This year it seems we made every possible effort to be away from home over the 4th of July weekend...
On Saturday, we were invited up to the same camp where we celebrated the 4th last year. While last year was definitely a "top ten" kinda day, this year was only a "top twenty" as DD is away visiting family for the week.
As with any good outing, it starts by packing the car with food, drinks and gear...
Then, we've got to get it all unloaded once we get there. Fortunately, my porta-minion (DS) was helping to carry the paddles, and later the new life-jackets that we bought for he and DW.
This year we were smart and were strategically early...
Note the nearly vacant front lawn...
The weather was perfect - not too hot, not too humid, not too sunny and amazingly I didn't notice many mosquitoes. Then again, I did spend the better part of the day out on the water in my boat. I should be ashamed, really as this is the first time I've been out this year. The location is a rural camp on a man-made pond and natural beauty surrounds you wherever you look:
This year, DS decided he definitely wanted to go paddling. Partially, I think he was looking forward to seeing a young lady who is a classmate of his who was there last year. While initially timid, he finally decided that he wanted to paddle the hostess's blue plastic kayak. I must say, with the wooden boats at his disposal, I don't know why he chose that one, except that it probably "felt right" to him. DW got into the Charlotte - much to my amazement. So, with everybody properly kitted out with their brand-new PFD and a borrowed boat, the three of us headed down the pond.
Not long after our return, DS decided that another trip was required. Down the pond he and I went again:
...and back around to the dock.
As you can tell from the pictures, the weather was perfect and the water pleasantly warm for so early in the season.
As the afternoon wore on, more guests arrived and the party next door was in full swing. The neighbors with the cabin next door are actually folks that I went to High School with and have known for years as are quite a few of their guests. I later found out that their parents (who are no longer with us) started the tradition of the 4th at the "lake" 35 years ago. The boys are carrying on the tradition in fine style with live music and a great time.
DS's friend arrived and I took the two of them out for another paddle. We paddled down the pond towards the dam and stopped for a minute to visit with two of my boat-building students who have a camp at the pond as well. The patience of my two paddling partners wore thin and I had to leave, chasing them up the pond. When we returned, the two of them played in the shallow water near the shore for a long time, enjoying each other's company.
Just prior to dinner time, DS decided that a little fishing was in order. So, with borrowed rod, tackle and canoe, we headed across the pond for a little fishing and more quality time. DS hasn't done much fishing and was having a hard time getting the mechanics of pressing the release button at the appropriate time to cast. Eventually, he got the hang of it and was casting the lure a decent distance. Not being much of a fisherman, I was much relieved that he caught little other than pond weed, although he did have a few nibbles.
Quite a few people as you can see from the lean on this swim dock.
Dinner was a truly impressive affair with prodigious quantities of grilled ribs and chicken, hot dogs and sausage, bowls of fresh fruit, salads and cole-slaw of many kinds. If you were hungry, it was your own fault. Dessert followed at a respectable pace for those who could manage to find a little room after dinner. I'll have to say that I couldn't give the desserts the respect that they deserved!
As the sun set, party-goers reluctantly dragged themselves out of the water and changed into warm dry gear for the evening's main event.
DS's classmate and her mother generously stopped by with some glow-bracelets for the kids on the dock which was certainly loaded to capacity with people chatting and passing the time away.
The folks at the cabin next door put on a display of fireworks that is truly impressive. They tow out an old aluminum rowboat that is the launch platform. A canoe, which was loaded beyond belief (Heaped well over the gunwales - almost chest height!) with boxes of fireworks stood off at a distance from the rowboat. The main fusilier is in a small kayak and carries the boxes of fireworks one at a time over to the rowboat and lights them. It takes a minute or two between boxes, but it was well worth it. They put on a display with patriotic music playing that lasted about 45 minutes - each box probably held about a dozen shells that were very impressive:
Other camps around the lake also had their own fireworks displays launched from shore - sometimes one or two, sometimes a whole barrage. Often they'd be shooting them off as the rowboat was re-stocked. Fireworks were going off nearly continuously and sometimes you had a difficult time choosing where to look. I will say that there is a sense of competition going on here - the displays from other camps were much more impressive than they were the previous year!
