Monday, April 27, 2009

when plans go very bad

We were supposed to go camping last weekend with some friends.

But it was too hot. And seeing as the friends we were supposed to go camping with have a substantial fruit and vegetable garden that they hand water, they didn't want to leave the garden for a full day.

So, we made plans to go camping this weekend. With our friends the gardeners, and some other friends, the bike riders that were competing in a mountain bike endurance event.

Our friends the gardeners, live about two hours from us.

Our friends the bike riders, live across the street.

The camping location was approximately three hours from our house and approximately one hour from our friends the gardeners.

Got all that?

Our friends the bike riders were planning to leave for the campsite on Friday night. Charlie and I - and our friends the gardeners - would meet with them on Saturday.

Because Charlie and I once camped prolifically, we have an abundance of camping gear. Our friends the bike riders enjoy camping, but don't have very much. So instead of them purchasing a lot of gear that they might never use again, I suggested that they borrow some of our equipment. Which they did.

Specifically, they borrowed our small backpacking tent and all of our cooking gear.

Friday night, Charlie called to confirm details with the Park Ranger for our camping trip. Why we didn't do this sooner is a mystery and extremely unlike us. Because typically, we are meticulous planners.

Especially when it comes to camping.

During Charlie's call to the Park Ranger, we discovered that in addition to paying $4.00 per person to enter the Park (for all persons over the age of three), we would be required to pay $150.00 to the bicycle organization that was coordinating the event our friend would be participating in. So for a whopping $170.00, our family would be able to spend one night - in the great outdoors - sleeping on the ground.

Um. No.

Our friends the biker riders called us - with a very choppy connection from their desolate camping location - on Saturday morning. We told them that we didn't think that we would be coming up, afterall. The connection cut in and out. They were trying to tell us that they didn't think we'd really have to pay $150.00 extra, but they weren't entirely sure. Ultimately, they understood that we weren't coming and why. But we could tell that they were disappointed.

We hate it when we disappoint our friends.

Then we called our friends the gardeners and told them that we weren't going. They were equally disappointed. Perhaps even more so, because they have three children that are the same age as our four children. We are very good friends with these people and we haven't seen them since the last time we went camping.

We hung up the phone and proceeded to feel very, very badly.

Ultimately, we decided to just go for it.

Even though in our heart of hearts, we had already convinced ourselves NOT to go. If it turns out that we have to pay $150.00 a night, our backup plan would be to drive to our friends the gardeners and pop a tent in their yard.

We called our friends the gardeners to tell them that we reconsidered and would be leaving soon. They rejoiced and told us to call them once we arrived at the campsite to confirm that all systems were go. Since they were only an hour away, they would have their car packed and could just shoot up to meet us.

So while I packed clothes and made a shopping list, Charlie packed the car and ran to the store. A few hours later, we loaded everyone in to the car and drove for three hours to get to the campsite. The whole way up, we tried to call our friends the bikers to let them know that we were coming. The whole way up, we received their voicemail because cell phones don't have reception in the wild.

The whole way up, our children were chanting, "I love camping! I want to sleep in a TENT!"

When we arrived at the campsite, we paid our $20.00 to enter the park. But, we told the Park Rangers our decision to stay would depend upon whether or not we could find our friends the bikers and, whether or not we were required to pay the additional $150.00 fee.

OK they said.

We drove through the camp and found our friends the bikers car. We drove to an adjacent lot and parked our car. As we were climbing out of the car to let our kids stretch their legs, we noticed that the temperature was 40 degrees.

Eight degrees above freezing.

And it wasn't yet dark.

(Note: It was 85 degrees when we left our house.)

The warmest clothes that I had for the kids were their fleece jackets and vests. And hats. I didn't bring their down jackets and mittens because I'm a dumbass I neglected to check the weather at the campsite before we left. Why I didn't do this is a mystery and extremely unlike me. Because typically, I am a meticulous planner.

Especially when it comes to camping.

While the kids stretched their legs, Charlie went for a walk to find our friends the bikers. Although he saw their car - again - he couldn't find them. He rejoined me and we loaded the kids in to the car. While they cried and thrashed about, "I don't want to leave! I WANT TO CAMP!! I WANT TO SLEEP IN A TENTTT!"

We agreed that leaving a note on our friend's car would be a good idea, so that they at least knew that we were there. And we could meet up. Because maybe we could stay. And if we put the kids to bed soon, they'd be toasty warm in their cozy sleeping bags. Hopefully, I would warm up, too. Since my entire left hand had turned white and I couldn't feel my fingers.

But of course we couldn't stay if we didn't find our friends.

Seeing as they had our cooking gear.

While Charlie drove us over to our friends the bikers car, the cell phone God smiled upon me, and I had one bar of cell phone service. I tried to call our friends the gardeners and tell them that so far, it didn't appear that we would be required to pay an additional $150.00 fee. And, it appeared that there was plenty of space available to camp. Just as I was about to tell our friend that the temperatures were very cold and we still needed to find our friends before deciding whether or not we would stay - the cell phone God stopped smiling and I lost the call.

So all my friends the gardeners heard was, "Doesn't look like a $150.00 fee. Plenty of space..."

At that very moment, we arrived at the location where our friends the bikers car had been and it was gone. Less than five minutes earlier it had been there. Now, it was gone.

