Monday, June 09, 2014

A Change in Plans

This past weekend was supposed to be the Williams' annual family and friends float trip down at Alley Spring on the Jack's Fork River.  We've been going with them for what, 14, 15 years now --- and the tradition really goes back to Kristie's childhood.  But for the second year in a row it has been postponed due to heavy weather.  From early June to July 4.

But we had planned a camping weekend with Trenton, and Scott & Maggie had planned a camping weekend with Drew and Kate. Last minute change in plans?  We've got this.  That's how we roll.

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.

We had a fairly dry morning until about 10:00, so we got breakfast in and prepared for the coming rain.  I lit my old-school Coleman white gas stove for the first time since I refinished it and replaced the pump and generator.  And the flame wouldn't settle down no matter what I did.  Well crap.  I had replaced the generator because while it worked before the flame wouldn't adjust.  It was either off or on full-tilt-boogie.  But at least it was otherwise a normal gas stove flame.

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.

Fortunately, Scott and Maggie had brought a big easy-up canopy to put over the picnic table which kept things pretty dry except in the very heaviest rain where the drops splash back up off the ground and create a bit of a spray -- but not too bad if you stayed away from the edges.

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.

The kids played tag and played with the stomp rocket and ladderball ... and with leaves and twigs and whatever they found that looked interesting around the campsite.  Win.  Perfect.

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."
"Why, have they gone bad?"
"I don't think so ... but ... just ... eat one."
"They taste ... "

Ok, so I'm not crazy.
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.

At any rate, it occurred to me that dry ice is frozen carbon dioxide.  And when it melts ... or more accurately, sublimes -- it turns into CO2 gas.  So the grapes, sitting in a grape bag with holes in it -- had basically been sitting in a cooler full of CO2 gas for two days.  And that gas permeated the skin ... carbonating the grapes slightly.   Vicki had noticed something similar with the cantaloupe the night before.  It didn't taste bad (not to me, anyway) ... the resulting carbonic acid imparted a slightly tangy taste, and it kind of felt very slightly "carbonated" on the tongue ... kind of like eating tart grape soda.  Something to keep in mind for sure.  (The grapes were back to normal after they sat in the fridge at home for several hours).

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.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

It's a Hit!

Trenton got what I believe was his first official hit off a pitch in "t-ball" (weaning them off the tee). It was a pretty solid ground ball between shortstop and third base.  He was so proud. We went back to Mommy & Daddy's and practiced more and he socked about 8 more -- the last one getting stuck on the roof.

Mommy was leaving for Hemophilia Camp, St. Louis this week and had to leave after the first inning. Trenton saw her going and spontaneously ran from center field to give her a hug. It was toooo sweet. They won't see each other for a week.

Motorcycle Hill

I had to change it to 1970's
A friend of mine posted this pic.

Reminded me of when we lived on a corner in Brownsburg, Indiana when I was in 3rd & 4th grades where Jefferson Street dead-ended into a field which was about 4 feet higher than the end of the street. There was a natural dirt ramp (two, really, side by side, one steeper than the other). We called it "Motorcycle Hill".

We would ride our bicycles on the dead-end street as fast as we could at the steeper portion and have contests to see how far we could jump our bikes.  More than once bike and kid separated mid-air or upon landing, sending the bike flipping in the air and the kid in the dirt.

It was awesome.

The field's gone today. I think there's a library there now, and I Jefferson is a thru street today.  Looking at a map it does look like they preserved some of the meadow, though.

We caught fireflies, got scratched by thorns, and bitten by mosquitoes and chiggers and a tick or two in that field.  My little 8 year old brain was fascinated by the flora and fauna.  Got me the nickname "nature boy".

We walked to school ... it was maybe a mile or so.  We'd "pick up" kids as we traveled  and they'd walk with us.  On really cold days we'd stop at the post office to warm up along the way.  Older brother Tom was responsible for keeping us moving along.  He'd sing this song:
"Hurry, hurry, hurry  for your scurry, scurry, scurry or I'll kick your butt - right in the middle!"
He might have gotten it from Boy Scouts -- or he might have just made it up.  It worked.

But one spring day when I got to school apparently a bit earlier than usual (we showed up before school and played on the playground largely unsupervised until the bell rang), one of my friends said, "Phil!  You're early!  Did not you stop to examine every blade of grass you saw?"

I should really write about the Brownsburg days.  Some of the most fondly remembered childhood memories happened there.