Friday, November 13, 2009

Happy Birthday, Buddy!

Location: Cordele (GA) KOA, Site: 52

As we went south, we got to
experience Fall, again.
Spending your 7th birthday on the road all day doesn't sound like a ton of fun - unless Disney is eventually the destination...

The birthday boy's depiction is much better!
The kids traveled so well (left at 6:40am) and we stopped early (4pm), as planned, in Cordele, Georgia to give the kids a chance to run, cook a birthday dinner and stay for the night. We reserved our first KOA site (state parks all required 2 night min. on weekends) and are pleased to spend a night here.

Birthday Boy's Requested Menu: Mac & cheese, little smokies, juice boxes, baby carrots and a home-made cookie "cake" (baked before departure). Gourmet for any 7-year-old, I'm sure.

A-Wall Surprise

Location: Calvert City, Kentucky Site: BP back parking lot - between two semis.

We pulled in to a BP gas station lot at about 2am. I couldn't wait to get off the road after our encouter with Uncle Buck. I saw 5 more deer, road-side and countless road kill between Washington County, IL and Calvert City, Kentucky.

The BP had a sign posted indicating both semis and RVs were allowed to park there. Finally!

Jay was able to get the camper set up quickly (I LOVE our Chalet) and we carried the kids to bed. After a few "where are we?," "where are we going?" questions, and our promises that the heater would warm them soon, they drifted back to sleep.

So, where are we going? It's been a secret for so long... Our oldest has a November birthday and has been envious that we always camp for his brother's July birthday but we don't go camping for his (brrr...). So his parents schemed. We planned. We made reservations. And when our oldest woke this morning on his 7th birthday, we handed him a present: custom maps and a Birnbaum's kid's book.

And now the boys finally know! We're headed to Walt Disney World where we'll camp at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort and Campgrounds. We'll be A-Wall 10 days, half on the road.

The birthday boy put it best, "This is something we ALL can enjoy!"

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Meeting Uncle Buck

We departed on a long car trip after school today. Our children thought we were headed out for a long weekend camping trip. We drove and we drove.... We dodged their increasingly specific questions and they finally fell asleep about 5 hours into our trip.

In the middle of Illinois, about 11pm and just as I'd drifted off to sleep, something caused me to sit straight up. My eyes landed on a bulky pondering buck hesitating on the shoulder of the highway. Just as Jay said, "He's gonna go," that buck stuck out his tongue with forced determination and stepped forward toward our rig (a.k.a. Honda minivan and pull-behind Chalet camper).

I braced myself and listened for the impending THUD. Hearing nothing, I was surprised when Jay say, "We got 'em." He pulled over. Grabbing a head lamp, I jumped out and went to survey the damage.

Huh? I didn't see any damage - to the van or camper. I would have written Jay off as just over-tired except that a semi had pulled over behind us. I just stood and stared at the side of the camper. As Jay came around the van to check things out, it came to me - something was missing: the lift bar on the hydraulic lift for the camper roof was missing. Darn it! The brackets were there, set screws still intact, but no bar.

Turning on my heel I marched down the highway looking for the missing piece. The trucker met me part way," Is everyone OK?"

"Yeah - I'm just missing part of my camper. Did we actually hit it?" I asked.

"You got 'em. He's behind my truck a little. But be careful. He's still alive. He broke his rack and he's pretty pissed off. I don't want to go back there too close. He's huge."

Crack! The rustling beside us indicated the buck had moved back toward the corn field and was trying to get back over the barbed wire fence. The truck driver walked with me a few hundred yards and retrieved our twisted and bent lift bar from the middle of the right lane.

After learning the deer was likely only dazed, we were on our way again. And the kids never stirred. I hope we can set up the camper without that piece!
This lift bar SHOULD...
...look like the chrome bar
 pictured here. 

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Backyard Adventures

Location: Our driveway
Date: July 4
Camped with: Jay, Brek and nephew Jacob

Happy Independence Day!

We enjoyed the day working and playing outside - weeding was at the top of my list! There's always more, but I did get a few beds cleared. What a beautiful day!

We were joined by Jay's brother's family and another niece for dinner and fireworks.
The Ames fireworks were terrific and we found the perfect place to watch them - in the coveted S-6 lot.

Our company spent the night and Brek wanted to share the camping experience with Jacob, who was a little apprehensive, but didn't want to show it.

The boys tried out the bottom bunk and liked the "hide-out" feel it provided. They slept well (late night?)

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Upon Our Return

Back to reality...

We were welcomed home by a long lawn, lots of blooming flowers, tall weeds, a nest of robins about to take flight, a slightly stuffy house...

Surprisingly, I didn't have that empty or panicked feeling I often have when returning from vacation. Camping and parenting two children can be taxing, but I feel rested and refreshed. I know I have a lot on my plate now that we're back, but that thought doesn't overwhelm me.

