The drive across the remainder of North Dakota was beautiful as we expected. Similar to eastern Montana, the run across North Dakota alternates between rolling hills and pool table flat. The state has about 2% unemployment with the
|Not an unusual site driving across the Northern Plains|
a lake, river, creek or marsh land.
What would surprise most, as it did me with my preconceived notions of the Northern Plain States before driving them for three years now, is the abundance of lakes, streams, marshes.
We cleared Fargo a little after 2:00 and entered Minnesota. Almost immediately the rolling fields along the roadside were replaced by towering trees. Pines, aspens and varieties I won't pretend to know. We were in the land of 10,000 lakes (which Blaire told us later was false and that Minnesota has 15,000 lakes. Fire the guy who counted for the license plates, he was off by 50%).
Word of caution when driving in Minnesota, especially driving east from North Dakota--go the speed limit. This is our third year making the drive from the border eastward and we see more highway patrol on the two and a half hour drive than the rest of our trip combined (exception being 395 through California, but most Californians already know about that state money maker road).
Finally about 4:30 we reached our destination for part one of Summer Road Trip III: Camp Birchwood on the north shore of Steamboat Lake. Not too long after our arrival Jenna came by our cabin as we were unloading to say hello and get/give hugs with some friends. We saw Blaire later in the dining hall, with perfect teenage angst, she semi-ignored us while being happy to see us--anyone who has or has had girls over the age of twelve know this talent, those with younger girls will have an "ah-ha moment" when their sweet little girl hits the age range.
Driving into Birchwood always feels like driving home. It has been part of our family's heritage for three generations. My Dad physically helped build many of the structures and my brother, sister and I have spent parts of many summers there. Bucolic could describe the setting, fun the environment of the camp. With 120 girl campers in residence there is a precision to getting them fed, to activities and ensuring camp stays clean and safe. Throughout the day peels of laughter, cheers and encouragement is heard from every corner of the grounds and water front.
For Leslie and I we take our place on chairs on the lakeside deck ("Yeah Lakeside Deck" is the cheer the girls give in unison whenever the words are said) to relax, watch the sail boats and interact with those coming and going to the mess hall and between cabins. It is a great place to hang out and the idea of having a nice
|Words are inadequate|
No alcohol is needed however to enjoy the moment and the view. A great spot to contemplate, meditate and conversate. As the pictures shows, words are somewhat inadequate to convey the scene.
|Looking east from the deck|
As the sun sets boats from across the lake start to appear as the fisherman troll for the walleye, bass and northern pike that are found in the waters.
Friday night a production of "Wicked" was presented by several of the campers, including our Jenna who had a fun role utilizing her innate sarcasm. Over the
|Jenna (left) delivering on cue|
Saturday before end of session starts with the traditional donuts on the Lakeside Deck (all together, "yeah Lakeside Deck") as the cabins come down one
|Jenna (Oklahoma sweatshirt (naturally) third from right)|
and cabin mates enjoying Saturday breakfast.
Saturday Leslie and I lounged in the deck chairs in the morning watching the sail boats and other water activities. After lunch the girls had to get their bags packed and brought to a central area so they could be loaded for travel early the next morning. Want a logistical problem to solve? One hundred twenty girls leaving on one morning, about six or seven will be picked up by parents, the rest leave by bus. Some of them will be dropped off at a school parking lot in Minneapolis (about three hours away) to be picked up by their parents. The rest are flying all around the world on several different airlines. How do you manage two bags per girl, five or six airlines, departure times from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. the following morning?
The easy bags are for those being picked up at the school and the kids flying to St. Louis (about twenty-thirty girls). They get their own two piles and loaded into their buses. What about the other 200 bags? Every girl is given a number depending on their airline and departure time. Then the bags are loaded in reverse order into a big U-Haul truck so the last two bags are for the girl with number one. The U-haul leaves for the airport at 5:00 a.m. Sunday and heads to the airlines and checks in all the bags, last in - first out. Amazingly it works session after session, year after year. Several hundred bags. Multiple flights and airlines. No lost bags.
After assisting with the sorting and loading of luggage, Leslie and I hung out. I wandered over to the archery range where Blaire was shooting in the afternoon. I
|Teenage ennui on the archery range|
|Blaire showing good form |
before she lets loos
weeks at camp showing some proficiency and improvement. After watching another round of girls shoot I wandered back to our cabin where we cleaned up and did some reading prior to dinner and the main events.
The last Saturday at the end of the combined two and four week session has two major events. First is the banquet that is put on by senior campers--girls in high school who must apply to be admitted to the senior program. These girls are held to a different standard than the rest of the campers, not quite campers but also not counselors. They are in what amounts to a leadership training and development program. For the last dinner of the session they host a dinner with
|Sign and part of display at banquet|
After the banquet there is a large campfire. Awards are handed out to girls who earned them, proud to see Jenna get a sailing award she was working on. Campfire songs are sung and as the evening winds down the songs become more maudlin and the sounds of sniffles and sobs spread as the girls get ready to
The campfire broke up pretty late, around 11:00, and Leslie and I headed off to our little cabin. As we fell asleep we could faintly hear the songs and the laughter fade as the exhausted campers and staff fell asleep. Sleep for long was not on the schedule as the bell rang at 6:10 to call the "hoppers" (girls from each cabin who help set up the tables for their cabin mates and then clear the tables after the meal) to the dining hall for the last meal. Then the exodus begins with the camp congregating around saying good-bye to the first girls to leave on the 7:00 bus.
After the bus left we gathered up Blaire and Jenna, said our good-byes and thank yous and climbed into the Honda Odyssey for the second half of the Summer Road Trip III.
With the girls being quite talkative throughout the day we wandered through the
|Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox|
in Bemidji, Minnesota
A perfect day for driving, high clouds keeping down the bright sunshine and glare, helped us reach our destination of Williston, about twenty miles from Montana to the east and thirty miles from Canada to the north. We
|The girls at the Geographical Center|
of North America, Rugby, ND
A nice fun dinner at a local pizzeria and we are spread throughout the hotel room, writing, reading, "face-timing" (look it up you old timers) and checking emails. We are the modern family on a road trip.
Tomorrow we drive most the way across Montana to Shelby, just outside Glacier National Park.