Spook-tickular Day

The night was perfect! It was cold enough that I was snug under my down comforter. The RV has a furnace and heating a space that small does not take long, so we got up around 8am to a bright and sunny, crisp fall day. Nothing could be better for a day out in the woods. I took my time getting ready and enjoying my coffee, because Hey, I am on vacation.

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At around 10, I decided to hit Trail 4 because I saw it had a trailhead in the campground. It looked interesting and met up with a lot of other trails. Freckles and Lester were ecstatic! They love to go on walks. So many new things to smell and pee on!

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The leaves had not done much changing, but it was still a beautiful trail that was wide and mostly covered in pine needles. For my money,  pine needles are the best walking surface. They are soft with just a little give. They are like walking on a cloud. We had the trail to ourselves. The birds that were left were singing and the air had a chill that made it comfortable to wear my hoodie the whole time. I am far and away a summer girl, but I do love wearing jeans and a hoodie. We eventually met up with Trail 5 and I decided to try it.

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Now something I have decided in my years of visiting Indiana state parks is that the trail rating system is not consistent throughout the parks, but a rating of the trails in each park compared to the others. What I am saying is a trail that is rated Easy in a hilly park is easy compared to the other trails in that park while the same trail in a flatter park would get a Moderate or Rugged rating because the other trails in that park are flat. Trail 4 and 5 were rated Moderate, but they were a breeze. My guess is the rating had to do with their length only because there were only two minor hills and no rough terrain. Not even tree roots to trip over.

We reached a boat launch that was about a third of the way on Trail 5. The hike had been easy, the dogs were having a blast, and I was not feeling hungry at all for lunch, so I decided why not try to hike all the trails on this trip?  If I was going to do that, then it made sense to take Trail 5 all the way to the other side of the park and hit Trail 8 now. No way I was not going to unhook the RV to drive to the other side of the park to get 8 in another day.

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So we set off. It followed the Tippecanoe River and a nice, pleasant walk. Freckles and Lester ran out of the desire to pee and smell everything. Freckles stayed in front keeping a pace that if I had it in me, could have became a run, while Lester started walking behind. He is the younger of the two, but she is definitely in better shape.

I felt sorry for the guy, but I was not going to carry him. When I would try to take breaks for him, he would lay down immediately while Freckles would practically dance wanting to keep going. When we reached the end of Trail 5 there was a modern bathroom. I got the dogs some water and as I was holding the bag I had made into makeshift bowl, I noticed some burrs on poor Lester’s head.  I picket the first bur off discovered it was actually a tick! Ewww, eww, ewwwwww!

I got the three off of his head and found a few more on him and Freckles, then I noticed them on my sweatshirt and jeans. These were the infamous deer ticks that I had always heard about, but never seen. They were a little bigger than the head of a pin. Their small size and my dogs’ mostly black fur made them so hard to find. The fact that I had successfully found so many just made me cringe at how many I knew I was not seeing.

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I went ahead and did Trail 8 since it was short and we had come all that way before turning around to backtrack to the campground. I spent miles trying to put together a game plan: do I leave or stay, do I have anything I can use to get them off, should I give them a shower outside or is it too cold? As we walked, I kept spotting more on the dogs and me. I was completely squigged out.

After what felt like an eternity, we finally reached the boat launch were I had made the decision to keep going. Poor Lester was really dragging. I thought he was on the brink of deciding to lay down and refuse to go anymore while Freckles was still fresh as a daisy. This is why I gave Lester an old man name.  I consulted the map and decided to walk on the road to get to the campground. It was shorter and maybe if we were on pavement instead of the trail we would not pick up so many new ticks.  I started to calm down and think more rationally about the days I had left. I decided that I would put them on the picnic table and give them a really good go over to pick off ticks and then we would just stay at the campsite and do our walks around the campground. There were more people and trailers full of decorations arriving. I could really make a day of cooking on the fire.

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When we reached the camper, we had walked over 11 miles. I decided to de-tick Lester first since he handles being in the camper by himself better than Freckles does. I put him up and there were so many! I would finish an area and then come back and still find more. At about this time I started to wonder if the ticks were also in the campsite and on the table, I felt something hit my bangs and a larger tick fell on the table right in front of me.

NOpe.

That’s it.

We are gone!

I did my best to try to get ahead of the ticks on Lester and when I thought I might have it, I put him inside and started on Freckles. I did not find as many on her but the ones I found had already attached, so I had to pull them out with my nails. Poor baby. She is mainly black, but her white fur is extra thick. I knew there was no way I was coming even close to getting many of the little buggers.

When I was done with Freckles, I carefully put a change of clothes and towel into a trash bag so that none could transfer from me onto my clean clothes while I walked to the shower house. I did a silkwood shower. I scrubbed, I loofahed, and I pulled one off my neck. Agin, I made sure there was no contact between my clean clothes and the hiking ones.

I packed up and unhooked the RV to head home two days early.

I got home at 8pm and just plugged it in to keep the fridge going since I would not be unpacking that night. I was telling Dad why I was back so soon and when I took off my jacket, there was a tick! Gah!

I then changed into the shortest shorts I own and  tank top with everything I was wearing going immediately in the washer. I asked my Mom to give the once over. Is there anything more awkward than having your mom check out your under boob? I hope not and I apologize for putting that image in your head.

She found one on my back and leg. They are tiny, but they will still take a chunk of skin with them. I then gave the dogs their bath. It was a real bummer for Freckles. Her best day had ended with her least favorite thing.

All those precautions and Mom still found two on her pajamas.

It is the next day and I have washed everything possible from the RV and I still cannot shake the creepy crawly feeling.

I propose that Tippecanoe River State Park needs to change their name to Tickacanoe River.

Where is Brad Paisley when you need him?

Tippecanoe River State Park

I am on Fall Break. I compared calendars with my nieces when I got hired at my current job last year, and I was thrilled that they matched up! I planned on making it up to the girls that their trip to Maine got cut short when Old Unreliable made her true nature known and tried to strand us with battery troubles. They are both in sports and 4-H, so I was happy to not need to coordinate their calendars around my summer job.

Well, I was excited too soon. Their school moved when they do Fall Break and now I had no plans. I wanted to take Old Unreliable out if she could behave. An unfortunate lasting effect of my California debacle has been I am not nearly as comfortable traveling on my own. Finally on Tuesday, I decided to suck it up and go camping alone. I got the battery charged and this morning did a haphazard packing job (which I expect to really bite me in the butt come meal time…) and took off for Tippecanoe River State Park.

Tippy may be the only state park in Indiana that I have never visited. It had been on my list for years. I had seen it on several lists as a “hidden gem” that was beautiful, but did not get as many visitors as other parks. Perfect!

