Thursday, July 24, 2008

P In A Tent (also titled: Happy Pioneer Day!)

As promised in our last post, we’re traveling backwards in time. Tim has the ability to go back in time - in fact, let’s clear up a common misperception: Superman got the idea from him. As the mercury in Vegas approached the 110s, we were itching to get out of the valley and break in our new tent. We spent a few days considering our options and checking in with to see what would give us the most relief. The debate came down to Big Bear, CA or Zion National Park, UT. Big Bear would have been cooler but given that it was almost the 24th, we honored the pioneers and trekked to Zion. This pioneer child refuses to walk, but loves to sing. Of course it was only June, but it can be hard to remember, living outside of Utah. The weather was forecasting highs in the lower 90s so as crazy as it might seem, it was enough to sound refreshing.

Zion has two camping options in the park. Campground 1 accepts reservations and usually fills up early since some people have the ability to schedule more than 3 hours in advance. Pure insanity. Needless to say, we missed the handcart on that plan. Campground 2 is right next to Campground 1 but is first come, first serve. (During the summer, policy should be first come, soft serve.) Leaving after work on Friday and getting to Zion before dark, much less finding a camping spot, wasn’t an option. So we got everything packed up, and hit the road first thing Saturday morning. At least as first thing as we will ever achieve, which this time was about 8:30 a.m. and downright impressive.

We rolled into the Park around 11:30 a.m. and were sweating bullets that we might not get a campsite. For the record, anybody that was hoping to get into one of the National Parks by tricking the rangers with your REI membership card opposed to the $80 park pass, it’s worth a try, but we think that they’ve taken training for this very thing. Very sharp. We eventually found the right card amongst all of Tim’s lunchtime punch cards and they let us in.

The experience of finding a campsite was similar to any news footage that we’ve seen from the neighborhood Walmart the day after Thanksgiving with the large white trash Americans being replaced by large white RV’s. After a few awkward “I don’t think we’re speaking the same language” standoffs, we finally managed to find a site that would meet our 24-hour needs. After setting up the tent and Paisley’s new Pack ‘n Play, it was lunchtime.

It was at about this time that we realized that those sweated bullets probably didn’t have anything to do with campsite anxiety. It was hot. High 90s hot and climbing. On the drive up, Paisley had taken full advantage of her back seat DVD player and her favorite movie, A Bug’s Life, which meant that after lunch, she was ready for a nap. This is where the high temperatures really hurt us. It didn’t take long for the tent to leave an impression on us. Big wet impressions on our Thermarests so we moved Paisley and her Pack ‘n Play outside in the shade. Although in the shade, there was way too much stimulation for her to fall asleep.

In our bare bones packing, we had included a few thermoregulation items such as a little hand held battery powered fan and a spray bottle that we combined to make a rustic camp mister. Every time we sprayed Paisley the cool shock would cause her to make the cutest gasp followed by a huge smile. Brandi had also found this bandana for Paisley at REI that’s stuffed with a bunch of tiny gel packs that you soak in cold water and then tie around your neck, just like the pioneers. Once we accepted that these would only work so well, we decided to load up the car again and take a drive through the park in the comfort of AC and the sounds of adventurous ants. Paisley slept like a bug, but if you’re familiar with Zion, it’s not all that big. Especially since they only let you drive half of it these days. After about an hour loop through the tunnels and back, it wasn’t long before the three of us were sitting in an idling car stomping out a nice big carbon footprint in one of the most beautiful national parks in the world, for the price of a nap. And it was totally worth it.

The biggest revelation during the car ride was the thermostat reading on our dashboard. 104 degrees. So much for the forecast. Once Paisley woke up, we loaded her up in the backpack and took the 10-minute walk up to the weeping rock to take advantage of getting dripped on. Unfortunately, due to the shuttle system, it took 45 minutes to get there and another 45 to get back.