We finally departed at about 10:15 PM and DS was asleep in his car seat before we even got to the end of the road. When we got home, he went straight up to his room and fell asleep in his clothes!
The next morning we slept in and were generally lazy. We had an invite to a picnic at a classmate's house in the afternoon and the weather wasn't looking promising. It started to rain - OK pour - at about 10 AM and was still raining when I left to pick up a few things at the grocery store for our contribution to the food. It continued to rain as I got home and prepared the food. We left in the rain and arrived at the picnic in the rain. The host had fortunately thought to get another awning to keep food and people dry. It is a good thing that my friends are hearty stock because it was well attended - only a few invitees didn't show.
The groaning board was truly well-laden and again, we ate much too much...
Eventually, the rain stopped and we had a few peeks of sunshine. The kids played in some inflatable pools and squirted the hose and waterguns at each other, while parents watched, were occasionally sprayed and chatted with one-another. Much to DW's chagrin, DS got into the water action in a big way. I say this because we'd told him to bring a swimsuit and towel anticipating pool and water play. He refused - "I'm not going to swim in the pool and I'm not going to get wet!" Yeah, right. Shortly after arrival he was soaked to the skin.
Mud and wet bits of grass stuck to the children seemed to be the rule:
A cold glass of beer with friends wasn't unwelcome...
When we finally arrived home, DS's major complaint was that he was hungry. Hungry? We just left a party with all kinds of things to eat and you're hungry? It seems that at the party his only intake was a few cookies, lemonade and some watermelon. What? no ribs, chicken, burgers, hot-dogs, pulled pork? No salads, corn-on-the cob (best of the season, too!) cole-slaw or veggies?
The kid needs to ditch the "air and Cheerios" diet.
On Monday - the 4th, we got up relatively early and picked up my father. We were headed for a wonderful parade at a nearby town. This parade is a real "Norman Rockwell" experience with a country parade with all the trimmings, a petting-zoo, craft exhibition, fireman's muster, games and entertainment for the kids and all the trimmings you'd expect with a small town parade. It's like you turned the clock back 50 years - and it is wonderful!
The parade opens with a state police cruiser followed by the town police chief. Military veterans, politicians and scouts follow along with some home-spun entries, horses, cattle, floats, antique cars and trucks and finally the volunteer fire-fighters bring up the rear.
We arrived a bit later than usual for the parade and were situated right at the start. DW picked a spot in the sun and it was HOT. I was sweating just sitting there. I went through a bottle of water and was just praying for a cool breeze.
Did I mention that it was hot?
DS managed to catch his usual quota of candy thrown from various floats and vehicles as they passed by...
After the parade, we were invited over to a friend's house for a barbecue. It was a nice quiet affair after the past two days with 8 adults and 4 children. My friend is a former co-worker and the builder of a beautiful sea kayak - a very clever and handy guy. His wife, also a good friend is the sister of a high school classmate and he and his family were the other attendees. A few red, white and blue corn chips, salsa and guacamole to start and again, the tables were well-laden with wonderful things. There was shade and a breeze and it had cooled down a bit after our medium-rare experience at the parade.
I really need to say something about this friend's house. His parents bought it from a farmer (along with a woodlot) as a summer camp. It's landlocked in the famer's property and the camp is located at the edge of the fields. Both the farmer and my friend's parents have both passed away and the current generations do what they can to help each other out. It is a peaceful and bucolic location - cows browsing just behind you over the stone walls on occasion. The pace is just different here and I think that it's wonderful.
It's such a small town that the one of the farmers who works the land - here turning over hay that afternoon - is the police chief and a volunteer firefighter for the town! He and his brothers also helped my friend split wood the last two years.
DS brought his binoculars so that he could go "cow watching". He was good enough to share and play with my classmate's son.
I think the true highlight of the day for the two youngsters wasn't actually the parade - it was the trip down to the back fields and into the woods to go see an old sugar-house in my friend's little 4-wheel-drive Kubota!