Day 7 starts out Blissfully peaceful, which after yesterdays exhausting sweat soaked shirt changing start, was a welcomed change of pace. Once we were all up and coffee was made, we had blueberry pancakes with blueberry syrup and bacon. Next time I need to remember to mush up or at least pop the blueberries before I put them in the mix. It was great though, and a breakfast we had all been looking forward to, for a couple of days.
Once breakfast was done we all loaded up into the suburban ready to head out for the park.
One of my most dreaded situations, turn the key and click click click click click click click. Battery‘s dead. Now up until this point the battery protection program on the new 12v or 120v Dometic CFX had done an excellent job of protecting the suburban’s battery from being dead, and I don’t have to worry about finding ice. This night I had forgotten that I had plugged an inverter in to charge my laptop while we were hotspotting and making reservations and now the battery was dead. This is exactly the reason and scenario I had made sure to allocate room for a large jump box when packing. I connect to the jump box thinking it’ll start right up, no such luck. The jump box had to be connected to the battery for close to 15 minutes before it would turn over and then it would turn over but still wouldn’t start. This was even more concerning for me as the dad responsible for these children to be this far away from home my two biggest fears are obviously something happening to the children or a major mechanical malfunction and us losing our way of getting back home. I wasn’t panicked but I was on the far side of anxious. The children were oblivious until I told them what happened after the fact. I had an idea to cycle the key to the run position let it sit for 5 to 10 seconds and then back to off two or three times before trying to actually start it. For some reason thinking this would prime the fuel pump not that fuel delivery was what I thought the problem was but whatever it seem to just be turning over and over and over without catching stating a spark so I tried that and for one reason or another it started right up. Maybe the computer needed to recognize where all the sensors were indicating things were, I don’t know but it started now, thank goodness. The gauges look good, the headlights are bright and seem to be no strain when I turn them on so I put the jump box in the car plug the inverter in to start recharging the jump box so it would be available if I need it again later.
We made it in the park and to the visitor center with no problem got for junior ranger books and a plan for the day. I left the suburban idling in the parking lot with Leo in the back. We headed off on the scenic Loop drive to start accomplishing junior ranger book tasks and Loralea found an appropriate 0.8-mile trail called the Coal Vein trail that we decided to hike. When we got to the trailhead it was already lunchtime as the scenic Loop was fairly slow with a lot of opportunities to pull off and have a look. I mean, I guess thats why they named it the name “Scenic Loop drive”. We made PB&J‘s and ate them in the car I have a cold steak sliced it into quarter inch thick pieces and used it like steak spoons to scoop out crab dip both needed to get eaten before they “turnt” and actually made a fantastic combination and frees space in the “refreezarator” (it’s dual zone).
After lunch the Coal Vein Trail did not disappoint and there was a surprise. About 200 feet in there was a dead Bison about 50 feet off to the side of the trail. The elders and I took a somber, moment to have a look and discuss how the grass was taller and greener around the body and how the cycle of life and energy works in that way and why they say "ashes to ashes dust to dust" at funerals. Leo even knew something, he sniffed and jumped back startled at first then slowly sniffed while encroaching and at about three feet stopped and hung his head.
We met another dad and his daughter on the trail chatted for a while and then made it back to the car, everybody was thirsty but we have to pass around the large gallon jug. We made a couple stops for pictures on the way back out and then found one more trail that was .3 miles and decided we hit that one as well.
We wanted to be out and back at the campsite around five to get ready for the Medora musical tonight. I brought enough little handheld radios for every child to carry one and we stopped at a few parking lot with vistas and paired off “running missions” as they called. They had a ball. They even wanted to take them on the hikes when we wouldn’t more than 10 feet apart.
We made it back to the campsite and the girls headed straight to the showers and “the blues” stayed back to get dinner ready.
After dinner we headed just across the road to the Medora Musical. The guy at the campground office said it was kind of like a variety show. The set initially reminded me of The Lost Colony but bigger, pricier, and generally looking a little bit more pro. Once they started it was confirmed. This was a good show. Maybe not big Nashville star level talent but certainly cruise ship or better. They even had a performer from Durham NC, but I didn’t remember his name. They told the story of Medora’s beginning and Teddy Roosevelt intertwined with partial rendition of modern and classic country music. It's very Godly and patriotic, has fireworks and horses, and at one point in the show I found myself all up in my feelings, thinking “these are my people I should have been a farming ranching cowboy. I would move here.” There was even a moment when a wild deer like creature wandered through the backdrop eating. It was a very good and impressive show and most importantly the children absolutely loved it. I looked at Loralea at one point and she was clearly enjoying the he show but I wasn’t sure if she was enjoying it for the showmanship or if she recognized the music so I asked her if she recognized theses songs OMG, she looked at me and in her most teenager you’re crazy dad voice she said “uh Neon Moon daaad”. Ok then I guess she knew not only that song but nearly every other one too. At one moment towards the end George, in my lap, looked up at me smiling and said, “this is a great great day”. Oh man, if I could dwell forever in that moment or package it and carry it with me to take out and have when I needed it. It was a great feeling. Loralea talks about the show all night and into the next day. I definitely 10:10 recommended the Medora Musical. Skip the $15 popcorn and $4 bottle of water but hey, everyone has gotta make a buck.
