I’m still sick, so have a visual flashback of last week.
Okay, going back to bed now. Bye!
I’m still sick, so have a visual flashback of last week.
Okay, going back to bed now. Bye!
I wrote a beautiful, long, detailed post on my phone, but when I attempted to post it, the app tried twice, failed, and then ate the draft. So yeah, sorry about that.
Let’s try again.
We had a pretty leisurely start to the day. The nice thing about camping just a few hours away is that you don’t have to rush. Once we got the last of everything loaded and the bikes on, it was about 9:00. We stopped for money, gas and breakfast, and were on our way by 9:45. Perk of going so early, we’re after the morning rush but before the beach rush. Traffic was smooth sailing, and it’s a very familiar route for me. Had I known how close Assateague was to where my old coven is based, we would have gone much sooner.
We got to the park check-In around 1:30. The kids had to use the restroom, but there wasn’t one in the ranger station, so they went over the road to the beach facilities while I checked us in. Which was when we saw our first pony of the trip.
Yes, I know it’s a crappy picture. There will be better ones. The kids saw him, too, so we were all a bit giddy as we headed to our campsite.
I had screwed up our reservation, so we were camping on the bay side of the island instead of the ocean side. The campsites were all very exposed, but that’s to be expected on a barrier island. That said, they were nice sites, roomy and accessible.
We decided to have lunch before setting up, which was when I discovered the first disaster. In my “careful” checklist walkthrough, I never actually checked the silverware drawer in the camping kitchen to make sure it had, you know, silverware. It didn’t. So we ended up sharing one spoon between us to eat the potato salad. *sigh*
We’re getting good at setting up camp. About 45 minutes later, it looked like this.
The bikes were parked under the hedge to the right, the food all stashed in the car as it should be, so we were officially camping!
Next up was errands. We went to the Visitor’s Center to get a sense of the place, which was good in a lot of ways. We saw the movie about wildlife on the island, especially about the ponies, and we learned about the environmental activities of the park. None of us were very happy to discover all the bathrooms were pit toilets (bringing back nightmares from my camping as a child), but they use them because of the fragility of the island. They’re actually vault tanks, so the waste isn’t leeching into the soil and they are easy to move as needed due to erosion and shoreline changes. I felt better about it knowing there was an actual reason for it. I got our pins and patches, and then we headed out for firewood.
I’d seen the firewood guy recommended in several different places, so we drove back the 5 miles to his stand. The recommendation did not fall short. Good, dry wood, a mix of soft and hard. We got all we’d need for the weekend for $20. On the way back we stopped at the island store for plasticware to get us through the weekend. Hero and I laughed at the “I gave blood at Assateague” stickers with a big mosquito on it. That would come back to bite us. Literally.
We got back to camp, unloaded the firewood and decided it was time for a swim. The park is wonderfully laid out for biking, so we changed, grabbed our towels, hopped on the bikes and headed out the 1/4 mile to the beach. It’s a really nice beach, easy access by boardwalk, quartz sand (my favorite), and lots of shells. We dropped and headed to the water. Just before the water’s edge, I found hoof prints. I turned to shout up to Morgan, only to see the ponies who had left them in the water themselves a couple hundred yards further up the beach! Morgan took pictures, which I’ll share once he gets them up somewhere.
The water was perfect, cool but not cold, and the waves were perfect for body surfing. We spent about 45 minutes cooling off before heading back to camp for a well earned dinner.
We had a surprise waiting for us.
This is Clyde. We felt justified in naming him, considering the fact that he spent most of the evening in our campsite, much of it in exactly this position. We had learned from the video back at the Visitor’s Center that a pony standing in this position, one back leg cocked, is actually taking a nap. We aren’t supposed to go near them, no closer than a bus length away, so we waited for him to wake up and move on so we could start dinner. Except he didn’t. Occassionally he’d put a foot down and we’d think this was it, only to have him switch legs and go back to sleep. After 45 minutes of this, I sent the kids off for a bike ride, as Xander especially was getting really frustrated. Meanwhile, I waited.
Which was when I started noticing the bugs.
