End of Chapter Two

Since my last update, we got set up at Devil's Hopyard, which was a large State Park that our GPS refused to acknowledge. Madge (which is what we named the lady voice of our Magellan GPS), hates New England. If pushed, Madge will send you down dark, muddy, and (arguably) haunted streets in the middle of the night. More on that shortly, but next, we have a feature story from ATATT.

Those of you who personally know the star of All Tom, All the Time, understand that Tom is not really a guy who risks it all, throws caution to the wind, or goes where the wind takes him. Tom could also be the star of another feature like, All Cautious, All the Time, or All Planned Out, All the Time, or even All Low-Risk, All the Time. This is not to say he isn't brave, or fun, or adventurous... As his fan base, though, that much is obvious. The point is that when Tom leaves the rain fly off, it's because the forecast says that there is a 0% change of rain, clear skies all but guaranteed.

That was the forecast on our first night at Devil's Hopyard, and given such statistical support, Tom decided against the fly. When it started thunder storming (literally leaving an actual puddle on Tom's sleeping bag - everything else in the tent was bone dry) he was understandably surprised and just a tad agitated. We scrambled, once again, like crazy first-time campers and got the fly on.

That was about the same time that I had to leave to go get my dad at the airport. He was flying in to Hartford, CT just after midnight on his birthday. I asked Madge if she could handle getting me to Hartford's airport and back to the campsite... She reluctantly agreed. Just to build her confidence, I stored the exact GPS longitude and latitude coordinates of our actual camp site. No reason to get lost.

As I said in my last post, I don't drive when Tom and I are together. I hate it, and am maybe not the best at it... So, he drives and we're both fine with it. But, I wanted to get my dad, so Madge and I set out, breaking my 3 week dry spell.

I went with Madge's suggestion of Hartford's only airport, which proved to be a very small, private airport for flying lessons and things of that nature. When I pulled up at almost midnight to padlocked chain link gates, no lights or parking... something felt off, like maybe United Airlines is stopping by tonight after all. So, I panicked, not wanting to be late, I chastised Madge briefly and turned to the age-old "ask a police officer" move. Fortunately a group of 4 or 5 officers were hanging out in the parking lot between a bar and gas station. After closer inspection, I am pretty certain that they weren't legit cops, but had more of a "male entertainer" type of look... But, their uniforms were pretty convincing, so I asked for directons and they happily sent me on my way to the international airport just outside of Hartford that Madge forgot to mention. (She's so literal.)

Anyways, I am brilliant enough to give myself plenty of extra time... So I got there right when my dad's plane landed. Mission accomplished. And given my previous brilliance (setting the GPS coordinates as my next destination), not even Madge could slow us down.

I got my dad, was glad to see him and was excited to get back, get some sleep and let the kids give him some birthday gifts that they picked out themselves. That was not what Madge had in mind. Apparently when I saved the EXACT coordinates of our site, she thought that meant I wanted to go down a long, gravel, dead-end road where the Salem witch trials (practically) took place. When I got to the end of Foxtown Cemetary Rd. (which falls between Witch Hill Rd. and Salem Rd.) I gave Madge the cold-shoulder and pulled an agressive U-turn. Unfortunately, my turn was just a bit over-zealous and I backed too far over the edge of the road, trapping my spinning back tires in mud. We were stuck in Witchville, USA at 1:30am, no thank you very much.

By the time AAA came and pulled us out, and we got back to the campsite it was about 4:30 in the morning. Happy Birthday Jack, love Madge. Ok, I guess it wasn't all the GPS, my driving skills are to blame too. In some, minuscule way I suppose.

This made for a tiring morning, but we pushed through it... exchanged gifts, and headed out after breakfast for a brief 0.87 mile hike to an overlook point, called the vista. We found the vista, about a mile and a half later, and turned to head back. About 3 miles later, we actually arrived back at our campsite. Apparently Madge's bad sense of direction wore off on me, and I got us pretty turned around.

Next, we headed into New London, for what would surely be an exhilarating stop at a Maritime Museum. The kids got a brief look at a graphic portrayal of naked African slaves violently overthrowing their white captors aboard the Amistad. While the portrayal was inaccurate, historically speaking, it was anatomically spot on. So, there's that little bit of education for the children. The tour guide was very knowledgeable and passionate, pronouncing foreign names in their original dialect with more gusto than I've seen in decades.

We had great difficulty getting the kids to sleep that night, they were squirrelly and excited (knowing it was our last night camping), and likely overly tired from being forced to senselessly hike a half-marathon earlier that day. But, our visit with my dad was nice, and we got the kids down... Eventually.

Now, we are headed back home. It is bittersweet to leave the carefree adventure behind, but, with it, we happily leave behind the bug spray, the coolers filled with perpetually sogged food, and a potpourri of odors coming from a potpourri of places.

I have never considered scrubbing my children with steel wool before this trip, but it's on the table, I'm not gonna lie.

Our trip was really fun, though, and I am so proud of my family. I am proud of the kids, who go wherever we drag them, (usually) without complaint. And of how they hiked so much, endured bug bites and just a touch of poison ivy, like true camping enthusiasts. I am proud of Tom for doing these trips, for being the kind of dad and husband who actually WANTS to spend his vacation time doing this crazy stuff. And I am proud of myself. For going through with these wild adventures against scoffer's warning, and against conventional wisdom, and against all motherly instincts to keep one's children clean and comfortable. I am even proud of Madge, who failed us time and again, but really stuck with her beliefs about "taking a legal u-turn when possible."

I am thankful that we can take these trips, and I am thankful that my kids will grow up with so many great memories, and unusual experiences. I am thankful that they have a stable, steady father and a crazy mother and a home to go back to, with a bed for each, covered with sweet, precious, clean sheets.

In my thirties, I said I wanted gratitude. The trick is not FINDING things to be thankful for. The trick SEEING and ACKNOWLEDGING everything around me as the blessing it already is. I hope that I really do complain less, and grow a longer temper, and become truly fabulous and have great skin. But, more than anything I want to SEE, I want to see everything as a gift from God before it registers as anything else. I want to look around and really see every gift, every blessing. And it is easy for me to see and acknowledge that this time away was a huge gift, and each person I got to go with is a blessing I am so glad to call mine.