Category Archives: THE MIDWEST MISC

Wisconsin for future reference: Wandawega Adult Summer Camp, Sheboygan “Art Preserve”

I loved summer camp as a kid (I know, I know, not everyone went to summer camp and of those who did, not everyone enjoyed it – my own childhood household was divided, two kids liked; two kids disliked) so the idea of a nostalgic old-school summer camp for adults sounds fun (my husband may not agree).

I wonder if they have horseback riding, canoeing, Native American dancing (once called “Indian dancing”), macramé, Petoskey stone polishing and Birch bark decoupage? Not to mention s’mores, pancakes cooked on a Dutch oven and old cabins in the woods. Or jumping off the dock to skinny dip. Anyway, here’s two clips from Midwest Living that caught my eye for future reference!

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Quick visit to Cleveland -Airbnb dilemma, cultural gardens.

I didn’t give this segment of the trip my usual careful attention since we were just passing through, with a one-night stop. And it showed. Our Airbnb was in a “historical” (read “transitional” or “iffy”) neighborhood in western Cleveland (may have been Ohio City), with houses in various stages of disrepair or repair. Ours looked like a mess from the outside (which explains why there were only interior photos on the Airbnb listing).

Inside it was nicer and clean but still had a musty old smell. The decor was shabby chic teetering on shabby. The bed and pillows were predictably soft. The blinds were off-white verging on dirty white, and closed, presumably so we didn’t see the very transitional wooden deck. Now I will have to decide what to do about my Airbnb review. I don’t like to give bad reviews because often the hosts depend on their Airbnb for income and they are well-intended. But the flip side is I feel a responsibility to future Airbnb customers to give them a heads up if a place isn’t so great. It doesn’t help that these hosts overtly requested a 5 star review, mentioning this in their directions by inviting us to text if we need anything (and presumably find something lacking). What I may do is offer faint public praise and mention the soft bed (since I would want to know this …) and then offer constructive criticism/suggestions in private comments to the host.

As for stars, I cannot give it 5. That was our DC Airbnb, which cost twice as much as the Cleveland one, had a great bed and everything else.

Our 5-star Airbnb in DC

We drove around Cleveland a bit, trying to find a way to park quickly and affordably so we could pop inside old buildings to see some of the gorgeous-looking shopping arcades, inspired by arcades in Milan, but I refused to pay $7.50 per 15 minutes. I also would have liked to look closer at some of the stately old buildings and park monuments. (Several are mentioned in this sort of stale travel story: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/06/29/travel/what-to-do-36-hours-cleveland.html)

We also went to the much touted (by NYT travel writer) Gordon Square Arts District/Detroit Shoreway but this seemed outdated or aspirational. Didn’t help that the few shops we found were closed on a Monday. The pandemic may also have done its damage.

To get our bearings, we did a quick drive by The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Flats, Little Italy and the Case Western Campus. We found some cool ethic-themed gardens along MLKing Parkway that I learned are known as The Cleveland Cultural Gardens. Dating back to 1916, the 33 separate gardens are each designed and tended by a particular cultural or nationality group. I’d like to return and explore on bike and foot.

I don’t know why Cleveland’s lakefront is so less noticeable or seemingly less people-friendly than Chicago’s and Milwaukee’s. (Too industrial?)

We did pop into the famously atmospheric West Side Market, just before it closed at 5 pm (and we discovered wouldn’t reopen until Wednesday. Oops.) Dinner was nearby at a trendy Mexican place Avo (as in avocado). Good service. Food okay. The best things were the margarita and the carne asada grilled meat. It was too cold to eat outside so we requested a socially-distanced table which worked well. The place wasn’t too crowded.

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Fort Hartsuff/Burwell, Ansel’s Bagels/Omaha, Dittmar’s Orchard/Council Bluffs – Drive from NE Sandhills home to DSM

