Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Dad's Death March

A friend invited some folks out to Medicine Lake in Plymouth (NW of downtown Mpls) last weekend to take in the escapades of the Art Shanty Projects. I had a list of things I wanted to get done around the house. I always have a list. It's a long one, getting longer most all the time, and I'm beginning to understand it's never gonna go away. Most every weekend some spontaneous social possibility presents itself. This icy diversion sounded like fun for the whole family. Besides, not being a native Minnesotan, I don't make enough opportunities to go walk on frozen lakes.

Saturday was the day. Temperatures were predicted to climb into the 40s. There was sun, so I figured we should all ride out. I vacillated a bit thinking perhaps we should drive. I knew the commitment to ride meant this would be an all day affair. To hell with it -- load 'em up! An hour or so after beginning the process we had two kids dressed for the weather, tires inflated, a trailer hitched and some meager supplies packed for a jaunt to the lake.

Smiles ...

... the crying and screaming had not yet begun.

I knew the way to Medicine Lake. I'm great with directions. Most of the time I can accompany someone to a destination once and retrace the route there later without much of a problem. However, not unlike a Zip file, my mind compresses certain packets of data. I sometimes forget precise mileage markers and, therefore, have been known to state a destination is 1/2 to 2/3 its actual distance. True to form, I thought we'd be pedaling about 5-6 miles. It turned out to be a hair over 9 one way.

I may have mentioned Medicine Lake was slightly north and very west of our home. We had a blustery west wind to boggle our thoughts and test our nerves on the way out as well. I pedaled the Dummy with Burley in tow leaving April the freedom of an empty bike. Sylvia really wanted to ride on the snap deck for the first part of the trip. She made it about 5 miles before her hands were cold from gripping the bars. She climbed into the now cramped trailer with Willa. Kicking and crying commenced not long afterward.

I pulled over within 2 miles of our destination to wait for April to catch up and attempt to calm Sylvia. I announced some smartass thing like: "Dad just wants hearty folks who are up to the challenge -- is that too much to ask?!" My twisted sense of humor has always related a bit to the mock motivational phrase: The beatings will continue until morale improves. Morale rarely improves.

Are we having fun yet?

Now, I don't know if you've spent much time on lakes in liquid or solid form. But you might think it is a relatively windless day until you park your butt near or on a lake in Minesota. We arrived, kids howling from beneath the zipped canopy of the Burley. April was certain they were frostbitten, flesh withering as we wasted a perfectly good Saturday chasing one of dad's great ideas. The scene at the lake was a chaotic maelstrom of wind and crowds and ice and crying and short tempers. But beyond the shore was a low budget carnival that begged to be explored. Some sort of fun was being had by those freaks out there. Finally we locked the bikes and moved out onto the lake, faces to the wind, unsure where we'd find Linden's shanty.

April had other things on her mind. Certain we had a dire fate ahead if we did not escape the barren, wind-swept tundra, she made a beeline to the nearest open shanty to get Willa out of the elements. I wheeled Sylvia around the festival in the detached Burley. It felt warm to me and I don't think I was just being the hard-nosed dad either. It was a fine February day for Minnesota.

Around the perimeter of the festival a track of sheer ice had been plowed. We'd missed the bike race, but an art car parade was kicking off. Folks meandered as casually as if this were a grassy park on a summer's day. Spectators came dressed at all levels of ill-preparedness, but it was fun for them I suppose. Besides, they could just run to their heated cars after sampling enough of the quirkiness.

Yes, dear readers from points south, cars on the ice. Every year news headlines detail a few that punch through lakes around Minnesota. But for the most part I'm told it's quite safe.

This is not as safe and certainly not up to fire code.

Miscellaneous miscellany.

The line to the sauna. The shanties were quite diverse. I didn't go into many, but the sauna shanty did catch my eye. Maybe next year I'll indulge (since I forgot to pack my swimsuit ... I am ever the modest one).

We huddled out of the wind at PL's place for a while before deciding to load up for the trip home. The temperature had dropped and clouds hid the sun. But we had a tailwind to help us along. Sylvia began the journey with nonstop crying from the Burley. I imagined the police stopping us after some confused bystander dialed 911 because our kid was frantically screaming over and again: "Somebody help me!" (Tone and emphasis like that of a stabbing victim.) We rolled on though and I only had to stop once more to convince Sylvia to calm down. Willa sat there stone still and silent, possibly because she was smashed into the trailer's side by her bigger, more boisterous sister and physically couldn't move.

April attempts to raise a frozen finger while the band played on from the ice beyond.

Two cute kid sardines, safe at home at last. They were both true adventurers. I'm always amazed how intrepid our kids really are when we put them in weird situations. One day they'll get to try and work out the trauma with their therapists.

In all it was a fun day, a genuine family expedition. I was reminded how much work it used to be getting one kid ready for a ride. Getting the whole family ready is a serious task indeed. And although there might be some screaming, tears and cursing along the way, you can still make some fond memories.

Sylvia took this last shot from the trip, minutes after Mom took a spill in an icy puddle. Happy times.

Never forget people -- these thoughts are your Golden Memories. We are all truly living in the Salad Days. Don't spoil 'em with Hidden Valley. Have some class, people. These are organic greens after all.

Peace be with you. Even if you're an ass.

Good night.

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