After the musical we headed just back across the street to the camp site and hit the sack. Today was another good day. It started out a little rough but what's life without a little adversity and if that's the worst thing we face this trip, we're doing great.
I woke up to that peaceful sound of raindrops falling on a tent. I lie there and listen for about one half of one second and then in the next 3-5 seconds that followed I;
It seemed like a mountain of work getting packed up this morning. I don’t know if it was less sleep or what but by the time we were all packed and ready to roll out I was exhausted again, winded and dripping with sweat. I changed shirts and we headed out. Loralea, having taking on my preferences for local mom and pop type places for food had asked the KOA staff for breakfast restaurant recommendations. They had suggested “Jordan” its “right down the street”. To “Jordan” we headed. Turns out Jordan is a crossroads, at best. Population 6000 something which sounds promising but the only restaurant was a McDonalds. Loralea and I figured this guy must have though that by local she meant something we didn’t have to drive far for. McGriddles it is. I think this is the first McDonalds I’ve eaten since the Alamo in 2017. Once on the road we made great time. Within the first two or three turns Google popped up twice with “faster route available” one of which saved 1 hour 45 minutes the other was good for 30-45 that never happens. So within the first 45 minutes of the trip we had gone from 8 hours to about 6 and we gain an hour. Delightful. We stopped at a rest stop with good cell signal, hot spotted my phone and made reservations for a campsite at the Medora Campground just outside of Theodore Roosevelt National Park and right beside a pool (a feature you won’t find at any State or national park campsite). Loralea had asked the day prior for at least one full day of swimming soon so this should work out perfect to have one day to explore Roosevelt and then give her and the others one day to relax and just enjoy the pool before we hit what I expect will be one of the longest road days. The trip between here and glacier. I had forgotten to even check on Canada's announcement about the border opening yesterday and a mention of it on the radio reminded me to look into it. Unfortunately but expectedly what i found was "Canada said on Monday it would start allowing in fully vaccinated U.S. visitors on Aug. 9 for non-essential travel". July 21 (Reuters). So that takes Alaska out of the plan for this trip. Neither I nor the children are all that disappointed. It just took seven strait ten hour road days off the table as well, so we're ok, but thats why this blog is "Alaska Trip" an not The Alaska trip. It's actually the would-be Alaska trip.
We did in fact arrive at about 6:30. Check in with the office and got the map of many site options. Great debate was had again over which campsite was the best and why. We drove through twice, narrowed it to two and finally after driving through the campground a third time. This time receiving some raised eyebrows from existing campers so I rolled down all the windows so people could see the situation inside the vehicle. I knew seeing these four campsite analysts hard at work would immediately convey everything to ease their concern.
We decided on 229. There was still a bit of wetness and drizzle with plenty of daylight left. We decided to let the office know, play at the playground
and then go checkout the National Park to get a lay of the land so to speak and plan out tomorrows visit. While in the office I noticed a picture of a really cool looking amphitheater built into the side of a mountain. In asking about it I find out that it’s right across the road from the campground. The host has good things to say about it so it sounds worth checking out.
The fourth grade “every child outdoors” park pass worked like a charm. We went a mile or two in and stopped at the prairie dog village to see the inhabitants.
After we saw the prairie dogs and pretty sunset, we headed back to the camp to set up. I stopped by the theater on the way and tickets were reasonable enough for the 5 of us that I got us tickets for the show tomorrow night. I think it's going to be a fun time.
The tent and site went up smooth and flawlessly. I decided to put the rain fly on tonight, lesson learned. I'll pin it back half way so it would be open over the sleeping area. The temperature was supposed to get down into the 50s or 60s overnight and I didn’t want to do anything to keep that out and trap the heat of the day and these small people in here. I had been looking forward to some "cold" sleeping. It’s been hot during the days here with the high this day having been 97.
Day five we woke up in Chicago with our bellies still satisfied from that deep dish Chicago style pizza last night. Today the ultimate goal is getting to Theodore Roosevelt National Park but, that is a lot more miles (i.e hours) than we want to do in one day.
