Hi all! I want to tell you about our annual Minnesota summer vacation for the 4th of July, or as we like to say, Summer Coycation. Yes, I know…another long blog post. But wait! Give me the opportunity to tell you how the combination of family and nostalgia for Minnesota (the place where I was born) fills my heart. You’ll also get some great info if you decide to make this a vacation destination as well.
Our journey begins, as many do, before it even starts. As a blended family, we often have a mini-vacation before the real fun begins. Trent travels down to central Indiana to get his kids (who also happen to be my guest bloggers from time to time, read here and here). I love when Max and Madelynn come to their second home – “Sweet Home Chicago”. With the excitement of their arrival, there is also the flurry of ensuring they have all they will need for our trip. If I do say so myself, I’m pretty good at getting a 7 and 12 year old packed with necessities and fresh, new clothes that will both coordinate with Trent’s and my outfits (who doesn’t love a family photo opp?!) and will provide some excitement for the kids (remember back to school shopping?! This gives them that fun feeling). This is all for my benefit really. I LOVE coordinating and it also makes packing a lot easier to have a color scheme (I don’t think Trent cares too much as long as they aren’t naked).
With the kids in tow and the car all packed (who likes Tetris), we’re ready to hit the open road, and boy, what a sight we are; the four of us and the queen, Dakota. I feel so bad for her in the back of the SUV. She’s like us; she’ll be happiest when we arrive. We fill that time with the appropriate amount of jams coming through the car stereo complete with boisterous, unrestrained, out of tune singing; juxtaposed with quiet reflection on life and the boredom of the corn fields going by. The music is certainly a highlight! We listen to everything from Hamilton to “dad’s music” (cue snickering and glares from the kids). Mostly, we engage the kids so they don’t just disappear on their devices. We talk a lot about their life and our life, too. We talk about their hopes and dreams and help them understand how they can achieve them. This all certainly goes for our trip up to Minn and also back home to Chi town. But as you can imagine, the trip up from Chicago is much more energetic and full of excitement of what will be.
I won’t lie. Car rides can be long for kids (ummmm and adults, ammiright). That said, we all perk up a bit when we pass through the Twin Cities. It’s fun to see the cities; especially knowing that on this particular occasion, we are detouring there on our way back (more about that later).
As we are finally in the home stretch, I start thinking about the family we’ll see upon arrival. My brother Steve and his husband Kevin, and my sister Pam with her husband Jimmy have all been such fixtures in my life. It also makes me feel closer to my Dad (he passed away in 2005 for those who didn’t know). This is the area where he spent much of his adult life. As we get to the Brainard/Baxter area, I see the Walmart which sits on top of land that my Dad always fondly reminded me he and his brother sold to “Wally World” back in the day.
after a million hours JUST LIKE THAT, we’ve arrived! The North Woods of Minnesota near Nisswa has that welcoming, fresh, woodsy smell. You know that is the best aroma…right!? But nothing compares to the rush of love and affection that starts the moment we pull into the driveway; it’s hugs and kisses all around as the family reunites. And this time, we’ve arrived at the perfect time for dinner! We know the best spot for the road-weary crew to go is Cowboys. It is no frills and full of “lakers” and locals. It’s that quick bite to refuel the crew, and then back to Steve’s cabin for a good night’s sleep.
Day one, July 1st, is boating day. We are after all in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. We are all really eager to get out on the water and feel the sun, spray and breeze. However, I must tell you, it was rather cold that day. But, don’t you worry, because we didn’t come all this way to be put off by chilly weather. Trent and Steve are both such boating enthusiasts and love to race into the water, especially for skiing! This year, we championed the kids to give them the confidence to get them going up on the skis and out of the water. We have junior water skies that are joined together making it a little more stable for the younger, more unstable kiddos. Both Madelynn and Max were brave and did really well! It’s a little bit of UP and then DOWN (i.e., epic FACEPLANTS), but, I am so proud of their effort! One of Trent’s and my major parenting strategies and goals is to push them lovingly out of their comfort zones so that they learn that it’s worth it to try new things as often times, it’s out of the uncertainty that we find the most reward.
By the time we were done water skiing, everyone had worked up an appetite so we sailed (okay, not really sailed but we did take the boat) over to Ernie’s on Gull. This is my most-loved restaurant on the lake. With scenic views of Gull Lake, great food, live music (don’t worry, about a thing, cause every little thing, is gonna be alright), corn-hole, volleyball (don’t let Maddie anywhere near that net) and a giant Adirondack chair, it can’t be beat. Madelynn and Max both ordered
glasses of sugar, Kiddie Cocktails, as Max realized “they are amazing”.
After our food settled (did your Mom drill that no-swimming-for-thirty-minutes-after-a-meal tenet into your head, too???), we busted out the tube. Madelynn was whipped, pulled, twerked, tweaked and jerked, but she LOVED every minute of it.
As the sun set on Day 1, we capped it off the best way I know how: a campfire and S’mores (and the state bird- mosquito)! My sister Pam is always so great with the kids and brought the campfire to life with her gallant tales and fireside stories (ghost stories that were gallant)! I always am so happy to have her happy, effusive spirit with us.
Day two, July 2nd, beach day…kinda. Soooo, I was treated (“Don’t Cheat Yoself, Treat Yoself”) to a much needed, way overdue, massage! We planned a day along the beach at the Grand View Lodge—this place is amazing and literally one of those resorts you see rated in travel magazines. I will tell you too, that spa lived up to that hype! While the rest of our crew was beaching it, Pam and I snuck off (and by “snuck off” I mean gleefully skipped) to the Glacial Waters Spa in morning rated in the top 100 spas in 2016. It was so luxurious while still managing to maintain that cozy, cabin feel. The locker rooms were complete with state-of-the-art multiple nozzle showers, a steam room, a sauna, and all the product and grooming essentials one could ask for. Cue the Oooh’s and Aaahh’s, people! The robes were like super soft marshmallows and the flip flops actually fit! Complete with sink-into-me chairs, different flavored water and snacks (I may or may not have taken some extra for later ), the relaxation room did not disappoint either. The massage itself was heavenly. Siggghhhh.
After our pampering, we joined the rest of the fam back at the beachfront. It could not have been a prettier Northern Minnesota day! Jimmy had grabbed us a prime spot under shade of an old Oak tree (so romantic!); the sand got hot, but we all stayed cool under its shade. The grown-ups had festive beach cocktails and soaked up the sun. Pam displayed more of her magic with Madelynn and Max in helping them to build a sand sea monster that was exceptional.
We topped off day two with the area’s big fireworks display (not actually on the 4th) on Gull Lake. We had a prime vantage point from a friend’s house that sits on a small cliff and was directly across from where they were lit off. Up on that cliff, it was really like a private fireworks show! What a fantastic time to share with our family.
With the Coycation underway, I already feel so much indebtedness and fondness for those I am lucky to call my family. Our memories, the outbursts of laughter and the picture perfect North Woods, well, let’s just say we are fortunate. Where is your beloved family summer vacation spot?
Hope you liked reading part 1. Part 2 coming soon to a browser near you. 😉
And…if you are interested in my red dress from LOFT, it is currently on sale for $39 with 60% off! You cannot pass that up! Shop the entire post below.