My husband, Scott, has been talking about a camper a lot in recent months. I kept scoffing, saying that was the cheater's way to camp. Again, my apologies if you are a cheater. But, after this camping trip, he may have swayed me to his way of thinking and I may soon join the ranks of cheaters and parkers. That is, if we hit the lottery jackpot and can afford a camper.
We were camping on Table Rock Lake near Branson. This is the second time we have used the campgrounds at Baxter because they are the most well-maintained campground we have run across. Compared to Heyburn Lake in Oklahoma, where my family reunion is held (also run by the Army Corps of Engineers), this place is like the Ritz. It takes about five hours or so for us to drive there, so we tried to think of an interesting pastime for the kids on the way there, so we came up with some travel bingo and entertained ourselves searching for Pepsi trucks, Arkansas license plates, and helicopters.
While the weather for our camping trip was mild (amazing feat for August in the midwest), the disappointing part was that we had planned on lots of swimming and going to the water park. When it's only in the 70s though, that may not be the best plan. The first couple of days of the trip, the humidity was really high, so it was muggy and even if it was only in the upper 70s to low 80s, it felt much worse than that. I felt sticky all the time. And it rained for the first several days, so sticky and wet and dirty and stuck doing indoor (or in-tent) things. Lovely.
We had fogged the campsite before we set anything up, we used Off lanterns, and we sprayed Off on our bodies frequently, but I was still getting bites all over my legs, which were keeping me awake at night because they were so itchy. Scott and the kids had bites too, but I'm not sure they had as many or were as itchy because they didn't complain so much. I was trying everything: hydrocortizone cream, antibacterial gel, and then one night I searched the internet on my phone and found a suggestion that you heat them up with a hair drier, so I tried that too. The initial heat made them itch more, but if I persisted, the itch went away for a couple of hours. The article I read said that it should only take two to three times of this before the itch would be gone permanently. That didn't happen. I itched until a few days after we got back home!
Between being tired, still not feeling 100% from after my surgery, being itchy and sticky-hot, I felt like I was a real grouch the first few days. I was thinking about how it might have been more cost effective to have stayed in a hotel after you figure in the new camping supplies we had to buy, the food we were buying to cook at camp, and the price of the campsite. I was lamenting the fact that I wasn't in a cool, clean, dry, comfy hotel room.
Sunday, we had planned to drive to the next town over, Lampe, where my husband's aunt and uncle have a cabin on the lake, and go to the little Baptist church there. But, when we woke up, Kimberly (my middle daughter who is now eleven) was vomiting. She has done this on two or three of our camping trips and I wonder why. What is it about camping that makes her sick? She thought she felt better and ate, but everything kept coming back up.
We always end up getting way more than we need. Of course, the canopies aren't cheap and we figured out we hadn't packed a big pot, so had to buy one of those and some towels for drying out the inside of the tents and some Scotchgard to waterproof the tents, etc., etc., etc. Again, I am thinking that a hotel would have been a better idea. On the way, we had stopped at a gas station and gotten Kimberly a Gatorade and a travel dosage of Dramamine. She took them, but threw up in the car (in a bag, we thankfully thought to bring) a couple of times. At Wal-Mart we got her some Pedialyte and Nauzene because we couldn't find any Dramamine!
After they returned and we ate our somewhat soggy breakfast, we decided that if it was going to rain most of the day, we'd go into town and do some indoor things. It's a good 45 minute drive into Branson proper. When we got there, Scott confessed he was still hungry and we ended up going to Fuddruckers, one of my favorite burger places. We used to have one nearby but they closed, so any time we are near one, we try to go. The kids and I weren't that hungry, but who can pass up Fudd's? So, we split some burgers and fries.
Then we took the kids to a surprise destination.
They played arcade games for a while, but quite a few of them were out of order. There was an inflatable there too, so Billy and Kimberly jumped in that for a little bit. If I had been feeling better, I would have gotten in to jump because it was empty. Then we went over to the black light mini golf. By that time, I think everyone was getting a little tired, so it probably wasn't as much fun as it should have been. I'm easily amused and impressed by shiny things, so I was entertained by the glowing pictures on the wall. We went to Wal-Mart again to get some aqua socks and some flip flops for Billy since he'd already broken his. When we came out of Wild World, the sun was shining brightly like it hadn't rained at all. We had been out so long, we stopped and got some dinner on the way home, rather than trying to cook at camp since it would likely be dark once we got back. Kimberly's tummy was feeling bad again and she didn't eat much and threw up later in the night.
