Typically, we try to take the kids to do something fun for one week each summer. Last year we spent the week on Fire Island, and seven days of five people in our one room house proved to be a bit too much for some people (me). So this year, we thought we would divvy up the vacation into two chunks, and spend part of it camping and the other part at the beach. It turned out that the only weekend our friends from Pittsburgh could come visit this summer and go to Fire Island with us was the weekend right before our vacation. Then, we found out that our friends from Michigan were going to be in New York the week of our vacation and wanted to see us. So our week was planned to go something like this:
Friday through Monday - Fire Island with Pittsburgh friends
Monday through Thursday - Camping with kids while Michigan friends house sit and explore NYC
Thursday through Sunday - Fire Island with 3 kids and 2 Michigan friends in one room house
Sunday of the first weekend, while we were out on Fire Island, it rained. It really, seriously rained. I had flooding nightmares all of Sunday night, which I thought was a little weird. But whatever, we came home and started loading up the car to go camping and I chatted with my Michigan friends. I went into the basement to get the tent, and when I stepped onto the carpet, something weird happened. It sunk. I realized that the carpet was actually floating on top of about two inches of water in our basement. I also realized that I had ESP or had some kind of prophetic dream the night before.
I said something to Kathy about how the water seemed kind of gross, grosser than usual when the basement floods, but we decided that the storm sewer must have backed up or something. We called the clean-up company and scheduled an appointment for them to come dry out the basement and get rid of the carpeting. We set up the sump pump to pump out the water and bring the level down. We wondered where our box with extra tarps that we had ordered from Campmor was, since it was supposed to arrive Monday, but it never showed up. C complained that he was hot, and we found he had a slight fever (one degree). He was tired, but he had just gotten back from an RV weekend with his father where it sounded like he barely slept, so we chalked it up to that. We hemmed and hawed and debated, then finally decided to just go camping anyway. After all, the water was going down, and we had our friends there to meet the clean-up crew, and a one degree fever is pretty much nothing for an exhausted 5 year old.
(the ceiling of our tent, which will make sense later)
We loaded the car and piled in. We waited around a little for our extra supplies, but decided we could just stop and get the stuff we needed along the way, so we headed out to Bear Spring Mountain State Park, in the Catskill mountains. As we were driving, it started to rain. We stopped and bought an extra tarp and some emergency ponchos, since I realized about a half hour from home that I hadn't packed most of the rain gear. We had also planned on bringing extra socks and some extra towels in case it rained, but were so distracted by the flood in the basement that we forgot. The closer we drew to the state park, the more Kathy began to do two things with her iPhone: (1) compulsively check the weather, including the hour-by-hour updates as to the chance of precipitation (25% around midnight, 60% around 4 am, 10% by 10 am, etc.); and (2) provide me with a verbal account of the strength of her signal. By the time we got within 2 miles of the park, there was no service at all, much to the distress of my favorite lawyer.
We arrived at the park at dusk, and looked at our campsite. We had accidentally chosen the site right across from the bathrooms (site 18), which had floodlights aimed pretty much directly at where our tent would be. Deciding this was not exactly "rustic," we opted to move down a few sites (to site 14). Kathy went to change our reservation, which left me to set up the tent with A. We meant to re-waterproof the tent the week prior, but ran out of time before our multi-leg vacation began. It grew dark rapidly, and we soon were pitching the tent wearing headlamps, which is even more difficult than it seems like it would be. Nonetheless, we got the tent set up, although I tend to be a bit lazy about things like stakes and tie-lines. But it was up, and the corners were staked, which I decided was enough for one night. I unrolled the kids' sleeping bags and blew up our air mattress (I do not like to be uncomfortable, even when camping. I know I'm a lightweight, ok?).
As we started to thaw our frozen lump of chili over the campfire, we felt the first rain drops. Kathy informed me that she thought that was weird, since there was only a 15% chance of precipitation at that time. A few more rain drops later, I suggested we string a tarp up in the trees with bungees and move the picnic table under it. We realized that we had forgotten a bottle opener, so Kathy opened her Sierra Nevada by lining up the beer cap with the edge of the picnic table and slamming down on it with the heel of her hand, which took several attempts. Have I mentioned that Bud Light, my beer of choice, is twist-off? By the time we had set up the tarp and had a beer, the chili was hot. We decided our luck was improving, as we ate, dosed C with Advil for the worsening fever and put the kids to bed. Kathy and I sat by the remains of our fire for about 30 seconds before we decided to call it a night, since we were exhausted.
The first time I woke Kathy up was around 2 am.
Me: Kathy. Kathy. Kathy. Kathy. SWEETIE!
Kathy: Huh? What's wrong?
Me: What were we thinking? We're not real grownups.
Kathy: What do you mean?
Me: What if the water is rising in the basement and our friends don't check it? What if they did check it and they tried to call us but can't get through? What if it's seeping up the basement stairs RIGHT NOW? Why would we not wait and see if it all went down before we left? Why didn't we bring enough rain gear? I was so distracted when we were packing up, I know better than this. We have to go home in the morning. No, we have to go home RIGHT NOW.
You get the idea. Kathy talked me down, and assured me that it was a bad idea to wake all the kids, dismantle our campsite, and leave at 2 am. She further assured me that we could call our house-sitting friends and see how the basement was doing, and that if it hadn't improved, we could go home the following day. We tried to take a picture of ourselves at this point, to document the trip, but instead took a picture of the ceiling of the tent. Attempt 2 yielded this lovely photo, which I have converted to greyscale to set the mood.
The flash of an iPhone is actually really bright when it's pitch black. And those are the only two pictures I have of our camping trip, other than pictures of the kids. You're welcome.
The second time I woke Kathy up was about 3:15. I woke her up by screaming. I was screaming because someone had just dumped a bucket of cold water directly on my ass. Or at least, that's what it felt like. In reality, when A and I put the tent up in the dark, we didn't pull the rain fly tight. Rain had been pooling in it, and when enough had accumulated, it dumped through the (exposed) screen at the top of the tent. Onto me. Lovely. Kathy notified me that the weather predictions were kind of unreliable, since there was only a 25% chance of precipitation at that time, then shifted all the kids down to the other end of the tent so we could move the air mattress away from the exposed screen. We debated going outside the tent to pull the rain fly tighter but neither of us wanted to be the one to do it. That's about when Kathy noticed that each of the kids had actually slid down the slight incline toward the back wall of the tent, and that the feet of all three sleeping bags were sitting in a pool of water. Fortunately, no one was tall enough to reach the bottom of the sleeping bag, so no one appeared bothered. We dragged them up to the top of the incline and went back to our soggy air mattress, where I offered the theory that the flooded basement, C's apparent illness, and the failure to obtain our Campmor supplies were actually signs from some higher being that we should NOT GO CAMPING. Signs which we, of course, ignored.
The third time I woke Kathy up was around 5ish, as it was starting to get light. I had to go to the bathroom, but it was pouring. I contemplated my options -- walk to the bathroom and get soaked, try to find dry clothes, change, and get back into bed, or strip off all my clothes and pee on the ground outside the tent completely naked, hoping no one noticed (I was actually leaning toward this option for a while). That is when I remembered the umbrella in the car. I ran to the car, grabbed the umbrella, and walked to the bathroom. I also took the opportunity to fix the rain fly.
By the time we woke up for the day, it had finally stopped raining, but everything and everyone was soaked.
TO BE CONTINUED...