It is a truth sometimes acknowledged by the more optimistic among us that the best vacations always contain an element of surprise, an experience that seems somewhat (or completely) awful at the time, but that turns into one of the fondest moments of spontaneity from the whole trip.
That’s why, years down the road, Matt will finally learn to laugh when I say:
“Remember that time I got us lost out in the middle of nowhere Idaho trying to find a landmark that was only like 10 minutes away from the cabin we were staying at? And remember how our Mazda totally got stuck in the sand, and I singlehandedly had to push us out while you did that rev back-and-forth thing with the tires that I have never been able to master? Remember how HILARIOUS that was? REMEMBER?!”
And then he’ll laugh. And laugh and laugh.
But as of now, the memory apparently still isn’t funny. (Trust me, I’ve tried. More than once.)
But maybe I’d better back up a bit.
It all started with Johnny Sack’s Cabin (curse you, Johnny Sacks!), a cabin in Island Park, Idaho that’s nestled up alongside a gorgeous lake and surrounded by mountains and forest and all that good stuff. It’s a cabin where everything from the floors to the beds to the chairs to the tables was handcrafted by Johnny Sacks, a much-shorter-than-normal woodworker who basically built a tiny house built specifically for his own size.
Having already half-heartedly tried to find this cabin the day previously, we decided to take advantage of an afternoon when the rest of the clan on vacation with us had all decided to go floating down the river (an activity we just didn’t think Raven was quite cut out for yet) to go find the illusive cabin.
Now you must know, our knowledge of this fantastical wooden wonder was limited entirely to what we’d heard from our sister-in-law, who’d briefly mentioned it back on day one before they had to drive back to their own house, and who said that “you had to drive through a campground and that she thought it was around Mesa Falls” (a landmark we’d visited that same first day).
So, while the rest of the family packed their canoes and life jackets and swimsuits and towels, I hopped onto our laptop and did a search for “Johnny Sack Cabin.”
Clicking on TripAdvisor to check reviews on it, I then clicked on the website that TripAdvisor recommended to go to. Scrolling through the pictures, it looked like it was worthy of our afternoon hours, so I hastily scribbled down the address at the top of the webpage, grabbed the baby, and told Matt to pack us some snacks.
The odds were against us from the beginning.
For beginners, the construction happening on the one highway in and out of our cabin at Island Park was under the worst kind of construction known to man, with all two-way traffic being constricted to just one lane and the workers deciding to only change the direction of that lane every 40 minutes or so.
So we put the car in park while we waited for a direction change that seemed eternally in the near future (but never quite coming), and Matt literally fell asleep (in the driver’s seat) while we waited. And waited. And waited. (At least we had Harry Potter to keep me awake.)
When traffic finally started going again and I’d woken Matt up (scared him awake, more like, with how urgently I said his name), I sat back and looked at our new estimated time of arrival and thought to myself how we were barely going to make the cabin before it closed. (Then I thought for a minute how weird it was that we were over an hour’s drive away from the cabin when it was supposedly supposed to be close, but since I’d copied the address off the webpage, I thought no more about it.)
One thing you must know before I go on:
Under no circumstances should I be trusted with having any sense of direction when we’re going someplace new, nor should I always be trusted with having done thorough research when we’re going someplace new. (I have so many examples I could use to back this up, but I’ll just let you take my word for it that this wasn’t the first time this particular weakness of mine had chosen to rear its directionless head.)
So really, after 5+ years of marriage and many years of dating/friendship before that, Matt really should learn to expect stuff like this from me.
After we’d driven for an hour or so, we took the St. Anthony exit and started getting excited at the prospect of finally getting out of the car (Raven, especially). As we drove along quaint main streets and little side streets of houses, I started to become suspicious—
Wasn’t this cabin supposed to be in the woods? Wasn’t it supposed to have a lake around it? If there was no lake around it, WHAT THE HECK WAS UP WITH ALL THE LAKE PICTURES ON THE WEBSITE?!
And then, the GPS told us we’d reached our destination on the right.
We looked right.
We looked left.
We circled around the nearby blocks, hoping for a sign.
All we saw was a small administrative-looking red brick building surrounded by little houses with little lawns and heat waves rising up from the asphalt.
What in the world had happened?!
I couldn’t figure it out.
I’d looked on the official Johnny Sack Cabin website (or at least, the official website according to TripAdvisor). I’d copied down the address that was typed in large letters at the top of the page. How could this have happened?
(Side bar: it is in moments like this that I most wish we’d just give in and get ourselves smartphones already.)
So we called that sister-in-law, who didn’t answer. We called another sister-in-law (who was probably back at one of the cabins by now), who also didn’t answer. We called my own sister (who was usually by her work computer at this hour), who didn’t answer. Then we called my brother, who quickly hopped onto Google and told us the address.
It was absolutely not even the tiniest bit close to the address I’d written down.
So what do you do when you’re in the middle of nowhere Idaho, not even close to your original destination?
Well, in our case, you see signs pointing you to the nearby sand dunes and decide to go there instead.
But before you can actually get out and explore said sand dunes, you get your car stuck in the sand while trying to pull into a designated parking area, and your husband maybe is thisclose to boiling point (not to mention your car’s engine, which has sure started to smell funny), and you’re sure glad you’ve been working out and doing planks and stuff because it looks like you’ll be pushing out this sucker of a car on your own.
I don’t know how long I pushed for (although I did learn that I should have informed my husband a LONG time before I did that the tires weren’t spinning around at all when he was revving the engine).
I DO know that we eventually made it out of there and that I seemed to find the whole thing more of an adventure than anyone else in the car.
But, luckily for me, Matt was willing to go along with my harebrained scheme of jumping down some sand dunes in 100-degree heat and taking a ridiculous number of pictures of us doing it.
As for Raven, well, she vacillated between subtle enjoyment of playing in the sand and getting twirled around and outright rage-slash-fear-slash-uncertainty as we performed mini jumps off the dunes with her in our arms.
So in the end, we ended up with some pretty fun pictures and a memory that will be funny for all of us maybe a few years down the road.
And in case you’re ever in St. Anthony, Idaho, check out the sand dunes! Yeah!
Oh, and the reason I had copied down that particular address?
Well, funny story (I saw that eye roll, Matt)—
APPARENTLY, I had been looking at a webpage within a webpage rather than a whole website devoted entirely to info about Johnny Sack’s Cabin. In fact, I had been looking at that COUNTY’S webpage, so the address at the top just happened to be the address for the county seat.
But at least we got some fun pictures out of it, eh? EH?!
I would say “Until next time, St. Anthony,” BUT….
Note: For any who are just dying to know, we did eventually make it out to good ol’ Johnny’s cabin later in the week. It was okay, I guess….
But the sand dunes were cooler.