Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Bump in the Road

Well, yesterday as we left Needles we heard a "noise". We kept listening and the noise went away. We convinced ourselves that maybe it was just the coffee skin (thermos) rolling around. We kept going - doing read-alouds and having a good time. We were really looking forward to getting to our fabulous campground just 1 mile from the entrance to Grand Canyon National Park! According to the website they had a petting zoo and playground for the kiddos - teepees - landscaping, etc. We finally pulled into the entrance with the intention of dumping the trailer and heading to the canyon. Have you ever seen one of those movies where the family gets to the "resort" they were promised only to find a nasty room full of roaches and a window opening up to a brick wall? WELL - we pulled into the campground and it was worse than that. Really. It was a gravel parking lot with mostly permanent residents living in ancient travel trailers.
The bathrooms were graffiti-laden and had signs warning you not to leave your personal belongings where they could be stolen. The showers were disgusting and you had to pay to use them! The petting zoo was a goat in a pen the size of a doghouse and an old horse tied to a tree. The playground was some tires and a lopsided slide. And the place was $50 a night which was more than we have ever paid! Just as I said, "No way - we are NOT staying here...." the van made a really bad grinding noise as if to say, "oh yes, you are and possibly for a really really long time...." Jeff got out and looked at the tire and said, "We are lucky the tire didn't roll off while we were driving. The bearings are shot." Then he wiggled the tire around to prove it. He pulled into the first available spot (pretty much where we had landed) and got out his computer to check the web for repair shops/ tow trucks. No Internet access. He got out his phone. No cell coverage. He walked to a store and was told the nearest mechanic was an hour back. He picked one out of the phone book and made the call. The guy told him he'd be there to tow us in the next morning around 8 or 9. Then he added we might want to call him if he didn't make it.... We settled in for the night, nestled in the armpit of Arizona - the Grand Canyon being only a mile away but the furthest thing from our minds. The campground came complete with a vicious barking dog in the trailer next door. He finally settled down about the time the live band started up at the bar across the street.

In the morning we were up early emptying the trailer of all of our valuables. 9:00 came and no tow truck. Jeff called. The guy he had talked to was not working that day - we should have expected that. "No problem, Pop," the guy said. "We'll be there in about an hour." Oddly enough, the drama perked up the teens. They were perky and pleasant and enjoying the tragedy of their family vacation : ) Jasper, while waiting for the tow truck, looked around the dilapidated trailer park and said, "Isn't it bootiful here, Mom?" We watched RV's come in and do one of two things: either they left right away or the couple getting out had a fight over whether or not they would stay. The women inevitably did not want to stay but the men would gulp and puff their chests and insist it was "just fine".

While we waited for the tow truck we planned our day. I was trying to be a good sport. "I'll keep the kids here while you ride in with the tow truck," I told Jeff. "We have lots to do here," I said with brimming eyes and my "aren't I a trooper?" look. Just then it began to rain. "Oh no!" I said. "Now we can't go for walks and look for used condoms and needles at the playground." When the tow truck arrived Jeff informed the driver that the entire family would be coming along. Of course, we couldn't fit in the tow truck. The driver informed Jeff we could ride in the van, and then he laughed and shook his head. He loaded up the van and then it lifted up really really high onto a big flatbed. "How do we get in?" I asked Jeff. "Well," he said, "I'll just lift up the kids and you can...." here he proceeded with caution. He quietly went and talked to the tow truck driver who lowered the bed back down so I could climb in.

All of the depressed guests and permanent residents of the trailer park were watching the scene. All of their faces said the same thing: "well, at least we're not them." So we provided the population with a small pick-me-up and don't you know that felt nice.

Once on board, we watched with amusement the startled expressions of the other travelers as they realized there was a family on board the van. Some of them laughed at us. Stopping for gas was the worst. People pointed.

At first The Joels were very still and quiet so as not to cause the van to fly off of the tow truck. Then they got bored and didn't care and we rocked and rolled down the highway. When we got into town the driver turned on his flashing lights and Ellie was so pleased. "In case it was possible someone didn't SEE us....." she said.

Once at the garage there was some discussion as to whether or not the part could be located in Williams. Several phone calls later concluded it could not. A part was found in Flagstaff and a runner was going to bring it over. We stood in the drizzle looking rather pathetic. Town was about a mile down the road.....

"Would you like us to call you a cab and you can go into town?" John the Mechanic asked. "Sure," we said. "Will we fit?" We were assured they would have the cabbie drive the van over. Of course she showed up in a car, looking totally surprised at our number. She informed us that the van was broken down. "Hmmmm.....I'll take you guys in two separate trips." So she did. We ate in a historic building in an adorable part of the town. The building had a lot of history. To be specific, it was a whorehouse. To be more specific, it had at one time boasted housing up to 8 whores at one time. Actually, it is still boasting it. There is a plaque. Well, let me be honest. It was not just a whorehouse - it was also an opium den. Now there are no whores or opium - just a bar and great Mexican food. We had a great lunch and really enjoyed it. I looked around at the table at the kids and Jeff and suddenly became tearful. I don't know why. I was just so grateful for my family and the fact that our biggest problem at the moment was that our van was broken down and we were eating lunch in a historic whorehouse. Considering the reason for the trip - I just always feel so blessed and undeserving of our good fortune. Everyone laughed at me for getting emotional and Jasper made another comment about how this was his best vacation ever.