We decided we would break it up into two days and try to find a good spot somewhere in the middle to stay tonight. It needed to be something a little closer to Chicago and with laundry. I knew I had at least two loads that really needed to get done. There was two KOA‘s in Milwaukee the northwest KOA was having tree work done and closed all their tent sites but wouldn't let us stay in their basic cabin, because we were 5 people. Irrespective of the size of the people they wanted to require that we get a "deluxe" cabin since there is five of us. I believe it is just a KOA way to make more money. I asked the person on the phone if they did have tent site open would we be able to get a tent site, she said yes. So we can all five sleep in a twelve by eight tent but not a cabin that's probably twelve by fifteen. It really wouldn't have bothered me but they wanted over two hundred dollars for one night in this "deluxe" cabin, when the regal cabin is usually about sixty, so the southwest KOA it was for us.
I had spied a Ross & T.J. Max within walking distance of the hotel. I wanted to get some sort of new bags for the children’s clothing because it had already become apparent that the, as my mom calls them "suck-down bags" are not destined for success on this trip. We were up and out of the hotel with one smooth and efficient single trip. Everyone carries a little and since we hadn’t brought much in it was short an easy exit. The children were asking if they could have pizza for breakfast, which was easy for me and cleared out some leftovers. I agreed but added the fake stipulation that it would depend on everyone’s behavior in the store. We were in the Ross just after opening and we found a couple pairs of shoes that George actually liked and some socks. Then to the luggage and each of them picked out a duffel bag and made their case for why it was a good choice. It’s so interesting to hear their individual preferences and decision making parameters. The way they think is so interesting to me. New bags in hand we hit the road for Milwaukee with a stop at REI to try to find a replacement JetBoil igniter. Google maps says the REI stop will only add 18 minutes. No luck as it turns out the ignighter is not a thing that’s sold modularly for repairs anymore, which the REI person and I discussed is a shame and probably adding to unnecessary throw away. Anyway back on the road for a fairly uneventful trip. We stopped in Wisconsin for cheese curds and on to North Dakota.
We got to the KOA with plenty of sunlight left we bought two bundles of firewood for a fire tonight and, our campsite backed up to the playground. The children were obviously elated with that feature and played while I got the tent and stuff set up. Weather prediction is for 4% chance of rain so I’ll take those odds and left the fly off, I'm in a hurry. There was a mountain of work that I wanted to get accomplished after the campsite was set up so any time savings I could get was welcome. Straightening up the interior of the suburban and getting the laundry done then repacked into the new bags was desperately needed. The children played then went swimming, then showered. As they were coming out of the shower I was starting the laundry, perfect timing “gimme everything you were wearing.”
I finally got all the laundry done and sorted in the most appropriate bag I could figure and into bed about 1:30A.M. but I was really relaxed (or maybe exhausted) and relieved that everything got done and was in order for the next day.
I woke up at about 6:30, looked at my phone glanced around the tent at all the beautiful ones so peaceful, and went back to sleep. I eventually woke up and went out and made some coffee. The igniter on the JetBoil failed which is minimally inconvenient. The children came trickling out of the tent one by one George then finally Charlotte. Loralea made a fantastic breakfast of sausage peppers, eggs and cheese.
At Breakfast we discussed a plan for the day. It would be hiking the Dunes Ridge Trail then we wanted to go see the Homestead and the farm. These were also all things that needed to be done to complete the junior ranger workbooks anyway. Then we're going back to the visitor center to get the workbooks checked out and hopefully sworn in.
After breakfast we started working on the breaking camp. I was thinking that would be quick and easy but it ended up taking forever. At some point some I developed some arbitrary hurry up urgent compulsion and had to take a moment and remember we’re on vacation and it’s supposed to be peaceful, especially for the children. Remembering that the goal is for them to be generating happy memories I tried to re-center myself. Ultimately we got out of the campground about 1230. When we pulled out onto the roadway headed to the Dunes Ridge Trail head parking area we were all completely relaxed about the time. Parking at the dune Ridge Trail head was a mess eventually we found a spot, everybody loaded out and Loralea scouted out the trailhead for us.
The trail was a beautiful 0.7 miles the video yesterday said the trail transverses the most variety of habitat in the shortest trail and had the least elevation change but the most views. Exactly like what we were looking for.
Along the trail we saw wild raspberries, blackberries blueberries, and rosemary.
The girls said they were all delicious.
I mean ah actually they all looked beautiful and we did not taste any because of course we would not cut, pick, move or otherwise molest any protected national park wildlife, plant, soil, rock or other resource of any kind as it is all protected as per the Ranger's instructions.
Hot areas of sand on the trail had Leo complaining and we came to an agreement that whenever we found sand that was in the sun we would run to the next shady spot. Now we all felt it with bare feet and knew it to not be actually too hot but it was not something he had ever really felt before so it was a little bit scary for him and he was being a bit melodramatic about it. He had a small tantrum and actually threaten to call the SPCA at one point so I agreed we would just run across the hot parts since none of them were much more than 100 feet long anyway.