Easy drive home from Burwell, Nebraska with a few stops, starting with Fort Hartsuff, an 1880’s U.S. Army calvary outpost fort from 1974 to 1881  on the edge of town.  It’s a well-preserved state historical park on the edge of the windswept Sandhills but several buildings were closed due to Covid-19 precautions. Further east in Omaha, we found even more happening in the Blackstone District since we were last there in 2018 including a new attractive food hall,  The Switch Beer & Food Hall, (a clean, ultra-modern space on bottom floor of a clean, ultra-modern new high-rise) which has several good dining options (complete with outdoor seating)! We opted for the well-reviewed Ansel’s Pastrami & Bagels where we had the famed pastrami sandwich (delicious but seemed more like brisket than pastrami) and bagel with dill cream cheese and lox. Bagels are good – heavier and chewier than I’m used to but that’s fine. Next time, I’ll try the Vietnamese Street Food option. Over the Iowa line in Council Bluffs, we stopped for some Jonathan apples at Dittmar’s Orchards, which was full of families picking apples and pumpkins. (We were the only ones wearing masks…)

 

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Cowboy Trail bridge/ Plains Trading company in Valentine, NE, south on 83 through Valentine National Wildlife refuge to Sandhills Scenic Byway to Burwell (sandhill suites and sandstone grill) – the Nebraska Sandhills

(Sadly Covid did happen and was happening when we were there in mid-September….wonder if attitudes/practices have changed since I wrote this:)

Great to get away to a land where, as Dirck aptly put it, Covid didn’t happen…or so it seemed in Burwell, NE. Few cases. No masks. Busy restaurants and shops. An old car show. Tiny town movie theater showing “American graffiti” in exchange for “ a good will offering.” Felt like we were in “Back to the Future.”

And we finally “get” the Sandhills. I thought they’d be like the Flint Hills in Kansas but they cut a broader swatch through this state and look like more concentrated mounds than the more spread out mounds of the Flint Hills. The Sandhills look shaggier version too. They’re small sand dunes covered with short grass prairie (not tall grass prairie as found in Kansas. The wind was out in full force, pushing the grasses (and us) this way and that. We drove on two-lane largely empty roads and one “auto route” off highway 83 to get a feel for the Sandhills’ lonesome vastness.

In Valentine, we stopped at a great bookstore with the un-bookstore sounding name the Plains Trading company. It had a broad selection of regional books, crafts and homemade goodies. Picked up a book with an irresistible title. ”love and terror on the howling plains of nowhere” byPoe Ballantine, a memoir set in Chadron NE (the book was as good as the title!)

Dirck and I also did a little bike riding, quickly learning that wind is a major issue. We rode over the dramatic Niobrara Rail Bridge converted part of the Cowboy Trail outside Valentine, with panoramic views of the river valley.

Here in Burwell, we rode to the small and famous rodeo grounds (100th year in 2021) and around the dusty town and the square lined with viable small businesses, bars and hopes. We’re at The Sandhill suites, a boutique hotel (believe it or not) in an old brick building. Still feels like an old apartment building with a shiny patina. Fun to be here.

Dinner was perfectly cooked steak and delicious pie (burgers looked great too) at the renowned Sandstone grill, connected to our hotel. It was packed with large groups of non-masked diners on a Saturday night. We were clearly tourists in our masks. It felt wonderful and scary to eat inside a restaurant, which we have not done since March. We decided to take the risk since this area has so few virus cases. But never totally relaxes. Earlier I found an old Windsor style chair in a shop (another rare experience for us these days), going inside a shop) and the owner insisted on bargaining even though I was happy to pay the asking price of $75. “$60?” I asked. “$62.50,” he replied. “Let’s shake on it.” I shook his hand before fully realizing that I haven’t touched a strangers hand or almost anyone’s hand since March. I used hand sanitizer soon after.

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Door County covid-era travel tips!

Our six glorious days in Door County during the last week of July 2020 (the wretched pandemic year) were all the better thanks to great tips from our airbnb host on where to eat, bike, swim, hike – and stay reasonably staff during a pandemic. Here they are: (I’ve bolded the ones we visited. all good!)

SWIM/Beach:
Sand Bay Town Park and Beach
A wonderful bbq/picnic spot, secluded with cedars and great for swimming, shallow but sandy.
11154 N Sand Bay Ln, Sister Bay, WI 54234

Garret Bay
Going NORTH out of Ellison Bay, take LEFT off of HWY 42 onto Garret Bay Rd.  Follow on Garret Bay Rd till it curves to the right a bit and you see on your left the boat ramp and historical marker for the Fleetwing Shipwreck.  Pebble/rock swimming beach with a beautiful view.

