Four Days, Three Nights … and a Long Trip Back

If memories are measured in smiles, color last weekend an overwhelming success. There were more smiles per mile … and we put on close to 2,000 miles!

2015-07-16 11.13.19To bring you up to date — in case you haven’t been following on Facebook — nine grandchildren ages seven, eight, 10, 10, 12, 12, 15, 19 and 23, my son and I ventured on our annual mini-vacation. This year, I decided to blend history — okay, football history — with fun and frolic by taking the kids camping in Wisconsin. The feature was Brett Favre’s induction ceremony into the Packer Hall of Fame at Lambeau Field.

hatI was worried about the 12 hour trip — conveniently broken up about midpoint with a stop at my daughter’s in Ohio. But the kids did well. We left around midnight last Wednesday/Thursday so they slept most of the way to Ohio and managed to keep themselves busy en route to Wisconsin {what did we ever do without tablets?}. Of course, we had to make a few more potty stops than normal. Seems the urge hit each kid in turn as we pulled out of one travel stop, necessitating a stop at the next one … especially on the ride back.

djWe camped at Apple Creek Campgrounds, DePere, WI, which turned out to be perfect base. Everything we planned to do was within 10 miles of camp. Our campsite was on the banks of the fishing pond and a hop, skip and jump from the bathrooms/showers, rec room, pool and play area — all of which had heavy use from our crew.

ellaTo be honest, I wasn’t sure about camping. My son, his three children and my oldest grandson were experienced with tent life, but the younger ones not as much. Even my two Girl Scout granddaughters informed me after the fact they stayed in cabins when they went camping. But it worked out well. The girls had their tent … the guys theirs. They helped set them up and tear them down.

I also promised them an adventure. That they got as a microburst rolled through the campground Saturday morning. The younger ones slept through it while my son manned the tent poles through the 50 mph or so winds to keep the guys’ tent standing.

anthonyOf course, we had burgers, dogs and baked beans over the open fire and scrambled eggs and cheese with sausage and bacon {we cheated with the sausage and bacon by bringing an electric skillet} and capped the adventure with s’mores over the fire pit. In between we {I} chose non-conventional places to eat, all winners, I might add — Culver’s, Tom’s Drive-In, Perkins {a fill in brunch following the microburst since our fire pit was under water}. Happily, we made no fast-food stops, except for Kentucky Fried Chicken on the way back, but I’ll get to that later.

jonathanBy and large, we accomplished everything on our pre-trip list except for a tour of Lambeau Field. We {the kids} enjoyed the fun at the campsite, went to Badger Sports Park for a Friday afternoon of games, laser tag, go karts, batting cages and mini-golf. I enjoyed watching them have fun, taking in every smile and cherishing every “awesome” from their young mouths. Two of them even scored a hole in one in mini golf. The expression on my seven year old granddaughter’s face was priceless.

karlyWhile we missed the stadium tour because the urchins just took too long to get ready, we walked around Lambeau Field, were interviewed by a local television station {although the clip was never aired} and took in the statuary outside, including the Lambeau Leap wall. We were still a couple of hours from getting into the stadium, so we headed for Bay Beach Amusement Park {on our agenda}, a City of Green Bay owned and run amusement park/beach. It had rides for the kids {including the Zippin Pippin roller coaster, Sea Dragon, Chair Plane and Bumper Cars}. Admission and parking was FREE and tickets were a whopping 25 cents each! Zippin Pippin was four tickets.

leapWe returned to Lambeau for the ceremony. What a rush for my oldest grandson, son and me — all avid Packer backers. While most of the ceremony was seen on the giant screens, the 20 minute ovation from 67,000 fans when Favre walked out of the tunnel was — in the words of the youngest towhead, “awesome … and loud”. We sat in the bleachers for a couple of hours on the hottest day of the year in Green Bay and not once did the little troopers complain. They soaked in the ambiance and enjoyed their frozen-turning-into-melted lemonades. Occasionally one would walk up to me and sit on my lap and talk about what was going on. “Is that old man with the white hair Brett Favre?” asked one. “We saw that last night” added another as the prelude highlight reel rolled, referring to the documentary Favre 4Ever we watched in the rec center Friday night. Not bad, I thought, from a group of kids who generally didn’t know the difference between a football and a golf ball and whose casual football interest were in the Patriots, Giants and Bills.

jayAfter we broke camp Sunday, we headed home hoping for and expecting another 12 hour trip that stretched into a long day … maybe because it was, about 25 hours.

