We’re back from our annual Tahlequah, Oklahoma camping trip. Smallest attendance ever this year. Unable to make the trip and very much missed were Kevin’s Mum and Dad, Frank and Louise. John and I drove up on Wednesday. It was a lovely drive. We stopped on the way at Buckees (well known for their “fabulous restrooms”), a Mexican restaurant for lunch, Braum’s for a dulce leche cheesecake flavoured ice cream, and a Shell gas station. Why do I name all these places? Well, it was fun! So there. We arrived at the Diamond Head campsite at around 4 p.m. (without getting a speeding ticket), pitched the tent, gathered kindling for the fire, opened some wine, and grilled hotdogs on the fire. The next day everyone else arrived: Tom (and Sonny the pug), Cory, Linda, Kevin, and Callie. Seven humans, one dog, and (fortunately) no kittens.
It was a quieter and more mellow get-together than the last few years. We floated down the Illinois River on Thursday, Friday and Saturday (kayak/raft/raft). It was cleaner and deeper than I’d ever seen it. Only one man overboard this year, and that was Kevin. He was sitting happily on the side of the raft, a beer in one hand and a sandwich in the other, and then suddenly he was no longer there. Something to do with an overhanging branch. John and I bravely and heroically kayaked downstream through the swirling rapids and rescued his hat while he clung to a branch.
The campsite was also quieter at night. Not so many people. And I slept well all four nights. The temperature was in the 50s at night (perfect) and in the 80s during the day (also perfect). We had a sprinkling of rain at dusk on Saturday; otherwise nothing but sunshine.
Whereas last year I remember as The Year of the Snake, this year I’d call The Year of the Food. Probably the rest of the party would call it The Year of the Disco (I’ll link to the story if anyone describes it on their blog. Suffice to say I slept through the incident). The food was amazing. What we were lacking in Frank’s homegrown asparagus and Louise’s potato salad, was compensated for by . . . well, I’ll name my favourite three dishes (bear in mind that I’m not a meat eater): Linda’s tomato/cheese/balsamic vinegar salad; Cory’s paella (check out the pan he brought); and Callie’s cucumber/tomato/something else salad. The tomatoes were the best I’d ever tasted. I think they were called “heirlooms”.
Of course, food always tastes better when it’s eaten out of doors. That’s a family quote there. Hope one of my brothers can name the book.
We left yesterday morning. It’s never so much fun going home. Five hundred miles is a long way when you’re looking forward to seeing your cats and sleeping in your own bed. We stopped at a diner in Atoka for breakfast and a Dairy Queen for ice cream. We were helped through the journey by John Derbyshire, of all people. He is a Brit living in America and writes for National Review. He also has a weekly podcast. John had downloaded all his podcasts from the last three months and burned them to a CD. We listened to the whole lot, which took us to the other side of Dallas. Very funny guy.
So we’re home again. The camping gear is unpacked and stored away until next year. The washing machine is churning. And John, bless his heart, has given Wendy a major clean and Q-Tip detailing.
Hope everyone else had a brilliant Memorial Day weekend.
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