I had a car waiting for me, and the driver kept calling me to see where I was. There was a luggage snafu and no one could figure out which carousel it was coming in on. When we looked at the boards that post such things, our flight wasn't on there. I guess they couldn't decide whether our flight had come from Orange County or from Sioux Falls. In any case, neither was listed and so we wandered around lost and dejected until we had the bright idea to ask at the Delta service desk. Finally: luggage located and I was off downstairs to meet the car and driver.
I was outside in the ground transportation area for less than 2 minutes and my hair was literally dripping sweat from the heat and extreme humidity. I was literally a hot mess while trying to find my driver. As quickly as I could I jumped in the car and asked him to crank up the air. The heat and damp air were deadly - as bad as anything in Puerto Rico, but no nice sea breezes OR sea. Yuck.
When I got to the hotel I was able to hose off and get comfortable before being picked up for dinner by one of my new coworkers. She came with her husband and they were both so nice. She was blonde and had beautiful blue eyes. When we got to the restaurant, we happened to see some friends of theirs - also all blonde and all with beautiful blue eyes. I suddenly realized I was completely surrounded by Swedes and Vikings, don't'cha know. They are a good looking bunch, I have to say, but it was an odd feeling to be a minority of sorts.
The next day, this same coworker and another one picked me up for the trek north to the resort on Gull Lake. It was a long, long trip - almost 3 hours in the car with people I barely knew. At last we arrived at our destination. And it was stinking hot and humid. And our rooms weren't ready. We got some lunch and waited. And waited. Before our rooms were ready, the others had all arrived, and everyone wanted to get the party started. It started with a happy hour. Lots of drinking. There are only so many Diet Cokes or tonic waters I can drink. I was bored, but everyone else was having a really good time drinking. At dinner time (still hadn't been to the room because my luggage was held hostage in the car of one of the happy drinkers) everyone boarded a pontoon (they pronounce it "pan-tOOn") for a migratory trip around the lake - basically bar hopping and eating our way around it. Yay.
The first bar also provided our appetizers: onion rings, deep fried chicken wings, deep fried coconut shrimp, deep fried jalepeno poppers, and tater tots (Really?? I flew 3 1/2 hours and drove another 3 for TATER TOTS?!?) There were little flies buzzing around that kept biting my ankles. It hurt. We were finally able to leave that hell-hole and get on to the next watering hole - the very same place where we'd had bad pizza for lunch. So - yay - we got to have more bad pizza. And lots of drinks. And apparently the staff was too overwhelmed to serve us our sodas and/or water: we had to get up and get our own. At last we were on our way back on the pontoons to our own hotel for dessert. Everyone thought it was hysterical to throw cherry tomatoes and raw veggies back and forth at the people on the other pontoons. Our driver was racing with the others and water sloshed in and got us all wet. Everyone thought that was hysterical too. The fearless leader of our pontoon grabbed tongs (from the vegetable trays that had been baking on the boats all evening) and attempted to field the veggies flying our way. He got his shoes very wet but made a valiant stand.
The sunset over Gull Lake during our vegetable fight
Finally - AT LAST - we got back and herded up to where the ice cream was. We made our own sundaes, but what's this? - the staff had forgotten to provide spoons. So while our ice cream melted they scurried around trying to find spoons. There were hundreds of dragon flies buzzing all around us. It was kind of cool - they are like bug fairies, and don't bother me. I'd never seen so many all at once, but I'd never been to a lake in Minnesota either. It was almost 9:00pm and still light outside. I was told it doesn't get dark until almost 10 in the height of summer. Crazy.
Oh, people were still not done drinking, but thankfully, THANKFULLY I had roommates in our particular townhouse that were ready to go to bed, since it was 10pm and breakfast was at 7am. We got in the car, luggage in tow, and drove to our rooms. Where I promptly had a very bad night's sleep. I guess I was expecting more of a 4 or 5 star resort. You know - good pillows and good mattresses, nice bed linens. This was nice and clean, but a little rustic. Plus, I knew I had to get up early for the meeting and that automatically jinxed any good sleep I might have had.
Wednesday morning: Breakfast and a morning meeting. Pretty standard, and I learned a lot about the team I'll be working with. We had a working lunch and then - oh joy! - the team building activity: a scavenger hunt. I hate to be negative, I really do. But that was one of the lamest things I've ever done. Grown men and women screaming at each other to run! RUN! in that hot humid heat to find, and take pictures of ridiculous things. Now, if there's a prize at the end that I want, I'm as competitive as anyone. But I am NOT competitive just for the sake of competition. These sales people are like Pavlov's dog when you dangle a contest in front of them. It was just nuts. And stupid. I was thrilled when it was over and I could go back to the room all by myself for some quiet time. The owner of the car had gone golfing and she very kindly let me use her car. I really liked her.
At 3:15 it was time for my massage so off I went. It was OK. The girl who did it told me how tired she was, and that she'd done 6 massages before me and had one after me. (Was I supposed to feel sorry for her?) After she said that, I didn't expect much, and it was a good thing, because I didn't get much. But I didn't really care because it killed time, and I didn't have to pay for it. Plus, it was quiet and peaceful in there.
Back to the room to clean up for dinner as I had massage oil all through my hair. Dinner was at an Italian restaurant on the premises that everyone raved about. Seriously, Olive Garden is better than that restaurant was. Maybe the wine was good - everyone was really enjoying that - but from my perspective the food was lacking. Not a lot of flavor in anything except the flank steak strips with a wine reduction sauce. I liked that, but no one else did as they didn't like rare meat. *sigh* Only one more day to go, however.
Thursday: Breakfast and morning meeting. Results of the scavenger hunt. My team won. Oh, the chest beating and hilarity... and the eye rolling from me. Finally, it was over, and I was assigned to go to the airport with a couple of girls who had room for me and my large, giant suitcase. I liked them. They thought the scavenger hunt was stupid too. And they thought the food was bad. We came to the conclusion that we live in areas where there are A LOT of choices as far as eating out (they were from New York) and that maybe we were spoiled. Probably quite right about that. Not a lot of choices in that part of Minnesota, and they are pretty much a meat and potatoes crowd anyway.
Minnesotans are very proud of their lakes. Rightfully so - they're beautiful. I enjoyed seeing a portion of the country I'd never seen before. It was green, and full of wildlife (one girl almost ran into a little deer family while out running one morning), and gorgeous flowers. We heard loons on the lake. There were spectacular sunsets. I assume the sunrises were equally beautiful, but I was in the shower for those.
But I missed my home. And my husband. I felt like they could have done this meeting in one day in a hotel in Minneapolis and spared us the 2 days of travel to and from the remote resort. It was hot and sticky and even though everyone was really nice to me, they already knew each other really well, so I felt like an outsider. And I WAS an outsider, for heaven's sake - I don't live or work there!
So I was glad to fly home to my husband, my own house, my own bed. Home is always a good place for me to be. But I was glad to have experienced the grandeur of a Minnesota lake at sunset. Even more glad that I'd captured it on my i-Phone.
Minnesotans say there are three good months in each year: the summer months. It's when they go to the lakes, get out on the water in their boats and pontoons, go to their lakeside cabins. They enjoy every minute that summer offers, because they know in a few short months the harsh winter will be upon them again. And unless you just love to ice fish, the lake will be unavailable for awhile. So I was glad to see this seasonal beauty accompanied by my new blonde, blue-eyed friends. And for a little while, when we were on the water at sunset, I was glad I'd come.