The Wreck, Why We Love Vernal, and How to Plan a High School Class Reunion

Last week, we went to Vernal. 

I posted this on Instagram, but I seriously regret not jumping off the Starvation Reservoir bridge in my younger years. Although I appreciate the encouragement to jump now, there are just some things that you don't do when you are a mother. . . encumbered with responsibilities and a body that bruises easily. And if Nat Holfeltz got hurt when he jumped, I can't imagine what would happen to me. 

We stopped at a gas station in Duchesne and met up with Bridgett, who recently moved to Arizona. She drove up to Vernal for the reunion alone with her three kids. If you know her children, then you understand that this was a significant display of loyalty. (Possibly more so to our friendship than Uintah High School Class of 1999?)

Anyhow, we did some shuffling at the gas station. We moved Ruby to our car (so Rachel and Lucy could entertain her for the last hour of the drive), we moved Adam to Bridgett's car (so he could talk Minecraft or whatever game he was playing with Darwin), and then I jumped in with Bridgett (so we could discuss an article I'd just read.) That sounded scholarly, so let me clarify. It was an article on Facebook about "selfies", narcissism, addiction, and mental illness. It wasn't at all scientific, but it was entertaining. We were so engrossed with our enlightening conversation that I missed two phone calls from Steve and text messages from Steve and Rachel.

They had gotten into a wreck.
Everyone was okay; the Pilot was not. 

By the time we finally made contact, Bridgett and I were clear down by the high school. We turned around and met back up with them, just past the cemetery. Here's what happened: Steve was cruising east on Highway 40 (at highway speeds) in the left lane with a large truck in the right lane, just in front of him. He thinks the truck might have put on its turn signal or it might have just been blocking the view. Either way, a woman, stopped at the intersection on his right, tried to shoot out across the highway heading west in a small little sports car. 

Luckily, Steve saw her. He swerved as hard as he could into the westbound lanes to avoid hitting her straight on. Thankfully, there was no oncoming traffic. So instead of smashing into her directly on her driver side, she hit into the rear passenger side of our Pilot. 

The woman accepted full responsibility for the accident and kept thanking Steve for seeing her. We sent Lucy with Bridgett and her kids to drive the rest of the way to Vernal. I called our insurance agent, but it was just past 5:30, and they were closed. I called GarffCare, but they only provide service on the Wasatch Front. I called Allstate and had a frustrating conversation with a woman who did not speak English very well. She recommended towing our car to the Harley Davidson in Vernal because they did work on Hondas? Our policy covered $50 towards towing and we would need to pay the other $200 out of pocket? None of that sounded right. We went and talked to the policemen, who called a local tow company and arranged for them to come pick up the Pilot. Then I started calling around for rental cars. There are no rental car companies in Roosevelt. So I called Debra back and accepted her offer to send Aaron to drive from Vernal and pick us up. We aren't sure what we would have done without a friend who would come rescue us. 

We unloaded everything from our car. Everything. At that point, we thought we would be bidding farewell to our Pilot, but now it appears that we will get it back. As we were emptying out our vehicle, the policeman jokingly asked us if we were moving. Nope.

Rachel set up the obstacle course and she and Adam took turns running through it.


Steve and I set up our lawn chairs, and just hung out on the side of the noisy highway.

Until it started to rain. Then we stacked all of our belongings up into a giant pile and covered everything with a blankets. The tow truck finally came. The guy was actually really nice and offered to give us a ride to a store.

Bridgett texted me this picture of Lucy: 

Aaron came and picked us up. He had gone and borrowed Don and Elga's truck so he could haul us and all of our stuff back to Vernal. We met up with everyone else at the Meier's house for dinner and swimming. It was fun to visit with everyone, but I was feeling a little disjointed. Aaron was awesome and drove us out to the Dart's house and helped us unload all of our things. 

By the way, we canceled our Motor Club policy (which included $1500 worth of coverage for Trip Interruption) back in 2011. Otherwise, we would have been staying at the Marriott. But the Marriott can't compete with Susan Dart's cooking: pancakes with fresh whipped cream and strawberries, eggs and sausage. It was amazing. 

I called Enterprise Rent-A-Car in Vernal and was told "You are one of fifty people who got in an accident over the weekend. I don't have any vehicles available now, but I can get you a car by Tuesday." Great. . . now what? There is a used car dealership in Vernal that rents cars on the side, so we called them. They had two vehicles available: a Nissan Versa and a truck. I told them to save me the truck.  

We borrowed Susan's car and drove to the airport, but nobody was at the car rental desk. The sign gave a number to call for service, so we called. But the phone at the desk just rang and rang. We waited for about twenty minutes, and then a lady finally returned. This picture doesn't show it very well, but Rachel took a pencil and crossed out the "S" on Rentals since they were down to one rental. 