I had not gone yet because the big selling point was kayaking the river. They even have campsites only accessible by kayak or canoe. I love kayaking, but I hate transporting it. Transportation was simple when I had a truck and could just throw it in the back, add some bungee cords, and go. Transporting it by car required a system of wenches and straps, plus lifting it over my head to get it on the roof without banging my car up. That is hard enough, but try doing it at the end of the trip when your arms are tired from paddling for a few hours.  I had no way of transporting my kayak with Old Unreliable, so I decided to just bite the bullet and go to Tippy even if I could not kayak.

I was hoping that being one of the northern parks that the leaves had changed for picturesque views while hiking and since it is cool out and not a popular park, that I would have the place to myself. As I have said before, I do not go camping to be in a crowd.

I loaded up the dogs and set out for the two hour drive. When I got close, I noticed I was in Royal Center. Fun fact: this was the site of my first interview to be an elementary teacher. I was their next choice, so I had not seen this place in *cough decades.

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I am happy to report that was the most exciting thing that happened on my drive.

When I made it to the park I let the attendant know that I planned on staying through Saturday. I was quite shocked when she told me there were only two sites available. Not so hidden gem anymore.

My family never camped in the Fall. Sports and no Fall Break really made that implausible. I knew Brown County was popular this time of year, but with the chilly weather and gray skies this was an unexpected development. I asked her if there was something special going on or was this normal for here?

Well, it just so happens that every year on the last Saturday before Halloween they have a special trick-or-treating event and people deck out their campsites with decorations. It is such a big deal, that many people max out Indiana’s two week limit for renting a site for this event.

I pulled into the campground and she was not exaggerating about the decorations. The big event was still a week and a half away and some sites were more decorated than pretty much any house I had ever seen. At one site alone I counted three extra cargo trailers just for their decorations. I have never needed that much room when I have moved!

It was one of the more interesting walks the dogs and I have ever had. There was a life-size werewolf (if you can call something mythical life-sized) that Freckles was a bit weary of. She did not like having it behind her both times we passed, so she kept looking back to make sure it was not following us.

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It was a gusty afternoon that acted like it may rain at any moment, so I did not want to hit a trail or start a fire. We got cozy in the camper instead. I read a book and tried to decide what to make for dinner. I had some things that I wanted to save for grilling and others that I was feeling too lazy to thaw out first, so I made a really odd meal: jalapeno poppers.

Now in my defense, I make them from scratch, but I will concede that it’s not “camping food”, an appetizer, and random. I was prepared for the first time ever with gloves. No burning my eyeball when I take out my contacts for the rest of the week! I start with fresh jalapenos, cut them in half lengthwise, clean out the seeds and ribs, fill with cream cheese, and top with bacon. Bake and serve. Yum! No regrets.

By the time I ate, it was time for one last walk for the dogs. Orange and purple lights everywhere. Ironically, the displays were scarier looking in the daylight. Maybe they are saving the extra spooky lighting for next weekend.

All I know is tomorrow has hiking on the agenda and wearing some dogs out.

Terror in the Treetops

Do you ever think to yourself, “Gee, I sure learned my lesson!” and then immediately make the same mistake again?

Well, I did just that this weekend. I was certain after the Washington, D.C. debacle that I had learned to do some planning and research first, bu then came last weekend’s bike ride where I proceeded based on some weak assumptions, and now there is the zip-lining incident.

I am a Teacher of students with Blindness/Low Vision by trade and part of that is something called the Expanded Core Curriculum or ECC. The ECC is basically areas that most people learn through exposure (aka observing through sight) that my kiddos need explicit instructions to learn. Well, between the ECC and blindness/low vision being rare disabilities, a few of us TBLV’s from districts in my area will get our students tougher for voluntary ECC activities where they can meet other kids who understand what they are dealing with and we can have fun with the ECC.

One of the areas of the ECC is Recreation and Leisure, so sometimes our activities are just plain ol’ fun. This would be my first time experiencing our group ECC day, so I was brought into the discussion pretty late in the process. The activity would be zip-lining on a Saturday at the Koteewi Aerial Park  in Strawtown, Indiana.

I was game because I thought zip-lining looked fun. Here is where my assuming began. Instead of looking up what was involved or even something as basic as dress requirements, I assumed it would be a climb up to a platform, get hooked up to the zip-line, take a 5 to 15 minute ride over a meadow or forest, and then it would be done. Seemed like a lot of hoopla for something so short, but that did not stop me from going in blind, so to speak.

Since I was driving all that way, I made planes to meet my friend Stacey afterwards to hang out and I dressed for hanging out. I wore jeans and luckily Converse shoes.

I got there and that’s when I found out that this was not a 15 minus sip line experience,  it was a 2 hour ropes course with the occasional zip-line. Excuse me. A what? For how long?

Crap. I just assumed myself right into being an ass again.

Fun fact about me: even though I thought zip-lining sounded fun and I have even gone skydiving, I am scared of open heights. It is admittedly one of those irrational fears because for one, it is not consistent (*See skydiving). I climbed trees as a kid, no problem. A ladder up to a roof, problem. The fire tower at Oubache State Park, problem. The Eiffel Tower at Kings Island, no problem. See, irrational.

So here I was in jeans for a 2 hour long physical activity that required a lot of reaching and stretching on a day that was promising to reach the 90’s and I have a fear of open heights.  Great.

First we took a trail to a shed. Here is where we got leather gloves, a harness, and helmet.  The harness had a C hook that would go on the steel cables on all the obstacles to catch you if you fall. There was also a pulley for the zip-lines. I do no have pictures because I did not want to risk dropping my phone from the TOP OF A TREE.

Our next stop was a practice area to learn how to use the C hook, carabiner for the ropes when you climb ladders, and the pulley for the zip-line. The C hook (probably not its official name) looks like a C with a small opening. What you do is there are flat pieces of steel that your can fit the C hook onto and then you maneuver it around bolts onto the steel cable that goes across all the obstacles called elements.  The first time, it was kind of like one of those old timey spacial puzzles where you have to get two looped nails apart, but once you get it, it is not hard.  So we practiced getting our C-hook on the cable, going across an element, which in this case was a log, and then we zip- lined to a platform , but everything was close enough to the ground that most adults could touch the ground. I learned the hard way that you do not grab the steel cable while you are zip-lining. If it was not for the leather gloves, then I would have a really nasty rope burn on my palm right now.

After the practice, it was time for the real deal. we climbed a platform that was at least 20 feet up in the trees. From there, there were three different courses you cold take of increasing difficulty. Luckily, I was directed to the easiest. I say luckily, because I was too  scared to notice that feature.

