Birthdays on the road are always a gamble. I’ll always remember Harrison’s 14th spent hunkered down in an Atlanta hotel after a huge ice storm hit. His 15th we celebrated at home with friends since we spent last winter back in the stick-house while preparing to sell it and go full-time on the road.
This year his birthday fell while we are camp-hosting here in Mesa, AZ. Since we’re part of a small community of camp-hosts and have some facilities at our disposal we decided to see if we could pull off a surprise party. Harrison is a tough kid to surprise as he is very perceptive and detail oriented. Not much gets past him but we decided to try anyway. We booked the campground’s nature center, bought some cakes with ice cream layered in, and passed word around the camp hosts and park staff. Miranda play-acted a phone call with friends and told Harrison they wanted to meet at the Nature Center, and they biked up. We headed up saying we wanted to show another camp-host our website (excusing our packed-along laptops that we wanted to use for a hopefully-embarrassing Harrison slideshow).
I know Harrison noticed that most of the cars in the lot were camp-host cars but I still think we managed to pull off a surprise for him - at least his smile in the video makes it worthwhile.
Our kids have done well at building relationships here. We’ve gotten many comments about their willingness to help out with the park from raking sites, filling holes from coyotes, and setting up chairs and tables for the different nature center events. For me seeing that nearly all of the other hosts and park staff took the time to show up to help celebrate Harrison’s birthday was evidence of this.
In addition to the surprise party we also let Harrison choose where to out for dinner - and he chose Mikes Burgers and Cheesesteaks, a locally-owned place in nearby Gilbert AZ (Harrison is a Cheesesteak connoisseur). The owner Mike was on-hand and we had a good conversation with him about our travel lifestyle and learning about his star soccer-playing daughter, and we were most impressed with the food.
A couple of nights later we also treated our fellow camp-hosting family to a night out of laser-tag - which I have no photo evidence of. The local laser tag place claims to be the “World’s Largest Technotainment Laser Tag Arena”, but when you make up words it’s easy to claim superlatives. Regardless, other than some sketchy and unsportsmanlike conduct from another family that joined in with us we had a fun night out.
Happy 16th Harrison!