Europe Lake
Europe Lake Boat/Kayak Ramp area also has a small spot for picnic/bbq.  We like to swim here when the Lake is too cold!  This is a great little lake to kayak on.
460 Europe Lake Road

Pebble Beach (Our favorite)
going SOUTH out of Sister Bay, (when you see Open Hearth Lodge on your left), take RIGHT off of HWY 42 onto South Bayshore Drive and merge to the RIGHT onto Pebble Beach Rd.  You will then follow this down to the small but lovely swimming beach.  Great for sunsets but probably less frequented during the morning.

Hotz Memorial Town Park The Europe Bay area of Newport State Park is another wonderful place for bbq/picnics and swimming.
Take HWY 42 NORTH of Ellison Bay, taking a RIGHT off the HWY onto Europe Bay Rd, follow the road until you reach the kayak launch and park.
349 Europe Bay Road

Washington Island
Worth the visit!  You can take your bicycles on the ferry. (There are two different ferry services)
https://www.islandclipper.com
https://wisferry.com/washington-island
Schoolhouse Beach is a wonderful pebble swimming beach with a deeper drop off.  We love to pick up lunch at the Island Cafe and Bread Company and head to this spot.  Sievers School of Fiber Arts is also worth a visit if you are interested in weaving, knitting or basketry arts.  They have a shop that sells supplies as well as a gallery with items for sale.

Additionally…
We also really love the Ellison Bay Potters! (our favorite too)
There are several wonderful pottery studios in Ellison Bay.  Start with Clay Bay on the highway and tour the others in the village area.  (Gills Rock Stoneware, Ellison Bay Pottery etc)

Bicycling:
Sand Bay
(4.2 miles (one way) from the unit) Waters End Rd to Sand Bay Town Park & Beach.  Take a right out of our lane onto Hillcrest Rd, follow Hillcrest until Waters End Rd.  Take a right onto Waters End and stay on it until you reach Lake Michigan!  Just before you reach the lake, take a left onto Sand Bay Ln.  At the end of the lane on your right is Sand Bay Town Park and Beach–great for swimming and picnics/bbqs!

Beach Road
(5.1 miles (one way) from the unit) Bicycling down Beach Road is a wonderful mostly-shady ride.  Take a right out of our lane onto Hillcrest Rd.  At Waters End, take a left and go down a fairly steep hill till you reach HWY 42.  Cross the highway toward your right, onto Beach Rd.  Beach Road eventually connects to Porcupine Bay Rd and then HWY 42 again.  You could make a nice day trip out of this route by adding Ellison Bluff State Natural Area as a picnic spot towards the end and your turnaround (take a left onto Ellison Bluff Rd).  Ellison Bluff has a great lookout and nice wooded trails to stretch out on.  (We recommend returning on the same route to avoid having to cross and travel on the highway)

Eats and Drinks:

 

BAKERIES/breakfast:

Although Heirloom is in Baileys Harbor, it is our other favorite place for breakfast. And we really love Skipstone, Analog and Kick Ash for nearby coffee alternatives…
Sunflour bakery in Sturgeon Bay has great bread but I think they’ll be closed by the time you get up here. Macready Bread Company in Egg Harbor is also wonderful (open till 4). And Seaquist Orchards just north of Sister Bay on HWY 42 has great apple cider donuts and lots of other goodies. (It’s kind of a large farmstand with preserves etc)

Dinner/lunch:

Fish Boils:(please call to check on their takeout/outside-seating options)

White Gull Inn in Fish Creek 920-868-3517
4225 Main St, Fish Creek, WI 54212

Viking Grill in Ellison Bay 920-854-2998
12029 WI-42, Ellison Bay, WI 54210

Rowleys Bay Resort in Ellison Bay 920-854-2385
1041 Co Rd Zz, Ellison Bay, WI 54210

Old Post Office Restaurant in Ephraim 920-854-4034 (our pick — it was great!)
10040 N Water St, Ephraim, WI 54211

Here is a list of some of our favorites on the peninsula.  (Although-if you find a special spot that’s not on our list, please let us know so we can try it too!)

