Camping at Harrison Lake

Sunday night’s camping trip almost didn’t happen, even after booking the campsite two months in advance.

Eight o’clock Sunday morning, Aaron and I were awakened by the most amazing thunderstorm. By 10am, the rain was still going strong. By noon, the rain had abated to a drizzle, but still wasn’t letting up.

We’d already assembled everything we’d need for outdoors cooking and sleeping the night before, and had been planning to head out to Harrison Lake around 2:30pm to get there after the check-in time of 3:00. By 3:30, though, we were playing Wii Baseball and had resigned ourselves to an evening indoors, and to making our preplanned foil dinners on the grill instead of a campfire.

At 4pm, though, the rain let up and the sky started to clear. Just a little. Enough to permit camping, at least, if not swimming. So, we packed up the car, and off we went.

We arrived at Harrison Lake an hour later, after a minor detour on County Road M (props to Aaron for knowing how Fulton County roads work, and getting us past the roadblock with no problem). Located our general camping area, then headed up to the main office to check in. Bought some firewood at the camp office, and headed back to our campsite to set up.

I had been very deliberate about which campsite to reserve online; I wanted as few close neighbors as possible, plus a view of the lake. Seeing the site in person, I felt I had chosen well.

The sky was overcast, so we started pitching the tent as soon as we got situated, anticipating an early dusk. Luckily, our dome tent didn’t hold too many mysteries, and we got our shelter going on without too much fuss. It took us a little while to figure out how to assemble the fly (aka the cool tent cover thingie), but it all worked out eventually.

Shelter, check. Next order of business: fire.

We assembled the smaller pieces of firewood in the teepee formation, got out some newspaper to light the fire, and went for it. Tried log-cabin-style when the teepee didn’t work. Flopped everything in a pile when log-cabin didn’t work. Doused the logs with lighter fluid. Repeatedly. Bemoaned our lack of tinder. Felt generally inept.

Little did we know that the camp office was selling “green lumber.” One well-meaning passerby let us in on that little tidbit. “Look at that,” he said. “That ain’t even cracked. Good luck getting that to burn.”


We pilfered some more likely-looking wood from abandoned campsites — people leave it, after all, since transportation of firewood across county lines is illegal due to the spread of the emerald ash borer beetle. The additional firewood was a little help, but not much, as it was still damp from the rains. Aaron even left briefly to try to buy some better firewood elsewhere, but the local minimart had already closed.

Finally, two hours after we’d first started trying to build our campfire — yep, that’s TWO HOURS of fighting with Mother Nature — our camping neighbors presented us with a starter log. They were using a camp stove, they said, and had never used a starter log, but kept one with them just in case. They must have been watching us fight with our campfire (or lack thereof) for a couple of hours, and finally took pity on us.

The starter log did the trick. Loads of fantastic fiery chemicals made both our green lumber and our damp pilfered firewood stay lit. By this point, it was reaching dusk, and we had to wait for the fire to burn down enough to present us with sufficiently hot coals for foil packet cooking. We roasted a couple of hot dogs in the meantime; we hadn’t eaten since lunch.

Just after dark, our chicken and veggie foil meals were ready to eat: chicken breasts, mushrooms, onions, asparagus, summer squash, and green peppers cooked in a foil packet. We ate in the dark at our picnic table, wishing for a lantern. Afterward, we made some s’mores (with Hershey’s Special Dark chocolate bars) and sat around the campfire, talking and drinking bottled water (no alcohol allowed in state parks).

I’m not sure what time it was when we finally let the fire burn itself out and went to bed — sometime around midnight, I think. Aaron had bought a new air mattress and battery-powered pump for the trip; I’d ended up underinflating the bed due to my unfamiliarity with the airbed/pump combination, so whenever one of us got up, the other person’s ass touched the ground until they came back. That was the only real downside of sleeping in the tent — that, and the massive amounts of dirt we tracked in on our sandals. All night, Aaron kept waking up at unfamiliar nature sounds, and I kept waking up just wondering what time it was.

Finally, just before 8am, we heard the very loud sounds of a tanker truck pulling up and emptying the port-a-johns across the way. I couldn’t get back to sleep after that, and was up and around at 9am to try to stoke the fire. No luck, and we weren’t about to spend two hours trying to get a fire started again. We skipped breakfast and opted not to trek down to the shower house. Instead, we packed up, took a leisurely walk around part of the lake, and left around 10:30am.

