So every year I come back from my family reunion with stories to tell - usually involving rain, hail, thundersnow and other weather-related disasters. Because that's a lot of what usually happens at our family reunion. And this year, we had none of that. We had lovely weather. We really had an uneventful and enjoyable trip... for the most part. I even said to my mother: "I don't even have anything to blog about from this trip!" I forgot that you have to be careful what you wish for...
We headed out on July 3... we waited until Aaron got off work because the air conditioning in the van had broken yet again. I'd taken it in to have it looked at, but they said it would cost almost $600 to fix it. We just weren't willing to spend that kind of money on the Crappy Old Van (COV). So instead, we planned to drive at night when possible and bought these:
They actually work really well. We used them in the COV and felt pretty comfortable in spite of the lack of AC.
We drove to my sister Melissa's house in Saratoga, WY - about halfway between our house and my parents' house, so it makes a perfect stopping point to break up the trip. We stayed there Wednesday night (more like Thursday morning, since I think we arrived at 2 a.m.) and went out to play for the 4th of July on Thursday. We missed the community breakfast and the parade because everyone was too slow to get moving. But we were in time for the community BBQ lunch! Except it was cancelled. But no matter. We loaded up the kids and went to a wonderful park by the river. We bought pizza and ate it for lunch at the park. It was great!
Haley's big obsession was with the carnival that was in town. She REALLY wanted to go to the carnival. We kept postponing because it was just so hot. We knew it was out in the open with no shade at the carnival. So we convinced her we would go home, have some dinner, and then go to the carnival. That plan worked perfectly - right up to the moment we pulled into the parking lot and the clouds opened up with pouring rain! Haley was devastated, but I was actually a bit relieved. On checking the prices (by running through the rain to the ticket booth) I discovered that it was REALLY pricey... and there were really only 2 or 3 rides that our kids would have been able to try anyway. Uncle Brian (my brother-in-law, not my identically named brother who is also Uncle Brian - very confusing for the children, who occasionally tell people that my sister is married to my brother) instead made a deal with Haley that he and Melissa would come down to visit us and we'd all go to an amusement park together. And we went home and watched some fireworks from the playroom window (it was still raining, after all).
The next day we headed for Utah. Brian had to work, so my sister packed up her two girls and caravanned with us. Which we were glad of when we got a flat tire along the way. In the end, not a big deal, though, and pretty easily fixed.
We spent a couple of days at the Reunion and had a wonderful time. Almost all of my brothers and sisters were there and lots of aunts, uncles, and cousins. I'm not sure what the official tally of attendees was this year, but it's often around 200. The weather stayed pleasant - not too hot, not too cold, and no rain/hail/etc. during lunch! I did manage to pick up a rather spectacular sunburn. I was able to see my grandparents, who are so special to me. I don't get to see them often enough and they're getting so frail. I worry about them a lot. Grandma has had a few strokes and Grandpa has cancer. They're just not in good health anymore. When it was time for Grandma and Grandpa to leave, Grandpa made a point of talking with each of us and saying a few words. He was pretty intense about it. I hope I'm wrong, but it felt like a goodbye.
And then we headed back to Saratoga. We stayed the night there and headed home the next morning for a nice, easy trip to Denver. We love being able to stop over halfway now, because it just makes the kids so much less restless when we're able to break up the time in the car.
Our nice, easy trip to Denver came to an abrupt halt about 90 minutes into the trip. The COV couldn't climb hills anymore. It was struggling to stay above 50 m.p.h. - which is a problem on I-80. Luckily, Aaron managed to make it to an exit - and even better, an exit with a rest area! As we pulled into the rest area, the COV suddenly died completely. Despite losing the power steering, Aaron managed to coast into a parking spot where, with a dramatic bang and clouds of steam and antifreeze, something under the hood exploded! The COV was dead.
Fortunately, we have roadside assistance. Unfortunately, turns out that this is one of the few rest areas in Wyoming that does not offer free wi-fi. And there's no cell reception. And the payphone was broken. And the onsite caretaker was not willing to let us use her landline. But there were several very kind people stopped at the rest area who tried to help us diagnose/fix the problem, tried to let us use their cellphones (they had no service either), and even gave the kids bubbles to play with to entertain them. Really, there are MUCH worse places we could have been stuck.
A kind couple took my sister's phone number and drove away, promising to call Melissa and tell her where we were. Melissa got the call and came to the rescue with her sister-in-law, who helped us load all our luggage and children into her minivan and took us back to Melissa's house to regroup.