STURGEON BAY

Bluefront Cafe
Tuesday – Sunday 11-3 Take out and Curbside Only
a few outside tables first come first serve
order by phone or online
(920) 743-9218
http://www.thebluefrontcafe.com/About_WOZT.html
86 W Maple St, Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235

Lawlss Coffee
Everyday 7:00am-3:00pm,
limited seating inside and outside
(920) 257-3782
Online ordering available for pickup as well
https://www.lawlsscoffee.com
108 S Madison Ave, Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235

Kick Coffee
Everyday 7:30am – 3:00pm
limited back patio, street and indoor seating
(920) 746-1122
https://www.kickcoffeeshop.com
148 N 3rd Ave, Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235

‘Get Real’ Cafe
Wednesday – Saturday, 10am-2pm
limited indoor and outdoor seating
Curbside pickup available
920-818-1455
https://www.getrealcafedoorcounty.com
116 S Madison Ave, Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235

BAILEYS HARBOR

Heirloom Cafe
Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday 8:30am-2pm
Friday and Saturday 8:30-4
pickup only
inside ordering or call
no dine in
920-839-9334
https://www.heirloomcafeandprovisions.com
2434 County F, Baileys Harbor, WI 54202

Bearded Heart Coffee (yum)
order online only, no phone calls or order in person at counter
Friday-Sunday 7-5
Monday-Thursday 8-2
carry out only
limited outside seating
920-839-9111
http://www.beardedheartcoffee.com
8093 WI-57, Baileys Harbor, WI 54202

Chives
Wednesday – Sunday 4pm – 10pm
inside dining available, reservations accepted
——————————————————————
—Chives Food Trucks (located next to Chives)
Wednesday-Saturday 11am – 8pm
Sunday 11am – 3pm
920-839-2000
http://chivesdoorcounty.com
8041 HWY 57, Bailey’s Harbor, WI 54202

Door County Brewing Co. Taproom & Music Hall
Check website for latest hours
(920) 412-7226
doorcountybrewingco.com
8099 WI-57, Baileys Harbor, WI 54202

Waseda Farms (brats! you pick-em raspberries, beautiful grounds!)
Farmstand/Grocery Store on Farm with trails open to the public, call to ask for updates!
Order ahead or order at curbside Everyday 10-5 (call or email them at sayard@wasedafarms.com)
They update their lists of produce/meat/specialty/local items here:
https://wasedafarms.com/shopping-lists-prices/
920-839-2222
https://wasedafarms.com
7281 Logerquist Rd, Baileys Harbor, WI 54202

EPHRAIM

Ephraim Coffee Lab
Curbside PIckup Thurs-Sun 8am-2pm
order online
https://www.iselycoffee.com
3055 Church St, Ephraim, WI, 54211

Trixies
Thursday – Monday 5pm – 9pm
day-of orders for pickup or outside dining
No Reservations for outside dining, first-come first-served
order online or call day-of
920-854-8008
http://www.trixiesfoodandwine.com
9996 Pioneer Lane, Ephraim, WI, 54211

Good Eggs
Open daily, 7am – 1pm
Pickup orders placed online only
http://www.goodeggsdoorcounty.com
920-854-6621
9820 Brookside Ln, Ephraim, WI 54211

EGG HARBOR

Parador
Thursday-Sunday
Open for patio pickup, 5pm – 9pm
order online
920-868-2255
https://www.paradorwisconsin.com
7829 WI-42, Egg Harbor, WI 54209

The Fireside Restaurant
Thursday – Monday  Lunch 11am – 3pm or Dinner 4pm – 8pm
Offering pickup
or patio seating only.
920-868-4800
https://www.thefiresiderestaurant.com/dinner-menu
7755 WI-42, Egg Harbor, WI 54209

SISTER BAY

Skip Stone Coffee Roasters
Every day 7:30am-2:00pm
or for pickup order online http://skipstonecoffee.com/order
or call in (920) 421-4388
10678 South, N Bay Shore Dr Building 2, Sister Bay, WI 54234

Analog Coffee
Daily 6:30-8
Pickup Orders available
(920) 854-1155
10649 N Bay Shore Dr, Sister Bay, WI 54234

Grasse’s Grill
Open Thursday-Monday 11am – 7pm
Walk up or Curbside TO GO
920-854-1125 or 920-854-3302
https://www.grassesgrill.com

Door County Creamery
Open 11am-7pm Wednesday-Monday (closed Tuesday)
Pickup Only call or order online
Online Store also open
(920) 854-3388
https://www.creameryeats.com
10653 N Bay Shore Dr, Sister Bay, WI 54234

