Saturday, July 20, 2013

Indiana Dunes Vacation

I'm basking in a contented weariness.  It is the weariness that comes after an enjoyable vacation.  It was short and mostly sweet and full of wonderful family memories.  Especially so, since we insisted that our teenage son accompany us on this brief trip.  Actually, he didn't complain much.  It was more our sensitivity to the idea that he might be bored beyond belief.

We left Thursday, in time to arrive at the start of our Merrillville hotel check-in time, in hopes of securing a first-come-first-served cot.  We snagged one.  Score!  The little boys took a quick jump in the hotel pool while John and Bryce unloaded our minimal luggage and took a breather.  Then, we headed off for the Indiana Dunes State Park in Chesterton, Indiana.

Sadly, as we arrived at the gate to pay our $5 entrance fee, we were informed that the beach-front closed for swimming at 6 p.m. (it was already 5:30 - thanks to a huge traffic jam where we inched in traffic for almost 45 minutes compliments of an over-turned semi taking up all three lanes of traffic and forcing traffic to merge into one lane on the shoulder to pass). 

Still, we had a wonderful time there.  The lake was beautiful.  The little boys and I were already suited up, so we went in the water.  After the lifeguards left, we decided to tackle the big hill near the gates (I believe this was Mount Torn, a dune that "towers 192 feet above Lake Michigan," according to the activity guide).  Talk about a challenging hike.  I think I'm desperately out of shape. I was huffing and puffing and stopping repeatedly (although I couldn't stop for long because the hot sand felt like it would scorch off the bottoms of my feet).

After showering off at the hotel, we went to Outback Steakhouse for a marvelous (if expensive) dinner (to the tune of $107 - Yikes).  I enjoyed the Spinach-Artichoke Flatbread and a side of steamed broccoli.  John ordered the salmon and had to share quite a few bites with our chief salmon-lover, Trevor.  The boys were most fond of the Oreo shakes for dessert.

On Friday, we arrived at the dunes just as the beach was opening for swimming (11 a.m.).  The water was cool and the sand was, again, frighteningly hot.  The boys had a blast swimming, while I tended to spend most of my time in a chair with a book, fighting the blowing sand battle.  The thing was, it got boring pretty quickly and we were all frying (despite a generous coating of sunscreen), so we grabbed a quick bite to eat at the concession stand and then made our way to a nearby water park.

The Seven Peaks Waterpark was a bit of a disappointment.  We arrived at 2:30, just an hour and a half before the prices would have reduced.  Thus, we ended up paying $14.95 per person to get in.  Having paid that much, one would assume that inner tubes for the rides would be included, but alas, we discovered an additional fee of $20 to rent three inner tubes for the experience.  Moreover, it was disappointing to discover so many things advertised but not available. The ad mentioned a 500,000 gallon wave pool, which was not working, and a quarter-mile lazy river, which was apparently not built yet. Plus, several of the 15 water slides were shut down.  At first, thinking all the lockers were taken (we wrongly expected the keys to be in the available lockers), we hauled all our stuff to a picnic table (thankfully, under a pavilion) and I sat by the stuff while the boys all went off to ride the rides.  By the time we discovered the office where you rent the lockers (another $4), the back of my swim-suit broke, rendering it unfit for any riding on my part.  Groan.

Still, there were some positives to the water park experience.  The boys were super stoked about the 70 foot tall free fall drop-slide.  They wanted me to give it a try and it was as I was walking over to the behemoth slide that John noticed the clasp on my suit snap off.  Schwew!  Saved by the suit misfortune.  Thus, I ended up going back to the van to retrieve my glasses and my book and I sat in the breezy pavilion watching our stuff and reading to my heart's content (I wouldn't have probably wanted to do the slides anyway - too bad they wouldn't let me in the park without paying, since all I did was sit there).

We were amazed at the cleanliness of the facilities.  While I sat reading, workers must have come by 5 or 6 times to wash down all the tables, regardless of whether they had clearly been used or not.  John said the bathrooms were immaculate.  The park was very family-friendly.

The guys also really enjoyed the tube slides.  They said they were especially good when ridden backwards.  They seemed to be having a really good time, but did quickly grow bored. We only lasted about 3 hours.  I think if we come to the dunes again, we will try to spend noon to 4 at the dunes and then 4 to 7 at the water park (securing the cheaper entrance fee).

After a quick clean-up, we ended the evening with dinner at Denny's.  Our drive home this morning was less than pleasant because of bumper-to-bumper traffic and yet another accident to get around.  But, all-in-all, it was a wonderful family trip and we are so grateful that Bryce came along.  He is an excellent big brother to Trevor and Sean and really spent some quality time with them both at the dunes and at the water park.

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