Saturday, September 17, 2011

Our first family vacation!

Although it happened in August, I wanted to blog about our first family vacation. It was a huge endeavour for us and maybe it will remind me next year to bring a map :)
We were headed off for our first big camping trip with a bunch of families from our home group. It was a cute RV resort off the coast of Oregon, and we had opted to rent a cottage, rather than tenting it. Looking back, I am sooooo glad we did! In fact, I don’t think I will ever tent it again, I have officially been spoiled! Some of you may say “that’s not camping!” Haha fine, it is not camping then! But whatever you call it, it is the way to do it with 4 kids!
Our trip started out the usual way things start out in our family; me planning everything and assuming everything is going to work out perfectly! The camp site was suppose to be 7 driving hours away, so we figured we would leave early afternoon, stop in Seattle at The Cheesecake Factory (my favourite restaurant), then continue on and make it to our destination by 10:30pm that night, happily having our children sleep through the majority of the trip (7pm is their normal bedtime.) I am sure many of you are laughing at me for having such thoughts. I know. I don’t know why I always think it will be so simple!

Our first bump was leaving Langley an hour late. I didn’t think it that big of a deal originally, but boy did it add to the trip in the end! The border, something I forgot to account for, actually I always forget to account for border waits because I am a Nexus holder, added another hour to our trip. By the time we hit Seattle, much later than anticipated (we had hoped to be at the restaurant by 5pm) we hit major traffic. I am not sure if it was rush hour or construction, but it took forever just to get into downtown! We thankfully made it to our exit, drove a couple of blocks, and found our place quickly. There was no parking so we went to drive to the next street to look there. Trouble was, downtown Seattle has a bunch of one-way streets, so we couldn’t turn down the next one. Frantically deciding to go one more block, thinking it would be going the opposite direction, we found ourselves on some sort of one way road with no return. It ended up taking us from downtown Seattle to…well I am not even sure where it took us! It was some sort of Express or something. This is where things turned bad. I had not brought a map. When routing out our trip it was so many pages on google that I decided to just hand write all the directions. This would have worked fine, had we need steered off course!
So after driving around for what seemed like hours (It was actually somewhere between 1 and 2 hours) we eventually made it back to where we wanted to go. By this time it was 7:45pm, our children were tired and starving (we would have eaten fast food had we known where any was) and we were a tiny bit cranky. We made it into the restaurant only to find a half an hour wait. Ok. We had made it this far, we decided to just bite the bullet and wait. The waiting itself was rather interesting, as I almost lost Robby and Alaina, repeatedly, into the revolving door. Those are actually really dangerous! Finally, after what seemed like forever, we went and asked how much longer. Turns out, they had accidentally forgotten to write our names down. Blllaaahhhh!!! Haha yeah, I was a bit frustrated. They thankfully brought us right in, but the table had not been cleaned yet, so we tried to hold all 4 restless children still in the middle of the aisle while waiters carrying trays of food tried to rush past. I was positive one of my kids was going to knock them down!
Finally we sat down and enjoyed a wonderful meal. I am surprised my kids did so well! It was already 9:30pm when we left Seattle, and still had the bulk of our trip to go! We got back on to the highway and a micro second later felt like something was wrong again. The US is actually very annoying for this, all their exit signs are placed right at the exit, and there is no warning! Next thing we know, we are back off the highway again, somewhere near Safeco field, still with no map, and still with no clue how to return home. I suddenly remembered I had placed a cartoon map of downtown Seattle in my purse a couple weekends before at a girl’s weekend away. I prayed it was still there! Sure enough, it was, and we managed, after another long hour, to navigate ourselves back to our restaurant to try again. Finally, we made it out of Seattle, and the rest of the drive from Seattle to Portland went mostly without hiccup. Everyone but Mathieu had fallen asleep, although Robby and Chloe woke up hourly frantically screaming, then falling back asleep. Portland finally came though, and we got ready to take our exit towards the coast. Suddenly we realized the exit was closed due to construction. And it wasn’t just a simple exit, where you can take the next one, Portland was filled with so many loops and twists and overpasses and exits! What now?
I suggested we continue on another hour to Salem, where I had some written directions to our site, because of a day trip I had planned while there, and had included written directions in all my papers. Daniel thought we should pull over and get directions. I thought that might take more time, with all the mind boggling loops. Daniel decided to get off though, and what was almost an hour later we found our way to a gas station, somewhere off the highway, with nothing but a map of Portland, something that would not help us. By this time we were both rather grumpy, needless to say, and decided to just continue on to Salem.
We hit Salem by 1:30am. We were tired. Daniel had managed to down a 5 shot espresso in Portland, but I was barely hanging on. Then we realized we didn’t know what to do next. My hand written directions (I know great idea!) were from the Olive Garden, to our resort. Problem was, we didn’t know where the Olive Garden was, and Salem was way larger than we anticipated! We finally found a gas station, and inside, wait for it…was an Oregon map! Ahhhhhhh! We figured out how to get out of Salem and head towards Pacifc City, where we were headed, and went on our way.
About a half an hour outside of Salem, somewhere in the middle of the forest, we suddenly realized something. In our extreme tiredness, grumpiness, and just plane absent mindedness, we had forgotten to check our gas tank. Yeah. We were on E. I will point out, we own a massive Yukon XL, a gas guzzling beast! But we were in the middle of the woods! The 2 gas stations we even saw were closed! I was terrified we were going to run out of gas and then get eaten by bears. I have an unfounded fear of bears. We did, however, have enough sense to start praying. Finally, after hardly knowing where to go, almost getting lost again, and more than an hour of driving below E, we made it to our campsite! I know we made it there only by the Grace of God, as our tank usually can go through $20 in 30 minutes worth od driving! Thank you Lord!! By this time it was 3:30 in the morning. We unloaded the kids and our truck, and finally lay down to go to sleep!
Despite our interesting and challenging road trip down, the rest of our vacation went amazingly! The kids had so much fun playing with all their friends (there were more than 20 kids from our home group) and we enjoyed visiting as well. It was the first time any of us had been away from home for so long (even our honeymoon was only 2 days) and it felt good to just relax! The kids enjoyed splashing in the ocean, skim boarding in the puddles, and sand boarding down the giant dunes. Back at camp they rode bikes around the site and ran around the playground. It was wonderful. At night we played board games and chatted with friends. Just thinking about it makes me want to go back! There is something so wonderful about getting to just play with your family all day. To have your husband home and have no to-do lists. No housekeeping to take care. Just good old fashioned quality family time!

While there were 2 more incidents of getting lost while driving, the rest of the trip went perfectly, and before we knew it we were heading home! We stopped off at the outlet malls for some back to school shopping and eventually made it back to Canada all in one piece. We did manage to bring home half the beach though :) Despite how crazy our road trip experience was, I am still pondering driving down to Disneyland with the kids next summer, haha what do you think?

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