I spent 2 hours drawing a cartoon of my camper in Microsoft Paint.
Yes, I had 1,000 other things to do.
No, they didn’t get done.
All good things must come to an end, as was true with our Williamsburg vacation. We enjoyed a sunny Thursday at Virginia Beach and a quick trip back to Colonial Williamsburg. Two of the highlights of our last day was a ride in an ox cart and our time spent at Patriots at Play where the kids got to do many hands-on activities.
We left just enough Historic Triangle activities undone so that we’ll have to go back again in a few years. Oh, darn!
The Census of 2010 reported that 20% of the population of the United States was 10-years or younger. 21 million of those children were under the age of 6. Kidshealth.org reports that the average 4-year-old is 40 inches tall. That means approximately 1 in 7 people living in the US are 3 feet or shorter.
So WHY on earth doesn’t anyone put stools in their public restrooms?!?
Taking a newly-potty-trained toddler to the restroom is hard enough as it is. They don’t fit on the seat, they’re terrified of the self-flushing toilets, and the two of us barely fit in the tiny stall together. Despite my insistence they don’t touch anything, they manage to rest their hands on nearly every surface. After wrangling their clothes back on, then trying to use the toilet myself while repeating “don’t you dare open that door until I’m finished!” at least 4 times, I am then forced to balance my 30lb toddler on one raised knee while simultaneously turning on the water and squeezing the soap dispenser while they do a half-assed job of washing their own hands.
I’ll delay my rant about changing tables for another day, but at least one can argue that those are expensive ($400 or more). But a stool? 50 bucks, and you only need one in each room. I have great appreciation for businesses who provide a lower sink, but they are few and far between. I adore business that provide a mini-toilet for little butts (thank you, Knoebels), but I’ve seen that maybe three times in my life. Trust me, moms and dads know what each public bathroom in their community provides and we are more likely to patronize a business if we know we can easily change a diaper or avoid bathroom acrobatics.
No, bathroom stools won’t solve world hunger or house the homeless, but a hungry homeless person with a toddler would probably still appreciate a stool then next time they have to take them to a public restroom.
Our morning in historic Jamestown started off a little rocky when it failed to catch the interest of the littles. By lunchtime, they were fully engaged and especially enjoyed the Voorhees museum because it had real skeletons. Also, giving James a phone and telling him he’s making a movie increases his interest significantly. We will remember this trick in the future.
Even better for the kids than historic Jamestown was the Jamestown Settlement. Because it’s more of a reenactment, they got to do tons of hands-on activities and explore ships and buildings. It’s a good thing we did that second because otherwise historic Jamestown would’ve been a big disappointment for them.
We wrapped up our day back in Williamsburg with a delicious dinner at Shield’s Tavern.
It’s hard believe September is over – especially since we now have to wait an entire year to go on our annual “Fair Week Vacation.” Every year, the thousands of people descending on our town to visit the Bloomsburg Fair make it impossible for buses to transport students safely. As a result, all the county schools shut down for the week and many locals take the opportunity to go on an off-season vacation.
This year, we headed to the historical triangle to visit Williamsburg, Yorktown, and Jamestown with a stop at Virginia Beach. It was a timely field trip because all three of our kids are obsessed with the Broadway musical Hamilton. We squeezed in as much as we could, while leaving enough to give us a reason to go back one day.
For our stay, we chose Anvil Campground. It made for an excellent basecamp. We were 7 minutes from Colonial Williamsburg. The campground was clean and well-maintained. The family owners obviously take great pride in their property. The sites were close, but we weren’t looking for a state park, we were looking for a great location with nice amenities and Anvil Campground delivered. One warning: there is a very-active train track bordering one side of the property. If you are a light sleeper, this may not be the campground for you. We slept just fine.
We did so many fun things that I’ve broken our trip down into smaller videos. Check out the first two:
When it comes to camping, we are usually state park fans. Most Pennsylvania state parks come with playgrounds, small camp shops, good hiking and fishing, and somewhere to swim – either a man-made beach or pool. Also, you can stay at a state park for less than $30 a night. The downsides are that there are rarely full hook-ups (or even water) and that liquor is prohibited (although if you don’t get rowdy and use unmarked cups you’re usually fine). Also, the bathrooms tend to be dirty because they only get cleaned once each day.
In the past, we’ve stayed at a few private campgrounds, but we’ve never tried a KOA (Kampgrounds of America). We have friends who are kind of new to camping, so we wanted to give them the full hook-up experience. Upon recommendation for some regulars, we booked two sites at Nittany Mountain KOA in New Columbia, PA over Labor Day weekend.
