Although this was mostly a camping vacation, it was not impervious to challenges of technology. For example, we drove a quick 100 miles southwest one day to visit Howe Caverns -- a pretty amazing collection of stalactites, stalagmites and caverns. The tour, however, started with a robotic version of the cavern's discoverer, Lester Howe. It was, in a word, terrifying.
"And if you look to the right ..." BZZ WHIRRR "... you'll see the place where your robot masters will devour your souls."
BZZ KA-CHUNG WRRRRRR.
Fortunately, there were no robots inside the caverns and we emerged unscathed. However, technology would reach out and grab us before we left the site. Y'see, sometimes when you're as manly as I am, driving can become a challenge, and not just because my member can unfurl down my pants leg and hit the accelerator like a third leg. So there I was, about to enter the main road, when I failed to notice that the car in front had not entered the highway, as I mistakenly believed he had. Yep, at approximately 3 mph, I rear-ended a very nice man from Vermont. Fortunately, his fists of fury were quelled by my superior kung fu. And by that I mean he saw there was no damage to his car and drove away after I apologized.
Totally unretouched photo.
On our last day of the journey, we visited Six Flags Great Escape. Sure, I dominated all the roller coasters and the Sasquatch free fall, but could I really ride the old-timey racing cars without looking like a giant wuss? The answer is no, but these are the things you do for kids.
Even this Godsmack fan (whose identity is obscured to protect his innocence) was willing to get into a pink Corvette for his kid. That's love.
But perhaps the greatest challenge came not from the harsh elements, vicious animals or even machines, but from other people. They say man is the most dangerous game, but he's also the biggest asshole. I had a ton of fun on the vacation, and my complaints are minor, but a few petty indignities stick with me, and wouldn't you know it? Other people are behind each one.
For one, Howe Caverns has a rule about not touching any of the rock walls on the tour. Something about the salts and oils in your skin impeding the natural transformation of the stone. Fine. The tour ends with a boat ride through the underground river in which you rely on your guide to navigate your boat by pushing off spikes in the wall. At one point, our boat got a bit off course and the wall came dangerously close to clocking my son in the head. I reached forward, putting my hand between approaching rock and my son's skull. "Please don't touch the walls," came the reprimand. Grr.
You can't see it in this picture, but after that, I traced "The tour guide is a big jerkface!" on the cavern wall with my salty, oily forefinger.
Then there are the people behind the amusement park, the Magic Forest. Here's a brochure. See if you notice anything interesting:
Hint: It is now 2012. What year do you think these photos were taken?
Yep, those cars and stirrup pants make clear that these pics are from the '80s, and I don't think the park has been updated since then. (And in truth, even though the park is a haven for some terrifying carnies, we actually had a good time there a few years ago. Once was enough, though.)
Indeed, the greatest indignity came from the fully updated and modernized Six Flags Great Escape.
No, not that. But that was pretty awful.
At one point during the day, two of my three kids and I stopped for lunch in the park. Now, the park was advertising the value of one pizza pie and four sodas for 40 bucks. In my opinion, not something to be proud of, but also totally unnecessary for three people. Accordingly, I ordered three slices and two lemonades. (I already had a bottled water for me.) The cost? Thirty dollars. Yes, $30 for three slices of pizza and two lemonades. I then realized the full-pie-and-four-Cokes deal was indeed a value when compared to the worst prices of all time. The same way being hanged to death might seem attractive when compared to death by piranha bites to your crotch.
Having said that, we had a great time and then hit the road at 8 p.m., at which point I drove over 200 miles home, because I am a towering monster of a man. I hope this tale has inspired you all to embrace your own animal spirit. Just don't beat yourself up if you turn out not to be the rugged outdoors badass that I am.
There's more badassery to be had in the latest episode of HATE BY NUMBERS. Also, be sure to follow Gladstone on Twitter and stay up-to-date on the latest regarding Notes from the Internet Apocalypse. And then there's his website and Tumblr, too.
For more from Gladstone, check out 6 Images From My Life You Won't Believe Aren't Photoshopped and 30 Harrowing Days in Rehab for Facebook Addiction.