Yep, the ropes course was for sure falling under the category of open heights that freak me our. I will probable get some parts wrong, but this is what I remember. The first element were three beams about three inches wide by 6 feet long. Each were attached on the ends by steel cables, so they can swing a bit while you are on them. You attached yourself to a cable in the middle with your C hook and then there were cables on each side to hold on to as you walked across the beams. Rationally, I knew if I fell, the C hook would catch me, but I wanted more leeway in the weight limit that they allowed like many 3 or 4 hundred more pounds. Plus, if I fell, I think it was rational to expect that if I fell, i could get banged up by the element I fell off of before the hook caught me.

So here I was, scared silly, stepping on to a 3 inch beam that can move., stretching over an open abyss in stiff jeans and a not all that flexible body. Oh, and did I mention, I do not have depth perception.

Depth perception is what allows you to judge where you are in relation to other objects. In this case, I could not tell if I had one foot or one inch before I reached some things with my foot. Add that as I tried to determine this, I was looking down at a 20ft or so fall.

That was the worst part of every element. You wild have to step off the platform down, while stretching to reach something that moved and wobbled. . Then you have to go to the next beam, you had to stretch while standing on a wobbly element to get on another and as you reach, the element you were standing on would be pushed away from the one you were reaching for. I do not have long legs and my jeans were restricting my movements, so this was all extra challenging, but then you reach the end of the third beam and have to get on the platform. The new platform is up higher, so now I had to reach and step up to to get on it while the beam moved back away from the platform. Bonus, this final beam was not level like the others. It was at a 30 degree angle. All that and I was only on the first obstacle.

The next obstacle was blessedly easier. There were three again, but his time it was three beams on two foot wide cross beams, so there was not the balancing element.  The challenge of moving from one to the next and getting up on an even higher platform happened again.

The next element I remember were 2 foot wide logs  Each were attached to the guide wires on the ends, so it was like walking across on several little swings. One log did not look in good shape. It had a chunk out of it like dry rot, so I did my best to not put all my weight on it. The easiest was a wavy bridge.  I think that was the last element before I had to take a ladder up to another platform where there was finally a zip-line.

At this point, by heart was beating out of my chest. Some of it was physical excursion from being a tight ball of stress the whole time. Go ahead. Clinch every muscle in your body and hold it. See how tired you get.

By this time, the other adult and two kids in my group were way ahead of me. I could not even see where they were in the trees. Shelby, my coworker would occasionally yell to see where I was and how I was doing. I would crack jokes that were kinda true about wanting a bucket truck to retrieve me.

I would put the pulley on and take it back off. I was fighting panic that I had only experienced one other time in California when things were really  desperate. I was trying to control my breathing and think logically through the safety of the zip-line and remind myself that this was the part I actually wanted to do, but I was having a rough go of it since I was not at least 30 ft or more up and wigged out from the obstacles I had just done. I knew my only options were the zip-line or retracing my steps, but I already knew how awful the part I had done was and I did NOT want to tot that again.

About this time, another couple made it to the platform I was on. I told them I had reached the limits my courage and was working on it, so they could go around me. It really helped to watch someone else go.  I took a few more minutes, working on my breathing when one of the park staff asked if she needed to come up to help me. I told her no, I was almost ready. Then I hooked and unhooked myself from the zip-line a few more times when I finally just did the oldest trick in the book and counted to three then pushed off.

It was awesome ad fun and I could zip-line all day, but the ropes course was still BS. I had to do a few more elements like a net in shape of a V that basically closed on you when your are in it. I am not claustrophobic and there was no falling off that one, so I was fine. There was also a tightrope with the occasional 2×4 attaching it to the hand cables. I did not care for that one. My C hook would get caught on the boards because I think it needed to be higher up. Then there was a wall with holes cut for your feet and hands. I had to move my left foot  and hand to the next hole, then bring my right foot to where it had been and so on until I got across.

The final element was a zip-line down to the ground where I had to do a running stop at the bottom or end up with mulch in unspeakable places. I was able to successfully do that and stay upright.

That brought me back to the platform where I had started. We had paid for 2 hours and the easiest course had taken me almost the full time. We had about 10 minutes left and I was given the option to do another, but knowing that the obstacles were harder, it was a hard pass for me, but I would have loved to do more zip-lining.

I have a FitBit that measures heart rate, so that night I looked at it and looking at my heart rate, guess what time I was about to have a panic attack.

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After some water and a rest so my heart could return to normal, I walked back to my car to go visit Stacey. She had much different plans for us, so I finished up my night by making an upcycled Christmas tree out of a hymnal at a table with some retired old ladies. Much more blue on the heart rate monitor during that tree-based activity.

So all in all, I will go zip-lining again, but if there is a ropes course involved then I will just hide in the harness shed instead.  It’s the heart healthy thing to do.

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I have been to three MLB games in my life. Two were White Sox vs. Yankees when I was a kid and what I remember is taking home a kitten we found at a rest stop. His name was Yankee, and he was a good kitty. I know there was a third as part of a school trip in middle or high school, but it made not impression. I do not even remember who I saw. I did know it was not a Cubs game. I was a Wrigley Field virgin and Andy had chosen me to go to the last game of the season against the St. Louis Cardinals.

I knew from all his texts, tweets, and Instagram pics during games (@44_for_tony_wood) that Cubs gear was a must. I brought a red bandana for my hair and my red Converse, then I asked to borrow a shirt. Andy brought down what he described as the first stack in one drawer. I had at least six to choose from and I had the suspicoun that he had enough still in his room to cloth a small village.

Since it was the last home game of the season  and rain was in the forecast (plus, why not?), Andy decided we should get a hotel room close to Wrigley. IF there were rain delays, we would not have to worry about catching the train back late. Plus, whether we ended up celebrating or drowning our sorrows we could not have to worry about driving back to Indiana.

The reason this was on the list was that Andy and Tony had attended this game last year. Baseball was a huge bond for them and much of their family. It also marked the end of a season that had started with the Best and Worst Day of Andy’s life. (Seriously, those need capitalization. Fight me, grammar Nazis.) During Spring Training in Mesa, Arizona Andy and Tony rented a place to watch their beloved Cubs kick off the year. Tony lived in California, so these times together were special and both of them are the type of men to suck the marrow out of every moment. The first day, they had a blast and went out on the town. They did not leave anywhere a stranger.  Tony declared it the Best Day.

The next morning, Andy found him collapsed on the floor. He had died in the night of a heart attack. Andy then had to take care of arrangements, let his sister-in-law know she is a widow, and tell his mother that she had lost her oldest son only about a year after their father had died. Tony was only 54 years old.

I still do not know how Andy is still standing.

