About that thing I whined about for an entire month, and then never even talked about after it happened…
Observant readers may have noticed that December’s Truth Be Told event wasn’t the end of me. Truth be told, I thought it might be. There was a bit of complaining. And whining.
Lemme’ just look back…
There was complaining here.
And oh, yes, I see I was still whining here as well.
I’m a bit like a pit bull when it comes to complaining and whining. Sorry to put y’all through that.
Anyhoo, a few of you fine folks have called me out on my complete glaze-over of the event itself. Just dropped it like it never even happened. Oops.
Sometimes you have to block out the most scarring moments in your life.
Mercifully, this was not one of those times.
It was just that I told my story on December 30th, right there in the middle of the busiest time of year, and while I have endless energy at all times to complain and whine, I don’t always break through the bustle of the season to count my blessings, and even when I do, it doesn’t always trickle over into the ever-ready blogosphere. Apologies.
So let’s start with what we know:
- I don’t public speak. It’s a verb, and I don’t do it.
- I was cornered by clowns, and strong-armed (they are large, burly-type clowns) into being a featured storyteller for An Event. (Where IS that blood-dripping font???)
- In Colfax
- Which is small
- And where I live
- And know people
- And where I live
- Which is small
- In Colfax
- I spent nearly all of my Christmas season in a mild state of cardiac arrest over it.
That about sums it up.
So how did it go, the thunderous questioners inquire?
OK, actually. I did not die. I didn’t even hate it (completely).
It was actually–kind of–fun. Just a little, though. Don’t start booking me for all your hometown celebrations.
One of the things Steve and Kobi, guerrilla clowns, told me about the event, pre-D-day, was how surprised they were at how this whole Truth Be Told thing made them feel, every time they pulled another one together. They talked about how in a teensy town like ours, where everyone knows everyone, at least a little, there was an unexpected dynamic of community, and not just performance. Folks would continue on talking into the night, sharing stories in that cozy auditorium, and they got to watch everyone grow just a little closer than they were before.
I was totally overwhelmed by the performance aspect of the impending storytelling, but once I got there, and was mercifully the last featured victim of the evening, my nerves were calmed by each of the brave folks that took the mic before me. This wasn’t about performance. It wasn’t about entertainment. It was just about sharing. Sometimes that was entertaining, but that wasn’t the point.
A few folks got up for open mic after I clambered back to my seat. And then a few folks grabbed me by the arm after the mics were put to bed for the evening, just to tell me one of their stories about someplace that I’d talked about, and I could see what Steve and Kobi meant.
I didn’t particularly need to know that Frankie the Finn got plastered that one time during the French exchange trip, but I do know Frankie a little better now when I pass him on the street. He’s the guy who’s married to Nancy the Newspaper Maven, and he’s the guy who helped grill the chicken for my sister-in-law’s funeral a few years back, and now I know he also went to France in his younger years. And may not have the best judgment.
And with every story, I’m a little bit closer to my neighbors, and I don’t see how that could be a bad thing.
Coincidentally, Nancy the Newspaper Maven asked me afterwards if she could publish my story in The Messenger, that chicest of International Newspapers. “Aw, shucks. That’s so sweet,” I said. “But do y’want the story I tried to tell, or the one that actually came outta’ my mouth, ‘cuz I don’t think they’re exactly the same thing?” You know how eloquent I am.
Since I am a writer, I had a transcript.* I flashed it over to her inbox and saw my mug on the front page the very next week. Wild.
* A note about writing and speaking: Holy crappioli, are they different. I can’t tell you how many times I wrote that thing out. And no matter what I did, it sounded ridiculous when I went to ‘memorize’ it for the ‘show.’ I had to write it a totally different way, in natural-speak, which I wasn’t fond of at all.
Y’all might recognize the story from the long and tedious series of blog posts I wrote this summer about our West Trip. Try consolidating that sh**-show into ten minutes of live material (forgive my fractionated french). Oy vey. I may have blown their hard limit, but I had pictures, and people were smiling, so it’s OK.
Anyway, if you decide to read the fantastic transcript (below, to save the sane), pretend you can see the visual aids. And pretend you were there. And pretend I’m speaking. It might not look so bad if you have a vivid imagination.