We ran into Chicago traffic, stop and go for miles leading to the Pulaski Skyway. Just before hitting the bridge, my son flashed me and we discovered his brakes were overheating. We poured some water on them and sat for awhile before nursing over the bridge and exiting in Hammond, IN. We stopped at KFC for a late lunch/early dinner to let the car sit and seek a parts store. Auto Zone didn’t have the complete right side brake parts but O’Reilly Auto Parts did and my son was prepared to make any necessary repairs in the parking lot.

kadyI have to say, that was the worst chicken I ever had, even by KFC standards. The kids sort of poked and picked at their overcooked chicken and sides and we shuttled to O’Reilly’s. There my son said the brakes felt better and he thought they would be okay. They did overheat, but sitting for about an hour or so helped. So we headed back to Ohio to drop off my oldest grandson.

taylorI didn’t intend to stay too long since we were already pushing the 12 hour mark, but one by one, the kids started asking for a snack. They were “starving.” So my daughter dutifully plated some left over chicken, cereal and pop tarts for them to eat … and better than an hour and half was spent reliving the weekend.

I told my son we would get back on the Turnpike, but pull over for a “power nap.” We could have done that at my daughter’s, but both she and her husband had work the next day and the kids were, um,  rambunctious.

timmyWe finally stopped about 1 a.m. The problem was only my son and I were tired. The kids were full of energy. It was going to the bathroom — not together but individually … talking to each other through the windows of the two vehicles … opening the door {with the light coming on} to stretch … checking on who had the charger. After a half hour, we figured we were fighting a losing a power nap battle, so we made sure they all had one more potty stop and headed back on the road.

About 3:30 a.m. my son flashed me and we pulled over at a closed gas station to stretch. Since the kids finally found sleepland, I told him we would go to the next rest area and nap ourselves. About 20 miles up the road, just as we got into Pennsylvania, the plan unfolded and we slept until about 7:30 … a little more than a power nap but a much needed sleep.

zackBy happenstance {is it ever happenstance?} I pulled off in Erie and found a Krispy Kream. Perfect for breakfast. We get in and I took one of the younger ones to the bathroom. When I came out everybody had a donut and the girl at the counter handed us a freshly baked, freshly glazed donut. It seems when the sign’s red light is on, it’s a signal donuts are being made and anyone who stops in gets a free donut. The kids watched in awe at the process from mixing ingredients, to watching the dough rise, to forming the donuts, to frying the donuts to glazing the donuts. A happy bonus and exclamation point to the trip!

There are those who say I am crazy {if they know me, they do have a point}. Others think it’s the sweetest gesture ever {I wouldn’t go that far}. But it is a fun time as I corral the grandkids for — hopefully — a memory making experience. Already I’ve received “suggestions” about the next one — a visit to Washington, DC, the Radio City Christmas Show, the Easter cruise, the Radio City Spring Show, whale watching off the coast of Maine.

Yes, thcardere were a couple of frowns over the long weekend, but each time we quickly turned them into smiles … and there were a ton of them!


This was the sixth adventure I’ve taken with the grandkids. Each one was good and each was unique. But on the smile meter, I would have to say this one was the best thus far.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Believe in miracles.

About wisdomfromafather

I'm just an ordinary guy walking along the journey of life.
This entry was posted in celebration, family, grandchildren, joy, Memories, photos, relationships, travel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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