Andy decided to dedicate this year to remembering Tony and sharing his legacy. Tony had a thing for the numbest 44. It’s the number his two sons wore when they each won a State Championship in Football. He liked Tony Rizzo, number 44, on the Cubs. Since Andy was also turning 44 this year, he made a list of 44 places and memories he had of Tony and asked others to experience them with him and listen to Tony’s story and impact.

Andy asked me to complete number 8, the final home game of the Cubs season. The final page of a season that had started with so much joy that in a night turned into a tragedy.

Andy has a solid game day routine. He drives to Chinatown and parks in the fenced e+DFYSTNTRSm06EiqKoA7glot below the Redline train. He takes it to Wrigley and times his arrival for when they start serving beer at noon. He watches fora bit around left field and then goes an d finds his seats. Maybe he sits there and maybe he goes somewhere better. At eh 7th inning stretch, he dons his beard and records singing with whomever has attended the game with him.  At the end of the game, he goes to his favorite haunts in Wrigleyville either to celebrate or complain with the rest of Chicago.

Now the routine was going to be a bit different since we got a hotel It was a boutique hotel called The Wheelhouse Hotel.  It was really fun and they embraced the baseball theme in a fun and classy way. More hipster than sports bar. Our room’s mini bar included beef jerky, peanuts, cracker jack, and my favorite, Big League Chew bubble gum. Instead of mints, they left packs of Wrigley Doublemint gum on the pillows.

Now some of my more conservative readers may be thinking, wait a second, an unmarried man and woman in a room together? What exactly are the sleeping arrangements?

No need to clutch your pearls, our room had bunkbeds.  No seriously, bunkbeds.

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See. I told you.

We had a wonderful lunch on the patio. I had a classic bacon cheeseburger and Andy had a fried bologna sandwich that somehow still managed to look pretentious.  Gotta love hipsters.

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We headed to the stadium and Andy had a million stories for every nook and cranny of the place. We did laps and he would have a different story each time. When it finally got close to game time, we headed up to stand behind left field. I started to get a bit worried at this point. Normally, when people stand instead of going to their seats it is because where they are standing is better. Well, with my eyesight I could not see the ball at all. It was like watching a weird Youtube video where the object everyone is playing with is photoshopped out. A few times, I thought I heard the ball getting hit, but it turned out the pitch was so hard that I was hearing it hit the catcher’s mitt. Ouch.

IegrM0nLTfqnKjN9LpaA7AAfter an inning or two, Andy decided to go to our seats. Technically, I guises I should say we went to where we were going to sit. It was a day where it kept spitting rain, the Cubs had put themselves in the position to have to win every game left to go to the Playoffs, and they were plagued with injuries, so we had some choices in where we sat. We ended up under the roof on the first deck on the first base line and hey, I could see the ball! The game is much more interesting when you can see where the ball is. The Cubs led the Cards 2 to 1 as I experienced my first 7th inning stretch at Wrigley. 

It was all going fine and dandy until the top of the 9th when the Cubs fell apart. TheCards pulled ahead 2 to 3 and the Cubs only managed a single to end the game. My first Cubs game was the full experience in the Cubs fan tradition of dashed hopes and crushing disappointment. Andy modified his W flag to a WTF flag and flew it for anyone who would look.  We learned the sad fact that Wrigley has an “L” flag they fly after a loss.  It was a sad day in Wrigleyville.

The rest of our evening were more stories about Tony and other happier Cubs memories. Andy displayed his WTF flag and became a popular model as numerous people asked to take his picture. We went to some of his favorite bars where he managed to have conversations with more than one stranger in each place. This was the most uncomfortable part of the trip for me. More uncomfortable than the bike ride. Andy thrives on attention, and I prefer invisibility. He is the life of the party, while I am the ninja who hides in the shadows and occasionally throws in a devastating one liner. Loud bars are not my ideal environment.

However, we kept changing locations and not staying long because even Andy had trouble finding his niche because so many of the Cubs fans had just gone home to cry in their beers.

Finally, we hit upon a spot where we both could shine. Old Crow Smokehouse is a large place and we ordered appetizers. Andy struck up a conversation via his flag with a couple sitting next to us. We were all about the same age and they quickly learned that Andy can be full of crap. He likes to make up tall tales to see how far he can go before they wise up. That then made me their de facto BS meter. If they were not sure whether to believe him, they would look to me for confirmation. Andy told them Tony’s story and after that, we all sat together and had a great conversation. Johanna and Chris are engaged and living in Phoenix. Andy even got what sounds like a sincere invitation to a Spring Training Game. We were kicked out around 9 or 10 for last call because the Sunday hours were based on how many were in the bar and the four of us were about it.

We did one last round of Wrigleyville to hit the memories we missed durning one of the small rainfalls. This time we made it to Murphy’s Bleachers which was one of the places that was around before the business boom after the World Series win.

Five minutes in, we walked by an almost fight. This was decidedly not my scene.  We finally headed back to the Wheelhouse. I was surprised how much of Wrigleyville had rolled up the sidewalks and it was only 10:30, but that’s OK. It had been a packed day full of every emotion.

It had been a full day…and of course I had to take the top bunk. Why end the nostalgia tour now?

Monday will not be getting its own post. We asked the concierge if there was anything open for breakfast. He directed us to a place a half mile away.

We had a quiet walk… to a closed restaurant. We settled on bagels then headed back to the hotel, then Indiana and the real world.

Now go tell someone you love them.

Catching Up With an Old Friend

Andy and I have been friends since 2001 when we met at a wrestling tournament. He was officiating and I was a scorer. We had some parallel experiences like going to Japan, being teachers, and wrestling, but we are also complete opposites in a few ways. While I am quiet and not the easiest person to get to know, Andy is a bigger than life personality who makes new best friends everywhere he goes.  Our friendship was cemented for life when back in 2007 I was teaching close to him and the cottage I was renting was sold a month into my lease and I had to find somewhere new to live by the end of December. Not really a good time of year for a home search, so it was more like 2 weeks to find a new place.

I knew Andy had a couple of rentals, so I asked if one was open and he said 351710D0-0103-41A8-9C56-3263F6362382that actually, he needed a roommate. I was on board because that was cheaper than a whole house to myself and he lives on the St.Joe River. He has a pontoon he can take 15miles in either direction.

I stayed there until it became obvious my library job was going to get the axe due to the recession and my eyes were at their worst, so we parted ways as I moved to Indy to start my tenure at the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. We text all the time, but do not see each other much in person.

