Sometimes you have the absolute best of intentions for doing something, but no matter how hard you try to get it going, it’s just not meant to be. That’s basically the kind of day we had on Saturday. The goal was to spend the day with Dana, Brad, and Anna for Anna’s 15th birthday. Our original plan was to go meet up in Leavenworth, which is a small Bavarian-style village 100 miles from our house in the Cascade Mountains. There were some Christmas festivities going on there, so we thought it would be the perfect place for a family holiday adventure.
The plan ended up changing several times throughout the week, mainly due to the weather we’ve been experiencing over the past week. I’ll take a quick detour and say that last week was the craziest weather I’ve ever seen in Washington state. It was insane. We were averaging over an inch of rain per day, towns were flooding, rivers were overflowing, there was a tornado down south in Battleground, and there was a mudslide on Highway 2 near Leavenworth, which blocked off all traffic for 3 days.
We went back and forth bouncing ideas around. We talked about bowling, roller skating, making gingerbread houses, dinner, etc. The problem is that we’re trying to find an activity that would be suitable for our small children, as well as for a teenager. Not an easy task. Jessica wanted to do something that had a holiday feel, mainly for the kids, so we ended up coming back around to the idea of spending a day in Leavenworth. I was concerned about driving over the pass in our minivan, but Jessica had already spoke to Dana about it and they were in, so I figured it would be fine and went along with it.
I had a funny moment with Ava in the morning as we prepared to head out. I was in the bathroom brushing my teeth when Ava comes in, finds a tampon, and says “What’s this Daddy?” I can’t even speak clearly because I have a mouth full of toothpaste, not that I knew what to say anyway, so I’m like “Um, I don’t know honey, I think that’s Mommy’s.” She paused and thought about it for a minute, then says “Do you think there’s any candy in there?” I tried to keep a straight face and replied “I don’t think so honey, but we’d have to ask Mommy to be sure. Let’s not worry about it for now because we have to get going.” Then she says “Okay Daddy, don’t worry we’ll deal with this later when we get home.” Truth be told I’ve seen the inside of one of those wrappers just as many times as Ava, which is none, so for all I know there might actually be candy in there. Kudos to Ava for thinking outside the box.
We didn’t eat much breakfast on that morning because we wanted to save ourselves for a nice lunch in Leavenworth. We packed everybody up in the old front wheel drive sleigh, turned on the Christmas CD I had just burned, and headed out towards the mountains. Jessica and I were singing Christmas songs as the kids drifted off to sleep in boredom. It was such a Griswold moment.
The scenery changed pretty drastically once we started getting into the mountains. There was snow everywhere, including frozen waterfalls. It was beautiful. This was actually my favorite part of the day. The kids woke up shortly thereafter and were instantly in love with their snowy surroundings. We saw several cars having trouble, most of which were little rear wheel drive sporty cars, but we just took it nice and slow and enjoyed the ride.
As we neared Leavenworth the cars started piling up, and we soon found ourselves stuck in a mile-long traffic backup. We eventually got tired of it and pulled off onto a residential side street to park the van and walk into town. We were hoping to meet Dana and family for lunch, but they decided to stop in Cle Elum for lunch, so we were on our own for food.
As we walked into town it quickly became obvious that this was one of their busiest days of the year. The first restaurant we went to had a 90 minute wait for a table, so we put our names on the list and went out to look elsewhere. Back we go out into the wet misery. It was so slushy, and the snow was so wet that we were all instantly drenched. I had brought my nice new hat from Austin but decided not to wear it due to all the wet snow coming down. This meant that all I had to cover my head was the hood on my jacket, but it quickly became so drenched that it just hung down over my eyes, preventing me from seeing where I was going.
We went to another restaurant, only to find that they had a 2 hour wait for a table! At this point Jessica and I were getting quite grumpy. We were starving, soaking wet, and had nowhere to go. I went into a little shop to buy a beanie, and it was so crowded that it took me 20 minutes to get in and out. I had spoke to Dana around this time and she was concerned about the amount of time it was going to take to get from Cle Elum to Leavenworth. It should have been 50 minutes but due to all the traffic it was going to be more like 2 hours.
