Earlier this summer I got a chance to introduce my children to one of the great wonders of the world, sleeping in a tent.
Like so many other stories on this blog, this one begins at Grandma and Pappa's house up in Westchester (who are at this very minute on a plane to Spain, where we'll be meeting them in just a very short couple of days). On this occasion we dusted off a dirty old tent, set it up in the backyard by the garden, threw some sleeping bags in and left it up to me to get them through the night as best I could.
Well after a few "scary" stories, a few hours of looking at the stars and fireflies, and a joke or two along the way, the kids did something I honestly didn't expect; they went to sleep and slept through the night like kids that had camped out of doors a hundred times before.
Additionally, one of the things I never got around to writing about Vermont (if you can believe that) is that on the way up we stopped and made what I hope is an important purchase for the future of the Gerloff Clan; a really good tent and some sleeping bags all our own (not for Liz though, I know... I know).
While we were up there we got in some really primo quality backyard camping and since I'll probably never get around to finishing up a mishmashed odds and ends post from Vermont, here's a couple pictures of it:
Here's out new tent:
Here's one that worries me a little:
And a picture of my roommates for the night:
Again, even in an unfamiliar backyard, with noticeably more noises, 75 % more sky, and (even with it being Northern Vermont) an unseasonably cool night into the lower 50's, the kids did great.
Better than great, they liked it!
Cut to this past weekend, with Liz out of town on one of her "blog weekends" I thought maybe I'd take the next logical step in their outdoor education and take them campsite camping.
Well, this being New York with it's 12-something million people, every site I looked into that was within realistic driving distance was booked up or prohibitively expensive (think $10 a night less than a hotel room).
So with a blind shot in the dark, I put a shout out on Facebook as to where we could go, and was rewarded with a friends reservation at a nearby campsite named Beaver Pond in Harrimon State Park up near Bear Mountain that they couldn't use, which happened to be right across the river from where we were, as we were already up at Liz's mom's in Croton.
On the way up, I made the huge mistake of filling the car with gas:
Although admittedly I do like the "666". I like to imagine anything oil company related as being "devil" related, since they are pretty much pure evil.
So completely unprepared (I happened to throw the tent and sleeping bags in the car to camp in their backyard if we didn't find anything else to do) we found a REI nearby in a Zombie Apocalypse-ish as-yet-unopened mall complex (I had to ask the construction workers if anything was opened at all, of which the REI and the movie theatre were the only two that were) and did some damage on the old credit card (holy shit! camping stuff is expensive!) and got on our way.
After a junk food filled stop at the grocery store and a quick stop in a discount store I'd rather not name nor admit that I went to out of liberal-guilt induced shame (although it was the first thing the kids told Liz when she got back home) we pulled into a lovely little campsite off of the Palisades Parkway, checked in and drove past tent on top of tent on top of tent on top of tent.
Nervous about the amount of sleep we'd get, but excited about the amount of Spanish we could pick up before our trip to Spain, we slowly made our way through the various sections until we found ours, maybe the only one separated off from all the other ones, and thus insuring enough privacy to at least pee in the woods without stares from other campers.
In fact, as we were pulling into reverse to back into the site, we were greeted by these guys:
And since this is supposedly a food blog, I was happy and sad to pull up next to these:
I was 99% sure they were chanterelles, but that 1% combined with the fact that I was alone with the girls and the fact that I didn't really have anything to cook them with (I had butter and salt though, dammit!) I left them on the wooded floor, probably failing some sort of test Mother Earth set out for me, and that's probably why it rained as much as it did the following day, but more on that later.
So we set up out little slice of wooded heaven (the kids were, like, NO help at all!):
looked around for more naturey things:
And then did silly things:
Which Sage thought was very funny:
After than we played in the tent for awhile:
and then settled in for that older-than-time-itself ritual of sitting around the fire eating dinner and telling stories:
Look! Food! There's food in this post! On the fire, I think it's either Spaggetti-o's or beef-a-roni or something horrible like that, but it's food!
Food blog cred re-stored!
The rest of the story is a wet messy disaster.
