With a twist and a grunt the last bungee snapped into place. A glance at the rear bumper confirmed we had reached our limit. With a quick prayer for any lonesome items forgotten, I climbed into my seat beside my husband.
“Are we ready?”
“Yah!” My daughter's high pitched squeal from the backseat assured me that the excitement hit all around. Anticipation tickled the hairs on my arms as we headed out to join family for our first camping adventure!
I wouldn’t really call the downpour a “sign”, and just because that chunk of loose pavement blew out our tire 3 miles from home didn’t mean we were doomed for a lousy vacation.
Giant raindrops transformed my sainted husband into a drowned rat before he even reached the rear tire. Wails started in the backseat as wind threatened to knock over the heavy laden van.
“Are we still going camping?” Big blue doe eyes full of tears stared back at me. My daughter’s lip trembled as her baby brother howled.
“This is just a little more of our adventure, honey.” I assured her. “Nothing is keeping us from going camping.” I didn’t specify just WHEN that was going to be. Apparently broken lug nuts can’t be fixed on a Sunday night.
With a bit of wind knocked out of our sails, we nudged our broken van back home and ordered pizza. Rented movies completed our little “camp out” in the basement as we shut out the still packed, soaked van in the garage.
Less than 24 hours later with a new tire, lug nut, and considerably less cash, we headed out AGAIN on our adventure.
We named the campsite left for us “The Valley”. We named the field next to us “Mosquito Haven”.
The hot, relentless sun would have dried our wet sleeping bags in record time. It was the humidity that kept everything wrapped in its steamy blanket. In a twist of poetry, the weather man proclaimed from a near by radio that this was a record heat wave.
Oddly enough, the second downpour didn’t surprise us. The floating air mattresses could have been fun, but the torrents of rain pouring in from every seam of our brand new, three roomed tent dampened not just our spirits.
As quickly as it started, it ended, and bright, cheery sunshine mocked us from the hazy sky. Aunts helped drag water logged sleeping bags and pillows to the van while Uncles bailed water out of the tent.
I still can’t decide if my aunt’s dryer was a curse or a blessing, for without it we would have admitted defeat and returned home. Never the less, hours and many dryer loads later we returned to set up camp for the FINAL time.
The supper hour found us coated in bug spray and bravely holding on to a thread of optimism. That optimism waned as the supper hour came and went with no food in sight.
The plan had been to eat corporate meals. Unfortunately our routine didn’t match with the rest of my family’s. Fortunately I had packed spaghettios and a can opener – just in case.
An electrical outlet, plenty of extension cord, and bedtime brought a brief sigh of relief. Shutting out the army of mosquitoes with a fan cooling us off, we cuddled in our tent to read favorite bedtime stories. I really thought it was a stroke of genius…until the fan quit. Our miserable day now melted into our miserable night.
Sprawled out in our tent sauna we scratched and swatted as mosquitoes serenaded our sleeplessness. Too hot to nurse yet too miserable not to, our son dozed off by my side as my husband comforted our 3 year old daughter stuck to his side. The last look at my watch screamed 2:07 a.m. to my exhausted, dehydrated, and itching body.
As the stifling dawn woke us on the third day we raced to throw sweaty, unrolled sleeping bags, armfuls of smelly clothes, empty cans of mosquito spray, a broken fan, leaky tent, and a still warm bacon skillet into the van.
AC blowing on our faces, kids sleeping, and 9:30 a.m. smiling from the van clock, we began our journey home. Although I felt a little older, I also felt a little wiser. For although it was miserable, it was an adventure I knew we would some day treasure and I was certain we would NEVER repeat.
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