Chapter One – The Journey

[Chapter Six]
[Chapter Five]
[Chapter Four]
[Chapter Three]
[Chapter Two]

“Hey Jen, it’s Nat. When you get this, can you meet me at the train station and bring $2? I’m on the train and I thought I had one punch left on my ticket, but I was wrong, and I don’t have any cash on me. Hurry!”

[Five minutes later]

“Hey Nat. You seriously don’t have $2? We’re leaving for up north in ten minutes – how do you not have any money on you? I’ll meet you on the platform.”

“Oh, don’t worry about it. The conductor just shamed me instead.”

“He publicly shamed you?”


“Cool. Then I’ll meet you in the parking lot.”

Since Natasha had to work a half-day before our trip to our friend Dee-Dee’s cabin in northern Wisconsin, I spent the morning doing some last minute preparations for our adventure. Bottled water, full tank of gas, Deep Woods Off!, bag of raw almonds, and a fishing hat from Target – I had everything I needed for our northern excursion.

After picking up Natasha at the train station, we made a quick pit stop for hot dogs and then called Dee to let her know we were on our way.

“Perfect! I’ll have the truck all packed and ready to go.”

“Truck? What truck?”

“My dad’s truck.”

“Jen – ask her if it’s a moving truck. Is it a U-Haul?”

“Dee – is it a U-Haul? We’re not taking a U-Haul on a 5-hour drive are we?”


“Ask her if we all have to squish in the front seat.”

“Do we all have to squish in the front seat?”


“Is it a passenger vehicle or a commercial truck?”

“It’s a passenger vehicle. Will you just get up here? It’s a nice truck!”

“Ask her why we need a truck.”

“Hey – why are we taking a truck? What’s wrong with your car?”

“I told my dad we’d bring up the dining room table for the cabin.”

“Dining room table.”

“Ask her if the table is already in the truck.”

“Is it already in the truck?”

“No, we have to move it in.”

“We have to move it in.”

“I knew it!”

“Nat knew it!”

“Just get up here! It’s not that heavy!”

“Fine. We’ll see you in a bit.”

As it turned out, Dee-Dee was right – the table wasn’t all that heavy, although we gave up after wedging the third chair and our bags into the back of the truck. Her brother could take the other five chairs the next time he went up to the cabin, we decided. We were on a race against the clock since our goal was to get there before sundown, partly because we wanted to take photos of the sunset, but primarily because Dee’s family cabin was set back about two miles into the thick woods and she’d never find it in the dark.

“All right – is everyone buckled in? Did we forget anything? Here we go!”

“YEAH! Road trip up north!”

“YEAH! Girls weekend!”

We had been driving for a couple hours when Natasha looked over and yelled, “Dee! You’re out of gas!”

“What? Oh crap. Crap! You were supposed to remind me to get gas!”

I sipped on my long since melted iced latte and said, “Oh, don’t worry. The gas light isn’t even on yet. We probably still have at least a gallon or two left. We’re fine.”

“Okay, Jenny. Obviously you don’t know Nat’s and my history with running out of gas. It happens to us a lot!”

“Yeah, like all the time.”

“I’m not worried.”

We rolled into the gas station just as Dee’s gas light binged on, and I just smiled. While I was waiting for the restroom to free up, I bought a Wisconsin map, since Dee-Dee had been going off of memory up until this point. I needed something to occupy my mind, and charting our exact distance every 20 minutes or so was just what I needed. As I soon remembered from my trips up north as a child, there’s not much to look at along the highways of Wisconsin.

Sometimes you see some windmills.

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An occasional bobcat.

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But mostly just truck stop porn. And Dee-Dee refused to stop, even though we were in a truck.

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Natasha kept saying that this trip would change us all, and at first I doubted her. When you’ve known people for 15 years, it’s hard to be surprised by them, but when I discovered that both Nat and Dee-Dee knew all the lyrics to every country song that came on, I realized that the trip had already revealed more secrets than I ever could have imagined.

As we veered off the highways and started winding our way down country roads, it suddenly sank in that we were in the middle of nowhere. Glorious nowhere.

“It is really gorgeous up here! We should totally start our own commune,” Nat suggested.

“I’m in, as long as we have working bathrooms. But what’s the approval process for letting people into our commune?”

“Oh, it’s only going to be the three of us. And Farnsworth. And maybe one or two other people we already know really well. This isn’t some hippie commune where anyone can join.”

“Okay, cool. You had me worried there for a minute.”

