The morning started early as I woke up at 3am to shower and get ready before waking the family to leave for our family reunion. The food was packed and the car loaded a little after 4 am. We were all ready. First we had to stop and fill up the car before heading out on our 9 hour drive to California. We should have known something was amiss when we got to the first self-serve gas station, only to find it closed. Really! Yep, in Utah the independent gas stations shut down for the night.
Off we went to a bigger gas station. We were filled up and ready to head out. I drove first, so we made great time the first 3 hours. In Wendover we switched, allowing Mariah to get some needed driving experience. As this was only her 2nd time on the freeway she did great. Almost to Elko I found myself jolted awake as Mariah drove on the rumble strip. At least I had a 20 minute nap.
We switched again in Elko allowing Aaron to drive. There went the lead I got us during our drive J
Around Reno we switched again. Stopping for lunch at McDonalds in Reno is much different than in Utah. I forget that our family of 7 is not normal for the rest of the world. I am not sure the young gal taking our order new who to listen to first!
Back on the road Aaron was our navigator. As we had only directions from my Uncle to his property in the middle of nowhere that said stuff like – go past the gate with the broken down trailer – he led us as best he could. Apparently we should have looked up the map better because the directions also said take 89 then: If you are subject to car sickness and do not like windy roads then take 395. Well since we do not get car sick and don’t mind the winds we did not take 395. We went all the way to 89 to 49 and then to 70. It wasn’t until we passed Clayton and Lisa at the trading post that we realized we went way out of the way. About 75 miles out of the way. The last we had heard they were about 1.5 hours behind us. Oh, well, we will chalk up the extra drive to sightseeing.
The directions get even better from here. We drive for about 20 miles on a gravel road with lots of dirt. Driving anything over 15 miles per hour amounted to driving in a Sahara dust storm. At some point we see Amber and Jeremy coming towards us, headed to the lake to escape the dry dust. They assure us camp is close. Hooray! So we keep going. We get to this point in the directions: The road will split Turn left and follow the road to the pavilion. So that is what we do. We get to the split and we turn left. Over a big mound. This is where the van stops. Right on the top of the mound. It is done. It will not go anymore as my left front tire is no longer touching the ground. Everyone unloads. Except me as my door will not open since it is hitting the mound. And did I tell you it is almost 100* and my window does not roll down. Yep, it was hot. The girls and Aaron try to push the car. It is not moving. Clayton shows up long enough to laugh and heads to get a rescue party.
My Uncle Don shows up on his dirt bike. What was he thinking he was going to do with that? He sees our predicament, sends the kids up the road to camp and goes back for his truck. He pulls us back off the mound fairly easily and we are back off to camp. We start to unload, only to find out that the cargo carrier we borrowed from our neighbors to put the coolers on is directly in the path of our exhaust. The heat from our 11.5 hour trip has melted through the tarp and the corner of our large cooler. Sweet! Our food is fine, we are fine. Off to unload.
We set up our mini – village. Everyone else has 1 tent for their entire family. We bring the Taj Mahal. We have 3 tents. One for the boys, another for the girls, and Aaron and I have our own suite. This is real family bonding time for us!
The houses are secure and off we go to visit. This family reunion is small. It is my Uncle Don and Aunt Cathy. 2nd cousins’ mike and Alice and their families. Dad and Connie. My siblings Melissa her husband and 6 kids, Amber her husband and their 5 kids, and Clayton his wife and their 2 kids. This is a small group.
We eat a dinner consisting of grilled dogs and way too many sides. We visit and have a very enjoyable night. The kids run around with their cousins and have a great time exploring.
Night settles in and we sit around the fire while Cathy plays the guitar and leads the group on some singing. I didn’t know she was so talented!
Time for bed. Everyone sleeps. It is a great night.
Morning comes early in the mountains. I think it is because we are so much closer to the sun. Breakfast consists of 8 lbs of bacon, 4 dozen eggs, hot chocolate, biscuits and gravy, muffins and fruit. With an extra few hundred calories to work off we head on a walk. Getting everyone ready at the same time is not only a challenge, it apparently doesn’t happen. I think we all left at the same time, but due to a few tantrums (ok mostly Bradley exerting his 4 year old stubbornness) most of the adults and tiny ones leave a few minutes behind Alice and Mike with the boys. They take off, meet up with Don and take Cat Skinner trail. The rest of us proceed at a snail’s pace and take the 2 mile loop. As we stop every few hundred feet on the trail to wait for the stragglers we wonder if we will ever catch up with the other group. We don’t. They beat us back and are on to the next adventure long before we return. The walk is nice. We see rabbit rock, mule ears and deer tracks. This high up in the mountains we find pinecones the size of Aarons head.
We return and crash in the camp chairs. Apparently walking 2 miles in over 1 hour is hard work. We sit and visit and enjoy the company. Starved from our hard work we eat a lunch of anything that can be found. Ok, our family had salami and cheese on crackers. I don’t know what anyone else had, except for Bradley who had about 14 pieces of our salami!
Rested and well fed it was time to head to the lake to cool down. Aaron stayed with the older generation to rest some more and the rest of us took off. Cara-vanning 4 cars down a dusty gravel road is about as easy as driving in dense fog in the middle of the night. Looking for the dust ahead told you the car was somewhere in front of you.