In fact, Oh My Goodness, I could INCLUDE THE PICTURES FOR YOU. Just because they would have filled the entirety of the Colfax Messenger, and were therefore impractical, doesn’t mean I can’t share them here. It will be Like You Were There. Except for the lack of me speaking and sweating.
So now I’m a public storyteller, and all over the news. The papparazzi is getting outrageous.
If you need me, I’ll be under my hoodie, running out of the TCBY to my waiting limo,
And for those who just can’t get enough, or would like a (slightly) shorter version of the Great Ottinger Chronicles of 2018,
Truth Be Told
December 30, 2018
So travel… Well, our family spends about 10% of our lives in tents, so we get a fair bit of camping and traveling in, and traveling, at least with us, is rarely something that happens without incident. This year, we took a big ol’ trip out West, and it was certainly not the exception to the rule.
Earlier in the year, one of our older, adult kiddos, Rachel, moved out to Oregon for six months. She had landed a job with Crater Lake National Park out there. We were all at least a little bit jealous if we’re going to be honest.
Come summer, Scott and I and the two remaining kiddos left at home loaded up the van with all the camping gear and a metric ton of food and headed out to see her. The plan was to make it out there as quickly as we could—which is actually three incredibly long days on the road, because we live in an immense country—then to spend a few days with her while she was off work, and then to see as much as we could see on the way home. We wanted to see the Pacific Ocean, a bunch of National Parks, and generally everything we could find between there and home.
So the drive out was fairly uneventful.
On Day One, after Scott and my dad had spent the better part of two weeks working to recharge the air conditioning in the van… yeah, we lost the air conditioning. Totally gave up the ghost. I mean, it made it fifteen minutes, so not too bad.
This is about par for the course, really. Because this is how we roll. We don’t ever leave home without expecting some level of disaster, so it was really only a matter of time.
Day Two, in the middle of Montana, this big ol’ truck passes us and throws up a big ol’ rock and we gain another big ol’ chip in the windshield, kind of completing the montage of chips and cracks and modern art that is our van’s windshield.
And on Day Three, somewhere in the middle of absolutely nowhere, Pacific Northwest, I get a phone call from my credit card company informing me that my credit card appeared to be stolen and would I like to cancel it? Um, yes, yes I would. I would like to cancel it. I would love to cancel my credit card on Day Three of a twenty-four day journey across the country. That would be excellent. Thank you.
So, by the end of Day Three we were finally approaching Crater Lake.
Now, if you’re not familiar, Crater Lake is the remains of a quiet volcano, Mount Mazama. It blew its top about a gajillion years ago and collapsed in on itself, and ever since, it’s been filling in with rain water and snowmelt and now it is the clearest, bluest lake in the world. And it’s big. It’s about 5×6 miles, and those cliffs all around the Rim are 1-2,000 feet above the surface of the lake, depending on where you are around the Rim. The problem is that that huge crater is at the top of an 8,000 foot mountain, and it often fills in with clouds, so that half of the time you can’t actually see the lake from the Rim at all.
So the day we were arriving, it was sunny and beautiful, and since the rest of the family had never actually seen Crater Lake, and since rain was forecast for the next few days, we thought we’d better take advantage of the sun while we could. The plan was to head straight to the Rim, before we even set up camp, to meet the kiddo up there after work, and to see the lake, just in case it was the only chance.
And so we did. We met up with the wayward kiddo, had our reunions, explored a little bit, and got a few nice views of the lake, and then it was time to head out. We still had an hour down the other side of the mountain to camp, and Rachel had to run back home to get her gear because she was going to camp with us for a few days.
So we’re on top of a mountain right? Switchbacks and all? Narrow roads? Right. So, we’ve been driving up and over and through mountains for the better part of forty hours so far this trip, and right there at the top of Mt. Mazama, in all her volcanic glory, this is the point when it is clear that we are truly on vacation, Ottinger style.
We pull out of our parking spot and out into traffic, and after the very first switchback, Scott went to downshift—because that’s what you do in the mountains if you value your brakes, and your life—and when he went to shift back into drive, nothing happened. Nothing. At all. There were some looks of concern as he explored the gears a bit further, and soon we were all the way down in first gear, and no matter how much poor Scott whipped that shifter up and down on the column, nothing happened. We had one gear. We were stuck in first forever.
