I think you’re all fucked in the head! We’re ten hours from the fucking fun park and you want to bail out. Well I’ll tell you something, this is no longer a vacation, it’s a quest. It’s a quest for fun, I’m gonna have fun and you’re gonna have fun, we’re all gonna have so much fucking fun we’ll need plastic surgery to remove our goddamn smiles! You’ll be whistling Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah out of your assholes! I gotta be crazy; I’m on a pilgrimage to see a moose! Praise Marty Moose! Oh, shit! – Clark Griswold “National Lampoon’s Vacation”
On certain occasions, like every other American father, I turn into Clark Griswold and take the kids out to Wally World. Usually there is a significant amount of bitching, moaning, wailing even, as to our destination including unkind words passed between myself and my wife, the BocaFrau. Last Saturday, My inner Clark came forward, but surprisingly, just this once, everything actually worked!
We had all gotten up late last Saturday, I don’t think there was movement in the house at all before 8am, which is pretty bizarre for a family of five. The Boy and I had been toying with the idea of going canoeing or kayaking sometime that weekend, he wanted Daddy time and really didn’t want the girls involved. However, as we are a family of five, more often than not, there is no such thing as alone time. Middle has been desperately pleading with me to have Daddy time at the local Ice Rink. Again, no different from any other father, your daughter wants, you get.
There was a mitigating factor last Saturday that allowed me to ignore both of their wishes; the temperature was hovering at the high 60’s mark and it was beautifully clear. This is not the norm for South Florida at this time of year. By now the New Yorkers are leaving in droves, the Frogs are heading back to Key Beck or Quebec, never really sure where or what the banana hammock wearing no tipping assholes are from and the temp is already in the mid 80’s. Not this Saturday!
So, after discussing with the family the options of the day, basically: I’m the Daddy, I’m driving the car, I have the Citi-card, and I can punish all of you at whim, we’re doing what I want to do, we’re going to Jonathan Dickinson State Park in Hobe Sound to go boating!
Boy was excited! Woo Hooo! I’m going to go boating with Daddy!!! Yeah, uhm, the rest of the family is coming too, I pointed out. Boy was perturbed. Middle: “But Daddy!!! You said ICE SKATING!!!!!” I lied! Even the wife: “Oh Honey, I’m just not sure about going out on the canoe!”
Good things come in small packages; Little One: “Yea!!! I’m going vacation boating with Daddy and Mommy, and Conner, and Ashley and Me and we’re gonna see sharks and birds and manatees and water and beach and sun and air and moons and things! YEA!!!! I love going boating with my family!!!
He he, gotta love the four year old mentality!
We begin the evolution from dormant house people to weekend road warriors slowly. There is the usual jostling for shower time, the usual hysterics from my wife that I’m moving her along too fast (for the record I sat at my desk and played my 6 string the whole time and stayed way way WAY away from whatever she was doing) and Boy and Middle spat hate at each other as only brother and sister can do! So glad I never had siblings, I would have smothered them!
As Captain Kirk said when stranded on Regula; “the first order of business: Survival!” I need to feed the family! It’s imperative they are fed and soon. Otherwise the bad stuff will happen, again. After some searching around and a fair amount of more bickering between brother and sister, Boy wants La Spada’s Middle: Five Guys. Me tie breaker, me pick Five Guys….again; I’m the Daddy, I’m driving the car, I have the Citi-Card, and I can punish you all at whim!
Burgers were had by all, and the angry I hate you looks were given to me by both Little One and Mommy because well, they just didn’t like it, can’t win ’em all!
On the road to Hobe Sound an hour north of where we live in Boca Raton the car is beginning to simmer down and some excitement is grudgingly starting to appear within my family. This is good. I made sure that no matter what happened I had a smile on my face through all the issues so far. I know that my mood will directly affect the outcome of this trip and if I let on that I’m getting mad or frustrated it will reverberate throughout the car. I’ll be damned if I’m gonna be the one to kill the fun today, though I have many many times in the past!
In through the gates of the park and we’re still a 4 mile drive down a twisty turny hilly road to the docks. The family is talking non-stop on how weird and wonderful this is! Wow, I think I’m gonna pull this shit off…!
We pile out of the family Truckster and walk a bit to the concession stand where they rent canoes, kayaks, and more important to me: 13 foot Carolina Skiff outboard boats. I knew about the Skiffs from their website and realized that was my best chance of keeping us together as a family, Canoes only holding 3 max and kayaks less so.
And I’m stopped in my tracks by the young girl behind the counter, “no boats, no reservations, and no knowing when one might return”.
Not gonna let it bother me, not gonna let it bother me, not gonna let it bother me……
“Well, Family, here’s what we’re gonna do, we’re gonna get two canoes and pile into them and have a great time!”
My wife is turning even more pale than usual “Oh, Honey, I just, I just, I think you should just get one canoe and take Boy and Middle out and , uh, I’ll just stay here with Little One and take pictures….”
SHIT SHIT. SHIIIIIT!
I got lucky. I got a break. I don’t know why or for what reasons the boat Gods decided to shine very brightly down on me, but after a heated spat with a very inebriated latino family who very nastily told me “Oya!, we been here 2 hour now and das our boat thank you vedy much” another boat arrived at the dock and we were underweigh 10 minutes later!
Once on the water my family completely changed again, they were full of joy! There was pointing and shouting every time we passed a snapping turtle. Even Hanging Moss even elicited oohhs and ahhhs! In short they were happy!
We motored upriver for an hour, saw people fishing, the inebriated latinos using their boat to try to smash the members of their family that elected to use kayaks , yeah, they were idiots. We passed more turtles, saw huge Bald Eagle nests, saw some Bald Eagles themselves, watched fish swim in the clear parts of the river, just enjoyed being out on the river! After a bit we navigated to the Trapper Nelson Interpretive Site while almost being swamped by the Loxahatchee Queen II, the pontoon boat that takes those wishing to see the river and not actually do anything fun out!
The site itself was, well, ultimately it was some whack job Florida Cracker’s idea of home. A few buildings, an old Frigidaire, and some animal pens. Meh, back on the boat!
The return trip offered some thrills as the tide was coming out and the current was pulling along our little skiff quite fast, in fact I ran the engine at idle most of the way back!
Somehow I managed to make a left when I should have made a right and ended us up in a very very tight creek with a bunch of underwater logs. We found this out when the prop hit the first log and scared the crap out of everyone aboard the skiff, including me. After motoring a bit more up this getting even smaller creek, I managed to ground the skiff on two tree trunks. “Panic on the streets of London, Panic on the streets of Birmingham….”
After some pushing and prodding with the paddles that were on board the skiff we haven’t really moved much. ‘What are we gonna do Daddy??” came the cries. Well, I knew at this point there were two options; 1. get out and push the skiff off of the trees or 2. throw the motor in reverse and crank it till it won’t crank no more!
I chose option 2, because lets face it I’m not getting out of the skiff in alligator land, it ain’t happening, I’ve got a son for that shit!
I twisted the throttle and the motor made a huge amount of noise and for a while thats all that appeared was gonna happen. Finally we got some traction and the skiff moved back off the trees, what a friggin relief that was!
15 minutes later back at the dock I managed to smack the bow into the pilings, I said I could drive the thing, not dock it! We’re tired, we’re happy, shit, we’re exuberant!
I did it! We had a great family day together! One that everyone will remember for a while to come! Mission Accomplished!
To follow along our path if you’re in South Florida or visiting in the area:
Also you should visit our favorite fish restaurant just down Federal Highway, a little south to Jupiter: