Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Tampa Adventure: Day 1

[Composed: 5/19/2023]

Surely we confused the gate agent checking us into our flight this morning. We were schlepping four bags for a weekend trip to Tampa, Florida. Who does that?

While one bag contained clothes for the weekend, the other three contained camping supplies. Our plan was to overnight with our nieces and nephew in the nearby Hillsborough River State Park. We figured that sleeping overnight at the campground on Friday, and spending all day Saturday playing in the park would make for a fun adventure. Sure, it meant bringing 2 tents, 6 sleeping bags and countless other bits of gear across the country, but it was so going to be worth it.

Our flight was among the smoothest we could remember, and we thoroughly enjoyed lunch at our go to Vietnamese spot: Thịnh An Kitchen & Tofu. Our trip to Walmart to pick up fuel and Frog Toggs rain gear was effortless, as was the trip to Publix to pick up food for the weekend. You can find our gear and food list here if you're curious what it takes to power a camping trip like this.

Because after school activities caused the kids to get out relatively late in the day, Shira and I zipped over to the campground to set up tents and prepare the site. We then went back to my Brother and Sister-in-Law's home to pick up the kids and finally start our adventure.

Once we had the kids, we had to make two more stops: one to pick up Kosher marshmallows and the other to pick up large wooden skewers to cook hotdogs and marshmallows on. It was touch and go there for a moment as to whether we would find both of these items, but ultimately, we did. Whew.

With camp basically set up, we jumped right into starting dinner when we arrived and the kids all helped. This was G's first time camping, so she was especially excited to cook over an open fire and sleep in a tent. The kids navigated dinner well and before we knew it, it was getting dark.

I'd thought I'd been prepared for camp life in the dark, but my plans quickly went off the rails. I'd arranged for each of the kids to have their own headlamp, two of which were apparently not fully charged and died. And, I'd neglected to set up any sort of site-wide lighting. This is normal for backpacking, but I'd forgotten how handy it is when car camping to have lighting that covers more than individual flashlights.

We solved the first problem by recharging the dead headlamps in the car. This had the kids back in business in about 30 minutes. While recharging them was smart, the fact that we did it in our car shows just how much of car camping newbies we are. The site included electricity, yet it never occurred to us to actually use it.

The second challenge I solved with a bit of duct tape. The USB rechargeable pump we use to inflate our air mattresses includes a built in light. I taped the light to the tip of a marshmallow roasting stick, and then taped the stick to our container of oats. The result was an improvised lantern which did an impressive job of both lighting our site as well serving as a beacon for the kids to return to after hitting the bathroom.

While Shira took D and G to the bathroom to brush their teeth, T and I were hanging out back at camp. We heard a rustling sound nearby, and I assumed it was a squirrel. I shined my flashlight in the direction of the noise, and sure enough, it was an armadillo. That's not a typical camp visitor for us in Virginia. I was worried T might not love seeing critters just a few feet from where she and the other kids were sleeping, but she was nonplussed by the whole thing. She thought the armadillo was cute and that was about it.

After regaling the other kids with our run in with 'army' it was time to call it a night. Shira suggested the kids sleep in one tent and we sleep in another. I thought for sure they would be too skittish for this arrangement. But I was wrong: the kids took to their tent and in relatively short order, they were asleep.

After doing some final cleanup, we too climbed into our tent. We were exhausted from a long day, but it had totally been worth it. I wasn't sure what tomorrow was going to bring, but we'd done it: we'd dragged the kids camping and fun was being had. Whoo!

No comments:

Post a Comment