Friday, June 8, 2012

It was like a scene from a National Lampoon's movie

Our "vacation" was insane.  Don't ask me why two grown, mostly intelligent adults would willingly choose to take eight small children on a vacation in the first place.  Dumb idea. 

This vacation took me months of planning.  Ethen had really been wanting to go to Arches National Park, so that was the destination of choice this year.  I researched all of the possible, cheapest, ways for us to travel.  Getting a hotel room, or rooms rather, was out of the question.  Renting cabins- too expensive, staying in a comfortable campground - too expensive.  It appeared that our least expensive option was to camp on BLM land.  They have some group sites that are able to be reserved, so that's the route we went. 

Now, according to google maps, Arches is about 5 hours and 15 minutes from Hurricane.  Throw in 8 kids, a 23 year old Suburban hauling a camper older than that, and you can imagine how long the trip really took us. 

Before leaving we prepped everything.  We got new tires for the camper, Cade cleaned the camper all up, made sure everything was working, etc, and I took the Suburban in for a tire rotation and balance.  Previously the camper was a disaster on the road, flailing all over.  Cade thought that buying new tires would solve this problem, but when he took the camper for a drive the day before we were to leave, we found that no, it didn't solve the problem.  Cade was scurrying all over, trying to secure a sway bar and hitch at the last minute.  He was up very late trying to solve the problem. 

We were supposed to leave at 8am on Sunday, but ended up not getting out of town until about 10am.  This is when the fun really began.  We're driving along I-15 and no kidding, we had to stop at least ten times, because that stupid trailer was fish-tailing all over the place.  Cade would try to get it under control, speeding up, slowing down, whatever would work, then he would end up pulling over as fast as he could, wrenching the sway bar down as tight as he could, and then we would repeat the entire scenario over and over for the next three-ish hours.  I seriously thought we were going to die a number of times. 

We (I should say Cade, because I surely didn't do anything except tell the kids to pray) finally got that sucker wrenched down as tight as he could, and that darn trailer didn't move again, BUT the air conditioner went out.  Yep.  100 degrees outside, ten people crammed in a Suburban, on the hot asphalt pavement of the interstate and no air conditioning!  We were about a half hour outside of Richfield by this time, so using our cell phones, Cade and I called every parts store from Richfield to Green River to see if they had the part for our A/C.  No luck.  So, we settled in like we were kickin' it 1987 style, and rolled the windows down, occasionally spraying ourselves with the spray bottle I had brought with, to style the girls hair. 

Around 6pm we finally rolled into camp.  Pretty much the minute we pulled into camp, the sway bar cracked and broke right off.  Silver lining moment: we were AT camp.  Debbie Downer moment:  We still had to get home in a few days, now with a broken sway bar.  Needless to say, Cade was a super bundle of joy the entire day.  Not that I blame him.  I was only trying to keep a decent attitude in order to keep my sanity. 

The next day we ventured out to Arches, hoping for better luck.  While Cade drove, and the kids admired the pretty rocks, I tried to study the map of the park, deciding on a couple of hikes that the kids could tackle.  I settled on The Delicate Arch hike, which was 3 miles long, round-trip, and gained 400+ feet in elevation, but I swear (I SWEAR!) it said it was an easy hike. 
Before the hike to Delicate Arch

We set out on the hike, prepped with sunblock, a water bottle for each of us (plus a few spares in Cade's pack), and hats for my white boys.  We're trucking along, sweating like workhorses, and start a huge climb on slick rock.  About mid-way up, Cade makes a comment that if this hike was "easy", he wonders what the National Park Service considers "strenuous". It was so hot! 
We were maybe half way here, but had definitely just completed the hardest portion.

All along the way, people were making comments on our family.  One man wanted a picture of Cade with the baby in the pack on his back, another lady wanted to take pictures of all the kids, and many, many people made comments about the kids doing the hike and how motivating it was.  We were like the freak show at Arches! 

In this next picture it shows the drop off on the side, and this is the point where I decided that I had read the map wrong.  There was no way that this hike was an easy one, no way.
I made the kids hold onto the wall on the right, even on the way down when they technically should have moved to the other side when others were coming up.  Let the other people die, my kids aren't! 

