Monday, June 17, 2013

Summer Vacation 2013 - Day 3

The day started out warm, a sign of things to come. This morning breakfast was scheduled for some simple Rice Crispies. Athena declared she didn't like Rice Crispies and was in fact not hungry anyways. Realizing

(Unfortunately this is all I have of that day's log.)

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Summer Vacation 2013 - Day 2

Our second day of vacation happens to fall on Father's Day. For this reason we had planned that we would not be on the road, but would stay in Charleston and do fun family things. As Kim says, we get to do whatever I want to do.

I was awoken by Aurora and Athena saying "Happy Fathers Day!" in unison, which they had apparently planned the night before. The camp was holding a Father's Day Pancake breakfast so when we all got up and reasonably ready we headed off to breakfast. The breakfast was frozen sausage patties cooked on a griddle and pancakes from a box mix. The kids readily noticed the difference between this breakfast and one we where likely to make from home with real sausage and pancakes from scratch. Nonetheless we where all happy to have a hot cooked breakfast that did not include any cleaning up from our part.
After breakfast we took showers, brushed out teeth, and took care of all the other morning business before heading out.

Our first order of business was finding a place to paddle on some water. We discovered that the park we are staying in has kayak and paddle-boat rentals. We took out a one hour rental on a single kayak for Aurora and two double kayaks. Athena paddled with me while Arianna rode with Kim. The lake provided a barely adequate kayaking experience. The water is a mud brown and did not look very appealing. On our trip we kayaked next to dogs having balls thrown in the water by their owners to retrieve and RC sail boats that where participating in a local RC sail boat race. With little shade on the water and a river that didn't match the Wakulla River we are used to enjoying we found ourselves back on shore ten minutes earlier than necessary. After driving around the grounds a little we headed back to camp for lunch.

At camp we discussed our next destination. The park has a climbing wall that Aurora was very interested in and a water park that Athena was wanting to visit. With Arianna as the tie-breaker she kept switching from wanting to go to the water park to not having an opinion. Kim and I both concluded that the climbing wall would probably leave Arianna out and that the water park would be best for making sure everyone was able to participate. With Aurora making her objections well known we went to the water park.

We knew that after 3:00 the tickets where about half priced and we had a little under an hour before we could get the discount so we headed over to a fishing and crabbing dock listed on the park map.

As a teenager docks where always a favourite place to hangout when camping. I clearly remember my brothers and sister spending hours on the docks of the various campgrounds we visit. At the dock we could watch people fish, be surprised by jumping fish, see boats pass by, meet strangers, and generally just relax and talk away from the eyes of our parents. I have always enjoyed the company that a dock has to offer. At this dock I quickly found my serenity. A man was using chicken to catch crabs in a trap. A few other people had brought their fishing poles and the kids enjoyed watching the people cast their lines out and reel them back in. I found a place by the water to enjoy the scenery of the marshes and swamps that filled the far expanse of the water system.

Kim, as it turns out, just found herself getting hot and uncomfortable, so we only ended up at the dock for about thirty minutes. We purchased water park tickets at the campground HQ as they where cheaper purchased there by registered guests, giving us a slight additional discount.

At the park Athena and Aurora buddied up, Arianna and I buddied up, and Kim was given a rare chance to relax doing whatever she wanted alone. The two big sisters quickly found the two water slides and started making their rounds going up the steps, down the chutes, and then back up for more fun. Arianna and I drifted from the pool, to the kiddie water playground and back. Eventually I was able to coax Arianna in to trying the water slides with the promise of smores at night. Her confidence waxed and waned as we made our way up the steps, but she found the courage to finally go down with me. At the bottom she was giddy with excitement at the thrill of riding a tube down a water slide. I thought she would definitely make another go of it, but she was content at first and guided me back to the pool area.

Next I got her to take the lazy river with me. She did not let it be so lazy for me. She demanded we go this way, or that way, and laughed as the waterfalls and water sprays doused us as we passed through. One go through the lazy river and she was done. It wasn't long before she guided me back to the slides where we tried both the original open-air white slide and the enclosed green slide. We kept switching back and forth and then Kim got my phone to snap a picture of us coming down. As we reached the end, instead of grabbing Arianna and making sure she was secure with me I raised a hand in the air for a pose. While it did make for a nice picture that Kim caught very well, it also left us vulnerable as I lost my balance when we hit the water and our raft flipped, leaving Arianna in the water.

One very nice thing about this water parked is that they are fully staffed with attentive life guards. Before I had a chance the life guard at the bottom pulled Arianna out of the pool. The experience shook her up very good and she was done with the slides. So Arianna and I found ourselves back in the pool for a while. A little while later Aurora and Athena where having a hard time agreeing about what to do so Kim took Athena and left Aurora to her own will.

About an hour before closing Arianna got her nerve back up for the slides where we spent almost the rest of the time. Arianna had which slides we would do down in advanced, with a plan on which slide we where going to do now, and what the next three slides we where going to do already scheduled. This gave her great fun, and a few times she went down with Aurora and let me take some solo trips.

At the end even Aurora agreed that this was a better idea than a climbing wall. If nothing else, the cool water made us feel like the otherwise hot day was actually cool. It wasn't until we where back at camp and our bodies had time to readjust that we came back to realizing the heat the day was providing.