On the way back to the camp, Arrena started giggling. We asked what was so funny and after she was finally able to compose herself, she said it was dumb, but she was wondering what if there was a bear in our camp when we got back. So, we all chipped in to the story, making it even more ridiculous, such as that he was wearing my underwear and one of the bike helmets and had Kimberly's Kindle and was floating on one of our floaties in the lake. There was more to the story that I can't reveal, though, because the conversation shifted to body hair or lack thereof of someone that we know--a very alarming turn in the conversation, and one I don't think should be shared on the internet! Arrena then misspeaks when she says, "Great, now I am going to go to sleep on xxxxxx's nipple hair!" We all stared at her for a second and then burst out laughing as she spluttered, "That's. not. what. I. meant! I MEANT, I will go to sleep THINKING about that since you all were talking about it!!!" We were nearly in tears, laughing, by the time we pulled into the campsite. We looked for a bear wearing our clothes, but all we found was a skunk walking through our campsite. The kids said that the bear sent him as a scout. He took off when we arrived, but his aroma lingered for a few minutes. The kids went to bed and we retired to our tent where Scott played games on his laptop and I struggled to get a connection on my phone to play Bingo. I heard a thump nearby that sounded like someone getting into the kitchen tubs and I wondered who was up and digging around so I looked out the tent window and saw the skunk a few feet away, walking through our kitchen area. Scott hit the lock on the truck key fob which makes the headlights come on and it chirps, thinking that would startle him away, but he actually went TOWARD the truck. Scott hit the panic button, which set off the alarm on the truck and the skunk ran back toward the playground. We figured if the bear could wear our clothes and use our floaties on the lake, the skunk could play on the playground.
Tuesday morning when we woke up, Arrena told us that a squirrel had chewed a hole in the lid of our dry goods tub. We looked and sure enough, there were teeth marks and shreds of plastic and a good size hole where they were able to nibble on some crackers. I had thought those tubs were pretty secure and the smell of food would not be detectable through a plastic bin. They worked HARD to get in there. We weren't sure that the squirrel hadn't had assistance from the skunk, but Arrena said she saw the squirrel sitting on the box, so she was convinced he had been working alone.
Pretty much all of the weekend campers had left and we were the only people in the campgrounds for most of the week. I think there was one other camper at the other end and then towards the end of the week, people started trickling in for the weekend. We started to wonder If Kimberly had had a tummy bug because now Arrena was throwing up. She and her sister are vastly different when they are sick. Kimberly will go throw up quietly and then come tell you about it. She's very low maintenance. Arrena, however, is the exact opposite. She will stand there, moaning, "mommy!" instead of running to the bathroom and most of the time ends up vomiting on herself or the floor or the bed or wherever the happens to be at. She also wants you to be with her while she is getting sick. It does not matter that you cannot do anything to help her or that you might get sick too, watching her getting sick, if you have a weak stomach (not saying that I DO, by the way....), she hangs on to you and begs like you could suddenly pull out a magic wand and make it all better. Wow, boy, do I wish such a wand existed! She is very high maintenance when she is sick, so she demands all your time and attention. We had been planning to go to White Water, the water park, that day, but with her puking, we couldn't. It rained a bit and Scott ended up going into town to an Ace Hardware to get a bug zapper since the flies were driving us batty! I aired up the wading pool we had and filled it up and Kimberly and Billy played in it. They wanted to go swimming in the lake, but we weren't sure what the weather was going to do and it was kind of chilly. The wading pool was a decent compromise. Kimberly's stomach bug must have traveled to her head because she was acting like a lunatic in the wading pool (see video at the end of this paragraph for exhibit A). We ended up going down to the lake to swim even though it was sprinkling. Arrena took her puke bag and laid on the picnic table by the shore and took a nap, got up and threw up, and then conversed with the groundskeeper. Even though I know better (one of the worst sunburns I ever got was on an overcast day), I forgot to put sunscreen on any of us and we all got small sunburns. The problem with my sunburn is that it made this mark on my forehead more pronounced. In the last couple of months, Scott and I had noticed a brown patch on my skin between my eyebrows above the bridge of my nose. I thought it was just an age spot, but it's very irregular in shape and quite large. The kids started making fun of me, saying it looked like it was shaped like a cat. I got a little self-conscious and started putting makeup on it (who wears makeup while camping?), but even that didn't mask it very well. The sky cleared a bit and I took some sunset pictures at the beach. Even just trekking back and forth from the beach to our campsite and vice versa, even though it wasn't that far, was wearing me out. I was really wondering how I would do when we went to Silver Dollar City.