Even though the weather was quite rainy, the kids had an absolute blast all weekend. The grown-ups were relieved there was so much for the kids to do. The highlights for us were all the activities: petting zoo, dance party, bounce pad, mini golf, etc. The kids’ favorite part was the free zip-line. I was most impressed with how quiet it was.
The only drawbacks were the price and the lack of security. We paid $200 for three nights. That is pretty standard for KOAs and it is how they can provide all those amenities and services, so I understand the cost. What I don’t understand is why that cost doesn’t include decent security. At both the private and public campgrounds we’ve visited, there is almost always visible security patrolling the campground. Not once did I see anyone driving around to make sure all was well. As a result, we encountered large cliques of teenagers, most of whom were from seasonal sites. Some of the cliques were fine, but there was a lot of foul language around little ones and some bullying going on around the playground. At one point, the adults in our party had to stand in the playground like we were on playground duty until they stopped blocking the younger ones from using the playground equipment. Once, a group of teenage boys dismantled some of the toddler equipment and our girls had to report it to management. A more-present security staff would go a long way toward discouraging this kind of behavior.
Overall, we had a very nice weekend, but I don’t see us becoming KOA regulars. Particularly if we are camping at a distant location where sight-seeing is our main goal, I can’t see paying that amount when we wouldn’t be around to use all the amenities. That being said, I can definitely see us staying at another KOA in the future.
Last weekend, we camped at Watkins Glen state park. We’re not racing fans, so we’ve never been in the area before. What a mistake! The best part was hiking the Gorge Trail next to the campground. Because of heavy rains the proceeding weeks, the falls were really powerful.
The trail wasn’t crowded when we started at 9:30am, but by the time we were finishing up, it was getting harder to get past people on the trail. I would recommend getting there early if you want to avoid the crowd. Also, wear waterproof shoes because the rocky path can get really wet.
We will definitely be back to hike more of the park and also check out the lake. Maybe we’ll make it an adults-only trip and hit some wineries too!
Check out a video of our hike on the Gorge Trail:
I see you.
I see you posting photos of your manicured toenails in the sand with the surf in the background, your sleeping toddler curled up on her towel, your family wearing matching shirts while sitting on an abandoned lifeguard chair. I look at your pictures and I can smell the sea air and taste the crab cakes. Envy wells up inside me as I imagine planting my lounge chair at the shoreline and letting the water wash over my un-manicured toes. I lament that we have neither the time nor the extra money this summer for a beach vacation.
Then, one of my children tattles on another while running down the hall and I remember: I am no longer a beach person.
I’ve been on quite a few beach vacations, and I love the idea of going to the beach, but since becoming a mom I find a day at the beach to be exhausting. Maybe the rest of you have mastered the art of family beaching, but as a mother with small children I do very little actual relaxing on the beach because I’m too busy keeping our offspring from washing away with the tide. If they’re not in the water, they’re covered from head to toe like a donut that has been glazed with sunscreen and sweat then rolled in sand sprinkles. Heaven forbid they rub their eyes. Also, reapplying sunscreen over sand without causing brush burns is about is difficult as it sounds.
When I finally get back to my hotel or rental house, much of the beach has come back with me in my car. Before I can bathe the kids, I have to find a discrete spot where I can strip them down and cover them in powder to get the sand off their bodies before I stick them in the shower. Then, I have to vacuum up the sand AND the powder. Inevitably, there is still sand remaining on their bodies and only half of it rinses down the shower drain. They all go to bed with sand still stuck to their scalps, but we’ve paid so much money to be here we do it all again the next day.
Yeah, I know. Memories are being made, my kids will appreciate the trip when they’re older, blah, blah, blah. I’m not saying I’d turn down a free trip to the beach or that we’ll never go again. But, as I’m pining over beach pictures on my Facebook and Instagram feeds, it helps to remember that the cute baby in the photo probably has heat rash and sand stuck is his fat rolls. The smiling toddler is probably crying now because her Dollar-Store sand toys washed away in the surf, and neither of their parents can drink away the whining with a cool beer because they have to keep their little ones from wandering down the beach and going home with another family.
Who knows, maybe we’ll go to the beach next year. Meanwhile, I’ll enjoy my glass of wine on my porch while my kids don’t drown in our grass.
Camping season is on!
Back in April, we did a trial run with our new camper, a Coleman Light 2855BH, but this Memorial Day weekend was our first official trip of the season. We camp annually at Lake Glory campground, which is part of Knoebels Amusement Resort.
Check out our weekend in the video below!