This weekend was to be one of those times. I will go into more detail tomorrow since it is more relevant then, but Andy’s older brother Tony had died unexpectedly earlier this year. It just so happened that Tony’s favorite number for sports and jerseys was 44 and Andy turned 44 this year. So to honor his brother, he made a list of 44 experiences to remember his brother and he chose people to help him with his list. I was assigned number 8 and it was our plan for Sunday. (Follow Andy on Instagram and Twitter at 44_for_tony-wood if you want more of the story.)

Sunday was covered, but since it is about a 2 1/2 hour drive to get to his house and we had not seen each other in over a year we decided to make a weekend of it and I came up on Saturday. When planning this weekend, Andy had mentioned a friend of his had floated the idea of doing a brewery tour using a new bike trail in Elkhart County called the Pumpkinvine Trail. I said I was game, but then it was not mentioned again until Friday night when Andy asked when I would get there so we could go. Based on when we needed to be at the first brewery where we were starting our tour, I had to get up at 6am to make it. I should have asked more questions, although it would not have mattered because Andy was just as clueless as I as to what to expect.

I am practical to a fault in most matters, but sometimes my romantic side makes an appearance. When I was told “bike tour of breweries”, in my mind I pictured a leisurely ride for a mile or two in a cute outfit on a bike that has a wicker basket. We would go to a brewery and have a light snack with a flight of beers. After 30 to 60 minutes, we would ride a couple more miles to do the same thing. Maybe this would be a loop of 4-5 places that would take hours because of the stops, but not so many that people are falling off their bikes.  If the leaves on the trees could have changed to fall colors overnight, my idyllic picture would be complete.

So I arose at 6am, took too much time to get ready trying to pick out an outfit that would be dressy enough for my fantasy of the day, cool enough for the expected upper 80’s temps on the first day of Fall, but be comfortable for a bike ride. I settled on skorts with a women’s cut tee. My bike is a fixed gear cruiser with a bell, but sadly no wicker basket. Andy was in cargo shorts and had a decades old mountain bike. We arrived to meet our group in the parking lot of the Goshen Brewing Company. We knew we were in trouble as soon as we saw the rest of the group. Pretty much everyone else (who were part of Andy’s Rotary Club) were decked out in cyclist (or at least workout)  gear and rode on light road bikes that are worth more than my car.

As I was introduced to everyone, in the back of my mind I thought that we could stay with the group here at this first brewery and maybe excuse ourselves after another few depending on how it was going.

Nope, Goshen Brewery  would have to wait to be the last spot when we came back to the cars.

We pushed off and went through the streets of Goshen. Right off the bat, we crossed lanes of traffic to get in the left turning lane. I had no idea how long we would be on streets, but I knew I could not look far enough over my shoulder to check for traffic without swerving, so I told the guy behind me that I do not see well and to holler if he had any suspicion I might be heading towards something dangerous. I would ask him if I was clear if there were turns. We crossed train tracks and after about a mile, we came to the trailhead (and a parking lot… I’m just sayin’.) Here the trail turned blessedly shaded with trees on either side. My stubborn streak set in and I was determined to keep pace. We rode along and the scenery turned to Amish farms. It was pastoral and everything you would expect from Amish country, but it just kept going. I do not bike much, so I did not have a good sense of how far we had been traveling. The skorts soon revealed themselves to be a bad idea. What I had on my hands was a chaffing apocalypse with no idea how much farther we had to go and how bad it was going to get.

Yy8QQKp0TBWDlgKxFEt0jQSo we kept going and going. I somehow was able to maintain conversations with people from the Rotary. We finally stopped at a water tent that was set-up for what turned out to be some sort of marathon length walk going on. I heard someone from our group say we were half way there, then someone else corrected them and said technically it was a quarter of the way since we also had to head back. Finally someone said we had gone five miles.

See kids, math word problems really do happen in real life. I now knew we were riding ten miles to one brewery for lunch and then ten miles back to the original one. Twenty miles for two breweries was not a ratio I was happy to hear. I was hot, sweaty, and knew I was working up a helluva rash for beer, which I rarely even like.  On the bright side, Andy was suffering, too. (Love you, man!)

As we got closer to our destination, we reached a part that was newer and cut through fence rows so our shade disappeared. We had some long roads of a gentle downhill slope. I could not enjoy it because I knew it would be uphill on the way back. Living in the moment may not be one my strong points.

Our destination was 41 Degrees in Middlebury.  It was a welcome sight. I had never liked beer, but a few years ago on a Girls Weekend with Betzie and Jaime I had discovered that I like Sours and Goses when they ordered flights and did not like them and on a fluke I gave them a shot. The thing is, in the years since we made this discovery, I have only seen a sour or gose on a menu once, maybe twice. I was very surprised to see a sour and a gose on the menu! I chose the Strawberry Crush sour. My reasoning was it was highlighted with blue and there must be some reason to break out the highlighter. As you can tell, I am quite the connoisseur. The highlighter did not lie. It was a delish.

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The Special was a burger topped with granny smith apple, caramel, and peanuts. It sounded weird, but intriguing. However, I had to think of the ten mile ride back and that sounded too heavy.  The food, beer, and company were delightful.  I wanted to try the gose, too since they are so rare, but the rest of the group was one and done.

We started the ten miles back and it was rough from the start. We were starting off in the sun and a nice headwind had started off. There were times I swear it was strong enough that I could not even cruise when I was going slightly downhill. All I could do was my best. If I tried to stand to do get some power in my pedals, I swear the bones in my legs would instantly dissolve and sit me right back down. When I slowed down too much, then I would hop off and walk my bike as a rest. If I kept moving, I was fine.

We would occasionally catch up with a Rotary couple resting, so I did not feel like Andy and I were as hopelessly behind. We finally reached the the big hill. Andy and I made no attempt to ride and walked our bikes up and rested with a couple. This was the place I was really dreading, so now that we were past it I was still exhausted, but I was able to enjoy and appreciate the ride more. Someone put it best when they said the first and last five miles were the best.

When we made it to the water stop where I found out we had gone five miles, we 2KlMNtqKROOkz8WSmssFSAhad a solid idea of where we were and how far we had to go. As a bonus, we had a nice doggy break when the water station ambassador Ajax visited. The lady manning the station explained that he was not hers and he just would show up.

Andy and I reached the streets of Goshen and to my great relief, had to stop and wait for a train to pass. This the final rest I needed. We made it the rest of the way and met the group at Goshen Brewery. I could have sworn someone had said that they specialized in sours and goses, but alas, they had none. I made due with water that was also greatly refreshing. I did not care because I had made it. The Green Saddle, I am not.

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We had a good time with the group. I was even effectively social.

When we all parted ways, Andy and I went back to have a relaxing ride in the Tc3+u0YAQpqrIQdtwfkk3Qpontoon and capped the night in the hot tub to try to recover from our ride.