Another surprise was that I wasn't just aching to sleep in my own bed. Did I mention how comfortable the dinette is to sleep on? Really. That's not what I expected at all.

Toward the end of our vacation, Jay and I both had the same revelation. We enjoyed the simplicity of a small space to care for in our camper and the order we kept in that small space.

Our home isn't large and it isn't small. We bought this house just before we got married and intend to stay here forever, or until we leave this area. But, gosh, it seems to be so large now - and so cluttered and full of "stuff."

I made the resolution that from now on, we put things away as we use them at home, too. Even if it means going down to the basement to store something - put it away so it doesn't sit around and become part of the landscape. I would also like to purge some things... Where to start?....

Something else has changed. I have always tried to give my kids as much attention as they need. But, the outside world often calls - literally. The phone rings and a little alarm inside me says, "Drop everything - you're needed. Don't keep them waiting." Since our return, if that phone rings when we're on our way outside to play catch or I'm about to put a child to bed, I let it go. We had 14 messages on our machine when we returned - and nothing was urgent. It can wait. My kids can't.

It's good to be home. We look forward to our next adventure together.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Sibley State Park: Hiking Mt. Tom (Saturday)

Hiking Trail: Mt. Tom Trail with Oak Hills Trail short cut
back to the camp site.
Distance: About 3 miles

What a rainy day! It was wet enough in the morning that we slept in and ate breakfast in the camper - the first time with all of us around the table (we need to do something to protect the upholstery from sticky fingers of excited little boys who refuse to sit still for a meal).

Finally we got dressed and headed out for a hike to Mt. Tom, said to be one of the highest points for at least 50 miles around and the product of a glacier.

The kids and Sofie did great on the hike inspite of the mist and rain. Finn was in the Piggyback carrier. [I still love that carrier! Hopefully we'll get one more year out of it before the boys have outgrown it for good.] The trails were really nice and well groomed walking paths.

By the time we returned from our hike, the rain had picked up. So, another meal in the camper - boys bouncing off the walls!

After lunch, Jay and Brek tried to fish between rain showers, but found the shop at the beach doesn't sell bait. I got Finn to nap (by force) and got my first chance to stretch out on the bench at the table and crack a book. The anglers returned and quietly played cards while Finn continued to nap.

We had promised the boys a campfire, sparklers and S'mores sometime. Since this was our last night, despite intermittent rain showers, Jay started a fire.

Finn was a pill to keep out of the road. We chose our campsite because of a large grassy spot away from the camper and fire ring. But, instead of playing in our little "yard," the road was a magnet for him. Finally we resorted to the creative parenting at which we can occasionally be so good... Finn discovered that a baseball bat made a good horse and a pail of water was the perfect "lake" for floating a large piece of bark and a toy boat.

We had brats over the fire and attempted (failed) roasting sweet corn. [We removed the silks, closed the husks back over the ear, soaked them in water, then put them around the edges of our small fire. Not enough heat or time, I guess.] Our zip pack potatoes turned out OK, though.

S'Mores. Oh, My! S-t-i-c-k-y! But we all enjoyed them. However, Finn was truly BOUNCING off the walls when we tried to put him to bed! (Maybe I shouldn't have included the chocolate on his S'mores?)

Lesson of the day: Light rains don't have to keep us indoors! It was a great day!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Sibley State Park: Glacial Lakes State Trail (Friday)

Bike Trail: Glacial Lakes State Trail
Route: From Sibley State Park to New London; New London to Spicer; return same route
Distance: About 18 miles round trip

On Friday, we packed a lunch and biked 4 miles to New London to catch the Glacial Lakes State Trail. The trail from the park to New London is actually the shoulder of a heavily traveled county road. It felt kind-of precarious at times and both Jay and I were sorry we didn't bring our orange flags for the tag-along and bike trailer to increase our visibility.

The countryside is rolling hills with ponds and wetlands as well as stands of trees.

After looking around town for the trail (not much in the way of signage), we ate our lunch and some ice cream and headed out for Spicer on a paved portion of the trail. We were not all that impressed with the trail. It just wasn't as scenic as the trails we're used to riding, I guess.

Spicer (on Green Lake) looked nice and New London has a few nice little shops and cafes, etc. I would love to spend more time in the knitting shop! We shopped at Big Market grocery store, which added weight to the trailer for Jay. That's significant because we rode back to the park straight into a headwind and threatening rain storms. That trailer is like dragging a kite into a headwind and the added weight didn't help.

In the evening we headed back to New London (by car) for the Little Crow Water Ski Show. It was OK and the kids liked it. They said it is a "rebuilding year" for the team.

We also drove through one of the county campgrounds on Green Lake. The trailers were PACKED in like sardines with only a few feet and no trees between. No thanks!