That would be the motto for this year's camping trip: So much better than last year.
Remember last year at Lake Wakonda? Let me sum up: hot, no shade, a pond of liquefied goose poop next to the campsite, bad bad tattoos, MethMom, the Bataan Death Trail, windstorm destroying the girls' tent, the flea market attack, the boil order, the trip to the golden corral.
This year wasn't like that at all. It was really good. Really hot, but really good. We returned to Onondaga Cave State Park (last year it was flooded, hence the ill-fated last-minute decision to go to Wakonda). Lower loop basic campground. We played in the Meramec, took the cave tour, ate good food, chatted, the whole thing. We didn't play mah jongg--but it was really hot even by evening. And we were chatting.
The only moment was Friday night about 3:00 in the morning. I woke up to the wind, and saw distant lightning. It was like some sort of primal instinct--no, it was more like PTSD, I would think, based on last year's traumatic thunderstorm. I was up out of that tent and running across the campsite to the girls' tent to get my kids. A couple of girls (there were 5 in all in the tent, two of them mine) had awakened and were trying to get their bearings. The wind was so strong and loud. I got one girl to her tent, where her parents, sheltered at the edge of the campground, were out of the wind and not awake yet. Mike stayed at the girls' tent passing girls out of it to other adults like the last flight out of Saigon.
One family got in their car and drove away to find cell coverage to see what this was--was it just going to blow over, the edge of a storm, or were we in for it. We, actually pretty methodically, tied down things that might blow away, stuck other things in our car, moved the few things in our tent to the center away from the walls (we'd learned from last year to keep most things in the car anyway). We sat in the car trying to find weather on the radio, and I mumbled about wishing I'd brought my weather radio...like Sam wishing he'd brought some rope. Neighbors came back and reported: the storm was north of 44, we were on the southern edge. So we returned to our tents and lasted out the night. If it hadn't been for last year, we probably would have done that anyway--although the wind really was whipping the tents around pretty good.
The rest of the trip was great. I spent most of the time saying "this is so much better than last year," and remember, it was 90+ degrees each day. It wasn't perfect. It was just really great.
These four families--we spend a lot of time in meta-conversations, about how nice it is to have neighbors like us. Other neighbors on the block, too--not just us four. How sometimes when we talk about our neighbors and other people who don't live here say, "oh, we have good neighbors too" and I have to smile and nod, thinking to myself, no you don't. You have somebody to feed your dog when you go on vacation, sure, but you don't have this. No one has this.
Yay that we do.
On a side note, as I started writing this, I googled Wakonda so I could remember how to spell it. And I found a press release. The swimming beach and lake at Wakonda was closed for the weekend and into next week. Reason? High e.coli levels in the water. The maximum average level is 126 e.coli colonies per 100 mL of water, or for a single sample is 235 colonies/100 mL. Wakonda had 1986/100mL this week. More than 8 times the allowable level for a single sample. Bleah.
I knew that place was awful.