So we continued to walk aimlessly through the streets of Leavenworth, getting more and more frustrated. Our feet were soaked, and Ava kept insisting on making snowballs, but every time she would bend down to make one she would slip and fall, meaning she was soaked head to toe. There were literally thousands of people walking around this small village, so to say that it was over capacity would be an understatement. Jessica wanted to buy an ornament at the Christmas store, but there was a long line just to enter the store, meaning you had to wait out in the cold wet misery just to eventually have the privilege to go in and spend your f’ing money! Our patience was wearing thin, and we were literally shaking from hunger, so we waited in another line to buy a big bag of kettle corn, then went back to one of the restaurants to wait for a table.
Of course we pick the place that has no ramp leading up to it’s doors, so I’ve got to get the stroller (with Elise and Enzo in it) up the stairs and inside. Then we get in there and it’s packed, with nowhere to put our huge stroller. We finally found a place for our stroller under a staircase, then we struck our only instance of luck throughout the entire day: someone else named Jessica had a reservation for a large table and they accidentally gave it to us.
So we strip off all the wet clothing, pour a bunch of kettle corn on the table, and finally sit down. At this point I pulled out my phone and got the text from Dana an hour earlier saying that they were very sorry, but that they aren’t coming. I understood their reasoning, and I had told them about all the traffic coming into town, but I still couldn’t help feeling frustrated. We had just driven 2.5 hours to get here, then fought the elements for another 90 minutes, and the people we’re here to see aren’t coming. So we sat there, ate our lunch, then put our wet clothing back on and headed for the van.
We knew we were going to miss the tree lighting ceremony but we didn’t care at this point. I just wanted to get home. It was getting dark as we walked out of town, and of course we got completely drenched once again. The girls refused to keep their gloves on, so by the time we got to the van they were both crying because their hands were freezing. Luckily Jessica thought ahead and brought fresh pajamas for the kids to wear on the way home. Unfortunately this meant she and I had to stand in a deep puddle (because of course I parked in one) and change each kid out of their wet clothing into some nice warm, dry, pajamas. All three of them were screaming, so the whole situation was chaotic.
Eventually we got everyone loaded up and headed out of Leavenworth, middle fingers standing tall. The sun set as we started climbing the pass, and we soon found ourselves in the middle of what I called “the trifecta of unsafe driving conditions”: it was pitch black, the roads were covered with snow, and it was extremely vertical. A little bit later we saw the sign saying chains were required for non-4wd vehicles. At this point I was really mad at myself. I knew driving through the pass would be an issue, and we didn’t have any chains for the van, but I still elected to go. There was nothing I could do but drive through it, so that’s what I did. I hated the fact that I was exposing the kids to danger, but I didn’t feel there was any other viable option.
Although I’m quite comfortable driving through difficult weather, I have to admit I was white-knuckling it a bit during this drive. It was definitely the worst conditions I’ve ever experienced, so I tried to keep the mood light by playing Christmas songs and keeping the conversation going. Of course there had to be a couple jerks riding my bumper the whole way up the mountain, but I didn’t care. I just took it nice and slow until the entire way.
Three hours later we were home safe and sound, ready to put this crazy day behind us. The funny part was Ava and Elise kept talking about how much fun they’d had. This really put things in perspective. Jessica and I quickly admitted that we were both overly grumpy, mostly due to our hunger and the weather, but ultimately the kids had fun, which made it all worth it. I just wish we would have been smarter about going over the pass. It was pretty hairy at times.
I talked to Dana that night after getting home and everything is totally fine. It was a bummer of a day, but not a big deal. It’s too bad because, again, we all had nothing but the best of intentions, and we wanted to see Anna for her birthday, but it just wasn’t in the cards. Can’t say I’ll ever be in a hurry to go back to Leavenworth though, particularly on a weekend in December.
Not surprisingly we stayed in all day on Sunday. I never even got out of my Christmas pajamas. We just stayed home watching the Seahawks destroy the Ravens, I played guitar for the kids, won a couple little play money poker tournaments on the iPad, and made a nice steak dinner. It was exactly what the doctor ordered after our previous day of chaos.
Although this probably won’t be one of our favorite holiday memories, there’s no question it’s a story we’ll never forget. The kids had fun and that’s the most important thing. I hope I don’t sound sour about the whole thing because I’m really not. If anything it was for the sake of telling a good story. Here’s a few pics from that day.