoes & started to unload everything again.  It was the same drill.  Setup camp, get the sleeping bags and everything ready before we got too comfortable, drank too much, end up sleeping in the sand or in a chair, & wake up the next day in a canoe; alone, drifting down the river not sure if your face is clear of any make up (it happens).  As the sun started to set, the weather was colder.  Fires started cracking.  This time, no stations were read (the reading of Proud Boy Principles), no 2nd degrees were given.  We instead focused on enjoying the evening.

The activity was the same as the night before.  We enjoyed the clearest starry night, with the addition of a few drunken Proud Boys entertaining us as they struggled to get back to their tents. It was stuff  memes  are made of.   We spent that night having fun, grilling all the food we had left, while our most Suwanee-experienced Proud Boy threw firecrackers at the fire scaring off the rookie campers.

We drank, laughed and grilled all night.

Next morning, cleared camp, and rowed for 3 more hours down the river and made our way back to the hippie camping site where we returned the canoes and left.

It was 3 full days of camaraderie and friendship with a group of men who were able to unwind from their routines.

UHURU!

The headwaters of the river are near the town of Fargo, Georgia.  The river runs into the Florida Panhandle, then drops in elevation through limestone layers into a rare Florida whitewater rapid.   Beyond the rapid, the Suwanee turns west near the town of White Springs, Florida. It drains into the Gulf of Mexico on the outskirts of Suwannee, Florida.

The river has been the inspiration for the creation of Florida’s state song “old folks at home” by Stephen Foster in 1851.

Way down upon de Swanee Ribber,
Far, far away,
Dere’s wha my heart is turning ebber,
Dere’s wha de old folks stay.

All up and down de whole creation
Sadly I roam,
Still longing for de old plantation,
And for de old folks at home.
….