One of my favorite things our family does in the summer is go on weekend larks. We don’t actually call them that, but “road trip” makes it sound like we’re going cross-country or something. What we do is more local than that, but fun just the same.
During the school year, between sports, school activities, Girl Scouts, etc., we usually find our weekends taken up with at least one day where we’re obligated to be somewhere. I love how in the summer we have a little more flexibility on weekends. While a whole weekend getaway is preferable, sometimes we can only do a Saturday or Sunday day away—a mini lark, I guess you could call it.
So last weekend, we got to have our Weekend Lark in the form of the Third Annual Float trip/Camp Pick up weekend. We started this tradition when both Emily and Erin used to go to camp in Vienna, Missouri, near Rolla. The first year, Darrell, Tyler and I came down on Friday night and rented a cabin at Meramec State Park. We picked the girls up as usual, but instead of going home like they expected, we took them to the cabin and went on a float trip for the day. They were so surprised and the whole weekend away from the normal refreshed us as a family.
The next year, our friends’ daughter went to camp with Erin, so we made it a multi-family trip. The cabins at the State Park were all booked, so we took a chance on a hotel in St. Clair that Darrell found called Budget Lodging. Their tagline is “A Touch of Class for Less”. Turns out, both our families love this little hotel. As far as accommodations go, it’s not anything fancy or unusual—clean rooms, nice breakfast, and swimming pool. But the charm of the place is not what you find at Super 8. Maybe because it’s a little like walking back into the late 1980s, complete with the picture of the proprietor, Letha Hickenbotham, at the front desk. The first time we were there, we were amazed to see they still had one of those credit card machines where you roll the handle over the carbons. And actual room keys, not the credit card kind. Now, staying at this cozy little hotel is just part of the fun of the weekend with the main event being the float trip.
Although a float trip on the weekend with kids can be a little bit of a vocabulary lesson for younger ears, the part of the river we float is usually pretty tame compared to some other places nearby. You do get a bit of a rowdy, partying crowd here and there. Most of the time it’s just college-age kids trying to impress one another, and they’re easy to tune out. We tipped our canoe this year, in part thanks to some guy with a small motorized boat that made enough wakes to flip it into the bank, but we came out unscathed—muddy and down two beers, but with great memories.
Because memories are what the Weekend Larks are all about. When I remember summers past with our family, those fun little larks are one of the things that stand out most to me. Stopping at gas stations that boast the “World’s Largest Rocking Chair” and not feeling guilty about snacking on a Zero candy bar for lunch. Picking places to stop based on the cleanliness of the bathroom and if you can pull to the gas pump easily with the boat. Radio stations in the middle of nowhere where you can hear the stock report, the gospel and the local obituaries read in a monotone voice as you’re driving home on Sunday morning. Lark traveling moments we still laugh about together.
So while I’ll never turn my nose up at a cruise or Caribbean island vacation, these larks—well, they’re special, too. What would summer be without them?