By the time we had made our way back to camp we were just in time for dinner. We had brought the camp classics: firewood, jalapeno brats, pasta salad and smores. It was really hard for us to justify building a fire when it was still so hot, so we threw the brats on the hood of the car for a few minutes. Really though, the fire and dogs weren’t ready until like 10 o’clock. Despite our hunger, it seemed earlier because Paisley refused to go to sleep. From inside the tent, she could see the flames from the fire and wouldn’t lie down. She ended up back in the car for another round of A Bug’s Life…you know, because she wants to be an entomologist. We’re pretty sure she gained a new appreciation for bugs and nature since with all the windows rolled down the TV screen was acting like a high tech bug zapper without the zap. A Bug’s Life in 3-D. Just as importantly, we finally gave all of our neighbors a chance to enjoy the outdoors as well with some well deserved silence.

Once the temps started to rise again the next morning, Brandi took Paisley into town to pick up some more ice for the cooler since we had plenty of extra food while Tim stayed back to pack up camp. Paisley took advantage of the opportunity and took a quick nap during the drive. Once we got the car all loaded up, we found a parking spot and took the shuttle back into the canyon to take another hike. This time we set our sites on Lower Emerald Pool. Having forgotten that the lower pool is nothing more than a puddle, we were well on our way to the Upper Pool before we realized our mistake. It was hot and we knew that Paisley was roasting considering the final stretch is pretty exposed. We eventually found the Upper Pond and took advantage of the cool water and shade. Paisley’s bandana probably saved her. She usually hates stuff around her neck and face but didn’t try to pull the bandana or her hat off once. The poor kid was so exhausted that she fell asleep face down in the carrier on the return hike. We had to wake her up at one point just to ensure that she was only sleeping.

We made our way back into the valley and after traversing the Virgin River to cool our feet off; we walked over to Zion Lodge and grabbed some lunch while one of the rangers taught us about rattlesnakes. We made our way back to the car and back to Vegas. Since we were too tired and full the night before to break open the smores, we decided to try an old trick Brandi had invented a few years earlier. Dashboard smores.The end product is different than normal smores because the marshmallow doesn’t really toast, but the chocolate totally melts. Funny, but not quite as funny as watching a certain someone trying to dig up a certain plant in front of a certain small town high school on the way home in an attempt to beautify our front yard.

Even though the weather turned out hotter than we expected, we had a fun first family campout and it seems like Paisley is a natural pioneer. And by our fermenting smells, maybe even a natural hippie. As the sun disappeared, Paisley fell asleep just before the mean bugs showed up again. We closed the weekend to the sound of bugs in the back seat and bugs hitting the windshield.

Friday, July 11, 2008

It's About...Time

Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Paisley. Before her well-meaning parents were able to update their blog, she grew up and moved out of the house. Luckily, things haven’t gotten to that level yet, but we have really been negligent and are determined to redeem ourselves, again. The real tragedy is that in the time since our last post, we’ve taken some fun trips and Paisley has made some exciting accomplishments. After much deliberation, we’ve decided that the best strategy to catch up is to start in the present and work backwards.

Ready. Set. Fourth of July weekend. While on our last trip to Utah (we’ll get to that post eventually), we decided that the best way to celebrate Paisley’s first birthday was in Utah with family, friends and fireworks. Can you believe that she's almost 1 already? We can't either. We loaded up the car Thursday afternoon when Tim got off of work and headed north. We finally crawled into Salt Lake at 3 a.m. Friday morning and managed a few hours of sleep before Paisley arose with the sun. It was probably for the best since we had plenty of work to do before the pool party that afternoon.

The best news of the morning was confirmation that all of our efforts (20 lbs of dry ice) were enough to combat 112 degree temperatures and we managed to keep Paisley’s birthday cake frozen on the drive up. Even though Brandi had made a valiant effort over the week to make enough homemade ice cream for everyone, we ended up having to settle for a tub from the grocery store. We had the party at Grandma Sherry’s and cooked up some hamburgers and swam until our fingers and toes resembled raisins. Paisley just loves the water and had a blast floating around on her float (which is NOT a life saving device). But her favorite was when her mom took her down the pool slide. Squeals of delight. We almost even thought about getting it on camera. After drying off, it was time for presents. She’s one spoiled little girl. She’s still trying to grasp the whole concept of wrapping paper, but was fortunate to have two young friends that were eager to assist. I think next time presents are involved, we’ll just wrap stuff in our favorite magazines since she never has a problem tearing those up.

