4 Family Vacation Challenges Overcome by Sheer Manliness
Since the dawn of time, man has tested his mettle against the challenges of nature. Even today, harsh weather, vicious beasts and the unknown summon us like a call to duty. And it was in the spirit of that time-honored manliness that I took my wife and kids for a camping vacation in Lake George, New York, last week. No electricity. No YouTube or Twitter. There were some who doubted that a suburban man in his 30s could conquer all the obstacles of the wild, but I was confident. After all, I've stared down the barrel of hundreds, if not thousands, of angry Internet comments. Nothing could stop me.
Over the course of three days, Mother Nature, man and even machines rose up against me, but I continued undaunted through all this adversity, conscious that when it was all over, I would have a tale to tell the Cracked audience -- if they were brave enough to listen!
Man vs. The Elements
It's important to start your vacation bright and early, like our pioneering forefathers. Of course, those dudes didn't have to worry about packing activities and snacks, so they had it easy. We hit the road at 10:40 a.m. and drove a little over 200 miles to Lake George. Correction: It was supposed to take 200 miles, but we drove 320 after getting lost on 90 West. A lesser man would have cried and had his wife drive him home, but I ventured on.
We arrived at our campsite. A cruel place devoid of shelter:
The horrifying desolation.
Nevertheless, through sheer ingenuity (and the purchase of a tent), I created shelter with my bare hands:
A lovely tent. Children not included.
But shelter alone would not ensure our survival. Like cavemen of old, we needed to conquer fire. I surveyed the land and considered the appropriate tree to fell with my mighty axe -- the forest timber trembling at the very sight of me. Ultimately, however, I decided to be merciful and hand my kids six bucks to purchase a wheelbarrow of chopped wood from the campsite store.
Oh, and lighter fluid. They bought that, too.
But my challenges were not over. Mother Nature had another cruel trick up her sleeve. Instead of the metal fire pit to which I was accustomed, this campsite had merely rocks in a circle. Rocks! How to balance my grills upon such an unforgiving surface without burying our food (in this case, lots of Morningstar Farms veggie products) in flames? After many calculations, I surmised that adding four additional flattish rocks would solve the problem.
I am a freakin' genius.
We spent the first night in our tent -- our bellies full of corn on the cob, veggie dogs, veggie burgers and baked beans. (I'm not a vegetarian. The meat was still frozen solid in the cooler.) On our second night, however, we would face our greatest challenge from the elements.
At 10 p.m., it started to rain. Then more. And more. My wife worried about getting soaked, but I assured her that our tent was waterproof, and it was. Then the lightning started. My wife expressed concern about the dangers of lightning, and I assured her that, being so low to the ground, we were unlikely targets. Then she pointed out the ease at which lightning could hit one of the more likely targets (trees) and send a branch down to crush our tent. After about 30 seconds of picturing that image, we got into the minivan and did what any fearless warriors would: We drove 15 miles to a hotel advertising the "cheapest rates in town." There, we successfully battled mold and questionable bedding until morning broke, shining upon our glorious victory over the weather.
Man vs. Animal
So we'd conquered the elements, but if this camping vacation were to be a success, we'd have to face animals as well. I was really hoping to catch some fish -- mostly because the food in Lake George was insanely overpriced. So after picking up some night crawlers and fake Gummi Worm-esque bait that I was told would be good for bass, I piled the family into the rowboat and set off in search of our bounty. Any fisherman will tell you, you're supposed to go out as early as you can, which is why my family went out at 10 a.m., much to the mockery of the lady who owned the campsite.
First, I made some earthworms my bitch, because I have the strength of 10 men.
No CGI was used in this pic.
Within moments of putting this baby into the water at the end of my youngest child's Transformers fishing pole, he caught a perch. Now, while I'm not opposed to fishing, I don't like the idea of things suffering. For that reason, like all bold and brave fishermen, prior to the trip I had looked up how to kill a fish quickly and humanely. (I wasn't confident in my neck-snapping abilities. Also, the closest thing I've ever had to a recurring nightmare is trying to put something out of its misery by breaking its neck and only making it suffer more.)
So, as soon as I pulled this bad boy from the water, I prepared to remove the hook and destroy the brain, as you would with any zombie. Well, first off, the hook was not in his mouth, as I'd been taught by countless cartoons, but somewhere in the middle of his body. He'd swallowed the hook. That happens, apparently, and I have to imagine that's like 30 times more unpleasant. Accordingly, it was even more important for me to put him out of his misery. I got my knife, but unlike decaying human flesh or the Spanish mackerel in the vid, perch have super bony, hard heads. So basically I realized all my nightmares by burying a hook in a fish's gullet and then poking him in the head with a knife while he struggled to breathe. After about five very long seconds, I proceeded to just chop his head off.
In total, we caught five motherfucking fish! (I can only assume perch and bass take mothers to Lake George to have sex with them.) By the end, I got much better at the braining part, and the day ended with my wife catching the biggest bass yet. Here they are, all dead and totally dominated (I threw one back for being too small).
From left to right: Fortey, ATB, Swaim and Seanbaby.
But my domination of the animal kingdom didn't stop there. On our last day, my son spotted a tiny frog. Who captured it in a cup? Me!
Not so bad now, are you?
Not impressed? Hmm. Well, I totally showered in the campsite showers, even though there were like tons of daddy longlegs crawling about. No? Well, fine, I don't like to brag, but at one point while we were hiking a nature trail, I totally bitch-slapped a bear until he took a family picture for us. Here's the proof:
(Sometimes I mix up the words "bear" and "nice Indian family.")
Man vs. Machine
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.
Man vs. Man
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.