By the end of the trail George was also pretty fed up with the situation. This seems to always happen with him irrespective of trail length. We’ve done trails at parks in North Carolina and always the last 15% of the trail he is ready to be done. Loralea on the other hand said that trail was too short and she was ready to do another but she was wholly unable to convince George and he actually managed to convince her she should let him get a piggy back ride for the last couple hundred feet of sand.
After the trail, everybody hydrated and Leo of course made big drama of the situation. So much slobering and mess.
Then we headed to the farm. Both the Homestead and the farm were very cool. We learned about Joseph Bailey and his fur trading with the Indians and his farm operation. We got to call their mom and have her teach us about how farms identify their pigs with ear notching. Lea met what I think is his first pig and he was completely cool to him.
After that we went to the visitor center where Loralea and Charlotte interviewed a Ranger who had only been on the job short time but clearly seemed to enjoy it. Then they got sworn in as junior Rangers.
Now there is a funny backstory here, in the car Loralea and Charlotte had asked Carlea and George if they were not planning on doing their junior ranger program and they both said no they didn’t want to. Then George said he didn’t want to do the work book he just wanted to get the badge and the big sisters tried to explain but that’s not how it works to which he responded “I’ll use my charm”.
Oh my, I know where he’s heard that.
So, as the Ranger is offering to swear in Charlotte and Loralea he offers and asks Carlisle and George if they would also like to get sworn in and get a badge as well. George looked at Loralea and just smiles. Loralea was not even a little bit amused, but he's so cute she's not really capable of being mad at him. Especially for this.
After everyone is newly appointed junior Rangers several, actually many pictures were desired. They wanted pictures with almost all the outdoor art.
Then we loaded up in the suburban and made a beeline for a hotel just outside of Chicago. It’s a short trip today. We’ve decided the only interest we have in Chicago is pizza. This trip isn’t really geared for city touring. Chicago can be a trip in and of itself, another time. Got to Chicago and fought through the 5p.m. traffic and got to the hotel that had said on the Internet that it was pet friendly. When I asked the receptionist “you guys are pet friendly right?”
She said “as long as it’s a service animal”. That wasn’t exactly what I wanted to hear but I was not gonna be deterred so I just said “OK well he is going to be in his crate most of the time he's here anyway” I never said he was a service animal or not. I don’t feel like I was dishonest with her and one of the reviews of this particular hotel that I had read on the Internet said that one of the pros and cons combined of this place was that the hotel staff was not exactly attentive so if you needed something you are out of luck but if you need to get away with something you’ll be all right.
We all got showered and a pizza spot that came recommended by my friend Jermaine who is from around here was 0.8 mile down the street.
When we got to the pizza place I thought why not splurge and let everyone have their own small pizza and we began by letting the children order. It was my plan to just let each child get their own small pizza, then the girl behind the counter stopped and looked at me she said Um Sir, a small pizza is six slices are you sure that’s what you wanna do and initially to me that sounded perfectly normal and I looked at the menu and realized that a small pizza was $21 and then she said a small pizza should feed at least three adults. This is not small pizza that I’m used to. So we agreed on her recommendation of one small pizza and one medium pizza.
Now the pizza was going to take some time to make but fortunately just across the street was an ice cream store. I tell the lady that we are going to go across the street and get some ice cream while they make the pizzas and she's asks for my number to call me when "the pizzas are ready". I quickly glance at Loralea and wink, she rolls her eyes like an embarrassed teenager as if to say "OhmyGah Dad StahpppIT". I'm gonna be milking this making her think I think women are hitting on me when they clearly aren't for at least this whole trip. As soon as we got outside, I said something like "lost my charm huh? Looks like someone didn't think so and just tried to get your dads number". I got an eye roll from both elders that time, www.dadjokewinning.com
As much as they hate it I was able to force the children across the street for ice cream, under great duress, and significant protest they begrudgingly have a dessert first dinner. After the ice cream, back at the pizza place and pizzas were just coming out of the oven. We're taking those back to the hotel. As soon as I took them in my hand I knew something was different just based on the weight. Back at the hotel we all enjoyed the pizza even the pizza with onions and barbecue sauce was appreciated.
Then we went to bed early, as it was known what we all truly needed was a good night sleep.
I’m up at what turns out to be the normal time. My watch has disconnected itself from my phone (that’s convenient) now it’s an hour different from the phone, which is actually accurate. Once everybody else wakes up we had corn beef hash and Charlotte wanted an egg. They played with the neighbor children for a while and then we got everything straightened at the campsite. Now that we've tidied up adequately I would say we moseyed out of the campground at about 1230 and headed over to Indiana dunes national park visitor center to pick up junior ranger books.
After we complete all the activities we can on our own we have to watch a movie and it's "required" by the books that we go to the beach to complete some of the rest. Don’t threaten me with a good time.
