Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Last Man Camping

In NJ, the teachers' union has written into the contracts that all teachers must be allowed to attend the annual teachers' convention in Atlantic City the first week in November. It's on Thursday and Friday. I don't know how many teachers actually attend, but it means we get a 4 day weekend every November. Add to that the fact that our district closes the schools whenever there is a major election (not sure if it's logistics, since voting is mostly in schools, or fear of terrorists), and we had a pretty useless "week" of school last week. Monday and Wednesday. If I had more guts (or less integrity?) I would pull my kids out, like so many other families did, but no, we sent them to school on Wednesday.

We had dropped off the trailer at a campground in Lancaster County PA on the previous Saturday, because John was in London until Thursday afternoon. So Wednesday after school, I packed up my three kids, all the clothes we'd need including winter gear, food for 4 days, pillows, firewood, etc., and we picked up JC's best friend Adam and all HIS stuff. Of course, it was raining, and dark because the time changed. The good news was that roller hockey was cancelled, so we could leave on Wednesday. But the Suburban was PACKED - Adam's mom made brownies and coffee cake for us, and they actually went under William's feet (he's short, you know) because there was no other room in the car.

We stopped for dinner on the way, and got to the campground about 9:30pm. Unpacked the car (mostly) and cleared off the spare bunk for Adam, and hit the sack. Thursday was grey and drizzly, but not really rainy. The kids opted to go to Intercourse. There's a lovely little pedestrian mall there, and we walked around looking in all the little shops. And I'm a sucker - I bought them kettle corn, fudge, sodas, beef jerky, pretzels... We found a lovely quilting shop with a little quilting museum on the second floor. The kids made quilt patterns with blocks. We tried to go to the Toy Train Museum, but it was closed on weekdays this time of year, so we went to the Pennsylvania Railroad Museum and looked at and climbed on real trains.

We spent the evening making dinner and building a campfire (Adam was happy to play with fire). The two other families we were camping with arrived that evening. Friday, John drove out to join us, and we ended up splitting up. The dads took the kids mini golfing, and I got to go outlet shopping with the womenfolk.

Lancaster County has a large Amish and Mennonite population, and this Pennsylvania Dutch heritage is all over the place. For tourists, one of the manifestations is the smorgasbord. Technically, it's more of a buffet. Our friends prefer the Shady Maple Smorgasbord, and it is truly an astounding place. It is GIGANTIC, seating hundreds of people at once, and with probably a hundred or more dishes to choose from. The food is good, not great, in my opinion, but since it's their favorite, that's where we went. For someone on a diet, it was... challenging, but I did pretty well. I had a little bit of a lot of different foods that I like, and if it wasn't a favorite, I didn't bother. I even had dessert - one small piece of shoo fly pie, which unfortunately wasn't as good as it looked.

Saturday dawned grey, and started raining while I was making the pancakes on our outdoor griddle - let me just say that holding an umbrella while pouring pancakes took three hands. But it stopped raining after breakfast, and we split up again to hit the OTHER gigantic outlet mall in Lancaster. However, this time I took John's car, and was able to join up with the guys and kids after they did the Toy Train Museum (truly a charming place). We went to the PA RR museum again - but this time, they were having a special event for Veteran's Day.

(To be continued...)

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