We drove back to the Park Ranger and said we needed to drive down the road until we could get reception and make a phone call. Because we needed to see if we could get in touch with our friends the bikers. Or our friends the gardeners. Or, a psychic medium who could communicate with either set of friends, telepathically.

OK they said.

We drove down the hill to the little town. We called our friends the gardeners - who were just about to leave their house - because they assumed all systems were go.

No we said. Stay where you are!

We called our friends the bikers who had turned off their phone. But as far as they were concerned, we were still in San Diego. So we decided that enough time had been wasted and we needed to cut our losses and ditch the idea of camping. We drove back to the Park and Charlie asked the Park Rangers for our $20.00 back.

No they said.

Seriously? My husband asked.

Yes they said. You have been here more than an hour and if you knew your friends weren't here, you should have left within five minutes.

Me, being the gentle flower that I am, leaned across the driver seat and bellowed at the Park Rangers. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! You saw us drive in. You knew that we were looking for someone. You saw us drive out to use our phone. You realize that we just drove BACK specifically to reclaim our $20.00 and now you won't reimburse us, even though you said you WOULD?!?!

Yeah. That's what I'm saying.

I said a few things more.

He gave us $10.00 back.

Charlie thought it was a bargain and quickly got in the car and got us out of there, before I climbed through the Park Ranger kiosk window, reclaimed all of our money, punched the theives in their fat noses and kicked them in their shins for good measure.

Because I would have.

Because it had been that kind of day.

Ultimately, we decided to drive to our friends the gardeners house and stay with them for the night. While we drove, our children ate a dinner of bananas, french bread and marshmallows that I launched at them over the seat.

We arrived at our friends the gardeners house at 9:00 PM.

After driving 300 miles in six hours.

Which, if we had just driven straight to their house, and not gone on some wild goose chase all the way to Idyllwild, we would have arrived FOUR HOURS earlier.

We've known our friends the gardeners for twelve years. They were once our neighbors, but they moved when they bought a two-acre parcel of land as a real estate investment. They had no plans to stay there long term seeing as the house on the land had been abandoned more than 20 years ago. The house being a double-wide modular home that was built in 1960.

But due to our friends sudden overwhelming desire to grow a garden, they have decided to remain living in this exact location for the past five years. We stayed with them and their three children, last night. All of us got less than four hours of sleep.

Because they had a fire pit and the children wanted to ignite roast marshmallows.

And then we had seven children pumped up on sugar.

Who wanted to read by flashlight.

And their house which hasn't had any improvements in 50 years and had actually been abandoned 20 years ago, got a wee bit chilly.

I'll write more about this, tomorrow. Because it's late and I'm tired. And I'm really hoping that this entire experience has been a dream. And when I wake up, it will be Saturday morning and I'll still have a nice full weekend ahead of me.


  1. I tried not to laugh as I felt badly for your family but your post was really funny in a planes, trains and automobiles kinda way.

    Thanks for the laugh. I really needed it.

    Sorry you are having a bad weekend.

  2. It sounds like the kids had a great time---and those Marshmallows looked so good. You all get an A for effort. As you say, "don't sweat the small stuff and it is all small stuff."

  3. Okay...what happened to the bike riders? I would have stayed up there just long enough to slap one of them. LOL


  4. Yikes, what a day! I really hope you're weekend got better!

  5. Sounds like the kind of things that happen when I'm allowed to plan events. Glad to hear that it all ended pretty well with everyone having fun torching the marshmallows.

  6. I'm awful. I read the post thinking-- good to know it's not just my family that runs into mini-disasters despite best laid plans!

    Sorry to hear how chaotic your experience was!

  7. Hi Jen, these are all funny from a distance, but I am not sure I would feel they are funny if I was in your situation. At least, you got to see your friends. One question, I really did not understand why you have to pay $150 for the biker friends?

  8. What a drive and a day. Can't wait to hear the rest of the story...

  9. thanks for the visit to my blog - your kiddos are ADORABLE!!! :)

  10. Let us know when your friends the gardeners sell. That sounds like our dream home.

  11. I love an adventue. What else would you have written about if you hadn't done all that nothingness in six hours. Did you get my email about the vitamins?

  12. Okay, I don't really know where to start, since I just caught up on about a week's worth of blogging by you (I'm behind on so much in life why stay up-to-date in the blogosphere?)

    1) Your camping story had me laughing so hard at your expense. I apologize. but thanks for the laugh. glad you made lemonade out of your lemons.

    2) lego land looks AWESOME. note to self: put that on the list if ever in california!

    3) what's in you wed/thurs - um...i'm freaking out! my race is sunday and i don't feel ready! at all. what the heck was i thinking registering for this!?!?!?!?

  13. Wow, that single picture of WIlliam looks SO MUCH like a blond Charlie.

    And since I long ago decided you are the type of parents I would like to be if I had kids I know you turned this occasion into a total blast for your progeny. I'll bet it's one of those Mom and Dad stories will tell when they're grown up. As in "you can't believe what Mom and Dad did the time we were supposed to go camping" LOL

  14. Denise: the bummer is that I have a lot of things that I want and need to write about. The least of which was this crazy ass trip. But I knew that if I didn't write about it, the thoughts would soon be gone.

    Yes, I did get your e-mail. Thanks for sending it. Sorry I haven't responded sooner ... I'm at least a week behind!

  15. GAH! That sucks with a CAPITAL S.