Day 19 Family Vacation, Plan B

Did you ever plan a great vacation and have it fall apart? That’s when it’s time for a Plan B.

Our camping trip in 2012 was so much fun, we made plans to do it again over the 4th of July, 2013. This time we started preparing about a month in advance. We replaced our fifteen-year-old tent (I may have washed the water resistance off our old tent last year.) My daughter, Rachel and her family gave their too-small tent to Sarah and her husband, and bought the same six-man tent we did.

I checked and re-checked my box of cooking gear and made menus for our six-day campout. Since we had so much fun tubing last year, I made reservations at the same place.

Hubby was on a business trip to California but expected to be home a few days before we left. In reality, he arrived home but had to work the day before we left.

As our departure date neared, I checked the weather reports daily for North Carolina. It looked a bit iffy for tubing on the 4th. Maybe we would have to do it on the way home instead. Everyone in the family had arranged their vacation days, so no matter what, we were going.

I did some food prep the night before we left, cutting up a watermelon and some veggies I needed for our menu. We packed most of our gear the night before, so we could leave as soon as possible in the morning. Son-in-law, Curtis realized he had left his sunglasses at home, so we drove ten minutes back to their house before leaving town. On the way to the interstate, I happened to ask hubby if he put the watermelon and veggies in the cooler. “No. I didn’t see them,” he replied.

We were already about a half hour off schedule. What was another fifteen or twenty minutes? We drove back to our house and grabbed the food. No wonder Sarah didn’t want to wait on us.

Our grandson, Caleb had spent the night at their house, so he was riding with them. “We’ll meet you guys at the campground in the afternoon,” she told me on the phone.

It was a relief to finally be underway after all the back and forth we did in the morning. Not long after we were on the road, I got a call from Curtis’ grandma who was in Tennessee. “Are you still going camping?” she asked. “It’s been raining up here all week. We can’t do anything.” I assured her we would be fine, but seeds of doubt began to grow about this great vacation we had planned.

We had just crossed the Georgia border when Sarah called my cell. “Caleb is sick! We pulled over and we’re sitting at a gas station parking lot.” He had a case of too much junk food at the ball game the night before followed by the flaming hot Cheetos he was munching on in the car. He was feeling better, but they decided to stay put until we caught up to them.

We made sandwiches and ate in the gas station parking lot before hitting the road again. We reached our campground just across the North Carolina border by 4:00 p.m., but it was pouring rain. Hubby found the owner who graciously let us stay in one of their small cabins. It had a couple built-in bunks and a loft. It would be tight, but all eight of us could sleep there and stay dry. The peaceful river we played in and went tubing on the year before was a rushing mass of water. The camp owner told us it was at 200%. There would be no tubing on this trip.

We were disappointed, but wanted to make the best of the situation. The rain let up long enough for us to build a fire and start roasting hot dogs, but before we could cook them all, it was raining again. We pulled out the camp stove and set it up in the small back porch of the cabin. The s’mores would have to wait for dryer weather, and the camp fireworks weren’t happening either. The kids lit a few sparklers during a short time when the rain let up. Before we turned in, the camp owner’s wife came by to tell us they would keep an eye on the river’s level. “We’ll let you know if we have to move you.”

That was just a bit too close for comfort. During the evening hours, our cell phones kept sounding alarms: “Warning, possible flood waters in your area.” We plugged in our many electronic devices and went to bed, wishing the cabin was a little farther away from the rising water.

Charging station

Charging station

The next morning we drove higher into the Great Smoky Mountains to our next campsite near Boone, North Carolina. I hoped the weather would magically clear for us. Most of what we planned to do was outside. How could we manage to tent camp and hike in the rain? The sun came out long enough for us to set up tents and start dinner. Clouds rolled in again, and we ended up eating in the van. After that, I either wore my rain poncho or had it close at hand at all times.

Our campsite

Our campsite

The little stream running by our camp was much higher and faster than normal with all the rain, but during a lull in the weather it calmed enough for the boys to play in it. Later we ended up pulling river rocks out to make paths in the mud leading to our tents.

Stone path to our tents

Stone path to our tents

The second night at that campsite we had a thunderstorm. I felt really vulnerable trying to sleep in the tent as lightning lit up the sky. Rachel and Curt’s tent was leaking, and by morning ours was too. I was ready to throw in the towel. We needed a plan B and quick.

We decided to visit Linville Caverns since that was an inside attraction. We also stopped at a gem mine covered by an awning. This proved to be a great idea we all liked, especially the grandsons.

Gem mining

Gem mining

By late afternoon, we reluctantly left North Carolina’s high country, ending the camping portion of our vacation. We couldn’t do any hiking on the trip, and our campfire time was soggy or non-existent. It’s not what we planned, but we were determined to have fun somehow.

