The plan was set in motion a few weeks ago...my family and two other families from work would take a five hour drive into the mountains and camp for the 4th of July weekend. It would be a great chance to get out of the 110+ degree temperatures in the desert of Yuma. I had Friday through Sunday off, but had to work the night shift Thursday night. I arrived home about 8am on Friday morning, intent on loading the minivan and heading out. I figured by 2 or 3pm I would be comfortable in the cool mountains napping in a hammock. I couldn't wait!
I began hauling items to the van and that is when I received my first sign that things were not going to go as planned. As I walked past the front of the vehicle I noticed a completely flattened left front tire. No big deal!! I put down my stuff and began getting the spare out from under the vehicle. It was a full size wheel so I figured, minor inconvenience...by 3:30 or 4pm I'll be in my hammock. I changed the tire, not without some difficulty, as the last person to remove that wheel had torqued the lugnuts to the point that it almost required a small nuclear explosion to remove them. Nonetheless, mission accomplished.
We loaded the van up and hit the road. Problem number 2...once on the interstate I began feeling a pulse on the steering wheel. There was a slight vibration and instantly I began running through my head the possibilities. Tire poorly balanced, suspension problem, and about three other possibilities. I knew this was going to crush my son, who was quite possibly looking forward to the weekend even more than I was, but I wasn't going to risk a five hour drive and the possibility of being stranded in the middle of the desert on whatever was causing the problem. This was the first of two good decisions I made this day.
We turned and headed back to the house. I felt bad enough for my son that I decided that we would still go camping at Mittry Lake, which was only about 6 miles from home. I also decided that we would hook the boat up to my truck and take two vehicles to the lake. This turned out to be the final good decision I made this day. Well, at least we were still going camping, though it would now be in the heated desert. I decided that swimming in the lake and finding a nice, palm tree shaded spot would make it okay.
We arrived without incident. We began unloading the van and I took the truck to the ramp to unload the boat. Before long things were clicking...boat in the water...boat driven back to our camping spot...a short walk back to my truck and trailer...truck and trailer back to the camping spot. No further issues, but I did notice I was beginning to feel a bit fatigued. I decided it was time for me to rest and relax like I had planned. I received a text from our friends that were at the campsite we were planning on being at. They wanted me to call them. The only problem with this was I had no signal at the campsite. I knew I had a signal back at the main road before going into the camping area, so I drove the van out there to call them. After finishing my call, I turned around to head back to camp and BOOOOMM...there went the right front tire! Now this event sucks for a number of reasons. First, the van is now stuck out here as I do not have a spare tire in my possession. Second, I am about two miles from camp, which I will have to walk in the desert heat. Third, I am wearing flip-flops.
I begin my little 30 minute desert death march like many, mumbling to myself about better decisions I could have made to avoid my current trouble, and finishing it with a sense of relief that I could now find a shady place to sit and sulk a while. After drinking about a half gallon of water, I decide I now deserved a frosty cold beer. I found the shadiest area to be the front seat on my boat. I plopped down on it and began my "cooling off" period.
After 5 to 10 minutes, my son brought to our attention the fact that there was water in the back of the boat. I turned to find that my son was no liar. I walked to the back of the boat and my preliminary investigation revealed that it was time to replace my drain plug, as it was allowing a small amount of water to seep into the boat. It honestly wasn't that big of a deal, but I thought I would settle in the back seat for a while and use a jug to get the water out of the back. As I was leaning over my motor at the back of the boat...out of nowhere a large (I seriously mean large) snake launched itself out of the water directly at my face!!! (NO, I am not dramatizing this)
I jumped back and screamed! Now I know it would have been more masculine for me to have written that I yelled or hollered, but I have to man up and be honest in my articles, so I am admitting to you that it most assuredly came out as a scream!! I jumped back as the minimum 4 foot long snake entered the boat. I was making my exit across the front of the boat when my flooring gave way and I came crashing through to the floor of the boat. Once out of the boat, I gathered my wits and my manhood, and went on the offensive to rid the snake from my boat. I climbed back into the boat, armed with a hot dog roasting poker (weapon of opportunity). Once at the back of the boat, the snake saw me, and immediately turned and fled out of the back of the boat.
It's funny how my son doesn't talk about how the snake saw me and ran, he only seems to like to talk about the loud scream that he was not used to hearing from his father. I have since attempted to enlighten him to how he might react if a large reptile launched itself at his face, but he is more fond of ridiculing his father. It seems to be more fun to him. I wonder where he gets that from?
We attempted to settle down from this event, but never really did. Nobody wanted to go back in the water and I was completely exhausted at this point. An hour or so later we decided to load up the truck and head back home to barbecue and swim in our pool. As I was using some tie down straps to hold items down in the bed of my truck, one snapped back and smashed the knuckle of my thumb. This, though a small event in comparison to the others of the day, arguably was the most painful, so I felt it was important to include in the day of misery.
It was quite a day and I am still not completely recovered as I type this today. The misfortune is funny to laugh about now, but if you put it all in perspective, the day was actually a blessing. We could have been travelling 75 mph when that second tire blew. We could have been in the middle of nowhere. If we had taken just the van to the lake we would have been stuck there until I was able to rally someone to pick us up. When I was younger these type of events would anger me and stress me out. As I have grown older I have discovered that if you think about bad things that happen in life, often you can find positives in them. My son thinks the whole chain of events is hilarious now, so indirectly, I helped him enjoy the day in spite of not making it to the mountains.
The biggest positive of all of this; however, is that my family and I still had the freedom to go and do all of these crazy things...Happy 4th of July!!!