Friday, August 30, 2013

Camping Adventures

In previous posts, over the years, I have blogged about various camping trips that I have taken with my family.  My parents used to camp when I was a toddler (which I don't remember, I've just seen pictures), using a camper on the back of dad's truck, but other than that, I didn't camp until about five years ago or so.  In those five years, I think our camping trips have numbered about six or seven.  And if you have read my previous blogs, you will know that I am not the outdoorsy type.  I do not like the heat, I don't like bugs, I don't like being dirty all. the. time.  But, I made a valiant attempt to camp for my family's sake.  The funny thing was that I ended up being the more gung-ho of the bunch.  The first time or two we went, everyone else was complaining about being hot, bored, etc.  They all wanted a camper so they could have air conditioning and TV and beds.  To me, that's not camping, that's parking.  My apologies to anyone who enjoys parking.  I don't mind camping at all when the weather is mild in the spring and fall and I started to kind of enjoy sleeping under the stars and hearing the locusts/cicadas at night.  That said, I rarely sleep well while camping.  I never sleep well in strange places and air mattresses or sleeping bags are not what I would call extreme comfort.  Once in the early days of camping, I actually got run over while I was sleeping.  Seriously.  A stray dog was loose in the camp and apparently had come careening around our tent and stepped on the corner, where my legs were.  A very rude awakening, I must say.  I had no idea what had gotten me!  My ex-husband was such a baby about being uncomfortable that he bought a small window unit air conditioner and rigged it up in our tent.  Again, seriously.  He SAID it was for Billy (who is susceptible to eczema outbreaks in the heat) and for me, but I didn't buy it.

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.

I was still recovering from my surgery and was a little leery about this trip.  I tried to be positive for my family since we had been planning this trip for months, but I hadn't planned on feeling so yucky after surgery.  I was starting to feel better, so I was hoping this wouldn't be too much for me.  I sat back and let the girls and Scott put up the tents when we got there on Saturday afternoon.  After we got the necessities put up, we drove into Kimberling City and went to a pizza place that we were told has the best pizza.  They had a live band and game rooms.  While the pizza was okay, it definitely wasn't worth the bill of $70.  We took leftovers back to camp, but between having to store in an ice chest and having little way to reheat, we ended up tossing it.

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 finished putting up the rest of the campsite and realized that the canopy we usually bring wasn't in our stuff.  Our camping is a little elaborate.  We have a large tent for us, which includes an air mattress BED so that we aren't sleeping on the ground.  While this is nice since this campground is quite rocky and when it rains, your bed doesn't get wet, the air mattress was leaking and we had to patch it twice.  Air mattresses are not my cup of tea because they creak so loud every time you move, which, for me, is a lot and if your sleeping partner gets up or moves much, you either sink into the mattress or get launched across the tent.  But, I digress.  The kids have our old tent, which is still pretty large.  They had a queen air mattress for the girls and a twin for Billy (my eight year old).  Both were flat by morning, despite the fact that we had checked them for leaks before we left and found none.  It was a good thing we had made them bring their sleeping bags as well.  But, when it started pouring in the middle of the night, they got a little wet.  We'd all had our windows open since it had been so hot, so when it started pouring, we woke up and scrambled to close them all.  Even then, we found we had some leaks.  The kids tent was leaking at the seams and ours was somehow leaking at the ceiling even with the rain fly.  So, the rest of the night, I felt drips on my face and head.  We also have a screen tent that we put over the picnic table so when we eat, we are shielded from the sun and can zip it up and keep the flies away because they were MISERABLE.  We usually also have a "kitchen area" with a canopy over it.  My husband has a camping kitchen set up with a propane stove.  We also set up tables in that area for food prep and have Rubbermaid tubs with our cooking utensils and non-perishable food in them.  We also got a "shoe tree" to hang up to organize utensils and spices, etc.  Add in chairs and swim stuff, coolers and toys for the kids, luggage and bedding and and air compressor and the kids bikes and you realize why we have two deck boxes, multiple Rubbermaid tubs and have to carry it all on a trailer.  Oh, you laugh, but we've been known to rent a U-Haul trailer before we bought this open one.  Personally, I like the enclosed trailer better because strapping everything down can be such a royal pain and we frequently have to check the load and readjust.  Anyways, we figured out that the canopy had not be packed.  This is a problem because with all the rain in the forecast, it's hard to cook in the rain without some sort of covering.  We also needed to go shopping for the perishable food items and ice and try to find something to help Kimberly feel better.  So, we loaded up and went to West Branson to the Wal-Mart.

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!

