Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Wire-less weekend

by John D Ramsey

We have just returned from a camping vacation. We had been planning this event for months. Before we knew what we would do, we knew that this was the weekend when all six of us could rendezvous. The time and budget constraints did not allow for anything grand, so we knew it would be a simple affair. At some point, I suggested that we go camping at Roaring River State Park in southern Missouri. The park is nested in the forested hills and a cool water spring feeds the river. There is a trout hatchery at Roaring River. I have never been successful trout fishing, but that would not stop me from trying again. We have not camped at Roaring River for a long time, it would have been nice to refresh memories of the place. I reasoned that Roaring River would be a comfortable outdoor camping vacation, even during July.

Nevertheless, Cara's time was short and Roaring River was too far for her to drive. The plan was revised to camp at Tyler State Park in northeastern Texas. You read correctly, we camped in Texas . . . in July. Tyler State Park is in the piney region of Texas. The heat was tolerable. The shade from the trees and the breeze across the water was sufficient to keep us from overheating. There were very few mosquitoes, and we saw no tics. Gabby stepped on a ant mound, but only incurred a couple stings. I did not think they were fire ants, but after comparing a photo I snapped with online sources I cannot be sure. After her encounter with a bumble bee a couple weeks ago, the ants were merely a distraction.

It has been a few years since we have been camping. Before we left, Lisa inventoried and prepared all our gear including an old green Coleman camp stove. I think we bought the stove used somewhere when Cara and Daniel were little. A long time ago we replaced the kerosene tank with an adapter for bottled propane. When Lisa pulled the stove out; however, the paint was peeling. Although functional, it looked ragged. Lisa painted it pink and renamed it the “Bar-B” (pun intended). When we arrived at Tyler State Park, Lisa upgraded our reservation to a sheltered site. She did this mainly for the convenience of water and electricity, but our tent and screen house never came out of their duffel bags. The shelter was sufficient. The shelter was clean by camping standards, the concrete slab floor acted as a heat sink to cool the interior. Cara and Daniel picked up a oscillating fan at a nearby Wal-Mart, and we all stayed comfortably cool at night.

I took my work laptop with me, but it stayed in my backpack the entire trip. I did check text messages a few times to make certain that there were no urgent personal messages. In case of an emergency, I could have found a wireless network within a few miles, but no one called. Our last night at the park, after Cara had returned home, I did check email using my phone, but otherwise I was wire-less and wireless-less.

Tyler State Park has a small lake with surprisingly clear water. We were excited to go fishing. Gabby was proud of her new Barbie fishing pole, and Claire bought an Ugly Stick ultralight rod combo for the trip. She grinned when I told her that an ultralight made even small fish exciting to catch. Although we came ready, we caught only weeds. We did not see anyone else catching anything other than weeds, either. I suppose the fish have better things to do in mid-July than accommodate amateur outstate fishermen.

One afternoon, Claire joined Daniel and me in a canoe for an hour while Lisa, Cara, and Gabby floated about in a pedal boat. We swam. We played card games. Daniel asked me if I would play “Phase 10.” When I said, “Sure,” he pointed skyward and said, “Look, a pig!” I suppose my anti-game bias has been obvious, even to my children. At night, Gabby, Claire, and I spotted celestial objects through the branches of the pine trees, but the moon was bright, tree branches were thick, and visibility was not much better than at home. We sat around a fire, roasting hot dogs, and preparing s'mores. If we had transported bicycles, Claire and I could have ridden on the trails. For many reasons we decided to leave the bicycles at home. Walking everywhere was enough exercise for me.

Our activities were unexceptional. Still, we were together for a couple days in July without our typical distractions. We worked together, played together, and talked together. Early one evening, after fishing unsuccessfully, Gabby was walking back to the camp site holding my hand. She sighed, “I just love it that we're here!” That was the point. It did not matter where we were, or what we did. We were all together in one place, and all the other things that normally take center stage in our lives were in far away cities or at least tucked away securely in backpacks.


Something tasty is cooking on the Bar-B


Daniel and Gabby fishing on the pier


Cara tries Gabby's new Barbie fishing pole
(Is this a new summer fashion accessory?)


Gabby (photographer) catches Claire posing in the forest


Sunset


Moonrise

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