Ah, summer. Three months of pure bliss with our perfect children, enjoying unstructured days of love, and of course, infamous family outings. Let's be honest for a minute here. Does anyone really like family outings? Is it ever really worth it to leave the house WITH the kids? No matter how adorable, charming and glorious they may appear on Facebook and blogs, I KNOW almost all family outings are actually exercises in torture in more ways than one. Do the few picture-perfect moments make them worth it? I am totally up in the air on this one. It's a good thing I have an adventurous, motivated, thrill-seeking husband who actually wants to experience life with the kids and makes the effort to see that it happens. Or I might never leave my house. Not joking.
Let's examine a recent little outing that had its fair share of ups and downs. I'm still trying to decide if the whole experience was worth the... effort.
It began as most of our outings tend to begin, with a hunting motivation in mind. Jason drew out for a deer tag out by Vernon, which is west of Lehi. Way west. What a perfect excuse to go on a little family picnic/fishing trip to Vernon Reservoir while scouting for deer and basking in our love for each other all at the same time. If you haven't been to the classy V.R. or heard of it, it's probably because you haven't gotten drunk, beat your kids and threw trash in a lake lately, because everyone we saw out there was doing all three of those things in random order. Also, public urination was involved in all three. And yes, there were two quite nice "porter potties" (as my kids call them) nearby. I'm assuming they were in such good condition because they never get used. Lucky for us.
Moving on. As we drove out through the lone and dreary desert on our way to the VR, we encountered an approaching train. A very long approaching train. We were in the middle of absolutely positively nowhere. I don't even know where the track came from. Suddenly it was just there in front of us, and there was a train on it. We were about two seconds too late to make it across, so we sat and merrily counted train cars. For a very long time. The train went and went and went. Until it stopped, never to move again. We couldn't see the end in either direction, which is saying a lot, because I'm sure we could almost see the north and south poles from our position in the vast wilderness. The husband was not impressed.
So, what does a huntin' man with an agenda do when he can't go over it, and he can't go under it or even through it? He must go around it. This, despite all obstacles, which include: a begging wife, frightened children, a sign that says, "DO NOT ENTER" and the absence of an actual road. "I'm sure we can get across somewhere," he says with bravado as he peels through the dirt onto the... path next to the train track.
Tense moments ensued. I had the thought, "This is some mighty fine blogging material, I should get out my camera," but the thought was quickly squelched by a glance at the determined and, shall we say, humorless husband across the truck from me. We continued on the path of terror for quite some time. It didn't get any better. In fact, it got significantly worse. After about 15 minutes/years, we passed the front of the train. Unfortunately, we were now separated by a large barbed wire fence and a steep incline to the track, both of which made passage impossible.
"There must be a crossing somewhere out here," came the grumbles, admist Mormon curse words (ie. "flippin' shiz-bitin' monkey-liver crap-headed train drivers", etc), from the driver's seat. Against my better judgement, I used the time to educate my children on why patience is a virtue and how if you simply wait and think positive thoughts, all the trains in your life will eventually move out of the way and let you through unscathed (not true, but that didn't stop me). What did stop me was the same thing that stopped the whole adventure: a sudden series of giant holes in the ground, impossible to see in front of us because of the six-foot high sage brush we were barreling through at near sonic speed.
Suddenly, the truck was leaping through the air, carrying six terrified passengers with it. There was a crash. A burst of light (not really). A shower of glass. Screaming (that was me). Then all was quiet in the jungle. What in the living heck just happened?
I guess the 4-wheeler in the back of the truck must have been feeling lonely and wanted to join in all the fun and love going on in the front of the truck, because it came right through the window and showered all of us in shards of glass, especially the three frightened little souls strapped into the back seat. That was a bad moment, I'm not gonna lie.
