Other circumstances meant Ryan and Kristie couldn't go along with us -- but the six of us headed north instead of south to Long Branch Lake State Park to take our chances with the weather. There was rain in the forecast, but nothing severe.
Besides, I kind of wanted a dry run with the camping equipment for the year. Hadn't used the Coleman stove since the re-build, and we hadn't tested out the camping experience with the new SUV.
We packed the rubber raft, just in case, got everything loaded up and headed up through Moberly & Macon. We stopped for lunch in Moberly at McDonalds, every kid's favorite lunch spot, and met Scott and Maggie at the lake a bit after 1:00pm.
The area wasn't at all what I imagined. Ryan and Scott have both been up there and said it was nice, but in my mind northern Missouri is just one huge prairie with some spotty trees, so I imagined this big reservoir out in the prairie with a few trees around it.
Nope, where we were it was hardwood forest. Oak, hickory, and black walnut dominate the campground. It really is quite a nice area.
Trenton was interested in how the camper went up. We have a Coachmen Viking mini-popup - the one we took on our trip west a couple of years ago. Any time he asked if he could help, I said sure and found something he could do to help whatever I was doing at the moment.
And once we were set up ... the kids started playing. Tag. Baseball. Stomp-rocket. Scott looked over at me and smiled and said "Gee, I wish they would get along...."
I was a little concerned that two six year old boys would play together and leave 5 year old Kate out, or worse, torment her. But no. Kate had a little pink Super Hero outfit on. Mask, cape, shield, and magic wand. She calls herself "Exploder Girl" in that get-up. You don't mess with Exploder Girl. We set up the ladder ball game and they all had a good time with that, too.
I should mention I think Kate is the cutest little girl in the world. Big, beautiful eyes and thick, long eyelashes and an otherwise adorable little face. I once told Maggie if Kate ever went missing they just MIGHT have to check our house :-). Trenton was playing with her at least as much as he was with Drew. And more than once she made a point to sit next to him, once even saying "I want to sit next to Trenton!" Vicki and I mused that they would eventually get married and we'd have the most beautiful great grandchildren.
I about lost my drink while they were making s'mores that evening when Trenton noticed Kate's marshmallows starting to smoke and said, "Kate! Your marshmallows are so hot!"
Saturday morning I pulled up the weather on my phone and looked at the radar. They had predicted some rain in the morning, and off and on during the day. But the radar showed a giant area of steady, moderate to heavy rain moving our way.
Something was definitely wrong with the new generator. There are usually some bigger orange flames for about the first 30 seconds until they heat the generator up and then it's just like any gas stove after that. But the orange flames would not settle down at all. So we had to use Scott & Maggie's stove to make coffee.
It started to rain about 10:30 and continued until after 3:00pm. The kids watched videos in our camper, then after lunch all moved to their camper and watched more.
All of the adults but me took a nap. I busied myself making new stays for our camper awning from red rope to make them stand out more so people will be more likely to see them and less likely to trip over them or run their faces into them.
Not ... that that's .... ever happened to ... me ... or anything. :-)
After that was done I grabbed my little 3/4 size acoustic guitar and sat under our awning and strummed and picked away quietly while everyone slept and the kids watched their videos.
A bit after three, bam. Rain stopped. From the radar, I knew that was it. The sun even came out. We decided to head to the marina to try a little fishing while the campground drained a bit.
But when we got there the clouds were back ... not rain clouds, but a good solid deck of them, and we were out of the protection of the trees and the wind was pretty brisk. We hadn't brought jackets, so it was pretty uncomfortable. Not a bite, either. Meantime on the other side of the dock was this slightly burly farmer looking dude who was all business, fishing with a purpose -- not at all the relaxed activity one normally thinks of while fishing ... only he was hauling in a fish every time he cast. Crappie. Vicki's favorite. Scott said one time he threw out and apparently had two hooks on the line and pulled in a fish on each.
Guess you can't argue with results, but I wonder what he knows that I don't? I have always sucked at fishing.
The ladies took the kids up to the other side of the parking lot where there was a pavilion and a trail ... and mud. And kids. And mud. Magnet. Steel. Especially Drew. He must have slipped and fallen. We cleaned up our respective kids and headed back to camp.
We did brats and dogs and pulled pork for dinner, along with veggies we brought and potatoes that Scotty cooked. No s'mores that night, but we did go through 4 bundles of oak on the breezy, chilly night and put on the magic colored flame fairy dust for the kids before they went to bed.
Drew was sick to his stomach and feeling pretty bad so Maggie had to stay with him in the camper. 8:30-ish Drew and Trenton went to bed as well as Vicki who wasn't feeling so hot, either. Scott & I stayed up around the fire until we finished off the wood around midnight and the hit the sack as well.
At this campground, checkout time is 2:00pm. Sunday was Kristin's birthday, but we knew Brian was taking her to the winery at Rocheport on the Missouri River bluffs and wouldn't be back until mid to late afternoon. So there was no problem having a leisurely breakfast and sat around and talked while the kids played. While we were talking I was munching on some grapes, and I thought ... hey ... have these things fermented??? No, they were fresh and they'd been in the cooler all weekend. The cooler was plenty cool. And then it hit me.
"Vicki.... eat a grape."We've been using dry ice in the food cooler for the last few float trips ... mainly because it doesn't leave everything wet and 20 lbs lasts 3 days the way we do it (I put it in an insulated zippered bag and leave the zipper open ... bag in the middle, food on either side). It might cost a little more... but maybe not since we don't have to replace it every day like you have to do with ice. I don't like water getting into meat and then touching fruits and vegetables. The dry ice just pretty much rocks for me.
"Why, have they gone bad?"
"I don't think so ... but ... just ... eat one."
"They taste ... "
Ok, so I'm not crazy.
The rest of the morning we took our time supervising kids playing (they didn't really need that much that morning) while we broke down camp. We had them help with a few things but mostly left them to play with each other.
Everything was ready to go by just after noon. Kate and Trenton were still playing in the dirt and didn't really want to leave. ("Score!", I thought). We slowly coaxed them away from the sticks and leaves and dirt and said our goodbyes. Took Trenton to McDonalds in Macon for one last treat for the weekend. He was leaning against me and being very snuggly -- so I knew he was very tired. He slept in the car in the hour-long drive back to our house, which went very quickly.
We had him make a birthday card for Kristin when we got home, and he laid down and watched Nanny McPhee II until it was time to take him back over to their house. I took the leaves he had collected and put them between wax paper taped to a piece of cardboard to send home with him. Kristin and Trenton had been apart for a week because she had to work a camp in St. Louis last week. He gave her the card, and she was so happy to see him and had gotten a big hug and wanted more .... but Trenton saw a bee in the clover in the yard.
"A BEE!", he said, and squatted down to watch it. Six-year-olds... he was home, so all was well, but dammit, there was a BEE! But on the way over there, he told me he was so excited to be going home (after three whole days) and when we pulled up he said he almost forgot what his house even looked like. So yeah, Momma. He missed you. Honest. But, I mean, there's a BEE! You gotta understand.
Yeah, we need to get him out in nature more.