Rick Kupchella: Keeping the tribe together

My parents, now in their 70s, along with my brother and sister and their families, have used vacation travel as a means to bring everybody together in what began as a five-person family and now includes 17 people.

After my siblings and I finished college and moved away, we seldom, all of us and our families, gathered at the same place and time.

Twenty years ago, my mother asked if we could all find one week in the summer to get together. That year, we met at a small lake cabin in Kentucky, the state where I grew up. Every year since then, my brother, sister, parents and I have taken turns selecting a location.

We have explored some iconic destinations together (Jackson Hole, Colonial Williamsburg, the Outer Banks of the Carolinas and Lake Tahoe), and grown closer as a family. We go hiking, fishing and mountain biking. There are the late-night card games, the giant family dinners, the time spent watching newborns who, I swear, somehow become grade-schoolers by the next year.

For my mother, the trips weren’t about longing for “the good old days.” It was a forward-looking plan to help the next generation to better know one another. My mother found exactly what she was looking for: a way of keeping the tribe together.

Rick Kupchella, 53, news and brand content creator, theIEnetwork.com; former Twin Cities television news anchor.


‘Famous Dave’ Anderson: Barbecue haven

I built a barbecue haven, tucked into the North Woods of Wisconsin, called Camp Tamarack. The camp is about 40 acres, which includes the farm where my family grows strawberries, sweet corn, fresh herbs and all of my seasonings. The 10 cabins have been a labor of love, each filled with a treasure trove of antiques.

Camp Tamarack is our private getaway where I love snowmobiling, swimming and jet-skiing. It’s also where I research new recipes while cooking for friends and family. It’s like our own slice of God’s heaven here on Earth.

It’s been said that if you find your one true passion in life you’ll never work a day in your life again. I started my barbecue career by hosting these outrageous barbecue parties at my cabin. This is where I’m the happiest.

At Camp Tamarack, I have a collection of smokers and grills, including an outdoor wood-fired pizza oven. A lot of people don’t know that I’m just as ninja on pizza as I am on ribs. My grandkids love my campfire pizza served lakeside. I really love cooking great-tasting food over open fires. And I love making other people happy.

“Famous Dave” Anderson, 63, founder of the Famous Dave’s restaurant chain; owner of Old Southern BBQ Smokehouse; author; former U.S. Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs.


Julie Schumacher: Ocean City, N.J.

I’ve traveled to Ocean City, N.J., every summer of my life — except when I was 8½ months pregnant and in the hospital with chickenpox. Returning to a place you know well, a place that’s “your spot” on the planet — it’s a powerful thing. Ocean City is the place of my childhood. It has some of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen.

With my four sisters and our spouses and families, there are sometimes 25 or 26 of us in houses by the ocean. Our parents are gone now, but we think they’d be pleased that we keep returning to the very same spot.

About 10 minutes from the beach, you can smell the ocean. On the boardwalk, the smell includes caramel corn and hot dogs, sun lotion and salt. That smell is the backdrop to some of my favorite memories.

One morning this summer we rode bikes on the boardwalk and then ate at a diner. Someone asked, “Why do we always eat at this diner? The food is terrible here.” Because that’s what we do. It doesn’t matter if the food is terrible and the coffee undrinkable. The idea is to repeat these rituals year after year.

Julie Schumacher, 58, author, English and creative writing professor at the University of Minnesota and winner of the national Thurber Prize for American Humor.


John Brawley: Magical hotel in Tuscany

It was in celebration of our 10th anniversary. Diane had never been to Italy, so I pulled out all the stops and went very deluxe with our plans for the trip. I planned it for months in advance. After all, I do this every day as a travel agent.

We went to Rome, Florence and Tuscany. Our favorite place of all of them was the unique hotel that we stayed at in Tuscany outside of Siena, Borgo San Felice. The hotel was actually a refashioned medieval town: a borgo, a newer town outside the walls of an old town. It’s a small, hilltop, old-fashioned town. The whole town was made into basically a hotel with each building being either part of the hotel, rooms, spa or restaurants. A winery was part of the complex. It was fantastic. It’s so romantic and it’s one of my favorite hotels in the world, hands down, period. This one I just fell in love with, and so did Diane. Even the smell in the air, that pine smell, brought back memories of Italy in my childhood. It’s just one of those magical places.


John Brawley, 48, president of Premier Travel Service, Plymouth.