Jason and I jumped out of the steaming truck and tried to calm the kids while we unbuckled them and lifted them out of their glass blanket and onto the dusty, thorn-covered ground. Thanks to the design of modern vehicle glass and the mercy of heaven above, there was not a single cut on any of the kids. We swept out the truck the best we could with our bare hands and broke out the rest of the window to prevent further tragedy.
Now that we were stopped, we could read the sign that was looming a few yards ahead of us, which had been previously obstructed by the fact that we were in motion, sailing through the air toward it, aware only of a bright orange blur on the ground somewhere far beneath us.
It read, "Warning: Explosives Testing Ground. Do Not Enter."
Ohhhhh. So that's why we weren't supposed to enter. Got it.
It was during this time that the train passed us by, mocking our misfortune with each clack of its wheels. We tried not to make eye contact.
As we drove sheepishly back the way we came, Abby said, "Look, Mom, mist!" I turned around to see the truck being filled with clouds of heavy, lung-sucking dust. All I could do was smile in my heart as I pulled the neck of my shirt up over my mouth to ensure oxygen. It only took a small amount of self-control to not say a word about being right, right, right. I was able to do this because I was so relieved that we could finally just head home. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
|Later, after the mist had settled.|
This didn't stop the family outing from coming. It came. Somehow or other, it came just the same. As we finally crossed the now-clear train track, I took a deep, dust-filled breath and prayed that we would someday cross this track again, on our way home, and that it would be sooner rather than later.
We arrived at the VR, stepped over feces, cooked up our tin foil dinners, fished whole-heartedly (some of us), were insulted by fellow reservoir-dwellers, and called it good.
Now it was time to drive through the hills and look for deer. The evening became very pleasant and the roads weren't quite as dusty. We were in good spirits because #1, we were still alive, and #2, the truck was still running. There were a lot of attractive bucks roaming the hills (according to Jason) and it was actually kind of enjoyable. We drove and drove and drove.
And then I saw it. A humble, wise creature, perched atop a fence post. An owl. A real owl! There to bless our fortune and misfortune and make the whole trip (possibly) worth it.
I made Jason slam on the brakes, and as we skidded through gravel and dirt once again, I exclaimed, "Kids, do you know how rare this is? We have never seen an owl in the wild before! Ever! And now there is one right in front of us, just waiting for me to take his picture!" I snapped away as he looked at us with pity and respect. A moment later, he took flight, probably to go tell all his friends about us.
We drove away with reverence at what had just happened. But that wasn't the end of the owl sightings. Suddenly, the kids were yelling that there was another one! Then a few moments later, another one after that! How could this be? Were we being blessed in owls to make up for our abundant misfortune/lack of judgement on somebody's part that wasn't mine? In the end we saw a total of eleven owls. Eleven!
We drove home as the full moon settled over the desert and it was finally too dark to spot any more deer unless they bounded in the road in front of us. We had a fun little stop at the one and only store/gas station in the town of Vernon. It was closed, with a hand-written sign on the door that read, "Sorry, we are out of gas until Monday." I'm very grateful that we were not also out of gas; otherwise, we might still be there. I was about to snap a picture of the quaint little note, but the owner of the gas station suddenly appeared, probably startled and astonished by the presence of actual humans at his store. He let Jason in to buy each of us our very own ice cream bar. I didn't even worry about the sticky bath of goo that my children were creating in the dusty back seat as they worked on their ice cream. I was just grateful to be going home. In one piece.
If you've seen the movie The Fantastic Mr. Fox, which I highly recommend, you are familiar with the closing scene in which Mr. Fox points out some universal truths. One is that all foxes are slightly allergic to linoleum... but it's cool to the paw. And that they say their tree may never grow back... but someday something will. In the wisdom of Mr. Fox, family outings might be pain and torture... but they provide memories. It might cost $228 to repair the back window of a truck that an airborne 4-wheeler sailed through... but now the new window has a convenient sliding door. I guess good can come from all things. But I'm curious to know... do YOU think family outings are worth it? Please answer my question: Family Outings, Blessing or Curse? You may reply with a simple B or C. Dish away.