After the movie as I was talking to one of the rangers about the importance of their social distancing characters cutouts blah blah, whatever blah, Loralea came up and softly put her hand on my arm(that's our polite signal for "I need you, but don't want to interrupt") and as I looked down to say, "ok just a second sweetie", I see that she’s holding a napkin to her mouth and there’s some blood on it. WhattheWHAT? She quickly explains that she’s lost that wiggly tooth. Happy for her I found a small plastic bag and secured the loose tooth above the driver side visor until we can get back to her mom. They prefer to do the tooth fairy donations at their moms house because they have a special Tooth fairy pillow there.
Getting back to the suburban everything was fine, Leo was in the back resting comfortably at a nice 72°. That was reassuring to know that for a brief time we can all go away and leave the car running in a temperate parking lot and have him secured in the back and the engine cooling system will be just fine. The amount of condensation that had drained out of the suburban in the front and from the muffler was impressive and had run completely across the parking lot.
On to the beach we went. We're supposed to meet up with the ONeal‘s at the parking lot in the Dunes State Park, I texted the dad Dave but I had zero signal. As were pulling up to the gate I see the campground full sign again and chuckle to myself about how it played out yesterday and how it all ended up so much for the better and how now we’re on the way to meet the Wu-Tang Dad Dave and his family that we had befriended because at this park the campground was full. We get up to the gate and after the ribbing I had caught from my two oldest daughters yesterday about having "lost my southern charm" and having “too many white hairs”. I’BeeDam, I was hell-bent that I was going to make a "friend" out of his guard at the gate so as I pulled up I got a got my tires as close to the curb as I could and leaned out the window and said hey friend and in my best southern accent and we chatted momentarily she asked me how I was and I said "oh I have no complaints at all". Bantering back and forth until she said are you from Indiana to which I replied “no maa’aam although I’d like to think it’s not true do I sound like I’m from Indiana to you?” She of course said no but explained that it could’ve been way southern Indiana I guess. She then charged us the Indiana resident rate for our admission to the State Park and said it was because she had enjoyed listening to me talk so much. I looked up in the rearview mirror at Loralea, smiled like it was in slow motion feeling hella smug and she looked back at me and grinned, both knowing what each other was thinking and she said "all right dad I take it back". I'll mark that was a W.
The beach though was absolutely miserable for me. The children loved it! If I’m honest about this situation the night before when we had been talking with the neighbors at the campsite they kept saying about going to the “beach” tomorrow it genuinely caused me some mental acrobatics to reframe what they were meaning by the beach every time they said it because, we’re in Indiana and beach is ocean to me. It’s 45 years of beaches mean ocean and salt air but I will say that when we got to this beach it fit the description. The waves weren’t as big obviously the water wasn’t salty you don’t have to worry about sharks or I thought you didn’t have to worry about jellyfish but the O’Neals told me there are freshwater jellyfish but I think thats an inlanders snipe hunt to be honest. It was just as hot the sand stuck to you just as much it was just as hard to pull the wagon through so all that part was still the same.
Everything was fine until Leo realized it was moving water which is apparently either his absolute sworn enemy or he believes is the force that intends to kill him. Because the crazy energy, fear, anxiety whatever you call it from him this day was clearly going to be much more difficult. The minute he gets around any moving water whether its ocean waves lake Michigan waves apparently, or the churning current of a flowing river he goes bonkers crazy and it takes a lot of effort and attention to get him to calm down or sit down. If I can sit him down and facing away from the water he can chill out but it’s easier task said than done. So once I got sunscreen on everybody and floaties on the younger two I let them get in the water. Then I tried to let Leo go swimming as well. As far as I know he’d never been swimming before. He can do it though, but all he wanted to do was try to bite the waves so we go out past the waves and he would only fight to turn around to get back to where the waves were so he could bite them. It was exhausting and infuriating at the same time, so I took him out of the water back to our homebase where I had our ground cloth laid out he immediately shook his water all over me, I expected that but then he wallowed all over the sand rolling around back-and-forth coating himself in sand as thoroughly as he possibly could which should be great for sleeping in a tent, damnit. Thank God I bought him that collapsible dog crate. Last night it proved to be the best camping purchase I’ve ever made because he did not make so much as a peep all night long. I fought with Leo to stay down and stop whimpering, whining, crying and barking at the waves for the next somewhere between 45 minutes an hour until finally I told the girls that we needed to leave to be able to get at least one opportunity to swim in the pools at the campsite. That planted the seed and 10 or 15 minutes later they were ready to go. I think we had a total of two hours or so at the beach, which seemed plenty for them Lord knows more than enough for me. Pulling the cart back up the hill with Leo attached and bucking like a bronco on one side was exhausting. I saw other dads looking at me and I could tell they'd look away quick as if to say to themselves "at least I'm not that guy, man he's got his hands full". It was a challenge to the ol' positive attitude, even more by the time we got back to the car with everybody covered in sand and sweat it probably took another 30 minutes to get everybody cleaned up enough to get back in the car then I decided the best way for any kind of mitigation of the mess that was Leo, was to brush him. So I’d brush him holding him still with one hand and brushing him with the other. Lorelea would pull the hair off the brush, as it got full and throw it out in the parking lot since I didn’t have an extra hand to do it. That worked pretty well and by the time we finished and close the back of the suburban Leo plopped down on the floor and Loralea and I as we were chatting turned around and looked across the parking lot and there were probably 15 clumps of Leo’s hair smaller than footballs but bigger than softballs being blown across the parking lot, we coined the name tumble Leo’s. We did bump into the Oneal's also on their way out. As it turned out he had no signal either so wouldn't have gotten my message even if I had, had signal to get it out to him. They had actually been on the beach only a hundred feet or so from where we were but we didn't see each other.