By the time we got on the pontoon, it was early evening.  Ir was cool and calm with a hint of rain in the air. We caught up, reminisced, told old and new stories enjoying each other’s company and the river.

Perfection.

When darkness settled, we docked, had dinner, then relaxed in the hot tub in hopes of staving off the worst of the impending sourness and it worked like a charm. I was still saddle sore from the bike seat, but my legs recovered nicely for our trip to Chicago tomorrow to cross number 8 off the list.

Ding Dong, the Dolly’s Gone!

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As some of you may remember, one of my greatest frustrations and roots of my struggles in California was the tow dolly. A tow dolly is a two wheeled trailer for pulling a car with front wheel drive. It made everything harder and led to the infamous night where I had the cops called on me for a domestic dispute with myself  (I Think I Just Became an Urban Legend) and then the tire blow out a couple of days later (I Have a Nemesis) , not to mention the lights not working delaying my trip home (This Is Beyond Ridiculous) and making to trip anxiety-ridden as they would go out for long periods only when  I was driving (Zen and the Art of RV Maintenance). Granted, the  light thing was Old Unreliable’s fault, but still.

While I have still have not made any definitive decisions about how long Old Unreliable will remain in my life, when I got back to Indiana, I immediately declared that the tow dolly had to go! I did not immediately list it back in October because I had bigger fish to fry like getting a job. Then it was winter and that job went until 6 or 7pm each night a, so I knew that would make arranging a sale difficult. The Spring came with a new job, and I was focused on learning that. Summer came and since the first job had paid so badly and the second teaching job had so little time left before summer, I had to get a summer job to get me through.

Finally, it was August and my regular teaching job was back in session. Oddly, having fewer money worries finally freed me up to wrestle the tow dolly problem. (Yes, I know selling it when I was the most broke would have made more sense, but here we are..)

I had sold many things using Facebook Marketplace when I was purging for the move to California. I had not sold anything so big and niche. Everybody uses TV’s and furniture, but how many people in the area are looking for a used tow dolly?  When I had bought mine through Craigslist, many of the postings were as old as 6 months, so I as prepared for the long haul.

I joined several Buy it/Sell it groups on facebook in the area and pulled up pictures that I had taken for this  back in October. I chose a price based on what I saw others being listed for and thought I would be waiting, but the inquires started immediately. My happiness over things quickly turned into annoyance after a few days. I am not built to be in Sales. I take things too personally and I am bad at confrontations and negotiating a price involved a lot of both for me. The first pet peeve I developed was a hatred for the phrase “What is you bottom dollar?”  I got hit with that as the second question after “Is it still available?” so many times. I have a posted price, if you want to negotiate, then you need to make a counter offer, not ask me to jump right to as low as I will go.  Rude.

I’m a little embarrassed by how many times that happened before I figured out “What is your bottom dollar?” is one of the automatic phrases you can choose in Messenger. Once I realized that, I gave people the benefit of the doubt and started a negotiating, but to a man, they dropped out instead of making a counter offer. GAH!

Then I switched tactics and would ask for an offer instead of putting down a number, but that would get me lowballed. We are talking offers for around 50% or lower from my asking prince. I had seen spindly ones that were over a decade old and rusted being listed for more. Then they would not budge on their offer.  Insulting.

I was fielding af few inquiries and one of the first looked like it was shaping up to be a real offer. Sweet! I wanted nothing more than to be done with this. I started getting everything in order for pick-up when I realized that I could not find the tire straps! I looked everywhere. There was absolutely no reason that they should not have been in my car or in the RV, but I looked everywhere in both,  plus the garage, my bedroom, and even the attic. My dad searched, he sent grandkids to search. Nothing. I don not know what happened. It such a weird thing to steal and not grab anything else in the car or RV. It is still a mystery.  So the straps are soementing you can get two new ones for around $40, so I took $25 off the asking price. The guy dropped out. A Tow dolly that was around $1400 new a year ago and he’s out over $40 of tire straps, the easiest and cheapest part to replace and the one that I would be weariest about buying used anyway.

Ugh. That meant I was still in the game. At about this time, it had been a little over a week. I cam home from work and the power was out and the estimated time of it coming back was 9pm. This is when Rod appeared in my DM’s. Rod put his phone number in his inquiry and asked me to call him.

No. I am selling this online to avoid giving out personal information and the last thing I want to do is give a strange dude a hone number hc can call after the sale. I did not answers right away because I did not know how I wanted to handle it. I figured Iw as getting enough inquires that I could just let this one go and I forgot about it. Next morning, he has sent more messages and they are increasingly passive-agressive. Great, the one guy who won’t move on. I messaged back as I had some time to kill at work waiting for my time to work with a student. I told him about the power outage, so I was worried about saving my phone battery and I explained that I preferred just using Messenger so I can look up any technical questions he has and I doin’t like giving out personal info like my  hone number to strangers.  This was around 8am. When I got off work around 4pm, I looked and Rod has went on a multiple message tantrum. He went off on me not wanting to give my number and that there as no way he was driving all that way without talking first, and this is probably a fake post and he’s going to report me, but also I missed out on a sale and on and on and on. I had thought about replying, “I have a job, so I am not on FB during the day, but I want you to to take this thread and show it to your wife/girlfriend/daughter or any woman and ask her to explain  to you why I do not feel safe giving you my number.” I figured he’s the type who has his head way too far up his butt to get the point, so instead I reported hime to Facebook for harassment.

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My next fun one was Richard (not making up these names, yes the biggest jerks had the phallic euphemisms for names.) I got up to get ready for work. At about 6:30am, I looked at Messenger and he had asked about the dolly at 11pm and then nudged me for an answer again at 6am. Dude, that is a level of impatience I cannot deal with. Sorry I do not offer 24 hour customer service. He did not get a response. I learned engaging does no good.

After a week and a half dealing with this sale, I noticed a pattern I had not seen when I was selling my other stuff: several more impatient buyers, lowball offers, and not willing to work out a price, and just generally being unreasonable. What was the big difference: I was mainly dealing with men this time.  I think I would have gotten a lot less BS if I would have had a guy list it for me or changed my username and profile picture to make it less obvious they there talking to a woman. Wrestling has put me in many a male-dominated situation and I recognize when I am dealing with a guy who cannot tolerate that a woman may “put one over on him” in an area he thinks he should automatically be superior and working out a deal on a trailer falls into that category.

After a week and a half, I found a buyer and yesterday I took it to Greensburg driving  my dad’s truck. There was no way I was risking Old Unreliable messing up my sale by making it look like the dolly lights do not work. It was a mercifully quick process to get rid of the thing and as soon as he had it unhooked form the truck and said we were good, I marked it as sold and got on my way back home. Cursed objects are hard to get rid of, so I was afraid to dawddle and give him time to change his mind.