We had bought tickets to Silver Dollar City for that day, but since they have the policy that if you come in after three, you can come back the next day for free, we decided to do it that way. Give me a short day first and then we would come back Friday (they were closed Thursday) and spend the whole day. We hadn't told the kids that we were going. As we turned down the road that leads to Silver Dollar City, it started to dawn on the girls and they were grinning. Billy took a little longer. He looked out the window and did a double-take and said, "What-?" Then he said, "What?" again. He looked dumbfounded and said, "Are we?-- YES!!! I always wanted to go there!" His reaction was priceless! I had never been to SDC before, so I was a little excited too.
ally grumpy and was yelling at me, so we decided it was time to go. It was getting close to closing time anyway, which is 6pm. We ate dinner and went back to camp and there was the skunk, a little too close for comfort. We'd forgotten to throw away the trash before we left and he was busily eating breakfast burritos. I was thinking, "Too bad we don't live in Kentucky--we need Turtleman from Animal Planet to come get this thing!" I went for the water hose because if he came near me, I was going to squirt him first! Kimberly ran off screaming the other direction, waving her arms in the air like an idiot. He went off toward the playground again and I went to the bathroom to change and use the facilities. When I came back, I was face to face with him in the kitchen area--with him between me and the hose. We'd thrown away the trash, but apparently we'd missed a chunk of burrito, so he'd come back for it. We managed to scare him off and sent Kimberly to throw away the rest of the food. When she came back, she saw my clothes in my arm and said she thought it was the skunk because I missed my kitties. I guess she was thinking about the eyeglasses commercial where the lady is calling her cat to come in and a skunk follows her in.
Thursday, I would have liked to have gone to the water park, but Scott said it was too cold. I wanted to go to the sand beach, but he said we could do that Saturday. I grilled hamburgers for brunch and put some white chili in the crockpot, then we drove in to Branson, hoping the skunk couldn't unlock the lid of the crockpot and that if he did, he would burn his stanky self! Scott had decided to take the kids to "Ride the Ducks." If you have never been to Branson, you probably have no idea what this means. A "duck" is an amphibious truck. It started in the military in WWII. It was called a "DUKW" Here's why (from Wikipedia):
The designation of DUKW is not a military acronym; rather, the name comes from the model naming terminology used by GMC:
- "D" indicated a vehicle designed in 1942,
- "U" meant "utility",
- "K" indicated driven front wheels,
- "W" indicated two powered rear axles.
Friday, we were going back to Silver Dollar City. Billy and I had a talk about how now that he knows what it's like, he should be able to handle it better. We know it's going to be loud, crowded, and overwhelming. He understood that he had to behave or we would have to leave. I also brought his "fidgit kit" that his occupational terapist recommended (the one I carry has gum and paper clips in it--the one he has at school also has pipe cleaners, mints instead of gum, and a squeezy ball). He did much better Friday.
Scott had been insisting since Wednesday that we both should get motorized vehicles. My pastor's wife had suggested that to me too when I expressed concern that I wouldn't be able to keep up. SDC is very hilly. But, I didn't want to use an "old lady" vehicle. I vehemently refused. I wanted to do it myself. I wanted to walk and build up some endurance. Scott protested that while that was good, the fact that I haven't been taking in enough protein to keep my energy up and that I only recently have started to be able to take in more fluids, reducing my dehydration risk, I should take it easy and not overdo it. He ignored my protests and proclaimed that he was renting it for me anyway. But, he didn't. He rented one for him and I walked. I was very proud of myself. We were there for about seven hours. The last hour or two, I was completely wiped and had no energy left and I took frequent rest breaks, but I was happy that I'd been able to hang in there and walk the whole park.
First we went to the farm animal petting area. Then we rode American Plunge, which is a log ride and we got soaked. Scott was not too happy that we were wet the first thing (remember the temperature was still not very high), but we were making our way around the park, starting at one side. It's hard to save all the water rides for last since they are scattered around the park. Both of us had worn denim which takes forever to dry. The girls then decided they wanted to ride the roller coaster Wildfire, which they did TWICE. There was an observation deck and I was able to take some pictures. One of the other coasters was closed, so the girls were disappointed. We all rode Fire in the Hole which was an indoor coaster. Billy was a little scared and hung on to me tightly, but when we were done, he said, "can we do that again?" The line was too long to do it again though. The kids did Riverblast and then we decided to get something to eat and some souvenir drink cups that are refillable for a low price.
