A rooster crows. As you emerge lazily from dreamland, you're struck by the incredibly peaceful silence of Lanesboro, a tiny town with no stop lights and little traffic. You stretch. Hmm. Never noticed that muscle before!
Delicious aromas draw you downstairs to the Cottage House Inn's breakfast room to see what Waldo has cooked up for the dozen or two Zephyr campers who have overtaken his 13-room bed and breakfast. This morning it's homemade cinnamon rolls, sausage, cereal, toast, a fruit selection and cottage cheese. Yesterday the featured hot dishes were perfect pancakes and homemade applesauce. How will you resist eating a bit of everything?! You share a chatty meal with two mates who, like you, conquered braking on that imposing hill two days ago, gaining a long-hoped-for confidence on skates as well as a solid bond of friendship from sharing the moment.
Because it's just four blocks away, you don your skate gear and roll down to the big parking lot next to Bass Lake where the day's clinic will begin at 9 AM. You wouldn't have even considered skating to the site two days ago! Rolling along the two blocks of downtown Lanesboro, you pass gift shops, several small eateries and the Root River Outfitters where you rented bicycles yesterday to explore a section of the 40+ mile Root River bike trail that bisects the town. The river's broad waterfalls made a stunning photo to share with friends back home who asked last week, "Whatever are you thinking, going to a skate camp? At your age!" You'll show 'em.
You and all the other campers begin warming up on the large asphalt parking lot, practicing screeching heel brake stops, swizzles or A-frame turns. After a much-needed in-skate stretching session, you gather close to hear what the morning clinic will include: basic turning, a game with cones and several balance drills.
Andrea, one of three IISA-certified Zephyr camp instructors, enthusiastically demonstrates the crossover turn. Then, she and cones-king Mike lead you through the drills and games to help you master it. The four skaters who still need help with stopping move to another area of the vast lot to receive extra attention from Liz.
Before you know it, it's 11 AM and time to break for lunch. Today you dine at Mrs. B's, where sandwiches are made on thick slices of homemade dill or whole wheat bread. Tomorrow, you plan on trying the "haus- made" sausages and root beer at Das Wurst Haus, where the proprietor loves to entertain his guests by playing polka music on the accordion.
As you gather for the day's second two-hour clinic, the sun is sparkling off the waters of Bass Pond, bordering the west side of the parking lot. It's a tough decision when you have to choose between practicing new skills in the parking lot or taking a guided skate tour on the Root River trail. Deciding you can skate trails at home any time, you opt to stay behind to take advantage of the extra opportunity to work on parallel turns and crossovers under the helpful guidance of a camp instructor. You share bursts of laughter and murmurs of frustration with the others at first, but with some coaching and repeated attempts, within 20 minutes you're proudly showing off your new turning grace.
It's 3 PM. After a quick change of clothes you've regrouped with five others to depart for today's post-skate optional activity, a driving and shopping tour through the farms of the local Amish community. During the leisurely drive, you discover right away which campers were "born to shop!" Back in town, your room mate is having a one-hour massage while others are shopping or napping.
You gather at 7 PM with other campers hungry for dinner. Last night you had an elegant feast at Lanesboro's Old Village Hall, a short stroll from the Cottage House Inn. Tonight, you pile into a Zephyr van for the short drive to the Old Barn Resort where the friendly proprietors are preparing a special Bar B Q and bonfire just for the Zephyr family. The van travels through rolling farmland. The fields of corn and soy beans are guarded by tall silos glinting gold from the descending sun. But you almost miss the picturesque scenery from laughing with others in the van as they excitedly recount the day's adventures and triumphs and tease each other as if they've been friends for years.
Returning to Lanesboro, you decide to resist joining four or five others for a bedtime drink at the local pub. Instead, with no TV or phone to distract you, you slip into bed to review a chapter of Get Rolling, then turn out the light, eager for another day at camp. You muse, "I can't believe I'm having so much fun!" Seconds later, you're cruising past the Root River trail falls as you leave Lanesboro's town limits on your way for a long, long skate.
After three Zephyr Skate Camps in 2000, it was easy to write a description of how most people experience this 5-day instructional format. Virtually everybody claimed it exceeded their wildest hopes! Not only were my own camp dreams immensely satisfied, I was shocked at how much I soaked up about non-skating interests from the 54 women and men who participated. --Liz
Update: Here's a short photo journal from one of our July 2001 beginner campers.