No pictures from the beach because I was just to um, preoccupied.
We went back to the campsite via the Wal-Mart to pick up a few things we had forgotten, like a bottle Jack, which you can buy at Wal-Mart here, not what I came for but I mean if its here right. Then back to the campground and straight to the pool.
We stayed at the pool for a couple hours or so until they closed at eight and then played at the playground a bit.
Back at the campsite we eat hotdogs cooked over the campfire. This time I got smart and bought a 16 pack of hotdogs and an eight pack of buns so it won’t bother me one bit when the children eat their hotdogs with no bun, this usually drives me nuts, haha problem solved.
After dinner we sat around the fire for a while drinking Indiana Craft Soda Root Beers, and each making up stories before heading to bed around 9. Today was another good day.
Charlotte had a bit of an upset tummy overnight which has me concerned for her. She says it’s hurts only a little but she wants to “get everything out” and try to have some breakfast. She has no complaints otherwise and reports only having had a headache before this started. She’s so pragmatic, when I was asking her if there was anything I could do to help she very matter of fact said “you can get some sort of a bucket or something for me to keep close to me when we’re in the car”. That wasn’t really what I had in mind but ok.
For some reason somebody (Stefanie) taught Leo how to tell time. So, 7 o’clock sharp he’s up as usual to go out. That’s fine I’ll bring the today’s outfits, swimming stuff and shower stuff back up with me anyway. Then hopefully breakfast.
The girls wanted and genuinely need to sleep in. Not the blues. As you know Leo was up at 7 then George and I were up and bored. I zoned out on my phone, stated watching Tik-Tok. The girls and I have an aspiration that were gonna make one to “Fancy Like” so if I’m honest I was watching a few to see if there’s any way I can pull it off. Well well as it turns out my man has a concert coming up not irrationally out of the range of this trip. If Canada indeed does not open the border maybe I can surprise the girls with adding a concert to itinerary. We’ll see. I won’t tell them yet though. Finally up and spry around 9:15-930 we’re downstairs to get some breakfast. The elevator doors opened to show all the chairs in the dining room are up. I actually wasn’t too disappointed because the half sheet checkbox “menu” gave me low expectations for the food but the children were clearly disappointed. We come around the corner and the guy that’s mopping sees the green sheets in the children’s hands and his eyes and whole posture completely lit up. I don’t know if this guy is on commission or what be he clearly has a personal investment in how many breakfast they sell, which put together with the previously confusing thing front deck clerk said about how “Breakfast on Sunday’s is new to us” like who says that. Anyway this fine interesting gentlemen was going to have to remop the floor now. I know that pain. So I suggested that we would prefer to eat on the back patio and he was clearly appreciative. So the children made their order and we retreated to the patio. We had breakfast by a little creek that was pretty but probably actually just some man made contaminated rain water runoff flood control device. It was to straight to be anything but man made. Only a few minutes went by and all 5 meals came out the back kitchen door. The younger two devoured theirs Charlotte is still a little gun shy with regards to the tummy, Loralea and I decided to save have for later. Off to the pool with checkout time approaching they’re agreeable to 18 minutes of swimming.
