Tag Archives: family trip

Family, meet the U.P. U.P. meet the Family Part 2: The Camp Experience

Life has been crazy the past couple of months. I finished up school at Great Lakes in Chicago, flew home to Virginia, then hit the road to visit family in Texas (I’ll expand on that at a later date). There are a lot of unknowns surrounding my family and me lately. While it hasn’t been easy to deal with, we have been pressing on and focusing on the future. I imagine when everything is wrapped up and settled, I’ll put pen to paper to reflect and laugh at much of it. I know I’ve left you with a cliffhanger and some vague information, so, now, a continuation of our family trip to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

We had arrived. We unloaded the kiddos and took a quick tour, from the Millionaire to Conway Lake. Then we headed over to the “Tupa” to check out our quarters for the next week. Tupa is Finnish for “little cabin”. It is the size of an efficiency apartment. Inside were the bunk beds my brother and I shared as kids, an air mattress and a small kitchenette. It was a blank canvas ready to be worked on. Krissi and I unloaded the truck and got settled in.

We went over to the Millionaire for dinner. It was a keto diet special, burgers without buns. My Aunt Ruth had prepared them for everyone. After dinner the kids took a dip in the lake. There is nothing like getting all washed up and clean with a lake bath. It gets you close to nature. By the end of “getting cleaned up” nature’s way, the matresses were calling our names…Ben, Krissi, Kash, Lincoln! Exhaustion was upon us and it was time to get some good, solid rest. Now, it doesn’t get dark until around 10 p.m. in the U.P. during mid-summer. Of course, we had to explain to Kash why it was time to go to sleep while the sun was still visible. And, after convincing the Sandwich maker that a bear wasn’t going to bust through the door and eat us, we finally zonked out.

Camp is a calming, yet amazing experience. There is no cell service and plenty of forest to run around in. You have to hall in your drinking and cooking water. There is a pump from the lake to fill the trash cans used for flushing toilets and washing dishes. Did I mention that you have to use a bucket to flush the toilet? There is an abundance of fish to catch with a few rowboats and canoes for lake cruising. The mosquitoes are as big as a small horse and will leave a welt on you the size of Georgia with a single bite. They can also be as thick as Black Friday shoppers at Wal-Mart at midnight.

I remember as a child always running through the woods, playing in the lake and attempting to catch fish (it has never been a strong suit of mine). My Nanny helped me catch a small garder snake, named him Conway. We took him back to Texas as a pet. We would hike to Lake Superior and climb Breakfast Roll. My cousins and I would build forts and explore the area around camp (we did most of this without parental supervision) for hours and hours on end. The sauna would be fired up throughout the day for our use. If you ever get the chance to use a wood burning stove sauna, do it. A lot of saunas now-a-days are electric. I enjoy pouring water on the hot rocks and choking on the rush of steam (it really opens up the lungs, ha). This trip, I took the time to learn what makes camp tick. I am at the age where I want to invest in learning the responsibilities that my parents had when I was a young’un. I started with the sauna. It wasn’t difficult, just simply starting a fire in a cast iron stove and keeping it fed. This meant keeping the wood pile stacked and the stove clear of ashes. We used it to relax and bathe. Both the kids enjoyed a sauna bath. We would stick them in dish washing bins. Hot Rod found enjoyment in splashing water everywhere, while Kash was all about using the ladle to bathe herself with.

We had the pleasure of Alexis and Ali (two of my cousin’s daughters) join us for a couple of days. They took Kash under their wings and showed her the ropes of being a kid out there. They took her to the fort in the woods, out of sight. There was some hesitation from Krissi (because of bears), but it was calmed by the “screams” of fun and laughter. They had a blast! We took a canoe ride later that day. It was a bit windy, which made for a fight on the way back to shore. Come to find out, it was both Krissi’s and Kash’s first time in a canoe. As dinner approached, we made our way over to Chris and Dave’s (GramB’s cousins) for a meal. They were the next camp down and live there full time during summer. Rachael and her dog Dude met us out there. Dinner was full of great food, good drinks, and superb conversation. Dave took the girls for a tour of his wood shop and Hot Rod crashed from all the excitement he experienced. We had some ice cream for desert and then headed back to “our place”. After we got back to camp and put the kiddos to sleep, Rachael, Krissi and I relaxed on the porch of the Tupa. We swapped stories and enjoyed some more adult beverages.