Next we headed to a small museum and Ellie and I were about to hit the thrift shop across the street when our van pulled up! Everything was fixed and we recovered from the shock of what it cost and headed toward our trailer. "Do you even still want to go to the canyon," Jeff asked. I told him we were going to go look at that !*@*&^! hole in the ground if it killed us. So we did. And WOW. Another breathtaking moment. It was really late and cold so we only went to a few overlooks and the museum before heading back to the trailer. Jeff had located another campground for half the price that had Internet access, a heated pool, and no permanent residents. The problem was, checkout had been at 11:00. Technically, we were supposed to pay for another day. We looked around at the graffiti and the sad, lonely goat and hooked up the trailer and peeled out......technically we stiffed them but they gouged us so we're even.

We stopped at the IMAX theater to see the Grand Canyon movie and it was great. Especially since we didn't spend as much time at the canyon as we had hoped.

Well, we are now in the nice RV park, the kids have been swimming and most are asleep. It is really cold. Joel would get out of the pool and stand in the cold watching the steam from his skin. He lasted up to 2 minutes at a time. A woman asked him what he was doing, if he was alright or needed anything and he explained to her what he was doing and she just looked disturbed and said, "OK". Jeff is now reading the 4th ballerina book to Camille, and we're about to turn in.

The Universe has not turned against us. When we didn't listen to our intuition when we first noticed the "sound" it was infinitely patient, allowing us to make it safely to a place where we could spend the night before allowing the tire to completely fall apart. We saw the blessing in this and continued to trust that things would take care of themselves. We were not stuck here for 2 or 3 days - the garage got us out in a couple of hours and we had a very enjoyable time in town. So, in our opinion we've enjoyed especially good luck, not the other way around.

Tomorrow we're just going to get as far as we can....probably won't be home until Friday, though. That is ok. I am really enjoying this time without chores, appointments, schedules, television, phones, gameboys......except for missing some solitude, Ellie and Joel have admitted they're not missing any of their "things". All we need is right here in this little trailer. We're not living in a tent in a refugee camp somewhere, or in a FEMA trailer, or in a shelter or a car.....or in an ancient travel trailer back in the RV park we had fled. We're just playing at being nomads with the assurance of a nice comfortable home waiting for us. It makes me feel guilty......

We're counting our blessings tonight!
Sardine Mama


  1. sounds like an exciting day i take it jasper is having fun Joel looks like hes unhappy in the picture at the grand canyon cant wait to see y'all monday

  2. So glad to hear that the van was fixed so fast. We once had a 5-day car/garage ordeal in Tennessee on one of our cross-country treks. Not enjoyable.
    The girls are looking foward to seeing their friends soon.

  3. Have you had any weird perv postings yet? Well, here's one because the blog just wouldn't be complete otherwise ... (heavy breathing) (leering -- is it possible to leer at a blog?) (sorry, you'll have to use your imagination for the rest)

  4. You guys are blessed. Your Aunt Maxine said she misses you every time she looks out her kitchen window. I had your blog almost loaded on her Macintosh and then it started doing weired things and refused my every attempt to fix it. Ellie, when I was at HEB I spotted some Veggie Dogs and gave them a try. They were kinda ok. I'll try the burgers next.

    John Micael

  5. You are a good trooper, no doubt about it! That is the most positive outlook I can imagine anyone having after experiencing car trouble in the dry vastness between "Neeldes" and the Grand Old Hole in the Ground, AZ with five kids and a bald guy who sings, hums and whistles to his own drummer. Remember, as you said, the theme is "timing" - Lots of Love and heaps of admiration. RB

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  7. sorry - spelling error on the last.

    just said, i love to hear jasper's comments.

  8. EWWWW!!! Wow John Michael, that was really brave of you to try the veggie hot dogs...they're the worst. Even our dog won't eat them. :) But never fear, the veggie burgers and corn dogs are WAY better, believe it or not. So have fun trying those out. "And the chicken patties" cries my mom. So yeah, try those, too.

    We all miss Aunt Maxine, too! We'll have to have a get-together with you guys when we get back.

    See y'all later,


  9. I have to say, your writing leaves me in stitches, Carol. The "don't touch me, I have cradle crap" is probably going to catch on here...You have had such an awesome, beautiful vacation and you still like each other...I find that extremely impressive...I wish you would write a book, Carol, about how this can be accomplished by other families...I will give it to all my families and couples that come to see me...! Maybe each of the kids could write a section too! Have a safe journey home!

  10. I know you are anxious to get home and your friends and Uncle Gene are anxious to get you there, but do you REALLY REALLY have to go home?? Can't you just keep going? This is the most fun I have had in a long time.....Love you guys, Sarah

  11. I'm so glad everything with the van worked out and that you got out of that awful RV park!

    awesome writing as always Mrs. Carol.

    Looking forward to seeing everyone soon (Ellie!! I need band practice!!! I'm done with school and everything!)

    much love,


  12. i'm so glad that you guys were able to get out of there quickly, another few days and i think i would've gone bonkers from you not being here(maybe i already have...)

    thanks for posting all of this miss carol, at least we get to see what you're going through and stuff. it'll be nice to have you guys back (and now we get to look forward to Worlds! yayeth!)

    anywho, have fun on your way back and don't kill each other.
    with lots of love,

  13. I finally caught up in reading all through your rest of your trip. Sorry I didn't leave a comment before now. I had previously read about the first 3 days' worth. Don't know how I got so far behind!

    You have had quite an adventure--some wonderful memories and beautiful sights along the way, some not quite so great, but you never lost sight of what is most important. What a great way to share your vacation with your friends and family!

    I'm so happy to hear the results of Jules' exam!

    Terri Brown

  14. Wow, I thought we were the only ones to have car trouble on vacation. We were stranded in Colorado Springs for 2 days. And yes we too had to get over the shock of a repair bill before we got to our destination. Oh well, have a safe trip home. Can't wait to here more:). I am assumig the swimming pools are heated?