To keep things from being confusing (especially if you follow our real-time adventures on Instagram) – I’m a few weeks behind in blogging, here are some of our adventures from the week of August 9, 2015.
After we were supposed to get our fresh water tank repaired (read more about the repair that didn’t work) we headed north to Bemidji, Minnesota to visit family. I had been looking forward to this so much. . . last time I was in Minnesota to visit family I was 9 years old (25 years ago!). My grandma and grandpa grew up in Nebish and Blackduck farming the land, surrounded by their brothers and sisters – also all farming the land.
Eventually my grandma and grandpa moved to Alaska – but all my grandparent’s brothers and sister’s stayed in the area. Over the years these great aunts and uncles had kids (my mom’s cousins) and they had kids and then they had grandkids – and today there is a LOT of extended family still in the Bemidji and Nebish area.
The first thing we did when we got settled at the RV park was we went to visit my dear grandpa. Buried in the graveyard at the tiny catholic church where he and my grandma were married in 1954, it was the first time I had visited his gravesite. This meant SO much to me as my grandpa was a big part of my life growing up in Alaska – he was an amazing man. We tidied up his gravestone and left a baseball for him, as he loved watching baseball and would always sing, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” to his grandkids.
Something like this visit wouldn’t probably wouldn’t have happened without this cross country adventure and nomadic lifetsyle. It would be expensive to fly a family of four to northern Minnesota for this sole purpose. But thanks to being on the road we get to do these meaningful things along the way.
We drove down the road to see the tiny farm house that my mom grew up in, with six other siblings, farming the land. A tiny house it seemed amazing that a family of nine lived and thrived in this house. Sure puts things into perspective when you imagine the sizes of houses these days, doesn’t it?
After visiting grandpa, we drove back into town and visited Paul Bunyan and Babe, his trusty blue ox. I remember visiting this same “monument” when I was nine-years old and it was fun to bring the kids back. Then we walked across the street and ate all-you-can-eat pizza at my mom’s cousin’s pizza restaurant, Giovanni’s Pizza – it was delicious and you’ll have to stop by next time you’re in town!
It didn’t take long for word to spread that we were in town and I received a text message from another of my mom’s cousins, “Hey! Come on out to our lake house! The kids can play in the lake, we can visit and even take the pontoon out!” It was 6 p.m. on a Saturday night and although I hadn’t seen (or even visited with) this family in 25 years – we headed right over. 🙂 I was admittedly nervous, it had been so long – but as soon as we got there and started visiting it was so comfortable, so natural – and such a blessing to connect with them. They couldn’t believe how much I looked and sounded like my mom – who they grew up playing with.
They have a beautiful house on a lake and the kids wasted no time playing in the lake. They took us out on their pontoon boat and the kids jumped off the boat into the water. It was a beautiful night – and so fun for us all.
They made us feel at home. Like only family can do, even if it’s extended family I haven’t seen in years.
Hadley LOVES animals and spent a lot of the night loving on their dog. Throwing her sticks over-and-over into the lake. . . .
And the night couldn’t have ended with a more beautiful sunset. Minnesota – you have some amazing sunsets!
The next four days in town would be full of family time like this. . . just a couple days later we went to my grandma’s brother’s farmhouse. This would be my great uncle. His wife started a fire down by the lake early in the day so the coals would be hot for roasting hot dogs for lunch and served it with a big spread of home cooked food.
My great uncle Andy took us all out on his little lake boat – along with his two grandkids – so the kids could go fishing.
What a saint – keeping four young kiddos baited, untangled and cast into the lake. Liam, who LOVES fishing, was beside himself with joy.
After taking the boat out, the two oldest boys (both just 8-years-old) took out the paddle boat and fished for a couple hours, not far from the shore, just the two of them. Every 10 minutes or so you’d hear one of them, “Fish on!” and the two boys would hoot and holler as they unhooked the fish and added it to the bucket of water in the boat.
Liam was fishing on the SAME lake that my grandma had fished on when she was 8-years-old in the early 1940s – how cool is that?! I cannot put into words how HAPPY my sweet boy was on this lake, fishing in the sunshine. He would have stayed out there all night if we would have let him.
While the boys fished on the paddleboat and the younger kids played on the dock, the adults sat on the shore and visited. Uncle Andy handled the tangled fishing poles. 🙂 His smile and his laugh reminded me so much of my grandma (his sister), who lives in Arizona and who we will see hopefully in April. It was such a wonderful and special day.
One morning we went to breakfast at my mom’s cousin local bakery Raphael’s in Bemidji (different cousin from the one that own’s Giovanni’s Pizza). Oh my goodness – our breakfast was so delicious. If you’re ever in Bemidji you NEED to eat here, too, and make sure and get some pastries or doughnuts to go. Such a treat!
The night before we left town, on of my mom’s cousins invited ALL the extended family out to her lake house for a gathering. Pot luck style, everyone brought food to share and we all sat around and visited while the kids played in the lake. They took out the pontoon and my kids got to go tubing for the first time in their lives.
My sweet girl (just 5 years old) held on longer than the other boys and she won’t ever forget this. . . or let her brother forget it. 🙂
Once back on the shore, Hadley played with the younger kids on the beach. . .
Liam paddled in the kayak near the shore. . . .
And caught a frog. . .
And played on a paddleboat with his fishing buddy from the day before (Great Uncle Andy’s grandson). The kids played for hours on, and near, the lake. The adults visited and watched the kids. It was a beautiful night and so much fun. The kids fell asleep instantly after we got home that night.
This is the GOOD STUFF, my friends. We can go to every museum on the planet, see breathtaking views from tall mountains, visit landmarks filled with history – but it’s these moments with family on the road that stand out. It’s my kids remembering a day fishing with “Uncle Andy” and playing in the lakes with distant cousins. It’s the hugs, the stories, the connection with other people that make this journey meaningful to me and my family. I’ll cherish our time in Northern Minnesota as one of my favorite highlights of this year. Good people, good times, good stuff. I can’t wait to go back.