On the way back through the country, we saw a billboard for The Barn Restaurant at Sauder Village, which wasn’t far from the campground. Since we hadn’t eaten breakfast, we decided to take a little side trip to The Barn for an early lunch. They opened at 11am — only a couple minutes after we pulled into their parking lot — at which point we went in and proceeded to have the best lunch buffet I’d had in quite a long time. Roasted and broasted chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, salad bar, taco bar, baked beans, rolls with apple butter, and quite possibly the best peach cobbler I’ve ever had. Ever.

And that was our first camping trip together. No swimming, very little walking or hiking, but there was s’mores and campfire cooking and sleeping in a tent. I think we’re going to try this again sometime… hopefully, when the weather will be a little more agreeable. And when we’ll be armed with a starter log.

Home On The Range

We go camping at Harrison Lake tomorrow afternoon. Neither myself nor Aaron have been really camping since Scouts back in elementary school 1, so this should be fun.

We’ve got our s’mores action going on, our new king-size air mattress to go in our never-used dome tent we got as a wedding present back in 2003, our lawn chairs and bug spray and swimsuits and sunscreen and everything (hopefully) to help us get our camping fun on.

I hope this doesn’t suck. This is more of a trial run, hence why we’re only camping for one night. If we enjoy camping, maybe we’ll do it more often. Until we’re sure, though, 3pm Sunday through noonish Monday should be a sufficient getaway.

Update, Sunday @ noon: It’s been raining since 8am. Chance of scattered thunderstorms all afternoon, all evening, and all night. Prospects aren’t looking good… but maybe we’ll pack up the car and head out, anyway, to see what Harrison Lake is like. We’ll see how things pan out….

1 This, of course, is not including the ill-fated October camping trip of the girls of 2nd floor Kohl Hall back in 1999. Amy and I were the only people with competent fire-building skills, and our RA had to purchase firewood from a neighboring RV camper. An unseasonably warm October turned coats that night, and none of us got any sleep that chilly autumn night. What had started as an “I don’t want to *know* if you have alcohol in your tent, *wink-wink*” party night ended as a 5am “Let’s get back to the dorm and get some sleep” morning.

Ohayocon7 Retrospective, Part I: Fried Bologna Sandwiches

[Posted on Flickr by dianaschnuth].

I haven’t blogged about the last few cons Aaron and I have attended, mainly because I prefer to save my opinions and narratives for Aaron’s podcast. This time, though, there are enough other random, un-anime things that deserve mention that I think I’ll go ahead and blog about the weekend. And I will begin at the beginning, with fried bologna sandwiches in Waldo, Ohio…

Ann Arbor Art Fairs

In lieu of a full rundown of the day, I present to you: The Dancing Man.

This guy was dancing in an alley, and attracting quite the crowd. It took me a moment of gawking in amusement before it occurred to me that my digital camera can record video. So, here is a little slice of fun for you, direct from the Ann Arbor Art Fairs.

My Best Friend’s Baby

…Well, my best friend from Middle School, anyway.

It occured to me that I have a backlog of lomographs that I haven’t posted, including my visit to Carolyn’s baby shower back in October (mouse over thumbnails for descriptions):


Carolyn’s mom took the pic of me and Carrie, and had a little trouble with the lomo’s shutter. It took me a while to master myself, when I first got the camera. Of course, I got some flak from Carrie for being a super web-goddess and bringing a cheap plastic camera. It was at this point that I made the fatal error of telling them how much I paid for my kitschy Lomo LC-A.

Then I got made fun of even more.

But, then again, a visit with Carolyn wouldn’t be complete with a little humor at my expense, right? 😉

Black Swamp 2004

This weekend, Amy came up to visit for the annual Black Swamp Arts Festival in Bowling Green. It’s actually a good thing that Amy got hung up at home and showed up later than planned, because we easily scanned the art booths in an hour. Honestly, we weren’t impressed this year. There was plenty of good art, but not as much that was so intriguingly different that we had to stop and look. Amy didn’t even make any purchases this year, which is really saying something. In years past, we’ve easily burned through $100 apiece.

After the booths closed at 7pm, we (that is, Aaron, Amy, Mark, and myself) had dinner at Easystreet, then indulged on fair food (mmm, funnel cakes) and hung around to see Southern Culture on the Skids. We ended up leaving after about half their set, mainly because it was so damned loud. We didn’t even stay to hear their one hit 90’s song, Camel Walk. (They probably played it as their encore.)

