We were only a couple weeks into the school year when our fourth grade daughter came home with an announcement: “This year we get to do a city project and I want to do Austin!”
I looked at her a little skeptically. After all, she had just started Texas state history and I was certain she was going to learn more throughout the year that might change her mind. Aware that the actual city project would be assigned in the weeks leading up to Spring Break, I locked it away in my memory and put it aside for a couple months, aware that if she did in fact have Austin, Spring Break would be the perfect time to get information in person.
Spring Break has been our go-to for extended spring camping trips. The weather usually cooperates and is a healthy balance of not too hot and not too cold (although there was that night when our hose froze when we went to Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky). Our first spring break in Texas we discovered that everyone else in the state has the same idea and the most desirable state park locations are taken early, which meant we had to settle for whatever we could find when our first option, a state park in Louisiana, was surrounded by flooding. Last spring break we went to Arkansas and made sure we were ahead of the pack so that we could camp near Hot Springs National Park. This time, no matter where we decided to spend part of our spring break, it was going to be a leap of faith that we were picking a location that would serve both vacation and educational purposes.
The closer we got to winter the more aware I was of the fact that we needed to get our Spring Break camping reservations settled before all of the spots across the entire state were taken. I needed confirmation that Austin was the desired destination.
“Are you sure that you want to do Austin for your city project? You know that you might not get your first choice, right?”
She looked at me with her big blue eyes and vigorously nodded her head. “Yes, I’m sure I want to do Austin. It is the state capital, after all.” Alrighty then.
I took the chance that she would get her first choice, made reservations for a long weekend at a state park 45 minutes outside of Austin, and we waited for the next several months for the selection day that would determine whether or not I had made the right call in our Spring Break reservations.
A couple of weeks ago we finally had our moment of truth. Our daughter came home from school glowing. “No one else had Austin for their first choice! Now I get to do all sorts of research at school to help plan our trip. Is there some way that I can get brochures from Austin? What is there to do?”
Suddenly her every thought was absorbed by planning the perfect trip for Spring Break. Nothing else mattered. She wanted to make plans to see and do all the things she could find.
One of our first steps was having her make the phone call to get the pamphlets that she needed/wanted to assist in her planning process. Calling the Austin Chamber of Commerce so that she could get tourist information was a comedy of errors.
First, I dialed the number after she got confused. Then I realized that I still had my bluetooth headphones on (I was getting ready to go for a run) and the phone call was coming through my headphones, not the phone. Finally I got it disconnected and then she handed me back the phone and said, “No one’s there.”
I put the phone to my ear just in time to hear a woman on the other end say, “Hello, Austin Chamber of Commerce.” I introduced myself, explained that my daughter had a question, and then handed it over to her.
She put the phone to her ear. “Hey,” she said, her soft voice turning into a giggle. I began wondering if we had done the right thing when we cancelled our home phone all those years ago. Our kids are seriously lacking in phone skills.
I stood next to her and rolled my eyes. “Speak up and tell her what you’re calling for.”
What proceeded was me repeatedly telling our daughter to speak up and slow down as she relayed her needs and our address so that the poor woman on the other end of the phone could send the requested information.
While she waited for her envelope of information, she continued her online research at school and at home. In the meantime, my husband and I completed additional research, looking into ghost tours (one of her requests), popular eateries (because Austin=good food), and hours of operation for major attractions. We feel pretty confident that will be able to find a healthy balance of time out in nature in the local state parks and catching the major attractions in Austin that will help her with research and her presentation. Thankfully we stayed at McKinney Falls State Park last June so that we could see the flight of the Mexican Free-tail Bats from the Congress Ave. bridge, so she’ll be able to use that Austin experience in her presentation as well.
When she finally got her package three days later, she poured over the Austin city guide, spending half of our son’s last basketball game to mark up the guide and accompanying map to highlight everything that she wants to do.
And now we’re nearly ready for our first camping trip since we returned from the Davis Mountains and Big Bend. Basketball season is over, the kids don’t have soccer practices or games during the entire break, and we will be able to just enjoy some time together, getting back to nature and back to each other (with some time spent in another city to fulfill our daughter’s project dreams, of course).