Thank goodness I should not have to deal with anymore Rods and Richards for now.

Time to Head Home

It rained in the middle of the night, but instead of cooling things off, it made the air cross the humidity threshold into slightly oppressive.

In many ways, that is the perfect kind of weather to end a camping trip on. You are not miserable, but it makes you kind of glad to be leaving.

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We took our time, so that we would not be in the rush for the dumping station. Since I did not go back to work until Tuesday, Mary is a stay-at-home mom, and Dad is retired we had the time to waste.

Or so we thought.

Mary noticed that one of her camper tires was low and when she tried to inflate it, it did not hold it very long.

I am happy to report that we made it home safely without incident. There was not a dramatic blowout like I had in California.

Even better, I was able to get the slideout to work when I got home. I had suspected my auxiliary batteries were not charged when they did not work the first time and that proved to be the case.

It is nice to end trips on a hopeful note again.

Now to get a little Kumbaya.

I grew up in a small, rural and very White town, so I noice diversity or lack thereof .

Growing up, when we would go camping, I never saw any diversity at the campgrounds either. The only diversity was in the age of campers. Young families clustered around the playgrounds and retired people around the bathrooms. Then if there was a primitive campground, the rowdy partiers.

This weekend I saw so many different types of people. I saw age, race, ethnic, and religious diversity.  It was so diverse that I even saw an African-American Mennonite. Mennonite’s are one step away rom Amish.  It’s like spotting a unicorn… wearing an old fashioned dress and bonnet.

This new campground diversity is so cool, I actually thought about talking to someone.

Almost

Let’s not get crazy.

 

 

 

Lester Would Prefer a Hotel

Lester is a decidedly indoor dog.

Both dogs like to be glued to my side most of the time, but Lester often chooses to go into the RV and hangout instead of being outside with us.  He likes to lay in my arms like a baby at home, but he was finding that this did not work well with lawn chairs, so he would rather lay inside under the carpeted table.

I did a bad duct tape job on the busted screen door and just kept watch on it to make sure he did not make a break for it.

The morning was all going pretty well. Dad and Mary had taken her oldest, Loralie, out fishing in the boat while the other two slept in. I was enjoying my coffee when the inevitable happened and someone walked by with a dog. Freckles forgot she had a sore leg and sprinted to the end of her tether barking up a storm. Not to be left out, Lester busted through my subpar tape job to join in the barking.

Luckily, he is all bark and no bite, so he did not rush past Freckles to the dog, but in my attempts to catch him, I shucked when I should have jived and ended up stepping on his paw. He yelped and ran to hide under the RV, so I had to shimmy on my belly to get him out. He went back in the RV (with the regular door closed) to pout.

I tried once again to take time to relax with my coffee when the 4yo woke up. I had been doing a lot unexpected babysitting on this trip. The only thing I really minded about it was do you have any idea how many times a 4yo and 7yo can ask, “When is my mommy coming back?”

Me neither. I cannot count that high.

I had been subjected to a barrage of this question when Mary was fishing with Dad a few days ago and when she went to the grocery store on Thursday night. It was was too much to endure again in the morning. After an hour, my spirit broke and I woke up Miriam so she could take Ashlind to the park.  Of course, after her own marathon of “When’s mommy coming back”’s .

While the girls played, I took Freckles and Lester for a short walk around the playground to see how Freckles was doing. She would occasionally limp, but mostly she was leading the pack. My little girl is a trooper!

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Mary and Dad came back and after lunch, the girls wanted to go swimming again. Since Freckles was doing well and all the new sights, sounds, and smells were making them be extra with every dog they saw, I decided to take them on a hike instead.

We chose Trail 3 down to the beach. It had an extra loop that looked to be easy enough for Freckles, but long enough to wear them out. The trail was nice, but was a bit of a Frankenstein. It started out as gravel, then was soft grass, switched to asphalt, and then dirt.

The thing I have enjoyed the most about Chain ‘O Lakes is its abundance of wildflowers and butterflies. I have never seen so many this late in the Summer, especially in the woods. There was one section of woods I did not like. At the top of a hill, the forest had no underbrush. It was disconcerting and made my lizard brain feel uneasy like I was exposed to predators. It was just weird and a little spooky.

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When we got to the beach, the rest of the trail back to the campground was basically along the road, so we just reversed directions and took our scenic route back .

That evening, I lit a fire again. I love campfires. I grilled hamburgers, hot dogs, and summer squash over the flames for another great night.

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The girls begged to roast marshmallows, but not because they wanted to eat them. I like my marshmallows burnt, so Miriam and Ashlind just wanted to catch them on fire. I had to limit them on how many I would eat. It was not just the sugar I was worried about. It was the 4yo constantly coming at my face with a fireball that I needed to limit.

It was another great day.

 

Nightmares Sometimes Can Come True

I had been kinda dreading today. I go camping for the nature and getting away from it all, but now that it was the weekend and I knew the 350+ sites would be filling up with people who think everyone wants to hear their music too, they light up their site like Vegas with lanterns and strings upon strings of lights, and some even have large screen TV’s they watch with their backs to the campfire.

Why camp if you cannot even see the stars?

Today the plan was to take the mobility scooter out for a hike in the morning before the crowds arrived and made it hard to reserve.  The Nature Center was part of the shower house for the beach and since the beach does not allow dogs, we found a shady spot under a picnic table to wait.

The Naturalist brought out the scooter and was explaining the controls to Dad, then Dad, Mary, and the girls sat on some benches in an area for presentations.

Ugh. Were we going on a group hike? I do not want to hike with strangers.

I reluctantly went over to join my family, but it turned out to be worse than a group hike. It was a presentation about snakes.

To quote Indiana Jones, “Why did it have to be snakes?” *Shudder.

I took a seat a few rows back. If questioned, my response was going to be because of my dogs, not abject terror.  It was a simple presentation with elementary level science.  Then the dude goes and confirms one of my biggest fears that I had been dealing with by telling myself it was irrational.

He asked the group how snakes stay cool when they get too hot. Then he proceeds to tell us that the black rat snake he’s holding likes to cool off by hanging out in the tree branches above water where they will “often” (yes, he used the word OFTEN) drop into boats below.

I want to hyperventilate just writing that.

I love to kayak and I do not get to do it as much as I like, but when I am out rowing close to shore, I had always had in the back of my head a little voice saying, “what if a snake dropped in the kayak right now,” and now I have got this SOB telling me my fears are justified!

I give his presentation 5 out of 5 straitjackets for trauma inducement.

