My friend and coworker Janet Buman always come back from her family vacation with absorbing tales. I believe this to be a combination of her exuberant personality and sense of adventure. (The other day I noticed she had posted a video of herself taking a minnow-shot. That's exactly what it sounds like...a shot of alcohol hosting a live minnow.)
Janet and her husband Jeff have three kids (Tyler-16, Justine-13 and Trey-8) and apparently all seem to share a resourceful and undaunted spirit. With her talent for writing, I asked if she would offer her experience on my blog. I think you will all enjoy!
Buman Family Travels
The day before our annual vacation the family was just getting out of our "county fair coma" and my husband Jeff and our three kids Tyler, Justine and Trey had one day to get ready for an 11-day trip north. Lightning had just fried our TV, fridge and other items and it should have been an omen of things to come for us.
The next day we spent the entire day at amusement/water park , but when we got to the van, our trunk was wide open! I had my purse with cash and cards in there - partially covered by a towel - but no one had touched it!
From then on, the unexpected turns came on fast. We then found the side van door was opening on its own too. Then, in the middle of high-traffic Minneapolis, something large blew out of the truck in front of us. Our front tires ran it over, but it got caught before it hit the back ones, so we dragged that around for a bit before it broke free and on to the next poor soul behind us. A little while later, Trey upchucked his entire lunch. Family tradition - someone always gets sick.
Our destination was Jeff's aunts cabin in Ely, Minnesota, a place we adore. Just before getting there we received word that the cabin was inaccessible. There had been a huge storm, there was no power, trees were downed everywhere, we wouldn't get in. I suddenly felt like a refugee. Plan B - Call Jeff's Uncle John in Wisconsin.
We've stayed with John before in a fairly decent guest house, but due to the storm that house had no power either, so we were put up at "The Camp". It became immediately clear that no one had been habitating the camp for quite some time. It was dark, dirty and musty so we tried to do everything away from it while we were there.
For three days we rode a boat, swam, collected clams, played mini golf, and watched a lumberjack show. For the first time I can ever remember, the kids were nice and allowed me to take the first shower. This sounds like a nice gesture, but it was actually disguised as a dare. The water there is terrible rusty and it makes their shower look like a complete rust bucket. I wanted to shower in my socks. I made it through, but unbeknownst to them, the water heater didn't hold too much. Justine got lukewarm water and Tyler got hypothermia.
One thing I haven't mentioned yet were our unwelcome house guest - the ants. We tried bug spray and hung up our trash from the ceiling, but the ants told the rest of the colony we were there and they kept coming in. Finally, we received word that the roads in Ely were clear enough we could drive there, although there wasn't going to be any electricity. Oddly, this still seemed like a step up from our current conditions. The next morning we said goodbye and high tailed it out of Antville!
Once we got to our cabin in Ely, the substantial amount of downed trees was overwhelming. Had we gotten here just one day earlier than we originally planned, our van would have certainly been smashed. Having no electricity in a cabin really wasn't that bad, it was the lack of water turned out to be the area we had to get a little creative. For every 5 gallon bucket of water we needed to flush the toilet, Jeff had to haul lake water up and down a small hill. The water is pristine and we washed dishes with it and used a lot of bottled water for everything else.
We made a 40 mile round trip every day getting the provisions we needed, such as food and ice. Jeff made all our food on a wood fired grill and at night we ate by the light of the LED and our cell phone lights. Every year that we've been to Ely I organize a scavenger hunt and this year Jeff threw in his own game, a Treasure Hunt. We had the kids on the hunt for clues, figuring out cryptic codes and messages. We played games inside went to bed listening to the loud hum of the mosquitoes outside.
If we wanted to bathe - we had to take a 'lake shower'. If I had known that the shower I had in Minneapolis was going to be the best real shower I would have in nine days, I would have enjoyed it more. Justine worked out a two-person system for washing her hair in a bucket so we all followed her method.
We had better luck on the way home with our accommodations. But, the van doors were still opening on their own in ghostly fashion, we had a wheel bearing going out, and plus, the van was just really dirty. I spent time researching a new vehicle on the way home.
When I tell people our tales of no power, water, ants and tree destruction, most say it must have been a bad experience. In fact, it was quite the opposite. We became resourceful and embraced the adventure together. One week later, we had already purchased another family van complete with extra storage space so we can carry all of our stuff up to the cabin again next year.