After spending the day as the only gringos at the beach on the lake (really nice lake, but I didn't bring my camera as I was by myself wrangling kids), I felt the weather start to shift so we ran back to the campsite to gather wood enough for two fires to keep dry and then waited out what was supposed to be occasional showers.
And we waited.
Finally after about 4 1/2 hours and well into dinner time, Thalia broke down and got super homesick. So we watched movies in the car and drove around looking at all the people with a better set up than we had (tarps and shelters for the fire, etc.) and at all the cheap looking tents that I was sure were going to leak.
Around 8:30 pm I started a fire in the middle of the rainstorm half to prove to myself that I could, and half determined to eat a hot dinner but half an hour and even heavier rain later we gave up and finished off the peanut butter and honey sandwiches and cheetos for dinner and got into the (surprisingly dry) tent to hunker down and hope for a dry night and next morning.
Several chapters of Harry Potter later the girls fell asleep, but wouldn't let me take off their headlamps...
And as I obsessed over the weather on my phone, eventually fell into a restless sleep waking up every hour or so checking on the tents for leaks (very few) and the girls (sound asleep). And hoped for a better, brighter tomorrow...
Which we didn't get.
Finally around 9:00 I thought it was letting up enough to start a fire and have breakfast, and then hopefully go to the beach for the day then get out of there in time for Liz to come home from her, what I can only assume was a drier, weekend in San Diego.
And then it started raining hard again.
So with promises of doughnuts for breakfast instead, I threw what was left of the firewood on the fire (determined to get my money's worth) and packed up a filthy wet tent and equipment.
As I looked around I noticed a big difference in the number of neighbors we had. The couple next to us, whom had arrived later in the evening the night before and set up in the rain, was gone when we got up, and I heard cars leaving all night, so I was proud of the girls for sticking it out and not complaining too much about how boring it is when it rains.
So we packed up and pulled out of the site, which immediately bought sunshine, and as we passed empty row upon empty row of where tents had been the night before, we came upon a sight I can only assume you'd see in New York...
Now, if that was someone calling a cab, or if someone who drives a cab was camping I don't know (I suspect the latter, but that was the first we had seen of it all weekend) either way it was a perfect way to end our first "real" camping experience, in the car with the girls laughing hysterically, having a great time...
I'm not sure if I'd ever go back to Beaver Pond (which is why I didn't hyper link to it's site) as it was pretty much what you'd expect from a campsite as close to NYC as this was. Rude people playing radios too loud too late into the night, broken glass everywhere, what seemed like billions of people at the beach with kids throwing rocks at each other right where my girls were swimming, gross bathrooms with a line a mile long in the morning, and really expensive firewood.
But whether or not we ever go back there is of no consequence, as the girls proved themselves more than capable campers.
Next time I'd like to go with more people (even just Liz being there would have made ot a lot easier/fun), and I'd like to get a little further from the city (big surprise there, I'm sure).
I'm sure the kids aren't ready for backpacking into the middle of nowhere and living off of the land or anything like that, but if I can continue to fan the flames of their interest in the outdoors, nature and camping, then hopefully it can be one of those things that we do together for the rest of our lives (except when they're teenagers, I'm sure I'll be doing a lot of camping alone at that time, possibly for years at a time...)
Or they'll lose interest in it and I'll have thousands of dollars in camping stuff that I can store next to the dozens of other hobbies that lay dormant in the basement, which is Liz's fear/assumption.
Either way, we had a great time this weekend, all things considered.
We also got everything cleaned and dried out for next time, so if any of you out there have any good ideas and are looking for company, give us a call! We have a car, a tent, and are willing to travel!
Till then, we'll have to be content with two weeks in Spain...
Difficult proposition, I know, but we'll just have to manage...
I'm gonna try and get at least one more post ready before we leave, but in the event (probability) that I don't, I'll see you guys when we get back!
I really don't mean to turn this blog into a dumping ground for all my "getting out of New York" yearnings.
Honest I don't.
