Since we started our family camping adventures three years ago, we have developed a teeny tiny bit of a history of camping in the rain. Often heavy rain. With thunder.
And that is why we carefully checked the weather report before making up our minds to go camping this weekend. The weather in our area said we should expect clear skies all weekend. We also checked to the north, south and east for the best conditions.
We finally decided that heading southeast into Indiana would be our best bet. By the time we made our reservations on Thursday, the weather report had shifted slightly and was now calling for a 30 percent chance of rain in that area.
Now 30 percent? Does that mean that a.) it will rain 30 percent of the time? Or does it mean that b.) if it does rain, it will be with 30 percent of the intensity of a heavy storm? Or does it mean c.) that it most likely won’t rain, but if it does, it’s going to rain like there’s no tomorrow?
We took it to mean we had a 70 percent chance that it wouldn’t rain.
In fact, the answer was c. Or better still, the answer was d.) The weather man has no clue what he’s talking about. The sky is going to open up and pour buckets of water and if you are even thinking of going camping you better reconsider because you have zero chance of survival.
Fortunately, we didn’t know about option d.
The kids and I were so anxious to begin our camping adventure that we decided to head out early on Friday instead of waiting all day for Kent to finish his day at work.
The children and I made it to the campground by mid-afternoon and immediately got to work setting up our tent. This was a joyous and happy experience during which everyone worked together and cooperated like seasoned Eagle Scout graduates, merrily humming “Hi Ho, Hi Ho” in perfect harmony. Or, at least, that’s how I am choosing to remember it.
If you had been standing nearby, you might have heard just an occasional outburst along the lines of:
“No one in this family is going to be Count Douku until we put this tent up. Now put your light saber back in the car!”
By the time my prego self and the three little Jedi had improved our team-working skills and set up the tent, Kent’s parents had arrived. They live about three hours south of where we were camping and decided to join us for the weekend. They had already set up their camp site a mile north at the brand new Holiday Inn Express.
I tried to look calm and happy as I wiped the sweat from my forehead.
Thankfully, Kent’s parents helped entertain the children after the long car ride and tent building experience by taking them down to the KOA pool while I continued to work on setting up the camp. I got out the Coleman stove and starting making my world famous pasta with Ragu sauce for dinner.
While I was draining the pasta by propping the burning hot pan on the side of a tree root, trying not to dump all 16 ounces on the ground, we got a call from my husband.
I should mention at this point that my husband is like a mix of Dale Earnhardt and a Storm Chaser when it comes to his driving skills. He doesn’t let anything slow him down. He doesn’t stop for tornadoes, sleet, hail, blizzards, high winds or sun glare.
He called to let us know he had pulled over 30 miles west of us because the hail and high winds were so severe that he couldn’t see the road.
Kent? Pulled over? 30 miles? Are you sure it wasn’t a prank caller?
The skies overhead were indeed cloudy. So I slopped the pasta on the plates, encouraging the children to eat quickly as I grabbed all of the supplies I had just unloaded and threw them back into the minivan.
I grabbed my plate of pasta and we headed for the Holiday Inn Express, just as it started to rain.
By the time we got inside, the rain was coming in sheets.
Thankfully, my husband made it to the hotel before the tornado sirens started to sound. We rode the elevator down to the first floor and took our places sitting in the hallway along with all of the other hotel guests and former campers.
After a while, the boredom set in. People went from watching the weather on the big flat screen TV, to walking outside to look for funnel clouds to sitting on the floor in the hallway.
That’s when a piercing sound started ringing through the hallways. The fire alarm.
I was trying to remember what they had taught us in grade school:
Fire alarm: go outside.
Tornado drill: sit in the hallway with hands over your head.
But what about tornado siren outside and fire alarm inside? What then?
We all decided the fire alarm must have been caused by the electricity in the air, and the tornado siren finally stopped. So, we all went outside to watch as the fire trucks arrived. Now, the show was getting good.
We found some front-row seats on the big cushy couch in the hotel lobby and gawked as two, then four, then six, then eight firefighters, all dressed like they had come to extinguish a blazing inferno paraded into the Holiday Inn. They all wore oxygen tanks on the backs of their heavy grey suits. And several carried very large axes.
“I NEED THE KEY TO ROOM 101!” the young hotel clerk informed her co-worker. She seemed to be just as anxious as we all were that they were going to USE those axes despite the lack of any sign whatsoever of smoke, heat or flame.
After about 15 minutes, we started getting tired of spying on the firefighters, so we thought we should take advantage of the fully-stocked continental breakfast area and make some hot chocolate. I had some packets of hot cocoa in the car, but it was raining sheets, so my husband didn’t want to run out and get them.
My ever-so-helpful mother-in-law immediately sprang into action, asking the hotel clerk to unlock the supply cabinets and get us some hot chocolate mix. The clerk was a little pre-occupied what with all of the sirens, emergency workers, storm clouds, and the guests milling about, but she acted like she could see the urgency in our request. After several inquiries, she finally informed us that she didn’t have the key for that particular cabinet. Whatever.
So, we went to the car and got our own hot chocolate. I had dispensed it into the cups when I realized the hot water machine was empty. Now what? I wasn’t about to go bug that clerk again. Never fear.
My husband took a cup and made several trips back and forth down the hallway, dodging firefighters and their axes, avoiding families with crying babies and bringing us ice to put in the water-heating machine. Let me tell you. That thing can turn ice into boiling hot water in a matter of minutes.
And that brings me to the moral of the story. If you are ever caught in a tornado or a fire and you need some hot chocolate to calm your nerves, make sure you stay in a hotel with one of those super fast water-heating machines. Otherwise, you could be in trouble.