A weekend at Clear Lake

Published 8:48 am Friday, July 18, 2008

Vacations with relatives can be tough sometimes. Bad fortune makes you glad to be with family, though.

I come from a blended family, which means most of us ended up with different last names. The three offspring of my mother, their families and her husband (our stepfather) spend a three-day weekend together every year. Through a combination of the first two letters from each of our last names, we call the campout Wablfren.

This year, Wablfren was at Clear Lake State Park. Last year, it was at Hok-Si-La Campground in Lake City, Minn.

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Clear Lake State Park is pretty much a state-run campground with an adjacent beach. It provides a place to camp for people attending tourist events in Clear Lake. My wife and I stayed there once in 2006 with my mother and stepfather so we could together attend a show at the Surf Ballroom. The performer was Texas blues man Delbert McClinton.

This time, we picked Clear Lake because of the Bicycle, Blues & Barbecue event last weekend.

There is City Beach downtown, but we swam at the beach at the state park, the best part of that park. On Friday, the adults, the rugrats and my dog, Alta, swam in the shallow water or else played on the sand. Come to think of it, that was the best part of the weekend. My 17-month-old son, Forrest, loved being held while I stood in the water, but he didn’t want to get wet. He liked playing in the wet sand, but the dry sand was too hot. He wore out quickly and went to sleep.

We went to town Friday night to check out the hopping blues music and sample the barbecue stands. It was a simple event, mainly homespun fun. The band even needed music stands, but they were in key, loud and played well-known jazz and blues tunes such as “Watermelon Man.”

We spent the time in town Friday playing with the children on the playground equipment. Forrest is a daredevil boy; he pushes beyond his previous limits. He’s amazing and scary at the same time. My nephew Adam and I enjoyed watching a man display his mastery of a four-string kite. He would let the kite sink in the water, then fly it again. He flew it in between people standing along the shore, and it did all sort of tricks. The maker of the kite was Revolution.

On Saturday, after a steak-and-eggs breakfast prepared by yours truly, we biked. Bicycle, Blues & Barbecue offered short, medium and long rides. Because we had kids, we planned to take the short ride — only 14 miles — then do some extra riding on our own, but I got a flat tire. We replaced the tire, but the small pump couldn’t fill it. I biked back to the start, had the bike shop guy fill it, but then I couldn’t catch my family. I was close. I would’ve caught them if we had been on a longer route.

Back at camp, Forrest, the other kids and I went to play on the playground equipment. Forrest the daredevil mastered the bridge and big and small slides without fear. But then he caught his leg in a gap between the bridge and a ledge and fell forward. (The other side of the bridge didn’t have that gap.) We took him to the hospital in Mason City. At first, doctors thought he would need a cast for a fracture, but then the orthopedic doctor arrived, looked at the X-rays and said it was the type of fracture that babies and toddlers get that don’t need a cast — a very small buckle fracture. The hospital staff was exceedingly nice.

My wife and I decided it would be best to pack up and go home, but first, we met our family for dinner in Clear Lake, where the cook was kind enough to put blue cheese on my burger, even though it wasn’t on the menu. After a bad day, it was so tasty, and being with family was relaxing after such a scare. Lisa and I packed our gear and skipped the last day of Wablfren.

About Tim Engstrom

Tim Engstrom is the editor of the Albert Lea Tribune. He resides in Albert Lea with his wife, two sons and dog.

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