So, all said, the festival was a disappointment, but hanging with Amy was cool, as always. I’m kind of embarrassed that I told my co-workers that the festival was cool enough to warrant driving down from Toledo to check out. *shrug*

Weekend In Dayton

Not really in the mood to write too much, but I figured I’d post a short update about my trip to Dayton this weekend.

Mom arrived Friday evening, shortly before I got home from work. We ended up going to Ruby Tuesday’s for dinner after Aaron left for work, then getting some low-carb munchies at Wal-Mart before heading back home. —What did we do all evening? Hmm. Talked, pumped up the air mattress, played a little online. Crashed out around 11-ish, I think. Turns out Aaron came home from work early at 12:30am. (Damn… I hate it when I just miss seeing him by an hour or so.)

Left for Dayton around 9am on Saturday. Ate breakfast at a diner along the way. Arrived at Grandpa and Grandma Cook’s house in Centerville (south side of Dayton) around noon-thirty. Talked, looked at photos, copied photos with the digital (which actually seems to have worked out well), went through some genealogy with Grandpa, ate dinner, played Scrabble, called Amy and Aaron, talked on the back porch, went to bed around 10:15pm.

Got up around 7:30am on Sunday. Had a small breakfast, relaxed and talked, and left for Union around 10:15—Grandpa and Grandma had to be at church by 11am, anyway. Arrived at Amy’s house in Union (after a few missed turns) a little after 11am, to discover that Mom’s allergies go absolutely haywire in a home with two dogs and two cats. Heh. Amy was the naviguesser as we headed for a hotel to check in, then on to the Air Force Museum. Saw lots and lots of planes, some of them pretty cool, and watched an IMAX movie (narrated by Tom Cruise) about the International Space Station. Pretty friggin’ cool. Headed back to the hotel after a few hours and left Mom there to fend for herself while I went back to Amy’s house. Grilled hamburgers and bratwursts, talked with her and her grandmother, left just before dark to make my way back to the hotel. Watched the olympics with Mom. Called Aaron on the cell. Went to bed a little after 11:00.

Got up around 8:00 and packed up our stuff. Mom checked out the continental breakfast and snagged herself a small piece of danish, bringing me a small apple. Headed out toward Toledo around 9:00am or so. Arrived home at 11am. Once Aaron woke up, we went to lunch—first attempt was Quizno’s, which was insanely packed; next, we tried to get into the parking lot of the Garden Cafe on Reynolds, but the left turn just wouldn’t happen during the lunch rush; finally, we ended up at Nick’s Cafe, where Aaron and I hadn’t eaten in years. The Nickburger is immense, even without a bun; I had to ask for a box for the last third of mine. Then we visited Low Carb Solutions, where Mom bought us a crapload of low-carb goodies, and some for herself. After that, we came back to the house, relaxed for a few minutes, and Mom left for Parma around 2:00pm so Aaron and I would have some quality time together before he had to leave for work.

Overall, this was a relaxing mini-vacation weekend. Pleasant, slow-moving, and generally non-stressful, even with the driving. I snapped at Mom a couple of times, but I think she knew I didn’t really mean it. It was nice to have some real quality time with Mom, especially since she’ll be moving to Texas in a month or so, and goodness knows when we’ll make it down there for a holiday or a vacation. This could be the last quality time I get with my mother for a long, long time.

Gravity Games

Hey, remember this from the front page?

Week #1
9/7 – 9-13
No Dew Week

Week #2
9/14 – 9/20
No Pasta Week

Week #3
9/21 – 9/27
No Candy Week

Well, nix that. I’m joining Aaron on his full-on foray into Atkins, starting Monday. (That’s tomorrow.) I’ve got my Atkins profile up on their website, and checked out some recipes. Aaron’s gone full-force and bought the carb-counter book and the Atkins cookbook, and borrowed another low-carb cookbook from the library. He likes to eat more meat than I usually do, anyway, so I think the hardest thing for him is going to be cataloguing the carb content of everything that goes into his mouth.

Me, I’ve already broken myself of my Mountain Dew addiction, and I’ve pretty much cut out pasta. Those were the hard parts. Now I just have to get up early enough to eat breakfast, and remember to make myself a lunch before I go to bed the previous day (since I won’t just be grabbing a frozen meal from the freezer on my way out).

