"Fly fishing is my passion, hunting is my weakness, and mules are a perplexing addiction."

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Trip From Hell

To say it was the trip from hell would be a gross understatement.  The Donner Party’s ill-fated attempt to trek over the Sierras seems slapdash by comparison.  It was the vacation that Chevy Chase movies are made of, and a seven-month, covered wagon journey across the plains with Rosie O’Donnell would have been a welcomed respite.  If it could go wrong, it did, and usually in spectacular fashion.  On the upside; the fishing was good, and I invented several new curse words to add to an upcoming book I’m thinking of writing, “A Mule-Skinners Guide of Colorful Adjectives One Doesn’t Use at a Church Gathering.”

Where have I been, you ask?  Well, I went to a wedding in Oregon.  Yes, I know it’s the beginning of bow season; don’t press your luck, I could still go off like a Roman candle.

The truth is, if it had been anybody else, I’d have been smiling while out bow hunting in the Kaibab; after all, who has a wedding during deer season?   But a son, or in this case my step-son, only gets married for the first time once, and I felt I should be there; besides, my wife Cathy put her foot down and nixed any ideas of me going hunting and her telling me about the wedding when I get back. Despite my Oscar worthy performance attempting to convince my bride of the pandemic deer population threatening the citizens of northern Arizona, we loaded the RV up.

We, (Cathy) decided we would take a leisurely drive up 395, stop an spent the night on the Walker River to fish, then cruise on up and over to Lassen Volcanic National Park in Northern California to check one off Cathy’s National Park bucket list.  After that we would toodle on up to Crater Lake National Park, spend a couple of days there and check another off the list before we headed on up  to Sun River, near Bend, Oregon.  Once there, I could then shuttle back and forth between fishing, and attending wedding festivities as required.

As the last pallet of my wife’s make-up, shoes, earrings, leisure wear, and the three-hundred plus dresses she still hadn’t decided on were placed in the toy hauler with a fork lift, it left precious little room for my float tube, waders and fly rod, but where there’s a will, there’s a way and I managed to stuff my float tube atop Cathy’s stack of dresses she had carefully laid out atop the back futon bed.  Now ready to hit the road, I decided to put a few gallons of water in the fresh water tank since we knew we would be dry-camping without hook-ups at least one night on our trip north.

At first glance I thought I’d left the flush valve open under the RV.  That would easily have explained the small lake that had accumulated beneath the rig when I returned about 10 minutes later having placed the hose in the fill way while I ran into the house to grab another ball cap and make a phone call.  As I bent over and astutely observed both drain handles closed, imagine my glee to discover my fresh water tank had more holes in it than the Benghazi cover-up.  Undeterred, we postponed our trip half-a-day while I ran down the hill and grabbed a few fiberglass repair kits, drove back up the hill and began to spackle and paint epoxy over the most severe of the cracks and holes.  I managed to slow the leaks to that of a fire hydrant having just been hit by a drunk driver.

On the road at last, we managed to make it nearly fifty-miles, when somewhere near Lake Elsinore, a little car with two deaf people pulled alongside of us and struck up a conversation using sign language.  As I replied to the couple using sign, Cathy slapped me on the arm and said, “What the hell are you doing?”

“I’m being polite and talking to them,” I told her.

“You don’t know sign language,” she said.

“They don’t know that,” I told her.  “For all they know I could be German, or French, and don’t speak American Sign Language.”

“Well stop it,” Cathy insisted, “you could be cursing at them; you don’t know?  Honey, I think they’re pointing to the trailer; is something wrong?”

I waved goodbye to the couple and pulled the rig over to the shoulder.  Sure enough, I had a flat tire on the RV.  I changed the tire out in short order and drove up the road to a well-known tire sales and repair establishment to replace the spare tire.  Glaciers have melted in less time than it took this outfit to eventually place a new tire on my rig, but finally, three-and-a-half hours later we were on the road.

At this point I was tired and frazzled, silently cussing people who get married during deer season.  The truth is, I was in no position to make sound decisions, which might explain why I chose to press my luck and run the risky gauntlet called, L.A. Rush Hour!  It was not a wise decision and, in fact, Hitler’s choosing to invade Russia made more sense.  If L.A. traffic wasn’t frustrating enough, trying to figure out some of the stupid, personal license plates on people’s cars was enough to nearly send me over the top.  What the hell is SSABMUD anyway?

It was well after dark by the time we rolled into Frasier Park.  Deciding I’d had enough fun for one day, we found a little spot off the road and settled in for the night in the hopes that tomorrow was another day and a new beginning.

