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July, 2011

  1. A Festival for Every Occasion

    July 29, 2011 by Hailey Goplen

    I was browsing Inforum this morning and scrolled down to where the calendar of events are posted.  What was notable on the calendar was that the first three posts were all festival events: Dilworth Loco Daze, Community Days in Kindred, ND and Turkey Days in Frazee, MN. One thing I’ve noticed about the Upper Midwest is that anything can be a good excuse for a celebration and they typically involve some sort of parade, a pancake breakfast,  a special event unique to only that festival and often a demolition derby. Now, if you know me at all you know that I love nothing more than a good festival or fair. Unfortunately, there are just too many festivals and so little time, so I have not been able to go to many as of yet.

    As I began browsing around for other area festivals and fairs, I realized I need to change my priorities around. I composed a bucket list of all that I want to attend before I leave the Midwest. Please know that these are only a few of the hundreds that I found, and if you have any suggestions of festivals and fairs that I should add to my list, please let me know:

     

    1. Potato Days- Barnesville, Minnesota: Actually, I can check this one off my list. We moved here just in time for the 2010 Potato Days and couldn’t resist going to check out Mashed Potato Wrestling, gorge on french fries during the french fry feed and watch the Miss Tator Tot Pageant.
    2. Norsk Høstfest- Minot, ND: The World’s Largest Scandinavian Festival? Count me in.  Norsk Høstfest celebrates the heritage and culture of the five Nordic countries with entertainment and Nordic food, clothes, art and jewelry.
    3. Minnesota State Fair- The fact that the slogan for the fair is, “The Great Minnesota Get-Together”, makes me fall in love with it even more than I already was. Not only is it the largest state fair in the United States in term of attendance but it is also known for having the greatest number of fair-foods on a stick and if that wasn’t enough, there is a group karaoke sing-along at one point. Oh, my heart be still.
    4. North Dakota State Fair- Minot, ND: Though unfortunately the fair had to be canceled this year due to the terrible flooding in and around Minot, I can’t wait to go next year.
    5. Lobster and Lefse Festival- Fargo, ND: A fundraiser for the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center and the YWCA Cass Clay organized by the FM Rotary Club, this festival combines fresh Main lobster and Norwegian style lefse. Delicious and quirky. My favorite combination.
    6. Mandan Rodeo Days- Mandan, ND: How can I live in the Midwest and not go to a rodeo while I’m here? This one seems like a good one. And pitchfork fondue? I’m sold.
    7. Polar Fest- Detroit Lakes, MN: What do you do when its -32 degrees in February? Jump in a lake of course. I’ve participated in Polar Plunge events before, but not in the Midwest. On top of the plunge, there is Turkey Bowling (what?), Ice Tee Golf, and a 5k Freeze Your Buns Run.
    8. Pie Day- Braham, MN: Apparently, Braham is the homemade pie capital of Minnesota. Activities include a pie eating contest, a pie baking contest, a pie art show and a pie relay. I love pie.
    9. Blueberry Festival- Lake George, MN: Blueberry pancake feed, blueberry ball, blueberry square dance AND an educational booth on blueberries. Blueberry heaven. Have you noticed I love festivals centered around food?
    10. St. Paul Winter Carnival- St. Paul, MN: Ever since watching Mighty Ducks, I have wanted to see castles made of ice. I sculpted a few snowmen and women in my youth, but nothing compared to what these artists can make out of snow.

  2. How Midwestern of You

    July 25, 2011 by Hailey Goplen

    I was on the phone the other day at work and when I hung up, my co-worker started laughing.

    “What?” I asked.

    “The way you said ‘so’ just now sounded so Midwestern.”

    Now, this actually wasn’t the first time I’d been told that I was starting to pick up on the very unique accent of the area. When I went back to Washington and Maryland earlier this year, I was fine. No one noticed a thing. However, when people have come to visit us here, that’s when they notice the accent.

    “I’m like a sponge,” I say, “I soak up whatever accent is around me.”

    Laugh, but this is actually quite true. When I was living in Virginia and dating a guy that had a pretty thick Southern accent, I too began to twang a few words. Maybe it’s because I have family on both sides of the country and have never quite known where to call home, or maybe I’m simply impressionable. Whatever the reason, it’s official. I can no longer deny the fact that I am slowly developing  a North Dakota accent.