Now, I’d been warned that the bugs were bad. But for me, bad bugs meant you had to put on bug spray if you sat around the fire in the evening. I’d gotten bug bands. We had spray. We’d be fine. Oh, such innocence. But at the time, I didn’t realize what I was in for. So I took a tip from the horses and used a dish towel as a swish, back and forth over my shoulders as I waited on this horse. Finally, though, finally, he started moving.
Between the tents.
First, he had a pee. Thankfully not ON either of the tents, but dead in between. I have a better frame of reference for pissing like a racehorse now. Then he started eating. He made his way back and around the tent, despite there being only about six inches between the tent and the hedge, then slowly came around the other side. We’re going on over an hour now, and I’m starting to feel a little desperate. Were we going to get to eat? You weren’t supposed to get food out around the horses, because they will literally knock you over to get into your cooler. Were we going to get to go to bed? He was a lot closer to our tent than a bus length. At this point, one of the campground hosts came through on her rounds, so I waved her down and explained the dilemma. She offered to get a ranger to come chase him off, but I felt guilty about that, so I turned her down. When she came back through ten minutes later and he was still there, I accepted. The rangers came through and used a bottle with a couple of stones in it as a noisemaker to chase him off, although that may more have been the uniform. Apparently the horses recognize the uniforms of the rangers and keep away from them. I certainly wasn’t going to try it myself. But at least I could get dinner started.
That wasn’t the last we’d see of Clyde, though. After dinner, I started the fire for dish water, forgetting that we wanted to go walk on the beach that evening. So I sent the kids off while I minded the fire and read. The first time Clyde came back, a ranger came through shortly thereafter and I didn’t hesitate to have him chase him off. I asked the ranger about going to bed, and he said we’d be fine as long as we didn’t have any food in the tent and we didn’t leave anything open. Well, the food thing I was programmed for from bear country, so that wasn’t a problem. Finally when he came back the second time, I’m like, “Yeah, whatever, horse,” and just kept reading while he ate his way across the site.
We ended up as background in pictures for a bunch of our neighbors. Eventually he seemed satisfied that he’d made his point about whose campsite this actually was and moved on on his own. He wandered around a bit, left a dump in the middle of the road (thankfully not in anyone’s campsite) and headed out into the sunset. Kind of literally.
By now it was twilight, and the mosquitos were getting bad. The bug bands were doing nothing, and even the spray wasn’t helping too much. I hid in the car and worked on the post that you didn’t get to read while the kids did dishes, but by 9:30, we were all in the tent, exhausted but content and safely away from the worst of the bugs.
The next morning our neighbors all started rising stupidly early. I mean, 5:30 a.m. stupid. The kids slept through it, but I was wide awake. It was a run day, and I figured since I was up, I’d get an early morning run out of the way. I knew mosquitos were out more in the dawn and twilight, but I figured I’d be on the move, so I’d be pretty safe.
I hadn’t gotten 50 yards out of the campsite before turning around to go back for the bug spray. I passed a group of the neighbors out for their run/walk, who just laughed and said, “First day, eh?” Holy mother of god. And it wasn’t just mosquitos. There was every kind of biting insect imaginable. We had the mosquitos, but there were horse flies, black flies, and green head flies, none of which give a rat’s patootie about your paltry bug spray. By the time I got underway, I was feeling a little desperate. But the bug spray did it’s best, and once I got to the ocean side, the populations had dropped enough to be tolerable. It was a beautiful cool, hazy, slightly humid morning, and it was quiet. Even the waves were soft background. I felt bad needing my loud music to keep on pace. But I did have some lovely guests on the road with me.
It was good.
When I got back, the kids were still sleeping, so I grabbed a shower and crawled back in the still bug-free tent to read and doze. We finally all got up around 10:00 and had breakfast. By 11, dishes were done and we headed off to the beach again. The mosquitos were gone by then, and the biting flies were more of a mild to moderate annoyance. We spent two hours in the water and walking the beach, unaware that our sunscreen application had been pointless. By 1:30, we were all burned, Morgan worse than any of us. So back we went to the campsite for lunch. Over lunch, I suggested sacrilege. What do you guys think about going home this afternoon instead of tomorrow morning? Morgan and I were both ready, but the other two were hesitant. We talked it over and finally they agreed that going home might not be a bad idea. So we had a nap and started packing up around 3, and by 4:30 we were on the road home.
Mother Nature seemed to approve of our decision.
