Ta Da: Look At Us!


Ellie S. Thomas   

Copyright 2020 by  Ellie S. Thomas


Photo by Georgiana Simon on Unsplash
                                    Photo by Georgiana Simon on Unsplash

We had not been on vacation in years. Everyone else went on vacations, why couldnt we? Well, to begin with, the costs of transporting one's family were fairly prohibitive, AND then there would be problems designed to not suit everybody such as: where to go, for how long, someone to visit there, etc., etc., still , we decided to have a go at it. If we camped outside in the fresh air, AND if we ate in the same fresh air, everything should be fine, even in today's climate. One problem remained: we had no camping gear!

Our next door neighbor, a cheerful giver, heard of our plans and suggested we take his big, old tent. We feared the worse; we'd probably burn it down, or rip it to shreds ; however, impressed with his generosity, we let ourselves be persuaded. When we discussed this with friends, a camp stove was thrust on us, some provided tent pegs, or even bundles of wood. Luckily we had our own ice chests and sleeping bags so--looked like we were going.

It seemed best to keep our first endeavor short so we planned to traverse the adjoining state and penetrate some fifty miles into the next where we would camp for the night. The weather along the St. Lawrence River was with us and we set out under sunny skies. It was exhilarating to barrel along knowing we would not have to be back home that night. In fact, not knowing where we would be at bedtime lent a certain element of suspense to our adventure.

Across the state line the scenic little towns with their white picket fences and white, white steeples , the village greens and the background of towering mountains behind were enchanting.. The kids were forever exclaining at some curiousity saying "Look at the top of that mountain, it looks like a horse's head, or a man!" And then they got hungry.

We stopped at a supermarket, happy we'd instigated the wearing of masks so the kids would be used to them. It was doubtful knowing how long they would cooperate with this but we were trying.

We purchased a six-pack of juices, a loaf of bread, some cheeses and cold cuts, plus a jar of pickles .Bidding the kids to watch out for a likely spot, we soon agreed on a lovely place by a shimmering brook. Others must have found it inviting too as there was a well filled trash can. We got out and stretched while the kids ran towards the water, splashing it on their hands and faces and each other. Before this could develop any further, I called them to eat and with the healthy appetites most kids have, they demolished most of my supplies. I must say that we helped also as breakfast seemed far, far away. After we cleaned away all traces of our litter and stowed it away, we returned to the stream for a quick wash.

Regretfully we left the pretty place and all through the afternoon we made good time, now angling southward on route 7. The roads were narrow and winding although the signs announced that we were on a throughway. Obviously the meaning varies from state to state. By mid afternoon we stopped at a Mom and Pop's and bought delicious cheese and chocolate milk. Naturally we had to take everything outside because its impossible to eat or drink keeping a mask on; however, we kept a good distance from each other and anyone else we saw. Might as well be safe- I realized we were overdoing it with the masks because, as a family, we could not always avoid each other but- this was good practice for later. We would soon find our spot for the night and must interact with other people, I noted also that our son was beginning to get a bit antsy about wearing his.

We paused at the next sign we saw for a state park and were given a map indicating where our site would be found. Wearily Ev drove to the small, knob-shaped hill where we were to sleep. We fell out of the car and began raising our shelter. The huge, cumbersome old tent was unwieldly and took its toll in scratches, broken fingernails and frayed tempers. Finally we got the monster up but when we attempted to peg it down, we found to our dismay, we'd not brought a hammer, axe, screwdriver, or any other kind of tool. It never occurred to us that they were part of camping equipment! After all, we'd already borrowed so much equipment that it didnt seem we could be missing ANYTHING! Indeed we were, and now we paid the price for the ground was rocky and nearly impossible to penetrate. NOW we knew what that wooden platform was for which we'd so carefully avoided when we began to set up. It had looked so peculiar sitting smack in the middle of our space, like a dance floor but who, in their right mind, would be dancing on a wooden platform in a village of campsites? Oh, well, the tent would probably stay up well enough , tied to the car bumper as it was. Sure made it difficult to do any sight-seeing, or even to go down the road a bit to the little store.

As luck would have it, we had plenty to eat. I had cooked and frozen for days before our trip. Rather than waste space in the ice chest with inedible ice, I froze our food in two-quart milk cartons. Tonight the menu was chili with noodles, pickles, cottage cheese, and vanilla puddings. I had visualized popping corn later on around a glowing fire. So much for dreams- with the tent to one side of the platform and the car on the other, there was simply no room left on the tiny site to build a fire without burnng the tent down or the wooden floor and we couldnt move the car now without dismantling the tent- oh, well; we retired early and soon the sounds of the night began to separate and distinguish themselves in our tired minds. First, we noticed the frustrated opera singer down the hill. He sang a few scores from various operettas and then rendered a coarse version of Ezio Pinza's SOME ENCHANTED EVENING. Eventually someone shut him up and silence descended.