    The truth is though, it isn’t my entire vocabulary. Only a few words sound particularly local: Oh, So, Yeah, No

    And while I wouldn’t have previously thought that I use those words in my daily conversations, the truth is, I’m definitely starting to. I used to laugh when I’d be talking to someone and instead of saying, “Uh-huh” or just nodding their head as I spoke, they’d say, “Oh” or “Oh, I suppose”. Now look at me! If I counted how many times I said “Oh” on a daily basis, it’d be almost as much as I said “like” during my teen years. My particular favorites are, “Oh, yeah I bet” or “Oh, uh-huh” or even “Oh, for sure”, though I have yet to add the “I suppose” or “you betchya” to my linguistic repertoire.

    It’s not just a small accent that I’ve “soaked up”. The other day we received a giant bag of Washington cherries from Blake’s dad. I was thrilled! It’s been a struggle to walk into the grocery store day after day and see the delicious cherries that I can’t bring myself to buy due to the high prices. I was spoiled last year, living in a place where cherries cost you virtually nothing. Unfortunately, after the long drive to North Dakota from Washington, the 5 lb bag of cherries was soon reaching the end of its life. I had to make a decision. A) Gorge on cherries as fast as I could and risk being sick of them in the future B) Eat as much as I can but accept that a few pounds may go to waste or C) Make something out of them.
    While I guess option D) could have been “share them with others”, I opted for choice C). There I was, on a Sunday afternoon, pitting pound after pound of cherries to make a crisp. I had a moment at one point during the hour long escapade where I paused and thought, who am I?! Here I was, standing in my polka-dot apron, starring down at my purple, cherry-stained hands, making a crisp on a Sunday afternoon. Never before in my entire life have I ever thought, “When life gives you 5 lbs. of cherries, make home-made crisp.”

    The crisp turned out delicious, though I’m still trying to get the purple out from under my nails, and when I told some friends about my prize-worthy crisp they replied, “Oh, how Midwestern of you!” I couldn’t think of a better compliment.

     


  3. It’s a Norwegian Thing

    July 20, 2011 by Hailey Goplen

    When you meet someone for the first time, its not uncommon to be asked a typical string of questions: What’s your name? Where are from? Where do you work? etc. Since living in the Midwest, an additional question has been added to my repertoire of conversation-ready answers. What’s your heritage?

    The first time I was asked about my heritage, I was a little thrown off at this unusual question after only knowing the individual for a few moments, but brushed it off as an isolated experience. I soon realized that it was not an uncommon question at all. On the contrary, I am asked what my heritage is almost as much as I am asked any other getting-to-know-you question, though typically the question comes from individuals over the age of 50.

    I think the reason this question throws me off so much is not only how aware locals are of their own lineage, but how unaware I am of my own. I know I’m a pretty solid Western European mutt with ancestors from Belgium and England on my mom’s side. However, my dad’s side gets a little fuzzy. I was always told that we were most likely Scottish, and accepted this fact until my sister was abroad and ran in to some local Scotsmen and women. They took one look at our last name and said, “Oh, you spell it like they do up in Sweden.”

    Wait, what?

    When I mentioned this to my grandma she said, “Oh, well you know my side the family is from Scotland but on your Grandpa’s side I’m not really sure. I know they settled somewhere in the Midwest for a while before coming out to Oregon.”

    Swedish? Midwest? Could this mean that my adventure living in the Midwest is not so random after all? Could it mean that alas, my roots are somewhat Scandinavian and I was pulled back to the area of the country where it all began? Could this be why I’ve fallen in love with this portion of the country? Because it’s in my blood?

    While my heritage still remains a mystery, this problem doesn’t seem to be too much of an issue for anyone else in the Upper Midwest. I’ve mentioned in previous posts about local food and traditions that have strong Scandinavian influence and how phenomenal I think it is that the culture has been kept alive from generation to generation. No matter how much I talk about it though, I don’t think people can really understand just how cool I think it is. You see, I consider myself pretty well traveled throughout the United States, but no where that I’ve been has had such an obvious connection to another part of the world. You hear it in the language, you taste it in the food, and you see it in the 6 ft. tall, blond hair, blue-eyed gorgeous men and women walking down the street. Yes, I may be blonde but I’m about a foot too short and an eye-color shade away from fitting right in.

    Last weekend, I got a first-hand look of how influential the Norwegian culture still is in many families’ lives today. My boyfriend’s family is almost 100% Norwegian. I laugh because when Blake and I first started dating, I asked him what his heritage was. “I dunno,” he replied. Skip a few months down the road and I walked into his grandparent’s house for the first time to see Norwegian decorations and flags throughout their home. I then met the other side of his family at a mini family reunion at the local Sons of Norway hall. Umm… duh?

