Living

There's no place like home, especially if you own a cabin

Mrs. Reusse helped pack an SUV and headed for a cabin Friday. She did not invite her husband. For this, she deserves a bouquet of roses or even a modest-size gem.

The only thing that has provided comfort in two decades of gazing at our back-yard swimming pool is this: I would rather be throwing the annual thousands into that diabolical money pit than driving 3½ hours every Friday in order to mow long grass and hack at weeds.

For this occasional, reluctant visitor to the weekend retreats of various relatives, this seems to be the itinerary for Twin Citians who have both a job and a cabin:

They sneak out of work around noon on Friday, head home, load the vehicle to get on the road around 2 p.m. Fifteen minutes later, they remember that the cabin keys were left on the kitchen counter and make a U-turn.

Once back home, someone in the traveling party decides to use the facilities, and now it's almost 3 o'clock when the gas-slurping SUV leaves the driveway for the second time.

The traffic moves along Interstate Hwy. 494 at 30 miles per hour, until you are within a couple of miles of the tangle with 694. This is when the road north and west becomes a sputtering, crawling parking lot for the next hour until you're past Albertville.

Occasionally, the captain of the SUV will try Hwy. 169 north in an attempt to avoid the 494-694 mess. There are reports that you can find old station wagons on the side roads near Anoka filled with the skeletons of entire families who tried the 169 alternative on a Friday afternoon and died of dehydration.

Throw in a stop for a $70 tank of gas, and it's around 7 p.m. when the family arrives at the cabin near Hackensack.

The next 42 hours are spent trying to start the lawnmower, mowing the grass and weeds, wrestling with the pilot light on the water heater, discovering there's no gas for the boat or Jet Ski, going to town for gas, doing makeshift carpentry to find the hole the voracious red squirrels are using to get in, and trying to sleep in a humid bedroom with mosquitoes buzzing in your ear.

Of course, once the weeds are mowed, and there is hot water for up to 90 seconds for a family's worth of showers, and there's gas in the watercraft, that's when you can start racing across the sapphire pond to your heart's content.

Except, most Minnesota lakes are blessed with a patrol boat from the county sheriff's office with deputies who have a single desire: to make sure no teenager on the water is having a good time.

No wake. No speeding. No 15-year-old driving a Jet Ski. And those kite tubes? Way too much fun. They are banned.

There are as many as 45 minutes for relaxing on Saturday night; then come the hectic morning hours on Sunday, with the old man screaming:

"Come on, put everything away, get packing. We have to be on the road by 1 o'clock or we're not going to beat the traffic. Hurry, hurry."

None of the above covers the No. 1 problem of cabin ownership _ namely, that it turns your children into connivers.

I talked to a 2007 high school graduate and daughter of a cabin owner this week and said: "My guess is it was age 13 when you started coming up with phony excuses as to why you couldn't go to the cabin for the weekend. Is that correct?"

She paused and said: "Maybe not 13, but by 14, definitely."

Yes, there's an age that's reached when your child no longer can find a friend to make a seven-hour round trip in order to help mow, pull milfoil from the shallow water, eat bad potato salad and risk Lyme or West Nile disease.

And that's the point where your precious one starts coming up with the fibs needed to spend the weekend in the big city with friends rather than in Hackensack with family.

These fibs also serve as an excellent learning ground for the lies any red-blooded Twin Cities teenager will need to get out of the house at night all through high school.

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