I wanted a pretzel and the kids wanted nachos and across the way was pizza that Scott wanted. I got a little cocky with my progress with digesting food and didn't take into account that the yummy pretzel was too doughy and I should eat small bites and chew slowly. I had gotten about three bites in when I realized it wasn't going down. I should have gotten up then, but I thought it would eventually go down since I hadn't had any regurgitation in a while. I drank some water, hoping that would help it go down, but I think that made it worse, pouring something else on top of the traffic jam. By the time I realized it was coming back up, it was too late. We were sitting in the middle of a long table and had people on both sides of us. The rows were very close together and hard to get through. I grabbed a wad of napkins as I stood quickly and "barfed" into them. I felt sorry for the people around us who were trying to eat their lunch as I am stumbling past, puking. I managed to get out of there and to a nearby trashcan where I got some more of it up. I stood there for a minute, wiping my eyes and trying to calm down. Kimberly brought me some more napkins and my water and asked if I was all right. I asked a nearby janitor where the closest bathroom was because I realized it wasn't over AND I also needed to use the potty. As I sat down on the toilet, I was relieved to find a trashcan with a sack in it next to the toilet, meant for feminine products, but which I used to evacuate the rest of the pretzel. The whole thing took about ten minutes. My stomach muscles were sore and my eyes felt like they were bulging from the socket and I had tears streaming down my face. I cleaned myself up and went to find my family. If it hadn't been for the cost of the tickets and the fact that this was our last chance in the park, I would have left then because I felt awful. I was shaking all over and couldn't bring myself to eat any more.
We went to a Cajun music show, which was nice for me to be able to sit down. I gave Billy some gum and a paperclip to help him remain calm while we sat and did something "boring" to him. He did fine through most of it. The girl on stage tried to get him to come up and dance with her, but he refused. When it was almost over, he complained that it was too loud and hurt his ears, so we left. We went over to the Wilson's Farm area and the girls got in line to ride the barn swing. Billy did a little frog race game and then was "milking" a fake cow. He was almost done and he gave one last tug and I don't know if he meant to or not, but his left leg shook a little (kind of like when you rub a dog's tummy and their leg starts kicking). The people behind me just cracked up. Billy looked around like he couldn't figure out what was so funny.
The barn swing was quite amusing. The girls' faces were hysterical and with my zoom lens I was able to capture those looks of pure terror! The girls would have loved to have ridden the new roller coaster, Outlaw, but there was a 45 minute wait, so they decided not to. The kids and I rode the Lost River of the Ozarks. Scott had just dried out and didn't want to get wet again, so he took pictures. When we came around the bend, we saw him and started waving. At just that moment, the raft dipped on my side and I got drenched by a wave. Perfect timing! We went over to Geyser Gulch, which is pretty much just a kid playground. There's water guns and fountains to play in, but they have a huge "ball pit"--the kind where you shoot foam balls at each other--and climbing areas. Scott and I sat and instructed the girls to follow Billy around.
About a mile down the road from our campgrounds is a place called Black Oak Amphitheater. That night they were having a concert featuring Journey and Starship! If the kids hadn't been with us, Scott and I would have been there! We both love Journey and Starship was the first modern rock band I ever heard. My parents listened to oldies and country and gospel, but one time I went to a friend's house when I was in maybe fourth grade and she turned on the radio and the first song I heard was "We Built This City." When we drove back to camp, we slowed down as we passed the amphitheater, hoping to hear some good music, but we heard nothing!!! What gives!? We had hoped we could fall asleep to the sounds of the concert since we were so close, but with the hills, even just a mile was too far! Bummer!
When I woke up in the morning, Scott had a proposition. We had planned to stay until Sunday, but the girls were whiny and wanted to go home and Scott thought it would be a good idea to let them have a day to recover before school started on Monday. I had really wanted to visit the sand beach, but knew it would be crowded on a Saturday. And the campgrounds were crowded--we'd had some noisy neighbors that night and some kid kept running around our campsite. Crowded campgrounds mean that the bathrooms are harder to get access to and between my intestinal woe and the girls having been sick all week, we needed immediate access to bathrooms. Plus, I had been tired since day one. I hated to go home early, but I was tired, dirty, itchy, and ready, so I agreed. We broke camp and I went to the Corner Drive In to pick up some lunch and we headed home.
While I was a die hard tent camper before, I am starting to cave to my husband's desire for a camper between bugs, heat, air mattresses, length of time it takes to set up and take down camp, rain, etc. I'm actually voting for hotels next vacation!