We all agreed that we really liked the park there, but we were just so not prepared for the conditions. We would definitely consider going back for a day trip (with better sunscreen application!) and might go back for camping, but just for one night and with minimal gear so we could hike it up onto one of the oceanside sites with a better breeze and so fewer bugs. I felt like I had let down the family honor by bailing on the trip, but my mother reassured me that the green heads alone would have been enough for her to call it, so I feel better.
We spent the next two days in recovery. Morgan’s sunburn was purple with little white pimples all over, so he’s on heavy doses of water, ibuprofen, cool showers and aloe. I look like I have small pox. Oh, and let’s add ticks to the list, as I just plucked one of those off this morning. Watching for the bullseye now. Joy. So I was on Benadryl to reduce the itch. We didn’t unpack the car until yesterday, and I didn’t even care about washing everything before packing it away. It’ll keep. We aren’t planning another camp this summer, although we may do a run up to Promised Land in August, in which case I can clean everything then. Or not. Maybe we’ll just eat out of pie irons and disposables for the weekend.
Thankfully our next trip is to a hotel with air conditioning and an indoor swimming pool. That should make up for a lot!
By the time this goes live, we will (hopefully) be on our way to Delmarva. But at the moment we’re neck deep in last minuting. We actually have about 80% of our stuff loaded already. I ran all the checklists yesterday, so today the kids were able to get it all in the car. They’re getting very good at that, especially Morgan. It helps that now we’re able to take the very back seats out. Makes a lot more room for all our stuff.
Meanwhile, I’m putting the finishing touches on the food. Despite my surgery, I still think about travel in terms of the food. We have an almost set menu for camping, but I’m trying to mix it up some. We are having bacon and eggs, and grilled ham and cheese, and s’mores. But I also made cold fried chicken and potato salad for lunch tomorrow, which was standard road trip fare when I was a kid. And I made these beauties.
I realized I hadn’t shared these before. These are the traveling cheesecakes, like the ones I made for movie night, only bigger. Aren’t they pretty? And I’ve got wiped cream to go on top when we get there! I also discovered that a dozen and a half eggs equals a quart.
I figure I’m less likely to break a mason jar than a carton of eggs. Plus this makes mixing them easier! I just took a batch of corn muffins out of the oven to go with the chili, and we have a whole pan of cinnamon rolls to go with those bacon and eggs. So yeah, we’re going to eat well. We may even take a stab at crab, if the kids decide to try their hand at crabbing. They’ve all said they’re willing to at least try.
Other than that, I’m not sure what all we’ll be doing. Watching the ponies, obviously, almost certainly swimming. We’re taking the bikes as well, so we can tool around on those. But part of me is hoping that, unlike Acadia, this is the kind of campground where you can hang out in your campsite and watch the world go by. I could use a couple of days of that.
When I was a kid, we lived in this town that was at the crossroads of two major train lines in Michigan, one going north-south and the other east-west. My brother and I spent a lot of time on those tracks, despite all my parents’ ominous warnings. We were kids. Kids are stupid. We had more squashed pennies and nickels than you’d care to imagine. I practiced my balance walking on those rails. We’d walk them for miles (well, at least two) before coming home. We both said that one day we were going to follow them the whole way, see where they went.
Of course, when you’re a kid, you make these crazy plans. But then you get older, and you start to realize that they aren’t practical, aren’t safe. You don’t have the time, or the money, or the commitment. There are a million reasons, not even excuses. Kids’ brains are huge and fearless. As adults, we get more cautious.
I’ve been feeling a hint of that old fantasy, though, as I’ve started cycling. I find myself wanting a set of panniers prepacked with a backpacking tent and stove and whatever other supplies I’d need to decide on a Wednesday, “I think I’m going to take a bike trip this weekend” and just GO. No planning beyond what I could do in 36 hours, no destination, just a long ride out and back or around. There’s an old abandoned road bed from the original Pennsylvania turnpike, complete with tunnels, out in central PA, but we’d have to drive to get there. (We may do it, though.) French Creek State Park is 36 miles away. That’s a day trip one way, if I could haul my camping gear or get someone to pick me up. Green Lane is 15. Could I actually get out there and back? Probably not. Yet.
(I actually stopped writing this to map out a couple of routes for that. I could do it, with reasonable breaks. Once I get at least a rear trunk rack and bag, I’m going to do it!)
