Every year, the White family who are Darren’s friends, gather for Memorial Day camping at their property in Southern Illinois. I’ve gone camping with them two years, in 2005 & 2006, but I haven’t joined them in several years for a variety of reasons including the RSA conference, other work I needed to do, and getting married. This year, as I am done my dissertation and may not get a chance to go back next year, I decided to go and see everyone again. Here’s my top ten list of the camping trip this year:
10. Bug spray. One of the deterrents that keeps me away from Melfest is the ticks. In 2006, I found a tick on my back about a week after Melfest. I pulled it off and brought it to the doctor’s office, and as it turned out, it was a dog tick and not a deer tick, so I was safe. Thanks to the bug spray, I only found 3 ticks on me this year, and they pulled off pretty easily. We looked them up on the iphone and this type (can’t remember what it’s called) don’t carry Lyme disease, which is a plus.
9. Air mattress. I am not very comfortable sleeping because my carpal tunnel tends to make my arms hurt at night. However, I find sleeping on the air mattress even more comfortable than sleeping in beds. I slept very well on Friday and Saturday nights.
8. Beautiful scenery. Unlike the rest of Illinois that is flat and surrounded by corn fields, Southern Illinois is actually quite beautiful. It’s nice to see the scenery change on the drive.
7. Lots of down time. I was surprised the first time I went Melfest camping at how little we did all weekend long. Meals come slow, and there’s a lot of sitting around on camp chairs and reading, playing card games, or in my case, knitting. I got a fair bit of work done on my sock before it got too hot to knit on Sunday.
6. Hotel room. When Rebecca suggested I stay with her in a hotel room on Sunday night, I was relieved. As it turned out, Sunday was the worst day. The gnats entirely ignored the bug spray and continually surrounded us, flying into our noses, ears, and mouths. It also got much warmer out. At about 7:30PM, we arrived at the hotel room and took showers, played card games, and chatted. It was a very nice evening.
5. Pig roast. Every year Mike White roasts a whole pig on the fire pit and makes sauce and beans to go with it. I’ve never tasted a pig as delicious as a whole roasted pig. The vegetarian in me should not enjoy it so much, but I am comforted in knowing that other vegetarians annually make an exception for this one meat meal.
4. Yellow Moon cafe and iPads. On Saturday afternoon, after the wine trail (which is #2 of the top ten), Darren, Jacob, Amber, and I made a visit to the Yellow Moon cafe for a cup of coffee and a milkshake. It turned out they don’t have milkshakes anymore, but they do have wireless internet, so Amber & I went back to the car to get ours and Darren’s iPads. It felt incredibly like cheating on camping to recklessly check our email and other things, but it was really fun.
3. Cooking on the fire and campstove. One thing I do really enjoy about camping is the food. Food cooked on the fire just tastes really good! On Saturday morning, Darren made bacon & eggs, and Mel made pancakes for breakfast. Saturday night we had brats and asparagus cooked on the fire. Sunday morning, Darren made breakfast burritos with eggs, cheese, mushrooms, onions, and leftover bacon. And of course Sunday evening was the pig roast. All of the food was delicious.
2. Wine trail. Though I had been on the wine trail before, I was really looking forward to it this year. Southern Illinois has fabulous fruit wines that are relatively inexpensive at between $12-$14 (we bought one special bottle that was $19, and that was the most expensive). Darren really likes sweet wine so it’s perfect for him. We bought 8 bottles total and 1 was a gift, so we stayed very close to our 6 bottle limit. I planned to bring my handy wine bottle bag from Trader Joe’s, but sadly forgot it. Oh well, next time.
1. Seeing old friends, and their babies! Many of Darren’s friends have had babies in the past few years, and there were four or so babies there that I met for the first time. I wish I had gotten better pictures of them, but here’s one of Miranda, Mel & Ray’s baby (from Seattle). Also, Erin & Jeff came and brought Edwin (from St. Louis), Jess & Sarah brought Thela (from Kansas), and Mattie & Mike (from St. Louis) were there with Eva. There were older children as well ranging from 3-13ish, and some of Darren’s other friends who don’t yet have babies: Charlotte (visiting from Korea), Tim & Rebecca (from the Bay area), and Jacob & Amber (from Colorado). So it was great to see so many familiar faces and have a chance to catch up.
Just as an aside, after seeing all the iPads at Spring Fling and Geekway, I decided to take the plunge and get one of my own. I also decided it was time for a new desktop computer as mine is about 5 years old. So last week I went to the apple store on campus and got a 27″ iMac and an iPad 2 (the wireless only version). So far, I am loving my new toys. There are lots of games that we play out for the iPad, and so far I’ve downloaded Ra, Medici, Tichu, and Neuroshima Hex. I also got the Goodreader app for pdfs which allows me to highlight and take notes, which will be handy for knitting patterns. Finally, I bought a zinio subscription to Interweave knits. I really wanted one to Interweave crochet as well, but sadly they don’t offer one. It seems silly to me but what do I know about crocheters and the internet? I am looking for recommendations for apps if you have any!