I’ve been meaning to follow up my short post, “Camping with Josh,” with a fuller account of our family summer travels. Knowing this is a dicey prospect, akin to forcing people to watch slides (dating myself here) of family get-togethers (when it’s not their family), I will attempt to hit just the highlights, with perhaps a few “lowlights” thrown in for balance.
Let me just say up front that one feature of this trip was the additional help of “Roberta.” This was the name I attached to the voice on my wife’s iPhone GPS app. In the past, I’ve always studied my maps ahead of time, and I’ve even been resistant to accept the help of AAA’s TripTiks (the flipover guide that did in hardcopy what Mapquest and others now do online). My last experience with GPS was in southern Georgia, where—after getting off I-95 because of a bad traffic snarl—I spent two hours ignoring a polite British woman (named Nayir by the kids) who kept telling me to take u-turns to get back to the interstate.
Anyway, Roberta was in general much more helpful, but I think she was from the Midwest somewhere, because she had trouble being direct. She seemed to confuse the idea of “keeping right” with the direct command to “turn right, now.” Consequently, I missed a few exits. Her only other major fault was going silent without letting me know. We’d be cruising along, with her offering reassuring comments every once in a while (“in five miles, keep right at exit 25”), and I would be lulled into false security, thinking she’ll remind me again when we actually get to exit 25. My wife thinks Roberta had just had enough with my snarky comments on her choice of terms, but all I know is that about the time it seemed we had gone too far without a direction, we’d check the phone and realize she had taken a coffee break somewhere around exit 23.
That said, here are some of the high points:
- The tent. We saw a demo video on Coleman’s site for a tent that goes up in one minute. The poles are attached, and it unfolds and snaps up like a pack-n-play (which we were very familiar with. While we didn’t make the one-minute time limit, we did have it up in 10 minutes, which is about a 30 minute gain over previous tents we’ve owned.
- The campsites. We stayed in three different, really nice campgrounds, in sites that were all very close to a bathroom (a must for certain members of the family). One of them was just a stone’s throw from the Atlantic Ocean. We also learned valuable lessons on properly discerning “property” lines in campgrounds—won’t go into that here, but just know that, if you camp, it matters where the little post that has the water and electric hookups is located.
- Getting drenched by Niagra Falls.
- Seeing/meeting lots (emphasis on lots) of the extended Gobin family at my cousin Chris’s house on the 4th of July. Richmond, Vermont really knows how to do a parade. Also enjoyed watching a spectacular fireworks display over Lake Champlain that same evening.
- Eating Ben and Jerry’s ice cream at their factory in Waterbury, VT.
- Two days at Salisbury Beach, MA, swimming in the ocean, eating lobster, dodging horseflies, and learning that the English language can be spoken without Rs.
- Three days hiking around downtown Boston with the kids while Melissa attended ReaderCon, a conference for writers and readers of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. And, yes, I did take the kids aboard the U.S.S. Constitution, the world’s oldest floating commissioned warship. We were carefully instructed by a naval officer beforehand about how to conduct ourselves onboard, being told numerous times not to pick up any cannon balls. Once belowdecks, I looked over at Josh, who was just leaning down to check one out. I pointed out the sign, “Do not handle the cannon balls,” and he remarked, “wow, that’s amazing. I did not even see that, Dad.”
- Meeting David and Amy Sedaris’s sister, Tiffany. We were on the T (Boston’s subway), heading back to the hotel after a full day, when this very friendly and talkative woman took an interest in the kids. She was chatting about her lapsed Southern hospitality (North Carolina), then was asking the kids their names. When she got to Amy, she said she had a sister named Amy. Then she asked if the kids had seen the movie Elf. She said her sister was in it, Amy Sedaris. I think I got visibly excited. “You’re David Sedaris’s sister? (I’m a big fan of his humorous accounts of growing up in a colorful family). She smiled. “Yeah, well, I usually don’t lead with that.” She also went on to say something about there being a difference between fiction and nonfiction.
That’s about it. Oh yeah, a few downsides:
- The tent. While it was a breeze setting up, it still needed help getting down from the cartop carrier, as well as back up when we were leaving. Maybe I need to work out a little more.
- Getting a stomach virus in VT, which followed us through New Hampshire to Massachusetts, making its way to four out of six family members. Let’s just say that a public campground bathouse is not the most ideal location to toss your cookies.
But it’s all about making memories, isn’t it?