I could go on and on about camp. This just covered the first couple of days. There is still Lake Superior, adventures in Marquette and shenanigans at Pike Lake I want to share. I’ll save those for another day. My time up there has always been limited, leaving me to cram as many activities as I can into a short time. Camp is a real vacation from society. It forces you to put down the electronics and get your hands dirty. You can see an endless number of stars at night and hike through nature at it’s core. Kids make the forest their playground and adults can enjoy the calm of nature. It is truly a one-of-a-kind experience.

Do work, be rad

Mustache

Family, meet the U.P. U.P. meet the Family. Part 1: Road Trip!

It was a Tuesday. The Sandwich maker, Hot Rod and I loaded up in the truck to pick up our girl from her dad’s house. I was re-enlisting later that morning and wanted the whole family to be there. While I could ceremony and certificate, I knew the wife and kids would get a kick out of being there. The ceremony was quick and to the point. The kids were recognized for putting up with me, and ended up stealing the show with their personalities. It is a great feeling to know you are supported by the ones you love.

We got back to the house and loaded up for our great adventure. Prior to getting on the road, a good hearty meal is the number one “to-do” for me. The wife and kids had never driven more than 4 hours anywhere before. This drive was going to be at least 18 hours. We decided to stop in at the small cafe where Maw-maw works to grab a bite to eat before hitting the road. It was 3 p.m. when we wrapped up our pre-trip meal and we were finally on the road. Our original route had us driving through the D.C. area. Siri recommended that we take a different route, saving us from the traffic and about 10 min. of drive time (Siri didn’t know we had kids with us – go figure). We decided, why not, and took the detour “she” recommended. It just so happened the new route took us right next to Krissi’s dad’s house. Maybe “she” knows more than we thought! We stopped in for an hour or so, said hi, let the kid’s run-a-muck, then we were back on the road. Krissi took over as pilot and made it to the beginning of the Pennsylvania turnpike. We decided to drive through the night, switching out as needed.

It was a great idea. We made the most distance driving at night while the kids slept. I made it about halfway into Ohio and Krissi got us about a third of the way into Michigan. We arrived at the Mackinac Bridge around 9 a.m. As we crossed the bridge, the air began to freshen and the foliage became lush and rich in color. The sky had a brighter color of blue than usual. Well, not exactly. It was cloudy and raining off and on. But Lake Michigan was a deep, rich blue. Krissi and the kiddos were amazed by the beauty of the U.P. and it was just the tip of what was in store.

After crossing the great Mackinac Bridge, Krissi noticed the plethora of smoked fish and pasty signs along the highway. What is a pasty?

Note: A pasty is a “meat pie” or “pot pie without the pot”. There is a history about it, but in the U.P., the miners used to take them to work for lunch. The U.P. has a Cornish and Finnish background, where the pasty originated.

We stopped at the White Tail Café/Resort on US Highway 2 to grab a couple of pasties, 1 beef and 1 bison. As we pulled back onto the highway, Krissi began to dispense the food to the three of us. Both Sweet Pea and the Sandwich maker were fans. A couple of hours later, we arrived at the Ore Dock in Marquette, MI. It felt great to be back. We hopped out of the truck and looked for GramB and Grump’s, but they were nowhere to be found. Then, from a distance, I spotted my father’s dome piece (he’s tall). They were on the other side of the parking lot making their way toward us. While Krissi was putting Kash together, Lincoln and I made our way to them. Linx was pumped, Kash was pumped, GramB was pumped, everyone was pumped! We took some photos at the Ore Dock, made a couple stops in Marquette, and then headed out to Big Bay.

The Millionaire, or Camp, is about a 20 min drive from Big Bay on a dirt road (black top to dirt, to two rut with many pot holes). After a stop at Cram’s in Big Bay for some ice, we arrived at the Huron Mountain Club gate. The drive was green and you could still smell the rain on all the bushes and trees (literal forest) that lined the road. The weather was cool and cloudy. Everyone was antsy to get to our destination. It seemed the longest part of our drive. We were ready to be done with wheels turning over the miles. After a few more twists and turns, we pulled into camp, the Millionaire, Conway Lake. We had arrived.

