THE PLAN: Take my wife, 2 kids, and dog camping for 3 nights. We all had the time off, and we hadn’t done anything together as an “entire” family unit. (By “entire”, I mean the dog is included.)

WHAT TRANSPIRED: On July 12th I called a few places on the coast looking for a camping spot for the 19th…I called Patrick’s Point State Park, a very beautiful, and very popular camping destination north of Eureka. This place is typically ALWAYS full. Under ideal circumstances you have to reserve your space 6 months ahead of time. I decided to call them up, and just check.

WOW.

There were 27 spots available as of 2:30pm. This looks good. The lady at the kiosk said they had been very slow, and she didn’t think they’d fill up that day.

WOW.

I told her I had the car loaded (which I didn’t) and was leaving at about 3pm, and did she think she’d have any spots. She said, she couldn’t hold one for me, but she thought there’d be a few left.

Forget the 19th, we’re going today.

I called my wife, and said, “Hurry, home, we’re going camping tonight at Patrick’s Point.”

She was a little surprised, but excited because she loves that place, understands the difficulty of getting in, and we’d been wanting to go as a family for awhile. She agreed.

In the time before she got home, I managed to pack the truck in a manor that any professional mover would have been proud of. I loaded all the available camping food we had in the ice chest, the tent, the cots, the chairs, baby stuff, dog stuff, everything in the van. My wife got home; we finished some minor packing and hit the road at about 3:30.

We were making pretty good time on the way over. I was driving, and know the road well from years of driving it myself. It’s one of the few roads I actually drive at a decent speed. Driving this way tends to upset my wife’s stomach; she gets carsick. I said I’d stop at the next rest area, so we could relax a bit, get the dog a rest, and use the facilities. I also said she could drive, to alleviate the motion sickness.

My wife usually drives very fast. I figured we wouldn’t be losing any time by switching drivers. Apparently curving roads at high altitudes make my wife go from driving like Mario Andretti to driving like a 90 year old women. She was going way too slow. She was going so slowly, leaves were passing us. I finally insisted we stop at the next rest stop so we could feed the baby, give the dog a rest, and switch drivers again.

She agreed and we stopped just east of Willow Creek. We fed the baby, and let the dog do his business. We switched drivers then decided to get a move on, it was getting late, and we really wanted to make sure we’d get a spot.

I took over the reigns again and tried to make up for lost time. I was driving more offensively than defensively to put it plainly. I was accelerating out of turns, cutting corners when safe, and going for the gusto. This I guess didn’t set well with our 7 month old. The next thing I knew he was doing his best at trying to cover our entire back seat in bright orange vomit.

“OH MY GOD THE BABY’S PUKING!!! PULL OVER!!!” my wife was screaming.

Quickly I peered into the back noticed projectile vomit and found a place to pull over. We took the baby out of the car, stripped his puke-covered clothes off, and tried to remove anything else that had been touched by the bright orange fluid. 20 minutes and 45 baby wipes later we were back on the trail, only at a considerably slower rate.

Finally about 7:45 we got to the campground.

Once there, we discovered there weren’t any available campsites. We had tinkered with the idea earlier that if there weren’t any spots when we arrived, we’d get a hotel for one night, then get a spot when one opened up in the morning. We took a second trip around the campground, and discovered a spot where they were doing some construction. The sites all seemed to be fine for camping, they just didn’t have the restrooms, or showers nearby like the others did.

We decided we’d take one of these spots, and make do in it, until morning, and then we’d be right there to grab another, better spot as one opened in the morning…plus we’d save the $60 on a hotel room.

We pulled into the spot and set to work trying to get camp set up before nightfall set in. Getting camp set up was a bit of a chore. We had to tie the dog up to a tree first off, which didn’t make him happy, and then he and my 3 year old kept getting tied up together in his leash. This made my son distraught that he couldn’t move, and it made the dog freaked, because he was tied to something that wouldn’t stop screaming. This happened on several occasions.

The tent was bigger than one person could handle alone, so we had to find a spot for our starving baby to sit while we set up the tent. All of this proved to be a little more than all of our nerves could handle, and we all began to bicker with one another. We yelled at each other, the dog, the kids, anyone was fair game.

Finally camp got set up.

