In April 2012, we bought a popup camper. A Rockwood Freedom 2318g, to be exact. Despite construction that doesn’t meet my husband’s stringent standards, we made our tenth trip over the Christmas break. However, this was only our third to someplace other than Fort Wilderness at Walt Disney World.
We LOVE Disney, and have become pretty good at packing for those trips. It helps that we can pack everything up at home and into a cooler without worrying that it will spoil on the trip. That also worked for our trip to Fort DeSoto. But this time, we drove all the way from Central Florida to Stone Mountain, Georgia, just east of Atlanta. Best case scenario was 7.5 hours to get there. Neither my husband nor I was comfortable filling a cooler with food for that long.
So the “plan” was to take a meal that could be cooked without any ingredient needing to be refrigerated. I decided on Barilla Three Cheese Tortellini and sauce. The sauce was supposed to be Prego Italian Sausage, but it wasn’t on sale in the weeks prior and I forgot to grab a jar regardless of price. So instead I took a box of Pomi Tomato Sauce, our McCormick Italian Herb grinder, and my own version of seasoned salt and made do. Or, my husband did when we finally got around to eating them.
Instead of arriving tired and stumbling through our pantry meal, we spent forever leveling the popup on the uneven ground, couldn’t get the heater started (It was already down to 42 when we arrived and the overnight low was predicted for 29.), and discovered that the drain pipe to the sink was broken and we flooded the electrical and plumbing storage compartment. We destroyed the towels that we keep just for camping trying to get the water removed before it damaged anything that would make the popup unliveable. We finally got the water mostly cleaned up and the heater still wouldn’t start. Wal-Mart (ugh) was the only thing nearby, so my husband left to get a heater, new towels, and the groceries I had intended to buy the next day.
While he went shopping, the girls and I hooked up the TV and digital antenna and bundled under all the blankets that belonged on their bed. It was pretty damp and chilly for us Floridians, and the temperature when we left home had been nearing 60 when we left home at 9:30am.
To try and keep this short, we’ll say the shopping trip was a success and we ended up eating Wendy’s for dinner. Then we finally got the popup organized and everyone in bed at 11p. Even the kids were so tired they just fell asleep.
It was a rough start, but the trip continued smoothly after that. We visited The World of Coca-Cola (my husband is a HUGE fan of Diet Coke) and took the kids to the Children’s Museum of Atlanta. They had a BLAST and, if we lived there, would definitely have annual passes. We ate at Fox Brothers BBQ which is kind of a requirement if anyone of our friends goes to Atlanta. The fried pickles and jalapenos are awesome and I’m a huge fan of the rub they use on their ribs. The sauce is more vinegar-y than I usually like, but it also good. And the macaroni and cheese is amazing. The rest of the menu is pretty standard in terms of barbecue and my opinion. But it’s fairly priced and a great experience to check out a local restaurant.
We spent several hours playing in Snow Mountain at Stone Mountain before we spent an afternoon and evening hiding from the downpour in the popup. After the rain subsided the next morning, and we had a huge pancake breakfast, we did some exploring at the Quarry Exhibit and the Grist Mill inside Stone Mountain Park. I could have spent quite a while enjoying the scenery of both, but the kids tired quickly due to the uneven ground and steep incline. We took a short, but somewhat scenic drive through Snellville and had lunch at Boston Market then let the kids play on the playground at the campground for a bit before reality set in that we would be leaving in the morning. So we cooked hamburgers and french fries on the grill and tried to use up the last of our refrigerated goods then started to pack up.
Packing up the night before was definitely sad, but it helped us get going sooner in the morning for the return trip. While my husband took down the popup, the girls and I went to Dunkin’ Donuts (found on our scenic drive the day before) and then to the huge children’s playground inside Stone Mountain Park. It was WAY to big for my 2 years 2 months and 4 years 11.5 months old daughters, but it was also still wet from the rain, so we didn’t stay long. The return trip took 9 hours as compared to 8.5 hours to arrive, so that is probably a pretty average time for us.
This trip taught us to take one step at a time and not worry about the big picture. Stay in the now. It also further emphasized to me that obsessive meal planning is key to any camping trip. I’m not a huge fan of obsessive meal planning, but it’s the only way to maximize food and storage in such a small vehicle over a few short days.
I’ll be uploading pictures of the trip to Instagram over the next few days. The lack of Wi-Fi when you’re out in nature made it difficult to share like I wanted.
Have you ever been camping with young kids? Do you have advice to share?