Our adventures came to a screeching halt the other night when we found ourselves in the Emergency Room at 8:30 at night in Colorado Springs. Mason had been pretty grumpy all week and had thrown up a few nights earlier and just kept complaining. He wouldn’t eat or drink water that day and I was getting really nervous about this fact. My mama gut said something wasn’t right.
I was really looking forward to Colorado Springs, so in spite of feeling like something was off, we pushed on south. I thought camping would cure whatever was troubling him. In my head I had this vision of a nice tree filled campground with a playground and a pool. I was led to believe this from the website I booked on that showed this dreamy RV Park just ten minutes from Garden of the Gods.
Then at about 5pm we pulled into a strange concrete pad of an RV park in the middle of the city. My heart sunk. Cars were rushing by and I felt tense. The guy next to us was yelling at his kids and smoking. There was nothing relaxing about wall to wall RVs and a jenky falling down playground. I struggled to get Mason out of the car and then he just wanted to climb into the back of the truck and close the camper door.
To make matters worse freak wind gusts were blowing dust and trash all around us. Gray clouds threatened to rain on us and gave the whole experience an ominous dark feeling. A friend I had from Oregon lived in Colorado Springs so she came by and brought us Thai food. Mason, who normally was a pad thai addict refused to eat. But what was worse is he wouldn’t drink water. He kept saying he wanted to go. “Not like.” he said furrowing his little eyebrows. “Scary storm. Oh no.” He said shaking his little head. Maybe he was reacting to how nervous I was. I didn’t want to put any of our Deuter packs or WOOM bikes outside of the trailer for fear of them disappearing when I turned my back, but we couldn’t sleep in the trailer with them in there.
“I can’t stay here.” I said to my friend. There had to be a “real” campground nearby. This was the first time I found myself wishing I had booked a proper Government campground and done more research. Whether I was tired from the trip or just under a lot of pressure from so many things happening at once (Mason not eating or drinking, weird place, new town, filmer coming the next morning to document our hike, people excited about us being there and texting me) that I started making what may have been bad decisions. As the sun was fast setting I closed up the truck and decided to drive and look for somewhere else.
Heading south about 20 miles there was a campground that a Hike it Baby family had raved about. It was April. It couldn’t be full right? We arrived at Cheyenne Mountain State Park as the last light was leaving the sky. Deer were eating along side the road. It was a beautiful wide open campground. What I had imagined the crappy RV park would be like. I breathed a huge sigh of relief as we pulled up. And then I saw the sign. CAMPGROUND FULL.
No, no, no. This can’t be, I thought. I decided to drive around and found some open spots. I considered just pulling in even though they were taken, but then thought better of it. The last thing I needed was someone knocking on my camper at 2am, making us move. At this point I was feeling like such a crappy parent. What was I doing? What was I thinking driving around with a toddler at dark looking for a campground? If I had been childless I would have just found a deserted road and crashed. But with Mason this seemed like another wrong move on an already poor decision making evening.
Admitting I’d blown it, I decided to just go back to the RV park. At least they had a bathroom. We could sort it out in the morning. We had a nice hike planned at Garden of the Gods that would make it all worthwhile. It was dark as we drove back into Colorado Springs. The city was jarring with neon and 7-elevens. “Mama, mama? Camping?” Mason said to me in the dark. I could here the distress in his voice. “I sick mama,” he then said to me? I turned around while driving and looked back to catch a glimpse of him projectile vomiting all over himself.
I took a fast right and pulled into a gas station and jumped out of the car. “Where’s a hospital,” I yelled at a couple standing outside the convenience store. They looked at me like I was a bit crazy as I ran around to Mason. He was shaking and saying “Sick mama, sick.” As I tried to clean Mason up and strip off his clothes and put on new clothes on in the parking lot, a chilly wind blowing and rain threatening, the couple stepped up and mapped the hospital. It was only a few miles away.
