Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Murphy Effect

All of us have heard of Murphy's Law -- "What can go wrong, WILL go wrong" -- & some of us have even dealt with Murphy's Law firsthand. Then there's Jay, who is a Murphy. I sometimes feel like Murphy's Law was written specifically about him. Only with Jay, it can be a little worse because he has a way of "rubbing" off on you if you hang out with him too long. I call this The Murphy Effect; here's an example, albeit a fairly extreme one...

I updated my Facebook on Friday with a status that included a snippet about going camping. I had no idea when I posted it, what exactly our weekend would be like. If I had, I doubt I would have had any enthusiasm; in fact, if I'd known what was in store for us last weekend, I would have made Jay turn around and go home. I'm not psychic though and I was feeding off the excitement oozing out of Phoenix & Jay, as we drove head-on into near-disaster. Jay found a campground up the "hill", north of Highway 50, with a lake, bathrooms and even more importantly, vacancies. We had two ways we could get there; a long, well-used way and a short, not-so-well-used (if at all) way. When I say "we" right there, I mean Jay; I actually had no say in which way we ended up taking or I would have voted for the first route.

Yes, we actually drove over this, in the dark.

It turns out, Jay chose to take us the not-so-well-used (if at all) way and guess what? After a few wonderfully-paved miles, it turns into a logging road. As navigator it was my job to make sure we stayed on course, not a complicated task if one has a map. Yeah, that's right. No map. So here we are, on a logging road, with no map. We keep going, using the map on Jay's cell, which doesn't have service any more, by the way. Oh and did I mention, we left the house around a quarter to seven? Sunset was 7:13 PM on Friday. Now it's dark, we're on a logging road and we have no map. We just keep going, looking to my Jeep "compass" and checking the map on Jay's phone.

That is, until we come to the proverbial fork in the road, which is actually a fork in the road Looking back, this is where it all went wrong. Instead of sticking to the left and following what was the road we were on, we took a right. It looked like it was a good choice at first. It was paved and we were heading East, towards our intended destination; for a little while anyways Then we hit dirt. Then switchbacks. Then, we started heading South. Did we turn around? No. 'It's the computer." Jay says. Yeah, we can't actually be heading in the wrong direction now, can we? We're still not completely convinced we're lost; we half-joke about seeing Bigfoot or getting lost like people have done on the remote roads of Oregon. After about an hour on this desolate dirt road, the creepy wood noises you hear and what I could swear was a rock being hurled at the truck, it wasn't funny anymore, or even pleasant; it was just plain scary. We realized we had no idea where we were; we knew that right turn had been a bad move but what do we do? We kept going.

We passed a lake at one point; I could see it through the trees, moonlight reflecting back off the dark water. I knew Jay was feeling nervous because he was going as fast as he could safely go, in the hopes of getting us somewhere. Paxton got carsick; Phoenix & I came close but still, no end in sight. Mile after long, twisty mile we drove; over dirt, gravel and back to dirt again. Three hours of driving, at least two of which have been on roads that would make for awesome rally races but make for lousy family traveling. Lights. A fire. People. We drive pass but we feel safer, just knowing we have to be somewhere near civilization. 'We should have stopped' I say. 'We've got to be somewhere.' Jay replies, as we pass another truck heading back towards the camp we just passed. Five, ten minutes later & we get to a clearing. With a sign! And a map!

Instead of camping right then & there, Jay decided to try to follow a road the map says leads to a boat ramp. After another 20 minutes with no end in sight, we turn around and head back to the sign & map. Our brakes are literally smoking hot and by now, it's almost 11. We set up camp, build a fire and put the kids to bed. After our crazy little adventure, we actually had to ask a group of hippies not to camp next to us; they pulled up at midnight & obviously weren't planning on going to sleep until the sun came up. We have kids so we won but neither Jay or I slept well. Everyone was up by seven the next morning; we broke down camp & took another look at the map. We headed back down the "boat ramp" and realized what a crazy road we'd been on the night before.

Stumpy Meadows 
After traversing California's Deadliest Road (a.k.a. Forebay Road), we made it back to Pollock Pines, a whopping ten exits north of where we got off the freeway to start our little adventure the night before. We head south and take the exit that puts us on Highway 193, the route Google recommended. After another round of carsickness, this time from both kids, we finally made it to our intended destination. It was pretty much worth it; we didn't get lost or die. We learned some lessons along the way and ultimately, we did have fun and definitely made some memories. The campsite was pretty empty so we picked a site on the end of the row, with an open site next door and a bathroom across the road. As we're getting ready to head down to the lake, we see a familiar car. Grandma Mindy & Grandpa Ron drove up to see us! We told him about our adventure & dragged them to the lake with us.

It was a horrendous hike. The only reason we went through with it was in the hopes of be able to swim & play. No such luck. Steep drop offs right off the tiny shoreline made swimming and playing this mother's nightmare, even with life jackets. Phoenix got bored fast & prompted us all to made the devastating trek back up to camp. We stuffed ourselves on hot dogs, chili and marshmellows until Grandma & Grandpa left a few hours before dark. I started cleaning up, reorganizing food & packing dirty clothes. Not long after dark, the kids were out cold & we reflected on all the craziness we'd just put ourselves through. I know now why it's been so long since the last time we went camping; it's a lot harder with kids!

Kids never seem to sleep in & we were probably the first ones up the next morning; I'm sure everyone else in the camp loved that. The boys were running between our site and the next, Paxton squealing with all the joy in the world & absolutely no clue he's disturbing every living being within a thousand yards. Until he got stung by a yellowjacket. We decided we'd had enough and started packing up. By 10:03, we were on the road. Dirty, tired and smelly, the aroma of milk-puke permeating the Jeep, we followed Highway 193 back through Georgetown & ran right into the Founder's Day celebration. We almost stopped but we really did look a hot mess. Home sounded so good & we got there before 11:30. I unpacked the car while Jay showered; washed the inch-thick layer of dirt, dust and grime off the boys; separated & started laundry then passed out on the guest bed in the office.

It's Wednesday and I think I can safely say, we survived and have recovered from this weekend. Even with this long post dedicated solely to the events of this weekend, I don't feel like I've fully articulated the wide range of emotions we visited this weekend. I left out some of the less important details, like the joy of seeing a forest ranger (usually something we avoid) that first morning, because I want you to actually read this whole epic thing but I hope you can still see yourself there with us. I wish I could have found the road we took to get so lost but so far, it has eluded me. We should have made a rally tape, then you'd definitely see just how scary this whole adventure was.
I like to think of us as a real-life Simpsons; happily dysfunctional.

So yes, what can go wrong will go wrong but if you hold it together, you'll have some of the best fun ever and you'll quite possibly turn something that could be very bad into something extremely awesome. This is how we make memories. Insane, sometimes nightmare-inducing memories but great, epic, almost magical memories. This is The Murphy Effect.


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