Summer On A Shoestring

I’d gotten a late start from the deer lodge at the western border of Illinois, but decided to get a few good hours of driving in anyway. Luck was with me. Since I was towing a small camper, I stopped in Eastern Illinois at Morraine View State Park.

I’d planned to catch a few hours of sleep and continue to Pennsylvania in the morning. But when I went to headquarters in the morning to grab some coffee, I found out that the state would be stocking pheasants there within a few minutes.

I had two trained German shorthaired pointers with me. Soon, I was the most popular gal in town! I hunted with my dogs, and then my dogs got to hunt with several other hunters. It’s still a memory of one of my favorite days in the field. I ended up staying the whole day, and spending the night again.

Hiking a state park trail can be refreshing on a long, car trip.

After that, I made it a point to seek out state parks whenever I traveled. Even if you don’t have a camper, many state parks have cabins. Not only are they cheaper than a hotel stay, it also gives you a chance to let dogs — or the kids –burn off some of the pent up energy they’ve been storing during the drive.

The only extra gear you’d need to carry, if you opt for the cabin option, is a couple of sleeping bags and sleeping pads. If you don’t want to go to the trouble of packing a cooler, you can grab some sandwiches and snacks to get you by for the evening.

The mission of any state park is to provide opportunities for healthy outdoor recreation. You can order brochures from the state park in advance of your trip, and make a plan for a short hike or other activities.

The same holds true for lunch breaks. Would you rather stand in line at a diner, wolf down some fast food, or have a picnic outdoors at a scenic table?

When all of us kids were youngsters, I remember the long drive to our grandparents’ house. On the way, we’d pass Caledonia State Park in Pennsylvania. My parents would pack sandwiches and drinks, and we’d stop there for a break. We could stretch our legs, throw a Frisbee.

Make sure your canine companion doesn’t steal the picnic lunch!

Looking back, I think my parents were very wise. They knew that if they kept us confined for the four-hour drive, the chance of us behaving as little angels at the grandparents’ house wasn’t as good. They gave us a break, and they also gave themselves a break from our growing impatience.

It’s also a chance to teach each of your children a little self-reliance. Issue each child a small backpack, or use their school backpack. Let them prepare and pack their lunch, as well as snacks for the car.

Or, pick up a cooler and let everyone have a hand in stocking it. Not only will it be cheaper, it will be healthier than the typical fast food or convenience store stop.

Give state parks a try this summer for some inexpensive fun!

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