The Lake Life is Calling
An extended family remembers spectacular RV and campground getaways in Lake of the Ozarks, MO
By Jackie Tucker
Burgers on the grill? Check. Cold drinks in the fridge? Check. The giant calendar with everyone’s summer schedule set up in the dining room? Check. Everything is ready for our family’s annual “Plan the Summer Vacation” party. For the last ten years, three generations of Bradfords have gathered at my in-laws’ house to plan our summer camping trip to Lake of the Ozarks. There’s a reason it was voted the Best Recreational Lake in the US by USA TODAY readers, and we look forward to going every summer. Now our yearly party has almost become as much of a tradition as the vacation itself.
“All right, you know the drill,” says my father-in-law, John, pointing at my seven-year-old son, Aaron. “Youngest goes first.” The “drill” is that we each get to say one thing we want to do on the trip, which helps narrow things down with my husband, Greg’s, family. Between the three of us and his parents, there is also his sister, her husband, and their three kids.
“Tree house cabin!” shouts Aaron, and his cousins cry out in agreement. “Remember those, Mom?” Aaron bounces on the balls of his feet and looks up at me with a huge grin.
I do remember. That was the summer we went to Cross Creek RV Park. Cabins on stilts among the tops of beautiful oak and dogwood trees, the accommodations there were an exciting and unique adventure. Thankfully, sturdy staircases provided easy access to the front door. Although, I’m sure the kids would’ve loved a rope ladder and trap door entrance.
My nieces and nephew name off their favorites from that summer as well, adding to the wish list for this trip.
“Swimming in the lake…and the pool.”
I smile at the misty look on my mother-in-law’s face. We adults forget to shout out our requests for activities and instead start reminiscing. That time John taught the kids how to bait a hook, and my then-five-year-old niece ended up catching a bigger fish than he did. The friendly games of horseshoes and shuffleboard. An epic water fight played out in paddleboats across the eight-acre lake. Hikes along stunning nature trails lit by the soft, late-afternoon sunlight. The small picnic lunch that turned into an all-afternoon feast when we made friends with the family from the next campsite over.
Lazy hazy days of summer
We talk about the summer my in-laws stayed for a whole month at Osage Beach RV Park. The only RV park in Osage Beach, it is secluded and quiet, yet still close enough to all of the area’s major attractions and activities. We went down to visit almost every weekend and one full week that summer, spending lazy afternoons by the pool or renting a boat to cruise around the lake.
My sister-in-law, Sarah, and I would walk to the local shops and restaurants while Greg, John and Sarah’s husband, Steve, played golf on the nearby greens. Relaxation was the name of the game that summer. I think my favorite part was sitting around the campsite in the cool of the evening, sun-tired and happy from a long day of fun on the lake. The crickets chirped and fireflies flitted in and out of the surrounding woods, creating an otherworldly illusion.
Deer Valley Park Campground is another family favorite. Located in Sunrise Beach, the shaded campground is at the end of the mile-long Lynch Hollow Cove. The kids would spend all day building sand castles on the white sand beaches, and only the promise of juicy cheeseburgers and rich, smooth ice cream at Franky & Louie’s next door would get them out of the water.
After lunch, Greg and Steve would take the kids into the arcade while Sarah and I sipped margaritas at the tiki bar. Between the beach, the live music and the general vibe of the place, we could almost imagine ourselves on an island in the Caribbean somewhere. We carried the island theme back to the campsite where we lit tiki torches and strung up twinkle lights to create a laid back ambiance.
The next adventure
“It’s your turn, Grandad!” Aaron sidles up next to John after everyone else has added their requests to the list. John tousles Aaron’s hair and says he is most looking forward to the simple things like s’mores around the campfire and “Draw on Your Nose,” a silly campfire game my husband made up where the loser has to make a dirt mark on his nose.
Aaron laughs. “I like that game! And your stories around the campfire, Grandad. I can’t wait to hear new ones!”
“And I can’t wait to make new ones,” John says with a smile, summing up my thoughts exactly.
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