Our Attempted Yellowstone Trip

Cami writing here… Last summer we had planned for a quick little trip to Yellowstone. I don’t think I have ever been and Lamoni went when he was 14 years old with his Scouts. We had planned a 3-4 day trip to go camping in Yellowstone National Park.

We left in the afternoon of June 20, 2016. We loaded all six kids in the Excursion (Milo, the baby, was just 3 months old) and hitched up our trusty old 1968 Aristocrat Lo Liner trailer to camp in. Well, mostly camp in – the Aristocrat doesn’t fit our whole family so we usually end up pitching a tent for the older kids. The Aristocrat was filled to the brim with our camping gear, tent, bikes, stroller, suitcases and various camping gear. Off we went! We have never been North through Wyoming and I have to say, it is beautiful! Star Valley was breathtaking and I fell in love with the landscape. Our navigation said that Yellowstone was 8-ish hours from our house and we were scheduled to arrive at our campsite a little after 10pm.

We were high up in the mountains about 2o miles south of Jackson Hole around 9pm when our trip took a nasty turn. With the Snake river on our right we heard a very loud POP! Flat tire on the trailer. Bummer! So, Lamoni pulled over as far as he could, but there was a guard rail on the right so we were sticking out a little in the road. The flat was on the driver side of the trailer. Lamoni went back to change the tire. I rolled the window down and immediately smelled something burning. “Whew!” I thought, “That tire must really be in bad shape.” Lamoni then comes running back to the truck saying “I need water!”

I remember thinking, “Why does he need water? He’s just changing a flat tire.” But I also recognized a small panic in his voice. So I got out of the truck to go see what was going on. He was grabbing water bottles and throwing the water on a small fire that had started up under the tire of the trailer. It was a small fire. But it was in a bad place. It was hard to get to it. We were throwing water from the bottle up and around the tire. We couldn’t get to the fire to make a difference. We had some people stop and help us. There was a guy who unhitched the truck and drove forward for safety. Lamoni was unscrewing the propane tanks from the front of the trailer while other helpers were using fire extinguishers to try to put the fire out.

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Lamoni decided to try and save some of our belongings when we knew things weren’t looking good. Since we were snug right up against the guard rail it was hard to open the door to the trailer. We were bending the frame of the door to get it open enough so Lamoni could squeeze through and start throwing stuff out. He first threw out a bunch of firewood that was in the way,(because that wasn’t going to help our situation in any way!) he then got to two bikes which happened to be Lamoni’s nice mountain bike and our oldest son’s bike. The bikes were strapped in pretty tight and Lamoni just cut the strap with his knife and threw out the first two bikes in the line-up. Then he threw out two suitcases, a coat, and one sleeping bag. By then the trailer was too smokey to see so we were yelling at him to just get out. I think we knew at that point it was gone. The nice guy who unhitched us moved our vehicle to the other side of the road and we watched it burn.

Why am I recording this? It didn’t cross my mind, my mind was full of emotions and disbelief of what was happening. At one point Lamoni looked back at me (while he was still fighting the fire) and said, “Why don’t you record this for us?” I was seriously flabbergasted. “WHY??” I answered. Lamoni shrugged and with a slight chuckle he said to me, “What else are you going to do?” Well, I guess he’s right! So I started to record. Why not!?!

 

One reason it was a total loss was because we were up in the mountains with no cell service. I remember one guy telling us, “We sent someone to call 911, but they won’t have cell service for 15 minutes or so until they come out of the canyon.” – Bummer.

The firetrucks and police finally came and helped to direct traffic. It was quite the site. They Highway Patrol Officers were very kind and helpful. They found a hotel for us in Afton, Wyoming and got us a discount.

It was amazing to see how fire can damage things in such a short period of time.

They called a tow truck to come and tow the remains into Jackson Wyoming. We headed back the other way to Afton, WY to get our hotel room. Just as we came out of the canyon after a 15 minute twisty road Lamoni gasped. We were sitting at a stoplight and he exclaimed, “MY FOOT!” Um, what about your foot? — “My Spongebob foot was in the trailer! We have to go back right now.” And with that, we turned around and headed back up the canyon to the burn site. That was the longest 15 minute drive we have ever taken. With every turn of the road we kept saying, “It’s got to be close, why aren’t we there yet?”

