Indiana Fun

Lots of Laughter. Check.

Lots of wet bathing suits. Check.

Rekindling relationships among cousins. Check.

Teamwork. Check.

Fun. Check.

Smiles. Smiles. Smiles. Check. Check. Check.

The players … Kaydee, Addi, Timothy, Gavin, Ella, Karly, Nikki, Joe, DJ, Dee, Me and Anthony

From the check marks, I would say Grandpa’s yearly great adventure with the grandkids was a success!

This year was our third camping junket in an eight-year series of adventures linking the generations. As the seven preceding it, there was nary a hitch — largely because, while I am good with planning adventures, I somewhat fall short on organizing the in-between times so I surround myself with those planners to keep things smooth. My daughter Deanna and her friend Nikki took care of the details and my son Joe and grandson-turned-chaperone Anthony helped keep the brood together. Thanks, guys! Without you these trips wouldn’t be as successful.

Dee and Joe

In all, there were 12 of us — myself, my chaperones, grandkids DJ, Timothy, Karly, Ella, Kaydee and Gavin and adopted granddaughter Abbi.

This all came about after Karen died. I didn’t know anything about Christmas shopping, so I got this crazy idea about gathering the grandkids together for some special trip. Over the years, we’ve seen the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Show in Cleveland, New York and Boston, went on an Easter cruise, a whirlwind trip to the Jersey shore/Carlo’s Bakery/ferry ride/Empire State Building and camping trips to Green Bay, WI, for the Brett Favre Packers Hall of Fame Induction {among other things} and Maine for hiking in Acadia, an afternoon at Playland Adventure and whale watching.

Fun at the lake

But back to this year. We called Circle B Campground in Angola, IN, our almost week-long home. But the adventure included a trip to Albanese Candy in Merrillville (the other side of the state, almost Illinois), the Indiana Dunes, Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park in Fremont and the Black Pine Animal Sanctuary in Albion. Yeah, from my Maine location, that’s about 1,076 miles — stretched a little further because we zig zagged through the back roads of Indiana — each way. Loved every mile!

The campground was perfect. The “boys” and “girls” campers were a couple hundred yards away, so there was always the intermingling I hoped for. The kids enjoyed the walk to the showers and bathrooms — go figure — and playing in their choice of playgrounds. But, most of all, they enjoyed the lake! They splished. They splashed. They swam. They floated. Remarkably, they pretty much stayed together — or at least in pairs — which meant keeping track of them was a lot easier. My 14 year grandson DJ designed a sand castle on our last day, complete with a moat and dam leading to a serpentine egress to the lake. He found a toy boat and at the appropriate time, unearthed the dam to float the boat into the lake with oohs and aahs from his cousins and newfound friends.

Capping the trip, my two older grandsons — Zach and his wife Kristine and my great-granddaughter Addi and Ryan and his girlfriend Maddy — showed up Saturday for time on the beach. How lucky can a grandpa be?

Candy Land

The candy factory was our first real “adventure”. All I can say is the reactions were like kids in a candy store! A very large, sprawling candy store!

We took the self guided tour since the “windows” were closed for maintenance, but received a gummy goodie bag at the end. And then the fun began as they flitted from one end of the sprawling store to the other picking out gummies and chocolates and other confections. While they all had eyes bigger than their tummies, they didn’t break the bank.

From there we headed to the Dunes. We had a picnic lunch at the Visitor Center, where I learned about the Three Dune Challenge. At just 1.5 miles, I figured, how hard could it be. So I challenged the troops to the Challenge.

I did try!

It was just 1.5 miles, but it literally meant climbing up three sandy dunes — a total of 552 vertical feet at angles ranging from 20-30 degrees to better than 45 degrees.

What! There’s more?







I confess, I only made it to the first dune — hours {okay, minutes, but it seemed like hours} after my crew ascended to the peak of the first dune. Mt. Jackson, 176 feet high with a 31 degree slope. Amid gasps and gulps of water, I announced I was just going to roll back to the parking lot {actually Joe walked back with me … I guess he thought I would have a heart attack or something}. But the rest of the troup carried on to Mt. Holden which sits at 184 feet; and finally Mt. Tom, the tallest sand dune in Indiana Dunes State Park with an elevation of 192 feet. The reward was magnificent views of Lake Michigan, a sense of accomplishment and stickers and a t-shirt that proudly proclaims “The 3 Dunes Challenge”.

Everyone in the pool at Jellystone

Sisters from different mothers

Next we prepared for a day at Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park. We got off to a later than expected start because of breakfast — who knew the grandkids could scarf down two pounds of bacon and a few dozen eggs. The intent was to let the kids play in the pool/splash park for awhile, maybe take in a mini-putt game, go out for dinner and maybe back to our campground for a campfire and smores. We never got to mini-putt, and by the time we ate, it was too late to start a fire. We couldn’t get them out of the pools/splash park!

The laughter and seeing them playing and getting along together was the best tradeoff.

At the Sanctuary

Friday we hit the sanctuary after donning our official Team Grandpa shirts for our “official portrait” courtesy of one of our camping neighbors. The tour got off to a tense start when the orientation guide asked if there were any questions and nine year old Timmy asked, “What does the fox say?” Hmm. The guide didn’t see the humor.

But we had an intern as our actual habitat guide. Nicole, although not with an engaging personality, was open to questions from the group … even some silly ones tweeners might ask.

Then it was back to Circle B for sausage and peppers and a night of swimming and conversation. Saturday was reserved for campground day capped with a party on the beach with hot dogs, a live dj, contests and dancing. The girls jumped right in … my boys were a little more reserved.

Of course, as we broke camp, there were plenty of hugs, kisses and thank yous. And the inevitable question, “What are we doing next year Grandpa?”

Over the years, we’ve been through blizzards, microbursts, 100 degree heat in Green Bay {who would have thought that was even possible?} and sore legs from walking. I’m proud to say we never lost a kid {that’s not to say we might have WANTED to} and it’s been fun watching them grow and interact with their cousins. Over the years there have been a couple of frowns over the long weekends, but each time we {my chaperones and I} quickly turned them into smiles … and there were a ton of them! This year, I can honestly say there were no frowns — although my chaperones might have felt a little frazzled along the way.

The troops

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 — another memory making experience.

What will we do next year? Hopefully make some more memories!

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: You may not love your work, but it makes a difference when you work for love.




About wisdomfromafather

I'm just an ordinary guy walking along the journey of life.
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