There’s a soft breeze tonight, enveloping everything. Crisp. It’s rustling the leaves, keeping the bugs at bay. The sound? The sound is that of a hundred lazy rattlesnakes slowly moving their tail segments out of time with one another. It’s the leaves of course – millions and millions of them. The soft strums on a no-name acoustic guitar resonate deeply into the dark woods.
The notes seem to fly off the deck, and I wonder just exactly who, or what, is listening out there.
“D minor, G major… E… minor again? That’s kind of neat sounding…”
A fire would be nice tonight, but I’m the only one awake. The other 6 are inside. Napping. Even though it’s well past the standard “naptime.” Three straight days of staying up way too late, talking way too loud, laughing way too much, and indulging in enough food & drink to feed a small army… it’s definitely taken a toll.
We’ll head back to Illinois tomorrow morning.
This is the 9th year that we have set out for our annual “BroTrip“. My close friend James Brown (yes that really is his name) and I started the tradition, agreeing that even if it was just the two of us, there needed to be a yearly trip to get away & recharge, no matter what. Since that first trip, the accompanying cast & crew has changed. The fellas do what they can, when they can, but it’s hard to coordinate several schedules – especially with kids and dogs and jobs and… well, life.
It’s really hard, but it’s worth the effort.
Let me tell you what we did this year, and why you need to seriously consider setting up a BroTrip of your own.
An Aggressive Itinerary
We’ll plan to get to the cabin near Iron River late on Thursday night, then hit the sack and have 3 full days for different events. Pack the kayaks, coolers and get supplies in advance to save time & money. Kayaking can take place Sunday, after I get back from mass at St. Peter’s – an awesome little church with a rich history and a beautiful shrine out front, made from field stones brought by the locals many years ago. There’s a boat that we can fish from Saturday too, if we tow it to the Pike Chain with my truck. We’ll ask Josh Teigen for some extra poles, pick them up Friday night after we visit the VFW, and ask where the smallmouth bass are setting up. Actually if the VFW has their fish fry we’ll support that, but after we go to Tri Lake Timbers to have one of those amazing bloody marys with a Leinenkugel’s chaser. Wait – cheese curds! We gotta get to Benoit Cheese to pick up some curds, and look for some meat snacks as well. Food this trip will be heavy. Good. Diets can restart next week. Actually, we should cook burgers and brats out on the deck in the dark, so we better stop at MarketPlace Foods Grocery Store in Hayward on the way in. Don’t get too much food though, because we also need to run over to The Delta Diner for lunch, probably hit the Tap Shack the following day. That place is surprisingly good, and we can play bags while we enjoy a pint from Earth Rider Brewery. One night we better take the ferry to Madeline Island out of Bayfield. We can grab food at The Beach Club – actually no, a beer and some fish tacos! More curds, too. With ranch. Then run over to Tom’s Burned Down Café for a few more drinks while we talk to locals and laugh out loud at the misguided liberal propaganda plastered all over the “walls”. Then we’ll make our way back to the ferry to cross Lake Superior at night. If we’re lucky, the sky will be clear, and we’ll see satellites and shooting stars and planets and galaxies and EVERYTHING. Maybe we’ll stop at Frosty’s Outpost on the way back and play some pool, then see how many deer from “the Ino herd” we can count along the edges of the road. We’ll talk about music and life and kids and wives and girlfriends and jobs and existence and creation. All of it. The continuous conversation will chug forward like a freight train, from one day to the next, morning ’til night, without a break until the 7 of us decide it’s time to take a pause – as men do – and breathe in everything that is happening all around us. A pause that may last 30 seconds, or 30 minutes, without a word being spoken, and nobody asking “what’s wrong?” or “why are you so quiet?“
Because we’ll all just know.
On the final morning we’ll wake up and clean. Strip beds, sweep floors, grab perishables and load up. We’ll shake hands and hug in the driveway, make a few more jokes about hangovers and try to land some parting jabs on one another – again, as men do – then laugh at ourselves.
You have to be able to laugh at yourself.
No egos allowed.
No loose cannons. No sensitive types, easily “offended” by colorful language or incorrect pronouns.
Those men are not welcome.
Those are not men.
The ones we invite will have already proven they are of a certain quality.
Why waste time on anyone else?
Life is short.
The drive home will be long.
As we return to Illinois, we’ll feel the heat creep up bit by bit as we travel further and further south. The air will quite literally thicken. The hills will disappear and give way to the flatlands.
Corn. Corn everywhere.
We’ll return to “real life.”
We’ll get home and hug our wives, our kids, unpack and shower up. Then it’s time to figure out how we get back to work and chores and responsibilities… and start to plan for next year.
Maybe we can do even more?
It’s a good goal – and one thing’s for sure: absence has yet again made our hearts, and the hearts of our families, grow fonder.
It’s good to be home.
As you fish this week, consider this:
Planning a BroTrip (or whatever you decide to call it) takes work… and you need to do it. You. Specifically. YOU need to plan the trip, and the first one you plan will be the hardest. Convincing a handful of friends that they can make the time to go will be difficult.
After that first trip, you can repeat. You’ll remember lodging options, restaurants you hit, locations you visited. If you repeat a few times, not only does it become easier and easier to plan – it becomes more than a trip – it becomes a new tradition. It is much easier to get wives and bosses and co-workers and kids and everyone else on board when you are talking about a yearly tradition.
So make one.
Every year, when I talk to clients about my upcoming email hiatus, I hear the same response:
“Must be nice. I wish I had the time and money for a vacation. I never get to go.”
Don’t be like this. Nobody feels sorry for you. Just stop.
NONE of us just happen to have free time. None of us have time for vacation, most of us don’t have extra money sitting around either – we make time for the things that are important to us. We save money for the things we want to do.
It takes discipline. Self-control. A certain amount of personal drive – but you can do it. You can make this happen, and if you do, I assure you, you will be very glad you did.
The following photos are from our 9th trip – and even though I just rolled back into town yesterday, the planning for trip #10 is already underway…
But of course it is.
Because after all… it’s a tradition.
Tight Lines & Godspeed, Patriots.
Thank you Readers!
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AJ. Great column today. Your writing talents might be even better than your fishing talents. I only say that because ….where the heck are the fish pictures???????
HA! Thanks for the kind words – I think – and you caught me. I had PLANNED to fish… but… well, the other guys aren’t that big into fishing, and seeing as how we all get such limited time together, I couldn’t pull myself away from the group. Stayed put and ran around and told stories and played guitar instead. I need to plan a separate fishing-only trip… start yet ANOTHER tradition, eh? Have a great week Brother Ron – AJ