Lamoni couldn’t believe it took him 2.5 hours to remember that his prosthetic foot was in the trailer. It was just sitting on the bed in the back. It wasn’t buried, it would have been easy enough to get to. But for some reason he didn’t remember about it for a long time. He made the remark, “I would have saved my foot 100-times over before I saved my nice mountain bike… why didn’t I remember?” *** I have an idea of why he didn’t remember. I believe the Lord didn’t allow him to remember his foot for the safety of his life. I know Lamoni, and I know that if he would have remembered his foot at any time during the fire he would have risked anything to go in and try to save it. And Lamoni agrees with me.

We arrived at the site just when the tow truck was pulling the camper up onto his bed. Most of the firemen and policemen were still there. Lamoni jumped out and ran up to see if he could get a glimpse of his Spongebob foot. He knew it was a goner, but he had to try. The only thing he found that night was the socket part lying in the road. It was blackened carbon fiber.img_4423

It was very sad. That foot was the worst thing we lost in the fire. As Lamoni put it, “You just can’t go down to the store and buy these things. Even if you had the money, they aren’t on store shelves to easy-peasy walk out with. They take a lot of time to get the fit just right.”

The next day we went to the tow yard to see the trailer in daylight.

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It was sad to see it all clumped in a pile. We just couldn’t believe it still.

Since the kids didn’t have any clothes we decided to hit up a thrift store in Jackson Hole to get them one extra pair of clothes for the day. We also ended up buying a stroller at the thrift store. I had mentioned that maybe we should just head home. But Lamoni wouldn’t let this experience defeat us. “We’ve come this far, we have to at least go see Old Faithful! Let’s go and enjoy a few hours in Yellowstone. We will not be defeated!” The kids and I all agreed so we headed to Yellowstone through the Grand Teton’s.

We saw these two items below in the Historic Old Faithful Inn and couldn’t help to snap a picture…

We returned home the next day. Lamoni left the following day to go back to Jackson Hole and retrieve our trailer. (All in one day, it was a long trip for him!) He took his brothers flatbed trailer and brought back the burned trailer so we could go through it.

Our oldest son was the winner and found the bottom part of the Spongebob foot in the rubble. Hooray! There is nothing much we can do with it… we’ve thought about making it a planter. Why not?

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We’ve talked a lot about this experience. It has been 8 months since the fire and we’ve had some time to reflect. We talked right away with the kids about how the things we lost were just “things”. We knew how blessed we were that no one was hurt. It could have been so much worse. We thank our Heavenly Father for watching over us and giving us this experience to learn and grow from. We want to thank the many “helpers” who stopped and helped us on the side of the road that day. The kindness of the strangers and the law enforcement/fire fighters really touched me. I don’t know any of your names but I think about your service often. May God bless you.

One of the sweetest things was a few days later our 8-year-old brought Lamoni this picture she drew. She knew how important this foot was to Lamoni and wanted to draw this for him. img_4439

Rest in peace Spongebob foot…. You were an excellent foot.

And Hey, Yellowstone, we’ll try again another day.

First Race. . . Ever

Did you hear about the guy who tried a Spartan Race for the first time?

In March 2013, Lamoni mentioned to me that he was going to do a Spartan Race in May of that year. “A what?” I asked.  I had never heard of the Spartan Race. “Yea, a guy at work was telling me about them and I want to do it.”

Well… Okay.  In my mind I’m thinking that this is great, whatever it is, because he’s actually “doing something.” For years he had been a hermit in our home and I yearned for him to get out and do something, anything! Find a hobby, find friends to hang out with. . . get that “spark” back in his eyes and his spirit.  Whatever this Spartan thingy was, I was grateful.

At the time, I wasn’t familiar with the Spartan Races at all. So, let me give you a small crash-course:

Definition of SPARTAN. 1: a native or inhabitant of ancient Sparta. 2: a person of great courage and self-discipline — Spar·tan·ism \-ˌ i-zəm\ noun

Wikipedia states that “Spartan Race is a series of obstacle races of varying distance and difficulty ranging from 1 mile to marathon distances. In 2012, they were voted Outside Magazine’s “BEST OBSTACLE RACE”. They are held in North America, Canada, Europe, South Korea, and Australia. The series include the Spartan Sprint (3+ miles of obstacle racing), the Super Spartan (8+ miles), the Spartan Beast (12+ miles), and the Ultra Beast (26+ miles – one of two marathon obstacle courses along with Mudderthon). Spartan Race also has a time-trial obstacle course race that is one mile in length, and has a military series in which obstacles are designed by the United States military. Spartan Race’s parent company, Peak Races, hosts the Spartan Death Race, a 48+ hour extreme test of endurance and resilience. ESPN describes the Spartan Race as “a true test of will.”” Click here for the Wikipedia page.