Needless to say, the wreck added some complications to our weekend. Steve didn't get insurance information from the other driver and we had to make at least five calls to the police department before we got all of the information we needed to pass onto our insurance company. It took all week to make contact with the insurance adjuster and get our Pilot towed out to Salt Lake for repair. The used car dealership we rented the truck from does not offer one-way rentals. . . so that means we'll have to take another trip out to Vernal when it's time to return the truck.

I'll admit that I was a little frustrated. It was a really busy weekend for us to leave Ogden, and I was already feeling like I had a lot on my plate. Before we left our home, we had prayed for safety during our trip. . . so why did we have to get into an accident? A few seconds later and we would have avoided all of this hassle.

But then there was one point that it really hit me. We had been watched over and protected. We had been kept safe. We weren't dealing with a fatality. We weren't hurt. Nobody had been traumatized. All of this was an inconvenience, but we were okay. And for that, I am greatly thankful.

Steve drove Susan's car back to the Darts and I took the girls to get snowcones:

If you get snowcones in Vernal, walk over to the temple and enjoy them in the shade:

Then it was back to the Darts for a highly-anticipated Ranger ride. After Steve took them for a ride, Ralph said he thought those girls could probably take it for a drive by themselves. This is why we love Vernal.

Five years ago, at my ten-year high school reunion, I volunteered to be in charge of the next reunion. Not all classes have a fifteen-year reunion, but we voted to have one because there were so many people who hadn't come to the ten-year reunion and we thought we needed to keep them connected so they wouldn't all disappear by the twentieth.

I recruited a committee:

I talked Jason Dilworth into making a graphic: 

I spent hours and hours and hours gathering addresses and inputing into a file on Google Drive. It felt like I was begging people for their contact info. So if someone from your high school class ever asks for your info, you should promptly give it to them. 

A few people on the planning committee bailed. 

A few people really stepped up. 

We ordered the food, the decorations, the DJ. 

And then most of the people from our class forgot to come to the reunion. . . but that's okay, we went for quality over quantity. 

If anyone hears about a contest for having the longest neck, please let me know. I think I could win.

People walked around and looked at the silent auction items, the tribute tables honoring classmates who had passed away, old dance pictures, and old uniforms. I found these quotes from our old yearbook and turned them into a game:

We ate dinner from Cafe Rio and then gave out our awards, which was definitely the funnest part of the reunion. 

Joni was the emcee and she was perfect: entertaining and personable. The first award was for Traveling the Farthest. She started out asking anyone who had been out of the country to raise their hand. But the award was supposed to go to the person who traveled the farthest to get to the reunion. . . not whoever had traveled the farthest since high school. I interrupted her to clarify, but then she said she'd thought a lot about this and wanted to see who would win. I said that I'd probably win. . . and I really didn't plan the first contest to be one that I was going to win. 

Bridgett won a Red Bull: 

I'm not going to post all of the awards, just some of my favorites. Tari Fletcher won for Longest Marriage (16 years) and Most Kids (5): 

Brooke Merrill won Newest Newlywed:

Jen Farnsworth won Most Eligible Bachelorette. We were really hoping to hook her up with the Most Eligible Bachelor, but there were no single guys at the reunion. There weren't a lot of guys from our class at all. . .  

The funniest part of the night was when Joni stumbled over her words with The Sugar Daddy award. It was supposed to go to the girl in our class who married the oldest man. (The website I found these ideas on said it was more acceptable to give an award for the girl marrying the oldest guy than the guy marrying the youngest girl.) Anyhow, Joni announced that it was for the girl with the biggest spread. . . and then got embarrassed. . . and then ended up saying something about her left armpit sweating. The award was given to Dylon Algood and his cute wife, Alyson, who is 9 years younger than him. I was laughing too hard to say anything. 

Because of the confusion in that award, Steve told Joni to skip The Cougar Award. . . that was supposed to go to the girl in our class who married the youngest guy. (We later awarded it to Becky in the parking lot.)

Then we just started making up awards. . . Jade Witbeck had her appendix out the previous Saturday and won for Most Recent Surgery:

Becky won the Strongest Husband award. . . Steve made that category up because he wanted to see an arm wrestle, but nobody would take him on. 

Alexis Monsen won the Best Friend Award for dragging Tari Fletcher to the reunion: 

And Meagan Brady won the Best Architect Award:

Good times. .  .

If Casey Mullins was in this picture instead of Brooke, it would have been the perfect repose of a picture we took on graduation night:

This was the after party:

The next morning, Susan cooked us another homestyle breakfast; it's a shame I don't have any pictures of the food. Except for what ended up on Ruby's face. 

