Sh*t Happens

In February 2024 this website crashed for no apparent reason. Despite using professionals at it was impossible to restore anything after October 2021 (over 100 posts). I do have many of those post in draft form (no final edit or photos) and I have decided to repost them in that manner. I apologize for typos and other errors. How do I feel about losing all of my original work? Life goes on.

I laid in bed feeling sweaty and cold. I could feel the breeze from the ceiling fan above.  I had one leg outside of the blanket and one inside in a feeble attempt to regulate my opposing temperature perceptions.  Julie was asleep, but her foot brushed up against my bare leg.  I turned to my side and pulled her close to me in an effort to gain some comfort from her proximity.  My mind was racing, but on what? My biggest fear was that I wouldn’t get enough sleep to be safe on my long drive in the morning.

I woke up in a haze and sat up in bed in a partial attempt to get moving.  I had taken a shower the night before, but I still needed to brush my teeth and wash my face.  I looked out of the window and realized that I would have to shuffle the cars in our driveway so that Kathryn could get to work. My head felt full of cobwebs, as if I was hung over. 

Now downstairs I grabbed the keys to the Flex and faced a cool breeze as I made a dash to the car.  On autopilot I backed it out of the driveway and onto the street leaving enough room to allow an easy backup of Violet the campervan.  

William was still sleeping.  I knew that he had a ZOOM meeting with his research lab group and that this would slightly delay our departure.  I resisted my urge to make sure that he was up for the meeting.  He was now a senior in college and capable of managing his time.  He no longer needed me to be his alarm clock.

Violet the campervan is permanently packed, but there are always things to do before any camping trip.  I opened the checklist that Will and I had made in my iPhone’s notes app. The list was separated into two groups, foods that we had at home and food that we needed to buy.  I grabbed a cloth bag from the pantry and started to grab listed items.  Hot dogs, condiments, a small repurposed spaghetti sauce jar filled with milk…the gathering went on.

Prior to my retirement I built a little studio set in the corner of our basement complete with lighting and a professional background. Rosecrance asked me to do tele-psychiatry several days a week and I wanted my “office” to look professional for my remote patients.  The set looked decent, but in reality it was cobbled together with stuff that we had lying around the house. In fact, my desk consisted of two folding tables covered with a plastic tablecloth. When I started medicine I never imagined that my set-building abilities would be needed to enhance patient care!  After I retired I expected Julie to ask me to disassemble the set-up, but then COVID happened and the spot went from vacant to highly desirable.  The kids needed a space for their remote college classes, and Julie needed a backdrop for her tele-therapy sessions.

Now William was in our makeshift basement studio finishing up the ZOOM meeting with his lab group.  Soon he was upstairs and ready to go.  We loaded our bags, food, and an extra sleeping bag into Violet and headed off to the Jewel to buy our remaining groceries. Since this trip was going to mostly be a hiking adventure we stocked up on a lot of quick energy junk.  In addition we picked up bacon for our breakfasts, various cold cuts for lunch wraps, and vegetables. We filled Violet’s chest style Dometic fridge to the brim and as far as I could tell we were more than prepared for our short 3 day trip.

However, something was wrong.  I felt it during the night when I couldn’t sleep.  I felt it when I was gathering food in the morning, and now I was feeling it as we left the market.  My intuition was telling me something, but my brain told me that nothing was wrong.  This was Will’s first trip to Devil’s Lake, but I had gone there many times before. I shrugged off my negative feelings and pointed Violet towards I-88.

Our arriving at the campground was uneventful.  The camp office was closed, but our reservation information was in a pamphlet holder next to the door.  I also noted a sheet of paper taped to the inside of the door’s window.  “If you need to contact us after hours, call…..”  My intuition told me to remember the number. I grabbed my iPhone and took a snapshot of it.

Setting up Violet is a breeze, because there is no setup.  Our campsite was broad and deep.  Normally I would pull way into it, but I felt that I needed to stay close to the road.  I backed in and made sure that I was only about 10 feet from it, I can’t say why.

We still had most of the day left and we filled one small backpack with some snacks and a couple bottles of water. I have a little backpack kit that I assembled  that has emergency items like bandaids and a tiny flashlight.  I tossed that into the backpack and we were off on our first adventure, the Tumble Rock trail.

Tumble Rock is an easy trail that is approximately a 3 mile back and forth hike.  Along the way the traveler is treated to giant blocks of quartzite and vistas of Devil’s Lake.  It is a perfect hike to start with.  We finished the hike and investigated the trailhead for the South Ridge trail, which was going to be the hike that we would be taking the next morning. Afterwards we meandered back, stopping at the park’s general store to buy some souvenir T-shirts for the family.  So far it was a perfect day; what was I worrying about?

As we drove out of the park Will spied a sign, “$5 firewood.”  This was much cheaper than what the campground was selling and we had to partake.  Tonight’s dinner menu was going to include hot dogs roasted on an open fire.  I bought two bundles and slipped a 10 spot into a metal box next to the wood.  The rear cargo door felt strange when I opened it, but I didn’t give it much thought.  In went the wood, and we were off.

At the campsite I once again backed in, staying close to the camp road.  For a moment I thought I should do deeper, but my intuition told me to stay close.  I was excited for the rest of the evening.  We would roast hot dogs on a big fire, talk about life, and finished off the evening by watching “Full Metal Jacket” which I had downloaded off of Netflix.  

I went back to Violet’s cargo door and pulled its handle, but the door would not budge.  I clicked the “open” button on her key fob several times to no avail.  Could something be stuck in the door?  

Below Violets bed is a storage area that I call her “garage.”  Tom and I had built a partitioned box below the bed that was the perfect organized place to hold essential items.  The front of the box allowed cabin access for the fridge and food pantry while the back was only accessible via the cargo doors.  In the back I had many camping essentials: our lawn chairs, tools, the wood splitting hatchet, extra water, our newly acquired firewood, and even an awning that I was going to try out for the first time. I crawled onto Violet’s bed platform and took a limited view peek, but I couldn’t see anything stuck in the door.  I tried a few different maneuvers, but the door remained stuck. Something was clearly wrong with the door, but what could it possibly be?  I searched Google.  Apparently Ram Promasters have a known issue where a cable dislodges in the cargo door making it inoperable.  I found the little access hatch where the cable was located and pried it open.  It was in an extremely awkward position and could barely get my fingers into it.  I saw the cable and it looked disconnected, but I couldn’t reach it and all of my tools were locked behind the cargo door.  In most crises I try to pause for a moment to catch my breath and think.  “It is unlikely that I will be able to get this door open and so I can’t access the garage.  What should I do?  We have bedding, clothes, and food in Violet’s cabin. I can make the hotdogs on her induction cooktop.  We don’t need all of our hiking supplies.  We can use the picnic table instead of our lawn chairs.”  And so my thinking went.  “Will, we don’t need the stuff in the garage, let’s make the most of what we have and continue our adventure,” I said with confidence.  However, this was only our first challenge.