Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Trip of a lifetime

There was a time in my life when I fished all the time. Before work. After work. Weekends. Summer. Winter. You get the point.

That began to change when I moved back to the Cities. And that really changed when I had kids. Priorities change, but I couldn’t be happier. Now, spending several days preparing for a fishing tournament, and then eight hours fishing in it, doesn’t seem near as fun as spending a couple hours in the boat with my 3-year-old.

At the same time, some things never change. Fishing always has been an outlet. And as much as I love my family, it’s still important to get away. Refresh and recharge the batteries. Some people go to Las Vegas, or concerts, or sporting events. I go fishing (or hunting).

While I may not hit the water every morning anymore, there are some traditions that endure. Case in point: My annual ice-fishing trip, from which I recently returned. It began in college, includes five college buddies and myself, and will be 15 years old next year.

For some people, it’s hard to believe sitting in a cramped, cold fish house with five others for 48 consecutive hours could be fun. But it is. There’s a reason this trip is a priority, and it’s not because of the fishing. Certainly, we’ve caught our share of fish. But we’ve also been to some pretty cool spots, including Lake of the Woods, Red Lake, Cass Lake, and Lake Mille Lacs. There have been years when we’ve caught painfully few fish (this year at Red Lake, for example), but the chatter already has begun about next year’s 15th anniversary trip.

Some years back – probably during the fervent email chats that begin months before we depart – our group formally named our little get-together. It’s called the TOAL, which stands for trip of a lifetime.
Kind of silly, for sure, but that’s what, in many ways, it’s turned out to be. Every year, on its own, is fantastic. But when you consider the sort of tradition it’s become, it really is the trip of a lifetime.

Even as the six of us have moved, changed jobs, gotten married, and had kids, we prioritize the weekend and plan it sufficiently far in advance that everyone can get away. It’s not an easy thing to get everyone’s schedules to mesh, but, to date, it’s always happened.

That’s what tradition is about.

And a cool thing has developed over the past couple of years. All of our wives – or soon-to-be-wives – have gotten together the weekend we’ve been gone.

Last year, the six wives got together for happy hour in Minneapolis, an evening for which one drove from Grand Forks, and another drove from Fargo. This year, the wives made a weekend of it, too, and met in Alexandria for a trip to the spa. They’ve even given it a name – the TOAL Wives’ Weekend. I hope, for their sake, it’s a tradition they continue. Otherwise, they’ll be stuck home alone at least one weekend every winter, because our trip, which began as an idea over beers in our college dorms, isn’t stopping anytime soon.