The kids found a gigantic butterfly: 

Lucy posed for a picture in her new pajamas: 

Every time we stay with the Darts, they are watching Justin and Katrina's kids (which works out perfectly because my kids love playing with them). And every time we stay with the Darts, they have new baby kittens. 

Ralph loaded up the trailer and took everyone for a hay ride. This is why we love Vernal.

The kids loved this sandbox/tower and Steve told me to take a picture of it for my parents:

And then we said goodbye to the Darts:

At the end of our trip, I asked Steve if he understood why Bridgett needed my help earlier this summer when she drove back to Utah with her kids. "I don't know how she does it," he said. "I don't even know how she gets up in the morning!" Bridgett's cute kids are right at that stage where they require constant attention. Steve went on about how we stayed out late both nights in Vernal. . . but Bridgett had to get up in the middle of the night with kids and had to wake up early with them too. 

So good job, Bridgett. And I feel bad. Next time I should help Darwin get dressed, instead of just taking a picture. . . 

I only took a few photos at the poorly-attended Family Picnic on Saturday. Most of the people there had driven out from Salt Lake, so I vote that our next class reunion takes place somewhere along the Wasatch Front. I wanted to get a picture of Bart Murray and his five boys, but he just rolled his eyes at me. So here's Meagan and her three girls: 

And here's my advice how to plan a high school reunion. Some of these things we did well, and some I would do completely differently. 

1. Start early. We picked the date for this reunion a year ago. 
2. Use Google Drive to store contact info. Whoever is in charge of the next reunion will love me. 
3. Use MailChimp to send out emails to large groups of people. (We initially used a gmail address, but about half of the emails were bounced back as undeliverable.) 
4. Limit communication. . . keep messages simple and positive. 
5. Make a Facebook group and use it to contact people about the reunion. There are almost 100 people from my class who we have no contact information for, but they are part of our class Facebook group. (I still don't understand why they won't provide contact info. . . I promise I'm not going to stalk you!)
6. Put an ad in the local newspaper. (We forgot to do this until it was too late.)
7. Ask twice as many people to help as you realistically need. About half of them will not end up being available to help. And the more people you involve, the more people will come. 
8. Keep prices low so cost is not prohibitive for anyone to attend; even a small silent auction will help supplement costs. 
9. You don't actually need a DJ. 
10. Have Tribute Tables to honor classmates who had passed away. (There are ten classmates who have passed away from my class.)
11. Find old quotes from yearbooks, old poetry from literary publications, anything old is fun. 
12. There are companies that will actually blow up pictures from your yearbook into oversized posters to hang on walls. We didn't have enough people attending to validate this expense, but would have been fun. 
13. There are also really cool ways to make name tags. Wish I would have seen this idea earlier: 
14. Remember that there are two main goals of a high school reunion. #1 is to get people to come. #2 is to facilitate an environment where people can visit. 
15. People who still live in Vernal aren't the ones who are interested in reconnecting/staying in contact with classmates. So next time we should have the reunion somewhere on the Wasatch Front since that's closer to many of the people who actually go to the reunions. . . and then maybe some of the classmates who still live in Vernal would think it was cool to attend. 
16. Plan a reunion that does not require people to commit or pay in advance. (We ordered our food as a catering from Cafe Rio, but next time I would have it take place at a restaurant where people can order their own food so I'm not responsible for paying upfront/ending up with extra food and the associated costs.)
17. If you want good attendance, the Adult Social needs to have adult beverages. 

I will continue to add to this list. . . 

Even though attendance was low, I really did have a great time visiting with people. There's something about Vernal that I love. . . 

I think it might be the snowcones :)


Ryanne said...

I only have 4 years till my 20 year reunion (ahhh! how is that possible!?) so I loved your list. I also planned a reunion for my BYU travel study semester so its interesting to see how you did things. Its definitely a huge undertaking.

Natalie B. said...

My 20 year reunion is THIS weekend. :) I feel a little disconnected since I spend most of HS in Kansas, yet graduated from Idaho and I actually was invited to three separate reunions. (Also Belgium) I think ours is gonna be way low key and I wish I had these ideas to pass on to help. I am only doing to the Friday thing as well, and skipping the family thing. Not many people even know me! And so sorry about the wreck, what a nightmare. Glad everyone was safe!

Jerry Brady said...

Well, no one would want a trip to start this way. Though it's good that the woman took full responsibility, and I assume she helped you guys out with the expenses, considering the circumstances. Anyway, it seems your reunion was a success, so congratulations! Let's hope things turn out better next year. Good luck!

Jerry Brady @ Lambert and Williams Law