Yesterday (Friday) was my almost 15-year-old son’s first high school football game. His team was playing an ‘away’ game roughly 250 miles from where we live. (The price we pay for living in a ‘homeschool unfriendly’ community – driving our kids for opportunities.) And even though he’s been telling me for a couple weeks it was extremely unlikely that as a Sophomore he would see any play time, I was excited about going and watching him and cheering for his team.
Here’s what was supposed to happen:
Friday morning we were going to haul our camper (which I have named the Family Travel Lodge) to a campground near where he would be playing. We would leave early-ish in the morning to arrive with plenty of time to set everything up, have a light supper, change into our team gear and get him to the field for warm up. We would then stay overnight Friday, go do fun family activities in the area on Saturday, stay over again and make our way home in leisurely fashion Sunday. Monday was to be a day of unloading the camper and relaxing before the week started up again.
I spent several days (even weeks) preparing for the trip:
- I made reservations at a lovely family friendly campground/RV park quite close to the game site. Amenities included a pool, playground, fully automated bath houses, full hookups including WiFi (which was where I would write my weekly blog update!) and scheduled activities for the kids.
- I made breakfast sandwiches and breakfast burritos that could be frozen ahead of time, then microwaved for a quick, yummy morning treat – very budget friendly and quick. I browned ground beef and baked a loaf of bread so that preparing goulash (a family favorite) would take very little time and provide a healthy, satisfying meal – again, very budget friendly. I also made chicken salad ahead of time so we could have that light supper on Friday before the game with no prep and minimal clean up.
- I did laundry so everyone could take their favorite clothes to wear. I cleaned and stocked the camper with towels, bedding, drinking water, cleaning supplies, cooking gear, etc. – everything we’d need for a fun-filled weekend with virtually no work!
When Friday morning rolled around, the Travel Lodge was loaded and hitched. Big Blue (our older model but paid for and beloved Ford Excursion) was loaded with lawn chairs for the game, cameras, essential oils (because they have to be kept cool), books, toys, drinks, electronics … and children. We were off!
And here’s what actually happened:
We drove about 3 hours with a cross wind gusting around 25 mph. We’d made it about 120 miles. Big Blue started smoking like crazy. Seriously – copious, smelly, terrifying smoke. We stopped. Inspection revealed (DH’s inspection, not mine) that Old Blue was just worn out. Her transmission, while fine for every day driving and light hauling, was simply not up to the task of pulling our behemoth 40′ Travel Lodge another mile. 🙁
I called my son’s football coach. Because the team is based in the city approximately 30 miles from where we were stranded, someone could meet us and take my son on to the ball game. Yay! But panic was beginning to set in that I might miss my baby’s big game. Boo!
Meanwhile, Heroic Husband quickly formulated Plan B.
I called my dad who said he would bring my husband’s pickup truck and meet us in the city. He would drive Old Blue home where we would deal with that situation later. We would hitch the camper to the pickup, scootch in tight (five people in super cab truck would be snug but doable … six would be even snugger but still doable), and forge on to the ball game and our ensuing weekend adventure.
Here’s what happened with Plan B:
My dad was supposed to call when he got close to the city so we could meet him and make the vehicle exchange. He called while we were grabbing a quick lunch to tell us there was a flat tire on the pickup. There was no spare. (Don’t ask, I don’t.) We advised him to call the local tire store and get the service truck to come fix the flat, take the pickup back to the tire store and put on 4 new tires. Hubby was working on Plan C.
Hubs would go to the tire store, make sure the new tires were put on and drive back to where we’d left the camper. He would hitch it up and strike out for the campground. He’d miss most of the game, he said, but he would meet us there and we’d continue on our weekend of carefree fun. Meanwhile, I would drive Old Blue home, grab our Summer Car, load up the remaining 3 children and go on to the ball game. We’d be a few minutes late at this point (the game started at 7:00) but we’d be there and would meet Farm Daddy after the game ended. I called the RV park to inquire about late check in. Aaaaaand Break!