So, as the weeks went on Lamoni began training for the race. I didn’t do much research into what a Spartan Race was, just whatever Lamoni and I would look up on the Internet. We looked at their awesome homepage, Go check it out! (By the way, the video that plays when you are on the homepage has a small clip of Lamoni’s broken foot. The footage was at the Spartan Beast in Midway, Utah in June 2013 – pause the video at 26 seconds and you’ll get a glimpse of Lamoni’s broken running foot.{Story about the broken running foot will come in a later post} Cool!) Lamoni’s training basically consisted of doing 6 weeks of the P90x program and some running. He was pretty dedicated to this workout and the results were pretty impressive.

Before: Pictures taken March 28, 2013

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After: Pictures taken May 6, 2013

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Race day!! The race was on a Saturday so we left on Friday to head to Colorado. We dropped the kids off with Lamoni’s brother and sister-in-law for them to watch overnight. They were a big help! (Thank you guys!) The race was a Spartan Sprint in Colorado. It was held on a military base (very cool!) at Ft. Carson near the Air Force Academy / Colorado Springs area. This was about a 6-7 hour drive from our home. I say 6-7 hours because it depended on how many times I had to stop and walk around. You see, at the time of the race I was 4 months pregnant with our 5th child (an adventure of my own!). This was a fun quick get-away for the two of us. So, Saturday morning came and we got ready for the race. I went down early for the hotel’s breakfast and I brought back a yogurt for Lamoni to eat – that’s all he wanted. He was doing a quick version of the P90x Yoga workout to get ready for the race.

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The location of the race was about a 20-minute drive from our hotel and I was getting really nervous for Lamoni during the drive. I’m a nervous person anyway (and pregnancy always heightens this terrible trait in me) and I had to work really hard to not “freak out” and get sick with my nerves. I was so worried about Lamoni doing this race for the first time and not knowing anybody or what to expect throughout the race. When we parked we were very lucky to find near us Lamoni’s buddy at work who was running the race too. His buddy, “C”, had his two daughters with him too -“M” and “K”.  While talking to them I was coming to realize that the four of them (Lamoni, C, M, and K) were all on a team to race. They would all be racing together! And I was just finding this out an hour before their start time! This information could have saved me much grief. (Remember why I was a nervous wreck earlier?? I thought that my husband would be running the race alone??) I was very relieved that he wasn’t running alone anymore. (Now couples, this is a quick lesson on communication right? Eh?)

So we head off to registration to get their bib numbers and such. Now it’s just time to wait until their race time. In this race, they were letting 200 racers start every 15 minutes. (We learned later that it was close to 9,000 racers between the Saturday and Sunday races! Wow!)

Waiting for their time to start. . .

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When they were lining up to start, I had made my way down the spectator path to try and get a good video of them starting the race. The video is awesome, showing the first obstacle. . . the moats. The sad thing is that I lost sight of the team and just kept videoing the same spot. But it’s still very entertaining to watch. I heard the announcer say later that day that there had been 18 injuries in the moat obstacle that day, so to please be careful when jumping in/over the moats. Mercy!

And then they were gone! The spectator path only went so far, then you had to wait for them to loop around the course and you could see them come around again for a few more obstacles.

Let me talk a little bit about Lamoni’s running foot. This was his first EVER running foot. As I said in the first post he had his leg amputated higher in 2006 for better prosthetics. Since that surgery was ka-ka to his life, he wasn’t very active until last year (2013). When he finally started seeing a prosthetic guy and we finally got insurance, he asked about a running foot.  This race was the “maiden voyage” for his running foot.  I was glad he was using his running foot for an extra reason – it made him easier to spot in the crowds of racers. I had to scan the feet of the racers to notice Lamoni. I learned pretty quickly that I had to look at the “feet” of the racers. I was used to looking at the shin/calf part of the leg to locate Lamoni because that’s what usually stood out. Not too many people have a pirate map on their shin/calf. But when I was trying to find him in the midst of many racers I came to the knowledge of a thing called “compression socks”. I had never heard of them. . . There were TONS of them! And they come in patterns! Patterns that make your feet look like prosthetics! (In MY eyes. . .) I had to learn to look to the actual feet of the runners to find Lamoni quickly. And by the time he came around the course again every racer had been through mud and it was hard to tell people apart from clothing color/pattern. But feet… feet will help me find my husband in a sea of muddy racers!

Here are a few videos of some obstacles they did when they showed up along the spectator course again. Spirits were still high! Woo!

