Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A Camping We Will Go (again)


After my doctor's appointment on Friday, we loaded up the Jeep and headed down the road for our first camping trip with our new cub scout pack. This new pack camps every month except December, which the menfolk are all very happy about, Ed probably the happiest. Camping with my leg is always an interesting experience, and this trip was no exception, but we'll get to that later.

The campsite was less than an hour from our house in the still rural part of our county. It was not wilderness camping, in that we had bathrooms and showers available. We didn't have cushy amenities, either, so it was somewhere between the Lakeland speedway and Fort Wilderness trips of last year.

Thunderstorms rolled through at home prior to our departure, which made me glad that we didn't rush down there. We got there around 5pm and could not find the campsite within the park. We found the RVs, then we tried another area and found a Blazer stuck in some sugar sand (later found out it was one of the other refugees from our old pack). We went on a dirt road loop that made it look like we were headed into the wilds.

Finally, we went back by the RVs and saw the tents over in a field to the north. Aha! We decide to set up on one side near Gameboy's den leader and another family. The rest of the pack set up in an L manner, and we were off the end of the L.

The bugs were snacking on us and it was hot (97) while setting up. Oh, and no shade to be found this time. Once we had the tent up, we went to put up the canopy that we never used last year, but found poles and tarp but no guide lines. Bah, no shade for us. By 7pm, both Ed and I were cranky and tired. My RSD was hating me and making its presence known with authority. Somehow, the various biters found a way to bite through that compression stocking. Due to the layout of the showers, there was no way for me to change the dressing while camping. I was stuck with the lousy stocking for the weekend.

I started making dinner, which we ate in the dark. Hash browns and Mojo Chicken. I got the marinade right, but the acid in the marinade isn't as effective as my usual marinade-so it didn't give much flavor. Lesson learned, it needs at least 24 hours to sink in.

By this time, I was miserable. Scratching and scratching, hot, RSD in overdrive. I told Ed I was going to lay down. Thankfully, he did not complain about this-I think he knew better. It was about 8pm and still over 90 degrees. I got on the air mattress and lay still. Twenty minutes later, I was starting to feel like I could cope. The kids actually laid down, too. Weird, considering they fight the 8:30 bedtime at home!

As I cooked, Ed had dish duty and off he went to the sinks. By the time he got in the tent, Gameboy was asleep. Chef Jr, though, can't tolerate a lot of noise or activity around him when he's going to sleep. It took him a while, since there were still kids playing outside. Ed gets in the tent and we discuss whether we should leave. He wasn't doing so hot at this point, either.

There's a lot of work involved in setting and breaking camp. To me, it's a waste to do it for one night, or in this case, a few hours. We both agreed we'd see how things went. Personally, if I didn't sleep, I was going to bail. I think Ed had the same opinion. Let's see what the morning brings was our decision.

Overnight, it rained. Good lord, did it rain! The heavens opened up several times. Ed got up to go use the restrooms after one round of thunderstorms, and gets back in the tent to hear roosters crowing. They were off in the distance, but he and Chef Jr heard 5 of them. Fortunately, they weren't close enough to keep them from going back to sleep.

That rain made all the difference for me. It cooled things off and we had a nice cloud cover for most of the day. It stayed in the mid 80's throughout the day. This is where the camping gets good.

We enjoy a nice breakfast of pancakes and sausage and have our opening ceremonies. There's fishing, Ultimate frisbee, or a hike, then family time for lunch. In the afternoon, the Rain Gutter Regatta and a 20 foot sundae extravaganza. Family time after this, then after dinner, a campfire. Not too many activities, this is just right for relaxation.

Ed sets off with Gameboy for fishing, Chef goes to play Ultimate and I go to the Wal Mart a mile up the road for some more ice and some sauces for the sundae (as that's what we seem to be missing from the table o' toppings!). When I get back, Chef wants to go fishing, which Ed and Gameboy had just returned from. I take him down to the lake and he has fun for well over an hour, casting from various points. He catches nothing, but enjoys the time. There were several turtles in the lake, and they provided great amusement for the boys fishing.

Lunch consisted of some grilled hot dogs. Alas, I didn't bring the beans. Shoot me, we never discussed the whole menu, so the side was some chex mix. After this was the Rain Gutter Regatta.