Then we went back to camp and decided to go swim in the lake to cool off.  Ouch!  The last time we were there was in April of last year, so we hadn't ever gone swimming.  The beach is completely made up of rock.  Apparently along the entire shoreline of 100 miles of Table Rock Lake, there is only one sand beach!  I have pretty tough feet because I like to go barefoot as much as possible, but these rocks were killing me.  I stayed on my flotation device the whole time and hopped up the beach to my flip flops when we were done.  They have had so much rain in the area recently that one of the campsites close to the shore was completely under water.  You could see the picnic table just above the water.  I had bought a waterproof disposable camera to use while we were swimming.  I didn't even know if they still made them, but I found one and used it.  I haven't had it developed yet--I haven't had film cameras in years!  We made dinner and had s'mores for dessert.  Well, I had a chocolate bar and graham crackers since I hate marshmallows.  Part of our days were also spent playing poker.  Yes, Scott taught the girls to play poker, using chess pawns and checkers for the "pot."  The kids also rode their bicycles a lot.  Our campsite is in the perfect spot--same one we had the last time we were there.  Our driveway was off a parking lot, so the kids could ride around there when it was crowded on the weekends, and not worry about anyone running them over.  We are also a few steps from the bathroom/showers and on the other side of us is a little playground and that's where you could find Billy most of the time.

Monday, Scott and Arrena (my twelve-year-old) and Billy went somewhere-- I can't remember where.  I started cooking brunch while they were gone (we have decided that when camping, three meals is a little too much for us, so we generally limit it to two and just have things on hand like granola bars and such if the kids are hungry besides) and Kimberly and I sat in the shade of the trees and relaxed.  I looked off in the distance and saw very dark skies and thought, "uh-oh" but I couldn't tell which way it was heading or how soon it would be to us and I didn't think to check the radar on my phone or else we would have started stowing things sooner.  When it started to rain, I screamed for Kimberly, who had to run around dragging chairs under the canopy and closing tent windows and pulling down our towels and swimsuits that were hanging up to dry.  I couldn't leave the stove or the food would have burned for sure.  I was so thankful that she hadn't gone with them.  It poured for a while and left lots of puddles, but thankfully Scotchgarding the tents helped and the water just beaded up and rolled off!  The rain was so heavy and the wind so bad that we were getting wet even under the canopy and the pancakes and bacon were getting wet too!

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.

We had found a place called Wild World online that looked interesting.  It's sort of like an aquarium, but Scott's interest was piqued when he saw that they have a wolf exhibit, which is his favorite animal.  When I moved in four years ago, his entire house was decorated with wolves.  I've managed to contain it to mostly one room now.  Wild World also had mini golf under black lights and an arcade that was included in admission price.  Kimberly was thoroughly excited about this place!  She and Billy got to feed bull sharks and hold snakes.  She even kissed the snakes!(mom comment: ew yuck!)  We saw all kinds of marine life, alligators, even macaws and rabbits and a hedgehog.  Scott watched the wolves for a long time because they were about to feed them.  Apparently they feed them a whole frozen chicken every other day.  I had to use that opportunity to visit the bathroom...because I ate.  This is the primary reason I don't eat much anymore and especially if I know I am going to be out.  Between my IBS and the increased intestinal woe following my surgery, I have little control over when or where my bowels will start to grumble.  And when I say grumble, I mean wail like a cross between an earthquake and a thunderstorm.  The kids have been sitting with me when this grumbling starts and look up in startled shock and surprise and said, "Was that your STOMACH?!?"  And let me assure you of one thing: not only do I hate public bathrooms in general, but I REALLY hate them when the diarrhea monster hits.  Maybe guys enjoy grossing out other guys when they walk into a public bathroom, but most ladies that I know do not.  We want our private business to remain no one else's business.  Hard to do when you feel like your intestines are exploding.  Anyways, I eventually left the ladies room and returned to the wolf area in time to see the feeding and subsequent sibling rivalry of wolves trying to steal each others' chickens.  Kimberly was incredibly tickled by the petting pools.  They had little shallow pools of water with different creatures that could be touched or picked up, such as hermit crabs, starfish, stingray, and Kimberly's favorite, little sharks.  She said she could mark that off her bucket list.  Who puts petting sharks on their bucket list???  Note to self: seek counseling for Kimberly.  She also got to hold a gecko.  Scott made the comment that she was going to save us 15% or more on our car insurance.  The other day, a full two weeks or so after this, Arrena suddenly says, "OH!  I get it!  I thought he meant literally!  I thought they were having a promotion that if you hold the gecko you could save on your car insurance!"  Note to self: check Arrena for blond roots.

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.