So, we’ll see how that goes. I’m looking forward to it myself.

Yesterday, Aaron and I headed out to Cleveland for the Gravity Games. For those of you who aren’t big “Extreme Sports” freaks, the Gravity Games includes skateboard vert (ramp) and street (men’s and women’s), freestyle motocross, wakeboarding, inline skating street and vert, and bike dirt, street, and vert. We watch it on NBC every year, and it’s been in Cleveland for the past couple of years, but we haven’t gotten out to watch it live. This year, though, since we got the heads-up at the Taste of Cleveland, we went out and got tickets for this bad boy.

We left around noon, and got there around two-ish. Found parking for five bucks, walked the couple blocks to the Games, brandished our tickets, received loose-fitting wristbands, opened my camera case (for no one to actually search it), and we were in. We walked around the Festival Village, which was basically the marketing and merch fairway, and got some stickers and a sampler CD of some kind. Could have gotten more stuff, had we actually been able to approach some of the booths, but the stuff we got was pretty much shoved at us by booth attendants out in the middle of the fairway.

We wandered over and found a bike dirt venue, where kids were allowed to go down a ramp and do their best trick on a five-foot dirt hill. I finished up the roll of film that was in my camera by snapping photos of the kids, and of the one guy who was running the show, who would go down the ramp occasionally, to keep it interesting. He turned a backflip almost as soon as we got there to watch, so I didn’t get that on film. 🙁

One of the great things about the Gravity Games being in Cleveland (besides the fact that it’s close enough to drive) is that your ticket gets you into the Rock Hall for half-price. So, we spent about an hour and a half, I think, wandering around the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame. And we didn’t even get upstairs! We decided that our little taste of the Rock Hall was just enough to make us want to go make a day of it sometime in the future.

Bob Burnquist, Rune Glifberg, and Andy Mac watch one of the lower-ranking skaters (Sandro Diaz?) pull off a tailgrab. (c)  Pat Wright, Gravity GamesAround 4:00, we headed out and tried to find a spot in the bleachers by the vert ramp. It took some patience, and several seat relocations, but we ended up on the top row of bleachers, right by the WKYC Channel 3 sign. (So, if you happen to watch the Gravity Games on some Sunday afternoon in the next two months, and watch the Men’s Skateboard Vert Finals, look for us.) We ended up watching the Women’s Skateboard Vert Practice and Demo, so we could have our good seats for the Men’s Finals later that evening. I spent one roll of film on the Vert ramp, so we’ll see how that comes out.

It was great being able to see some of the skaters live: Bob Burnquist, Andy MacDonald, Bucky Lasek, Pierre-Luc Gagnon, Rune Glifberg… Too bad there was no Tony Hawk, but I guess you’ll have that when you retire. *shrug*
We headed out around 9:15pm — after the Finals were over, but before the scores were announced. Made it to the car, found I-90 West, and stopped for dinner at a TGIFridays in Westlake on our way home. Got home around 12:30am or so, which is early for coming in from an out-of-town excursion. Usually it’s 3am. 🙂

So, good weekend. Yeah. And Aaron’s got the next four weeks off of work, so he’ll be home when I get home from work every day. w00t! That makes things a little better, too.

Sunday Easter Sunday

So, who’s morbidly curious about what I did for Easter?

…Thought so. But I’m going to tell you, anyway.

Headed out at 9:45am. Made it to Lakewood (about 5 miles west of downtown Cleveland) in less than two hours. Lakewood Hospital, where Memaw’s staying, is on the same street as Aaron’s grandparents’ house, so we drove past their place first, thinking maybe we could just walk from there. Alas, it was closer to five blocks than the two Aaron had originally thought, so we drove down and found a parking spot on the street (to avoid paying for parking in the parking garage).

Walked into the hospital, asked the receptionist what room Jessie Lowe was in, and followed her directions (hitting the restrooms that were conveniently located on the way). Since Mom had asked me to get hearing aid batteries for Memaw, we stopped by the nurses’ station on the way to her room to drop them off, and ended up conversing with Memaw’s personal nurse. She gave us a run-down on how Memaw was doing: her hearing aid had just plain died, she wasn’t eating, and she was generally groggy and in "what she perceives as pain." The nurse said that if Memaw doesn’t start eating, she won’t have enough strength to make it much longer. I thanked the nurse, then mentally steeled myself and led Aaron into the hospital room.

