The Dodge Viper was made for extreme conditions—heck, they even named one “Extreme”. And while the upper Midwest is not known as an extreme environment, members of the Minnesota VOA (MN VOA) knew there were going to be some extreme happenings on a recent weekend trip to Okoboji, Iowa to visit beloved south-of-the-border members. The biennial trip has grown in popularity over the years, more than doubling from the first year it was held. Who can resist an action packed, non-stop weekend with the pinnacle being a visit to an over-the-top Toy Shed full of Vipers?
Several years ago, long-time VOA member Arlin Kiel, along with his son Chad and daughters Shelley and Tanya, who are also VOA members, began hosting the event for the Minnesota club at Iowa’s premier vacation destination, Lake Okoboji. Arlin explained, “After going on several great trips and other club events we wanted to give something back. Since we don’t live in the same area as most members my daughter Shelley suggested we plan a weekend for the club in Lake Okoboji where she was living at the time. Our family all got in on the planning and the Okoboji trip was born!”
Feelin’ Hot Hot Hot
Sixteen Vipers from Minnesota, Wisconsin and Manitoba, Canada and two daily drivers set out for the weekend in extreme heat, to meet up with nine Iowa snakes. When they reached the hotel in Lake Okoboji the heat index was well over 110 degrees Fahrenheit with very high humidity and not a puff of wind. While the weather was certainly warm, the greetings the group received from the Iowa members were even warmer—just not as sweaty! First order of business—a fast cruise to dinner at a beautiful lakeside winery, thankfully air-conditioned.
In past years dinner would be followed by a campfire at the hotel, but the heat forced everyone to be inside, taxing the hotel bar. Jeff Campbell noticed, “The drink service was a little slow, but they probably didn’t expect 50 rowdy members of a close-knit Viper family to descend on them all at once!”
The next morning the gang set off early to visit Spomer Classics in Worthington, Minnesota, a museum of classic cars, automotive memorabilia and porcelain/neon signs. The skies were threatening, but the snakes slithered down the back roads hoping for the best. The group arrived at the museum and entered the building just as Mother Nature unleashed her fury. The museum building is an old car dealership with large windows that flexed in the strong wind, causing a little anxiety. But fortunately, all the storm produced was strong wind and heavy rain and by the time the tour was over so was the storm. On to lunch and the rest of the Viper weekend!
Baby, It’s Cold Outside
As they gathered for lunch on the lake, members took notice that the temperature was beginning to drop significantly from the day before and even earlier that morning. After lunch the Vipers cruised to the pier at Arnold’s Park, a historic amusement park in the area. Luckily there were also many little shops, as nearly everyone in the group needed some cold weather gear as no one had packed for fall weather and a 50-degree temperature drop.
Later that afternoon the crew put those sweatshirts and jackets to good use on a cold and rainy, yet spirited boat cruise of Lake Okoboji. MN VOA Vice President Troy Maki, who saves his money to spend on Vipers, picked out a very patriotic sweatshirt, that also happened to be the cheapest one in the store. Ironically, the bartender on the boat cruise had a matching sweatshirt and took a liking to Troy. Troy explained, “I drank for free all during the cruise. That sweatshirt really paid off!”
Reaching the Climax
Once the boat cruise was over the crew moved on to what they all had been waiting for—dinner at Arlin’s Toy Shed! Arlin is known as the “D’Ann Rau of the North”, with eleven Vipers of every generation, a Ford GT, three racing Ford Mustangs, including one signed by Richard Petty, and many, many other rare and beautiful cars. Member Mike Gresser said, “The beautiful thing about Arlin and his Toy Shed is that he built it up with his own two hands from what was once a junk yard and gravel pit. It is so great to see someone who grew up on a farm with no silver spoon, worked hard and is now living the American Dream.”
Lindy Hokans, girlfriend of MN VOA member Ben Jenney, who came on the trip for the first time summed up the experience, “Shelley invited us to come when we saw her at an event last year. She said it would be a lot of fun. I didn’t know what to expect, it’s Iowa! How much fun can you have in Iowa? It turns out I had a lot of fun and Iowa set the bar pretty high for fun levels! I can’t wait for the next Okoboji trip!”
Neither can we Lindy, neither can we!