View of Grandfather Mountain

View of Grandfather Mountain

Sarah works in the hotel industry, so she was able to get us a deal on a hotel stay in Asheville.┬áPlan B involved visiting the Biltmore House the next day. Tickets are a bit pricey, so we gave back the kids’ share of the camping money to help offset this unexpected expense.

The Biltmore tour was another inside attraction, but the clouds cleared and the sun came out for several hours that day. We went through the house and spent some time in the beautiful gardens.

At the Biltmore Estate

At the Biltmore Estate

Garden at the Biltmore Estate

Garden at the Biltmore Estate

The next step of Plan B took us south to Savannah and another hotel stay with the whole family. Sarah and Cristian had to be back a day before us, so they drove home the next morning while the rest of us toured Savannah.

We took the tram tour to save all the walking with the kids. We saw some of the beautiful, old homes.

Tram tour in Savannah

Tram tour in Savannah

By the end of the day, we were hot, tired and ready to retire to the hotel for one more night. We left for home the next morning with much different vacation memories than we expected. Plan B wasn’t our first choice, but we were still together, and that’s the best part of a family vacation,

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Day 11 Riding the Rapids

Getting away from the Florida summer heat is something our family looked forward to when the kids were growing up. We took a few camping trips up to the Great Smoky Mountains of Western North Carolina where we enjoyed cooler temperatures and much different scenery.

Hiking in the mountains, 1996

Hiking in the mountains, 1996

We wanted our grandsons to experience the same thing, so the summer of 2012 we planned a camping trip for the fourth of July weekend. Hubby pulled out the camping gear while I looked online for places we could tent camp.

Son-in-law, Curtis wanted to go tubing. That’s something we had never done before, and I wasn’t too sure I was interested. Raging rapids? I’ll just let the kids go, I thought. I found a place south of Asheville, and booked our first night’s stay. We took two tents, the air mattresses, sleeping bags, and our food. The kids were so excited.

Camping gear

Camping gear

We left very early the morning of the fourth and arrived late in the afternoon.

Mountains in view

Mountains in view

After we set up camp, Curtis and the boys went for a short walk to the river. Florida kids don’t have rocks to skip across the water, so they enjoyed wading into the river and choosing the best skipping rocks. Caleb found a piece of rope left from somebody’s tube. It became his favorite souvenir.

Skipping rocks

Skipping rocks

As the sun set with the kids soaked from their water play, we headed back to the campsite and made s’mores. We turned in after the fireworks, but it was hot and muggy. The community of frogs nearby croaked well into the night.

I laid awake thinking about our tubing experience the next day. I’ll just do the grandma thing and stay with the three year old. He is probably too little to go in the tube anyway. There’s a small playground. We can hang out there for a couple hours.

By morning I had changed my mind. This was a family outing. I should at least try to enjoy myself. After we broke camp, we went to buy tickets for tubing. We found out Connor was indeed tall enough to go, and they had special tubes with bottoms for the little guys. Kids twelve and under were required to wear life jackets, and we would tie their tubes to the adults’ tubes. I decided wearing a life jacket was a good idea for me, too.

When we launched our tubes into the calm water, I felt good about my decision. We floated gently along, the sun shining down on our group. As time went on, the water reached patches of small rapids, and our tubes bounced up and down. This is still fun.

At the peak of the rapids, I was screaming as if I was on a roller coaster ride. I don’t like roller coasters. However, I realized after the first batch of rough water that I was having fun. I held on tight to the handles on the tube. A couple times my husband had to step into the water to pull our tubes around some giant boulders. (Water shoes were such a good idea.)

Ironically the rough water wasn’t the negative; it was the rain. For the last twenty minutes of our two-hour tubing experience, we shivered as rain water cooled us down. We were committed until the end, though.

Overall I loved the tubing, and I’m so glad I ventured out of my grandma comfort zone to do it. We made some great family memories. I only wish we had remembered to take one of those sports cameras along.

The rest of our camping trip went so fast. We traveled up the road to the Grandfather Mountain area (and cooler temperatures) where we camped for the rest of our vacation.

Campsite at Grandfather's Mountain

Campsite at Grandfather’s Mountain

Rachel cooking on the camp stove

Rachel cooking on the camp stove

The grandkids enjoyed hiking up to Linville Falls, just like we had done when our kids were younger.

Overlooking Linville Falls

Overlooking Linville Falls

Family vacations are still some of our best memories, made even sweeter with our grandchildren.

Have you ever repeated a favorite vacation with your children or grandchildren? Did you do anything different to kick it up a notch?

This post is part of my 31 Days of Family Joy, linking with http://www.thenester.com and her 31 Days event.