The greeting was much different than the warm welcome of Tuesday. This time, I got, "Oh, it’s you." She was much more confused this time around, and I only managed to converse with her at all by hovering two inches from her ear. We only stayed for about 15 minutes, because I saw no point in being there. Maybe it sounds callous. I don’t know. I’d just rather minimize the Memaw-as-a-confounded-invalid memories and stick with the Memaw-as-a-good-cook-and-strong-woman memories. I’m glad I came up on Tuesday, because if this had been my only "last visit" with Memaw, I would have been much more upset. I didn’t cry when we left this time, but I know I’ll be haunted by my (assumedly) final image of her watching me go and dazedly repeating, "I love you, too. I love you, too. I love you, too…"

With the depressing part of the day behind us (I know, I know, I’m being crass and callous in the face of family tragedy), we drove back down the street to Grammie and Poppa’s house. We were the first to arrive, and sat and talked with Poppa for a while, since Grammie was still at church. Five minutes after we got there, Aaron’s dad showed up in his new SUV (who’d have thunk Bob would buy an SUV?). We talked about the wedding and Aaron’s job and everyone’s various medications and unions and on and on… Grammie came home from church and joined the conversaion. it was pleasant. Then Pete’s clan showed up.

If I haven’t explained Uncle Pete’s clan, let me clarify for you. We’ve got Pete, who is Aaron’s uncle — his mother’s brother. (Poppa and Grammie are his mother’s parents.) Pete’s first wife, Peggy, the mother of his children, died some time ago. I want to say about 9 or 10 years, but I’m not sure, since I never met her. The oldest child is Megan, who is 17-almost-18. Then comes Alex (15?), Natalie (13?), and Joey (10). (I’m sure Aaron will tell me if I got any ages totally wrong.) That had been interesting enough, but there’s a recent twist: Pete just got remarried. His new wife is Deanna (yes, our names were confusing to the grandparents at first), and she has two children from her previous marriage: Sophie (16?) and Gabe (14). Most of the kids are old enough that they’re "real people" and aren’t too annoying anymore, but Joey still likes to watch Spongebob and those bizarro Dexter-type cartoons on Nick and the Cartoon Network that make me stare in confusion.

So, this should provide a better idea of the immediate insanity involved as soon as the Bura Clan arrived. …Not that I would have it any other way. A holiday at Grammie and Poppa’s wouldn’t be the same without Pete’s family.

After Aaron and I talked with Megan and Alex for a while, food was ready. We had ham and twice-baked potatoes and kielbasa and paska (polish raisin bread) and green bean casserole (a Bura family staple) and Poppa’s famous salad and there was horseradish and we had a lamb-shaped cake for dessert. Grammie forgot to put out the sweet potatoes, so we all divvied them up and took them home afterward, along with all the other leftovers.

We stayed until 8:00pm, just talking and watching TV (and being bored while Joey monopolized the television with weird cartoons). Aaron and I ended up being the last to leave. Overall, it was a good time, as usual.

I guess maybe I always took my family for granted, since we were always together, anyway. We had big meals on special occasions, but never had any other family over. Mom, Memaw, Aunt Sammie, my cousin Michael, and I all lived together, and rarely lived close to other family, so that was it. No cousins or other grandparents or other aunts or uncles to visit or invite over. Now I’m finding that I enjoy this "visiting family" thing. Even going to visit Mom and Gary for a day is enjoyable (to an extent — the less Gary, the better, I’m afraid).

Now, just to be sure to end the entry on a down note… when we got home at 10:20pm, Mom had left a message on the answering machine not 15 minutes earlier. She was upset that, when she went to go visit Memaw, "the lights were on, but no one was home." She asked me to e-mail her, which I did, pretty much detailing what I detailed here about my visit. I told her it made it a little easier for me, seeing Memaw like that. That way, when she goes, I won’t feel like she could have had a few more good years left in her. I’ll know she was ready to go.

When Mom e-mailed me back today, she had this to say:

"You look into the eyes of the first person you remember, the friend you had before you had friends, the one who taught you all the basics from how to go to the bathroom, get dressed, eat, talk even, and the body’s there but she isn’t. When I worked in the nursing home, I used to think the families of those folks were so cruel to not visit more often; now I understand, it wasn’t that they didn’t love them, it was that they loved them too much to see them that way."