Piedmont and Clearwater

The outlook for our “weekend” (Tuesday-Thursday) trip was not good. It had been raining and the forecast called for more of the same.

But this was our last, best chance to take advantage of my four-day work week and the three days off it afforded us.

I switched to this schedule earlier in the year. It wasn’t an easy change, but we had finally adjusted to it and were looking forward to being able to take a few trips during the summer without having to use vacation days.

Unfortunately, a couple people on my team at work are leaving for other opportunities, and we are shorthanded. Everyone who had a four-day week had to switch back to a five-day week.

Anyway, we left Tuesday afternoon after eating lunch and packing the car. We timed our departure to coincide with the girls’ naptimes. It actually worked. They slept for most of the trip and we didn’t have to make any stops for nursing or potty or whatever. This is the best driving experience we’ve ever had that involved a baby — absolutely no interruptions.

It was a drizzly drive, but there were no bad downpours. I was pleased because I hate traversing windy roads at night or under intense rain.

Shortly before we got to Piedmont, all the girls were awake. We were pointing things out to them. It was no longer raining, and most everything looked dry. We went up Highway AA to Shannon Road and arrived at the “club.”

Our first order of business was to hang the hammock. I picked a spot next to where my uncle has kept his pontoon boat during the winter months. Two medium-sized trees about the right distance apart.

Yoli bought this hammock as a surprise for me while she and the girls were stranded in Bolivia last year. This would be my first time trying to hang it. I spent a bit of time researching knots to use. I decided to use two lengths of rope. Each rope was tied to a tree with a timber knot and tied to the hammock with a double half-hitch knot. Jadzia was my helper, holding some printouts with diagrams of the knots.

I straddled the hammock and put some weight on it. It did not collapse. I pulled my feet in and spread the fabric out. It felt pretty good! Jadzia and Ludi immediately wanted to swing me, and how could I object? All was going well.

But it didn’t last long. The girls, of course, would rather be in the hammock then just pushing it. So I climbed out and put Jadzia in. She had been telling me for a day or two that she wanted to swing in the hammock holding Ludi on top of her. The girls had fun and after a bit we took them out.

One problem we ran into was that the video camera did not have a fully-charged battery like I had believed when I checked it the day before. We got a few snippets of video before it conked out. Then I took some video with our digital camera. It will be interesting to see how well (or if) the two different sources of video marry up when I edit later on.

I kept the girls outside for most of the evening. I was afraid it would rain and we’d spend the next 2 days indoors. Jadzia protested at one point, but quickly found some fantasy to pretend about. Ludi is always happy outside, and the first thing she went to play with was a pile of soot and charred wood left over from some long-ago fire. Her hands were all black. And of course she wanted to touch our beautiful hammock with her hands.

It is always wonderful to get away from our house. One advantage is that everything is brand new for the girls. Even though it’s a normal house without many frills, it is elsewhere — some place new. The girls spent much time exploring and playing with some kid-sized plastic chairs they found. In fact we made it through this weekend without playing with any toys at all!

The next morning we all went together for a walk. As often happens with us, we went without a plan, but a plan did eventually develop. I decided to walk all the way down AA to the camping area above the lake where there was a playground the girls could play on. The walk went surprisingly well. Ludi got tired after a bit, but I just put her on my shoulders. As we neared the playground, Jadzia had to go potty. This might have been a problem had it happened earlier in the walk, but there were bathrooms close by in the camping area.

I left the girls to play and walked back to the club, pushing Josie in the stroller. We got an orange, the camera, and the car back to the playground. Along the way I drove past the boat dock. As I mentioned earlier, our pontoon is not in the water, so I had not planned to go out on the lake on this trip. The water was high, but nowehere near as high as it was when Yoli and I were here on honeymoon in 2003. The owners of Bluff View boat dock seem to have made a lot of changes, and the marina was buzzing with various construction activity.

After spending a good time on the playground, we headed home to eat lunch. On this trip we are primarily eating sandwiches with chips. For lunch Yoli made a simple chicken salad with chicken breast meat, thousand island salad dressing, and celery. Jadzia gobbles her sandwiches pretty well, but over the last few months we’ve had trouble with Ludi and breads. She eats the sandwich fillings but leaves the slices of bread. I have to sit with her and force her to finish the bread piece by piece. Still, it’s a simple way to eat, and the sandwiches have been tasty. We rarely eat sandwiches at home anyway, so this was another nice change of pace for the girls.

