Monday, August 30, 2010

When Life Hands You Lemons (and other things I have learned from my 2 year old)

We are back from Kai's first camping trip, which turned out to also be Kai's first back country adventure in many unanticipated ways. Kai was really excited about going camping. Which, I guess, is lesson #1 (and a lesson I have had a mighty time learning with her). That is, I should STOP telling Kailey about something that we are going to do and get her all worked up about it when that activity isn't immediately imminent. And, I do mean immediately. As in the next 5 minutes. Anyway, in anticipation of camping, Eric had set up the tent on the back deck and Kai was REALLY excited about going camping. Really. That is, until we hit the road and she became convinced that camping meant sitting in the car for all of eternity (aka 4 hours).

Actually, she was great for the first hour in the car. Then she slept for the second two hours. But, man oh man, that final hour was a killer. Kai started whiiinnnnniiiinnnnggggg and we thought we might have to cut our ears off. We finally stopped for a potty break and gave Kai some milk, which bought us about 10 minutes of silence. We were within 15 minutes of our camping spot, on a small one-lane dirt road. A forest service road. A road not easily located on any road map (but readily found on a topographic map). Kai finished her milk, threw down the cup and started hollering and whining and screaming, "OUT! OUT! OUT!". She's a very good chanter. She'll make an excellent protester some day. We tried to distract her. We pointed out the scenery and the chipmunks. She wasn't having it. Instead, she started yelling "PEE PEE". We didn't really fall for the trick. We had just stopped. She clearly just wanted out of the car. She continued to yell. It was nerve rattling. After another five minutes of her hollering, I turned around and noticed that Kai was squeezing her legs together. Hmmm... maybe she wasn't just trying to get out of the car? We decided to stop and let her out to use the potty, even though we were probably only 5 more minutes from the camp spot.

Which brings me to my second lesson learned -- while whining is ANNOYING, it's good to try to discern if the whining is based on any real need. Like the need to go to the potty. Turns out, Kai REALLY needed to pee, and promptly filled up her potty (we brought her little potty chair with us) as soon as she was freed from the car.

Also, it was really, really good we stopped the car. Because that's when we realized that there was a little trail of oil behind our car. Or, not so little. More like a river of oil in our wake.


We were in the middle of NOWHERE and we had managed to hit a pothole just right (or a rock, or something... we don't really know) and puncture our oil pan. Eric looked under the car and confirmed our worst fears.... we needed to get the car to the side of the road, and that's as far as it would be traveling until the oil pan was repaired.

Once the car was out of harm's way, we stared at each other. Now what? We were in the middle of the forest with no cell reception and we were at least a 30 - 45 minute drive to the nearest developed campsite. "Developed" for a campsite, that is. The place had no gas (not that that would have helped). No mechanic. Nothing but a general store, a restaurant, and a pay phone. If we wanted to get to civilization, we would need to travel another 45 minutes to the small town of Sonora, population 4,500. We were screwed.

Meanwhile, Kai was as happy as a clam. We were out of the car and in a forest -- perfect!! She was completely unaware of the steaming vehicle on the side of the road. She was pointing out the trees and the dirt and the rocks. And, actually, I wasn't really panicking at this point. Our situation was undesireable, sure. But, it wasn't life threatening. We had a car full of food, water and camping gear. We were in no immediate trouble. We could stay out here a week if we needed to; although, it would be nice to not have to do that and worry about whether we would ever be rescued.

Luckily, we didn't have to contemplate our options for too long -- a car approached!! - and the driver offered us a ride to the campsite with the phone. So, we left the car on the forest service road and piled into the pick-up truck. Kai and I rode up front (she sat in my lap... no carseat. No seatbelt. I considered whether we were safer just hanging out on the forest service road). Eric, Oscar and the other passenger rode in the back of the truck. It felt like a really long drive.

We finally got to the campground, thanked our rescuers, paid them for the gas we cost them, and said our goodbyes. We now had a general store, a restaurant, our diaper bag, wallets, cell phones and a pay phone. And, that was about it. We started trying to call our insurance carrier, since we have emergency roadside assistance (which we only half thought would provide assistance on roads that were only really quasi-roads, at best). We tried the pay phone, but it didn't work. I think that might be the moment that I decided the universe really had it in for us.

We tried our cells and they did work, but only if we were standing in precisely the right location and did. not. move. We got through to the insurance company, got halfway through explaining our situation, and dropped the call. We tried again. We got back through, and I got to the point where I was trying to explain to the guy where we were and where the car was abandoned. I turned to Eric and, at that moment, Kai wet her pants. She hadn't had an accident in weeks, but, of course, at the crux of our phone call with roadside assistance, she let loose. I handed Eric the phone so he could explain to the guy where we were located (I am directionally challenged in the best of circumstances, and this wasn't that), and so I could go deal with Kai. In the transfer, the call got dropped. I was starting to get irritated at the universe.

No need to belabor the next hour or so that we spent on the phone (which was like a bad television commercial... "can you hear me now?" No, Verizon, we can't. Because, it turns out, your "universal coverage" is far from universal and doesn't actually work in the middle of the forest, contrary to your stupid advertisements). Eventually we had confirmation that a tow truck was on its way.

Which is when we turned to waiting. And waiting. And more waiting. We fed Kai dinner. We took a couple of pictures.

Mostly, we waited. While waiting, we decided Eric would go with the tow truck and Kai and I would remain at the campground until they returned with the car (they had to come back through where we were anyway, and it made more sense for us to remain in "civilization" and not spend more time in the tow truck sans a carseat and then in the middle of the forest after dark as they hooked up the tow). At about 8:45 the tow truck arrived, and Eric took off.