Husbys
Open Every Day 11am-2am
Inside/Outside dining/bar and takeout
https://www.husbysdoorcounty.com/menu
920-854-2624
10641 N Bay Shore Dr, Sister Bay, WI 54234

Wild Tomato
www.wildtomatopizza.com
Sister Bay location open for Dine-In, Patio or Take Out
Open Daily 11am-9pm
920-854-4685
10677 N Bay Shore Dr, Sister Bay, WI 54234

Lure
Thursday-Monday 4pm-8pm
Take Out
or Patio Dining (which is Take Out but they will bring a cocktail to your table!)
Limited Indoor Seating call for reservations
920-854-8111
http://www.luredoorcounty.com
10627 N Bay Shore Dr, Sister Bay, WI 54234

Door County Ice Cream Factory
Call ahead for hours
http://doorcountyicecream.com
Curbside or Pickup Window
(920) 854-9693
11051 WI-42, Sister Bay, WI 54234

Ellison Bay

Kick Ash Coffee
Online Ordering or call for Pickup 8am-4pm
or inside 8am-4pm
(920) 854-9400
https://kickashgo.square.site
https://www.kickashproducts.com
12001 Mink River Rd, Ellison Bay, WI 54210

Wickman House
Friday – Monday 4pm – 8pm
Limited Outdoor Dining 5pm – 9pm, no reservations, first come-first served
(or order a drink and walk the grounds while you wait)
Takeout Available
Order Online (day-of)
http://www.wickmanhouse.com
11976 Mink River Rd, Ellison Bay, WI 54210

Gills Rock

The Shoreline
Curbside Pickup: Wednesday& Thursday 4-9 Friday-Sunday 12-9pm
….their hours are changing frequently, please check for updates
920-854-2950
http://www.theshorelinerestaurant.com
12747 WI-42, Gills Rock, Wisconsin 54210

Charlie’s Smokehouse
(A retail smoked fish shop)
https://charliessmokehouse.com
Daily 9-4
920-854-2972
12731 WI-42, Ellison Bay, WI 54210

HIKES:

There is a map of LandTrust trails on the coffee table. Those are great spots as well as Peninsula Park (between Ephraim & Fish Creek) and Newport Park (between Ellison Bay & Gills Rock).
There is an easy to moderate trail on Cty NP (off of HWY 42 between Ellison Bay and Gills Rock) called Schoenbrunn Trail that winds out to the Mink River. It’s a sweet trail that may give some canopy coverage from the rain today.
BAKERIES:

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canoeing on the Niobrara River – Sparks Nebraska

I may not walk straight for awhile and my knees, arms, shoulders and back ache after canoeing Nebraska’s premier river, the Niobrara for 7 hours. We put in at Cornell Bridge, passed the famous Smith Falls State Park (home of Nebraska’s highest falls – not Ithaca but still lovely) and ended at the cabinand outfitters where we are staying, SunnyBrook camp. The river was peaceful in most parts but we had to navigate some rocky rapids and got stuck on some sandbars and rocks. The weather began chilly, about 59, and gradually the sun won its battle with clouds and we think smoke from the western fires. The temps were in the low 70s, but lots of vigorous wind. I don’t think I can canoe without a seat back any more and sadly, the outfitter told me, way after the fact, that he had a seat Back I could have used. Next time we may try a double kayak. We were envious of their seats.

But we did have the river almost entirely to ourselves which was great. Wepassed through grassy banks of the sand hills and high soft stone bluffs dotted with red vegetation. Not too much wildlife. Some ducks took flight. A snake slithered past on the muddy bank. We spotted an elegant blue-gray heron.

Cabin porch view
Nebraska’s highest falls!

It was great canoeing right up to our rustic cabin, the only one we saw right on the banks, at a gorgeous bend in the river. At 7 a.m. fog and mist were rising off the river. It looked very mysterious. The cabin is huge and very comfortable. There is a second bedroom with bunk beds and a double bed. It’s all knotty pine, with a huge open living room, full kitchen (but no plates, cups, utensils which apparently is a Covid preventive measure the owners forgot to mention…fortunately we had some paper and plastic stuff.) There is a big stuffed deer’s head on the wall, lots of wood antlers to use for hanging wet clothes. The best part is the rustic wrap around porch with a rocking chair I melted into after canoeing and old rusted metal chairs. Apparently this is a former dance hall from the early 1900s that was moved here in 1980.

mysterious morning in the cabin

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Enchanted Highway/ND, more Badlands and tribal territory in South Dakota

(From our September trip) We drove 6.5 hours south through gorgeous wide open country, ranch land , Indian reservations and South Dakota Badlands to Valentine, Nebraska, just over the South Dakota line and from there 40 minutes east to Sparks, NE where we are suddenly in a huge cabin (sunny brook cabin) by the side of the river — quite a change from the past three nights lodging where we had only a room to ourselves and the rest was shared space.

