When my husband and I were dating, it was extremely important to him that I be able to handle his annual waterskiing trips to the California delta – a 700,000 acre maze of tributaries, sloughs and islands, located east of the San Francisco Bay Area, stretching nearly 50 miles from Sacramento south to Tracy. I say “handle” because, back then, these were three-day, whirlwind parties on the water with rugged accommodations at best (think tents and one RV shower for about 40 people). So I learned to waterski and passed the can-she-handle-the-delta test with flying colors.
Once our children were born, we continued vacationing at the delta every summer with some of the same friends from those early trips, this time nixing the all-day partying and upgrading our accommodations. More civilized – a simple cabin or house with beds, kitchens and bathrooms – but still rustic and rudimentary. (One couple we became close friends with during those early delta trips now owns a vacation home in Discovery Bay!)
Over the last five years, we’ve started introducing L.A. friends to the delta, inviting them to join us, but always with the caveat that the way we do the delta “isn’t for everyone”. Our days often begin at 7 a.m. with fishing for the kids, followed by 5 to 7 hours on the water providing kids (and adults) with unlimited attempts to ski, wakeboard, wakesurf, etc. When everyone is too tired to keep skiing – which could be as late as 8 p.m. – we break for cocktails and dinner and a campfire powwow that might last until 10 or 11 at night. The days are very full, very fun and totally exhausting.
Over time, we have managed to find a few friends who can “handle” the delta and even return for repeat trips with us, which we love. Some of them genuinely love the experience for themselves and for their families, while others merely tolerate it for themselves because their kids love it so much. Regardless of their reasons for coming, my husband and I are always honored when our friends are willing to trust us with their precious vacation time and – even better – we’re thrilled when they actually love it!
This year, we spent the week with four other families from L.A., plus short visits from Bay Area friends and family. At our max, we had 16 adults and 21 kids, but most of the time, we were a tidy group of 28. Every man, woman and child from age 50 to 5 participated in watersports as much or as little as they wanted to and several kids experienced the exhilaration of conquering some sort of challenge – sports-related or otherwise.
Each year on the drive home, I ask the kids to tell me their favorite memory from the week. This year, I had one of my own: On Tuesday afternoon, four days into the trip, both of our boats were out of commission. It was a major downer and could have easily provoked whining, complaining and moaning from kids and adults alike. Instead, we made our own fun, floating downriver to a broken boat from a neighbors dock over and over and over again. I was so proud of our kids and our group for being such good sports and turning what could have been a miserable afternoon into one of my best delta memories of all time. We’d been given a bag of lemons and we made delicious lemonade.
Although these trips take me a week to recover from, I’m always so happy to go back and do it again. The time together with our family and friends is always special.