It's finally here...Kevin's guest post!
Although I was tempted to edit a few parts I went ahead and posted it as is. For those of you that know Kevin, you will get his humor...to anyone else reading and possibly thinking "oh my word, is he serious?!?" chances are he isn't... Enjoy!
Okay, better late than never...it's guest post time on this amazing blog that my even amazinger wife maintains. I've never been so nervous nor excited to put words to electronic paper. As an FYI - I will be embedding this email with special tags to ensure only PC and blackberry mobile users will be able to view it :)
So the subject matter of this guest post is the first father-son camping trip that occurred a couple weeks back. Before I get into any details let me first give you the 4-1-1:
Who: Me and Rhyno
Supporting Cast: Michael Hale and his three kids (Ethan, Lyla and Audrey), and other Stonewall Jackson dads and their kids. Basically, I glommed on to Michael's trip with a crew that has gone camping several times together over the past few years.
What: 1 day + night + morning after of tents, campfires, no showers or toothbrushes and most importantly....NO WOMEN!
Where: Purtis Creek State Park (about an hour and a half southeast of Dallas - just east of Cedar Creek Reservoir
So for those that don't know, Michele doesn't really like staying home alone so she decided to go down to visit her good friends in Houston. So Ryan and I dropped off 'ol Mom and Grayson at Love Field around 9AM and headed back to the house to finish packing. I can be rather absent-minded sometimes so I double-triple-quadrouple checked that I didn't forget anything crucial. By crucial I mean alcohol, caffeinated beverages and junk food, of course - not tents, sleeping bags or water...
Anyways, we got everything packed up and I headed over to the Hale's house to pick up the second youngest camper, 4-year old Audrey. Audrey was ready to roll when we pull-up although I questioned her mother's preparation as all she has is a little backpack. Obviously, she had not attended the Michele McDonough school of packing, haha. Actually Michael was already at the campground and had everything that was needed. I turned to say good-bye to Sarah and reassure her that I wouldn't let anything happen to their youngest however much to my surprise I was greeted with a SLAM of the door and the faint sound of a cork being popped....hmmm, Sarah was not wasting any time. 24-hours of child-free freedom was going to start IMMEDIATELY :)
Pretty uneventful drive down. The kids watched Toy Story which oddly enough was exactly as long as the car trip down. I pulled into Purtis Creek State PArk and locate our campers. I arrived with high spirits, two giddy kids and ready for long-lasting memories to be made. Everything was going to be just perfect. My idealistic notion of this trip (camp fires, s'mores, fishing, widdling sticks, throwing rocks into lake, ect...) was immediately shattered as Michael and another father come out to meet me double-fisting Boones Farm and jars of homemade moonshine. They immediately shouted obscenities at me and let me know that as a first-timer I would be subject to a grueling hazing ritual....(okay, so all that was just made up...or was it, hmm you'll never know).
Okay, so first things first - we need to pick a proper place to pitch our tent. Now back in the day, I recall putting up tents -- especially with limited help from a 2.5 year old -- was a little bit of a pain in the a. Not anymore, I must give a shout-out to Coleman's Insta-Tent series (Michele told me to pitch products throughout this post in hope that we gain sponsorships...so again, COLEMAN'S INTA-TENT!!! What Tiger Woods is to Nike Golf, I will be to Coleman's camping gear!) Back to the story - I got this tent at the recommendation of Michael. It's pretty sweet, you basically unpack it and throw it up in the air and it comes down fully assemblend. Okay, not exactly that easy but it literally takes about two minutes to set up.
We set up shop free and clear of any brittle-looking overhead branches and I got a recap of the prior night's festivities from the other dads. The highlights were as follows (all names will be withheld)...Dad #1 bragged about how much money he made, Dad #2 let everyone in on fail-safe pick-up lines he used on his wife and Dad #3 indulged in too much moonshine (yes, there really was moonshine) and had to hop over his sleeping kids in the middle of the night, stick his head out of the tent zipper and well... you can probably guess the rest. After hearing this my immediate feeling was relief...as I figured these guys surely couldn't go hard two nights in a row right??? Well, that though turned out to be half-true.
Okay, so after having a little lunch we commenced the afternoon's activities. Nothing was planned, of course, it was just really a free for all. I was pretty jealous of all the other dad as most of their kids were old enough to babysit themselves. So what's the magic age when kids can babysit themselves in a campground setting???...looks to be somewhere in the 7 - 10 range. So that means I'll be home free in about 4 years with Ryan and 6 years with Grayson...hmm, seems like a ways off.
So basically the kids split up into two groups - the boys (mostly older) and the girls. The free agents in this mix were Audrey and Ryan since they were younger that all the other kids. Audrey either hung out with her sister and the girls or hung out with Ryan. Ryan either hung out with Audrey, played with some of the older boys or walked around with me. All the kids were great with Ryan, especially Audrey, Ethan and Mia Yonker (she's a little older than Audrey but still younger than th other girls, so probably like 5 or so...although my ability to guess the age of children is terrible...Mia might be anywhere between 2 and 20 years old). The highlights for Ryan include playing with Audrey, Mia and occasionally other kids in the Hale's tent-of mattresses (they had about 3 blowup mattresses in that thing). It was very cute, they would pretend Ryan was a monster and try to avoid being caught. Ryan absolutely loved it. The older boys also took turns (with Ethan drawing the short end of the stick more often than not :)) throwing or kicking Ryan's mini soccer ball with him. Ryan also really liked going down by the lake and throwing pebbles in the water....really what kid doesn't like that, or adult male for that matter. It was during one such trip down to the lake that I witnessed perhaps the funniest part of the whole trip...