We put Ludi down for her nap and spent some time teaching Jadzia to play “Uno.” Our hope was that Ludi would fall asleep during this time, but of course that didn’t happen. But Jadzia did learn, more or less, to play Uno, and she even won a hand.

On this trip we have opted for slightly unusual sleeping arrangements. Yoli and I are in what is the “kids’ room” with two beds. We have a bed and Josie has the other. Ludi and Jadzia are sharing a bed in the master bedroom. This is the first time they have ever slept together like this, and boy is it taking a while to get them to sleep. They keep each other up pushing, moving around, talking, etc.

All three girls were in bed for their naps and quiet, so I went outside to try to nap in the hammock. Ever since my trip last year to Bolivia, I have wanted to do this. I couldn’t do it on that trip because the girls wouldn’t sleep and wouldn’t let me. This was my chance — and it went well. Little did I know that inside the two older girls were still making noise and Yoli had to lay down with them to get them to finally fall asleep.

That evening we decided to go into town to eat at a restaurant, followed by a trip to Clearwater Dam. But it began to drizzle and rain. We were beginning to make new plans, when the rain let up. We decided to go through with it, and piled the girls into the car.

We ended up eating at the place next to Ralph’s supermarket. Dinner was decent, and the girls ate their food fairly well.

We drove down Highway HH to get to the dam. The one thing I couldn’t remember for sure was how to get to the parking lot next to the spillway. Highway HH actually runs across the top of the dam. I thought on the other side I would find what I was looking for.

After a few wrong turns and u-turns, we did end up at the spillway. But Josie was crying, so Yoli stayed in the car to nurse her, while I took the girls up to see the water roaring out of the spillway.

Our plan had been to see the spillway, take some photos and video, and let the girls play on a playground since the dam has campgrounds right nearby. But I had brought us to the wrong side of the river; the campground was on the other side. We decided to pile back into the car and drive back down HH to find the right way into the campground.

By the time we got there, it was beginning to drizzle again. I ran the girls out to the swings and they swang for maybe 30 seconds before the rain got hard and I had to take them back to the car. They were of course disappointed.

Our plan for our last morning of the trip was that I would take care of the big girls while Yoli cleaned up the inside of the club. Then after that, we’d head back to the dam to have a picnic and let the girls play extensively on the playgrounds. From there we could drive back home.

This plan worked pretty well. I took the girls down Shannon Road to the path that leads into the woods. We explore there for a while, going down the trail to a lookout stand from which you can see the river.

Along the way I reminded Jadzia of the story of Little Red Riding Hood, who had to walk through the woods, and whose mother admonished her not to leave the path.

I felt a twinge of sadness as I took down our hammock. It was a lot of fun getting to swing in it for a couple days. Once we had everything packed, we drove off and said goodbye to the club.

Our time at the dam was much better the second time around. The girls loved the playground (especially the slides). Our lunch at the pavilion was also very nice, although we forgot a few details like plasticware and paper plates and something to slice the cheese. But the sandwiches were no less tasty for the omissions. (as usual, though, we had to practically force Ludi to eat the bread.)

Josie was somewhat fussy, so there was a lot of rocking and walking while Yoli took the girls for potty time.

After that it was time to finally say goodbye to Piedmont and make our way home.

The trip home went okay, but not as good as the trip down. Josie woke up as we were approaching St. Louis. I made a wrong turn off of I-55 onto I-44 West and ended up getting mired in city traffic. Josie was screaming bloody murder by this point because she wanted to nurse, but I had no good place to park. It wasn’t fun. But things worked out eventually and we did make it all home safe and sound.

About Josh Renaud

I'm the Emperor of the Renaud Empire, which is to say that I'm the husband of a Boliviana and the father of three daughters and one son. When I'm not conquering lands and expanding borders, I'm a newspaper designer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Find me on Twitter (@Kirkman) or Google+.
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One Response to Piedmont and Clearwater

  1. Justin Renaud says:

    Thanks for sharing your trip…I just told Becca this morning, that I would love to take her and the boys to the club some time this summer. This makes me want to go even more=)

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