Do work, bed rad

Mustache

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pasty

https://www.hu.mtu.edu/vup/pasty/history.htm

Going to start something new. Just a little blurb about anything. Could be about current events, happenings in life or about boobs. It will only last as long as a quickie. Enjoy.

My wife and I were bee-bopping around Marquette, MI this past summer and stopped in at a thrift store. We were looking for a lamp to put in the Tupa at camp. As I was standing in line to pay, she brought up a corduroy, lime green trucker hat. It was the most glorious hat I had ever gazed upon. I threw it on the counter and paid for it. I wore it the rest of the time the family and I were in the U.P. When we left, I decided to leave it there so I would always have a hat to wear at camp. Until next time camp hat.

70 dollars for an UBER: a story of first world problems and meeting new people.

I haven’t put finger to Word in a while now. We took a sweet family vacation to the upper peninsula of Michigan a few weeks ago and now I am going to school up here in Great Lakes. I usually jot down some notes in my Bieber book and transfer them onto the computer. There has been a lack of computer access, so here I am, thumbing away on my phone, hoping to avoid misspelled words and typos. I have plenty to transcribe from my book, but was avoiding using my phone for this. There is a lot I want to publish, but with the moving prep and traveling over the past couple months, it has been a low priority. I have been at Great Lakes for a couple weeks now, going to school for the man. The flight up here was nice. There was time for a pre-flight beer (hydration is key) and I was stoked about checking 3 bags with no extra cost. The flight was also delayed for about 45 minutes, so I was able to get a good jump on a book. It’s called Where Do You Get Your Ideas From? by Fred White. It was a bargain book I picked up at Barnes & Noble. It has gone over some basic ways to keep your mind engaged and creativity flowing. It’s interactive with exercises to get the juices flowing. With all the free time I have right now, figured it wouldn’t hurt. We will see how it pans out.

Since arriving, I’ve had the pleasure of reconnecting with some guys I served with at past commands and build some new relationships with those I have met. Last weekend, I made my way to go see a movie. I figured it would be simple. Walk to the front gate, catch an Uber, and enjoy my evening. While I did enjoy my evening, it turned out to be the most expensive movie I have ever seen. The man has a funny way of restricting operations of certain businesses and Uber is on of them. I went to schedule a ride and was given to options, UBER black or premium. The black was $70! I assumed it was because I was scheduling a ride vs looking for one on the spot, no big deal. I ventured out to the main gate, periodically checking for Uber availability. The price kept dropping, but only by a dollar here and there. Nothing significant. When I reached the main gate area, the price had come down to around $60, and no Uber X option. I saw some people get dropped off in Uber’s but no pick ups. After about 10 min of observing and refreshing my Uber app, I decided to call a cab (the movie wasn’t going to wait for me after all). I struck up a conversation with the driver as soon as he picked me up. He was a Navy vet who enjoyed motorcycles (he looked the part) and we swapped some sea stories. We talked about Uber and I found out how it had been banned from picking people up due to a few instances where the driver had been a crook. It’s always fun and interesting to hear what the completion (cab driver) has to say about their opposition. After a quick detour due to the flooding that occurred earlier that week, he dropped me off at the theatre. I always base my cab/Uber rides on how the conversation goes. I gave it an eight out of ten.

They had a bar at the theatre, which was a win. A couple whiskey/gingers later and I was off to see my movie. I stopped by the concession stand and picked up a chicken and waffle sandwich. It was a good pickup. Tender fried chicken in between two waffles with curly fries. I watched the new Spider-man movie. It was entertaining and I liked the new spin they put on the story and character without losing the audience. It was dark when I exited the theatre, maybe around 9. I was able to grab an Uber to ride back to base.

My driver was one of the more interesting people I have met in my Uber travels. We talked about his life and where he wants to go. I asked if he drove part time and what he did as a day job. “Boy, do I have a story to tell you,” he responded. Besides driving for Uber on the side, he sold insurance, is a published poet, has some songs on iTunes, and was in the process of casting a play he had written to premier next year. The songs on iTunes are part of an album he is putting together and his book on amazon is a collection of poems he has written. He was pumped to tell me about all his endeavors; his enthusiasm got me excited to check out his work. His book is called Listen 411 and his play is called a A Youth Served, check them out. I wished him well once he dropped me off and began the trek back to my hotel room.