Even though it was pointless, since the small country roads we were looking for weren’t even listed, I couldn’t stop looking at the map. It was close to 7:00pm, and the sky was getting darker and darker.

“Dee! Can’t you go any faster? The sun is going down! How far away are we?”

“We’re close. Real close. I think this is the lake where I caught the biggest walleye of my life when I was seven. No wait… maybe that’s not it. I know our turnoff is either before or after the boat landing. So just look for the boat landing.”

“What road did you say we need to turn on? Bass Lake?”

“No, I think it’s Crab Lake.”

“Because we just passed Bass Lake Road. Are you sure?”

“Not really. Wait – did it say Bass Lake or Crab Lake?”

“It said Bass Lake.”

“No, I think it’s Crab Lake. Did we pass the boat landing yet?”

“No idea.”

Dee-Dee somehow navigated her way through the unmarked gravel roads that were cut into the woods, and we eventually pulled up in front of the cabin. We barely had time to acknowledge how gorgeous the cabin was because we were rushing to throw all our food in the refrigerator and quickly run down to the pier.

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I did, however, have enough time to take note of the 12-foot statue of an Indian standing in the living room.

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“Whoa! Okay – what the hell is that? You never told me about any Indian statue, Dee!”

“Sure I did – I know I must have warned you about him. Didn’t I?”

“Mmm… no. Pretty sure I would’ve remembered.”

“Oh, well, there he is. Now hurry up! It’s almost dark!”

We got to the pier just in time to catch the last few minutes of the sunset, and stood on the dock in silence, soaking in the beauty of the landscape.

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“Ohmigod I can’t even stand how beautiful it is here! I want to move here! Can we go fishing tomorrow? And kayaking? And get up real early and eat breakfast on the porch? And can we grill out and drink wine and watch bad movies? And go for long walks in the woods? And can we go into town and eat country food? Can we?”

“We can do all of that, and more.”

“And then we’ll pool all our money together and buy a plot of land down the road for our commune.”

“Yep, this trip will change us all.”

13 Responses to “Chapter One – The Journey”

  1. sizzle Says:

    that’s one gorgeous sunset.

  2. Geeky Tai-Tai Says:

    WOW! The cabin, the Indian, the sunset… BEAUTIFUL!

  3. serap Says:

    Oh no, I’m sad that we’ve come to the end/beginning of your story! It was brilliant, thanks Jen, you really are an amazingly creative storyteller.

  4. jenny Says:

    sizzle: now we know that we have to leave about 30 minutes earlier to catch the full experience!
    geeky tai-tai: it really was spectacular. ::sigh::
    serap: thanks so much! i might be going back there this fall, so who knows what stories could come out of that…

  5. You can call me, 'Sir' Says:

    Exit 113 at highway 26 in Oshkosh. Awesome! Thanks, Jenny!

  6. You can call me, 'Sir' Says:

    Exit 113 at highway 26 in Oshkosh. Awesome! Thanks, Jenny!

  7. vahid Says:

    And so it begins. What a great story, Jenny! And it’s reassuring to know that even in Wisconsin there’s porn available by the warehouse full.

  8. Don Says:

    You write exceedingly well. It’s easy to read, it flows, it’s all believable, the people are totally real (I know they’re really real but it’s all too easy for writers who aren’t as good as you to make really real people seem really fake and boring). I guess what I admire is that you can remember stuff in a way that flows into a fun narrative. For ex I had a good weekend chock full of material but the humor in it all seems to be the first thing I forget.

  9. jenny Says:

    sir: just give me a holler if you’re looking for other options – we passed about 50 of them on the way up north.
    vahid: frankly, i think that wisconsin specializes in road-side porn.
    don: wow – you sure just made my week – thanks! the truth is, i have a terrible memory, which is why having a notebook helps… but it also helps to have friends who get lost, run out of gas, forget how to turn on a boat motor, and will eat roast beef sandwiches at 9:30am. :)

  10. Tracy Lynn Says:

    I am disturbed by the giant Indian statue in the living room. That just ain’t right.

  11. churlita Says:

    So, the beginning is the end. Wah. Can you go somewhere really fun this weekend and write about it, so we can live vicariously through next week too?

  12. Anonymous Says:

    Dear Jenny,
    Wow so beautiful. Nothing like the Wisco woods!

  13. Rigel Says:

    Cabins on lakes are special; so are stories about them. Thanks for sharing a bit about yours! I especially like the pictures and running commentary. Great storytelling!

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