This weekend was a weekend of ‘firsts’ for our Cricket Camping adventures. This was our first camping trip at a state park, our first trip cooking every meal at the campground, our first trip taking the bikes along in the Cricket, and our first visit to Discovery Park of America. So, how did we fare?
With the Cricket, we were able to get on the road Friday evening within 30 minutes of everyone getting home. The ability to pack and hook up quickly might be our favorite feature of the Cricket. We were able to pack almost everything Thursday night, even perishables, and leaving very little work to do on Friday.
One thing that made packing quickly was our splurge on Fireside Provisions. We ordered our food the previous weekend using the Fireside Provisions website and had our meals delivered to our doorstep Friday afternoon. It was pretty slick!
Before hitching up the Cricket, we used our multi-use ball hitch to tow the bike rack above it, as we had previously done with our pop up. This proved to be a fail: the combination of the hitch and our bike rack caused the bike rack to rub on the trailer.
On the way to the campground, we made a quick stop at Fort Defiance Park on the southernmost tip of Illinois near Cairo. There, you can climb a two story observation deck to see the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. If you are in the area, this is worth a quick stop. Three ironclad ships were built in nearby Mounds, Illinois during the Civil War, by James Ead, who would later build the Eads Bridge in Saint Louis. We will mention the Civil War a couple times as this weekend inadvertently became a war tour.
We made it to Columbus-Belmont State Park and were greeted by the campground host and a developing pack of kids. Before we could even back into our site, the kids were off to bond with their new buddies for the weekend. Parking, unpacking, hooking up, setting camp took minutes. We can’t get past this fast set up because as pop up campers and tent campers, we were used to setup that took hours and was hard work!
We dove into the Fireside Provisions box to see what we had for dinner. We prepared chili verde, everything except ground pork was in the box, which we had packed in the fridge before we left. The vegetables, pre-measured spices, and pork combined to make a very good chili. Equipped with headlamps, the kids played nearly until quiet hour, which was 11pm, while we got to unwind by our campfire.
We headed back outside to see a Civil War skirmish. We are Yankees visiting the South; we were reminded of this when the Union soldiers advanced on the Confederate soldiers to the disapproval of the audience. The Grey went on to destroy The Blue in the demonstration. As we continued around DPA, we explored Liberty Hall, a fire station, a barbershop, a chapel, and several bridges crossing the grounds. By now, it was 4:30 and we had been at the park since it opened at 10am! We’ve spent the entire day at DPA and didn’t even take part in the three special attractions that you could purchase for an additional price, and we felt like we had to hustle to see it all. We could have easily spent two days here. DPA seamlessly combines art, history, and science into a fun package that the whole family enjoyed.
We experiences our weekend of ‘firsts’ of Cricket Camping. How did we fare?
First time camping in a state park? We are sold. Private campgrounds are convenient and have their place. A state park campground was perfect for this trip: it was relaxing, friendly, and had adequate amenities for the weekend.
First time cooking every meal? We need to strike a balance. We can’t eat out every meal when we travel, but cooking is time consuming. If we use Fireside Provisions, or do our own meal planning, we think that planning and prepping our meals in advance is the best way to stay out of frequent restaurants or spending our leisure time cooking.
First trip with the bikes? We had a snag. The double hitch with the bike rack plan was a fail. We put the bikes inside the Cricket to get home. This worked, but it wasn’t ideal.
First trip to Discovery Park of America? Loved it. We will be back to DPA again. We have Civil War days on the tentative calendar for next year and will consider going back for their weekend events throughout the summer.
If you find yourself within a weekend trip to Columbus-Belmont State Park and Discovery Park of America, we think that you’ll enjoy yourself if you check out these stops, even if you aren’t Cricket Camping.
Shane and Jessica
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