It was good to get some “me” time outside of my hotel room. It cost me more to get a ride there and back than it did for the movie, but it was worth it. I appreciated the opportunity to meet these two gentlemen and and hope the best for them. It’s always good to get out of your comfort zone and strike up random conversations with those you don’t know. You may find a new perspective or meet the love of your life (or your next ex).

Do work, be rad

Mustache

An adventure, the devil, and great-grandma

This trip snuck up on us.  We had planned it a couple months out, and next thing you know it was here.  I almost wanted to break this story into two parts, but then I stopped being a little girl and finished it.  I become impatient when I write sometimes, especially when my message or story in my head gets ahead of my notes.  I know how I want it to end, and sometimes rush to get there.  I am listening to Childish Gambino (Camp), drinking a Cattywompus (it’s a fancy IPA by Devils Backbone), and Hot Rod is in his high chair eating some cheerios next to me.  Kash was a party pooper (she felt a little under the weather this evening) and fell asleep watching Zootopia on the couch.

I began finalizing this on Memorial Day.  I have found the best way for me to honor those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice, is to no let their death be in vain. Celebrate them, raise a glass, and continue to live your life. Enjoy the freedoms you have, but never forget those men and women who have died defending those freedoms.

IMG_0281
James River off of the Monitor-Merrimack Bridge Tunnel

It was 430 AM on Saturday morning.  The sandwich maker and I rolled out of bed and drug our ass’s downstairs to get ready for our mini road trip. I immediately went for a quick shot of strike force and took a shower. We quickly loaded up the jeep (we forgot the watermelon) and started on our short journey to Krissi’s great-grandmothers house. The kids had spent the night with Maw-Maw, and rode with her for the duration of our trip.  For the record, Krissi’s mother is a lunatic and in denial. And no, we are not talking about the river in Egypt. But, we love her anyway. She is a great Maw-Maw and is always down to take the kids off our hands. The kiddos love here and Gran-daddy (probably because of the brownies the eat over there, ha). We wouldn’t trade them for the world. It gave Krissi and I some adventure time without the kiddos.  The drive up was relatively quiet, minus some a-hole driving dangerously around some 18-wheelers.  We stopped for gas in Crozet, VA and had a quick bite at Legacy Markets. This ended up being the best gas station ever. Made to order breakfast, walk in beer cooler, and an upstairs patio to enjoy the view.  The breakfast burrito I had was delicious and so was the coffee (if you are ever traveling on 64 near there, check it out).  We hopped back onto the highway and continued on towards Natural Bridge State Park (we were stopping the before going to grandma’s).  We met up with Maw-Maw at the Pink Cadillac Diner for some more breakfast.  Another neat joint.  It was very 50’s-esque and the building was, wait for it…… pink. There was a small wait, enough to make Hot Rod antsy and fussy.  He had been satisfied through the trip thus far, but he was itching to move around.  He attempted to eat most everything he could get his hands on, but soon discovered how some things aren’t that tasty.  Once we sat down, it took both Krissi and I to keep Hot Rod from tearing down the building.  Kash was focused on eating her food and “brought her manners,” as she says. Lincoln figured out he could stand in the restaurant high chair (it didn’t have straps) and would attempt to grab anything but his food. He somehow was able to snatch a piece of toast off Krissi’s plate (he really just caught a moment when Krissi and I weren’t watching him).  Once he had that toast, he was content. He propped his foot up and chowed down.  We wrapped up breakfast and finished our trek to the natural bridge.