Now, if you’re going to lose all of the gears in your vehicle somewhere along your 7,000 mile journey, and you have to pick the best place to do it—I mean short of your own driveway back home, or maybe Nate’s driveway would even be better—I guess all the way to your first destination would be the preferable point. Also, our kid was there. With a car. So things weren’t, like, the worst they could be.
Also, while we’re counting blessings, if you’re going to be at the top of a mountain heading down, and only in possession of one gear, first is not a bad gear to choose. Which is good, because that is where we were stuck.
Now you may think that our vacation was over. We were certainly thinking our vacation might be over. Or at the very least we were mightily concerned that the entirety of our vacation might be spent van-hunting in Oregon. Because that’s where you want to buy a van.
But no. No. We are not easily beat down. We are cut from more of the Clark W Griswold cloth than that. We persevered, and we headed down that mountain.
So our campground was only an hour away, right? Nope. Not anymore. At our current top speed of 15 MPH, we’d easily be stretching that out to a 4 hour drive. Because first gear. Excellent.
At this point, the atmosphere in the van was… tense. We’re actually accustomed to that tension on most of our trips, because it kind of comes with the territory of the wheels falling off the bus on a regular basis. But thanks to the Colfax Public library, for offering up their discards in the hallway for mere quarters—did you know they did this? You should go shopping down there after this—and thanks to my librarian kiddos for snapping up Jim Gaffigan’s Dad is Fat audiobook on CD—we all know who Jim Gaffigan is, right?. And also thanks to Jim Gaffigan himself for being flippin’hilarious, we careened down that mountain—in slow motion—crying, yes. But crying tears of laughter and near-hysteria. Because Jim Gaffigan is mighty funny, but also because if you can’t laugh at yourself, what can you laugh at?
We must have been quite the sight to the people passing us—and many people passed us. A sad, sad, little minivan loaded down to the axles, just toolying down the mountain at the lightning speed of 15 MPH, and then, through the windows, four hysterical occupants, crying and screaming and having a good ol’ time.
The unabridged van debacle is a long—and slow—story, but in the end, we made it all the way down to camp, and also the other ninety-four hours down to a mechanic, and we fell into our tent by 2am that night. And by the following evening, we had reclaimed our own beautiful van, sporting a full compliment of gears. Not. Bad.
So we’ll fast-forward through the bulk of the trip here, lest we’re still here at midnight…
This picture is us the morning after the vehicular failings. You see we’re still alive.
We got in some good sight-seeing around Crater Lake with Rachel and then we left her to return to her job in paradise, and made our way out to the Coast. Which. Wow.
The Oregon Coast is pretty fantastic. The girls got to do a little acroyoga on the beach at sunset, which was kind of a dream of theirs, and then the next night there was more acroyoga, with horses! A nice addition.
Ah yes, and here we have the adventures of my right leg. Also, I burnt my face. It was horrible.
After four nights along the coast, we headed south to California. We camped in the Redwoods, saw some big trees, and Scotty cut a little firewood. So that’s done.
Then we spent a little time in Yosemite. Really, pictures do nothing, but I’ll show you a few anyway. That place is amazing. Also, really hot. Miserably hot. It should be noted that I don’t do heat. Heat makes me a grumpy mama. Hence California is not my favorite place, actually.
And soon we were on our way to Sequoia for more big trees. And more heat. Yosemite was cool by comparison. Sequoia was an inferno.
So this is a picture of us in the van, probably somewhere between Yosemite and Sequoia. Remember about the no air? Yup. The hoodie here is sheltering me from the million degree wind buffeting me through the open windows from the depths of hell, otherwise known as California. My face was melting. It was a shield against the elements.
We’re curiously smiling, which leads me to believe we were still listening to Jim Gaffigan.
Oh, wait, it wasn’t a million degrees. It was only 104. It was a dry heat. Me, I didn’t notice the difference.