But it just seems like that's the path my camera and summer is leading me down. It seems to me like this summer in particular, this magical time of the year, has been set up perfectly to not only be drastically more unproductive than I would like, but also to rub my face in it, as it were.
I mean other than one dinner party and some old pictures from last year this blog has been as much travel blog as food. With only more to come.
New Orleans (which I'd move to tomorrow,) Vermont, North Carolina, and of course our rapidly approaching tourturefest (from which I can't imagine coming home from); two weeks in Spain.
So for my favorite kind of measure (that would be "good") my sister decided to up and get hitched.
In Las Vegas.
I mean, it's not like I love and miss the desert almost every day or anything, so why not rub some salt flats in that jagged, sky-lined-looking wound of dispise for urbanity...
Not that Las Vegas itself is anything other than pure urbanity, but at least it admits it's a fantasy land filled with marks just lining up to waste their lives/money in it. It has the balls to be what New York isn't, horrible but honest about it.
Plus, I love the contentious locals vs. tourist relationship already, and it doesn't get much better than Vegas for some good old fashioned "they" bashing....
Anyways, neither here nor there my friends....
Neither here nor there.
What this post is, is a congratulations to my sister Jessi, and (even) new(er) brother-in-law Justin.
It was nice to see that weird thing called "my family" and long over due (my uncle Mark in this next picture I haven't seen since I was probably 6 or 7...)
The fact that she happens to live in Vegas is a nice change from the usual trip there on The Strip (not cheaper though!) as we got to see a whole other side of Vegas, much the same way that a visitor to NYC will have a much different experience visiting family/friends that live there rather than just hitting up the major tour spots.
So we did, and it was nice.
It was also a full moon, and watching the full moon rise over the desert every night I was there sent me spinning into missing the desert.
So here (because I was tethered to my stupid family the entire time!) are a couple pictures from my hotel room, as that was really as much of the desert I got to see.
It's still beautiful though!
So the desert. So majestic and awe inspiring.
I really do miss it. Living in Arizona for a year-ish really changed me, but even the deserts outside of LA and the general dryness of San Francisco. I really miss being on the west coast.
As if you didn't know.
But to wrap this up before blabber on again...
Yes, I lost a lot of money gambling.
Yes, we went to the strip.
And yes, of course I saw the Pawn Stars pawn shop...
One other cool thing we saw on the strip...
But lo! What is that little white dot in the arch of the Feiffle Tower?
Why, that's the sign for my BIL's construction company!
He's just building a night club in the Paris Casino.
So that's pretty just whatev's, right?
Anyway, really, congrats Jess... I love you and hope that we can be better about coming out to see you guys and being a better "this side of the family" guy.
Justin, welcome to the family! I'm sure that Jessi has warned you that we're sort of weird in an unrefined/white trash sorta way, but that's more to do with our upbringing, and less to do with who we are as people.
Once you get past the shock of the brevity of knowledge of anything not on the E! channel, or from Mormon-friendly movies from the 80's, you'll come to realize that (if you like fart and burp jokes) we're funny, and (if you think being mean to people is kind) kind.
Yes, I realize you and I (and I think everyone else but my mom) disagree on politics, and probably religion, but I'd rather have a thoughtful, kind person who loves my sister and treats her right as her husband than the most liberal atheist in the world (who would that be, like George Clooney? Or Alec Baldwin? Probably Matt Damon.)
We'll just never bring it up.
At least we have the harmonious Yankee/Red Sox rivalry to come to some sort of common ground on...
You like the red sox...
Well, what are you going to do?
Not everyone's as enlightened and intelligent and as devastatingly good looking as I am, so we'll have to agree to disagree on politics (I mostly hate all politics anyways, and definitely all politicians) and we'll have to just accept that the Yankees are a far superior team, and two little world series championships in the last 93 years isn't going to change that...
Twenty fuckin' seven, buddy. Okay?
Seriously though, I look forward to spending more time with you guys, and I hope that you'll come visit, and I promise we'll make it out there more frequently.
Especially now that the Red Rock Casino has so much of my money.
Anyways, congrats, mazel tov, l'chaim, chip chip cheroo, and all that good stuff!