Wednesday, August 27, 2008

We Be Campin'!

Camping and blogging, who'd a thunk? The way the world's spinning, headlong into technology that reaches into the wilderness family vacation (ok, Door County isn't the wilderness... but there's still very few places you can get a cell signal) one can't help but be thrilled:-)
We got off to a late start on Monday, so much so that we weren't going to make it to the campground in time for the 11 *PM* deadline... so we finally had the happy experience of camping at the Door County Walmart-- classy! We had always heard that you could spend the night there in the parking lot, and there you have it: we can cross that one off the list of "tacky things we must do before we die".
So then it's wake up early, pick up some last minute purchases, and head out to the campground, all at the decent hour you should have made it the previous day if you were the punctual type.
The campground was not too crowded, I suspect because those from the Land of Lincoln went back to school this week, and we have since decided to make this the official camping week for evermore.

The weather was gorgeous, the bike trails sublime. The kids were crabby (quelle surprise!), so Jake and I took the motorcycles out on the peninsula for a ride all by our adult lonesome, wheeeee! We met the friendliest couple from Oregon who travelled all this way for the Harley reunion-- amazing! What an incredible thing it must be to have a passion that can take you places, I really need to look into that...
We determined that it would cost a whopping $70+ to take the kids and the cycles on the ferry to Washington Island, and would it be worth it??? That truly is the question of the day, an excellent indication of how little stress we're feeling, ahhhhhhh:-)
We twisted arms big time to get the kids on the bikes for an ice cream run, sigh! Its getting harder and harder to entice the kids to get up and moving... they enjoyed their gigantic custard sundaes while I munched on an apple, and being the less geebed out afterwards, kicked their butts on the ride back home (I felt so good, I rode up the huge hill to get out of the ice cream place TWICE. I remember being *barely* able to get out of there the last time we went a couple years ago, and each and every time before then..)
Of course, the ride was spectacular, stunning, breathtaking (I'm running out of adjectives here, so let's just say it was pretty dang fabulous) and funny, since I remember the trails as being a little more grueling than they actually were, go figure. Either the ride wasn't so bad because I wasn't hauling dead weight in the form of a bike trailer or trail-a-bike (one of the few advantages of parenting adolescents, yippie yahooey! I flew past those poor trailer draggers and tried very hard not to gloat, tee hee), or my daily self abuse back home is increasing my stamina. Either way, I'm loving it.

It got dark waaaay too early the first night, and since I neglected to bring any evening entertainment, the boys went promptly to sleep while Grace and I twiddled our thumbs-- it was only 9 pm, for cripes sake! So we girls mustered up the ambition to make an evening trip to the beach to check out the stars (and fairly uncharacteristic of our lazy, scaredy cat selves). The beach also happens to be the only place in the whole gigantic campground that has a cell signal *and* a place to charge Grace's phone, so off we went.
Being the ever smart girl, Grace had the brilliant idea to bring a lantern, a tiny thing that I scoffed at: as a self proclaimed master navigator, I thought for sure that we didn't need a light. After all, I had my phone (which casts like a tiny flicker of light, woo hoo), and we were just going to the beach, an easy, 5 minute walk from our campsite.
The night sky was breathtaking, you could see every constellation and galaxy with perfect clarity, making for excellent stargazing. That, and Grace could return all 600 of the texts she received when there was no signal, and I could sit and read my favorite blogs by the light of the stars. We felt like quite the clever girls, mixing the very best the world has to offer: the night sky, the wind blowing off the water, the faint call of an owl... and reading the Crunchy Con blog and Natalie Dee comics.
Thought we'd see other techno addicts hiding out by the light of the moon, but we were the only ones, compounding the feeling that we are worse off than most, but no surprise there.
At around 11, the lure of the camp bed beckoned, and so I set off alone with my trusty iPhone, as Grace wasn't quite ready to head back. And off I went into the pitch black night... feeling the confidence that I initially had of my stellar navigational skills flicker and wane with each step I made. Where the hell was I anyway? Which direction was I heading-- and was our camp this way, or over that way? I had no flippin clue. All of a sudden the panic crept in, even tho I was only a 2 minute walk from where I started: I was lost, in the pitch black, and was flooded with visions of wandering around in the night aimlessly until morning (the greatest fear being that I'd miss my morning bike ride). The panic went straight to my gut, a ridiculous thing, since I knew how to get back to where I started and the bathrooms nearby (if only I could get there in time!). It was a strange reaction, one of those sympathetic "fight or flight" things I'd heard about in nursing school but thought was far below my civilized self.
I was walking as fast as I could-- all the while FREAKING OUT--listening to the sound of my flip flops as they hit the trail beneath me that I felt but could not see. Gar!
Made it back, to wail my lost status to my totally UNsympathetic daughter (I even texted her "I'm lost", to which she replied "like I care"-- evil, bad daughter;-).
I convinced her that we needed to leave right then and there with her lantern so we could make it back together, and THE SAME FREAKING THING HAPPENED AGAIN. We got totally turned around, weaved and bobbed on our way to finding the trail, and got stopped by the Rangers, who were no help at all, really. I think they thought they were busting a couple of teens drinking on the beach (hence the weaving), and told us the trail was "over there" (yah, we knew that... but finding it was another deal altogether). So off we went again, like big time dorks, feeling for the road beneath us to guide us *somewhere*: our first attempt led us out of the campground altogether, so we backtracked, looked for landmarks barely remembered, backtracked again, and then went for it and picked a path. It was the wrong path, but thought we remembered that it took us to the camper (Grace thought it was in one direction, I thought it was the other.... and mom overruled).
THANK GOD! After wandering around in the dark for 45 minutes we made it back to camp, humbled and grateful... and shamed, as the "clueless girls who should never venture out" we truly are. No more will I boast about being able to find my way in the dark sans flashlight, for even with a light source was still able to get myself lost, boo (and no, Jake was not worried and thought it was funny, said: "you two should do that sort of stuff more often", sheesh!)

