Vacationland: Home of the Gazing Ball

Many of you know of our fondness for our Camp Cheerio because it’s all we ever want to talk about. I’m aware it’s terribly annoying and I’m mostly sorry. Those of you who haven’t had the chance to realize how googly-eyed we are over camp, let me give you the abridged version. Camp Cheerio is at an undisclosed location on a spring-fed lake in the Maine woods. My grandparents bought it sight unseen in the early ’70s and I can say with confidence that it hasn’t changed much since. Heck, I can say with confidence the whole cove hasn’t changed much since the cabins were first put there. Some date back to the 1800s.The water is cold and crisp, you mostly eat with your fingers, there is no electricity, and there is an outhouse. Our cove abides by a code of rustic regulations that affords us a true opportunity to disconnect from reality. For those of you into science, it’s pretty close to experiencing time travel.

On the drive up, a chunk at the end is all on secondary and tertiary roads. When we get off the highway, we spring into action playing a game based on the lawn decorations of the houses we drive past. This came about because we noticed in our travels one year that a lot of people had gazing balls proudly displayed on their landscapes. Now, a gazing ball is one of the most loathsome lawn ornaments to exist. Coincidentally, it is also one of the most magical lawn ornaments to exist. Here is an example in case you can’t picture what one looks like.

Gee Bee

Gee Bee

Gameplay is easy. If you are the driver, it’s a little harder. If you are Ellen and get carsick, it’s hilarious to everyone else except you. She recommends chewing a ginger candy to keep the barfies in check. As I was saying, gameplay is easy. If you see a gazing ball, you yell, “GAZING BALL!” If you yell it first, you get a point. In cases where there are 2+ gazing balls on the same lawn, it helps to utter the color of the one you are referring to after you yell, “GAZING BALL!” You would be in shock at how many points you can get. Conversely, if you see a lawn ornament that is in the form of a black bear, you lose all of your points and have to start over again. Admitting to seeing a black bear is based on the honor system. And finally, there is one lawn ornament that rises above even the status of  the gazing ball and that is the elusive Mary-In-A-Tub. Yes, it’s a Virgin Mary statue and it is placed inside of a porcelain claw foot bathtub that is buried on end creating a cost effective grotto. If you see it, you get $50 from the other players. We have never seen one to date.

And now we present some snippets of other things that went down during our vacation:

1. Ellen went fishing, got a nibble, reeled in with great, struggling effort only to finally realize she caught a smallmouth rock. This happened twice.

2. In conditions likely similar to a knighting ceremony, Robb’s dad passed down to Ellen a plastic moose call to take into the wilderness. Its floppy, accordianesque beauty is unsurpassed, but its effectiveness remains unproven. Even when Robb sprinkled a trail of Gram’s iodized salt (“They LOVE salt,” he assured us.) along the path to our cabin and honked the call a couple of times, we had nothing to show for it. Now that I’m thinking about it, a moose with a full rack should rank on the same level as Mary-In-A-Tub.

3. Erik and Robb wanted to snorkel around an island known to have been the garbage dumping grounds for a wealthy family who lived on another close-by island back in the day. They were eager to find some treasures. Look how excited they were:

Garbage Island

Ignorance is bliss!

After a few minutes, Erik’s head surfaced with a look of pure fear and he swam faster than we’ve ever seen anyone swim back to the boat. He had just looked a giant snapping turtle in the face. Bigger than a basketball, but not quite as big as a garbage can lid. Snorkeling extravaganza over.

Here’s a picture from the moment before they locked eyes. I have illustrated the approximate location of the snapper.


4. Adhering to a strict 4,000 calories/day diet per person, the junk food slam tally for the week was nothing to scoff at:

2 bags Cheez Doodles, 3 bags tortilla chips, 1 box Better Cheddars, 1 bag PARTY SIZE Smartfood, 1 bag Humpty Dumpty Dill Pickle Chips, 1 bag Humpty Dumpty Salt and Vinnies, 1 bag Humpty Dumpty Sour Cream & Onion Chips, 1 bag French Onion Sunchips


Team Zissou. Dead Man’s Rock.

6. The rest of my photos from that week can be found by clicking here.


And now for the M. Night Shyamalan twist…

At the end of our week, we got home from camp to find a large package sitting on our front porch. None of us remembered ordering anything but we brought it upstairs and ignored it for a bit. When we finally took scissors to the box, I heard some suspicious school girl giggling coming from El and Robb. Do you guys remember that example picture of the gazing ball I showed you earlier in this post? That’s my back porch. And now that’s my golden gazing ball.

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