Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Island Awaits

Last week, we ushered out our summer vacation with a bang. We took a family camping trip to Madeline Island in Wisconsin. This was our very first attempt at 'tent camping' as a family. We were warned by many of our friends and relatives. Almost everyone we told said, "Oooo. Goin' all da way up der, huh? Do ya want ta borrow my generator? Ya know it's goin' ta frost at night, don' cha?"

Despite our friends' efforts to scare us, we loading up the pickup and took off. And when I say we 'loaded' the pickup, I mean we had stuff stacked so high under the tarp, we looked like pioneers in our covered wagon. All we needed to complete the look, was a frying pan dangling from the side and a milk cow walking along behind.

We had every nook and cranny packed with something. The kids were separated by two duffel bags of clothes, four pillows and Sweet Pea had a case of bottled water under her feet. They were so cramped the back windows had the kids' cheek marks on them.

So with our back end scraping the driveway as we backed out, I yelled, "Who's ready for camping!" Both kids screamed, "Me!" Lady Di just sighed, "Oh Clark."

After our rousing start, we proceeded down the highway for our four and a half hour drive north to Gramma's house. We stayed with them for two days before beginning our trek 'Into the Wild.' Which was another four and a half hour drive east to Bayfield, Wisconsin. It was a pretty ride though. The leaves were about a week away from starting to turn their colors. The kids played video games. They did take a short break from Nintendo to see a bear, though.

Once in Bayfield, our adventure continued aboard a ferry ride to the island. I had never driven on a ferry before. I was kind of hoping to be just a little late and arrive just as the ferry was pulling away. Then I could say, "Hold on Honey! We can make it!" and then gun the accelerator off of the dock and do a Dukes of Hazzard jump over the water, to the boat, to much amazement and applause.

But we were on time.

We went with another family whom Lady Di has known since grade school. They wanted to play a trick on us and asked the ferry ticket lady to ask for our passports when we came through the line. We were completed suckered and our mouths dropped in bewilderment when we thought we really needed our very absent passports. But rubes will be rubes, so the rest of the camping trip was spent trying get them back.

We got across the lake without mishap and drove to the state park. We checked in with Ranger Rick and made sure to mention to check the pickup following behind us for illegal importation of firewood. Sorry about that guys. I had no idea they strip search you for that.

We got to our campsite and found it small but fine. Our traveling partners come here every year, so they got the elite campsite complete with large open area, natural gas bonfire pit and digitally timed, Glade pine scented air fresheners on each tree. We got free mosquitoes and extra bees.

Since they have camped before, 'Joe' just backed his pickup into the site, pressed the 'eject' button in his cab, and all their camping stuff flew into the air and set itself up as it landed.

I had a little more trouble.
Did you know tents had really necessary instructions? Once we had our site set up it was already getting dark and starting to cool quite rapidly. We got our sleeping bags and inflatable mattresses ready when 'Mrs. Joe' came sneaking over to our site. "Guess what!", she said with some slight irritation. "We forgot our mattresses!"

"What? The professional camping family forgot that? Oh, you must be so embarrassed.", I said with mock sympathy, try not to snicker.

Lady Di stepped right in, "We have two. You can have one of ours. We'll make do."

"Now wait a minute.", I protested.

But it was already a done deal. Luckily, we had packed two cots along with our mattresses for the kids. Unluckily, one of the cots ripped on the first night. So Number One Son, Lady Di and myself got cozy laying crosswise on one inflatable mattress with Sweet Pea getting the other cot. When we were finally all set in our sleeping bags, Sweet Pea said, "I'm so tired and my bed is soooooo comfortable. Good night." And then she started snoring. While Lady Di and I had to lay flat on our backs with our arms at our sides and my knees hanging over the edge.
We made it through that night, fixed N1S's cot with duct tape the next morning, and the rest of the week was much better.

I will write about day two in my next post. Stay tuned.

And so you don't get the wrong idea, our camping partners are still our friends. They helped us out greatly and made the trip a lot of fun. I only poke fun at them because they are such good friends. Right guys? And I'm not just saying that to get invited next year. Honest.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Another GREAT post. Are you sure you don't want to consider writing for a profession. You are so good at this!

You made me laugh with this story. You left out the snakes tho.....

More family memories made. Glad we were able to have this week together and look forward to many more like this one. Yes, I'll tent again! :)


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I'm a 40 year old dad of two. My wonderful wife, Lady Di, and I try to keep the kids from blowing things up here in central Minnesota.