Saturday, May 17, 2014

Trial Run: Frontenac State Park, Red Wing, MN

The Setup:

Scamping with my niece is something I've been dreaming about before she was born. Last summer, she spent a night with me in the Scamp when the entire family camped in Fargo, but it didn't go all that well. But she's four now--and I had hopes. The only possible wrinkle was that she was coming from The Plague House of Pink Eye (Patient Zero is her brother who keeps reinfecting himself--and then cheerfully giving it to everyone--his mother got it on Monday, Cora got it on Tuesday, and then got it in the other eye on Thursday)--but since my sister is a nurse, I trusted her when she said Cora wasn't contagious.

The parentals and I went on a trial run overnight to Frontenac State Park in Red Wing, MN--and all three of us decided that we will never do another big trip without another trial run first to figure out what we'd forgotten. Me, I didn't have pillows--or the piece of foam for Cora's bed, but I didn't know that until we got there.  Dad and I had been working on the closet door (it's still in process--it just has one coat of paint on it) and we put it back up for the trip.  We tried to secure the knife rack, but it didn't last very long before it fell off. So I'm still in search of a workable solution.  I did sand and paint three out of the four closet shelves and the white shelves, oh, that's brilliantly wonderful.  Makes so much difference to have them painted--they finally look finished.  I couldn't get the top shelf out without popping the PVC joints, so I'll do that this week sometime.  I'm glad that I didn't glue those joints when we built the shelves.

I put pot holders between my dishes to protect them (I broke a lot of dishes last much physics in the camper...) and that worked very well (so far).  I also cut some 2" PVC to protect my little bottles of oil and vinegar and while the container that they will go in is still negotiable, I put it in the closet (along with everything else) and the good news is that I made it there and back without any broken bottles. God bless the brilliance of PVC.
Thrift store dishes, protected by thrift store potholders. My Spud Sack (microwave potato thingy) protects it from the bottom.

2" PVC
This configuration is temporary, and I'll glue the PVC together when figure out whether I want them in a line or a square.
On the Road:

We pulled out of the parental's driveway mid-morning on Thursday and drove the hour and a half to Red Wing--I went to pick up Cora, so they were a ways ahead of us and I ended up missing the turn off Hwy 52 to 61 and took the scenic route.  No harm.  Cora was delightful as always.  We had lunch (in the parental's 5th wheel) of peanut butter sandwiches in the parking lot of the Econo Foods in Red Wing and then Cora and I took off for Frontenac State Park while Mom and Dad went to Red Wing shoes for Dad to see if he could find some shoes to fit him. (No dice.)  The sun came and went and the temperature hovered around 40-45 degrees. Not the most ideal camping weather, but what are you going to do?

As we pulled into the campground, we saw what I think was a brand new Scamp, still shiny from the factory.  Its humans were away elsewhere every time I wanted to go knock on their door and say hello.  The campground at Frontenac is lovely--and I bet it's even better when the weather is nice.  I'll definitely stay there again.  I got the Scamp set up fairly quickly, though it took longer with my magnificently curious niece asking what I was doing every time I turned around, but like I said, I've been dreaming about this for four years, so I minded not a bit.  Of course, when I got inside and started dismantling the front dinette to turn it into her bed, I realized I'd forgotten the piece of foam that goes in the middle.  I was sold on the trial run, right there.  Thankfully, she's still short enough that I could push the two dinette cushions together and it was fine.  Then I opened up her bee suitcase and realized she didn't have a pillow, thanks to her mother using this opportunity to sanitize everything she'd come into contact with in the last few days.  So, then, I started making my bed (I love my camper bed,'s just a few inches too short to be completely comfortable) and the mattress pad went on (thrift store comforter), bottom sheet, glorious flannel top sheet, electric blanket, down-alternative comforter, bedspread (whose sole purpose is to keep kitty feet off my bedding)--and then I went to put the pillowcases on the pillows and I have no pillows either. "Mom, didn't you say my pillows were in the bag with the bedding?" "Uh, no?"  So we improvised--rolling up blankets for both Cora and me to sleep on.  Then the cats got transferred from the Jeep to the Scamp.  I turned on my heater (which is so cleverly stored in the bottom compartment of the closet).

About this time, the Parental Excel had arrived and they got theirs all set up (including Daisy the Goldendoodle who had pretty much forgotten all the manners she'd learned in obedience classes the year before) and we all took naps in our respective campers.  The cats did not nap, which meant Cora had a hard time falling asleep.  Too much excitement.

