Taking that holiday road

By: 
Patrick Fisher, The New Prague Times

I hope everyone enjoyed Thanksgiving in some way. I made my nearly annual trip to my hometown of Thief River Falls. I say “nearly annual” in that every once in a while I can’t make the more than 300 mile drive to northwest Minnesota. Other times I’ve made it for Thanksgiving, Christmas or other holidays, but it was an adventure. Once, I had to stop in Fergus Falls overnight, because of car problems. Thankfully a garage was open the next day and was able to fix my car without it costing too much. Another time it was when I was coming back to New Prague. A bad snowstorm cut down visibility and I made it to Fergus Falls just as it was getting dark. I decided I had had enough and got a room at a motel. The weather was better the next day and I was able to get back home.

I’ve probably written before how 300 miles doesn’t seem that far, by today’s standards, but it can make quite a difference. Weather wise we’ve seen only a little snowfall, but northwest Minnesota already has a good snow covering. My family talked about how the area ski resorts were opening after Thanksgiving. I mentioned how Buck Hill had already been making snow. For my family, skiing is something that most of us have been doing for years. Often we hoped for lots of snow by Thanksgiving, as we would go out skiing the day or weekend after the holiday. My dad taught my three siblings and I how to ski starting at age 3 or 5. At that young, he just held us between his legs and made slow turns down the hill. Of course we kids sometimes just liked to ski as fast as we could down the hill, go over to the towrope, get to the top as quick as we could and then zip down to the bottom again. Over time we learned how to become more graceful about it.

Besides snow, we knew it was getting close to ski season when our family made a trip over to Grand Forks to The Ski and Bike Shop, a business where we bought our skis, boots and snowsuits. Back in the 1970s and ‘80s the store was in downtown Grand Forks, near the river and was spread out over two stories in one building. We also brought our skis and boots there to see if they needed to be refitted, tuned up and especially to have the skis waxed. Yep, if you didn’t know, you need to have the bottom of skis waxed if you want to make it down a hill as quick as you can. Growing up, when it seemed our skis were going slow, my siblings and I asked our dad if our skis needed to be waxed. More often than not it was the condition of the snow; was it heavy and wet or slushy or whether it was more ice than snow.

Most of our ski trips ended the same way, we would tiredly switch our ski boots for snow boots, load up the car and, if it was too late, go into town to get something to eat. On the way home we kids would fall asleep and when we got home, wake up enough to bring our gear inside before heading to bed.

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