Mornings around the campsite are usually lazy.  I sleep so badly at night, I usually sleep in until they wake me (either intentionally or just being too loud) or when the sun starts to heat up the tent (which was not the case this trip).  We had our brunch and then moseyed into Branson to goof off.  First stop was at Dixie Stampede.  The kids love to see the horses.  One of these days I'd like to see the actual show, but since it's expensive for the five of us, we just stop at the stables and look at the horse.  There's one named Billy, which my Billy loves.  Then there's one named Janie, which is my aunt's name.  Last time we were there, mom and/or Janie were commenting on my picture about how she was a blond and how she had her rear to the camera.  Well, this time, as we approached her, she lifted her tail and peed.  I grabbed the camera, but by the time I took the picture, it was just a tiny stream.  Ha, ha!  I'm sure my mother will love that!  Then we went to Dick's Five and Dime.  It's a really cool store that has all kind of things--from collectibles to cleaning supplies and toothpaste.  It's cram-packed--tight aisles with tons of stuff--even stuff on the ceilings!  The kids enjoyed it, but Billy started in with, "I want that!" and "Ooh, can I get that?"  We went a couple of doors down to a restaurant that I can't remember the name of.  Scott had seen that they advertised apple dumplings and he wanted one.  The kids had root beer floats and I wasn't hungry, so I ordered a lemonade.  I tried a Coke that one time and my stomach really got upset.  Scott wasn't convinced that it was the Coke that upset my stomach so he wanted me to try it again, but I didn't want to until I was at home, near a bathroom.  I missed drinking Coke, but I knew it was better for me that I was drinking lots of water.  However, most restaurants don't have a variety of non-pop beverages, so I was generally drinking water and was about tired of not having anything with any flavor.  For between meals I didn't mind, but with my meals, for whatever reason, I prefer something with some flavor.  Fudd's had a fruit punch/lemonade that was really good.  This lemonade they brought me was the worst lemonade I have ever had.  It tasted like lemon flavored water--BARELY lemon flavored!  I put seven or nine packets of sugar in it and it STILL didn't taste good.  Yuck!

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.

We parked and rode the tram in.  As we walked through the shop, we considered the cave tour, which I think the girls and I would have enjoyed.  But we overheard them telling someone else that it was a strenuous walk with lots of stairs, so I knew I couldn't do it and neither could Scott, so we went on.  In my excitement to surprise them (and also to avoid tantrums if it didn't work out for us to go), I hadn't even thought about preparing Billy for the park ahead of time like his occupational therapist had recommended for new and overwhelming places.  It was overwhelming and Billy became grouchy very quickly.  He was thinking rides and not shows and demonstrations, so he became frustrated every time we stopped to watch a blacksmith or a candy maker.  We had to get onto him several times for his attitude and yelling at us.  There was a street performance, a skit between the Hatfields and the McCoys that everybody thought was funny.  We rode the Flooded Mine, which Billy loved because you get to "shoot" at targets along the way, like a video game.  Then we rode the train around the park so we could see everything.  Quite a line and a bit of a wait, but it was worth it.  Billy was mad at first because he didn't want to ride the train.  But, he ended up liking it because they stopped and put on a skit about a train robbery that was pretty funny, especially when the random lady from the crowd didn't answer as they'd planned and they had to ad-lib.  When we got off, we went to Half-Dollar Holler, which was nearby and a place for little kids.  Billy ran around the treehouse and rode the carousel, but he was getting really 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.

So, Branson has these "duck" vehicles that they drive around, giving you a tour of the area and relating some history and then they take the "duck" onto the lake and drive around for a little bit.  The kids thought this was amazing.  They give everyone a "quacker"--which is an annoying little whistle-type thing that, when blown, sounds like a duck quacking.  They tell you certain times to quack it, like at another "duck" or if we believe the captain is pulling our leg, etc.  Billy was quite annoying with his quacker and gave me a headache, but he had fun.  Each of the children on the tour was given the opportunity to come up and "drive" the "duck" on the lake and have their parent take their picture.

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.  

When we left there, we went to the Grand Exposition area.  We ate a little bit, nachos, french fries, and such.  The kids were begging off my frozen lemonade (which was much better than the other lemonade).  By that point, I had hit a wall and didn't want to do any more.  I walked ride to ride and sat.  The rides were mostly for kids: swings, baby coaster, teacups, etc.  Billy did some and the girls did some.  Scott and Billy played a basketball game and won a basketball.  At that point we were back to where we had left off on Wednesday, and I was pretty done and it was getting closer to time for the park to close, so we started heading back to the front.  The girls had missed a coaster, Thunderation, the first day, so they rode that and then we all went to Grandpa's Mansion, which was like a fun house.  When we came out, there were stairs to go back to where we were.  I couldn't do it.  I walked around a few buildings to avoid the stairs and we left.

We had planned our meals around our activities, so that if we knew we were going to be out or tired, we would eat out, but otherwise eat at the camp.  We went to Mel's Hard Luck Diner, which has singing waiters and waitresses.  The last time we were there, we saw one of the waiters that had been a contestant on American Idol, Matt Kester.  Our waitress this time was Dana Lynn Bell.  We bought one of her CD's (hard decision which one) and one of the trio that we had heard the last time, that includes Matt Kester.  Then we walked around the Grand Village Shops to the BIG CHAIR so I could take pictures of the kids.  We came across my arch-nemesis...a squirrel!  Kimberly chased it and it ran right up the wall, two stories and onto the roof!

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!

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