Afterwards we found a local Bi-Lo. Aurora and I went in and purchased goods for making smores and I even treated everyone with a drink. A Coca-Cola for Kim and I to share, a Mountain Dew for Aurora, a Dr. Pepper for Athena, and a lemonade Gatorade for Arianna. This was the first time we had anything but water since leaving our house.

For dinner I cooked chicken breasts, new potatoes, and corn. Aurora cut up the potatoes and wrapped them in tin foil. Athena and Arianna shucked the corn and Kim wrapped it up in tin foil. I started the fire, which took me longer than usual, and cooked it all over the grill. The corn turned out the best of all. It was very sweet and juicy. We all ate our fill and had some left over.

Our second night camping proved to be a little on the warm side and it took a while before the night brought the cool air necessary to make us comfortable. Even with our tent being in a wooded area shaded from sunlight, it was no escape from the muggy summer swamp air.

All-in-all a very good Father's Day even though we where far away from home with little leeway for where to go and what to do.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Summer Vacation 2013 - Day 1

Kim and I spent most of Thursday and Friday afternoon getting everything packed and loaded into the car so we would be ready to go Saturday morning. We left the house a little after 9 o'clock and dropped off the dogs. Kim had already dropped of the cat with Katie earlier that morning. We where on the Interstate a little after 10.

We quickly discovered that the electric outlets in the car where not working. This was not good as Kim's phone was dead, and we where relying on the GPS on our phones to get us to our destination. I was also hoping to let the kids tether to my phone's Internet for entertainment along the way. In town we made a few stops to find a replacement fuse, and also stopped at the truck stop in Lloyd, but didn't find any. At the truck stop I remembered I might have bought fuses and put them in the glove compartment box, which is where we did in fact find replacement fuses.

I drove the first stretch until we stopped a little after noon at a rest stop and ate sandwiches. The girls did a great job running around the grassy area and playing with each other while Kim and I rested and enjoyed some time at the picnic table.

Kim drove after lunch and we only stopped for the occasional bathroom break. As I sat passenger the kids where good enough that I was able to take a nap that I wasn't expecting I needed. After Kim manned the helm for a few more hours on the road I took over driving the final part of the trip.

As Kim's luck would have it, the kids where very needy while I was driving. Arianna was especially needy as she wanted to do crossword puzzles and use these little sewing kits that Kim bought, but found she needed a lot of help that Kim was unable to provide from the passenger's seat, so Arianna through her share of fits and cried a lot.

By the time we where nearing Charleston the kids where very ready to be at our destination. After we exited the Interstate we still had over an hour of driving ahead of us before we where actually in Charleston. The trip consisted of lots of swamps, rivers, marshes, and wooded areas that where very pretty and was almost relaxing over the constant "are we there yet?"s.

Our destination in Charleston is John Island Park, which is a very large park. It has a full water park, climbing wall, camp grounds, primitive camping, conference halls, fishing dock, kayaking river, and more. We had reserved a spot in the primitive camping grounds.

As soon as we arrived I began scoping out a spot for us to camp, leaving the rest of the family in the car and AC. The primitive camping grounds is a large open grassy area surrounded by trees. I noticed one tent had taken advantage of a little clearing in the trees and soon I found another clearing in the trees where we could have 24-hour shade. I quickly went back to the car and retrieved Aurora to stand in the area to prevent anyone else from grabbing our spot.

We made quick work of unloaded our van. On the last trip back Kim locked up the car and we began setting up camp. It did not take long before we realized we didn't know where the keys are. I had left them in the care when I left so everyone could stay cool, and Kim did not see them anywhere when she was emptying out the care. After a little inspection I found them sitting in the ignition. This was a little odd as the car is programmed to not let the doors lock if the keys are in the ignition and any of the doors are open. None-the-less, there they where locked in the van in the ignition and with the headlights on. We have AAA so Kim called them and put is in the queue to get our car open.

After the trip driving here, having the keys locked in the car put me on edge. It took a lot of will to stay pleasant with Kim as I was very annoyed, but I understood that it was also frustrating for her and it was an accident.

While we a waited on AAA I set up the tent and Kim prepared dinner. Dinner was sauteed zucchini and squash with Ramen noodles. As Kim and I stayed very quiet with each other, the girls ran around, played, and generally had a good time. AAA finally came and got our care open and jumped, as by this time the headlights had rendered the battery dead. Athena and I took a twenty minute drive around the park while Kim and the other two girls got everything set up for bed.

When we where back at the camp we got everything else washed, put away, and organized. Arianna was too scared to sleep with her sisters in the complete dark, so Kim traded places with her so I was sleeping with Arianna and Kim with the other two girls.

Always on the look-out for a chance to do some cartography for OpenStreetMap, I took to mapping the park on my laptop, using my phone's Internet. The existing map was very incomplete, not even connecting the mapped roads in the park to anything, so the roads where completely inaccessible according to the map. I got most of the main roads mapped out as well as the road in the campground and then yielding the laptop to Kim so she could do her blogging. While Kim wrote I fell asleep with Arianna snuggling up against me.