Thursday, July 23, 2009

Trip from Hell

Every three years my dad's family gets together for a family reunion. He has 14 siblings, and they all have large families, so we're in the 300ish range for these reunions. Most of the time they are a lot of fun and people travel from all across the country to attend for the entire week. My dad grew up in Florida in a swampy area in a little house with a tin roof. 11 of the 14 kids were boys, so they spent their time with quality pursuits like daring each other to go get a Mason jar full of swamp water at night, from alligator infested waters, or playing a knife game called "Stick Frog" where you have to go through a whole regime of moves and have the knife land with the blade stuck into the ground. One such game ended with a fight over the knife and the boy holding the blade almost lost several fingers. Needless to say, these reunions are interesting.

For example several years ago the uncle who was in charge of the reunion opted for the cheap route, and literally had us camping on the acreage surrounding a slaughter house in the middle of nowhere Arizona. We went to sleep at night to the sounds of pigs and cows squealing as they were being butchered. There was a stream that ran through camp which would have blood trailing through the water every morning. The stench was awful, and every hike we encountered at least one or two dead bloating cows with birds pecking at them. We even saw one cow pecked so much by crows that he exploded. That is a smell I will never forget.

They built a pen in the middle of the dirt for the small kids and toddlers, there was mud wrestling, wrestling on a log over a river where the loser got drenched, knife games, and the cooking pot was so big that there wasn't a spoon big enough to reach the bottom. They actually picked up a 2x4 off of the ground and proceeded to stir the food that everyone would eat. The highlight for me was that the boys were collecting buckets full of these huge frogs - probably 12 inches from nose to toes stretched out - to race them. I don't have a problem with racing frogs, but I do have a problem with the fact that they would just leave them in these buckets for days and there was no room to breathe and they never got fed. One night after dark I sneaked into camp with a couple of my sisters, and we took all of the buckets to the river and dumped out the frogs, chasing them off before anyone would see us and recapture them. The boys screaming at me the next morning was actually very entertaining.

(a pretty picture during my long drive)

So all of that is a long preface to this past week. Three years had rolled around again, and the reunion was once again being held in middle of nowhere Arizona. My family all left several days early to be involved in a small parade, rodeo, and other festivities to be held in the town where my dad's mother grew up and where he still has a lot of family. Andy couldn't go with me because of work, so Calvin and I set off on our own for the 10 hour drive. Half of the drive was over a Navajo Indian reservation where we encountered dozens of animals just walking leisurely through the middle of the road, and a dust storm where I couldn't see anything at all for several moments. As soon as we left any kind of civilization and entered the reservation, Calvin had a poopy diaper. There were a lot of places where I didn't dare stop, but after about 2 hours of driving with the smell, we found a place that looked semi-clean and semi-decent. I stopped in a parking lot, and the only place I had to change his diaper was on my seat since every other surface was covered in camping gear and food. As soon as I opened up his diaper, a big ball of poo rolled out of the diaper, down my chair, and under the seat. Digging for that had to have been one of the better moments of life. I didn't realize it at the time, but pulling off put my coordinates slightly off, and when I got back into the car, I took a wrong turn, driving 2 hours out of my way, and ending up in middle of nowhere New Mexico.

We finally arrived late that night. Luckily Calvin was amazing. The only time he got upset was about 8 hours into the drive and I realized I hadn't fed him for about 6 hours. We stopped to get something to eat, and then he was great again. We were both exhausted and frustrated by the time we finally reached camp.

This time we were at an actual campground, not a slaughter house, so that was nice, but it was still in the middle of the desert. There was a large pavilion for group meals, and thankfully running toilets and showers, but the rest was just dirt. Red sandy fine dust that got into everything. The temperatures ranged between 95-102. It was hot and dry and miserable. There were a few fun things though.

My uncle built this adorable little train for the kids out of water barrels which he decorated and then pulled with a small tractor/lawnmower. It was a huge hit. Calvin especially loved it. He would go sit in the cars even when they weren't running.

Then there was a stream with canoes to play in. Strangely, it's called Silver Creek because of its silvery clear water. I found that amusing.

All dressed up and ready to go.

Carrie was nice enough to take him into the murky depths while I watched from the sidelines. He didn't seem to like it in there, so we tried him in the raft with the my sister's family.

He didn't like that either.

Then we freed him from the life vest (the water was only 2 feet deep) and he was a happy little camper.

Happy inside the raft with uncle Tom Sawyer.

Cute little family in their water gear.

This was my genius cousin getting ready to dive into the lake. He was shocked when it hurt. He said, "ow! I hit something!" Umm yeah, the bottom. It's 2 feet deep dude.

This is where the rest of the story begins. Cute little Maria asked to get out of the boat because she wasn't feeling well. They weren't sure if it was the motion of the boat, but they took her back to camp where she vomited for the rest of the day. Followed shortly by her mother, and her uncle, two of her aunts, her grandpa, and then her grandma. The rest of the night was spent with everyone in our camp being deathly ill. Not sure why it skipped me and Calvin, but everyone else got horribly sick. Through my tent I heard people retching all night long. The next morning we found out that several others throughout camp were really sick. Alicia's family decided that after a night of a sick little girl and mom, and then with dad following in the morning, they were going to head home so that if the three other girls got sick, they wouldn't have to deal with it in the dirt and lack of facilities. My sister has a baby that she wanted to keep from getting sick, and since I had Calvin to worry about and the heat had been giving me horrible cramping and contractions anyway, she and I packed up our kids and headed out with them. We felt horribly guilty leaving my sick parents and two siblings behind, but my dad was stubborn and wanted to stick it out. The reunion should have lasted all day Monday through a drive home on Saturday. I got there late Monday night and left early Wednesday morning. It was one of those weeks that just wasn't meant to be for me.

Late Friday night, I finally got hit with the horrible flu. It was nasty and painful, but at least I was in my own bed with my own bathroom, and my wonderful husband was there to take care of our kid in our clean house. Here's to another three years of planning for the next reunion...


Liberty said...

Oh. that sounds horrible! i talked to MR briefly and she told me she was back home at your mom's house. I'm sorry you all got so sick...and searching for the poop made me crack up...the things we do as moms :) Hope you're feeling better!

Renee' said...

You were so smart to go home. Who the heck wants to be sick vomitting and inevitably diarrhea out in the sticks. Especially pregnant. Did MaryRuth and little Joey end of getting it? I sure hope not. Here's to waiting another three years for more fun.