    So back to last weekend. We were invited to celebrate with his aunt and family at her wedding near Cooperstown, ND. The Norwegian-ness of the wedding started to come out during the scripture reading. Her son read the scripture and his wife, who is from Norway, translated it into Norwegian. As they exited the church, Norwegian bridal folk music played. (Blake was in charge of pushing play on the CD player and almost had a heart attack thinking he did something wrong when polka-sounding music began to play rather then traditional American wedding music.)

    As I walked through the buffet line at the reception, I felt like a little kid when I kept saying, “What’s that? What’s that? What’s that?” as I came across strange foods I had never seen before. There was pickled Halibut, a Norwegian wedding cake (which I just Googled and found that it is called a Kransekake also known as either a Crown Cake, Viking Cake or Almond Ring Cake), and German Kuchen (also known as the most delicious dessert I’ve ever had in my life). The buffet table was decorated with Norwegian flags and trolls. Which by the way, would someone please explain to me what all the trolls are for in Norwegian culture? I’ve seen them in multiple places, and to be honest, they sort of freak me out. The best part of the wedding was when the bride’s three sons and her daughter-in-law sang a made up song inspired by the bride and groom and all the guests sang along. Apparently, it is a Norwegian tradition to write a song about the bride and groom.

    I’m told quite often that I get abnormally excited about new Midwest discoveries. My eyes light up and I ask question after question. However, I think I could put money on the fact that most answers to my questions can simply be answered by saying, “Oh, its a Norwegian thing.”


  4. The United State of North Dakota

    July 18, 2011 by Hailey Goplen

    A new hobby emerged among  family and friends when I moved to Fargo. Whenever an article about North Dakota or Fargo comes out in national news, be it weather, top 10 lists, or random factoids of information, I am bombarded with e-mails, text messages, and Facebook posts notifying me of said news story. My mother has gone so far to have Fargo’s weather programmed on her phone so that she can comment on difficult weather conditions. (On the first day of Spring I sent her a photo message of the 3 foot fresh snow drift in front of my garage, and she sent me one back of her blooming daffodils. Thanks, Mom.) Needless to say, when the news of North Dakota’s lack of state-hood hit the mainstream media a few days ago, in poured the flood of e-mails.

    In case you missed it, an error in North Dakota’s constitution was recently discovered. This error shows that North Dakota has never actually been following the requirements to be considered a state. The issue is that no where in the ND constitution does it require the governor and other top officials to take an oath of office. By not requiring officials to take the oath of office, North Dakota does not follow the federal requirements established by the U.S. Constitution, “…making statehood illegitimate.” (Full article) Even though the Governor of ND takes an oath of office, it is not mandated by the state constitution. This is in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

    Wishing to understand more about this issue, I started Googling like crazy. While I found a fair share of “interesting” comments about this issue including the typical knocks on North Dakota, one article was particularly interesting. In it, Cheryl Hanna states,”I can sympathize with those wishing to escape the oppressive influence of central government, but a mistake in the North Dakota constitution is not enough to declare it an independent country. I wouldn’t go remaking the US flag any time soon.” (read the complete article)

    This got me thinking. What would North Dakota be like if it was its own country and how would the rest of the United States be effected? A lot of people outside of the ND poke fun at the low populated state. They consider it simply a winter tundra offering nothing more than silly accents and a great movie. On the contrary… introducing, The United State of North Dakota.

    The United State of North Dakota:

    Population: 646,844 (plus 1 since I moved here)

    Language: The majority of the population speaks English though the mix of Scandinavian and German heritage intertwines with English to create an accent unique to the state.

    Religion:  North Dakota has a high percentage of religious individuals with the majority identifying with the Lutheran faith, over 30%, and a large amount of churches per-capita.

    Culture: Native American culture has had a great influence in North Dakota, especially in the Western region of the state.In the late 1800′s, many European immigrants from Norway, Sweden and Iceland settled in North Dakota, especially near the Red River. Ethnic Norwegians constitute nearly 1/3 of North Dakota’s total population. North Dakotans are incredibly friendly individuals. It is part of their upbringing to help out their neighbor.

    History Fact: During the Cold War, North Dakota had a ridiculously huge number of nuclear weapons stored in missile silos pointed directly at the Soviet Union.

    Popular Cusine: Lefse, lutefisk, knoephla soup, meat, bars, and hotdishes

    Popular Past-times: Ice fishing, going to “the lake”, hunting, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, eating, drinking and being merry.

