Growing up, when plans went sideways and nothing worked out quite how we anticipated on a trip- my mom would put a positive spin on the memory by saying, “Well, it was an adventure.”
We started a year-long cross-country road trip yesterday. We are a family of four and we have spent the last few months selling nearly all our possessions. We bought a giant fifth wheel RV and a giant truck to pull it. The plan is to travel America full-time, grow as people, develop our relationships with God and one another, and have adventures together. Sounds romantic right?
Let me tell you about our first day.
So, let’s start the night before our grand adventure. I feel like I’m four years old and it’s Christmas Eve. I’m giddy with anticipation. It’s almost time to leave. I’ve spent the day wrapping up loose ends. I got to spend some time with my mom and one of my best friends, Amanda. My brother came over to have a beer that evening and celebrate with us. We propped our feet up, happy to finish our list of preparations just before our self-imposed deadline.
My daughter wasn’t feeling the excitement. She had eaten three bean salad, pickled eggs, and mac-n-cheese for dinner. She was feeling…bloated? She complained of not feeling well. She had a headache. I recounted what she had eaten and the fact that she’s not nearly so excited about this trip as I am, and decided it was a mix of odd foods and nerves. So, I sent her to bed early and told her that a good night’s sleep was just the ticket to feeling better.
I found her crying in her sleep a couple hours later. I peeled back her blanket and realized her skin was flushed and feverish. Sure enough, she had spiked an alarming fever. Of course, I did what mom’s do. I pulled my hair into a messy ponytail and prepared myself for a long night. I didn’t know what tomorrow would look like but, I knew tonight would be a blur of temperature checks, Tylenol, and not much sleep.
In the commotion, I dug a home Covid test out of the back of the medicine cabinet-just to rule that out. Well, it was positive.
Let the adventure begin.
My parents are understandably nervous about this whole idea of us leaving home to travel the country with their grandchildren. We are super close and see each other several times a week. They weren’t exactly excited to see us pack up everything and move away. So, to lessen the blow a bit, we planned to spend our first weekend on the road with them. My mom has been wanting to go to this big flea market in Connecticut for years. She saw it on one of those shows on HGTV and has daydreamed about it ever since. She loves to root through junk at garage sales and auctions and find a treasure. So, this was right up her alley.
When that pink line appeared on the test strip, my first thought was my parents. We can’t have them stay with us if we have Covid. My dad survived cancer a couple years ago. He’s in remission and doing ok now. But, it left him with a damaged lung. There was no way, he could move into the RV with us for the weekend. Everyone was going to be crushed when I told them. Not to mention, what are we going to do now? I have reservations booked out for nearly a month. They’re all paid for. Between comforting my daughter and texting everyone I could think of that we’ve been around the last few days, I started pouring over cancelation policies and trying to come up with a plan B.
The sunrise brought some clarity. The rest of the family tested negative. Surprisingly, Charlotte woke up bright eyed and bushy tailed. She proclaimed that she was feeling much better and was ready to hit the road. We had a family meeting and several calls to my parents and decided that Connecticut was a no-go. We couldn’t be around people. We would start the next leg of our trip early and drive to upstate New York. We could isolate in the RV and when our quarantine period was over, we would celebrate by seeing Niagara Falls. Despite the risks, my parents were coming to say goodbye. Covid or no Covid- they were going to hug their grandkids. So, we all washed up and masked up and said our goodbyes. What was supposed to be a weekend in New England with s’mores and bargain shopping, became a few teary moments in the driveway.
I paid a cancellation fee for Connecticut and managed to change around the reservations in New York. I would worry about the rest later.
We drove about six hours. Everyone did well in the car. There were even comments about the scenery and how the drive didn’t seem that bad. My greatest fear of the Covid giving way to vomiting was never realized and the trip was uneventful. Well…until we got to New York.
We stopped to pump gas. A notification light had been coming on (when we would go over bumps or rough roads) to check the trailer connection. My husband assumed that it had vibrated loose and took a minute to tighten the connection. In order to reach it, he put the tailgate down. He finished up and got back in the truck. We headed back on the interstate. As we got close to our campground two things happened within minutes of one another. First, Charlotte mentioned to her daddy that the tailgate was still down. “Is it supposed to be down?” Second, we see big caution signs that say that there is a very low clearance ahead and trucks need to turn around and detour another way. The answer to Charlotte’s question was a resounding NO! The bed of the truck is filled with heavy items we don’t want to put in the RV- gas cans, folding tables, a Rubbermaid container of canned goods, etc. Those items were gradually sliding off the truck into the underside of the fifth wheel with no tailgate to stop them. At that moment we essentially needed to make a U-turn directly ahead so that we wouldn’t rip the roof off our RV from the low clearance. There was a tractor trailer coming in hot behind us and we couldn’t stop. Meanwhile, I had no idea how to get to our campground any other way. My GPS was of no help. And, my son was mumbling, “Ugh Dad? I think there’s a hole in the RV.”
That is when my head exploded.
Ok, not really. But, it seemed like it might. The first available turn was in to a tiny private airport on a hill. So, we took the turn. Annnnd quickly realized we couldn’t turn around. So, being stuck for the time being, my husband surveyed the damage to the RV while I called the campground to get alternative directions. We eventually managed a wonky three point turn and made it to the campground where a kind drunk man waved us into our spot.
Charlotte and I started opening the slides and getting things set up inside while the boys stayed outside to hook up the water, sewer, and electricity. I learned very quickly that my daughter’s closet wasn’t properly packed because when I opened the door, all her belongings flew out at me. The jostling of the road broke the organizer her clothes were in. They were no longer contained and they were spilling out everywhere. Meanwhile, the sink next to me has causing carnage of it’s own. While the rig had been parked at home, it wasn’t hooked up to water. Well, someone had turned the faucet handles to the on position and the drain was plugged. So, when my husband unknowingly turned the water on outside, the sink quickly filled up and began to overflow onto the floor and all over the clothes that were now piled on the floor. It was around this time that my son ran in to tell me he was “stung by a weird caterpillar and did I think it might be poisonous?”
Dear God, Help Me.
After a couple more cabinet avalanches, and meltdowns from my daughter and husband, Jackson told me that this trip had been a bad decision.
Well, it was certainly a rocky start.
So, we dried the water, calmed the kids, and sat down to eat. My husband suggested the two of us go for a walk after dinner. He knows the exercise calms me. So, I cleaned up the dishes, snuck some peppermint schnapps into my ice tea, and walked until I stopped shaking. By the time we got back to the RV I was feeling a little better.
Earlier in the evening, Jackson had mentioned fishing as his way to relax. So, while Jason started a movie for him and Charlotte, I walked to a secluded pond with Jackson to sip my tea and watch him fish. Well, there were no fish. But, there were frogs. Big green and yellow frogs. We giggled and squealed as he chased them around the pond. He would catch one and then it would wiggle and squirm it’s way through his fingers and leap toward me. Splash! Back in the pond it would hop until he found another one.
I sunk into my camp chair and spotted an oriole. It was beautiful. Then, the magic of nature really set in. We realized that the pond was being overrun with teeny tiny baby frogs- little itty bitty miniature ones. We were so focused on the big bull frogs that we had nearly missed the delicate little ones. They were amazingly small and just adorable. We sat and played with them until we were covered in mosquito bites and really really happy.
Then, we carried the fishing pole and chair back to the RV and told the Jason and Charlotte about our adventure. He was building a fire and strumming on his guitar. We sat by the fire for a little while and then got ready for bed.
Today had been hard. Harder than expected. Tomorrow would be better. And, if not?
Well… at least it would be an adventure.