A few weeks ago, my mother-in-law, Karen, came up for a visit. One of the many reasons I enjoy Karen's mid-week visits is that it makes me focus less on my to-do list and take a day out. If Karen hadn't been visiting, I'm sure the day would have been filled with laundry, grocery shopping, and cleaning. Instead, Karen, Eleanor, and I spent the day at Lake Farmpark.
It was a gorgeous, sunny, crisp Fall day. I had never been to Lake Farmpark, but my friend Heidi had raved about how wonderful it is and how much her kids love it, so I was eager to visit. We packed a picnic lunch and headed off around lunchtime.
The trip there took a bit longer than I had expected, so by the time we had arrived, Eleanor had already eaten as much of her lunch as was possible from within a car seat. Karen and I, however, were still hungry; we decided to eat lunch first and then really spend time at the different activities.
I could see a picnic pavilion from the parking lot, but it was surrounded by fences. I surmised that we would have to go in and pay first, and then be able to access the picnic area. As we approached the welcome center, we saw a group of elementary school kids getting onto buses at the end of their trip. They pointed to the adorable baby, who smiled and waved back. They were cute and all, but I was secretly glad they were leaving so we wouldn't be bumping into a large clump of children everywhere we turned.
We went to the counter to pay. Eleanor, as usual, had declined to actually ride in the stroller. Instead, I was holding her and the cooler had taken the place of honor in the stroller seat. The woman working the cash register peered over the counter and said, "You're not taking food into the park, are you?"
"Of course not," I immediately replied. I couldn't help myself. I didn't want to get in trouble! Karen looked quizzically at me, but I figured we'd pay our money and then figure out for ourselves where we could eat lunch.
But of course, that hastily-thought-out plan backfired. We walked through the park to the picnic area I had seen from the parking lot. Um yeah, there's no way to get into it from the park. From our vantage point on the far side of the picnic area, I could see that the entrance was, indeed, from the parking lot. But it was right at the beginning of the parking lot, so by the time we had parked and I had looked, all I had seen was fences.
It was all starting to come together, as we stood on the outside of the fence. Apparently, if people wanted to bring their own food, they had to eat in the picnic area and THEN enter the park. Hence the pointed question about bringing in food when we paid our admission.
This was good to know, but wasn't much use to us at the current juncture. We could walk another 10 minutes back through the park to the parking lot and into the picnic area .... or we could just jump the fence where we were at. I mean, who was watching, really?
When I suggested it, Karen looked at me like I was crazy. But I persisted. Who was to know? And it's not like we didn't pay admission. We were getting out of the park, not in.
I managed to strong-arm her into cooperating with my crazy scheme. Who knew her daughter-in-law would be such a bad influence?!? She went over first, I handed over everything (Eleanor, lunch, diaper bag, stroller) and climbed over after. Success!
We enjoyed a delicious lunch. As I sat, munching on salad, I looked around and came to another realization. The only way back into the park was .... through the welcome center. Past the no-food lady. Huh.
I tried to convince Karen to scale the fence again, but she had reached her rule-breaking limits. A wiser head prevailed, and we returned the leftover food to the care and headed towards the welcome center, prepared for a well-earned tongue-lashing.
This time, we saw the very small, unobtrusive sign saying "no outside food in the park. eat at the picnic area first." We realized that, on our first time in, the sign had been hidden behind the clump of schoolchildren waiting to board their bus.
But the gods smiled upon us, and we got lucky. When crossing from the parking lot, we ended up behind a group of two women with several children. Upon entering the building, they went directly to the admission counter. We went to the far left side of the entrance area (what would typically be used by people leaving) and pushed on through with a wide smile of greeting for the confused counter ladies.
I, personally, didn't really start breathing until we were outside again. I resisted the urge to look behind us and see whether we were being chased. (We weren't.) We walked quickly to the main path, and began our tour of Lake Farmpark all over again. Hopefully on the right side of the law, this time.