We hit the road running shortly before sunrise and headed up I-5.  There are few things less enjoyable that the I-5 stretch from the Grapevine north, through the San Joaquin Valley; a circumcision by chainsaw comes to mind, but I had to think hard to come up with that one.  Finally, however, we rolled into Red Bluff, California.  As tired as a politicians promise and needing a rest, we pulled into a quaint little RV park along the river called Tweekerville.  I now know where the casting agents get their extras for the Walking Dead television series.

As the residents of Tweekerville began shuffling around and around the circle island area where we were parked, I began setting up the RV for the night and then took the dog for a stroll around the area so he might do his business.  Upon my return to the trailer, imagine my amusement to discover the toilet had exploded and water was everywhere.  As it turns out, the gushing leak was coming from a valve on the back of the commode.

Knowing I would be cutting it close, I hopped in the truck and headed to the other side of town to find a RV place where I might find the part required to replace the faulty toilet valve.  The fact the store had been closed for 15 minutes and the doors were locked was of little consequence to a guy needing a working crapper.  I managed to finally wear the owner down with my banging and wailing, and for a tidy sum and the promise of my next born child into indentured servitude, I had the part I needed and headed back to Tweekerville to fix the toilet while Cathy stood Zombie watch outside with my trusted K-9, Mutt.

The next morning we hooked up the rig and headed up the highway to Lassen Volcanic National Park to check another NP off Cathy’s bucket list.  Fully believing the worst was behind us, we enjoyed touring around on the narrow, mountain roads within the park on our way to Manzanita Lake at the far end of the park where our RV campground was located.

I should explain that this park area was designed with Model A’s and tent camping as the norm and aside for some pavement it is much the same today.  I managed to squeeze my truck and 36’ rig into a spot only to discover we had no hook-ups.  Still my ever-cheerful self, I simply cut off the end of a hose and pushed it onto a water spigot, filled the RV tank enough that we could shower before it all ran out on the ground.  Our last day at the park, having not yet fished, I spent the morning getting my float tube ready, and re-doing fly reels with new leader and tippet.  I no sooner put my waders and boots on when the wind picked up to near 20 mph and the tree tops were rocking and rolling. Within an hour the rain began.  It would rain on us for the next three days.

Now I know California is in the grip of a record setting drought; I accept that and welcomed the rain, but somehow, having spent the summer in sweltering heat, Cathy and I both neglected to pack any warm clothing, so we left Lassen and drove up the Volcano to Volcano Highway and pulled into Crater National Park, where we looked forward to having an electric and water hook-up.

“Honey, can you change the propane over to the other tank; we’re out of gas,” hollered Cathy upon my return from walking the dog.  I was beginning to wonder if walking the dog was some sort of curse?

It wasn’t the gas leaking from the gas hose attached to the propane tank that curbed my enthusiasm about this vacation, nor was it the pine tree I managed to de-limb in my successful attempt to squeeze into my assigned spot designed for a tear-drop trailer.  Nor was it the water heater that decided to quit working after I changed to a different propane tank.  It wasn’t even the fact we couldn’t see four-feet past the hood of my truck for two days, forever dashing any hopes of seeing Crater Lake that made tears of mirth and joy run down my cheeks as I suddenly realized the importance of those straps on a strait jacket.  But when my SIRIUS radio went on a tantrum and quit, denying me my Outlaw County and Willie’s Roadhouse, well, it was almost more than a mortal human can tolerate.

I must say that once in Sun River, we had a great time.  Jason Hower and Lindsay Crowley joined hands in holy mackrelmony, and I must say it was the most spectacular wedding I have ever attended.  The Crowley’s, Jim and Connie welcomed us into their family most graciously, however, I’m still of the opinion that once they discover what they’ve done they will seek a restraining order.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention that the return trip home had all the charm and enchantment of a Chinese dogfight.  After spending a week-plus being colder than a tin toilet seat, I knew I was back home when we pulled into a rest stop in Shasta, California only to discover my truck’s air conditioning chose to go on strike. Apparently the 97 degree heat outside was too hot to work in and we hadn’t even dropped down into Redding yet.  The sixteen hour haul in temps ranging from 97 to 105 degree heat made me appreciate the miracle of air conditioning and if I hadn’t been the one driving, I’d have hunted the shade of a barbed wire fence for relief.

In closing, since now all the kids are married off, I’d just like to put the grandkids on notice that should any of you decide to tie the knot during deer season, please have the decency to send your old grandpa a copy of the wedding pictures.  I’ll be in deer camp!