I'd gotten a late start from the deer lodge at the western border of Illinois, but decided to
get a few good hours of driving in anyway. Luck was with me. Since I was towing
a small camper, I stopped in Eastern Illinois at Morraine View State Park.
I'd planned to catch a few hours of sleep and continue to Pennsylvania in the morning. But when I went
to headquarters in the morning to grab some coffee, I found out that the state
would be stocking pheasants there within a few minutes.
I had two trained German shorthaired pointers with me. Soon, I was the most
popular gal in town! I hunted with my dogs, and then my dogs got to hunt with
several other hunters. It's still a memory of one of my favorite days in the
field. I ended up staying the whole day, and spending the night again.
After that, I made it a point to seek out state parks whenever I traveled.
Even if you don't have a camper, many state parks have cabins. Not only are
they cheaper than a hotel stay, it also gives you a chance to let dogs -- or
the kids --burn off some of the pent up energy they've been storing during the
The only extra gear you'd need to carry, if you opt for the cabin option, is
a couple of sleeping bags and sleeping pads. If you don't want to go to the
trouble of packing a cooler, you can grab some sandwiches and snacks to get you
by for the evening.
The mission of any state park is to provide opportunities for healthy
outdoor recreation. You can order brochures from the state park in advance of
your trip, and make a plan for a short hike or other activities.
The same holds true for lunch breaks. Would you rather stand in line at a
diner, wolf down some fast food, or have a picnic outdoors at a scenic table?
When all of us kids were youngsters, I remember the long drive to our grandparents' house. On the way, we'd pass Caledonia State Park in Pennsylvania.
My parents would pack sandwiches and drinks, and we'd stop there for a break.
We could stretch our legs, throw a Frisbee.
Looking back, I think my parents were very wise. They knew that if they kept
us confined for the four-hour drive, the chance of us behaving as little angels
at the grandparents' house wasn't as good. They gave us a break, and they also
gave themselves a break from our growing impatience.
It's also a chance to teach each of your children a little self-reliance.
Issue each child a small backpack, or use their school backpack. Let them prepare
and pack their lunch, as well as snacks for the car.
Or, pick up a cooler and let everyone have a hand in stocking it. Not only
will it be cheaper, it will be healthier than the typical fast food or
convenience store stop.
Give state parks a try this summer for some inexpensive fun!