Here’s what happened to Plan C:
The tire store sent a guy, in his personal vehicle, with a hammer, a chisel and an air compressor. None of these items was sufficient to deal with the tire issue on our pickup. We came upon the stranded pickup and ‘the helper’, an hour and a half after first learning of the flat tire situation. Still on the side of the road. Nowhere near the tire store 2 towns over. An hour and a half. Tick, tick, tick … I had just enough time to race home and jump in the car, race 250 miles and catch the last half of my son’s game. But …
My husband still had to get the pickup to the tire store, get the tires on it, drive 120 miles back to where the camper was beached, hitch it and drive another 130 miles to the campground. He wouldn’t be racing anywhere because the wind speeds had only increased. Tick, tick, tick …
He grabbed the spare tire from Old Blue to put on the pickup. It’ll work, he said. He sent me and the kids on home. It will work out, he reassured.
Three minutes later, he called. Come back and pick me up, he said. I did. The spare fit but the brake calipers rubbed on the wheel … the only thing they could do was take the tire to the tire store, fix it, take it back to the pickup and put it on, drive it to the tire store, put on new tires, drive … somewhere.
It was clear that Someone or Something did NOT want us to make this trip in our intended design. I was terrified of what else would go wrong – when I was driving alone with three young children in totally unfamiliar territory. (Did I mention I’d never, ever been to this part of the state? Seriously, it’s clear across the state, y’all — like a whole other country. A foreign one. And I don’t know the language.)
We disappointedly scrapped all the plans. My husband called the RV park and cancelled our reservation. I’m pretty sure we won’t be getting a refund on that.
I was in tears. The day was a complete waste of driving, gas, patience, energy … and my boy was still 250 miles away, alone, without his Mama to support and cheer for him. I was the worst Mama in history — I hadn’t even FED him before we shoveled him over to some good Samaritan for transport. I knew he must be Starving by now. Just as I knew he would never ask a coach or any of his teammates’ parents for help. Because I’d told him I’d be there for him and he trusted that I would. But I wasn’t.
My husband was frustrated, angry, disappointed, exhausted and just as upset about not being there for our son as I was. Well, maybe not as upset as I was – I’m his Mama after all. But he was not having it any better than I.
And the camper was still deserted in a town far, far away and HAD to be retrieved that day.
So. Plan D (for Desperate) was hatched …
I would take Farm Daddy to the tire store where he would oversee the pickup situation. As soon as it was resolved, he would drive to the camper, hitch it and bring it home. Alone. Meanwhile, I would drive the car to the ball game – at this point, getting there, hopefully, shortly after it was completely over – and pick up our son and bring him home. Alone.
My parents were enlisted to stay with the other 3 kids and the dog at our house until one of us got home.
My Mama heart was breaking. My husband called the coach to make sure someone could stay with our boy until I arrived. Then he called our son and explained vaguely what had happened and that we weren’t coming. Or that I was coming. Alone. I took the kids home, printed a map of my route, grabbed cash for the toll roads and drove away into the rapidly passing afternoon. It was 5:35 p.m.
My husband, hero of my dreams, took care of getting that camper home and unloaded all the things we’d need to sleep in our own beds.
I drove like a woman possessed. I know I had to have been guided by God Himself because I never once got lost or turned around. And I have the worst sense of direction of any human on this planet. Really. Just no clue where I am most of the time. But I made it to the ball field without a single missed turn. And as I walked from my car toward the stadium lights, I saw that the game was still going … 5:56 left on the clock in the 4th quarter. I had made it! I hadn’t missed his first game. Not completely anyway.
I watched him on the sidelines. He hadn’t played all evening, just like he warned me. But I didn’t care. I could see him from my spot on the bleachers and that was enough to make the entire day’s distress vanish. I left a text on his phone that I was there – that I had found him.
When I met up with him outside the locker room, I said, “Hey – let’s go get you some food. I bet you’re hungry.” And he said, “Yeah, I’m starving. Then, I just want to go home.”
My husband beat us home by about an hour and a half. He was so tired. But he waited up for us, to make sure we made it safely. Bed was calling all three of us … the girls and the little guy had long been visiting dreamland.
This morning, the girls unloaded the things we needed from the camper that Daddy hadn’t gotten to the night before. They were giggling and having almost as much fun as they’d had loading the camper in preparation for the grand adventure than went terribly awry. I think they’ll stay in it tonight and tomorrow night, just for fun.
And next Friday, when our son’s team plays another out of town game in basically the same place as this week, we’ll load up the Travel Lodge and try it again. We’re calling this
Plan E a ‘let’s see how things go’ trip. Plans are for chumps …
Love & Blessings,
That Farm Mama