Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Boy Scout Camporee with BlackHawk Council
Illinois Railway Museum
May 13-15, 2016

Disclaimer:  This is all in fun/tongue in cheek. We actually had a great time and no one suffered from hypothermia.

     The windswept prairie grass was wet and the mud sucked at our boots. The rain had slowed to a soaking, cold drizzle. The “gulag lights” at either end of the field lit up rows of tents, Boy Scout trailers and kitchen flys. Some sites had tents lined up in military precision, Patrol boxes all set up, and others were rag-tag and thrown together slap dash, like ours.

     One thing was for sure, though. I was not going to be able to sleep in my tent. The wind was so fierce it blew in the sidewall of my tent and I would be unable to sleep for fear of collapse.  The thought, “Why didn’t I bring my 2 man tent? It’s small and low to the ground!” kept buzzing around my head. 

     To add to the excitement, the air conditioning was out in my car and the windows were fogging up without it. Three teenaged boys and me, driving rain, cold air, and an hour and a half drive could have been a disaster, but I had coated the windshield with shaving cream, which stopped it from fogging up. McGyver-ing is a way of life with a 12 year old van.

     Sleeping on the bench seat of the second row of seats in the van was extraordinarily uncomfortable. I put on long johns, sweat pants, dry socks, and several upper layers, and used the extra sleeping bag in the van. I woke up with cramps in my calves, numb hands, and a headache. Benadryl helped a little, but not enough.

     Saturday morning broke with cloudy skies and temps in the upper 30’s, low 40’s. I walked to the campsite from the van, after using the Port-a-Potties, and attempted to locate propane for the stove, the coffee, and a lighter. This was a difficult task with brain fog from benadryl, sleep deprivation, and no coffee. Fortunately, I had brought a lighter, as they seem to disappear with each camping trip, never to be seen again.
Be Prepared.

     After I got the coffee going, the other parents started to wake up. Breakfast was “eggs in a bag.”  This gourmet concoction consists of eggs in a freezer bag, mushed up with  add ins, like ham or cheese, salsa, onions, peppers. You push out the extra air, and boil the eggs in the bag. Then you use the hot water for your dishes, which consist of your coffee cup, pot, and fork because you eat out of the bag.  The problem with this breakfast is the fact that you now have 10 plastic bags to throw away, and no one remembered to bring garbage bags. Hmmm.

     This is when we noticed that several of our boys were NOT prepared. One had on a short sleeved shirt and shorts and no coat, several didn't have enough layers or hats, or gloves. Argh. Clothes were traded, shared, and layered, and a clothesline was set up to dry out wet clothes at the campsite.

     By 8:30 a.m., the boys were up and had managed to feed themselves a cold breakfast, and the adults were more or less functional. We meandered over to the Illinois Railway Museum entrance to attend the opening ceremony. We were assigned groups for the boys to get the Railroading Merit Badge, and informed of the activities for the afternoon. (archery, dodgeball, air riflery, archery, and black smith-ing) as well as checking out the museum at our own pace.

     “Look, Listen, Live”  was the theme of the Operation Lifesaver. The engineer leading it told us some frightening statistics about how often someone is hit by a train in the US and how to avoid this fate.

     We learned how to identify 10 different types of railroad cars, and we saw steam , electric, and diesel locomotives.

     We saw an empty wine bottle of Beaujolais sitting on the steps of an old passenger car that had clearly been broken into and was being used by local oenophiles to do their wine tasting events in the middle of the night.

     Later the boys tried their hands at the Tomahawk throwing contest. The boys were much better at Tomahawk throwing than their parents, which changed the dynamic of the camporee completely. The parents threw the Tomahawks into the woods while the boys actually hit the targets. Granted, the parents probably hit a few chipmunks in the process, but the boys definitely had the upper hand after that.

Next was the Black smithing.
The blacksmiths were awesome.
Their rule was:  

Don’t be stupid.

     That was it.

     Don’t pick up hot iron if you drop it. Use the gloved hand to handle the hot iron. Wear your eye protection-- in other words:  Don’t be Stupid.

     Even the smallest kids were allowed to participate, and all of them made “S-hooks,” despite the parents yelling that they wanted a harpoon tip, or a candelabra. The kids seemed pretty happy with the S-hooks though, and the parents were glad to have their children back without third degree burns. It made us realize that our kids actually CAN follow directions. I offered to hire the Smithy to come live with us and to get my kid to do his chores, but he declined, albeit politely.  After all, he is a Scout. 

     Later, the sun broke through and the sky cleared… for 5 minutes. 
     The parents, or "Bigfoot Patrol," had a gourmet meal of beef stew made by our Scoutmaster, and the boys had walking tacos. I think we won that competition, hands down. The boys were ogling our dinners with desire. “Next time you guys can do this,” we told them.

     Of course, at bed time, the sky completely cleared causing the temperature to drop precipitously. We had frost on our tents in the morning. I was so tired, that I slept like a dead person for 8-9 hours, only awakened occasionally by my nose tip being cold, or my hands being completely numb from the positioning in my mummy bag, or my hips screaming in pain from side sleeping in a ball in one position for 4 hours in a row. But besides that, it was a great night sleep.


     There was supposed to be a 5 K run in the morning at 6:30 a.m. I don’t know if that actually took place because, let’s face it-what teenager actually gets up at 6:30 a.m. voluntarily? So that didn’t happen. But we got up, broke camp, and were home by 10:30 a.m. which was great, except I had to set up the tent in the backyard to dry out and do 700 loads of laundry, and dry out my son’s bag on the clothesline, and…

May 13-15, 2016

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