    Economy: Agriculture is the largest industry in North Dakota with about 90% of the land area being farms. Petroleum has recently become a major boom industry for the state. Before becoming its own country, North Dakota produced 92% of the U.S. canola crop, 94% of flax seed and 53% of sunflower seeds. It is also the only state, that between 2002-2007, total cropland increased. The state is also the largest producer of honey and dried peas, beans and lentils. As of 2010, North Dakota’s unemployment rate was the lowest in the nation at only 3.7%.

    Tourist Attractions: Medora, The Enchanted Highway, The Peace Garden (though I don’t know that this would exist in the United State of North Dakota), The World’s Largest Buffalo, and every festival you could imagine.

    Outsiders may chuckle at the current predicament North Dakota is in right now. However, North Dakota is not just a winter tundra positioned in the northern portion of the United States. It is a state with a rich culture, the friendliest people you will ever meet, and a kick-ass economy. (Sorry Mom for the poor language). In summary, while the majority of the population does not currently see how North Dakota contributes to the United States, if North Dakota became its own country, I guarantee it would soon be sorely missed. Does North Dakota want to pull away from the United States? Doubtful. After all, Dakota in Sioux means friend and ally.


  5. A North Dakota Adjective

    July 14, 2011 by Hailey Goplen

    Yesterday, I sucked it up and decided it was time to cave and buy a new set of tires for my little car. I was debating all winter to purchase some better all-weather tires, but my ever penny-pinching self decided there was still life in them and slipping on snow and ice was better than coughing up a not yet needed $400. Besides, a mechanic had told me I could hold off until July, so why argue with an expert?

    With the end of July fast approaching, I realized it was time. I brought my car in and was asked what kind of tires I wanted. My response? ”Well, I’m from out of state. I know I have all-weather tires but they aren’t North Dakota all-weather tires. So, I want North Dakota all-weather tires.”

    He knew exactly what I meant. While yes I had all-weather tires, they weren’t able to handle all of the weather in North Dakota. Therefore, they weren’t North Dakota all-weather tires.

    Me experiencing "North Dakota cold" for the first time while trying to use my ice scraper... not a North Dakota ice scraper.

    North Dakota has become an adjective for me, and I use it to describe many things. For example, if I’m driving down the interstate and there happens to be a slight bump in a field off in the distance, that is a North Dakota hill. When a snack is being served at a work or family function and I’m expecting a few crackers and some fruit but instead get an entire meal, well, that’s a North Dakota snack. I never seemed to get bitten by mosquitoes before living in Fargo, but now I get chewed up every time I set foot outside past 5:00. That’s because they are North Dakota mosquitoes. And to combat these pests, there is insect repellent and then there is North Dakota, 100 deet, backwoods, insect repellent.

    There’s a whole slew of words to describe weather and temperature that require adding North Dakota before it. There’s cold, and then there’s North Dakota cold. You may have a winter coat, but is it a North Dakota winter coat? Likewise, you may have a snow shovel or ice scraper, but is it a North Dakota one? Visitors from out of state may think 32 above zero is cold, but here, its North Dakota warm. If family or friends from out of state say its windy there today, I say “Well, its no North Dakota wind.”

    By placing “North Dakota” in front, the word takes on an entirely different meaning that you could not fully appreciate or understand unless you spent some time in this very unique state.

     


  6. What’s a Wedding Dance?

    July 11, 2011 by Hailey Goplen

    A few weeks ago, I wrote about my first ND bachelorette party. Soon after a bachelorette party comes the wedding, and this weekend, I was invited to celebrate with the bride and groom on their special day, which made this my first ND wedding.

    It was an absolutely beautiful day in Carrington, ND after an absolutely horrible and stormy night in Cooperstown, ND. (4 inches of rain in one hour… not kidding). The wedding ceremony was held at one of the Lutheran Churches in town. (As most ND weddings are being that almost 40% of the population views themselves as Lutheran, the largest percentage of the population out of any state.)

    While we did not attend the groom’s supper the night before, we were excited for the ceremony. (Really, I had no reason to mention that other than needed  a wayto introduce a term I had never heard of until moving to ND).

    Wedding Definition #1:

    Groom’s Supper: (noun) Same as a rehearsal dinner but called the groom’s supper by those in the Midwest.

    I ran into a few of the bridesmaids before the ceremony as well as the bride’s personal attendant. Now, if you would have asked me a year ago what a personal attendant was in a wedding, I would have had no clue. I remember chatting with the bride a few months ago when she first mentioned this term to me. She was shocked that I had never heard of it before. For those of you as clueless as I was, here is my definition in a nutshell.