IMG_0285
The bridge isn’t bigger than her personality

The Natural Bridge was amazing.  Words and pictures will not be able to capture it’s size and glory.  As you walked underneath, it would rain on you and there were plenty of smalls streams along the trails.  We were able to borrow a toddler carrier for Lincoln and we used the Boba for Kash.  The toddler carrier was perfect.  It was easy to get him comfortable and simple to adjust for comfort. It was rad listening to Lincoln baby talk his way throughout the hike.  I would occasionally use my phone to see how he was doing (I later discovered a small mirror attached to it, after the fact) and record his monologues. He would play with my hat and want to touch the surrounding nature.  The layout of the trail followed Cedar Creek, a tributary of the James River.  Along the trail was a living history camp set up.  It was of the Monacan Indians, and it had a few hut’s, frontiersman trading post and live cooking demonstrations.  One lady was building a new hut, tying together the timber used to build the bones of it. We continued on along the trail to a creek crossing. I took advantage of a sweet bench by the bank to put Hot Rod down for a few minutes. IMG_0321Kash saw a bunch of snakes and of course wanted to pick them up.  They weren’t deadly and seemed used to the traffic, they didn’t flinch at all when you got close to them.  The trail doubled back from that point, continuing along a limestone wall on one side and the creek on the other.  It was a fairly straight shot from there until the end.  I gave Lincoln the opportunity to touch the rocks, and of course he tried to eat them.  Once we made it to the end (or turn around point), we sat down and took some obligatory family pictures where the kids weren’t looking and I have the same smile in all of them.  Both kids were tired at this point. Kash didn’t know if she wanted to ride in the Boba or walk and Lincoln was upset when he couldn’t touch anything.  As we headed back, Lincoln fell asleep.  Kash pressed on, enjoying the ride on Krissi’s back.  IMG_0362We passed by all the attractions we had seen before, but once again slowed down and took in the sight of the bridge.  It still hadn’t lost any amazement. The real kicker in the trail is climb up the stairs you walked down in the beginning. And it’s a steep climb. My legs were burning at the end.  We loaded back up in the vehicles and made our way to grandmas’.

We didn’t initially realize it, but we had driven past her (grandma’s) house and hour before we arrived at the Natural Bridge.  So, on our way there, Krissi and I broke off to go check out Devil’s Backbone Brewing Company.

Devil’s Backbone makes one of my favorite beers, the Vienna Lager. It’s a go-to beer for me.  Their other brews are delicious, but not as common as the lager.  We pulled into the parking lot, and immediately became excited to see where the magic happens.  The crowd was small, as they had just opened. The tasting room was smaller than expected, but the assortment of beers was great (as it should have been).  We went super-touristy and grabbed a flight (for those who don’t know what that is, it’s a sample of X number of beers to see which ones you like).  There were fancy beers and down to earth beers, all were delicious. At the brewery is where I began to jot down my notes for this post. Once we were finished, we grabbed a case of beer (for $20, I might add) and set out for our destination.  We finally arrived at g-ma’s house.

We took a load off and Krissi’s brother gave me a tour of the place. There is a lot of history in that house. From the foundation (it was literally built on a rock) to the pictures of relatives from the late 1800’s.

IMG_2173
The rock

We checked out the shed’s and garages and found some neat (in my opinion) stuff. There were some old woodworking hand tools, an early model chainsaw, and a dead snake.  Grandma showed me her porcelain doll collection and some of the tools needed to make them from scratch. Later on, in the evening, Krissi and I went out to dinner in Harrisonburg.
One of her friend’s son goes to JMU and works at a local joint in town. We had some food and drinks and made our way back to the house. By the time we got back, everyone was asleep. It was like being an adolescent again, sneaking through the creaking house hoping not to wake anyone.

IMG_2175
Block plane

The next morning, we held a small surprise breakfast birthday party for Krissi’s great-grandmother.  All of the aunts and uncles on Krissi’s mom’s side of the family showed up with some food and conversation.  I cooked the bacon and Krissi coordinated the rest. The whole family crammed into the tiny kitchen to sing her a happy birthday. Once the cake had been dispersed and reminiscing had quieted, the crowd began to filter out.  Kash was outside with her cousin, attempting to bust open a geode we bought at the natural bridge. Krissi used a pick axe to break it open finally.  Hot Rod had some fun with all of the relatives and crashed out in his pack-and-play.  Around noon, Krissi and I loaded up the Jeep and headed home. We hit fog early on and stopped in at one of the scenic views to check it out. It was smooth sailing until we hit Ft. Eustis. Typical fender bender causing a ridiculous amount of traffic. Once we got home, we unpacked, showered and relaxed until the kiddos arrived.  It was good to have them home. Kids went into the tub and then it was movie time.  We all crashed early that night. All the fun and adventure of the weekend had finally taken its toll.

 

Do work, be rad

Mustache