And see, there it is. When did we stop just GOING? Okay, yes, I probably need a little more gear (like a water bottle cage) and some maintenance (my gears need to shift properly), but honestly, what’s the point of just looping? I want to go someplace. So I bloody well will! And the kids can come if they want, but they don’t have to, I’m not going to make them. I’ll pack me a nice lunch, ride out early, have a picnic and a nap, then ride back. I can ride 10 miles in under an hour now. Fifteen is nothing! And getting back is about the same!
And now the adult in my brain is panicking…
Shut up, brain. I’m going to go add micro-camping gear to my Amazon wishlists.
Our first trip of the summer is this weekend. At long last, I’m going to Assateague to see the wild ponies!
Oh, yes, I was totally one of those girls. From the age of 8 to about 15, I read every horse book I could get my hands on. I only ever got to ride a few times, but I always dreamed of having my own horse. My mom says I get the horse crazy from her mother, who loved horses and had her own as a girl. The closest I ever came was a friend ins chool who had one, and who meanly rode it in front of me but wouldn’t let me take a turn. Until that point I’d considered her my best friend, but we never spoke again after that moment.
And of course I read Misty of Chincoteague.
40 years later, I don’t remember much of the book, but I do remember the longing to go to a place where horses roam freely on the beach. Two of my favorite things, horses and the Atlantic. I’ve always wanted to go, but there were always other things to do, other places we needed to be, or beach camping was too intimidating with little kids. But the kids aren’t little anymore, and I don’t have any place else to be this summer, so we’re going to Assateague.
It’s a good thing I decided early to do this, because I had to make the reservations back in February. They book solid for the summer almost as soon as they open reservations, so you have to get right in with your dates. Since this was a new experience for us, and because I’d heard nightmare tales of the bugs, I decided we’d just go for two nights and check it out. If we liked it, we could always go back. So we’ll go down Friday and stay until Sunday. It’s not a bad drive from here, about 3 hours, which is not much longer than when we go on any other trip. We’re staying in the National Park, although there is a state campground on the island as well. All the camping is on the Maryland end of the island, but there’s a lot of stuff on the Virginia end as well. It’s 45 miles between the two, so I suspect that will be our Saturday activity.
This week is about getting ready. The kids are getting the camping gear down, and I’m prepping food. Chili, taco meat, traveling cheesecake, s’more puppy chow. I have to figure out sand stakes. I keep reading differing opinions on what to use, but the best suggestion I’ve found was using plastic shopping bags as dead man anchors. Dig a hole, fill them with sand, bury them and stake out your tent. Not sure if that will work for our corners, but it will definitely work for the awning and for the screenhouse. And we will totally be using the screenhouse, because bugs.
And ponies, apparently. Ponies. In the campsites. EEEEEEEE!!!!
Last Friday was the first of Lansdale’s Movie in the Park nights, and they were showing Big Hero Six, which my kids have been dying to see, even though they are badly spoiled for it already. Me, I knew nothing about it aside from what I see in GIF sets on Tumblr. Rather than make it another Family Bonding Time(TM), I told them to invite any and all of their friends, and I would make pizza and bring snacks.
I really have to learn to be careful what I offer.
Unsurprisingly, Hero was the only one who actually invited anyone. Four of her friends came. Five teenage girls make a LOT of noise. I started to feel really grateful this was an outdoor movie.
I had planned to make popcorn to take, but I got to a point where that was just one more damn thing, so I bought 4 bags instead, two butter, one cheese and one sweet. Got a 12 pack of water as well and packed a couple bottles of water enhancer. The piece de resistance, though, were the picnic cheesecakes.
This was a recipe I got off of one of my camping blogs, and it’s FABULOUS. It’s layers of graham cracker crumbs, sweetened cream cheese and fruit. Easy peasy. I layered them in little half pint jars and put the lids on them for chilling and storage, then brought a can of spray whipped cream to dress them up onsite. Add some plastic spoons and voila, instant picnic treat! This would work great with any fruit you like with cheesecake (I can’t wait for blueberry season!). Or maybe mini chocolate chips and caramel sauce…. Hrm. A double batch made 13 half pints filled pretty full. We’ll definitely be making these to take camping this summer!
