From Rochester to Roseau, there are more than 10,000 reasons to love summer in Minnesota. And whether you want to sail, swim, fish, scuba, or sunbathe in the nude (really), we’ve found the best places for you to experience the BEST TIME OF YEAR.
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My Lake Story
Flirting with Disaster
by Amy Gage
When I was growing up in southern Minnesota, my best friend’s parents had a cabin on Lake Washington, northeast of Mankato.
The clapboard cabin was dated and rundown; that was part of the allure. We knew the curling tiles on the kitchen floor and the sagging mattresses in the bedrooms would never pass muster in our suburban homes. Here at the cabin, we saw adults let down their guard. Shirtless fathers drove speedboats with lowball glasses in hand. The prettiest women wore swimsuits that flattered their figures. Men recited limericks and told off-color jokes, laughing with an abandon they could never display at the office. And everybody appraised anybody who belonged to someone else.
What was it about the lake that brought out such playfulness and sensuality in otherwise sober adults? I chalk it up to the heat and Johnson’s Baby Oil, which we girls dribbled down our bodies, but also to the hedonistic flair of my friend’s parents. This couple brought a sort of European sensibility to our neighborhood, to our conventional lives. Today we might call it a “global perspective,” or joie de vivre, but back then it just seemed exotic.
They were the first family we knew to go skiing in the mountains, in Winter Park, Colorado; the first to buy sleek cars; the first to hire a cleaning lady, even though none of our mothers worked. And although theirs was not the only cabin built on Lake Washington, it was the first designated specifically for horseplay and weekend entertainment. This was not a fishing retreat. It was a frat house for adults.
I learned to water-ski in chest-high water beyond their dock, behind a 90-horsepower speedboat that left rowboats and fishermen bouncing in its wake. No one called those people “anglers” back then. No one talked about blood-alcohol levels either, despite the number of doctors and lawyers—all men, of course—in the weekend crowd.
Children learn by observing what they don’t understand, and we learned the dance steps of flirtation when we were at the lake. The golf-club pool was kids’ territory; parents had no power there. The lake was different, more grown up, more frightening, more alluring. And though we didn’t concede it, we all felt both eager and insecure.
I can’t recall the precise moment when the adults were right-sized, when they went from icons to human beings. But as I look back on those carefree weekend afternoons—the women sunning and setting golf dates, the men playing with an intensity that betrayed how hard they worked—I see that the click of awareness occurred sometime after what became known as “the speedboat incident.”
A few years into those pre-teen summers, a respected professional man and one of the prettiest wives in town got stuck in a boat out on Lake Washington for hours. Worried, embarrassed—and no doubt wondering what he’d find—the woman’s husband finally took up a rescue mission.
He motored around the coves of the lake before he finally spotted his wife and the other man. After he arrived, the man insisted the boat had stalled. The husband hopped in and turned the key. The engine started with a roar.
Amy Gage is a freelance writer who lives in Northfield.