This February we got together with the Buchstaber family for the first time. Bucky and Curt could be twins separated at birth in the way they look and in all the things they have in common. Both of them love the outdoors (boating, fishing, camping, hunting and hiking), are Godly men and are great with kids. Britta and I hit it off right away too and Curt thinks we look alike which is a massive compliment to me because Britta is gorgeous and is totally fashion-forward, even pulling off wedge sandals when camping. If only I could be so fancy... She's a Godly woman, a fantastic mom and a wonderful friend who I have learned a lot from in the short time we've been friends. Our kids mesh together well too. Crosby and Grant share a love of Legos and being crazy. Lucy is uber fancy, much to Katie, Alli and Paige's delight and when Lucy is around, she is the center of attention. Baby Griffin is Alli's biggest attraction and Britta patiently lets Alli "help" with Griffin until he wearies of his personal space being infringed on.
This spring we decided to go camping together. We selected the last weekend in August to be our final hoo-rah to the end of summer and start of school. The plan was to camp near Crater Lake since even though I'm a native Oregonian, I've never been there. When I scheduled my surgery, I asked the PA if I would be able to go camping 9 days later and he hesitantly said, "Yes? If you're okay with just sitting around the whole time." Naively (pre-surgery) I told the Buchstaber's that our camping trip was still a GO. Of course I could travel 4 hours in each direction, set up a camp site, cook, limp to the outhouse every time I had to go potty, and sit on the beach while everyone swam and went boating. DUH. I might have been 3 days post-surgery before we wised up and revamped our plans for the Stilpstaber Camping Extravaganza.
Plan B was to condense our time together from 3 days and nights to one 24 hour outing. Phase 1 of Plan B was golfing. Curt and Bucky golfed 18 holes at the course by our house yesterday morning. Since they started at the ungodly hour of 6:30 a.m., they were done by 10 a.m. We fed our families lunch and then met up at Buchstaber's house where we began Phase 2 of Plan B, boating. Both families loaded into a church van (bonus of being a children's pastor) for our day at the lake. Stopped by their friends' house to pick up the Buchstaber's speed boat and headed to Haag Lake, a reservoir hemmed in by rolling foothills in all directions.
Curt and Britta were quick to mention that the weather on Thursday was prime boating weather: hot and sunny. The weather on Friday, our designated boating day, was sunny in the morning and proceeded to get colder and cloudier the closer we got to the lake. Right about the time Curt lamented, "The only thing that could make this weather worse is rain," the first huge rain drops started to fall. Bucky and I tried to keep everyone positive and mention how much fun it would still be, but our words fell on deaf ears as we docked the boat, unloaded the van and watched all the kids and adults scramble for sweatshirts and start shivering.
We managed to get all 11 of us in the boat, which was initially smoking significantly. As we pulled onto the empty lake, Britta (who was worried about a breakdown) begged Bucky to stay close to shore since there was NO ONE on the lake to tow us in if we needed help. The boat warmed up and stopped smoking, so we dropped the tube in the lake. Grant and Crosby took the first turn, laughing hysterically as Bucky sent them up and over the wake. They even caught air a few times. While Crosby and Grant shivered and started the teeth-chattering process in the boat, Alli and Katie took a spin on the tube. Followed by Curt. Bucky tried his hardest to send Curt flying off that tube, but Curt somehow managed to stay on. Curt took a turn driving the boat and Bucky impressed us all with his wakeboarding skills. It only took about 20 attempts with the camera for me to finally capture him mid-air. Alli and Curt took a short-lived turn tubing together and then all the kids (except Griffin) jumped in the water to swim. Grant was the only one brave enough to stay in the water and tube back to the dock. As we were unloading one teeth-chattering child after another, the sun broke through the clouds and proceeded to taunt us as it grew brighter and pushed the ominous rain clouds off in the distance.
A Stilp outing isn't complete without some sort of potential disaster on the road. Bucky watched the gas gauge in the van slide to E and then past Empty as Madge, the GPS system, took us way out into the back country roads for the "quick" way home. We topped out at the summit of a small mountain, and breathed a short-lived sigh of relief as we started the gas-saving process of coasting down the hill. I say "short-lived" because as Bucky navigated the van/boat combo down the curvy mountain roads, the smell of burning brakes saturated the air. The trailer connection for the brakes wasn't working and the poor van brakes were unsuccessfully taking the brunt of the work. We squeaked to a stop at a corner of a little country town and praise the Lord, there was a gas station with one pump. We smoked our way to the pump and rejoiced in the fact that we avoided running out of gas.
We unloaded at the Buchstaber's house and began Phase 3 of Plan B: sleepover at the Stilp's. Came back to our house and grilled out camping food: brats and hot dogs, cole slaw, chips, and watermelon. After we stuffed ourselves, we started a fire in Bucky and Britta's portable fire pit and the kids made s'mores around the campfire. Britta and I sweet-talked the boys into putting the kids to bed at 10 p.m. and then the adults followed suit later in the evening. We woke up this morning and made pancakes, bacon, eggs and strong coffee. Finished Phase 3 with a slide show of our time together and watched the Buchstaber's pull out of the driveway.
It was a great time and Plan B was probably just as fun as Plan A would have been. Maybe next year, we'll actually get to Crater Lake, but the Stilpstaber Camping Extravaganza of 2009 was one that won't quickly be forgotten.