After naps, Dad and I discussed whether or not we would do our hoboes (tin foil, filled with whatever) on a fire or in their oven.  By this time, it was frigid outside--but it was still not raining.  I pointed out that we'd promised Cora s'mores and not to do them would be tragic. He agreed, so we started the fire and pointed out the fine art of pyromania to her.  Mom cut vegetables inside as we did.  The fire burned down fast enough that we decided just to cook our dinner on it, so we compiled our hoboes and did just that.  They turned out so well. I love hoboes.  Our s'mores episode was also an epic success (and I'm glad Kristi sent along Cora's winter gear) and we taught her how to rotate her marshmallow to get it evenly brown. Once again, I am thankful for my brother-in-law, who brought the brilliance of using a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup instead of Hershey's to our family when Kris and Mike got married.

The evening ended fairly soon after that and we retreated to our respective campers for bedtime rituals.  Took Cora a while to get to sleep, but that wasn't a surprise.  I didn't stay up too long after she went to  bed.

Day 2

The cats had no intentions of sleeping, mostly Galway who decided he was starving about 1:00.  And so he jumped on my bed, saw that I was awake, and then jumped down. When I didn't move, he jumped up again and jumped down. I naively hoped he would stop this, but he's a persistent furball. And so about 3:00 or so, I put my shoes and coat on, went to the Jeep to get their food, and then they calmed down.  Cora woke up about 5:30 when the sun started to rise and it took her a while to get back to sleep. When we did get up, I looked at Maeve and saw that her right eye was gooey--and I'm 95% sure that Cora didn't give her pink eye to Maeve.  Mostly, I think Maeve's eye does that when she's stressed or it's allergies. So Cora got her eye drops and Maeve got her eye drops and then we went to Nana and Boppa's camper for breakfast.

We broke camp after breakfast and drove the half hour to Wabasha to the National Eagle Center. We had been planning on taking a river boat ride to see the eagles, but there's some flooding and their dock and their parking lot is underwater, so no cruises were happening.  The National Eagle Center turned out to be a suitable compromise--Cora didn't know the difference--and it would have been ridiculously cold on the river anyway.  We learned all about eagles, got to meet one of their residents, named Columbia, and I thought it was fascinating.  All the eagles at the Center are permanently disabled in some way, mostly wing injuries, and would not survive in the wild.  I learned that eagles can produce 400 pounds of pressure with their talons and out in the center, there's a doohickey where you can test your hand strength to see how you measure up.  Dad gripped the thing and his grip was 40-45 pounds of pressure--and get this, my grip strength was 50-55 pounds of pressure. I beat my dad.  Ha! Of course, that puts into very clear perspective how much more pressure an eagle can exert.

Donald the Golden Eagle
Harriet, age 33, retired

We got to meet Harriet, who is 33 years old--and they know exactly how old she is, because she was banded as an eaglet in her nest as a baby.  She was hit by a car and her wing has recovered as much as it's going to (she can't fly) and she's got a permanent rooster tail hair style, because of the way her feather follicles healed. But the best thing is that she's the eagle who's on the MN state veteran's license plate--and like all good models, she was Photoshopped.  They Photoshopped off her hairdo.


When we left the eagle center, we went to Kellogg to surprise Cora with the Lark Toy Museum and their carousel.  She rode the unicorn and was all set to do it by herself until 5 seconds before it started and then she wanted me to stand next to her and make sure she didn't fall off.  Nana rode the dragon next to her.  We walked through the museum, through the toy store itself, and then we decided an ice cream snack would be just the thing.  Cora got rainbow sherbet and Mom and I got the best-named ice cream:

We strapped back into our rigs and headed back to Minneapolis.  Cora napped for about an hour. I wish she could have slept through Friday afternoon rush hour traffic, but no luck there.  When we pulled up to her house, she had so much to tell her parents (her brother, at fifteen months was not as interested as she might have liked)--but over dinner, her tired self caught up with her, the adrenaline drained, and she went up to bed by 6:30.

When I finally got back to the Parental Abode, parked the Scamp in their driveway, unloaded the cats and essentials, I think I was as tired as Cora--and didn't stay up very late either.

So, the moral(s) of the story is this:  the trial run was awesome.  I will always do one from here on out.  Second, my niece is amazing and I can't wait to go camping with her again.

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