It was a brilliant, sunny morning on Gull Lake, and at Madden's -- Minnesota's classic family resort -- families were out in full force. Little kids were running around in ruffly butt swimsuits, parents were chasing them back up onto the beach and grandparents were relaxing in lawn chairs, taking in the view.
As for my best friend and me? We were going to try waterskiing.
It's pretty rare that my best friend and I get away for our own mini-break, and it's even rarer that we get the chance to take on a new adventure. Most of our overnights are of the knit, read, eat and watch West Wing DVDs variety. And so, on this bright morning in Brainerd, Minnesota, we were raring to go. We were going to do it. We were hitting the lake and the ski boat.
Now, if you've read any of my previous travel posts here on the blog, you know that if there is some kind of adventure sport to try, I'm going to try it. But you also probably know that, as a fairly staid law professor, upper body strength is not really my, well, strength. I type. I don't lift. That's what husbands are for.
Yep, I was pretty sure that waterskiing was going to be a long way from my forte. But I sure was game to try. Especially when I saw the snazzy ski school boat that pulled up to the dock. And the ski instructors who were pretty darn as close to as gorgeous as the lake. And that's saying a lot.
Now, as for the other activities at Madden's -- pontoon boat tours, horseback riding in the Pillsbury State Park, relaxing spa treatments -- at those we had been quite the pros. Yep, sitting back on a speedboat outfitted pretty much like my living room while an expert driver drove us around the lake and pointed out all the "cabins" where the summer people lived? While drinking a cool drink and feeling the breezes off the water? I could do that. Riding a frisky palomino named Sundance through the trees while red winged blackbirds and, yes, eagles flew overhead? No problem. And getting the dust out of my pores with some kind of high frequency spa energy treatment, followed by a peppermint moisturizer and a hot towel? Oh, yeah.
And the background for all of this down-to-earth decadence? The most easygoing, laid back, pretty-but-not pretentious lake resort in Minnesota (or so I'd guess, not having visited many others): Madden's on Gull Lake. It's sort of a cross between the hotel in Dirty Dancing (admit it, haven't you always wanted to go there?) and your uncle's log cabin on the lake, times 200.
With more than 1,000 acres, there's plenty of room for a pizza parlor, a gallery, a lawn bowling court, several golf courses, five swimming pools and what seem like dozens of lake activities (in addition to waterskiing, they offer banana boats and kayaks and water trampolines and way more). All of the rooms look out over the lake or the golf courses, and most are individual cottages with large, comfortable rooms where you can relax without worrying that your kids will break something. In short, Madden's is the ultimate in R & R, a haven where you can wander around in your shorts and flip flops, kick back with a good book and let the kids (at least the school-aged ones) run wild and turn brown as berries outside in the fresh air. Or try the minnow races. Yes, they really race tiny fish there. As an organized activity. I told you it was heaven.
But back to the waterskiing.
Much to our surprise (and with huge props to our college-aged Adonis instructors), waterskiing we did. They started us out holding onto a boom, then switched us to a very short rope and then it was time.
They hooked the long rope onto the back of the boat. They told us (me first, then my bestie) to jump into the water and swim. And swim. And swim. And then we assumed the 7-11 position (skiis parallel like the number eleven, body bent slightly at the hips, arms straight). And we skied. Across the lake. Like we'd been doing it all our lives.
This called for a celebration -- dinner at the lodge, perhaps? Some crispy pork belly with a Caribbean garnish? With a chaser of chocolate cheesecake? Sure, why not? After all, all that skiing and horseback riding (and lying on a comfy spa chaise and riding in a pontoon boat) were pretty darn exhausting. We needed to build our energy back up. Right.
All good things must come to an end. On the ride home, it started to rain. Somehow, that seemed appropriate, as if the skies knew how sad we were to be leaving Madden's and brought out the crummy weather so that we didn't feel too bad about leaving the lake. On the other hand, we were pretty sure that rain over Gull Lake was just as spectacular as sunshine, moonshine and starshine -- all the more reason to head back next year and find out.
Oh, and strap on some skiis and hit the lake.