Born @ 27 weeks
2lbs 7oz

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Happy Birthday To Me

Like everyone on this planet, this summer did not go as planned. Our family spent close to a year meticulously planning logistics for three very short months of summer. The highlight, introducing our boys to Europe!

Michael and I were booked on a cruise (ha - I literally just laughed out loud. A CRUISE!!!!) from Barcelona to Lisbon scheduled for this week. We had tickets for the boys and I to fly to HHI so they could stay with their grandparents (thank you Nonnie + Bebo!), where Michael and I would have an adult trip through wine tasting in Portugal, swimming in Mallorca, dancing in Ibiza, eating our way through Morocco...

Sigh. (Thank goodness we are not on a cruise, but it sounded quite lovely).

My father and his wife graciously agreed to fly the boys over to meet us at the end of our cruise in Lisbon, an experience my Dad was really looking forward to. Our plan was to spend a few days together in Lisbon, then our family of four would move south to Corsica for another adventure on the beach.

It was perfect by design and took months of coordinating.

Obviously, I'm typing this now from our home in Denver. Like so many others, we didn't make it to Europe (and that's okay because in light of all that it happening in the world, travel disappointments  all seem too common, trivial and trite).

Michael and I make a good team when it comes to pivoting, coupled with a hunger for adventure. While our summer plans began to implode, we were quick to ask each other...
"What is safe?"
"What is close?"
"What can we do now?"

We talked about National Parks (God knows I never did anything like that growing up. But what better time to do a few than this summer, when we can't get on a plane). We talked about driving to San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, San Diego, Austin, New Mexico. We talked briefly about driving east to see our parents, but worried about recklessly exposing them (all four sets of them) to Covid. We then decided we would find a meet place half way, we did the research - Lake of the Ozarks seemed feasible, mildly interesting with the greater good of seeing our family.

Within a day of making up our minds, that damn article surfaced on every news feed about the outbreak in the Ozarks from partying kids.

Pivot. 

Finally, we settled on L A K E  P O W E L L.

It's always been on my bucket list. I've always heard stories of the surreal canyons and camp fires and house boats and water skiing.... But when could we ever go? We always go see our family back east each summer, so our window is limited. THIS IS THE TIME.

We booked a houseboat immediately. There were only two left (so they said).

Side note: Many of you may know, there is this running joke with Michael and I around my birthday (Memorial Day). More often than not, it ends in some sort of disaster.... biking the creeper trail in West Virginia, sleeping at a GAS STATION due to a forest fire, covered in sand fleas on one beach expedition, roaming for hours without a campsite in Moab.

It's really not his fault. He is so thoughtful and makes such an effort but it has turned into comedy at best. This year took my birthday to a new level.

We began planning - and I mean, planning. We were scouting out where to go, which way to drive, what to see along the way, how to store food for a week, how to pack the damn car. It's no joke, people.

We started in Zion. Absolutely spectacular. The most gorgeous National Park I've every had the privilege to witness.

We crept up late in the day, after most had gone home. Instead of the one-in-one-out rule, we rolled right to the back of the canyon. Straight to The Narrows.




For those that don't know the Narrows, it is an incredible hike, through slot canyons, wading (sometimes chest high) through water. It can flash flood and be extremely dangerous but also spectacular on a good day!

It was unbelievable. The highlight of our trip. 

Fast forward to Bryce. Also amazing, although we could only afford a drive by, given our boat reservations on Lake Powell.



Hence, our late arrival to Lake Powell.
I have heard the most magical, whimsical tales of Powell. People remanence with either a gaze to the sky, remembering the adventure, beauty and magnificence or a chuckle (and glance to their shoes) to memories of the shenanigans in their 20s. Either way, every story is positive.

Not ours.

Important side note: Michael and I are boat people. We both grew up on lakes. We both dreaded 'putzing' around with our parents after dinner on the boat, when we were kids. We both worked at marinas in high school. Michael is a sensational wake boarder and boater - it's like second nature to him. In my younger days, I would say I concentrated on the art of tubing, catching catch fish and skipping school to be on the water (can't take the country out of the girl). We can tie the knots, hoist the anchors, lower the props.... we are lake people (or at least we were).



In typical Richter fashion, we arrived late to the marina (someone was car sick - not naming names) and we wheeled in hot, squeaking into the marina office within 4 minutes before they closed. We were quickly briefed with a tour of the house boat (which neither of us have ever driven), coupled with a tour of the ski boat and were told we couldn't leave the dock because weather was rolling in.

We begged the Marina Boss to go. We did NOT want to spend our first night at the dock!! We pleaded to be able to anchor across the channel and hunker down for the night, then be on our way the following morning to one of the exotic canyons I've always heard about. She reluctantly agreed. (I think it was because we convinced her we were boat people).

