To celebrate Memorial Day weekend, my family made the trek from Cleveland down to Springfield, Ohio to visit with our extended family and ring in the first cookout of the summer with loved ones.
If you have ever been to Springfield, you are painfully aware of how desolate and obsolete the city really is. Perhaps this is a bit dramatic, but really, even the Target went out of business.
With four kids in my family, someone is always running out the door to a sporting event, club meeting, work, school ceremony—you name it. So naturally, we were all bored to tears within the hour of getting there. Since the cookout was not until the following afternoon my dad came up with a plan of action—we would go on a hike.
Beyond all the farm land (and Walmart) lies John Bryan State Park—a majestic land full of trees, rocks and the occasional squirrel. Oh sorry, and the van down by the river.
In the past I have always been up for being one with nature and getting my zen on, however; over the past year I have become an extreme arachnophobe thanks to the next level spiders the Cleveland Metroparks breed in my backyard and have decided nature just isn’t my thing.
Normally I would get over myself and embrace the bugs and humidity, but on this particular day, I decided instead to embrace my true self. By the end of our 3.5-mile hike through the spider invested woods I was ready for a shower, AC and a cold drink.
Little did I know the fun was just beginning…
While we may like to pretend we can hang in the woods and camp with the best of them, the Gentile clan are city people who had more than a difficult time reading the trail map. Turns out the trail we were on was not a loop. Hiking 3.5 miles back through the woods I felt I had barely survived the first time was too much to bare. Lucky for us the trail ended at the park office. Surely there was another way to the car.
My dad, being the city slicker he is, profoundly said to the young woman, “yes, hello! I would like to go back to where I came from.”
Dumb founded she asked, “where did you come from?”
Explaining that we were parked in the lower picnic area and wanted to avoid hiking back on the trail she replied, “Sure, no problem! Follow the paved path behind this building and when you get to the road turn left.
Simple enough, right? WRONG.
Oh, how delusional we were—that would have been too easy.
We followed the path just as she said and got to the road to learn that the “road” was state route 373. This seemed weird, but she said turn left and follow the road, so the parking lot must just be right up ahead.
After walking a mile on this country road with cars and trucks zooming by us at 65 mph, we decided something was not right. We were surrounded by miles of corn fields with no sign of a state park in site.
My dad pulled out the map that the women had given him to try and figure out where we were. When I realized we weren’t even on that map, I put our destination into my phone.
“Don’t worry guys,” I said. “We’re only a mere 49-minute walk away from the car.”
Unanimously, everyone screamed, “WHAT?!”
The kind woman in the office failed to tell us it was a 3-mile walk on this road just to get back to the entrance of the park and we would need to take a second left onto a different road.
Stranded on the side of the road, I was trying not to panic as I could see my sisters were about to lose their minds. We had already walked a mile on this road, if we turned around now it would take just as long, if not longer. We had to keep going—our cookout was hanging in the balance!
I was not trying to walk 49 minutes on the side of a state road with almost no berm and cars racing by us though. In my head I figured out if we ran 10 minute miles we would cut that time by more than half.
“Let’s just run. We are all wearing tennis shoes, we can’t walk out here for another hour,” I said.
Reluctantly, my sisters agreed and so we were off! Thankfully my dad is a marathon runner and has always encouraged us to stay in shape, so we were all capable of running.
There we were running under the sun on the side of this country road following the gently rolling hills of southern Ohio. As we were running, I couldn’t help but laugh at how ridiculous we all looked. I can only imagine what people thought as they passed us—it was pretty obvious we weren’t just out on afternoon run.
To keep my sisters focused and being the tyrant that I am, I said we weren’t stopping until we finished at least one mile. They held strong and I thought everyone was fine, but when we stopped to walk for a minute my youngest sister burst into tears.
Trying not to laugh at how ridiculous this whole situation was, my dad and I gave her a little pep talk and she wiped her tears. After all we still had a little over a mile left and the plan was to start running again.
Thirty seconds into running again, my other sister just flat out stopped. “Becca what are you doing? Come on! You need to run,” I said.
She snapped back at me, “I only have one speed okay!”
I kindly responded, “Okay, that’s fine, but that one speed needs to be a little faster than a walk, let’s go, it’s only a mile.”
As you might imagine, that didn’t go over well with her.
After a few “I can’ts”, “I don’t feel well’s” and another pep talk later, she was running and we were almost to the entrance of the park.
Through all the blood (we all had some bad blisters), sweat and tears, we made it back to the car, and we did it together.
While my dad could have ran ahead gotten the car and come back to pick us all up, I am so glad he didn’t. Sure it wasn’t what we planned, but we set out that morning for an adventure and an adventure is what we got. It seemed miserable and endless in the moment, but it brought us closer together and is a day I will always remember. In the end, we treated ourselves to icee’s in a quaint little town called Yellow Springs. We had a good laugh about what had just happened and made it home just in time for the cookout.
Do you have any crazy family stories from the holiday weekend? Share them below, or your favorite memory you have with your family!