Fun story… When we left Sequoia for the long drive to Utah, We’d already spent a full week in the heat of California, and as we were traveling through the Mojave, we were near dead in that heat. The flesh was dripping off of our bones, and in a fit of desperation I threw the switch on the AC, hoping some sort of miracle had occurred. There was unfortunately no miracle, but it turns out what felt like a blast furnace coming through the vents back in the 85-degree Montana heat way back in the beginning? Yah, well, it felt pretty danged good at 104 in the Mojave. We were still dripping sweat, but at least the flesh wasn’t melting.
Also… Steve reminded me about the bees. I can’t even tell you how many times a bee has somehow fallen stunned into our vehicles over the years, and it seems like every danged time, it winds up in my pants. So also in the Mojave, we passed two semis full of bees. Like full semis chock full of beehives. They were contained by netting with holes the size of this microphone. I don’t know who thought that was a good idea, but allow me to tell you that they were wrong. So before the brilliance of the AC, when the windows were still down, one of those little buggers flies in to join us, and where does he land? In. My. Pants. I can’t make this stuff up.
So, anyway, after a million hours, in a van that was now only 102 thanks to the mediocre air conditioning, we hit Hoover Dam (hotter than the fourth level of hell), and then drove the Vegas strip. Because we were there, and you have to, don’t you? And eventually we made it to our last campground, a state park outside of Zion National Park.
That air mattress in the foreground there? That’s #3 for the trip. We were having some… issues… staying aloft at night. There may have been some emergency midnight runs to foreign Walmarts to ensure a good night’s sleep.
Another Fun Story. This particular park in Utah was protected from entry after 9pm. Why? I haven’t the foggiest. How? By, get this, TIRE SPIKES. In a state park. You couldn’t get in after 9. For real. The whole thing was terrifying.
So after setting up in the sweltering prison park, we spent the next day in Zion, and when we got back, before 9 mind you, this is what we came home to…
Do we have any campers in the crowd? Great… so the astute camper will note that this is not how a tent is supposed to look. It shouldn’t be shaped like a taco. It certainly shouldn’t have poles erupting from the middle of the rain fly at angles such as this. Apparently the light desert breezes got the better of our tent while we were melting in the National Park.
There was a bit of premature packing up that night, and we ordered up a last-minute AirBnB outside Bryce Canyon for our last hurrah.
Now some of you probably know my husband Scott, and if you know him, you know he really loves the dump. If you’re looking for him, there’s a good bet he’s at the dump, looking for treasures. But if you don’t find him at the dump, he might be the guy pulled over on the side of the road picking up things like discarded bungee cords and tie-down straps. Televisions. Boat anchors. What have you.
And so it is that we did not just throw the taco tent in the dumpster in that Utah state park. No, no. We did not. We spent a wee bit more time in that inferno, cutting the tarp out of the bottom of the tent. Because that might come in handy. And we salvaged all the hardware. You know, for the next time we build a tent. Yes. Yes, we did.
It took a little longer than was necessary, but we did escape that park and made it to our AirBnb before midnight. The morning after the real beds, we spent a few hours at Bryce Canyon before hitting the road. Bryce? Fantastic. Again, pictures are useless. But here are a couple anyway…
Oh, and that? Ah, yes, that would be the slot canyon—teaching moment: a slot canyon is where a river winds it’s way back and forth and carves this incredibly deep and steep and narrow canyon in the sandstone—and this slot canyon would be the one I chose to throw my phone into on our last day in the desert. Violently. It was kind of a plink, plink, plink, plink, SPLUTCH thing that happened there. Pretty cool. It was not my finest moment. We don’t really need to talk about that much more. But that did mark pretty much the end of the journey. At least the interesting parts.
Fun Fact… We learned after we got home that that razor-wired park outside Zion was smack in the middle of an area known as Purgatory Flats. I’m not even kidding. Which would explain the heat. Also, we were sleeping—in our micron thick nylon tent—about a mile from the Purgatory Flats Correctional Facility. Which would possibly explain the tire spikes?
Anyway, in the end, we had a great trip. We really did. There are plenty of folks that would listen to our litany of horrors and not understand how we could possibly chock it up as a success of any sort, but really, the little disasters along the way are what make the great stories, and the great stories are what make the memories that last. We’ll take it, warts and all.