Water, water, all around, and not a drop to drink...
We met my wife’s family (80+ people) at Lake Shasta in Northern California for a family reunion. We all rented houseboats and had a great time. Below is what I wrote about it when we got back...
Scheduled to leave noon Wednesday. Pulled out around 9pm. Stopped at Target to buy one of every item currently in stock. Back on the road by 10pm. Was looking forward all day to eating a Dave’s Spicy Chicken (sandwich) at Wendy's, but by the time we found one, it was past midnight, and they were closed. Consoled myself with an oatmeal cookie from Chevron.
I had been up till 5am the night before doing bills, etc. Not the best night to pull an all-nighter, but large amounts of refined sugar, two Mountain Dews, and six NoDoze tablets (caffeine, 1200mg) gave me eyes as big as millstones, plus tachycardia.
Tried listening to the radio, but the road noise our Grand Caravan is so great that the cheap piece of audio-poo Dodge installed is only understandable with the volume set on "Bleeding Eardrum". Using the Fade and Balance settings so that only the driver's speaker is active just results in a vague chittering sound down by my left knee, so I gave it up as a bad job. While Hannah and the kids slept, I recited all poems and talking songs I knew, plus made up new verses to marching cadences a Navy diver had taught me.
Called my brother on the cellphone to chat, but lots of static finally forced us to give up. Just as well, since we had moved into the Roaming Zone, where it's three dollars a second or whatever.
Finally arrived Redding, CA about 9am. Went to Longs Drugs for a few things that hadn’t been available at Target, then to Safeway for groceries. Found Wendy's, ate a DSC with much enjoyment.
Met up with family we were to share a boat with at the docks. Ended up waiting about 2 hrs in 100+ heat before the marina had our houseboat ready. While (brother- and sister-in-law) Chuck & Susan launched their ski-boat, I got the houseboat lesson from a nice young man who did a decent job concealing his contempt for my complete ignorance of boats and water. Unfortunately he also had a habit of slurring his words constantly, so I had to ask for a lot of repeats. He showed me how all the systems work (20 minutes of non-stop new and fairly complicated information - try it sometime - made me wish I had brought paper and pen). He showed me how to beach the boat, then had me do a little driving test by dropping him off at his dock. I managed to do this without sinking any boats or blowing anything up, but it wasn't from lack of trying.
Finally got everyone's stuff loaded (Chuck & Susan brought even more stuff than we did, if that's possible), and headed out for the far reaches of the lake. Since I’d driven all night, I thought I would get a little nap at this point, but I’d apparently been made captain for the day, so I drove the boat.
An hour and a half or so later, we beached next to the other boats that had already made it there. I came in too fast and had to hit full reverse throttle for the last 15 feet. As it turned out, we beached just right, but it was completely by luck and everyone who knew anything about boats must have known it.
The next three days were nonstop water-skiing, wakeboarding, swimming, and eating. At night, there was visiting, storytelling, guitar, singing etc. Hannah and I and some others slept on top under the stars. Very dark and quiet, with a great view of the Milky Way and piles of constellations. Much fun had by all.
WARNING: Potty-themed story ahead...
On the second day, I went out on Chuck & Susan’s ski boat with Hannah, Samantha, and [cousin] Heidi. We were barely out on the water when I had to do 'number two' like crazy. I didn't want to make everyone wait while they ran me back to the houseboat, so I held it as long as I could. Then I devised the cunning plan of pooping in the lake while no one was watching. So while Hannah was in the water getting ready to water ski, I popped over the side, yanked off my bathing suit, and did my business. In my projected version of events, my little creations sank silently and peacefully to the bottom, never to be seen again. This, of course, did not occur. As I was cleverly sliding back into my shorts, I hear my sister-in-law scream, "Poop! There's poop! Aaaaahhh!" I look up, and am horrified to see that four or five gigantic turds have popped to the surface in all their ragged glory. Not only that, but pulled by the boats wash, they are making their way up onto the teak ski deck, where Susan's feet are resting. In her frantic efforts to escape the attacking turd horde, Susan steps squarely onto one of them. Hannah starts to scream as well, thinking that we have blundered our way into a sewage slick left by a passing houseboat and that she's going to get towed through it. Pandemonium ensues.
After Hannah's tow, when we're all back on the boat, she still doesn't realize where the poo came from. She says, "Maybe it came from some big boat's holding tank or something…" This causes Susan to collapse with laugher -- she gasps out, "It came from Bryan's holding tank."
In all my time with Hannah, I don't know if I've ever seen her laugh so hard -- tears are streaming down her cheeks. It makes me happy to make her so happy.
And watching her, I realize that the story is not going to stay on this boat. There are 80 members of Hannah’s family back on the shore, at least half of whom will find this story too good to keep to themselves. In fact, I realize there's a good chance that this story will find its way throughout California and perhaps North America. That evening, my sister-in-law Susan left our boat immediately to “visit with people” on the other boats. One could easily gauge her progress from boat to boat -- every 10 minutes or so there would be new shrieks and roars of laughter as she told the story to yet another eager audience...
For the rest of the reunion, most of the adults I met had a new pun or joke made up especially for me.
They say there was a big logjam up at the dam - you know anything about that?
In 'hindsight', maybe that wasn't your best choice…
I heard that in honor of Oscar (my father-in-law, who was a lumberjack), they're having a log-rolling contest later today - thought you might be interested…
We're going out on the boat again - anybody want to come? Or Bryan, if you need to go to the bathroom…
Ho ho ho. Actually, the ribbing I don't mind - the only uncomfortable part was knowing that some families who are a little more reserved didn't find it as humorous and were embarrassed. Oh well. Nothing one can do about that. The majority seemed to really enjoy the story, and several contributed similar even-more-embarrassing stories of their own.
Other than that, not much else happened. Everyone on my wife’s parents’ boat drank lake water their whole first day because their boat didn't have signs to show which was lake water and which was fresh. Since their first day was our second, half of the water they drank was post-Bryan's-event. My mother-in-law made a show of picking at her teeth as she looked across the water at me.
Since they're letting out so much water to generate electricity, the lake falls by about a foot and a half every day (think about how much water that is). We didn't move our boat the first day, so we got stuck on the beach until we hooked one of the ski boats up to the rear and walked it back and forth a bit to get it off.
When you steer a boat forward, you turn the wheel just like a car, but when in reverse, you steer exactly opposite of the way you would a car. During the operation to get the boat off the beach, our pilot - who had never done it before - got the rear end going the wrong way and bumped into the neighboring houseboat. No damage, but one of my wife’s cousins happened to be standing right where the boat was about to hit, and had to make a flying leap into space, landing in an inflatable raft at the rear of our boat.
Eventually we left - by the time it was time to dock the houseboat at the marina I had kind of figured it out. No mishaps, all went smoothly.
As we drove away from the lake, our car began to overheat. Turned out a repair we had made last year to the cooling fan had not held – the JBWeld had melted in the California heat. Chuck stopped and insisted on fixing it, which he did - pulling what one of my Mexican friends calls a “Mexicanada” (ie, a miraculous repair using whatever’s handy) with some wood screws and pieces of metal from a cigarette lighter we found at the side of the road. It did the trick, and we made it home with no mishaps.
If I had it to do over again, I might do one or two things differently -- okay, I guess mainly just one thing -- but it was still a great trip.