I left off Monday evening, when we were relaxing after shopping all day while the Dads took the kids to the WaterPark of America. We chose wisely, weather-wise, because that day was about 35C and 140% humidity. Tuesday, we were up early and hit Valley Fair the second it opened. Immediately, the kids and a Dad went on The Wave, which completely soaked them all to the skin. It was a glorious day. The sun was hot, but there was a bit of wind and plenty of shade when needed. We all did roller coasters and rides until we were green. Then we ate lunch (an expensive, deep-fried affair that was remarkably satisfying) and rode more roller coasters. By 2:00 we were out of steam, so we went back on the Wave and got soaked. It kept us comfortable enough to wander until the clothes were relatively dry, and we left, armed with a $4 Gatorade and soft pretzels to replenish the electrolytes that got rinsed by the giant tidal wave into the primordial soup at the bottom of the ride. (I also worried about the excessive parts-per-million of little boy grime that came off the riders and splashed onto me – I craved a shower and a clean pair of undies until we got to the next hotel)
Anyway, the consensus was that Valley Fair was wonderful, and I admit that the Wave made it all worth it for me – seriously the most fun I ever had at an amusement park – and I’m not a fan of amusement parks. A great day. Hot, no rain, and the park was relatively quiet (although if that was quiet, I’d never go on a Saturday).
After VF we drove to Albertville, a small town on the interstate whose only claim to fame is a very large mall of outlet stores. The moms managed a couple of hours of shopping after a relatively peaceful dinner in Another Chain Restaurant. That was a very productive 2 hours – some excellent bargains, never to be found at home (like Columbia t-shirts for $5 and Hush Puppies flipflops for $8).
Wednesday morning, we gathered up our stuff and loaded the car and headed back as a family for more shopping. Everyone found good bargains, even though we only managed to do half the stores. I expect a 2-3 day girls weekend trip is really the only way to do justice to Albertville.
Once we had all shopped till we dropped, we ate lunch in Yet Another Chain Restaurant, this one with (alas) an arcade and those junky toys they give away with the tickets you earn by playing the games. Eventually, the parents had had their fill of greasy fast food and the kids had spent every quarter they could find, and agonized over which toy to choose with their measly points. We all piled back into the car and got back on the freeway.
Ok, so far, all agree the week has been excellent. Adventure, good behaviour, lots of beer… But as far as I am concerned, the best was yet to come.
We left Minneapolis and headed north to visit friends who live on Rainy Lake. It was lovely. We got there late, about 8:30 pm, after minor delays, a couple of unexpected pee breaks and an uneventful border crossing. We found the house before dark, which was good. We had a nice visit, and got the kids to bed.
First thing in the morning, Jack had Dave out fishing on the lake, practically before anyone else was even awake. They had a few bites but no keepers. After breakfast, we all went back out and lost a few minnows, again without luck, but it was a lovely day. Hot sun, cloudless sky. With no fish for lunch, we went back and roasted hot dogs over the fire, had a little swim in the lake (yes, even me!) and went back out on the boat. This time, the fish were biting. Everyone caught something, and we managed three keepers, which we brought back for supper. Interestingly, Jack didn’t enjoy the cleaning part, but Aimee was fascinated. Jack did help fillet the fish once the guts were gone, though, and had fun cooking them up.
After supper, the kids got a ride on the neighbour’s jet ski which they loved.
Then we had another little boat ride while the sauna heated up, and then we did the sauna. It was wonderful. Heat up, then run and jump into the lake, then do it all again. By 9:00 we were all exhausted, and asleep by 10.
This morning, Jack had his life jacket on and was nagging us from the boat by about 7:00 to hurry and finish our coffee so we could go fishing again. So we went out again, had a few bites, but didn’t manage to land anything exciting. I had a huge one on the line (like a prize-winner, I swear), but it snapped the line ad swam off with my hook. I have sworn vengeance and will be back next year to catch it.
We came back, packed up and were on the road home by noon.
We missed our doggies and out own beds but this has been the best vacation I can ever remember. The kids were excellent, truly, and everyone got a little of what they wanted. The key? Variety, kids that are old enough to self-regulate, and going with another family. Lessons learned. Not bad.