We make it to the lake and have a fabulous time. Why didn’t we get here sooner? The water was the perfect temperature; cold at first, but easy to get used to. The rafts grandpa brought were a huge hit and the kids paddled around and around.
We don’t stay too long, because we need to head back and start dinner. Our resident camping chef Amber says we need to get the potatoes and chicken going for the dutch oven dinner. Back at camp we clean and slice about 15lbs of potatoes. Amber assures us this dish will take about 45 minutes to cook. We slice the potatoes thin just to make sure. A few hours later, at least 2 maybe more, we give in and eat super yummy bbq chicken and mostly raw potatoes. Hey, were camping, at least we have food right!
Jayson and Ashley joined us for the evening. So glad we could spend a few hours catching up.
Before dinner is even ready Parker is ready for bed. The kids have been snacking on watermelon, corn on the cob, and salads. He is not hungry anymore. I try, unsuccessfully to get him to stay up a little longer. Fine, let’s go to bed. He is very tired.
Later Andrew goes to bed only to come running back with the news that every mother wants to hear while camping. “Parker threw up”. Yeah!!! Aaron is a trooper and heads down to check out the situation. Shortly after, Andrew comes back up. Dad needs reinforcements. I stop on the way to pick up the baby wipes from the car.
Andrew and I return to the tent where Aaron and Parker are sitting in the dark because we are so prepared we only have 1 flashlight and Andrew used it to come find me. I dole out wet wipes and we get most of the gu cleaned up. I donate my sleeping bag to Parker as his not fit to be used. Then we send Andrew to the outhouse as we remember a can of Lysol is sitting inside. This will be perfect to disinfect the tent before trapping our precious boys for the evening.
Andrew returns after what seems like hours of waiting, but was probably only a few moments. He can’t lift the can he says. I am thinking what!? An 8 year old boy can’t carry a can of Lysol. Suddenly Aaron starts laughing. He says are you trying to pick up the big metal can on the floor. Uh, yeah, Andrew says. Aaron tells him this is the lime – used to keep the stink down after going #2 in the outhouse. We clear this up and explain to him what a can of Lysol looks like before sending him down again. After another day or so, ok, a few more minutes he returns with the Lysol. Victory! We douse the tent and arrange the boys. Parker is so tired I think he is asleep before his head hits the pillow.
Aaron and I go back up to camp were we are very grateful for the 2 extra-large sinks with running water as we rinse out the sleeping bag and pjs. That task done we also head to our suite for bed.
We have been asleep for only a few hours when I hear the pitter patter of rain sprinkling down. A little water will do the dust good. Oh crap! Remember that rain fly that boys asked about, and we didn’t bring, oops. It’s ok it is only a little rain… until it’s not. It is pouring. Before we can get up Andrew is at our door telling us there is water in his tent. I bet there is! Aaron runs out and scoops up the boys and their slightly damp sleeping bags and brings them to our suite.
We all settle back down to enjoy a summer’s night sleep, staying dry in our tent listening to a storm complete with high winds, thunder and lightning. This is all so enjoyable. Made even more so by the fact that I am not feeling well now. I sat up listening for the rain to lighten up so I could run off to the porta-potty. Where was that thing, anyway? Nope, not this way, that is our car. Oh, here is the outhouse. Great. Now it is pouring. Ok, now where is the tent. Man it is dark in the mountains. Whew, I made it. This went on most of the night.
Morning came. The sun came up. The rain stayed. The boy’s tent without a rain flap has become a swimming pool. The girl’s tent was at the wrong angle. Their stuff kept safe in the front ‘room’ in the tent that only has mesh sides is soaked. Yeah, for summer storms.
The sun began to peak out around 8 or 9 so Aaron hung some rope and laid out all of our damp clothes just in time for it to pour. Now our damp clothes are soaking wet clothes. Parker has thrown up again.
Finally we have enough sun to get the tents down. Yep, you guessed it. We got them down in time for more rain.
We give up, eat a little breakfast. Laugh at our good fortune.
We start loading the rest of the car. Aaron needs to move the car back to put the cargo carrier back on. What else? The car won’t start. After Uncle Don making fun of me, he gets his truck and gives us a jump. The car gets loaded. By now it is fairly sunny so we roll up the tents. The wet stuff is shoved in the melted cooler and we are ready to go.
Our trip home begins fine. I am driving again so we make it to Elko in excellent time. We switch off and suddenly Parker barfs everywhere. Cheese stick chunks and blue juice spew all over the car. We pull off into a trucker stop area and strip Parker. We have nothing left for him to wear as everything we own is wet. Good thing we stopped on the way to buy a bag of pull ups as this is his new wardrobe the rest of the trip. Parker sits in his seat holding a beach bucket lined with a garbage bag sitting in his pull up. Good thing, too, as he throws up several more times before we pull in at 11:00pm.
The trip is over. Our clothes are all washed and dried. Our tents have been set up again, rinsed out, swept out and put back away. We are still tired. No one else is sick.
We are grateful that all of the fun we could have in one family reunion is over. Next time it is someone else’s turn!
We love our family and are thankful for those we can laugh with and those who can pull us out or give us a jump when we need it.