Saturday, December 18, 2010

Nothing Good Comes Easy.

So, I promised a post about our recent camping trip. It's become sort of an annual event -- our winter camping extravaganza. Winter camping is always a dicey enterprise and we don't even DO hardcore camping. I mean, we sleep in a camper. A pop-up, but still, a camper. Some of you might remember this camping trip -- one of the most miserable in my life, but they've generally gotten better and I actually look forward to them now.

It doesn't look like I wrote about last year's adventures, but we went up to Unicoi State Park and had a great time. We froze our butts off the first night, but the second night we cranked up both heaters and actually slept pretty warmly.

This year we went to Enota campground and our pop up had been upgraded from a soft-side pop up with few amenities to a hard-side pop up with a built in heater! So we fully anticipated an easy set up and sleeping warmly.

Getting a campsite set up is always frought with stress, at least for our family. Mr. Daddy is, um, shall we say, easily stressed, and if things don't go just right (and they seldom do!), voices might be raised. A teeny bit. Getting a camp site set up after dark is a completely different animal. There are a lot more opportunities for things to go awry.

When we pulled into the campsite it was pitch dark -- problem number one. Problem number two? It was about 20 degrees outside. Mr. Daddy pulled the camper past the site, getting ready to back the camper into the space. The space for the camper was very narrow and I was dispatched to the back to help guide Mr. Daddy into the spot. All of a sudden, a car pulls up behind us, shining its lights into our face. We waved it around, but it just stayed there. Lights on. In our faces. Mr. Daddy sat there. I waved at the car again and I'm pretty sure my aggravation could be read in my wave. Dude, GO AROUND. The car didn't move. More aggressive waving. Finally, finally, it went around.

An older gentleman (henceforth known as Helpful Older Gentleman, or HOG) got out and walked over. "I'm sorry," he said. "I was trying to shine my headlights on the spot so that you could see a little better," he said kindly. Oops.

We finally got the camper into the spot, with the "help" of HOG who kept yelling things like "get on top of it" -- whatever that means. Mr. Daddy then pulled out the power cord, plugged it into the power pole, and hit the switch to raise the electric pop up.


He hit the switch again. Nothing except a slight groan as the motor tried to work. Awesome. He flipped the breakers on the power box and tried the switch again. Still nothing. HOG, who was still hanging "helpfully" around, offered to pull his car over and hook it up to the camper battery. Once we hooked it up, the pop up, well, popped up. HOG 2 pts, Us, 0.

The kids and I hurried inside and turned on the heater, which began blowing warm air immediately. Ah, heaven. I also set up the griddle to start cooking some hot dogs since it was way past suppertime for all of us. I grabbed the griddle and plugged into the nearest outlet and turned it on. Nothing. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Now that just didn't make any sense. The lights were on, the heat was on. Why wasn't the outlet working?

"Babe!" I hollered out the door, "The griddle's not working. And I think the heater's blowing cold air now." And wait, were the lights getting dimmer, too?

Mr. Daddy came in and fiddled with the switch on the griddle. He unplugged it and plugged it back in. "Are you sure you've got it plugged in all the way?" he asked. I just stared at him in disdain, not bothering to dignify that question with answer.

"Look," I said. "The lights are getting dimmer." He reached up and flipped them off and then back on, though they were now on in name only. We looked at each other in the near (freezing) darkness. "See!" I said.

"Oh, it's just the ballasts on the lights," he said. "They have to warm back up." "I don't think we're getting any power from the power pole," I said helpfully. At least in my mind it was said helpfully.

"I'm hungry," whined both kids at once.

Mr. Daddy went back outside and began flipping breakers on the power pole, all the while it was getting darker and colder inside the camper.

In and out, flipping switches, turning the heater on an off. Turning the lights on and off. All of us mystified as to why nothing seemed to be working. By this time, Mr. Daddy and I are both in a state. I'm frustrated, hungry and cold. So is he. In nearly fourteen years of marriage you'd think I'd have learned when to keep my mouth shut, but somehow that just hasn't sunk in yet.

In one of Mr. Daddy's forays into the camper to see if anything was working, I "helpfully" pointed out, yet again, that the heater wasn't working.

That was the straw the broke the proverbial camel's back. "I hope y'all are having fun," he said loudly as he walked back outside, "because this is the LAST TIME we are ever going camping!"

It was quiet for a moment. The Punkin said, in a quiet voice, "Really?"

"No," Bubba said reassuringly. "Sometimes people say things when they're mad that they don't really mean."

Mr. Daddy walked back in. "I don't know what the problem is."

"Let's just go to a hotel for the night," I said. "We can't stay here. It's too cold. We'll get it figured out in the morning." At the mention of hotel, both kids went berserk as staying in a hotel is obviously the coolest thing we could do.

"Let me try one more thing," Mr. Daddy said and he headed back out into the cold, though the inside temp and the outside temp had once again reached equilibrium. As he walked out, I might have said, one more time, "I don't think we're getting any power from the power pole."

Mr. Daddy must have agreed with me because he took the extension cord and ran it across the road to the empty campsite across from us. I wasn't aware of what he was doing, as I was watching my kids eat a healthy supper of potato chips and capri suns in the near darkness in the camper. All of a sudden -- LIGHTS! The kids and I actually cheered.

Mr. Daddy came back in and said "Well, you were right." WHA? Somebody please note this date on a calendar. It turns out we weren't getting any power from the power pole. We ended up having to call the campground's after hours number because by this time it was nearly 9:00. A very nice man came to help us and he and Mr. Daddy poked around out in the dark, switching breakers and futzing around.

Finally, the guy located the problem. The power pole? The one that stood about three feet tall with the large breaker box nailed to the side? That was not the power pole we were supposed to use. No, the correct one, the one that worked, was only about 8 inches high and was literally located at ground level next to the water pump. In the dark it was nearly impossible to find and we being somewhat familiar with the effects of mixing water and electricity, I don't think any of us thought to look for the power panel next to the water pump.

Finally, the lights came on for good. And the heat. At that point I began to laugh. Mr. Daddy looked at me like I'd lost my mind and said "It's not funny!" Oh, but it was. I laughed and laughed and eventually he joined in. Hot dogs were cooked and consumed. A beer or two was had. As we snuggled down under the covers and prepared to go to sleep, Punkin piped up, "Will we ever go camping again, Daddy?"

"Yes," he admitted grudgingly, "but you can bet we're getting this night for free!"


Burgh Baby said...

Are we married to the same man? Or at least brothers? Because I swear mine would have reacted the EXACT same way.

Laurel said...

"I hope y'all are having fun because this is the LAST time we are going camping!" heehehhehhehhee. That made me giggle. Truly and really. Probably because I can identify with him. In our relationship I am the one to get a teensy tinsey irritated pretty easily. Sad to say, but it is true.

I love everything about this story. But you really had me at HOG.

p.s. I asked for a laptop, too. C'mon Santa!

1blueshi1 said...

Oh, wow!!! Talk about a good time was had by all. And, P.S., I am so relieved that Guy doesn't get stressed like that--because I certainly do (currently hoping that I will survive the kids' winter vaca)

Lauren said...

Love it! But I do think y'all are crazy to camp in the freezing cold!! Ida lasted (maybe)15 minutes before hitting up that hotel!

Queen Mother said...

Even though I'd heard most of this story straight from your lips, I laughed aloud as I read this post...This is one of those things you'll talk about years from now when you laugh and talk about the "good ol' days."

Sherri said...

Love your blog! This adventure reminds me so much of going camping when I was a kid.