Some days I asked what have we gotten ourselves into with touring the Missouri state parks. It is quite the complex undertaking. There is a lot of planning, research, and coordination that goes into figuring out our trips. I look at the grass growing up between the pavers in our patio, the weeds growing in our flower beds, the garage that still needs a spring cleaning and all the chores that are inside the house that we have chosen not to complete. The point in changing our life around and embarking on this adventure was to live a different life. The thing is: we love what we are doing and sitting still is just not who we are. We still are running at a fast pace, but we are heading to stuff that excites us.
The one variable that we can’t control with all these trips is the weather. Shannon and I have had a mutual understanding that the weather will not stop us. I grew up camping in the rain, and have survived some pretty hairy experiences camping. I often tell the tale from my twenties of the tornado we dodged while camping at Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park. A park ranger told us to take our beer and get in a ditch and I vividly remember telling him that I was going to go wherever the Rangers rode out the storm. That story becomes more of a fish tale the older I get – by the time I am fifty it will probably sound like we were trying to escape the Temple of Doom. I guess at the point I will have to explain what the Temple of Doom is to most people.
The previous weekend the weather forecast was calling for rain when we visited Rock Bridge State Park, Finger Lakes State Park, and Van Meter State Park. While there though, it barely sprinkled, so we didn’t pay the forecast much attention when we went to go pick up the camper from storage for our next trip. This was our second trip in the new camper and we were pretty excited. Towing a camper is entirely new to us, it has been the source of a lot of stress and endless humor. I had never heard of Anti-Sway Bars or a weight distribution kit. Frankly, I am not even sure I am saying those things right. The Anti-Sway Bars keep the trailer from swaying side to side while driving. They are a pain in the butt and when I was hooking them up this time my hand slipped and the handle came swinging down and came down on my stomach, groin, and thigh. It ripped right through my shorts from my waist to my leg! Here I am in the storage facility with my shorts nearly ripped off me and my favorite camo cargos are toast! (Save your fashion critique, I am married). After I had checked to make sure there was no blood and none of my parts were ripped off I go to get my phone to take a picture of my ripped shorts, because what else would I do! I had to send this pic to all my friends. Grabbed my phone out of my pocket and looked down and my phone was SHATTERED!!! At this point, we could do nothing but laugh, and my phone probably saved me from getting hurt seriously. I ended up with a scratch on my stomach and softball size bruise on my thigh, war wounds of an epic journey. Did this stop us? Nope! We finished hooking up the trailer and took it back to the house for the night half laughing at my now naked thigh, and half freaked out with how in over our heads we are.
In the morning, I took my phone to get fixed and surprisingly enough my phone just needed a new screen. We finally we able to leave a few hours behind schedule after finishing loading up. We hit the gas station and hit the road up the highway ramp and off we went, next adventure here we come. As we headed up the on-ramp, one of our clip on trailer mirrors flew off the side of the Jeep. Do we panic? Get pissed? We just laughed, I mean it was like $60 down the drain, but there was nothing we could do at that point. We kept going, pulling over to find that mirror on the side of the highway while pulling that trailer is not only dangerous but HUMILIATING. Next time I am ducking tape that little shit to the mirror. Excuse my language but its really the best word to use.
Finally, we get to the park, and we were able to back the trailer into the spot this time without someone physically having to do it for us. This time we just had to have someone just guide us, baby steps! We get out and set up camp, and it’s time for a cocktail. Whomp, Whomp, in our hurry to pack we forgot to bring all the booze. I should probably stop using the word booze because we don’t drink enough anymore to use it. There was steady traffic into the park, and the campground was filling up. There was a bit of a buzz around the park about the weather, the dark clouds were starting to roll in, and the weather alerts on our phones were going off. The park staff advised us that if anything happened, we should go up to the park shower house.
Like I mentioned earlier, camping in the rain doesn’t scare me, even mild storms are OK. In our tent camping days, it was pretty clear when to hit the deck. Maybe it’s cause we have kids now or maybe its cause the camper could give you a false sense of security, but I did not like the dark clouds at all. My anxiety kicked in full force, where would we go if the storms got bad? How far was the shower house? How would we drive the long road out of the park in the middle of the night if we need to leave? Would the river flood? Shannon, who is always cool as a cucumber, was like, it will be okay, but she could tell I was going to lose my mind going back and forth between three weather apps. The kids were so excited and we couldn’t just let the threat of rain ruin our weekend right? So we did what anyone would do, we drove to Walmart in town to wait and see what the weather would do. Not sure about you but camping just is not camping if a stop at Walmart isn’t involved. The sky is getting darker, and the reality that it could indeed storm and that I would have to wake my children up in the middle of the night and take them to a shower house to wait out a storm was weighing on me. Shannon sleeps like a ton of bricks so I probably would have had to leave her in the camper. I am joking, about leaving her. We decided to play it safe (I say “we” but it was me, I chickened out). We left Walmart and headed back the campsite, closed up shop for the night and headed home.
The campground was so close to home that we could just come back in the morning. I am willing to be the chicken in the group if it keeps the kids safe. We went home and ordered pizza and Shannon and the kids made a rocket ship out of a Zappos.com box that had come the day before. We laughed, played, stayed up late and then the four of us all camped out in our bed. Our three-year-old, Fancy, was pretty disappointed at first until she figured out she could trade camping for a ride to space in a Zappos.com box. Guys, this is it. I have been talking about changing priorities and changing our lives, and sometimes it all seems very conceptual new age hippy crap but this, this is it. The rain came and could have washed out all the fun, but we adapted, we changed, we enjoyed the moment. We lived in it.
The next morning we went back to the campsite, we joking told the folks in the site next to us we stayed at an AirBnB. They best part is it didn’t even storm!!! Some hard rain and some distant thunder but no trailers ripped to shreds and no children were hunkered down in a dirty shower house. Adventure doesn’t have to be grand, and we don’t have to put anyone’s life at risk. We had our adventure that day when we got back watching Fancy jump in the massive puddle that covered 80% of our campsite. It’s what camping should be and most certainly what camping on a rainy day should be. She ended up soaking wet from head toe and was the star of the campsite. Everyone came by and talked to us about how amazing it was that she was having the time of her life. One woman, who had to be close to her 60’s, confessed to us that Fancy inspired her and she put on her rain boots and took a couple of splashes in the puddles when we were at the playground. I think it might have been the alcohol that inspired her though but hey, at least she remembered to bring it.
We spent the rest of Saturday going to the playground, an interpretive program on snakes and going to the sand beach in the park. Two things I learned that afternoon was that fear is largely a learned behavior, so we ALL petted the snakes and secondly, our 1-year-old, Birdie, likes to eat sand. She is an incredibly picky eater and won’t go near most foods, but apparently, sand on the bank of a lake in a state park is delicious. Our site was a swamp, and every mosquito in the county came to hang out. We ended up calling it an early night and spending time in our new camper. Just simply being together. It was fun, uncomplicated, stress-free and forced us to feel relaxed in a way that we rarely feel. The rain allowed us to be still for once; we rarely get to be still.
Sunday, we dashed to drop the kids off at their grandparents so we could head to see Rent at the Fox Theater. It was a rush to get there with all the weekend’s craziness, and it made an already short camping trip even shorter, but to see Shannon’s face at the end of that show, I don’t have any more words to explain that one. No wit or banter can describe seeing an ear to ear smile on her face. I had not seen that since we were in Hawaii before our lives changed. I will gladly take on as many rainy weekends that I have to if even just a few of them end up with that smile again.