Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Camping


One week ago today we were at Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Georgia. The idea was for the kids and me to get away from the grind and to get a little R&R on the days that Tim was in his conference. And we were ambitiously going to tack a campout onto the end. So Tim graciously agreed to let us come along and cramp his style. (Although he very kindly said it didn't.)

The morning we left, a good hour and a half behind schedule, with considerable bickering and griping on virtually everyone's part, he was seriously regretting that decision.

It was good to get away, although I had seriously overestimated the amount of R&R involved when there is 1 adult and 3 kids ages 6 and under, for several hours a day in an unfamiliar place, three days straight. We all enjoyed the Butterfly Center and some of us liked the Birds of Prey show. But people got tired of hiking and looking at plants, and fun lunch restaurants are few and far between in Pine Mountain (we did find one -- we ate at the Purple Cow Cafe three times in two days). Also there was no bike riding when only one of us rides a two-wheeler with any sort of fluency (that would be me).

By the time we headed out to camp, we were all beat. We couldn't bring any perishable food with us, due to the 3-day hotel stay, and no one had been sleeping very well -- going to bed very late (for them) and skipping lots of naps (me). We had originally thought we'd stay in a very nice state park campground in Warm Springs, but it required a two-night stay, so we opted for a less selective campground. In retrospect maybe not the best option, although we still managed to have a good time.

The last time we camped out, Nate was almost 3 and Charlotte was 9 months old. Everyone fit in the camper van and it wasn't hard to keep people occupied with quiet, safe pursuits. So that was what I was envisioning this time. Except now we have 3 kids, the youngest of whom is two and a half, and a pistol to boot. Sitting quietly inside the camper van reading or similar was the last thing they wanted to be doing, unless of course they were sitting up front, pushing every button and lever in sight.

The only source of groceries was the local IGA, which doesn't have a huge presence in metro Atlanta. For good reason. Publix it ain't. Maybe I'm a grocery snob, but the selection was meager and what they did have was barely recognizable. We went through there with our big-city expectations, no grocery list, and no creativity, and only just managed to come out with something edible for dinner.

We proceeded on to the campground, checked in, and a very pleasant and equally rural fellow on a golf cart led us to the site we'd been assigned. It was next to a trailer that had obviously been there a while, as it was decorated with plastic yard ornaments and a lattice obscuring the camper's undercarriage. The inhabitants were not overly excited to see us, as they had to move their car off of our campsite. Unfortunately the site didn't seem to be big enough to accommodate both our van and the tent we'd brought, so we went back to the office for a new assignment. I, for one, was relieved not to be camping in someone's driveway.

Our new campsite was more secluded and much bigger. I was a little concerned about having a cow pasture about 100 feet away, but fortunately the "eau de cow" was barely discernible. Or maybe I got used to it. Somehow we managed to set up camp, get dinner together, eat it, and then fall into our respective beds -- the boys in the tent, the girls in the camper van. Which I locked tightly. Fortunately it was much cooler at night so we didn't get hot.

One highlight has got to be when the girls and I were lying in our two zipped-together sleeping bags, we could look up through the back window and see the stars, which were very bright, and which looked like they were right on the tips of the trees. We were all very impressed and Hattie spontaneously started singing "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star." It was beautiful.

And then in the morning, when I opened up the door to crawl out, the first thing that I noticed was the smell of honeysuckle, since we were parked right next to a huge bush. It really brought home how fun it is to sleep outdoors, even if you are a wimp and sleep in the car.

So we have decided that we would definitely do this again, with a few changes. 1) We will go straight to the campsite, bringing all food and provisions with us so as to avoid marginal generic powdered donuts for breakfast; 2) we will not set ourselves up by depriving us all of proper sleep for the previous 3 days; 3) we will review sleeping arrangements so everyone has sufficient space (I haven't felt so many little knees and elbows since I was pregnant!) and 4) next time we will bring coffee!!!

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