The birthday cake really was quite the ordeal. A couple people from work recommended a local decorator, so we made an appointment. Our appointment exceeded 90 minutes and not because we were being difficult. At least until they quoted the price. We agreed that designing our wedding cake was easier. The biggest challenge became when they told us that because we opted for the cream cheese filling, it needed to stay cold until serving. Thus the dry ice. When we picked it up, they threw in a little cake just for Paisley. We stuck a candle in it, put it in front of her and took cover from the sugar shrapnel. But the little princess took her time and dipped into the frosting one dainty finger at a time. The frosting eventually found its way all over her mouth, eye lashes, legs and mom just not at the blitzing first hyper rate we anticipated. Hopefully we don’t sound too disappointed.

Once we had finished with celebration #1, we loaded the car up again and drove to Oakley (where Brandi’s dad and step-mom live) for a rodeo rendezvous weekend. That’s right, we said rodeo. We pulled into Oakley just in time to catch the local firework show. Even though there isn’t any more snow on the ground in town, the high 60’s felt down right frosty.

We spent the next day hanging out with more family and when Paisley went down for her morning nap, we decided to leave her under the supervision of Grandma Lorrie while we headed over to the rodeo arena to check out something called a horse pull. The event likely qualifies as our second date since Paisley's arrival. A horse pull is exactly what it sounds like. A contest to see whose horses can pull the most weight. These horses were gigantic and the winning pair managed to pull 10,000 lbs. Very impressive. We headed back to the house, picked up Paisley and headed over to the Polar King for our third hamburger in four meals. Yum. Our lack of sleep seemed to be catching up with all three of us and we ended up all laying down for an hour or so before the night’s big event.

We forced dinner down Paisley's throat and skedaddled over to the arena. We timed it perfectly and got to our seats just as the announcer welcomed all of us good Americans to a good American activity. Paisley was so excited to experience her first rodeo she was in tears. The announcer combined with all of the sudden cheering must have startled her but like a true cowgirl, she quickly adjusted to her surroundings. Probably faster than her mom and dad. We’re probably self-conscious but it felt like everyone around us could smell the democrat on us. Our booing the rodeo clown’s Obama joke didn’t do us any favors.

If you’ve never been to a rodeo, you’ve got to try it. Especially the Oakley rodeo. That may come off as sarcastic, but it shouldn’t. It was really fun. We got to see AND use terms like bareback riding, tie down roping, saddle bronc riding, steer wrastlin’, team roping, barrel racing and the climax of the evening was of course, the bull riding. Paisley seemed to enjoy watching cowboys fall off of large snotty animals. So much so that she made us stuff her into her Halloween cow suit once the evening cooled off. We did manage to get it on, but couldn't snap the legs and the sleeves were probably closer to her elbows than her wrists. It probably just reminded her of a game she plays with her dad at home. After the last cowboy got tossed into next week, they turned all the lights off so that the night could finish off with a bang. Many bangs actually. Paisley doesn’t seem to hate fireworks.

We spent Sunday morning relaxing with the Hoggan’s and getting ready for the long trek back home. After a late departure and probably 4 more rounds of A Bug’s Life, we got home just after 10 p.m., late enough to watch the car temperature gage drop back to the double digits. All in all, it was a great trip and we were so glad that Paisley could be surrounded by family as she celebrated her first birthday. Thank you Grandma Sherry and Grandpa Don for hosting a fantastic pool party. Thank you Grandma Sue Ann for the great presents. And a huge thank you to Grandpa Randy and Grandma Lorrie for taking such good care of us, exposing us to rodeo and making the whole trip possible. Cowboy up and we’ll see you next year!

Happy First Birthday Paisley!

It was exactly one year ago that Baby Girl Ricks came into our world. Not the blog, but the little girl - and she would soon be the biggest joy in our lives. If you read this one day Paisley, please don't let there be any doubt in how much we love you. We are forever grateful for our poor choices in birth control. Just because we've neglected our blog doesn't mean that you aren't our first priority, in fact, that's probably why our writing has suffered.

In honor of Paisley's birthday we promise to post a lengthy update (with pictures) sometime today.