The rest of the vacation was pretty chilled, the kids sleeping in as long as possible, me taking long bike rides in the early am (averaging 15- 30+ miles per day).
I can't describe how beautiful and fun the trails are to ride: I'd start out by the beach (and check my emails, tee hee), ride along the shore, a knotty trail with great little hills and sharp corners... I've taken a liking to riding my bike as hard as possible, using my upper body to pull the bike up, over, and side to side, showing it who's boss (fully realizing that one day it will throw me over the handlebars and really let me know..). The sensation of flying, of maneuvering my body to work with the rise and fall of the land was incredible. The best way I can illustrate the joy I felt was when I saw a little 7 or 8 year old girl on the trail, pedaling her bike with abandon: she would stand up, sit down, pedal like crazy, and cruise... you could see her turn her head to catch the wind to blow her hair, and she'd smile a full face, radiant grin, showing the pure elation she felt as she flew down the trail. That's how I felt, like a kid again: the pedaling almost effortless, climbing the hills with a sting and a burn, with the absolute thrill of riding downhill as fast as possible, pulling the bike to and fro to avoid tree roots and rocks, feeling strong and alive.
Each trail opened up to a new and gorgeous natural feature of the park, one better than the next: the first being the shoreline, and then the woods and bluff (my favorite! You'll be climbing some to get there, but your ass will thank you later. The views are breathtaking, and the ride down a *ton* of fun). One way takes you up, up, up the bluff even further, the other only part of the way, but both eventually take you to an open meadow, a basin lined with mature cedars and prairie flowers. Soon, you'll find yourself at the Ranger's station, and it'll be time to head back the way you came, so you can revisit all the gorgeous spots all over again, before you end up back at the beach.
I tried to get as many miles behind me as I could before the guilt set in that I was holding up the family, but no one seemed to care.
We rented double kayaks on our second day, which was an incredible upper body workout and *tons* of fun. I've been trying to get Jake to ok the purchase of a couple decent kayaks for us and a Sunfish (sailboat) for the kids, and maybe I've convinced him now... we are the toy family, for sure, and are so blessed for it!
We paddled out to Horseshoe Island and explored the trails (in a bikini and flip flops, what a woman...), where Grace was accosted by a millipede and narrowly escaped with her life.
Paddling back was a pain as Grace decided she'd rather be the passenger vs an active paddler, but I was able to amp up my endurance by singing Fiona Apple and Ditty Bops songs (thank god we were out of hearing range for anyone) and make it back in time for our 2 hour limit. Man! Did my shoulders hurt so good the next day:-)
The kids hung on the beach quite a lot, I rode my bike, Jake did a little of both, and we were able to get the kids out for one motorcycle ride out to the end of the peninsula-- beautiful! On the return trip, we stopped in Ephraim, to find a cute but misplaced hippie couple singing and playing slide guitar, with the girl occasionally doing hula hoop tricks (a la Cirque Du Soleil?). Being in the midwest, most folks initially looked confused as to what to make of such free spirited goings on, but eventually relaxed and it became almost normal to see people expressing themselves openly in the public square.
It was nice, took me back a few... I remember being free that way in other parts of the country, and was it the place that made it possible, 0r was it just who I was at the time?
I think it was mostly the location: Santa Fe, Tuscon, and parts of Texas being far more open to artistic people, but of course was a completely different girl back then (and sometimes I miss her).
Jake and I wrapped up the trip with one last motorcycle ride out to Bailey's Point (while the kids beached it yet again per their choice, hopeless relaxers!). We made it back just in time to strap the bikes back on the trailer and thoroughly irritate Mr Punctual Dude, the guy who was to take residence in our camp once we left and had to wait 15 WHOLE MINUTES to do so... (poor Punctual Guy. We sometimes would like to be him, but he didn't look to happy, having obviously taken great personal pains to show up at EXACTLY the correct time with his stuff and his family, and then had to wait. Makes being the Slow Boats and Wal Mart campers seem that much more appealing..)
So there ya have it: our 5 day vacation in a nutshell (sortof).
We reconnected, felt the joy and pain of what it means to be a family, holed up in a metal box for days on end, realizing that even tho what we have is fractured and dysfunctional, is precious nonetheless.

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