We packed up, untied and somewhere in the middle of the channel a 'pilot' drove out the ski boat for us to tie up and tow behind the house boat. We tied it on, said our goodbyes and the adventure began!

I'm not proud of this.
Need I remind you that we are boat/lake people.

Five minutes in, Michael asked Nash (from the bow of the house boat) to 'check' on "Chopper" (the speed boat we were towing). He quickly reports back, "The ski boat is gone."

H A P P Y  B I R T H D AY  TO  ME!  

We've lost the boat and now need to somehow maneuver the house boat to 'pick up' the ski boat in the last glimpse of daylight.

Between the sweat beading on my forehead, to the screams from all ends of the boat, while racing back and forth = TOTAL CHAOS - we did it (found the boat just before it crashed into the moraine rocks at the marina) and we were off again.

H A P P Y   B I R T H D A Y  TO  ME!


Somewhere in the midst of crazy, we were high-fiving and celebrating that we either didn't die or found the boat and at present were in search of a place to spend the night. We found a beach, anchored (all four of them, which need to be buried 2-4 feet deep) and enjoyed the moonrise.




The next day was lovely. We waterskied, explored, picnicked, swam and laughed and it truly felt like vacation on another planet, with the extreme terrain. It was fabulous - momentarily.




Of course, that is when the weather turned.

Since we were out of cell phone service, we listened vigilantly to a radio with a computer stoically covering weather from UT to CO, waiting patiently for Glenn Canyon/Lake Powell to roll around the half hour string up updates.

"Wind Advisory. 30-35 mph winds late in the day."

Since we're lake people, we adventured off in the morning. Packed a picnic. Blew up the "Wow" (which apparently is the new 'tube'.... even stranger to hear your kiddos say, "Mom, can we go Wowing?" I don't know what happened to the tube, just like I don't know what happened to the third, rear-facing seat in the station wagon, but I sure as hell think they should bring both back!)





Needless to say, we were wrapping up the day on Chopper and heading back to where we were anchored a few canyons down and decided to gas up at the marina. Within minutes, the Marina Keeper races out to tell us all the boats to evacuate the dock immediately. The winds had increased past 25 mph and he was not allowed to service us.

PS. In a canyon, there is NO WHERE TO GO.

We untied and took off. His final, fleeting words to my husband were, "Drive into the wind." Whatever that means in a wind storm, when you have a direction you have to go.

There are times that my husband and I are not a good team (times when our son is in the hospital, times when we disagree about parenting and plenty of others). This was not one of those times. Somehow we were cohesive, quiet, simultaneously terrified and understanding.

Nash and Shaw were positioned on the bow of the boat to weigh down front. Shaw fell asleep (in the midst of intense beating of the waves), the methodic beating (and not my hysteria) must have some how chaotically lulled him (or beat him) to sleep. Nash gazed into the waves and braced for an adventure of a life time.

It was terrifying. The winds whipped and swells were relentless. My husband at the helm, Meatball in my lap. We were silent. We had miles to cross in the main channel before we could seek refuge from the storm in our canyon. For my lake friends, when a 'thunder boomer' rolls in, everyone knows to seek refuge on the nearest dock or find a place to get out of the wrath until it passes. On Lake Powell, there is no where to go in a canyon with 600+ ft walls.

My Mom-Mind, as it does, goes to the worst of places. It's called 'having a plan '(but often not at all necessary). This day, I mapped out if we capsized, where could we float in the frigid waters and survive. I did not breathe this out loud, but know Michael was thinking the same.

As the waves rose to six+ feet, beating relentlessly against and over our tiny boat, I watched my husband as he navigated wave after wave. Up and down. There just wasn't a reprieve. Just as we survived being capsized by one wave, it reverberated off the canyon wall and attacked again, from another angle, without remorse. I bowed my head (at first from nausea, later for prayer).

Somehow (mostly due to my husband's skills), we made it. We turned into our canyon, white-faced, paralyzed, feeling the wind subside and the rocking abated. Michael killed the motor. It took 10 seconds before we both began to cry. 

H A P P Y  B I R T H D A Y,  DEAR CANDACE...

That was the beginning of the next three days navigating the cold, the waves, the adventure and being trapped in a tiny box (that was beginning to smell of sewage from all the wave sloshing) and not being able to go outside. No screens, service, fresh food or drink - surviving only with White Claw, (slim pickens at the marina) and Uno.

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Do you want to hear the craziest thing?
Our boys said Lake Powell was their favorite trip of all time. OF ALL TIME!!!

H A P P Y  B I R T H D A Y  TO ME!
(Ironically, this makes all of it worth it).
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Thankfully, on the day we were leaving, the weather turned back to the norm... 100 degrees, skiing at 7am, warm water, big adventures. We had just a taste of it.

That said, I don't think we'll be back for a while.

*Photos are obviously taken during the happier moments. I didn't pause during our death ride to capture our terror. Richters + Lake Powell = No Bueno*