Every year, for the past 16 or 17 years I have spent the second weekend in July camping with Scott’s family. We spent this trip at Bear Lake Campground in Manawa, WI. The campground is located on a full wake lake and a short drive to the Iola Old Car Show and Swap Meet, which the guys spend two or three days at. This year Scott came back with an awning for our pop up- which sure beats the grey tarp we have been using.
After having to walk up to the park with my two oldest children everytime they wanted to play I teamed up with my sister-in-law to get everyone to move to sites closer to the park. Best move ever. We can now watch the kids play from our sites. We are also right next to the big open field where there has been many a kickball or baseball game, water gun fight, horseshoe game and yes even grown adults playing in hamster balls.
The lake is shallow for quite some distance which can be stressfull when the little ones wonder out to far, but is great fun for the big kids. The camp store has hand scooped ice cream and ice cream treats, inexpensive candy and they rent row boats, kayaks, and paddle boats.
But the kids may enjoy their night swim the most. I told them this year that you had to be 10- I will regret that in 2 years when my 8 year old remembers that I said that.
Traditionally on Sat we have walking tacos for dinner. Everyone always brings something and we make it a big group effort. Always a struggle to find the individual packages of Fritos but we always do. We also usually do some sort of craft or project. Last year we did a scavenger hunt. Before that we colored white t shirts or fabric with fabric markers. This year we decided to step back to our youth and tye dye. It went surprising smooth. The older kids went first and then the younger. Everyone had so much fun the older kids even helped the younger ones. We used t shirts, pillow cases, boxer shorts, headbands, pieces of cloth, and tote bags. Lots of different patterns and everything looked great. We filled buckets with warm water salt and the tye and used cups to dump it onto the fabric letting it run back into the bucket. Not as fancy as all the new squeeze bottle kits you see but went a lot farther and worked great. We set everything out for about 45 minutes cut the rubber bands and washed and dried on a short cycle at the camp store. Then the kids all got decked out in their new apparel and called themselves the TD gang.
We have a nightly bonfire with many conversations and smores. Someone always falls asleep in front of it. Rumor has the last ones came in this in around 5 am. Not this night owl. I loved the excuse on Sat that my baby needed me to lay with her.
Everyone stays for a different amount of time. My middle guy stays with grandma and my youngest is never happy she has to go for dance. A long weekend in a pop up tripping over everyone’s stuff and crawling over everything to get into bed is enough for me. Maybe its time to upgrade.
Part of the fun in planning our next road trip for me is mapping it out. Even if it’s the same route we usually take I look at the map tons of times before we go. What time should we leave? If we drive 5 hours how far will we get? Are there any decent hotels to stop at? Lucky for me Panama City Beach is in the pan handle of Florida and there are options.
I have an uncle that lives in Florida and one that spends the winter there. They both swear by the road less traveled. So instead of taking the recommended route this time I convinced my husband that we should try their way. They make the trip even more than we do so they must be on to something, right?
So even though Google, Garmin, Apple maps and AAA all said the best route would be I65 through Indianapolis we took I57 through Illinois. We left after work and hoped to get to Champaign, Il. One traffic back up around Chicago and a lot of construction later we were almost there. However once you are out of Chicago there are very few hotels on the highway (or restaurants or gas stations), most are several miles off the highway closer to the city itself. At 11:00 PM that is not an option for us so we ended up at one of the two we did find.
We stay at a lot of hotels, some nice and some ok. I don’t think I would have classified this one as either. Old, dirty, stinky and the free breakfast table reminded me of the 80’s- a loaf a bread, some prepackaged muffins, a couple of oranges and an over ripe banana. Thankfully there was coffee. The saying you get what you pay for played over and over in my head. On the plus side it was late and the kids couldn’t really see what they were walking into.
We headed out the next morning and took the more traveled path once reaching Nashville. That being said it is still a lesser traveled road from Montgomery to Panama City Beach than we would take to Orlando. They kids asked more than once if we were going up north. Lots of two lane highways that were lined with trees. We even ended up behind a tractor at one point. Very pretty scenery but not a freeway and not necessarily where you want to stop for a bathroom break- but it was only a 3 hour drive that morning so we didn’t have to stop. Oh and country highways lead to even more options. Do we take this way or that. One friend texted and said do not take the way we took, another said the same thing. So what did we do? Ignored the Garmin telling us to turn around and google maps telling us to turn here and pulled out the map. Yes the map, a real paper map that I had to fold so I could hold in my hand and focus on the small part that we were traveling through. We took the highway that the billboard we past said was the fasted route to the beach. So just like Kermit and Fozzie Bear we drove by map.
Montgomery, AL does also have a lot more hotel options that were on our route. We stayed at a very nice LaQuinta just outside of Montgomery in Prattville, www.laquintaprattville.com.
We got to the resort early and the rooms were not ready because of the high number of check ins that day- but that’s a story for another day…I’m glad we tried the new route, since I have wanted to for quite some time. But from now on I believe that we will stay on the recommended path.