It was Erin’s hole-in-one on the 16th hole that erased all hope. When she followed that up with a two on the 17th hole, I was officially toast. As she calmly sank her last putt to cinch a three-stroke victory, I dropped to my knees, stretched out my arms and humbly and repeatedly bowed at her feet in homage to the newly crowned queen of miniature golf. Grinning and turning beet red, she stage-whispered, “Okay, okay, that’s enough, Dad!”
And so began our farewell tour in Wisconsin Dells on a Sunday evening in August 2001. We had first vacationed there when Erin was eleven and had immediately fallen in love with the town, which she had aptly described as “one big amusement park.” Sure, it was block after block of pure schlock, but to a sixth-grader it was Kid Heaven. With a fudge shop and a miniature golf course on every corner, every day was Saturday in the Dells!
I had always dreamed of taking Erin to Disneyland but had never been able to swing it, so I was overjoyed when I discovered that the dairyland had a Disneyland all its own. It quickly became “our place” and we returned at least half a dozen times over the years. But now my freckle-faced little girl was twenty-two and we both knew it was time to close the book on a wonderful chapter in our lives.
Over the next two days, we hit all our old haunts, including Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, where we once again enjoyed examining familiar displays of shrunken heads, mutant farm animals and colorful paintings made from dryer lint. Wax World of the Stars, just down the street, was filled with wax replicas of famous Hollywood stars and politicians, most of whom were barely recognizable. But hey, figuring out who they were was half the fun.
It was unthinkable, of course, to visit the Dells without stopping for breakfast at Paul Bunyan’s Lumberjack Meals. Thanks to silver-colored metal plates, blue-speckled tin cups and long wooden tables and benches, we felt like honorary lumberjacks. As Erin wolfed down the all-you-can-eat pancakes, eggs, potatoes and doughnuts, I happily told her that this was one of life’s perfect moments. “I can tell,” she said. “You’re glowing.” And so I was.
Since “Wisconsin Dells” is synonymous with “water parks,” we spent a fun-filled afternoon at Noah’s Ark, the largest water park in the country. After zooming down a few high-speed water slides, Erin and I bravely began the long trek up dozens of steps to test our mettle against The Plunge, a headfirst slide with a sheer drop-off of at least 100 feet. Well, at least that’s how high it looked from my vantage point three-quarters of the way up, which is where I stopped and refused to advance any further. Erin was more of a daredevil, actually climbing to the top and waiting in line a few minutes before sheepishly retreating and joining me in the long, lonely walk back down. Needless to say, we didn’t come within spitting distance of The Point of No Return, the monstrously high water slide to our left that made The Plunge look like a kiddie slide. Plummeting ten stories in five seconds? I think not.
Next up was the Big Kahuna wave pool, where Erin and I paddled our inner tubes all the way to the deep end, then tried to resist the relentless roll of the powerful waves that threatened to deposit us back in the shallow end, spent and defeated. It was a true challenge, especially when the middle-aged guy from Chicago in the inner tube next to me turned green and started blowing lunch. I alerted the lifeguards, then paddled back to dry land at warp speed to ask for a refund on our inner tube rentals.
The biggest surprise of the trip presented itself when Erin and I stopped for lunch at an outdoor vegetarian café called The Secret Garden. The three employees were so irrepressibly cheerful that we suspected they had guzzled a few gallons of happy juice for breakfast. Striking up a conversation with our waitress, we discovered that this was one of three vegetarian restaurants in town owned and operated by students and faculty at Endeavor Academy. This private, nonprofit school bases its curriculum on A Course In Miracles, a Christian-based text purportedly channeled a few decades ago by Helen Schucman, a self-described atheist and professor of medical psychology.
We were startled to learn that students from all over the world had been filtering into the Dells to study with the local “enlightened master,” who had also bought up a handful of motels and various other properties in town. The last thing we expected to find among the cheese curds and water slides in Wisconsin Dells was an enclave of spiritual seekers fervently spreading the word of God. Well, you know what they say: When the mind is ready, a waitress appears.
A trip to the local deer park was next, where hungry deer nuzzled us in the back and licked our elbows until we fed them giant graham crackers and ice cream cones filled with brown pellets and corn. Even more adorable were the three little piglets who happily rolled around in their mud-filled pen as we laughed and snapped photos.
Before we knew it, it was Tuesday afternoon and time to head back home. After Erin thrashed me once more in a cutthroat round of miniature golf, we enjoyed a quick lunch at a new fast-food Indian restaurant and then hopped in the car for the 225-mile trip back to Minneapolis. As Paul Bunyan’s Lumberjack Meals faded in the rearview mirror, I sang out our traditional rallying cry one last time: “Daddy and Erin in Wisconsin Dells! We saw the sights!” That was Erin’s cue: “And smelled the smells!” she shouted.
I sure hope I don’t have to wait too long for grandkids.
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ABOUT PHIL BOLSTA
Through God’s Eyes: Finding Peace and Purpose in a Troubled World, is a road map for living a more peaceful, beautiful life. It’s the one book that explains how dozens of spiritual principles interact, how to weave them together into a cohesive worldview, and how to practically apply this spiritual wisdom to daily life.
Who will benefit from reading Through God’s Eyes?
Anyone who is on a spiritual path, or wants to start one.
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SEE EVERY MOMENT AS A GIFT
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Phil’s eBook, The Logic of Living a Spiritual Life: Supporting a Life of Faith Through Logic and Reason, is now available for 99 cents.
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In this eBook, you’ll find answers to questions like:
• What is the cornerstone of a spiritual life, and why?
• What is the secret to liberating yourself from other people’s judgments and expectations?
• How do you reconcile the “free will vs. Divine Will” conundrum?
• Why is there an exception to “Everything happens for a reason”?
Those who worship logic instead of God are only half right. Not only is it logical to believe in God and to live a faith-based life, the existence of a loving, benevolent God that governs all creation is perhaps the only systematic worldview that explains every aspect of life.
Phil is also the author of Sixty Seconds: One Moment Changes Everything, a collection of 45 inspiring, life-changing stories from prominent authors and thought leaders he interviewed. The roster of storytellers includes Wayne Dyer, Deepak Chopra, Neale Donald Walsch, Caroline Myss, Larry Dossey, Rachel Naomi Remen, Bernie Siegel, Dean Ornish, and Christiane Northrup. Sixty Seconds has been translated into four languages: Italian, German, Spanish, and Portuguese. Reading this book is like spending a few minutes face to face with each of the contributors and listening to their personal stories.
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Tags: A Course in Miracles, Big Kahuna, dad and daughter, deer park, Endeavor Academy, Helen Schucman, miniature golf, Noah's Ark, Paul Bunyan's Lumberjack Meals, Ripley's Believe it or Not, water parks, water slides, wave pool, wax museum, Wisconsin Dells