We took inventory, and realized we had to make some decisions; The baby needed eat, and we couldn’t find his bottle anywhere…we assumed we’d left it on the side of the road after he lost his dinner. We needed some firewood, or else we wouldn’t be eating, and we’d get pretty cold. We needed a few other food items as well. A trip to the store was going to take at least 45 minutes, and it was now dark. My wife was moving for us getting a hotel, and I was still pushing towards toughing out the camping trip. (getting a hotel would signal defeat as far as I was concerned) We finally decided to just go get the stuff, hurry back, to get our camping experience going. So we packed up the entire family and headed to Trinidad 5 miles away to get some groceries…it was now 9:30pm.

Thank God Ray’s was still open. We went in and overpaid for a lot of food that we might not have really needed, we got a bottle, but it had the wrong kind of nipple on it. We paid $24 for some firewood, and $6 for a giant match that we could light our lanterns, stoves, and fires with. Like a good consumer I tried the lighter before I bought it, and it worked nicely in the store, too bad that’d be the last time it worked.

Finally about 10:30 we returned to the campsite, and got the baby a bottle. We struggled mightily to get a fire going with the few matches I had in my bag. Eventually though we got a flame that lasted, and we could relax…

The baby went to bed shortly after the fire was made, and we set to the task of getting some dinner in our bellies. (At almost 11pm) We roasted some hot dogs, and made some hot chocolate. The whole time we were eating the dog was roped up where he wouldn’t harass us, which didn’t make him very happy, he whined a little, which woke the baby up, which annoyed my wife, which caused her to get grumpy with me and my 3 year old, which in turn caused me to get grumpy too.

Finally we decided it was done, we WERE NOT camping anymore and we were getting a hotel, then going home in the morning.

So at 11:20 at night I proceeded to pack the entire camp up, with only a flashlight at my disposal (the lanterns had gone dead) taking a huge tent down by yourself, with a flash light in your mouth is NOT easy, nor is it fun. I did it though, and eventually at about 12:40 we were on our way to a hotel. We settled on the Patrick’s Point Inn, about 2 miles away from the campground. We paid $70 for a room with two bedrooms, and a small kitchen. It was a hefty price for a nights sleep, but at this point we were all fried, and we needed it. We figured the boys had had a long night, and would at least sleep in until 9 in the morning.

5am came, and the boys were ready to be awake. My wife and I were not. We of course had to get up anyway. I took the dog for a walk, to let him relieve himself, and we loaded the kids up, and hit the road. We still needed to stop at the store AGAIN. We had to find a baby bottle with the right kind of nipple, I needed some coffee, and we thought some baby Dramamine might be nice. We stopped at a larger Ray’s supermarket in Arcata, on our way out. We went inside and put the boys in shopping carts, and went to get the few things we needed.

I had my 3-year old, Bernardo in my cart with me.

“I don’t feel good dad”, he said.

Bernardo tends to exaggerate a little, and be a bit over dramatic at times in places he doesn’t like to be, like a shopping cart.

“You’re not sick…knock it off” I told him, “You’re fine.”

“NO. I don’t feeel goood.” He whined…looking kind of pale

“Bernardo, KNOCK IT OFF…YOU ARE FINE!! We’ll be done soon..”

I turned to look at something in the aisle, and turned back to see Bernardo heaving his dinner, and whatever else was in his stomach all over aisle 8.

“OOOOOH man” I said…I felt really bad for not listening to him, but I learned a lesson anyway. My wife had gone to get a bag for him to chuke in, and the man behind the counter hadn’t seemed too interested to help her, so she didn’t get the bag in time…after the floor was covered in sick, he felt bad too about not listening to my wife’s needs and cleaned up the mess. I did offer to clean it up, but the guy happily insisted he’d do it.

We got the coffee, and the Dramamine (for everyone but the baby) and a new nipple, and headed for home.

Thankfully, other than a few minor traffic delays we got home without any further incident.

I unloaded the car, and we decided that the trip was a learning experience for us. We learned our family isn’t grown up enough yet to camp as a collective unit. The dog was the best behaved member of the trip.

Later that evening after al the hub-bub had calmed down, I got my paybacks for not believing my son’s story of being ill. I got the same thing he had only 20 times worse. I spent the next 8 hours in a hell somewhere between heaving my guts out, and trying to fall asleep with a horrible fever.

Overall it was a horrible experience I wouldn’t wish on anyone, but it goes to show you; when you think things can’t get worse…they can. When you think the worst is over, it might not be, and when your 3-year old son says he feels sick…find a restroom.