I was down by the lake with Michael, Audrey and Ryan and Michael took Audrey to change into her swimsuit in case she wanted to wade around in the water. When Audrey and Michael came back I couldn't quite pinpoint it but something about Audrey's attire looked a little odd...couldn't quite put my finger on it though. We threw some rocks and my thoughts veered back to Audrey's strange looking swimsuit. The opening in the chest part was too big (really just too revealing for a 4 year old), the crotch too baggy and the butt too snug...I had a sneaking suspicion I knew what the deal was. I said to Michael..."hey man, is Audrey's suit on backwards". Michael immediately says, "Man, I don't know...I thought it was at first too when I first put it on but I checked and the tags are there in the back"... I said "are you sure..." He checks again "Oh SH&I, you're right...it's on completely backwards". Haha, good times had by all. The other dads really enjoyed that one.
As day grew into night, we did a little fishing, little capture the flag, cracked a few beers and got ready for dinner. Dinner was hot dogs for the kids and frito pies for the dads courtesy of Robert Garett. Very tasty. About the only regret I have that evening is we never busted out the s'mores....perhaps my all-time favorite dessert. That's okay, gives me a good reason to try this father-son camping thing again.
So I was a little nervous about bedtime. Ryan's a good sleeper but this is a completely different atmosphere. Audrey and Ryan went down first, probably around 8:30 or 9:00. Ryan was super tired (no nap that day) but still didn't go right down. I laid down with him for a little while but got up before he was out completely. He snuck his head out of the tent a couple times before he went down for good but all-in-all not too bad.
All the bigger kids went to bed at varying times between 9:45 and 11'ish - depending on how first a particular dad was...because none of the kids really wanted to go to sleep. Nevertheless, finally got all the kids down.
So this should be where I saw that the fun rally began, but overall it was a fairly tame evening around the campfire for the dads. Sure we put down a few frosty beverages and moonshine-soaked cherries, but fortunately nothing too crazy to report. We did, however, have some unwanted guests. Apparently Purtis Creek is known for its raccoons and we certainly had our fair share of encounters.
Starting about 11:30, were would hear rustling in the nearby woods and if we didn't shine our lights over to scare them off, we would hear one of those little bastards getting into some of our leftovers. The most brazen of these critters actually got onto a table about 10 feet behind us (it was pitch dark so we didn't know until we heard them) and grabbed a large bag of fritos and tok off into the bushes. It was at this time that one of the dad's busted out his pellet gun. Instead of protecting our food and campsite, though, we ended up just taking pot-shots at beer cans lined up on a picnic table (don't worry sweetie, it was away from the kids).
We called it quits about 12:30 and headed to bed. I didn't sleep a lick but Ryan slept pretty well. Only fell of his air mattress once or twice. My inability to sleep stems from my choice in mattress pad. Instead of going for a cushy air mattress like everyone else, I opted for a backpackers mattress pad. Basically, about a half-inch of foam that ensures you feel every undulation of the ground underneath :). Anyways, lessons learned. When it comes to sleeping comfortably and you don't have to carry the air mattress more than about 20 yards....go with the mantra bigger is better.
Morning comes and I'm not sure I actually slept at all. Oh well, the little guy slept for well so that was good. Since Ryan never sleeps with us this marks the first time that I woke up next to the little guy. He's very sweet in the morning and we laid there a little and chatted (not really a chat...we didn't get into a very deep conversation given Ryan's limited language skillz as a 2.5 year old.)
Anyways, we got up and I started heating up the sausage balls that Michele had been sweet enough to make for us (all 80 of them). Michael warned me not to worry about the breakfast much...he said to bring some powdered donuts and pop tarts and I would be a hero. Apparently this isn't his first rodeo...the kids largely shunned the sausage balls and tore into the donuts and pop tarts that were brought. Ungrateful little rascals :) Well the dads enjoyed the sausage balls anyways and I had about 60 sausage balls left over. I brought the leftovers to the office on Monday so they got eaten anyways.
We packed up about 9:30 or 10AM and headed out.
Awesome time and I not have a newfound respect for Michele's blog posts. These are oddly time consuming but nevertheless I enjoyed my first guest blog post.
COLEMAN"S INSTA-TENT!!! C'mon sponsors...
And since I bombarded him with text messages reminding him to take pictures, here are a few that he snapped with his BB.
Ethan and Ryan
Audrey and Ryan by the lake
Kevin and Ryan's tent. Does it surprise anyone else that Kevin opted for the mattress pad? I warned him...
Playing with the big kids
Ryan the monster
Not really sure what's going on here but looks like fun!