When I first caught sight of Lamoni and his team it was at the log walk. I’m not sure the exact name of the obstacle, but that’s what I call it.

Next was the super long muddy barbed wire crawl. The video is a bit long, I don’t blame you if you want to skip the middle (when he got stuck behind a slow person, but once he passes her he’s a-bookin’ it!) and watch the end.

The team took time to strike a pose!

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Then it was onto the spear throw. Lamoni nails it!

I then took a random video of my husband just walking around on his foot. You see, this was the first time I had ever seen him on an actual “running foot” and it was fascinating to me. So, this video is just of him walking around at a dead spot in the race.

I now had to run around to the other side of the spectator course to catch the last of the obstacles I could view.
This is a trench they had to climb through. (What I love about this video is how Lamoni runs to help his teammate out of the trench once he spots her. He can be such a helpful guy.)

This video of the rope/wall climb is one of my favorites. He shows his determination and strength here. He also shows his willingness to help others. After he makes it over the wall he stays there for quite a while to help others up the wall. I remember seeing his team waiting for him a while as he stayed and helped many people up and over that muddy, slippery wall. Love him!

The next two videos are of the weight pull, and the tire pull.

Seeing Lamoni and the team come through and do a few obstacles was refreshing. I think it helped us both. It eased my nerves a bit seeing how well he was doing and I think it gave him a boost of confidence as well.

After the team headed on with the race it was now a guessing game to see when the team would cross the finish line. I found a seat on a picnic table and tried to relax a bit. It seemed a bit cold being 55 degrees, but the sun was shining and it felt wonderful. I sat there for about 45 minutes enjoying watching people / racers. It was such a fun environment – such great energy and a feeling of accomplishment and goal reaching was bursting from the racers who had finished the race. It was easy to spot the finishers – they were covered in mud and sometimes even blood. Some of the teams even dressed up! I saw a team of 5 guys dressed as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and a group of girls dressed as zombie princesses complete with tutus. It was awesome!

I wanted to get a good “seat” at the finish line to see Lamoni finish the race. I saw a space open at a great spot, so I took it! I got to stand at the finish line for a while waiting for Lamoni and his team. It was fun cheering on the racers as they finished the race. To see kids and spouses cheering on their Dad’s/Mom’s as they jumped over the fire and raced to the end. I stood there for a little over an hour before I recognized Lamoni and his team up on the last obstacle. I got so excited when I saw them! They made it!

I only wish my phone had a zoom on the video setting.

I was (am) so proud of him! What a great accomplishment for his first Spartan Race. I could tell from the moment he crossed the finish line that he LOVED it! I kinda knew right then that we would be attending many Spartan Races in the future – and I was excited!

After he finished we celebrated for a minute or two, then he headed to the showers. The showers at a Spartan Race consist of garden hoses with sprayers attached. You basically wait your turn until a hose is unoccupied, then you spray yourself off – with COLD water! This wouldn’t be a problem in the summer, but in early May, in the Colorado mountains. . . the poor racers were all FREEZING! I felt so bad; they were all shaking and waiting to dry off. There were a few smart ones who knew to bring a change of clothes. (Luckily “C” told us to – he is a smart one!)

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Before we left Lamoni signed the Wall of Valor. (and we did a little shopping at the gift-shop tent)

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We left Colorado around 4pm that day (I’ll admit – I was worried about my kids). I got to drive the beautiful Colorado interstate the whole way home; Lamoni was just a wee bit tired. This put us home around 11pm to retrieve our kids. It was such a great experience – Lamoni had caught the Spartan bug.

What did I learn from this first Spartan Race? I learned that Lamoni wasn’t in the race to get a good “race time”. He just wanted to finish. Period. He would stop and help anybody that needed help along the way. That is who he is – and it was joyous to see that. I knew that man – that’s who I married, and that part of him was lost for so many years. For so many years I wondered if I would ever see that side of him again: the compassionate side, the concerned side, the strive-for-something side, and honestly, the happiness side of him. This race was a glimpse of hope that I had been yearning to feel for many years. I also knew it was going to be a slow climb back to a happier place for us both. But isn’t that better? A slow climb is still a climb right? Anything slow is better; slow-cooker dinner, slow churned ice cream, and even weight loss at a slow but steady pace is better and more likely to “stick” in life. I wasn’t expecting Lamoni to “snap” out of his depression. There would be a recession to that. I knew it was going to take time – and I had plenty of time, patience, faith, and love.

Now bring on the next Spartan Race! Aroo! Aroo!