Road Tripping: What Is This Called Again?

Part 5 of a series. Road Tripping

Destination: Lutsen, Minnesota (47° 38’ 49” N  90° 40’ 28” W)

Origination: Chanhassen, Minnesota (44° 51’ 25” N  93° 33’ 28” W)

Traveling Party: Barry, Jennifer, David (age 6), Cameron (age 3), Justin (age 9 months)

Date: July 2006

As I finished up some last-minute packing for a trip to the North Shore of Lake Superior, Cameron sat on my bed, watching intently. His three year-old mind was trying to understand the concept of “vacation,” and he was asking question after question. He knew we would be driving a long way, seeing a big lake, waterfalls, staying in a hotel, eating in restaurants, hiking, swimming in the pool. It all sounded grand to him, but it was the first time anyone had really put a label on such fun.

Our fun trip started off well. A nice drive up I-35, only one stop. We sailed on past Duluth and made it all the way to Gooseberry Falls for a picnic lunch and a walk around the falls and the river. The kids tried to throw every rock into the water, David and Cameron were all lovey dovey. Justin was behaving and was fascinated by the sound of the water. It was a glorious sunny, summer day.

A few hours into the trip when we were still having fun!

Onward we went. We checked into the Lutsen Lodge, a rustic hotel right on the shore of Lake Superior, with the Sawtooth Mountains to the northwest. We envisioned a refreshing dip in the pool, a relaxing dinner, a nice walk, enjoying the lake, s’mores by the bonfire on the beach, then a restful night’s sleep to energize us for the next day.

The pool was refreshing.

Dinner was not relaxing. Dinner was a zoo. Two hungry kids itching to go see the lake, one fussy baby, slow service.

The walk was not nice. Cameron made a point of climbing every rock and tree, and getting approximately two inches from every steep precipice that overlooked the lake. We couldn’t look away from him for a second and spent most of our hike pleading with him to stay away from the edge.

The lake was not enjoyable. Particularly after David fell into a deep tidepool and almost drowned.

The bonfire and s’mores never happened.

Our night was not restful. It was an unseasonably warm and humid night. Because of the northern location, the Lutsen Lodge does not have central air conditioning. We had something in our room window that we thought was supposed to function as an air conditioner, but it was just a fan, and it brought no relief whatsoever. Our room had west-facing windows and the afternoon sun had heated it to a sauna-like temperature. We were sweaty and hot. Everyone struggled to sleep. There was a light breeze coming through one of the windows, but our room was located next to a ballroom where a wedding reception was taking place. Opening the window meant hearing the chatter of the guests and music as if they were in the room with us. And our other window was right next to a patio where the waitstaff took smoke breaks every ten minutes.

And naturally every kid was up at the crack of dawn and set about to destroy every item in the room. Barry and I were cranky, David was moody, Cameron was into everything, Justin was teething. I was calling around trying to find a hotel where we wouldn’t be sleeping in pools of sweat, Barry wanted to go work out, David was hungry, Cameron wanted to go to the lake, Justin kept picking random stuff off of the floor and putting it in his mouth.

As this picture of chaos unfolded, Cameron turned to me and said, “What is this called again?”

“What is what called?” I asked.

“This,” he said, “where we’re goin’ and havin’ fun.”

I could think of a few words for it, but it dawned on me what he meant.

“Vacation,” I replied, hoping someday I would appreciate the irony.

© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2011

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