    Wedding Definition #2:

    Personal attendant: (noun) The position given to a close friend who is there to maintain order during the bride’s chaotic day. Her duties include straightening the bride’s train, carrying makeup and lip gloss around for touch-ups, helping her use the restroom if the gown is too large, and being available for any additional errands as needed. Synonym: bride’s slave

    My first reaction when I was informed as to what the personal attendant does was stating, “You mean, this is an honor to be chosen?”

    Apparently it is, and  I have no doubt that the personal attendant at this particular wedding did an excellent job.

    The ceremony was beautiful with excellent personal touches throughout. Then the bride and groom said their “I d0′s” and we soon moved on to the reception and then the wedding dance.

    Wedding Definition #3:

    Wedding Dance: (noun) The event that is held after the wedding ceremony and the reception. Wedding dances have large amounts of guests in attendance, many of whom may have only been invited to this particular event and not necessarily the ceremony and reception. Though wedding dances are not usually open to the public, they often have random people show up, especially in smaller towns. Synonym: huge party

    I have attended weddings before, but I had only been familiar with two parts of the wedding: the ceremony and the reception. When it was explained to me the purpose of the wedding dance, it made sense. If you live in a town of only about 1200 people or less, chances are you know the majority of the people in it. If you invited all 1200 people to the ceremony and reception, it would be standing room only in a typical church and there would be one heck of a bill for all the food. Having a dance open to additional guests after the food is served, allows you to include the maximum number of people on your special day.

    My thoughts on the wedding dance? Wow. I don’t think I have ever danced that much in my entire life. Absolutely everyone was out on the dance floor at one point or another. And man, people in North Dakota can dance. I was twirled around in all sorts of directions praying that my dance partners had a tight enough grip on me that I wouldn’t go flying off into a table. The dance was still going when I left at 1:00 a.m. Turns out I can’t keep up with you North Dakotans.

    As I collapsed into bed that night and rested my exhausted feet, I smiled when I realizied that I had two more ND weddings to attend this summer.

    All in all a fabulous first ND wedding, and of course, congratulations to the beautiful bride and handsome groom. Love you both!


  7. Meat with a side of meat.

    July 5, 2011 by Hailey Goplen

    We were invited over for a fabulous 4th of July meal yesterday. I was practically mid-bite into a delicious hunk of grilled pork when the conversation turned, like it inevitably does, to my “quirky” observations of being a Midwestern transplant. One thing I have often reflected on is the amount of meat that I’ve consumed this past year. When you take moving in with a boy who hates anything green and combine it with a move to the Midwest, I should have figured that fresh delicious vegetables were not going to be a regular fixture in my diet. While I have mentioned this phenomenon in past posts, in celebration of summer (a season all about grilling), I decided to dedicate an entire blog post to my observations of meat.

    My first attempt and cooking a Midwestern meal back in August: Chicken fried steak

    Growing up, I ate what my mom cooked which usually consisted of chicken, turkey sandwiches or ground beef. We weren’t really a steak eating family and really never ate pork unless it was in our Easter/Christmas sausage casserole or if it came in pepperoni form on pizza. Sure, when visiting my dad he would grill up a hearty steak, but I scrunched up my nose and would usually refuse it. The older I got, the more “ok” I was trying meat in other forms, but I typically stuck close within my comfort zone of chicken, turkey and ground beef and to this day, I can say I have only ordered steak at a restaurant once. (It was a 5 star steakhouse in DC… its not like I could have ordered chicken).

    When I moved to Washington State last year, my meat consumption dropped even lower. One of my roommates was a vegetarian and it was really easy to live a similar lifestyle. While I never gave up meat all together, I would often go weeks without consuming anything other than tofu, vegetables, or bread only interrupted by the occasional pepperoni pizza, burger, or a visit from Blake who insisted no vegetables were in anything I prepared. It’s not that I disliked meat, it was just so easy to not eat it. Even in the small town in Washington where I lived, grocery stores had aisles upon aisles of reasonably priced organic food and fresh vegetables. How could I not eat it? My eating habits were changed even more when I read a book by Barbara Kingsolver called Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. In this book, Kingsolver and her family decide to live local and organically for an entire year. The majority of their food was grown right from their own garden or purchased locally. Throughout the book, Kingsolver details why eating locally benefits the community as well as discussing the process of how a lot of meat is prepared. I was so inspired that the only meat I would buy had to be farm raised, free range, grass fed, and hormone free. Blake called me a hippy, I called myself healthy. Yes, it was more expensive to do this, but that just meant I would eat even less meat and compensate with more vegetables.