Despite how hot and strenuous the hike was, it was well worth the work to get there.  However, if I was to do it again, I would do it sans kids and I would definitely start a little earlier in the morning, when the sun wasn't blazing like a hellish inferno. I was seriously concerned about the welfare of the kids on the descent.  Asher and Colby were especially red-faced, and dragging.  I kept pouring my little bit of water down their backs, and making them drink a swallow every five minutes.
At the top!

Word to the wise: carefully check your maps before setting out on a trek with eight small children. 

I know, this is getting long and we're only on day one.  I can't help it, I'm long winded. 

After having a picnic in the park, and doing another (easy -for real this time) hike, we went to a little place tucked away in Moab, called Mill Creek.  It was awesome, and the kids had a blast cooling off in the water. I wish I would have gotten pictures, but I'm pretty sure my brain was fried by this time. 

At camp we had our little camper that sleeps about three people snugly, so Cade, Calum and I slept in the camper while the rest of the kids slept in the tent.  Around 11 that night, the wind picked up.  And when I say, "picked up", I mean 40+ mph winds.  The tent was right behind us, and seeing as it was 80 degrees even at night, we had the windows open in the camper.  When the wind started whipping the tent around, I heard Kelly crying.  I tried to calm her, and she quieted, but I was so nervous about the rain fly flying off, and the kids being scared, I ended up grabbing a blanket and cuddling up on Ethen's single bed air mattress for most of the night.  I think I slept about 2 hours, thanks to the wind howling and the tent flapping around.  It was miserable, and it didn't stop. 

We hit Canyonlands National Park the next day, and the wind was relentless. We did one simple hike, got sandblasted, and decided that was enough for us.  The rest of that park was a drive-by tour.  If it looked really cool, a few of us would run to the ledge, I would snap a picture, and we would run back to the car. 

We were supposed to go back to camp to grill hot dogs for lunch, but the stupid wind prevented that, so instead we headed into Moab to grab some Wendy's and hopefully find someone that could weld our sway bar back together.  We were successful in finding a mechanic to weld the sway bar.  He said that he would do it for $20, but his good welder was at his home, so we had to pick it up at 6pm.  In the meantime, because of the lovely wind, we headed over to the Moab Aquatic Center.  The kids had a great time playing in the swimming pool, going down the water slide, and even a few of them braved the low diving board! 

For dinner we had to build a stinking shelter.  Lucky for us, we had a nice covered eating area, so we just hung a tarp on one side, and we parked the suburban on another side, and that helped prevent the wind from blowing out the flame on our camp stoves.  Cade made us some fantastic fried chicken and dutch oven potatoes.  Who cares if it was 8:30 before we got to eat it! 

The wind was still blowing at bedtime, and I was not looking forward to no sleep again.  We ended up clearing everything out of the Suburban and throwing the kids in there to sleep.  I should have taken a picture.  They were like little sardines.  Ethen slept on the front bench seat, I made a comfy bed for Kelly on the floor between the front bench and the middle bench using some blankets and a thick memory foam pad, Cailin slept on the middle bench, and Asher, Tajia and Colby slept in the far back (where the back seat was removed from).  Roxie ended up sleeping with Cade and I in the camper.  They were cozy and slept like rocks. 

The next morning we were homeward bound.  I forgot to mention that the day previous, Cade had the inclination to check the air pressure in the tires.  They were considerably lower than they should have been!  So on the morning of our departure, we pumped those suckers up to the appropriate weight, and who woulda' thunk it, but that darn camp trailer didn't fish-tail once on the way home!  The horrible Russian roulette ride up there could have been prevented had Discount Tire properly inflated our tires!  We weren't even too hot on the ride home, because we have this very odd little swamp cooler that plugs into an AC plug in the car (don't ask me why we possess this, but it came in very handy).  We just plugged that little thing in, situated it between a couple of kids, and it kept the car moderately cool.  It was no air conditioning, but at least we didn't have to have all of the windows down, and the hot air blasting us. 

I gotta' say, I know this will be a "memorable" vacation for all of us, but it is surely not one that I wish to recreate.  I think next time we will stick to something a little closer to home, not so hot, and not windy.  Cade says there won't be a next time.  We'll see about that...