That gives us 2 minutes to get back to the room and 40 minutes to get showered and shined to make the 11 o’clock checkout. Although I don’t get that they’re all that concerned about it really. The lady cleaning the room a few doors down told me when we came out that she wasn’t going in our room today. I’ll rush em enough under the guise of check out time but really so we make the dunes at a good and reasonable time. We left the hotel got the car all packed and the mood of everyone is delightful which is a great feeling. When I took the bell cart back in the hotel the lady asked me if I had a dog, we’ll not a dog but a “pit” specifically. My inner dialogue was rude as Leo was literally 4 feet away from her and directly on my left 3 minutes ago but, I just said “No ma’am he’s a German Shepherd” (now my inner dialogue switched to a ridiculous German accent because I can not take my self seriously for a full minute strait). She replied, “oh ok well I never noticed him so I took the pet fee off your room for you” and smiled. Oh, OH OK now I was understanding the situation. “Thank you so much ma’am I know you didn’t have to do that but I definitely appreciate it. I hope you have a good day. “
We spend some time in Lima at the Walmart getting “provisions” (that’s always sounded like the most pretentious way to say groceries but it seems to fit here since we even got 2 hairbrushes). I got the stuff packed into the cooler, fuel and oil (it burns it) into the suburban, a salted caramel something or another coffee from the Starbucks and we’re on the road. I tell the children we’ve got maybe 3.5 hours driving time and they’re elated. They all fell asleep thinking it was over 5. The drive to the dunes was mostly uneventful. We did get to see some of America’s agriculture fans. If you’ve never seen these, you should. They’re amazing. The scale and magnitude can’t be done justice in a photograph but if grids of these arraigned all over the Midwest is what it takes to keep American agriculture at the top I’m all for it. Here’s the best I could do at capturing it.
They must help keep the crops cool and the bugs off the crops. Past the agriculture fans and on to the Indiana Dunes Campground. We arrived just before 5 P.M. local time, no reservations, because I don't really do that. If I was traveling internationally and didn’t know the language I’d certainly eliminate as much risks and uncertainty as possible but on solid American soil and everything I need with me I’ll take the chance and enjoy the adventure, “Vacilando”. Guess what, you already know, we arrive and CAMPGROUND FULL. AightDen, challenge accepted so we get into the line of cars because I’ve seen this ruse on the cross country trip and it played out well in our favor many times then. I roll down my window and Charlotte’s window. At this point in the trip she happened to be sitting behind me. I was gonna try to sweet talk the guard into telling me about and letting me get that one site that they don’t book anymore because it’s not big enough for any RV but a tent for such a nice guy and delightful family would probably fit perfectly. We pull up to the window, I put on my best Rhett-esque charm to absolutely no avail at all. As we are pulling away from the gate house to make out U-Turn of defeat my sweet Loralea says something like wow daddy these people here are NOT like North Carolina people. Ha, no honey, no they are not. We are not in North Carolina anymore. Well truth be told for someone who may not plan a lot and mostly avoids reservations I also do not set myself up for failure when it’s easily avoidable. I had called another campground as we waited in the long long line for the gate. The other campground was 11 minutes away and said they had several sites available for two nights. So, I had a decent backup plan and I saw a few pictures, star ratings, and reviews on the Google and it looked like we’d be ok. Off we went. As we arrived at the Lake Shore Camp resort my heart sank, a dilapidated run down trailer park in complete shambles. We’re driving past single wides that have been so unattended to they’ve collapsed down onto themselves.
No one says a word, I’m driving through slowly thinking this can’t be, this is not good, this is not what I saw. My dear Loralea, in her most diplomatic I’m going to be strong voice says “Um daddy, this place looks bad”. I just said back “oh yeah baby you right, my babies ain’t staying no place like DisHere” AND about that time we noticed a nice new vinyl fence starting on the left side. My smile creeps back. As we continue you can see more and more big and fancy campers. Mostly 5th wheels and park models but whatever. We get to the gate and get sent to the “ranger station” as I walked in the girl behind the desk is reprimanding some 10-13 year old boys like they were her little cousins. They were clearly engaged in some Tom Sawyer like behavior and she had a stern air of familiarity but also with sincere care. I can’t say what but some harmless mischief was being perpetrated. She remembered talking to me and made a map for me with all the available spots highlighted and the best most efficient route to see them all and suggested I have a look and let her know which I wanted. Sweet, exactly what I was hoping for. I love presenting the girls with reasons to deliberate and make compromises and agreement and convey pros and cons. I do it every chance I can. I briefed my crew on the mission and off we went. We saw probably 12 sites. Consideration was taken for ground conditions, neighbors, nearby dogs, proximity of the potty, and levelness of the table (we learned that one the hard way at Pilot Mountain). We marked them off until we had narrowed it down to two and then like the final pageant contestant we had a winner and she was a beaut. Back in the office, I mean “ranger station”, I took Loralea with me so this girl in here could expunge that gate house attendant from her memory. While we’re completing the transaction some dude walks in with a WuTang jersey on. Aight, lets see, so I look at him and say straight off “two for fives, two for fives”. Sure enough he hits back “they got garbage down the way”. Ahhh yeah this in the spot we were supposed to be. We get some firewood and peruse the store then head to our site when we get to our site, before we even pull in I hear both Carlea and George nearly squeal with excitement the campsite beside us that was vacant is now occupied and they have children clearly their age. I already know where this is gonna go. If you Carlea you know too. Guess who the dad was, yUp WuTang dad. This is gonna be a fun campsite. I got the tent up in what seemed like record time I don’t know if I put it up folded better last time or if there’s something about this trip that things are just flowing as they’re supposed to so far. Once the tent was up I made some hamburger helper all the children were some reason feigning for. The children were so delightful to watch playing. For as much as George tells people he doesn’t like “pinks” he sure seems to gravitate to them. So the Oneal’s , that’s the camp neighbor family name, had a Lucy that Loralea pointed out to me he kept moving his seat beside. She leaned over to me really subtle and mature and said “you see what’s happening don’t you”.