    World's largest buffalo. Yum.

    Jump about a year later and here I am in Fargo. It’s not that my morals about food have gone out the window, its just that it is incredibly difficult to continue that lifestyle in the Midwest. I remember when I first moved here, I went to the grocery store and searched high and low for tofu. I finally asked someone where it was and he had to go ask someone else in the store before locating a few boxes tucked in a corner. (I realized later that not all stores are like this and there are other grocery stores in the area that carry a greater amount of tofu then the one I first visited).

    I think my greatest food related loss since the move has been the lack of avocados. An avocado to me is the most heavenly fruit to ever exist on this planet. I like it in guacamole, on top of crackers with a little goat cheese, in a BLT sandwich, mixed with eggs, or just straight up. In Fargo, it has been next to impossible to find an avocado that will ripen to the perfect consistency and then slice open revealing a beautiful green center free of bruises and blemishes.

    When I thought my meat consumption could get no higher, we bought a grill. And while we do visit a local butcher shop to get our steak, which makes me feel a little better, I feel like meat has began to ooze out my pores. At one point I had to tell Blake no more. Please. No more steak. No more burgers. I need a break. And while summer has been a bit of a relief in the vegetable department, I know that fall and winter are right around the corner. The real treachery of the Midwest winters is not the freezing temperatures and snow but the lack of fresh vegetables. I guess the fact is, you can’t keep warm in winter with lettuce, cucumbers and tofu. What you really need is a slab of beef.

     


  8. To “The Lake”!

    July 3, 2011 by Hailey Goplen

    When I first moved to the Midwest, I always heard people referring to “the lake”.

    “I’m heading to the lake this weekend.”

    “What lake?” I wondered. Was there a specific lake that everyone in North Dakota and Minnesota knew about? Where was it?

    Not a bad campsite location.

    It wasn’t too long before I realized that there wasn’t some specific lake that everyone flocked to on the weekends. Instead, it was one of the 10,000 lakes throughout Minnesota and many in North Dakota. (By the way, how were the 10,000 Minnesota lakes formed? Well, by Paul Bunyon and Babe wandering around in a snow storm of course). Why the lakes aren’t referred to by a specific name or location, I’ll never know. All I knew was that everyone seemed to go to the lake on the weekend and I wanted to know what all the fuss was about. With 4th of July weekend approaching, I decided it was time to find a lake of our own.

    With the original plan disrupted due to the Minnesota State Parks shutting down, we quickly re-Googled and landed on Campers Paradise at Lake Belle Taine in Nevis, Minnesota, about 20 minutes from Park Rapids, Minnesota. The drive was a short two hour drive on the Minnesota Scenic Byway through Lake Country. At first we occupied our time by playing “who can find a lake” game, but it got slightly repetitive the deeper into Lake Country we went.

    Soon we arrived at our destination: a private island campground on a beautiful lake. No sooner had we unloaded the car that the swim suits were on and into the water we went. I was blown away at how clear and warm the water was. Before the Midwest, I had only really swam in rivers, oceans and pools. Lakes were new to me. It didn’t take me long to realize what all the fuss was about. Lakes are awesome. We spent our camping trip kayaking, swimming and biking. Blake even caught his first fish… ever.When I mentioned that to the friendly family that let us borrow a pole, they said, “Wow, you guys must not be from Minnesota.” Is it that obvious? We even had a chance to visit the Park Rapids’ Zorbaz and enjoy pepperoni, peanut butter and jalepeno pizza. Yum.

    One of the best parts of the entire trip was the phenomenal sunsets over the lake. The neon oranges and beautiful purples seemed almost fake. At

    Sunset bike ride on the causeway.

    night, when the sun went down, I felt like I was back home in Maryland. There were frogs chirping and fire flies flickering and even the sticky humidity was a nice reminder of home.

    Only downfall of the entire trip other then the down pour one night? The mosquitos. Holy cow Midwest, you have got some intense mosquitos. I thought people were joking when they would tell me the state bird of the ND/MN is a mosquito. Before our trip, the hippy in me decided to buy some deet-free “natural” bug spray. I figured it would be beneficial to avoid unnecessary chemicals. A few minutes camping and I knew I had made a mistake. Thank goodness we had backup: deep woods bug-spray with serious amounts of deet. Problem solved.

    All in all it was a fabulous first trip to “the lake”. Happy 4th of July!