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home : columns : columns May 31, 2016

8/7/2013 9:17:00 AM
Going 'Up North'
When it comes to family vacations, the biggest horror stories I seem to always hear are not so much what happens on vacation, but the dread that comes with getting to your vacation destination.
I'll admit, over the years we've had our moments with travel, but they have been so few and far between, I don't remember them (or maybe those rare moments were so forgettable, I've done just that).
In any case, I'm a little different when it comes to vacation travel, especially when it comes to "going Up North."
For most of the past 25 years, I've joined my wife's family on a vacation at Eagle Nest Lodge in Northern Minnesota and, for me, one of the joys of the vacation is getting there. Yes, I'm a different duck when it comes to vacation travel - I like it!
Even when our children were toddlers, I enjoyed the trip and maybe that's because they did, too. My wife has a better memory than I when it comes to recounting our travels to Eagle Nest over the years, but I can remember only an instance or two where I couldn't wait to get to the resort and have "car time" over.
Otherwise, it's always been a fun trip - at least on the way up; not so much on the way back because it signals the end of vacation.
Barring road construction detours, we take the same route almost every year - to Redwood Falls, Olivia, Willmar, Sauk Centre, Browerville, Staples, Motley, Akeley, Walker, Cass Lake, the Winnie Dam Road and finally Eagle Nest Lodge.
It's at least a five-hour trip if driven straight through, but we break it up with traditional stops after a 7 a.m., departure - breakfast at the Hillcrest Cafe, a stop for gas in Long Prairie (the unofficial halfway point), dinner in Walker, a stop for groceries in Cass Lake and then on to Eagle Nest.
Maybe it's really not the travel I enjoy as much as the tradition. When we take the same route and make the same stops along the way, that feels like and says to me "vacation" with a Capital "V." We're fortunate in that our families get along well together and that we can make the trip to Eagle Nest Lodge an annual getaway.
Perhaps I enjoy it just a little bit more when I see the same excitement from our children. I think they share that same joy for the trip and are eager to make it together for as long as that's still possible.
The rock
And, of course, there are sights that must be seen as we travel our favorite route - the big crow in Belgrade, or perhaps a stop for a photo in Paul Bunyan's hand in Akeley.
Yes, the kneeling statue of Paul Bunyan is so large, two or three people at one time can sit in the big lumberjack's palm. However, Paul's hand was apparently going through some patching repair and looked a bit unsightly to be sitting on. That didn't seem to bother our grandson, Wilson. He hopped right up in the hand and flashed a big smile for the camera.
Even the youngest of the clan looks forward to vacation.
But there's one sight that everyone in the Hansen family simply must see. A few miles north of Motley on Highway 64 is a large rock on the east side of the road. Although we've never actually stopped and had our photo taken by the rock, I guesstimate that it's probably three to four feet high and five or six feet wide.
While we don't know the story behind the rock, it seems it gets a fresh coat of paint . . . once a week? Once every other week? Whenever the spirit moves someone to do so? We're not sure. However, the rock not only is painted but also has some sort of message on it. And it's not done in a graffiti-like format; the rock is always painted sharply and neatly.
Of course, the message changes each year when we drive by and most of the time the words likely have a local connection since names are usually painted on it. However, occasionally there's a comical saying to which anyone can relate.
In any case, it's always a topic of conversation once we reach Eagle Nest Lodge.
Perhaps one year it will say, "Happy Vacation, Hansen Family!"
It should. It's become part of Hansen Family vacation tradition.

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