I left the presentation after that phobia-affirming fact and went back to my shady spot to wait for the hike. It was a nice hike around the lake, but about a third of the way through we came across three downed logs over the trail. One was lodged pretty good between a post and another tree, so we could not move it so Dad could get through on the scooter. He told us to keep going and he would turn around and meet us on the loop coming from the other direction.

 

We ended up meeting at the pier and channel they had fished at the day before, then we headed the rest of the way back to the beach. As we were rounding the shower house, there was some picnickers with their dog and Freckles and Lester did their lunge/bark and act tough routine.

When I finally got them past, I noticed Freckles was limping and favoring one of her front paws. My poor baby girl! I checked for thorns or rocks between her toes, but I think the lunge maybe caused the doggie equivalent of a sprained ankle.

I excused myself from the next activity of swimming at the beach and instead took the pups back to the RV for some R&R so she could stay off her paw. She seemed to do better as the night went on, but not well enough for a walk. I was hoping she would learn a lesson from it hurting when she sprints at dogs to bark, but no such luck. She has proven to be dedicated to “protecting” our site.

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On a weirder note, as we were pulling in to the campground, Mary spotted the bubble guy. He was hanging out in the campground’s overflow parking lot blowing bubbles. He was staying a small camper van and camping for free by boondocking in the one parking lot where they expect there to be overnight parking so no one checks. I guess that’s how he can afford to keep himself in bubble solution.

Mary and I share a philosophy about eating out when traveling: never go somewhere you can go to at home! For dinner, we decided to hit the thriving metropolis of Albion. Mary found a local pizza place called the Albion Pizza Depot that had good reviews. I was hoping to get some internet stuff done while in town because the reception in the park was unpredictable.  From my site alone I had experienced all the way from able to post a picture-laden blog post with ease to a simple text message taking hours to go through.

Well, Albion’s two bars of 3G was not the power boost I was hoping for.

Mary, however, had enough juice to figure out her phone’s rewards program actually included the Pizza Depot. The coupon was worded awkwardly and I though it was trying to say, “Buy 2 pizzas, get a 3rdfree” but, Mary and luckily the confused high school cashier thought it was saying, “Buy one, get the 2ndfree.” It was good stuff, although I went a little overboard with the Mountain Dew this late. I guess Freckles gets her inability to learn from her mistakes from me.

Oh well, at least I won’t sleep and dream of SNAKES FALLING FROM THE SKY!

 

Butterfly Party

I had a great night’s sleep. The windows were open and the night was cool.

My dogs are loving being back on the three a day walk schedule. This is a large campground with roomy sites, so we are able to walk just in the campground and see new stuff each time. Being a Thursday, a lot of new campers arrived, but with over 350 sites it does not feel crowded. I imagine that will change come Friday.

Not that we just plan on staying in the campground. This ain’t no KOA, we have a whole park to explore!

Breakfast was late because the girls are not morning people and Mary and I divided the labor into I cook and she cleans most of the time. This was one of those times and my struggle was figuring out the logistics of cooking for six on a 1’x1’ grill. I dirtied a few extra pans trying to figure it out.

Sorry, Mary.

But breakfast was a success because the kids ate.

Today’s mission was fishin’

I’m embarrassed just writing that sentence, but this is a free blog so it stays!

I do not have a fishing license. I do not want a fishing license.  My eye condition does not impede me from a lot of things, but it does impede fishing. I have blind spots in the center of my vision, so the bobber is always “disappearing” so I cannot tell if I have a bite or the bobber is just lost in a blind spot. Once I do realize it’s a bite, the hook is swallowed and I will have to kill the fish to get it off my hook. It is unpleasant.

So instead, Mary and Dad would take his boat out and I would walk the dogs down to the pier where Mary would be fishing with her youngest, Ashlind while the other two girls were fishing on the boat with Dad.

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The pier was by a narrow channel that kayaks and canoes use to go from lake to lake. I stayed on a shaded picnic table by the channel and noticed a bunch of swallowtail butterflies on the bank.

I had to get a picture or fifty.

As I approached, they all took flight and fluttered around me like a scene in a Disney movie. I have been to butterfly exhibits in botanical gardens and had not seen this many butterflies in one spot. It was magical.

I let them land and tried again. Then again, and I kept doing it until they got used to me and I was able to get my camera inches away from some of them. (I also have some videos of the swarm on my Instagram @libgds because this is a free blog site and the ability to post videos cost $$$.)

A dude who had been at the boat ramp randomly blowing bubbles made his way to the pier, so Mary and Ashlind decided to join me at the channel. Seriously, Mary said it felt like the guy was being eccentric to start a conversation and instead of finding it charming, the four year old found him creepy.

I pointed out the butterflies to Ashlind and after a little bit of time, she caught one. Four year olds are not a patient bunch. Ashlind is not a particularly patient girl EXCEPT when it comes to catching animals. She catches frogs, lizards, and feral kittens all the time. It’s pretty impressive. After that, it was back to fishing and she was able to catch a few little bluegill not much bigger than a silver dollar.

Dad and the older two girls finally finished up (actually, it was more of a bathroom situation) and came to our channel to switch passengers. This is when I found out I would be babysitting. Luckily the girls were done with fishing and wanted to go back to the site. Even luckier, Mary gave me her keys to take us all back in her car, because hours relaxing in the shade had made me want to take it to the next level with a nap instead of hiking back.

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Our late breakfast had taken us past having lunch and into early dinner zone. All the food was in Mary’s camper and I was having trouble with her keys. Instead of a nap, I had hours of “we’re hungry” and me explaining that unless they wanted dog food or mayonnaise, there was nothing I could do to help them until Mary and Dad finished fishing. Honestly, I thought Ashlind would bring them home sooner, but she pulled out her patience reserves. I gave Mary’s keys another shot (one lock needed to be turned the opposite direction than I had been doing, but the right way had a strong resistance I had not tried hard enough to get past.)

I was a hero! And as an aunt who wanted to remain the hero, I did not go in and monitor what they gorged on.  #Priorities

I got a roaring fire going (First match, BTW) and not more than ten minutes after getting the camper open, Dad and Mary finally came back. The fishing was good, but not many of any size. So if you are looking for fishing spot recommendations, take that into account.

Mary made some amazing ham sliders for dinner, so it was my turn for clean up. Because I thought my water still smelled like anti-freeze, I did dishes in her camper. While I was doing that, Freckles and Lester decided I was gone forever and broke through my screen door. Dad was somehow able to quickly catch them, but so much for gentle breezes in Old Unreliable.

Guys, this camper does not need your help being broken.

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We had some brief excitement with a cop car rolling through and then five minutes later two cop cars with their lights on tearing out of the campground, so if there was a fugitive loose in the park, let me know.

Or not. I’ve still got the weekend.