PENINSULA STATE PARK, DOOR COUNTY Wisc. – Seven hours.
“No. Seven-point-five,” Michelle corrected.
That’s how long it takes to get from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to the family’s destination in Door County, Wisconsin. So how was the drive?
“Not bad, I LOVE TO DRIVE!!!!!” cheered Greg. “DRIVE! DRIVE! D-R-I-V-E DRIVE! I would drive for two days straight if I could!”
“Not a chance,” Michelle said. “My back would never handle it.”
But drive they did, the longest drive of the trip, in fact, other than the first day. See, Michelle (a/k/a the TripPlanner) usually plans these vacations in such a way that the longest day of driving takes place on Day One, when everyone is still excited. As you can see by the title of this post, this was Day 10. Typically by this time the family is so exhausted of moving around they can’t rustle up enough excitement for anything more than 6 hours. But rustle they did, and away they went, and the trip was completely uneventful.
“I think the scenery helped,” Michelle said. “That and the 3G/4G signal along the route.”
Yes, folks, it’s true. Greg may DRIVEDRIVEDRIVE but Michelle passes the time surfing the internet, reading, gazing out the window, and obsessively checking the GPS app on the phone to see how many MORE hours she will have to sit in the damned truck.
About that sign. Michelle is usually pretty decent in framing a photo, even while on the move. And she tried with that, she really did. Unfortunately, the family was driving along a bridge and a bicyclist was also riding along the bridge. Well, Greg slowed down as much as he could in order to preserve a clear view for photography, but the biker slowed, too, likely to let the family pass. Then Greg slowed even more, and the biker slowed more. So then Greg sped up but by that time, well, friends…they were at the sign so that’s what you get.
So what is there to do in Wisconsin? Eat cheese, of course, and our family was not going to let much highway pass beneath their wheels before stopping. But where to stop? Ah, that was the question. Yelp said they were closed on Sunday. Facebook said they were open. So they took a chance and stopped at Renard’s, a Door County institution.
“CHEESE CURDS SQUEAK! THEY REALLY DO! NO REALLY, THEY DO!” exclaimed Ethan. The family loaded up on various cheeses and hopped right back in the truck to continue along their way, arriving at Peninsula State Park in a state of panic.
Why, you ask?
Because they had illegally transported wood across the state lines and that is a very bad thing, and our family does not like to do that. Oops.
So they pulled into the park and unlike most parks, Pensinsula has one central area for campers to park and walk INTO the office.
“Most places, you pull up to a check station and check in or just go on to the site and the camp host comes around,” Greg said.
“Oh but not here,” Michelle noted. “Here, you have to park and go in and the park is HUGE so there is a line. We were tired from driving all day and there were little four-wheelers parked in the RV spots which Greg just LOVES, and the spots were tight anyway. So I walk in and confess that yes, yes we do have wood we shouldn’t have so they get ready to confiscate it. But the gal who is to confiscate it can’t get through her thick damned skull that she should go to THAT JAYCO JAYFLIGHT CAMPER OUT THERE, IT IS THE ONLY ONE YOU CAN SEE FROM HERE, CAN YOU NOT SEE A BIG HONKIN’ 28-FOOD MOTHER? so I had to repeat myself – I shit you not – FOUR times before she finally knew where to go and get the wood…which they probably all burned around a bonfire that night anyway. haha!”
Our family got checked in but then they were ready to pull out and some of those little cars who were parked in the wrong spot had Greg all backed in.
Did I mention Peninsula is a huge and very busy park?
So Michelle got back behind the camper to help guide Greg in backing out but they had to stop several times as more traffic came in and they were SO exhausted that by the time they finally got going again they were really and truly ready to relax at their site.
But alas, that was not to be, for there are very cruel campground designers in this world. And no matter how many photos and satellite images there are (and trust this reporter, Michelle checks them all), sometimes one just cannot get a good picture of the campground and campsite. Our family rolled into the campground proper and immediately realized they were in trouble.
“First of all, the park has allowed brush to grow up everywhere, so it’s hard to see where you need to be,” Michelle said. “Also, the roads are very narrow and wouldn’t you know, the sadistic folks made our site angled in the wrong direction so Greg had to perform all kinds of fancy trick moves to get the camper in there.”
But get it in he did, and when they were finally set up, both breathed a huge sigh of relief.
Then Ethan started in, just as he did every single day and night of the entire camping trip: “CAN I BIKE? I AM READY TO BIKE, I WANT TO BIKE, CAN I BIKE NOW?”
Well yes, of course he could, but he had to take a radio with him and check in frequently. Meanwhile, the adults settled in to relax under the awning for a couple of hours until it was time for the fish boil at a local eatery.
Soon enough, relaxation time was over and it was time for Ethan to come back to the camper to get ready for the boil. Greg couldn’t rouse Ethan on the radio so he went to find him, naturally assuming Ethan had abandoned his bike for a swing at the playground and just couldn’t hear the call.
As Michelle changed, though, Greg popped his head in the camper door. “He doesn’t know where he is,” Greg said, “I have to go find him and I can barely hear him, but he says he is at a lighthouse. I guess I need to see a map. Do you think he found some sign or something?”
“THE LIGHTHOUSE????” Michelle gasped in alarm. “That’s, like, at least a mile from here! NOT in the campground. On MAIN ROADS!!!”
“Well, that’s what he said,” Greg said.
“ShitshitSHIT,” Michelle cried, grabbing a clean shirt for Ethan and heading out. “We have to go NOW, so just…we’ll all get in the truck and go find him.”
They raced as quickly as the 15 MPH speed limit would allow, out of the campground and up the hill, Michelle working the radio over and over trying to get Ethan to respond. “Granted,” she noted, “the natural state of the park is pretty, but it is SO easy to get turned around and it blocked the radio signals, and the further we went, as we trailed along behind some minivan moping and gawking, the more freaked out I got. I just kept thinking to myself that Ethan has a lot of sense and surely he’s handling it.”
They pulled into the parking lot at the lighthouse, and sure enough there Ethan’s bike sat, propped into the bike rack just so, with his hel
met on the seat.
All were very relieved.
Ethan was there, sure enough, sitting on the rock wall looking out over Green Bay. He came to the truck and after much discussion admitted that yes, in fact, he had been a little scared, that he didn’t know where he was so he just kept trying to get back until he found the big lighthouse and called in.
“That was the right thing to do,” Michelle assured him. Even so, it was hard for her to settle down.
All was well.
The family went into town to the fish boil dinner they had planned. It was good to be sure, and watching the boil itself offered some distraction, but the evening still had that What If cloud hanging over it all night. And Michelle for one couldn’t imagine why people passing Ethan on the main park roads where a little boy clearly shouldn’t be never stopped to help.
Sure enough, not long before bed, Ethan came and told his parents he was still just a little scared.
“So am I, son,” Michelle acknowledged. “So am I.”
“But we’re also glad you’re smart,” Greg told him.
And so, our family gratefully returned to camp, intact, tired, full of good food, and ready to put a rough day behind them.