Long version, beginning with some pertinent background: I grew up taking family vacations in the Hitchhiker II, my dad's parents' RV. Grandma and Grandpa drove the RV south every winter, but for one week in August every summer, my family got to take it around the United States. We visited everywhere from the headwaters of the Mississippi River in northern Minnesota to the Black Hills in South Dakota to Colorado Springs to Niagara Falls. My brother and sister and I got to assemble the week's menus (Gushers! French fries!), my dad did the driving, and we all have a wide medley of memories: buttered popcorn Jelly Bellies (eww!), one missed turn we still laugh about, trying out the pool at every campground we visited, and a whole host of truly wonderful adventures.
We also got to spend some really special time with my grandparents at the campground where they parked their trailer, not too far from Mille Lacs Lake in central Minnesota, about 90 miles north of here. After they died, my dad continued spending time there, but for the rest of us, our visits kind of tapered off. For me, "avoiding" is too strong a word to describe my actions, but it did make me sad that my grandparents wouldn't be there. Years went by and summer weekends started to fill up even faster, and I still didn't go back.
So a couple of weeks ago, I was pleasantly surprised when my sister suggested that we all go up north to the trailer one weekend to celebrate my dad's birthday. We all agreed, so on Saturday afternoon, my brother, sister and I piled into the car with Josh and Wish and drove up to the campground. We pulled up to the campsite and took a walk around the campground with my dad.
And there was no dramatic lightbulb moment, no stunning realization of this moment feeling easier or harder than I expected. It just was, in the nicest way. We walked around, we saw the little lake where I used to fish with Grandma, Wish got confused by the kids riding around on ATVs. We sat down, we ate loads of guacamole on a chilly, gray afternoon, we watched Josh hit golf balls (or try).
I mean, really, how could you not relax in a place like this? (Assuming you didn't get lost, of course.)
And man, did we eat. Dad grilled steaks on Saturday night and hamburgers for lunch on Sunday. It reminded me of a former colleague who would bake the absolute best sweets and how another colleague swore it was because she baked with love. Dad is a grill master - and I think he might grill with love, too.
Twice we tended fires. On Sunday, we all walked to the little lake (Mille Lacs was still too choppy because of the weekend storms) and split up our party to fit into Dad's boat and one of the community canoes.
On Sunday afternoon, after the canoe adventure - apparently I need to work on my paddle skills before I head up to the Boundary Waters in August, or at least reduce my time spent taking pictures of lily pads and loons - we spread out around the campsite in various stages of nap. It's hard to feel quite that relaxed back home. The sun came out. I was reclining in a patio chair with my brother and sister on the picnic table next to me, with this view:
And luckily, my mom reprised her role as family photographer from vacations past, but that means she's not in as many of the photos. (Mom! Darn it!) I'm also realizing I don't have any pictures of the trailer itself to show. Anyway, here are some of Mom's:
Next time, though, I won't let years go by before I return. I loved the whole thing.