A highlight was the early part of our trip when we drove down a two-lane highway south from I-94 to Regent, ND through vast open fields of pasture, sunflowers and corn. The road was dotted with about six huge fantastic cut metal-and-welded metal sculptures, designed by a guy looking for a way to boost the economy of his small struggling town of Regent. It seemed to work because we weren’t the only ones opting for this road (there were other options) and pulling off every few miles to stare in wonder at massive metal sculptures — a grasshopper, flock of geese, fantasy fish, a farm family and of course Teddy Roosevelt on a bucking horse. Regent has a handful of worn buildings, several empty, one with a local history museum and one with a good gift shop where we bought a small replica of one of the Enchanted Highway’s metal sculptures. That will spice up our garden back in Iowa.

We made a u-turn in the small northern South Dakota (that’s confusing terminology) town of Lemmon, after driving past a local butcher, LemmonMade.

Me: Wait,wait, slow down, what was that?

Dirck: (half-heartedly) you want me to turn back?

Me: Yes please.

Dirck: (3/4ths-heartedly) Okay.

Turned out to be a great find. We loaded up on fresh brats, ground meat and teriyaki beef jerky— from what smelled outside like very nearby livestock. When in the Dakotas…

In South Dakota, we found a tiny picnic area by a small lake to eat lunch (now starring the beef jerky) and continued on almost empty two-lane highway through several reservations (standing rock, Cheyenne river, pine ridge, and rosebud.) We saw only a few signs that we were in tribal territory including a handmade sign reading “Indigenous Lives Matter,” a casino area inside a gas station/convenience store and a Covid -19 checkpoint at the Pine Ridge Reservation manned by several no-nonsense Native Americans wearing masks, the only masks we saw during our 6-hour drive. (We didn’t go through the checkpoint and probably couldn’t. Tribal communities have been hard hit by the virus and are taking it seriously. The checkpoint was a sign we were driving the wrong direction. Fortunately briefly). We also passed a fat ass tractor flying a Trump 2020 flag and a few other trump signs.

Now we are in our rustic cabin by the Niobrara River, which we discovered has no plates, cups or silverware – apparently removed due to Covid. This place isn’t cheap so not good. We fortunately were warned to bring our own bedding and towels, also a preventative Covid measure, which doesn’t make that much sense science-wise. We had some plastic plates and plastic ware in the car so we managed to eat our brats (purchased at the roadside butcher in Lemmon, ND.) We also wisely grocery-shopped at the IGA in Valentine before the 40-minute drive to this remote location. It’s on a beautiful isolated bend in the river which we will paddle on tomorrow morning.

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Door County Day 7: The long (scenic) way to Chicago from Sister Bay (Kopps in Milwaukee)

(Written July 2020)

Sad to say goodbye to Door County but we enjoyed the pretty backroads-drive to Chicago, starting with County Road B from Egg Harbor to Sturgeon Bay (a tip from Torch, the name of the fish boil master in Ephraim.) As promised we passed by pretty dairy farms and big waterside mansions that we caught a fleeting glimpse of through the woods.

Kopp’s Custard, pandemic-style

Onto Algoma on Highway 42, another scenic alternative to the highway (43) that took us along the water and through small rural towns (Alaska, wi.). We also drove into Kohler, to see the famous American Inn Spa and the Kohler Design Center. Shortly after we took 43 to Milwaukee stopping at the famous Kopps Custard in Glendale, just off the highway, for excellent burgers, with grilled onions, and super rich butter pecan custard. We drove through the elegant suburbs north of downtown (Shorewood, Whitefish Bay) with streets lined with old gated brick mansions that reminded us of Evanston and a drive-by the distinctive Art museum designed by Santiago Calatrava.