But is the countryside ever really silent? It was a balmy, beautiful evening and we were thrilled to hear a whipporwill down by the lake. He called and he called, and before long, there was a chorus of answers from various places. Then, sometime during the night I was awakened by some small animal circling our tent. Pans and equipment rattled and then I could hear him scratching. Soon he arrived on the outside of the tent adjacent to our faces. With only the canvas fabric between us, he paused and I could hear an audible sniff, sniff right beside my head. Eventually he tired of that and I must have dozed off because I was awakened to a beautiful morning.

It was bright and clear and I crawled out into the brisk air. Dew spangled every twig, bush, and blade of grass with diamond drops. The odor of coffee percolating and bacon frying made us ravenous. Ev started the stove and went for a pail of water while the children carried towels and soap to the nearest comfort station. Luckily there was no one else about yet so they could wash up and get back before they starved to death. Soon we were eating hot oatmeal amd toast with jam. Amazing how different everything tasted outdoors; how delicious. We were a bit slow getting under way but I washed pots and pans while the kids folded blankets and nightwear and Ev took the tent down and packed it. I made sandwiches to have on the way and we drove to the office and checked out.

We decided on route 4 east and were in Lebanon in due time. There were lovely statuary and flowers to examine at Our Lady of LaSalette but by now our son was balking at wearing his mask. I directed Ev to stop at the next chain store and I ran inside to shop. I found a black mask that covered the eyes, supposedly a party gag but our son was enchanted with it.. He put it over his eyes and pulled up the lower mask to cover his nose and mouth. Now he was DANGEROUS DAN MCGREW and there were no more arguments. I figured if the masks wore off their charm., the next stop might produce a silver star to wear on his chest and he could be Matt Dillon.

The surrounding countryside was breathtaking and the views from the mountainside were panaromic. We drove to Queechee gorge and parked where we could walk alongside the fabulous drop and take pictures. I could not imagine how they'd gotten the bridge span over that huge gap. It was dizzying!

On to the next grocery store to refuel and then a stop near Concord where we ate beneath a spreading tree and took advantage of the barrel provided for our litter. Another car pulled up behind us, obviously waiting to use the table so we generously left asap. I wondered if being in the wonderful outdoors made us more agreeable, more thougtful of our fellow man?

I found we were waving to people along the way and smiling our way through stores. We did a bit of sightseeing and soon it was four o'clock and time to look for a campsite for the night. We'd learned early on a harsh lesson at trying to get parked and settled after dark! And that's when we saw the sign for Bear Brook Park and the name alone decided the children, It WAS a lovely place with huge towering trees and we made camp while the children chased the half-tamed squirrels. The little beggars gathered round the camp table where they would steal bread crumbs and apple cores, anything they could find. By night fall the kids were exhausted from the running, jumping, and chasing. We were a bit smarter about getting the tent up this time and it was easier, too, because the ground was soft and friable. The pegs went in easily and there were no rocks poking us from beneath. We stretched out and I swear, I'd just closed my eyes when they opened again to see a bright,new day! Goodness, I'd slept soundly- I'd not even heard Ev creep out to make his coffee nor even heard the curse that followed when he helped himself amply to the detergent in the bottle that looked like creamer. As his coffee foamed and bubbled over, running across the tablecloth with him in rapid persuit with a tea towel, the squirrels took off with a loaf of bread. He ran to rescue that and salvaged the last half while slice after slice marked the trail of the culprits. Singing "This Is The Way To Start The Day", we joined him at the breakfast table. While I fried bacon and eggs, the children gathered the lovely big cones that littered the ground. It was such a grand place that we hated to leave it but we wanted to wind back westerly today and visit President Coolidges' home near Plymouth and then possibly make it to Ticonderoga. This took some searching for because the old homestead was a bit secluded.

The kids got more fun out of the old fort and after poking around its ramparts and cells, we left for a ride across Lake Chanplain.

We crossed the lake on the Grand Isle ferry and the family loved the ride; however I was pleased not to have it last any longer because the wind was brisk and it was a bit rough. After landing, we took the road through Wilmington and on to Lake Placid. At Elba, we stopped to view John Brown's home. That was picturesque but I was unable to determine if his body was buried there or if it was indeed 'still marching on.'

Well, it had been fun and a great experience. It was now an easy drive home and despite the mounds of laundry facing me, I was glad to be back.

We'd discovered we loved camping and even learning to travel with health restrictions had simply made us stronger. Now our long winter evenings could be filled with travel plans for the next season!

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