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Garage, yard space are some reasons to be very thankful

The holiday season prompts people to count their blessings. Family, friends, good health, employment, a roof over your head and a multitude of additional categories earn recognition. Without diminishing the importance of everything else, I remain thankful for a place to park.

Those of us who aren't well-versed travelers often take space for granted. Many people in the Northwoods store their cars, trucks, boats and recreational vehicles in numerous locations. Even a modest-sized city lot has plenty of parking opportunity. Yet I didn't realize the good-fortune of our community until visiting San Francisco.

It was February and Minnesota's blustery winds stung against my cheeks as I walked into the Fargo Municipal Airport. A few hours later, I was in the California sun, a welcome retreat from 30-below. My task would be to assist a northern California marine dealership with a consumer boat show in San Francisco. Representing Crestliner Boats, a company based in Little Falls, my time consisted of walking potential customers through the various boat models on display while simultaneously interpreting their boating needs. I was about to be educated.

A pair of rugged men walked up to the 14-foot boat where I had propped my elbow, knocked on it and immediately asked, "Will this sink?"

I was taken aback by the question that's rarely posed in Minnesota.

"No, the boat won't sink, the level floatation keeps it balanced and upright," I responded.

Yet I was still having trouble comprehending the reasoning for the inquisition. "Where will you be fishing?" I asked.

To which the gentlemen replied, "the San Francisco Bay."

As a point of reference, the San Francisco Bay is a 48-60 mile wide estuary fed by the Pacific Ocean that can get downright nasty when the weather dictates. A 14-foot boat isn't exactly what I'd envisioned for the situation.

"Then let's go check out some of the larger boats, there's a deep 20-footer right over here," I suggested.

"It won't work," the man said. "I don't have enough storage space."

I pictured a small garage characteristic of metro housing, but when the gentleman pulled out a measuring tape and said the 14-foot model would "barely fit" I asked about the size of his garage.

"Oh, no," he said. "The car goes in the garage. I need to see if my backyard is big enough to store the boat."

At first I laughed, but quickly apologized as I realized the statement was not in jest. As the afternoon progressed, 11 other buyers presented the same scenario. "Will it sink?" Then the measuring tape would emerge to gauge the watercraft's fit in the backyard.

After the boat show concluded, my wife and I took a trip out to Alcatraz by tour boat to see the historic island stoically seated in the San Francisco Bay. Our ferry was a 90 -foot, bi-level cruiser that remained stable in the heaving waves. Upon returning home, I stood in my garage and took in all its glory. Two stalls, plenty of space for bikes, fishing gear, the riding lawnmower, skis, even a refrigerator. There's too much stuff inside to park a car or a boat or even another bicycle. But fortunately, like many area residents, I could fit the 90-foot cruiser in the backyard, no measuring tape required.