Tales from the Cabin
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Going Along for the Ride

It’s more than just getting there
By Ernest Lorensson
Published: July 1, 2007
Photo by Alexis Smith, dreamstime.com

Not long after I was engaged to marry my (now) wife, we were visiting my in-laws at their cabin. My mother-in-law asked me to run into town to pick up something for her from the hardware store, so I grabbed my car keys then asked my father-in-law if he wanted to come along.
 “No. Why?” was his response.
“Uh, just to ride together,” I said, a little puzzled.
 “No thanks,” he repeated, also apparently perplexed.
It was one of those golden father-in-law, son-in-law moments.
He just didn’t know then that going along for the ride was an integral part of my cabin upbringing.
From my youngest days to young adulthood, I loved being with my Grandpa Art and would jump at any opportunity to travel with him to his cabin – for any reason. I’d gladly brave frigid water to help him put the dock and boat lift in the lake each spring just after ice-out. There were countless weekends of fun and annual one- or two-week summer vacations. In the late fall, we’d leave town at 4 a.m. and travel to the cabin for a full day of raking leaves.
Come to think of it, we always left the city at about 4 a.m. for the 3-hour drive. The first hour I was wide awake with the excited anticipation of another trip to the cabin. But then the time of day would start pulling slowly and surely at my eyelids until I drifted off to sleep for the remaining hours.
Grandpa had no problem staying awake. A hard-driving, second-generation American of Danish ancestry who had clawed and scratched his way through the Great Depression, Grandpa had a tremendous work ethic. And it extended into this home life. The morning was “half wasted” he’d say if we didn’t arrive at the cabin in time for breakfast. So we rarely arrived later than 7 a.m. Grandpa would turn and wake me up as we drove down the driveway.
During stays at the cabin, I was always eager to ride along in his large AMC Matador sedan for any errand to the local marina, corner hardware, grocery or bait store. On hot summer days, he’d run the air conditioner full blast, and the cold rides were a delicious respite from the outdoor heat. I willingly endured the music from Grandpa’s collection of 8-track tapes, which included “The Best of Johnny Cash” and too many polka compilations. (Now I’m humming “Roll out the barrel, we’ll have a barrel of fun ...!”)
However, the two of us covered more miles on the water than on land. For me – and our entire family  – the favorite ride was in Grandpa’s boat. His cabin was on a long chain of lakes, and we could spend hours traveling from one lake to another. The best part was motoring ever so slowly beneath the spooky, shadowy low-hung wooden bridges that carried cars over the water in between the lakes.
When Grandpa said “Let’s take a boat ride!” he was referring not to the oft-used aluminum fishing boat, but to his runabout, a 1950s-vintage fiberglass boat with light green trim and a 30-something horsepower outboard motor. During my childhood years, the sunshine, lake air and thud-thud-thud of the waves against the bottom of the boat would make me sleepy. Up to his last days on this earth, Grandpa liked to tease me about his memory of me hunkering down into the open bow beneath the boat’s dash where I’d curl up on top of life jackets and fall asleep during every boat excursion.
Awake or asleep, I guess it was all part of going along for the ride – my favorite way to spend time
with Grandpa.

Ernest Lorensson likes running his car’s AC on the ice-cold setting during hot summer days, but the only polka tunes playing are the ones in his head.

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