We left Pokagon State Park an hour or two later than planned (story of our lives) because the professor had disassembled the cavernous tent he’d shared with his brother and four kids. (See previous comment about camping being a lot of work.)
We’d driven about forty-five minutes when the professor realized he’d left our slightly useless, roaming-charges-only cell phone……in his brother’s glove compartment.
It wouldn’t have been a complete disaster, except we’d made plans to meet his parents ‘somewhere’ in Saugatuck. And we were going to be rather late.
If only I made these things up.
So we forged on, two hours late, looking for pay phones along Highway 89 in Western Michigan, getting lost in the under-construction-abyss that is Battle Creek. It was not the perfect family outing I’d envisioned.
We found a pay phone at a run-down gas station, an hour outside of Saugatuck. The professor got a hold of his parents and updated them on our predicament and whereabouts. He assured them we were on our way and would meet them….’in the harbor’…in Saugatuck.
We arrived in the scenic town and stopped at a coffee shop we’d frequented the summer before. The professor and the Hen walked to the waterfront while I hung out with number one and number three. The scouts returned many minutes later, having been unsuccessful in finding either his parents or a working pay phone.
He returned to the car-van to grab a laptop. Apparently we travel with two laptops, but zero cellphones. Finally we connected with the senior Johnsons….on Skype, of all things.
After a quick lunch, and a brief stroll around town to find buckets and shovels, we headed to the Saugatuck Dunes State Park. ‘Remember, it’s a bit of a walk to get to the beach,’ the professor warned his over-eager spawn, who seemed to have erased from their minds any memories of the hot, bug-filled hike to the beach last year.
Despite the less-than-ideal start, it was a perfect day to be at the beach. A mere 84 degrees, the forest was cool and bug-free, and the one-mile hike seemed considerably shorter than it did last year. Perhaps because we were only carrying one boy-child, instead of two. ‘The water is perfect,’ a fellow beachgoer sighed as she passed us on the way back to her car.
We emerged from our tree-lined tunnel into the bright light and hot sand of the beach and the boys made a beeline for the water. It was as pretty as I’d remembered it and I couldn’t believe I’d thought the camp beach was ‘almost as good’.
Someone had dug a tidal pool in the sand where Percy took up residence. The Gort ventured far out into the water as though he’d become an expert swimmer, and the Hen jumped in the waves with a crazy smile on his face.
I surveyed the scene. It was well worth seven hours in the car to have these happy minutes, I decided.
Two and a half hours later we walked back to the car. A walk that was filled with weeping and gnashing of teeth. Percy wanted to walk – without shoes. The Hen wanted to be carried. The Gort was upset about something; the details of which escape me now. And I’d nearly collapsed in a pile of unfitness after walking up the dune and into the forest. Another one-mile hike that is, literally, uphill both ways was unfathomable.
But we made it. And we changed into sandless clothes. The boys said goodbye to their grandparents, and we headed back to Indiana…in search of dinner. We stopped at the Pie Pantry adjacent to the orchard where we picked (barely ripe) peaches last year.
‘So, did you have fun today,’ the professor asked his oldest son while we waited for our dinner to arrive. ‘No,’ came the sullen reply. ‘But you laughed, and we couldn’t even get you to come out of the water – you looked like you were having a great time,’ the professor pressed. Perplexed.
‘It was a crying-laugh,’ the Gort informed his father. And we choked back the impolite laughter that threatened to expose us as heartless parents who didn’t even know their son’s ‘I’m having the best time of my life’ face was really a cry for help.
‘Well, can you show me the crying-laugh so I’ll know next time,’ the professor asked. And the Gort proceeded to demonstrate some pitiful mixture of fake tears and laughter and we ate our salads and our pie and drove back to Indiana.
Stopping at the Pokagon State Park along the way, to pick up our thoroughly uncharged cell phone.