We decided to drive. Since moving to Alabama a year ago, we have been home to Wisconsin once, which was in October. Fortunately, family and friends have come to visit us, most, if not all, had never been to Alabama, and it’s an easy “sell”; an opportunity to go somewhere new. We left ‘home’ last Tuesday, and our plan was to head to Indianapolis, IN, then Waukesha, WI, Portage, WI, Madison, WI, Eau Claire, WI, Bonner Lake (Webster, WI), St. Paul, MN, Versailles, IN, and then home, all in a week, and we did it. Surprisingly, although there never seems to be enough time, it felt like we were able to connect with many people without feeling rushed.

A stop along the way, which the girls were insanely excited about, was Bonner Lake. R.’s family has been going to Bonner Lake since, um, I am going to guess here, the 1950’s (correct me if I’m wrong), needless to say, it’s steeped in memories of camp fire talks, stumbling walks, fishing docks, and family and friends being together.

We pulled onto ‘the land’ around one o’clock, A. and H. bounced in their seats, their Aama too, R. and I were quietly anxious to see family that we haven’t in seven months. We exited the car, the girls split to see their cousins, H. needed a bit more coaxing, actually, she buried herself in my backside for the first half hour. Hugs, hellos, and casual conversation were followed up with horseshoes, corn hole (beanbag toss), fishing, eating, story telling, laughing, and just being together. There are no rules at Bonner, no set events, there isn’t something you have to do, and no one is expecting anything but that, it is truly a place to share.

Highlights from Bonner: A. caught “close to a million” fish, and put them back in the water herself. H. was mesmerized for hours by casting and reeling her line in, only stopping to say “You don’t have to be 5 to fish; I’m 2”, and then back to casting. A. drove her first motorized car, bonked the wood pile in front of her with the first push of the pedal, decided it wasn’t a good idea to drive, decided it might be, got back in, almost hit the cabin, and called ‘her’ a day. Her cousin K. is a ‘professional’ and gave the girls many rides around the land. My attention span only allows me to play decent horseshoes for 30 minutes, after that I space out, talk, and forget the score – thankfully I had a good partner. R. didn’t get a single tick on a four-wheeler ride through the woods; I got seven while walking on the road. And, the campfire will always be a place where stand-up comedians are made, stories are shared, and you learn more about those you call family.

One of the million.

Prior to leaving on our vacation, anxiety about travel, uncertainty over uncontrollable events, and other ‘things’ were making it easy to ‘pull the plug’ on our trip. It wasn’t that we didn’t want to go; it was that sometimes staying home is more comfortable. It’s a long way to drive, and it would have been ‘easier’ to stay home, but selfish of us if our girls don’t know what Bonner Lake is because of distance and convenience. It’s important to stay connected, we all know that, but how often do you push something off because of time, or because it’s difficult? What’s your “Bonner Lake”?

My Papa Sense tells me:

People change, hopefully we all change, but places like Bonner Lake remain environments for people to come together and share themselves while enjoying the simple things in life. Difficult to get there? I could have said that, but seeing R., our girls, and others ‘just being’, eclipses any funny story about H.’s sore butt, Subway gas, or the drivers from a place south of Wisconsin – I’m not pointing fingers. When planning future trips, I hope to focus on and remember the reminiscing on our way home, rather than feel the anxiety about unknowns.

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