In Chicago, we laid low, visiting family. We did ride our bikes along the lakeshore trail from Edgewater to Astor, which wasn’t as fun as it should be, thanks to too many bikes and walkers. I felt like the bike proctor, scolding various cyclists doing stupid things (reading their cellphones, riding two abreast, peddling furiously in tour de France mode.) We saw a bad accident — a crowd around a young kid laying on the pavement, someone else cradling his head. Sadly, I wasn’t surprising to see.

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Door County Day 6: Biking and water tractor to Cana Bay, eating at Harbor in Baileys Harbor, whitefish dunes/caves county park, back to Pebble beach in Little Sister Bay

(written in July 2020)

D. has a family call right now so I am sitting solo at a picnic table in the park overlooking the water in Sister Bay at 8 p.m. I wasn’t going to miss our last sunset, which turns out to be the major evening activity in Door County (and I don’t think it’s just a Covid-19 thing).

We had another spectacular day of weather, low 70s, sunshine, blue sky so we set off again on our bikes, this time driving them over to Bailey’s Harbor where we set off on County Road D from the parking lot of the Ridges Sanctuary. We had an easy flat ride on a largely un-trafficked road lined with trees and a smattering of cabins. We ended up taking an even prettier, narrower “rustic road” (a Door County designation that infers “beauty”) through the woods and along a bay to a clearing where we were met by a John Deere tractor rumbling through three feet of Lake Michigan water between the shore and Cana Island. The tractor was our unusual ride to the island, sitting in a wooden carriage pulled by the farm vehicle. That was a first. The island is tiny and home to an old lighthouse and former living quarters for the lighthouse keeper. Lovely spot even if we couldn’t climb the tower due to the coronavirus.

Next stop, fish and chips and fish chowder, while sitting on the back patio of The Harbor restaurant in Baileys Harbor. Delightful. We also bought some fantastic blueberries at a stand set up near the local brew pub.

We drove south to whitefish dunes state park but left when we discovered it cost $38 to park our car and enter. The adjacent caves county park is free but it located high on bluffs, with daredevil kids jumping from them. Fun to watch (reminded us of similar scenes along Lake Superior north of Duluth) but not my thing, now or ever ,so we happily returned to our now-favorite beach, Pebble Beach in Little Sister Bay. Hated to leave that perfect blue green water and even fell asleep atop the beach’s hot flat stones.

Little Sister bay and Baileys Harbor, maybe Ephraim, are my picks for places to stay next summer with our kids. (The Inn at Little Sister Bay looks promising.) Here’s hoping. Loved this much-needed get away. Hoping next time we won’t all be wearing masks and social distancing. Or worrying about sickness and death and the economic gloom and racial justice and a crazy disaster of a president.

 

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Door County Day 5 : Washington Island, Egg Harbor

(This was written during a trip in July 2020.)

So glad we ditched our car and brought our bikes to Washington Island. There’s not much to see as far as attractions (a lavender farm, a fiber craft center, Schoolhouse Beach, a large white-pebbled beach) but the appeal is the isolated island feel, perfectly captured on a bike whizzing along largely flat empty well-paved roads with sun streaming through the forest and occasional glimpses of the shimmering blue lake. We took the Island Crossing ferry driven by a weather-worn guy named Charlie who also makes some mean smoked whitefish, which I bought at his smokehouse next to the ferry. This ferry is passenger only, bikes travel free, so preferable to the other ferry which takes cars and charges for bikes. It was an easy and pleasant 30-minute ride, during which we learned about far more terrifying ship passages that ended as shipwrecks. (This once-hazardous passageway was dubbed Devil’s Door — hence the name Door County.) Unfortunately several places to eat were closed on the Island because it was a Wednesday (so no Jackson Harbor Soup) and there’s a pandemic (so limited offerings at Island Cafe and Bakery.) We found decent sandwiches at the lavender farm and lavender flavored chocolate-covered caramels.

Couldn’t resist taking a photo of the restaurant sign below on Washington Island to share with the two young lawyers in our family…apparently lawyers is also a type of fish.

At night we explored Egg Harbor and didn’t find much there beyond the pretty Harbor Park so we returned to livelier (but still quiet) Fish Creek, where we enjoyed the vivid remnants of the sunset there at a park near the famous and lovely White Gull Inn.

Apparently lawyers is a type of fish

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