It was really cool and I hadn’t noticed it before actually. Loralea has a mature and independent personality at one point in the evening she and I were leaned into each other narrating the interaction between Carlea and her new friend like we were sports casters. She’s cool and better than me at some things which is a cool feeling as a parent. She asked me to buy her a book by her favorite author “The One And Only Bob” before we left and Ive watched her reading it in all the free moments. She’s nearly done with it and its almost 400 pages. Charlotte was first to bed tonight which makes sense when you consider she was up and down most of the night last night.
Anyway the neighbor dad, Dave tells me in conversation that Lucy (George’s friend) packed more outfits for this trip than the rest of the family combined. I myself saw probably 3-4 different that night and the parents are cool with it because that’s who she’s is and they let her be. It was cool to see. Carlea made a friend as well. They were digging up worms with a stick and catching Rolly-Pollies and putting them into a little red solo cup habitat. Then they watched a video on what they eat. It was cute.
After the children all went to bed me and Dave and one of his buddies sat around the fire drinking beer until way to late. Today was a good day.
Well here we go!
The first day of the Alaska trip started out uneventfully. I picked up the four children from their mom at 8 o’clock .Went home emptied the perishables from the fridge, took out the trash, got Leo loaded up, and hit the road. It all started off great. We made the Virginia border, got the obligatory state line picture. We all know going into this trip that there is a good chance Canada won't open the border for us to be able to drive to Alaska in time. They're scheduled to make an announcement on 7/21 so we'll try to be in a decent position by then but if they don' open the border we still have plenty of opportunity for a great trip.
We were pulling out just as thunder clouds are starting to rumble and as we were merging into traffic the rain started, great timing. The next five hours brought about some of the worst road tripping conditions I’ve seen in my life. We drove through the mountains between Virginia and West Virginia with torrential rain and hail but when it wasn’t raining I have to say it was actually absolutely beautiful scenery. We drove through Jefferson national forest and we probably spent somewhere around 4 to 5 hours total less than 20 miles an hour. There were so many people. Loralea made the observation that it seemed like most of the others cars on the road also had roof top carries like us or had hitch carries. So 6 o’clock rolls around and we’re pulling into the West Virginia welcome center. Mind you when we left Raleigh Google maps said we should be arriving at our destination, Indiana Dunes National Park at approximately 8:30 that evening. At 6:30 we’re pulling in the West Virginia welcome center with somewhere to the tune of seven hours of driving left to go because of all the traffic we have been involved with. A quick picture and back on the road.
Chick-fil-A for the dinner and G4 needed some one on one time to re-center his Chi so we took a walk through the Lowe’s and then back on the road we go. Even as slow as we went for most of the day it’s hard not to notice the amount of beauty that there is in this country especially in this drive today. Somewhere north of the West Virginia welcome center I realized that I had forgotten to reset the trip counter when I left home so my total miles traveled when I get back home wouldn’t be accurate I reset it there and googled distance from where I was back home and it said 184 miles so whatever I end up with I’ll just add 184 miles to that.
In West Virginia and their turnpike beat me about the chest, neck, head, and facial area with their toll but we did make good time. I don’t mean we made up for the time we lost around the Jefferson national forest but we made decent time.
As dusk fell and twilight rolled in I realized it was 9:15PM at night and still light out. We pushed on into Ohio. No state line picture to be had there. Their state line sign is in the middle of the bridge, there’s no way you could take that picture. Once the children finish the movie they were watching we discussed whether we should stop then and get a hotel room and wake up the next morning with five hours remaining before we reach the Indiana dunes or if they prefer to take a nap and I’d push on for more miles as long as I could and then stop and get a hotel room for the night and hopefully have fewer hours to travel when we woke up in the morning. The consensus was they wanted to take a nap and not have as far to drive tomorrow in the morning so I pushed on and we made it all the way to Lima Ohio before I really felt myself getting too sleepy and G4 was starting to make his angry of sleeping in this place noises so we first found a Fairfield Inn that turned out to be an all around NO GO so I instead decided on a Holiday Inn which also I knew to be pet friendly. We pulled in, they had a room and it was all good news top floor, they have a pool, AND they have breakfast. Here’s to a long long first day. As of now Google says we are 569 miles from home and 192 miles from the Indiana Dunes national park. It’s late, as I’m writing this 1:25. I need some sleep.