I think that's when Kai decided that this situation called for a party. It was nearly an hour past her bedtime, but she was not even the tiniest bit tired. I tried to convince her that it was bedtime and proceeded to go through our bedtime routine as best I could given the situation. I got her in her PJs, gave her some milk, and attempted to rock her while singing her favorite sleepy time song. But, she wasn't fooled. We were outside. Eric was on a TRUCK. There were cats and raccoons on the porch where we were waiting. There were people all around, music playing, and the smell of camp fire smoke in the air. We were clearly doing something very exciting. Kai started dancing, running up and down the ramp between the general store and the restaurant, signing, jumping, and... as I said... partying (as only a two year old knows how).

I decided I had run out of the bandwidth to deal with a screaming toddler (which is what she was when I tried to hold her and get her to put her head on my shoulder or lap), and so I let her party. I figured she'd wear herself out in no time. One hour turned into two and Kai was still going strong. My plan to sit with a sleeping baby on my lap and contemplate the spitefulness of the universe was clearly foiled. At about a quarter to 11, I decided to take a walk with Kai in the parking lot where it was dark. Kai occupied herself by pointing at the road and shouting, "DADA... TRUCK... COME!!" After about 20 minutes of that, she finally put her head down on my shoulder and fell asleep.

It turns out it had been better to have Kai awake because she provided me with some distraction. Without her causing a ruckus, I started to really worry about the whole mess. I think it might have been at that point that I felt my pocket and realized I had the car key (you know, the car key to the car that was abandoned an hour away on that one-lane, forest service road that I keep talking about?). Crap. And, seriously, universe -- what did I ever do to you?

I started doing the math. I figured it was an hour, maybe hour and a half to drive to the car and back. They had been gone over two hours at this point so, clearly, they had made it to the car and realized they didn't have the key and were able to deal with the situation. Otherwise they would have been back long before now. Then I remembered that tow drivers have the ability to get into locked cars (indeed, I had learned that about a week before, when I had locked my keys in the car... it's been a banner month for our cars... and a tow truck had gotten them out for me). So, I decided to take the fact that the car key was in my pocket off of my list of concerns and go back to worrying about what was taking them so long and how much this whole fiasco was going to cost.

At around midnight they returned. Turns out, our tow driver did not have the certification to get into a locked car. Eric didn't realize that I had the key until they got to our car, and, at that point, didn't want to turn back and add an extra two hours to the "adventure". So, he broke into the car through a window. When Eric told me that, all I could think was, seriously, universe, this is no longer funny. Or, it's so bad that it's hysterical. I couldn't tell which.

We piled into the tow truck and drove the remaining 45 minutes into town, leaving our car at the town's only auto mechanic and trudging across the street to the Best Western. It was about 1 AM. Kai was awake again and had decided that 2 hours was plenty of sleep. She stayed up until about 4. Which is when I decided that the universe had won.

And with that, our long, first day of "camping" ended.

We spent the next two days in the hotel. Which brings me to lesson number three - an oldie but a goodie -- when life hands you lemons, make lemonade (of course, as I read somewhere recently, it helps to also have sugar when making said lemonade. Otherwise you end up with pretty crappy lemonade).

Which, I guess, brings me to lesson number four - and continuing the analogy - toddlers are life's sugar. Or at least a source of it. If Eric and I had been on our own when all of this happened, we would have spent those two days moping around the hotel room bemoaning our lot in life. With Kailey, we played. We swam. We danced. We vacationed. Yes, I dealt with annoying people in sorting out our car troubles, but when I wasn't on the phone, I was playing with Kailey. And she was having a fantastic time. There was a pool RIGHT OUTSIDE our patio door. And, not only did the hotel have a pool, it also had an ICE MACHINE (and, conveniently, we had a cooler in need of ice in our room.... endless hours of fun). AND it had a WATER COOLER in the lobby, and we spent a good deal of time getting cups of water to drink. And let's not forget about the buttons on the microwave. And the crappy restaurant with the CRAYONS. As far as Kai was concerned, we were on the best vacation ever.

After two days at the hotel, we had sorted out the logistics of our situation. The car would not be ready until Monday at the earliest. It was Thursday. We decided to rent a car and head back to our camping destination (which made me worry in a completely superstitious kind of way... the universe had seemed mighty mad last time we went out there... were we tempting fate?) It turns out, the universe either doesn't stay mad or doesn't really control our destinies. In any event, the road that did us in our first time around turned out to be a completely manageable road. We had, truly, gotten incredibly unlucky during our initial journey. We had no trouble getting to our destination when we went back for another try.

And, once we were finally settled at camp (three days late), we had a fantastic time. We salvaged our trip and spent the next three days swimming, fishing, playing in the sand, hiking, and exploring. Kai loved every minute of it. In fact, I don't think she really threw a tantrum the whole time we were camping (which is saying something given that she's two and prone to at least one tantrum a day). We forgot about our car and the fact that, given the car repair, hotel and rental car, this camping trip was costing us about as much as renting the luxury vacation house in Tahoe cost us a few years back (yeah, turns out I remembered that neat little factoid once we got back to real life). But, what I'm trying to say is that we had fun.

And our car eventually got fixed. And all is well now. It may not have been the first camping trip we envisioned taking Kailey on, but it is one we will not soon forget. And, with that, I leave you a little happy day day:

1 comment:

Janet said...

Aw. Sorry your trip got off to such a bad start. But you did indeed "turn lemons into lemonade" complete with sugar. Good for you guys.

Love you,