Becker, Big Lake, Rice (with a rather evil population of 666), the college town of St. Cloud, all past by before hitting the Baxter/Brainerd/Nisswa triage of resort towns. Usually, since this is an even year, we would be soaking up the sun in Isle of Palms, SC while renting out two beach houses and watching my daughter chase crabs up and down the massive sandlot. But, since "the economy" is in play we're taking in the odd years tradition of heading to my eldest uncle's house for a round of golf and pot luck spread while watersports awaited for those inclined to do so.
The kids arrived at the hotel/waterpark before their father and were already an hour into double-tubing down the slides and getting knocked over every half-hour by this massive bucket of water. Road weary but happy to get out of the monkey cubical suit, I would join for a bit before two poolside drinks and fatigue from a long three months of school/work/blogging took it's toll and rendered me unusable.
Tee times at Crosswoods Golf Course for 12 of us were early enough to catch the stillness of what makes Northern Minnesota so great. The lack of mosquitos and cars noises allow you to soak in the massive pines and oaks peppered with nature stealing those wayward Titlests into their forest homes (I donated more than a few). My golf game mirrors my pitching "career", wild with flashes of brilliance. The first with everyone watching the golf gods were kind enough to grant me a gentle fade, splitting the fairway 330 yards and leaving my team of four a mere 50 yards to the forward pin. We won't recount the shanks after this because the mini-cooler of mass produced beer was emptied as quickly as we could fill it. A 65 was carded but couldn't notch the young guns' 63 as they used Rodney Dangerfield's shotgun driver on every hole leaving themselves eagle putts when they should have been on the fairway hitting approach shots.
After paying off the sidebets and getting most of it back for hitting a closest to pin on a Par 3, it was time for beer can chicken, off the bone ham, and desserts which fatten an ass by the chocolaty smells (I had thirds) back on Pelican Lake (pictured below). Sadly mother nature was on the rag this afternoon and took out her fury in the form of tornado warnings and flash floods but that just gave us more time inside to catch up with my many cousins and chat about one's hockey teams as my uncle was well-known for coaching a AAA Junior team for many years and my cousin took helm shortly after to continue the tradition.
(image from MinnesotaLakes.net)
The backroads leading towards the hotel and civilization made me wonder, in 20-25 years when that gold watch of retirement shows up and we celebrate a quick "thanks for working here, now please take your bloated salary out of here" sheet-cake party would I want to return to this blissful area or one like it just another two hours further north in Ely, MN (which I've writen before). The sereneness of the area in the summer (don't mess with a Northern Minnesota winter unless you enjoy ice cubes for toes over six months) could change my plans of becoming a snow bird and living half up north and half in the dry heat of Arizona or Texas.
Then again, there's no guarantee that I'll play corporate survivor for the next 25 years and may find something else to my liking and end up down a very different path. But, it will be fun getting there, that much I do know.