Friday, December 29, 2006

Cabin Fever

My parents have a cabin on the Kashwitna River. With the kids out of school this week and Andrew taking the week off work we figured it was the perfect time to enjoy a few days of family togetherness. Heh. Family togetherness.

The cabin is two hours north of Anchorage, depending on the traffic in Wasilla, and after packing enough food to feed the population of Peru (why Peru? I'm not sure, but that's the country that came to mind first--perhaps it's the perfect alliteration) plus boots, hats, mittens, neck warmers, long underwear, coats and snow pants we hit the road at 1pm with enough time to give us a leisurely afternoon at the cabin.

Two hours later we pulled to the gate and Andrew said, "Okay, where are the keys?"

"Right here," I said confidently, pulling out my key ring from my cool black laptop bag (yes, I planned on writing plenty over the weekend).

I looked at the key ring in my hands and it hit me like a avalanche that a month ago I had lightened my key ring by removing the cabin keys and leaving them--for safekeeping--in the kitchen drawer. A fact that would have been helpful to remember two hours earlier back in Anchorage.

"Um . . . " I paused, not sure how to reveal this information.

"Um . . . " I looked once again at the keys in my hand and practically whispered, "I guess I kind of left the keys at home."

Those situations show the measure of a man. He had every right to kick me out into the snow and make me hike it back to town, but he didn't. He took a deep breath. "You're sure?"

"Yes," I said in my meekest voice. "I'm really sorry. I mean really sorry."

Solution? We had to drive an hour back to Wasilla for a set of spare keys. By that time it was getting dark (remember this is Alaska and the sun sets around 3:30 or 4pm in December) the wind picked up and started blowing snow over the road in long misty billowing blankets, making it very difficult to drive. It was slow going.

After struggling in the dark to find the house--it's Big Lake, addresses are optional--picking up the keys and making an emergency donut run we once again headed north, keys in hand, to brave death through the blizzard.

By the time we arrived it was 7pm and everyone was starving. As I turned my attentions to preparing dinner I noticed Spencer whimpering on the couch. I felt his forehead in that magical mother way and determined that he had a fever. Flushed cheeks, watery eyes, lack of energy, stomach ache. I'm no doctor but the signs were there: he was sick. I pumped him full of Tylenol and went back to dinner.

Grace soon joined me in the kitchen and reported there was a large puddle of water on the bathroom floor. Upon a closer inspection and one horrendous, spewing flush later it was determined that the pipes had frozen and cracked, backing sewage up enough to cover the bathroom floor.

By this time Andrew was beginning to wonder if there was a reason we weren't supposed to be at the cabin, the stars seemed to be against us and the future didn't look bright. I managed to get dinner on the table and by 8:15pm when the dishes done we decided that without a toilet we were toast. It was just a bit more "roughing it" than I had bargained for so we decided to go home rather than spend the night with four kids and no indoor plumbing.

After packing everything up once again and while doing a final sweep through the cabin to make sure we hadn't forgot anything I noticed that in the bottom of the shower where I'd thrown the wet towels and rugs that had been soaked in the original flooding there was now nothing but water--well, water and sewage-soaked towels. Apparently not only was the toilet backing up but when I'd done the dishes it had backed up into the shower.

Lovely. Another moment or two of cleanup and we were fleeing for our lives. Enough already! We can take a hint--no cabin for us. I wouldn't have been surprised if, looking back in our rear-view mirror, we would have seen fire and brimstone raining down--the signs of our doomed trip were of Biblical proportions. We had tainted water, a sick oldest son, all that was missing was a nasty plague of frogs or locust.

The two-hour drive back to Anchorage put us in at 11. Seven and a half hours and nothing but leg cramps to show for it. At least Andrew and I had plenty of conversation time.

Oh, and did I mention we left Spencer's boots up there? I figure it'll be easier to buy him new ones than go back to retrieve his old ones. Family togetherness takes a lot out of you.

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Leslie said...

I thought my family was the only one to have adventures like that!

As horrible as they seem at the time, they're the ones we seem to enjoy remembering the most.

Anonymous said...

Aw Jeez, I'm so sorry!

