The First Swaintly Family Trip

Last updated on December 18, 2018

Our first family road trip, it was a long one.

And why shouldn’t it have been?  We rarely do things in half-measure.  Which is why this is going to get stretched out over a few days.  It’s a lot.

Pre-Game Preps

Thank the gods I know how to work on cars.  I changed the oil, air filter, and spark plugs, and I got the AC charged up.  Damn good thing, too, because it was hot as balls through the whole trip.  Global warming is real, folks.  All told, once I did a little calculating, that probably saved about $600 right there.  We were already ahead of the curve.

Craig helped me install the trailer hitch, and we were all good to go.  The trailer from U-Haul was picked up on Sunday and packed the same day…

But first, where the heck was the wheelchair ramp that we were supposed to get on Friday?  What’s a “Friday”?  What’s a “wheelchair ramp”?  What’s “supposed to”?  Pisshaw, you silly humans.

See, I’d deliberately ordered this awesome wheelchair ramp from Discount Ramps because they could have it delivered by Friday – plenty of time to put it on the car and make sure that it worked.  But Friday came and went, and no wheelchair ramp.  Saturday, I’m told by multiple people that we might be able to get it delivered, but no, that’s also not how it happened.  Before we were able to leave, we had to go pick up the wheelchair ramp from the UPS distribution center and just hope that it would work the way it was intended.

Because Daniel has a wheelchair.  He needs it.  He can walk, but it’s not a good idea.  (More on why that’s true a little later.)  Also, we fully intended for this ramp to double as a cargo platform.  It’s pretty damned important.

The First Leg: Monday into Tuesday

The first step was to get Miles to Wisconsin to rendezvous with his new flatmates.  We’d originally intended to leave by 8 in in the morning, which would probably put us at his new digs around midnight.  But, as per the previous ramp problem and having to get all that sorted, we didn’t really leave town until 11.

That would have put us in town at around 4 am, and no one should be bothering the neighbors like that as their first introduction.  We called ahead and suggested that we nap for a few hours and get there at 7 or 8.

No, the other roommate just had surgery and wanted us there closer to 11.

… okay, no biggie.  Maybe he doesn’t realize we just drove fifteen freaking hours, but whatever.

Through the power of the internet, I found a couple of friends who were native to the St Louis area and were able to find us a safe Walmart parking lot in which to sleep until a decent hour.  (Traveler’s Note: Most Walmarts do allow this unless it’s specifically posted.  If you see RVs parked towards the outside of the lot, it’s totally okay.  They’d rather you be alive to spend your money there.)

We woke up and headed the rest of the way up to Madison, where we played the Keep the Garage Door Open Game and found the demise of a single bookshelf as the only loss of the trip to that point.  Once the trailer was emptied of Miles’ things, we put the ramp together, got the wheelchair and a good portion of our things on it, and headed out to Adventure!

Tuesday as the First Test of Camp-atibility

See what I did there?

It was already too late to try to hit any serious tourist attractions, so we headed over to Lake Kegonsa State Park for an overnight camp.  On the way, we picked up a tent (something we wouldn’t have had room for at the start) and food and charcoal and such.  We got to the park, paid for the site, and set up camp for our first family camping trip.

Now, some of y’all might recall that I did a lot of camping when I was a kid, and Craig did a reasonable amount himself, but none of the boys had slept in a state park (so far as we know).  I wasn’t going to make them hunt or fish or anything like that this first time out, so we grilled hot dogs – just like the fire pit at home, which was part of why we’d decided to have a fire pit in the first place instead of a grill.  It was all part of the plan.

What was their favorite part of this?  (Hell, what was the favorite of all of us…)


So many fireflies!  They were everywhere, deep in the forest – and the forest around there was thick.

We lucked out and got a site right next to the loo (which was a very nice brick building with motion-activated lights and compost toilets), and the water spigot was only a short trek down the path.  There was a fire pit and a nice picnic table, and plenty of room to set up the eight-man tent.

We brought sleeping bags and blankets and pillows.

You know what we didn’t bring?

Rubber mats or air mattresses, both of which we own.

This is one of the few regrets.  We know better for next time.

Adventuring with Boys Who Love Cheese

We slept probably a little later than was ideal on Wednesday morning, but no biggie.  I got up and made coffee and breakfast (like you do), did a little pretend-laundry, got the meds done, the whole nine yards.  The boys got up and goofed around for a bit, and we looked at nature up close.

Then, it was clearly time to do a mandatory Wisconsin thing.

We went to the National Cheesemaking Museum.

Collin really likes cheese.  Like, really likes cheese.

This is Collin watching the video about modern cheese making methods before we got to the old school methods walking through the old factory that makes cheese only once a year  We found out all the different ways that you could make cheese, what makes different types of cheese different, and what kinds of standards Winconsinites apply to their cheeses.  (Hint, it’s high.)

On the way out, on the advice of the cheese guide, we stopped at a shop called the Alp and Dell and picked up cheese curds and this one piece that, I swear to gods, tastes like frikken raisin bread.


Tune in tomorrow for the next installment, wherein there are more adventures and pictures and fun things.

normfac Written by:

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