The movie was great, the girls cried, but the projectionist didn’t understand the first rule of Marvel movies: STAY THROUGH THE CREDITS! So we had to track down the after credits scene on YouTube at home. But most importantly, I am now NOT IT when it comes to hosting the teenage hoarde for a while! Yay!!!
Not that it was that long ago, but hey, catching up here!
Our family tradition is to go to the beach for Memorial Day. Not unusual, lots of families do. I would love to be able to go for the weekend, but a) too expensive and 2) way too crowded. So our tradition is to get up stupidly early, like 5:00 early, get on the road by 6, pick Nikki up (enforced annual sunshine) and cross New Jersey until we hit the ocean. Being renegades and me being a hippie, we don’t go to the boardwalk or the regular tourist sites. Instead we go to Island Beach State Park. I love Island Beach, because it’s very similar to how Coast Guard Beach on Cape Cod was when I was growing up: barrier dunes, quartz sand and nothing but beach and ocean to distract you from the day. The only pinch is that it costs $20 for out of state residents to get in. Ouch. Especially since we get there by 9 to beat the crowds and leave around lunch time. To a girl that had the Atlantic for free when growing up summers on the Cape, that’s a painful price tag on top of the gas to get there. But worth it.
We packed up lunches, water bottles and 4 dozen homemade snickerdoodles and headed off on schedule, no excitement aside from the perils of dragging three teenagers out of bed at 5 in the morning. It was closer to 7 than I like by the time we grabbed Nikki, so I drove a leeeetle faster than I should have through the Garden State. No one seemed to mind. It was New Jersey, after all.
This was our first time going down there since Hurricane Sandy. Seaside Heights, the town Island Beach is attached to, got hit pretty hard in the storm. You saw the pictures of the roller coaster in the ocean? That was Seaside Heights. So I wasn’t sure what to expect. To my surprise, most of the buildings were still there. We only saw one still boarded up from the storm. The roads, though, were still getting a major overhaul, which slowed our passage down to the park.
Still, we’d made good time, and it was only a little after 9 when we got there. We got a good parking spot and loaded up. I have an austere approach to beach going, a gift from my mother and from always being so close to home at the ocean. I don’t take much, and I don’t let the kids bring much. Everyone has to be able to carry in and out anything they want. So, towels, maybe something to read, sunglasses if they had them. A bottle of water each. We forgot the beach toys, so we didn’t have to worry about those. We put on sunscreen at the car. Well, as best as we could. It was breezy, so the spray kind of went everywhere. But we get burned every year and I get yelled at (I never had to wear sunscreen when I was a kid. Blame my mother.), so I was thorough.
The day was gorgeous, the breeze was nice, the sand was warm and the water was…colder than the Pope’s left testicle. OMG SO cold. There was a line in the sand where it went from being dry to being damp, and the moment you crossed that line it literally dropped 15 degrees. The kids went straight to the water and immediately came back, reporting that it was as cold if not colder than the water in Maine last year. But Hero was determined, and she ended up all the way in a couple of times. Then she and Xander went back and forth from the water to the warm sand, covering themselves in grit each time before going to wash off.
The adults, Morgan included, settled in on their towels, Nikki incongruously reading a book about Iceland. Even the sunshine wasn’t helping the temperature, though. Within 10 minutes, she’d put a shirt on and I’d started wishing for one. We toughed it out, though. Hero and I walked up and down the beach a mile or so collecting shells while Xander stood at the water’s edge, patiently making drawings that the incoming tide immediately washed away. I read my e-reader, took a nap, and tried to get some sun on my fish belly white stretch marked stomach. But finally around noon, it got to be too much and we packed it in.
After we got photographic proof of having actually experienced sunshine and fresh air, we went and rinsed off and changed, then went to the car for lunch. Ham or PB&J sandwiches on homemade rolls and snickerdoodles. Yum. Then it was back in the car and on our way home.
The only dark spot on the trip was the bad accident we passed on the way home. The driver of one car was obviously in shock, had gotten out of her car which had then started drifting away from the intersection and down the road. There were a lot of people there stopped to help, so we would only have been in the way. Still, it was hard to sit there at that stop light right next to this with my kids staring at this bleeding, hysterical woman and not be able to do anything to help.
