Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Devil in the Den

...still camping with kids

It’s still so fun to go camping with the children. We packed and as we made one last circle through the neighborhood cul-de-sac, to retrieve yet one more forgotten belonging, my husband remarked, “It’s great to drive through a million dollar neighborhood feeling like the Clampetts.” We had bikes bungied to the back and our kettle and we were loaded for possum.

The grub boxes save me all the hassle in packing. We just inventory the boxes once a year to see if the MRE’s were pulled for an unexpected dinner party and then we are off. It’s like a camp trailer in a box. Call me if you want the lists—they are on Excel. (I have pulled off the appearance of being organized and it’s taken twenty years).

It’s always a great experience camping in Oklahoma. The key here is “after Labor Day and before Memorial.” The rest of the time, all the lakes and campsites are uninhabitable because of the varmints and critters that come out in the heat. (It makes clothing optional—and Oklahoma is #2 in the nation for lard butt, so it’s something we avoid.)

We visited Devils Den this year and had a much better time this year than last. Our trip began on a more auspicious note, in the light and without the downpour and a two-inch river flowing through the tent site. We also called ahead and reserved a campsite of our own, not one purloined from a no-show. It’s hard to camp with the truck still packed, kneeling on the end of the tailgate, trying to dutch oven cook in the camper shell, and all the while, ready to pack and go should the no-show show.

The Osarks were alive with color and Arkansas is delightful in the fall. (The husdand tells me that I didn’t see the Ozarks, but yes we were in Arkansas so I’m half right.) The dam there has been reconstructed and the flash flood damage is nearly fixed. There was no fishing or rafting… to late in the season, but the spelunking was great! The bat colonies there keep the mosquitoes in check, but they are a little disconcerting to cave with.

We crawled over, and sidled through caverns and canyons in these caves and counted 105 bats on the way in (and this is in very tight quarters.) The youngest child couldn’t stand it any longer and he petted one. He said it felt fluffy and the wings were boney (not bonny). The food was fabulous as usual, because it was the same menu as usual, dutch oven shepherds pie (Thank you Aunt Shelley) and rolls, burgers, and dutch oven cobbler.

I think we had most of the stuff packed from last year. Thanks to that grub box! Soon, I won’t have to repack anything, we’ll just skim off and eat leftovers from the previous trip! The husband even discovered in our same site, people who met and married while working for him.
They can’t get away from work and him despite their attempts. We made them join us for dessert, (cobbler in Arkansas still isn’t gluten free—so I abstained) as a night cap.

The boys bailed to the tent, but the daughter fought the teenagerism and stayed out and visited. Everyone, my recommendation is to bag the Trial Lake fees to drive up there, to park, to look at the scenery, let alone to camp and just come to Oklahoma and camp in Arkansas for the fall. Hot showers and flush toilets make the $9.00 price tag per night fabulous, in spite of the yodeling girl scout troop across the way.

There is no other assurance that indeed, Life is beautiful.

Monday, August 1, 2005

Brake and Blink--Teen Driver

I would like to personally thank the senator that passed the bill mandating that all drivers must attend a drivers education class.

In the beginning I thought it was a good idea that all teen drivers are required to know how to drive before they set off on the state’s highways. But, now I have a 15 ½ year old pre-driver and I’m disconcerted to find that the law applies to us. What were they thinking? I am told over the grape vine (my teen’s peers) that she must drive six months before she can apply for a license, and to drive she must get a learners permit.

We go to the licensing division. We stand in an hour long line and finally reach the sign on the wall inside that tells what forms and documentation we should have in order to even qualify to stand in the line. Oops. Back now with a minimum of information, proof that her school offers drivers ed., proof that she is alive, (birth certificate) and proof that she is a citizen of the United States (a social security number), we again rejoin the line with other kids her age and compare notes with them. “Is this all we need?” They aren’t sure either. She makes it through the gauntlet and takes a written test (computerized and multiple choice), and misses three, which is almost the limit I’m told, by the guy ahead of me who has taken the test four times and missed six and who finally decided to study for it.

Then I ask the examiner when can she drive, what time of day, and with whom? The examiner doesn’t know, They tell me to ask when we walk across to the tag agency, where we will pay and get her permit. When we do, they don’t know either.

So, here I am, with a new teen driver with no experience and with a brand new permit ready and roaring to go. Rumor has it, again through the grape vine that she can drive with anyone over 21 in the front seat! That’s all she needs to know! She’s off. Which is the gas pedal again?

Sometime in the near future, she hope to get her driving permit, so eventually she’ll have to show up to some drivers education class and the teacher will proceed to undo the mistakes I’ve drilled into her brain. It may take years of deprogramming to correct the mistakes, and until then, I wonder if the senators have made the roads any safer? I don’t know. Maybe someday I’ll look up the law and see what the bill maker really intended. But until then, we’re driving.

P.S. Does anyone have a magnetic sticker for the back of my car that says, “Warning: Passenger Side Driver”. This car brakes, turns, and blinks for no apparent reason.