We have an advantage here. Our pack last year had one. The lesson was that you don't over sand your boat. If the front is too small, the boat dips down and doesn't move well. It wasn't run for prizes, just for the fun of it. Gameboy lost his first heat and decided that he wasn't going to participate anymore-he got quite upset. Chef Jr., on the other hand, was winning all of his heats EXCEPT when he went head to head against the other boy from our old pack who knew the tricks of the trade. Chef Jr was quite proud that he won against 4 of 5 competitors.

I decided to take Gameboy's boat to challenge Chef Jr. You have to propel these boats by blowing on them. Dumb move for the asthmatic, don't you think? Yeah, it was. But after blowing the first time and my boat tipped over, it wasn't going to go well. It's hard to blow and propel a boat while you're laughing. Everyone was laughing at this point, because that boat was going BACKWARDS, while he'd already gotten to the end of the course. I sure was lightheaded and dizzy for the effort, but it made the kid happy and provided tons of amusement for everyone there.

The last race of the day was the Assistant Cub Master against Gameboy's den leader. They're prepping and dogging each other and get ready, get set, and den leader pulls out a battery operated fan to propel his boat. Hilarious! (hmmm, I've gotta remember that one for next year!)

Once the race was over, we adults emptied the gutters(actually 6" pvc tubing cut in half)and covered them with foil. Then we filled and topped the vanilla ice cream with all sorts of goodies. It looked so delicious. The kids were allowed to come back, given spoons and they went to town on it. Gameboy ate a reasonable amount before stopping, and Chef Jr had to be told enough was enough. I think he would have eaten until there was none left! As it was, he later complained that his stomach hurt!

After cleaning up from the event, we had more family time and I decided that a nap would be good. It was nice to lay down. Near our tent, some of the boy scouts from associated troop had set up a screen room (they hid their tent in the woods) and were playing guitars and singing. Rather pleasant, it was like having someone sing lullabyes while I was resting.

An aside: Our old pack never had interaction with the associated boy scout troop, except for the arrow of light ceremony. Here, the boys assist with each of the cub dens and WANT to camp with the cub scouts. Pretty cool, and they're good kids to boot. I went over to them to compliment them for the music and they were worried that I'd complain because it was Christian music. No way-anything but Rap makes for good listening.

We had dinner and the kids played some more. We brought our FRS radios to keep track of the wandering Chef Jr. Once he got the hang of if, we heard a lot of "I love you, mom" out of it. I'm glad we're finally using the things. I'd bought them for WDW use, then we both got cell phones.

Around 8ish, the campfire began. I brought over all the fixings for S'mores, but didn't have sticks or implements for marshmallow roasting. One of the other parents came to the rescue and this was great. Ed and I had a good assembly line going, putting marshmallows on the campfire forks, opening chocolate bars (mmm special dark s'mores) and assembling sandwiches around the toasted marshmallows for the kids. I had one and they are way too sweet to me. The marshmallow or the chocolate is fine, but together, way too sweet. I think we found our niche with this pack!

Then some sprinkles from the sky happened, and we get back to the tent and everything inside before the rain really came down. Unlike the previous night, we only left the camp stove out. Unlike the previous night, it wasn't thunderstorms, just a steady rain until just before sunrise.

This means we have to stick around to allow things to dry off. None of us are complaining about this, though. We have a nice closing ceremony, with the boy scouts performing "Indescribable", the song they'd been playing the night before. Very pleasant. We cook breakfast, then start breaking camp. The day looks like it'll be a hot one.

We're on the road by 11am, and we're not the last out. We skip the interstate for the ride home and enjoy having the windows rolled down.

Once home, it's nice that there's a designated closet for the camping gear. It was relatively quick work to put things away.

The net result of the weekend: we can handle anything camping throws at us. If the RSD flares, just let me deal with it. We need more sunscreen, as I got a pretty bad burn on my chest and Ed's head is blistered. Ed needs a hat at all times when camping. We need to talk about the camping menu before leaving.

Next trip is in three weeks. What bites is that the current plan is for me to go back to work that week, so if there's camping, it'll probably be the three of them without me. Bummer.

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