But all in all, it was a nice day, and I’m hoping we’ll make at least one trip back this year. It would be nice to actually get IN the ocean for a change!
Spring is here at long giddy last, and after spending the last few weeks sick as a dog (yes, again), it’s a joy to actually be getting excited about getting a handle on things again.
Stage 1 is the yard and gardens. This actually started at the end of February when I rigged up my grow system in the basement from a metal shelf on the back porch.
Two shop lights, 4 natural light bulbs, a timer and two S hooks and I was in business for seed starting. I started lettuce, onions and 3 kinds of tomatoes.
Then I got sick and couldn’t remember to water them. So yeah, another year of crappy starting under my belt. I’m still going to start Brussels sprouts and try again with the tomatoes and peppers. At this point the rest can just go straight into the garden.
Getting the shelf off the back porch, though, meant opening up a lot of space back there. Okay, well, first it meant a big mess. That shelf had been stuffed full of all kinds of junk: broken toys, half used building supplies, stuff the kids had scrounged, just junk. Morgan and I filled 3 contractor bags just clearing that off, but we left a lot of stuff on the floor. And too much of that junk had migrated into the yard as well. So last Sunday, we all took about an hour and a half and just cleaned up the STUFF in the yard. Put the wagons away, junked all the freeze-shattered plastic, raked all the wind-blown trash out of the rose bed, put tools away, folded up the tarp. We filled the dumpster again (at this point our trash guys must hate us). Got all the junk off the back porch as well and gave it a good sweeping. No more having to squeeze out the back door to get into the yard. Once again, just cleaning a space makes it feel that much more inviting. I also scrubbed out the front flower bed, getting out all the old mulch and trash and weeds to reveal the daffodil and iris leaves starting to push up for the new season. There’s still quite a bit of clay in the grass from when we dug up the front walk, so I’ll throw some grass seed (and maybe some ground thyme) to cover that over. So we aren’t entirely the shame of the neighborhood anymore!
This weekend, I need to start rebuilding the garden beds for the season. I think I’m going to cheat and buy soilless mix for the grow boxes, but I need to make the Mel’s Mix for the raised beds by hand. I need too much fill! I’m also going to recruit the kids to start cleaning and repairing the shed. The main doors are falling off, so we’ll replace the hinges on those, pack up a bunch more trash and donate a couple of bikes, organize the tools and hopefully just make everything more accessible. Once that’s done, I want to paint it, although I need rubberized paint because it’s currently got a very crumbly coat of lead paint on it. Once that’s done, I need to design a bike shed addition for the house side, something that we can get in and out of easily but that we can lock the bikes up in AND lock the door of. My architect skills aren’t great, though, so this could be an adventure. Expect pictures!
Our first full day in the mountains and all is as it should be. We had to run out this morning for a couple of missing grocery items and pie for this mostauspicious of Pi days. We went to see if the farmer’s market was open (not until April) and we stopped by the local junk, er, flea market. While most of the stuff there was junk, er, antiques, all of us found something to bring home. It was pissing down rain, and every time one of us would complain about the weather, the other two would respond, “Thank God!” Because that meant we didn’t want to stay out in the world. Back we trekked to our hermitage, and we will most likely remain here for the rest of the weekend.
I finished a chapter over good Italian pork and provolone sandwiches and then laid down for a nap, only partly because I was tired. I tend to pre-write while I’m resting, kind of like running a movie of what comes next behind my eyelids so that I then just have to write it down. Plus I was cold. Although this bed doesn’t have my electric mattress pad. I didn’t really warm up, but then I didn’t want to get out of bed because that would be even colder, so I ended up staying there for two hours. I’ll have to do some writing sprints tonight to make up for it. But I’m over a hump and I know what’s going to happen next, so I’m counting that as progress.
Then as we were getting dinner ready (Nikki is making tikka masala), we saw a bunch of wild turkeys out on the road.
This is the second night they’ve been out there. I missed them last night, but this seems to be their regular route. There were about a dozen of them all up and down the road heading into the woods across from us. It was funny watching them try to walk over the snow, as is dense and wet and would hold them for a moment before they’d break it and sink. They’re big birds, though, and I couldn’t help thinking about cranberries and stuffing.
May do some knitting tonight. Although if the writing muses speak, my butt will be in that chair.