That is totally something that would happen to my husband and me. That's why we stay home. We haven't had a real vacation since our honeymoon over 5 years ago. We tried to take SF away one weekend and we came home that same night. Yup. We're adventurous like that.

Char said...

Sometimes adventures like these make the best stories! Glad you could keep your sense of humor the whole time.

Anonymous said...

Kashwitna is like that. My wife and I used to have a cabin there, we sold it to make a down payment on the house where we live now, because of the seemingly unending bad luck there. That, and we didn't have indoor plumbing there.

At least you survived to share the story!

Rayne said...

Oh, wow. Now that's an adventure! One I am sure you could have totally done without.
Glad you guys came through it okay.

Stephanie said...

That completely sounds like the things that ahppen to us. We always chalk it up to memory makers and character builders! sorry you missed out on a relaxing time at the cabin!

Sandy said...

Good choice on not going back for the boots.. I doubt anything else would have happened though, as that sort of stuff (sick kid, plumbing, and keys) generally happens in three's, right?

Marie N. said...

Sounds like me locking the keys in the van during a brief stop on our family vacation. I was so thankful my husband kept a good sense of humor about it. We had some 400 more miles to drive that day.

Hopefully the repairs can be made in time to get a full summer's enjoyment from the cabin.

J said...

Oh dear, that completely sucks. Glad no bears decided to break the wall down or anything! (I've lived in Alaska, I know bears don't break down walls, but hey, it was that kind of day!)

lizzie said...

quite an adventure! but i'm sure someday you will look back on it and laugh. it's those kind of things that my kids and i can laugh about now.

Cece said...

Oh my goodness what an adventure! Yup, sounds like it just wasn't meant to be.

Happy New Year!

allysha said...

whew! that sounds exhausting!

chelle said...

egads that is so so terrible that all that went wrong in such a short span of time! Glad you are home safe and sound!

katJ said...

That sounds miserable! Although, it's almost so miserable it's least to someone who wasn't there and didn't have to experience it.

Kristin said...

Someday you will laugh... ;-)bksagtjl

Damselfly said...

Oy! I don't know how you do it.

Jenny said...

holy crap! I was expecting a murderer with a hook for a hand to jump out next after that series of horror. You did good getting out when you did I think.

Jane said...

I agree with Leslie. As bad as it was this is the one that the kids will laugh about for years to come. We had a Christmas once where everyone in the house had a stomach flu. I still remember sitting in the bathroom with my father (every other time my mom was there) and a hot shower steaming to help me breath better after puking my guts out. It sounds aweful, but it was in it's own way a special time. Just me and dad making small talk in the bathroom in the middle of the night. I know he doesn't remember it this way, but I do.

Wacky Mommy said...

Oh, you poor babies! Glad you "got away" to your own house.

Dan said...

Oh man! Sorry to hear about all these problems but you two really seemed to handle it like a princess and a prince!

You'll be laughing at it all soon! Maybe you are already! :)

Happy New Year to you!

The Lazy Organizer said...

That sounds so horrible! I'm glad you made it home safely.

See, that is why I am so determined to never leave my house. I love my house. Why would I leave it for some unknown adventure? I'm not very adventurous!

An Ordinary Mom said...

WOW! Glad you all made it home in one piece.

And as exhausting and crazy as this experience was for you, it sounds like you handled it like a champ! What a remarkable mother and wife you are.

allrileyedup said...

In addition to feeding Peru, it sounds as if you packed enough to clothe the country as well. :)

Sorry about the misfortunes. Like you said, at least you guys got in some good conversation!

wayabetty said...

OMG Michelle! That's just awful!! They say "when it rains, it pours" right?! I hope you'll have a happy and healthy New Year!!

Chris said...

Hello! You know, I honestly can't remember how I found you blog, but it was from another one and another one...well, you get the idea. Anyhoo, when I watched the Ellen show today I immediately thought of you! I had read this post last week and right now, she is having people write in and tell her about their worst travel story. She will pick a winner and the prize is a private jet to go anywhere you want. I think this story is worth telling! Here's the link, and good luck!

P.S.-great blog. My best friend of 40 38 years lives in Soldotna. One of these days I'll make it there. lol