Monday, August 8, 2011

Father - Son Camping

In today’s culture, it is hard to raise a godly man. Our culture confuses the genders. Boys have few role models. Dads spend little time with their young men. One of my tools for helping Matthew grow into godly man is a father/son camping trip. Each summer, the two of us go away for a weekend camping trip. We sleep in a tent. So far, every camp ground we have chosen did not have electricity. We plan meals. We engage in great adventures.

We just completed this year’s adventure. We chose to go to Tobyhanna State Park in the Poconos. Prior to leaving, I realized we would drive near Lehigh University, the training center for the Philadelphia Eagles. As a kid, I remember going to West Chester University and watching Dick Vermeil’s Eagles practice. I knew Matthew would “flip out” at the chance to go. A week before the trip, I asked if he wanted to go to practice. He answered with a resounding “YES!!!” While practice begins at 8:05 a.m., the gates open at 7:00 a.m. Not liking crowds, I wanted to get there at 7:00 a.m. We got out of bed at 4:30 a.m. and were on the road at 5:00 a.m. We made the obligatory Wawa stop for ice (for the cooler), tea, and newspaper. While in our Eagles gear at Wawa at 5:15 a.m., a man asked, “Are you going to Lehigh?” With a large smile, Matthew answered, “Yeah!” although he was trying to figure out how the man knew we were going to training camp.

We arrived a little before 7:00 a.m. and waited in line. Upon entering the practice area, we saw a Playzone for kids. Matthew was the only one there for a long time. He ran through an inflatable football field with inflatable football players. He leaped over obstacles and scored imaginary touchdowns. He climbed a large inflatable slide and slid down. He threw passes to cut-outs of DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Macklin. After several tries, he completed a touchdown to each. He kicked last second field goals to win games. He had a blast.

As players walked onto the field, we stood by a fence. Vick and the other quarterbacks worked out a few yards from us. We watched the offensive linemen work out. We heard the new defensive line coach yelling from 60 yards away. We watched the defensive backs, including DRC and Asomugha, go through drills. Minutes later, real practice began when the defensive and offense lined up opposite of each other and went at it. Asomugha, in his first practice, picked off a pass. The crowd roared as Vick scrambled for a huge gain. The new kicker looked good. The new punter, not so good. Practice ended and we moved on towards Tobyhanna.

In addition to camping, I was interested in doing something adventurous. We saw a billboard for a zip line and decided to give it a try. We arrived at Camelback for their 1,000 foot zip line. After getting our harnesses, we climbed the hill to the top of the zip line. They hooked our lines up. We peered over the edge. We held our breaths and jumped. Side by side, we zoomed down the line. After getting disconnected, we climbed the hill again for a second ride. While standing on the deck, my wife called to see if we were safe. I responded, “Right now we are, but I will have to let you know in a few minutes; we are about to jump off of a cliff.” She wasn’t expecting that answer. Again, we held our breaths and jumped. It seemed like we went even faster this time. In Matthew’s words, it was “awesome”.

Finally, we made it to camp and set up our tent and campsite. Prior to dinner, we went for a 5 mile bike ride around the lake. We grilled some BBQ ribs for dinner. Matthew ate an entire rack by himself. For Matthew, the hit of the afternoon was playing with the new machete. Matthew started the fire, with a little help from me. We made banana boats by splitting a banana in half, filling it with marshmallow, nuts, and chocolate chips; pushing the peal back together; wrapping them in foil; and cooking them in coals. DELICIOUS. We concluded dessert by making s’mores. We finished the evening by lying in our sleeping backs and watching a DVD about the Cardinals winning the 2006 World Series.

The next morning, we ate bacon, eggs, and hash browns. Then, we attacked the day’s highlight, our adventure bike hike. We took our bikes and rode out of the campground onto trails in the woods. Riding over upraised tree roots and large rocks, our bikes got knocked all over the trail. At times, the numerous rocks and steep climbs made it impossible to ride, so we walked until we could ride again. We crossed a rickety bridge. We road through narrow paths between thorn bushes, scraping our hands and arms on the thorns. Then, we passed under some power lines. But, that was a problem. We were not supposed to pass under any power lines. We pulled out our map and discovered we made a wrong turn. Miles out of our way, we regained hope when we realized we could follow the power lines northwest toward a road that would take us to our destination. Under the power lines was a nice gravel path with wild flowers growing. It made for a nice ride. We followed the power lines up and down hills enjoying this unexpected adventure. Then, the power lines turned left and the gravel path disappeared. Only a narrow rock filled bath remained. It was similar to the trails we followed in the woods, so we persevered. We climbed and followed the narrow path for a while. Then, the path disappeared as huge bogs of mud appeared. With very little room, we shuffled our feet on less muddy, but brush covered ground while we kept our balance by pushing our bikes through the mud. The mud almost appeared to be like quicksand. In one of the bogs, the front wheel of Matthew’s bike began to disappear as it sank into the bog. We quickly pulled the bike out and continued, undaunted. Finally, we cleared the bogs and the gravel path re-appeared. We were on our way again, flying over the hills as we peddled under the power lines. We reached the top of a hill and could see the road at the bottom of the hill. We flew down the hill anticipating the road we were chasing. Without warning, the path ended about 200 yards from the road. A swamp blocked our path. Disappointed but undeterred, we turned right to cut through some woods were no one has gone before. We pushed through uncleared woods as we circled around the swamp. We climbed one last hill and found the road. As we mounted our bikes for a ride to our destination for lunch, I saw my front inner tube bulging out of a hole in my front tire. Not knowing how long we could ride, we pressed on. About half a mile later, “pop”, my tire blew. Now, we were back on foot, miles from camp. We walked a mile when I flagged down a pick-up truck. The driver was a nice guy who put our bikes in the bed and drove us to our camp site.

As we arrived at camp, it started raining. This was not a surprise as the forecast said there was a possibility of scattered, passing thunderstorms. We ate lunch and waited for the rain to pass. We finished our lunch and waited for the rain to pass. We called home and waited for the rain to pass. We went to Wal-Mart for more camping gear while we waited for the rain to pass. We returned to camp and waited for the rain to pass. Tired of being wet, we went to Pizza Hut, where we saw 20 other campers, and waited for the rain to pass. We returned to camp and waited for the rain to pass. Trying to find some good in this wet situation, we decided to pop some popcorn, get in the car, sit in the reclining leather seats and watch Spiderman 2 while the sound pulsated through the Bose sound system. After two hours, the movie ended, but the rain didn’t. We went to bed very damp. In the middle of the night, after 13 straight hours, the rain finally stopped. Too wet to do anything, we cleaned up camp and left for home, stopping at Perkins for breakfast.

We made many memories. We spent a lot of time together. More importantly, we had many conversations about becoming a godly man, handling issues facing a young boy, standing up to peer pressure and doing right regardless of what others are doing. I look forward to more time with my son. More importantly, I look forward to helping my boy becoming a godly man.

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