The drive there felt like it took hours, even though it was probably only ten minutes. Everything about the hospital felt so uninviting. The neon lights, the people in the waiting room, the metal detector and security guards. It all felt just so wrong. My guilt was at an all time high. All I could think was “What the hell am I doing here?! How could I put us in this situation?!” We were supposed to be sleeping under the stars, making a campfire, roasting marshmallows, going for a hike with friends.
This wasn’t the first time this week and there was a rash and diarrhea so I should have been more aware. I felt pretty vulnerable being so far from home with a sick kid. And for what? To go hiking? I could have just taken Mason to the woods around Oregon for a few weeks and gone hiking and camping. What was I thinking?
The hospital was long and tedious, but at about 10:00pm after an anti-nausea pill Mason was happily sucking down Popsicles and chatting with nurse. With the doctor prior to the pill kicking in he had been really agitated, crying and telling her he wanted to go home. She said, ” I think he’s telling you clearly he wants to go home. Some kids don’t travel well.” I have to admit I was a bit put off by being told by someone I met five minutes earlier that I really had made a bad decision and it was time to go home.
“But he’s traveled heaps and always really enjoyed it,” I stammered trying to justify our trip, tears sliding down my cheeks all the while and my heart heavy with guilt. Mason had always loved adventures. When we were home he was constantly saying “Let’s go camping, let’s go on an adventure.” Mark and I always laughed at how Mason took to travel better than we did. We moaned about lumpy pillows in hotels and too small of beds for the 3 of us. Mason will often just hop from bed to bed when in a hotel laughing and when in the camper he’s always the first to say, “Look Mommy moonnnnnnnnn.” when he spots the moon out of our camper window.
On this night he did tearily tell her he wanted to go home and he was tired. Unfortunately this is what it took for me to realize that being on a tight schedule with a toddler was not a good idea. After she left I hugged him tightly and rocked him back and forth and told him we would go home. Fifteen minutes later he was happily sucking on his first of two popsicles and excited about watching the Incredibles. “My doctor bed,” he said patting his hospital bed and pushing me off of it. Eventually we got out of the hospital and started our hour drive back to Littleton to our friends house where I knew he was comfortable. I couldn’t go back to the RV park. He was asleep before we even pulled out of the hospital parking lot.
The next morning Mason woke up with a big smile. “Hungry mama.” My little guy was back. His spirits were up again and within an hour he had consumed 2 bagels and two popsicles.As I sit here and write this now there’s an open road in front of me and a hard choice to make. In 5 days we can pick up his dad at the end of the Grand Canyon and head to Zion, a park so many people have told me is one of the most beautiful in America. Or we can turn toward home and drive for 3 or so days to get to. End of trip.
Sitting in that hospital bed rocking Mason I was pretty clear that it was time to go home. Game over. Then we went for a hike the next afternoon at Dinosaur Ridge. This is a paved trail with dinosaur tracks in the rocks and then a trail leading up above it. Mason laughed and climbed rocks singing, “Diiinnnooooosaur Trainnnnnnnnnnn” at the top of his lungs. He danced with his shadows in the sunlight and climbed up a rock face by himself without asking for help, something I have never seen him do. He kissed the rocks and hugged a tree. He was happier than I had seen him in weeks. He was the kid I was so used to before I put him on my crazy tour schedule.
It’s funny watching him I was reminded of his dad who so often would turn into such a sour puss when I planned something for us. But if I leave him free to hike and roam without timelines and limits, our adventures are always amazing and memorable. My son is so much like his father. I see it more and more every day.
I think we will push on, but with less of a schedule and more of an adventure. It’s time to listen to Mason and be on a toddler schedule. This might mean we don’t move very far in a day and sometimes we might walk around in circles and find ourselves back where we started.
Follow up: Mason and I have now made it to Moab, Zion and now Vegas. We have done a couple beautiful hikes including a 3-miler up to Delicate Arch. I’m glad I decided to push on and to let go of planning more hikes with branches. While I had high hopes of hiking with every branch I could on this trip, I have realized that even more important on this journey is that Mason and I enjoy being together on our big adventure. We pick up Daddy tomorrow and spend the rest of the week in Zion. Can’t wait to see what’s next…stay tuned for more updates from the road.