PENINSULA STATE PARK, DOOR COUNTY, Wisc. – Our family awoke on Day 13 looking forward to a trip further north on the peninsula.
“Well, we had these big plans to visit a maritime museum and stop at a smokehouse for some smoked fish and maybe head over to Washington Island,” said Michelle, “but the reality was that we woke up and didn’t feel much like doing any of those things other than the smokehouse.”
And that, friends, is the reality of vacation. Sometimes you get just a little tired of it all and decide to take it easy. So after a late start to their morning they decided to take that drive north and just have a relaxing day enjoying the sights.
“So take a look at these crazy signs on the road,” Greg noted:
“That road had one of those signs – pointed AT the road – on almost every curve, but not EVERY curve, and we couldn’t figure out any rhyme or reason for it so we figured it was some sort of crazy Wisconsin joke.”
After a brief visit to pick up smoked fish, a drive by the maritime museum (“unimpressed,” noted Michelle), and a trip through the nearby state park, our group headed back to camp to laze the day away until it was time to go back to Al Johnson’s.
“FOR MEATBALLS!!!” Michelle exclaimed.
After pulling into camp and distributing the walkie-talkies, Ethan took off on his bike while Greg and Michelle relaxed in their too-comfortable-for-camping REI chairs.
“There’s a kid threatening to KILL ME!” Ethan yelled over the airwaves.
“Uh…okay…you need to come back to camp,” Greg responded.
“10-4!” Ethan exclaimed.
He returned, and glorified our family with the story of a boy who had a knife and was chasing him through camp.
Sighing, Michelle looked at Greg and said, “You need to go see about this.”
Away the boys went on their trusty bike steeds, and approximately 4 minutes later Michelle lost patience and swooped in for backup.
Greg and Ethan were at the boy’s site talking to him and yes, he admitted that he had indeed chased Ethan with a folding saw. Michelle asked him where his parents were and he said he didn’t know. There he stood with a folding saw in one hand and a hatchet in the other.
“Jesus Christ,” Michelle muttered to Greg. “Look at that. He is 7 years old with his hands chock full of weaponry and not an adult to be found. We’ve got to tell somebody about this.”
Now, normally our family’s parents are pretty easygoing. The last thing they want to do when camping is get something going between families or involve a ranger in something, but this was a pretty dangerous situation so they went to find the campground host, who called the ranger.
Then they went back to their site to ready themselves for an early dinner back at the Swedish goat place.
“Yum, meatballs,” thought Michelle.
But as they were leaving the park, the ranger was flying in with lights running and they realized the camp host hadn’t asked for any contact information. Also, Michelle was starting to feel a little bad. “The kid did something stupid and he knew it,” she said. “He was totally freaked out about his parents finding out about his transgressions and I started wondering if maybe there was a reason for his complete freakout. Maybe his parents would completely overreact. So we turned around and went back to let everyone involved know that we know kids do stupid stuff all the time, we’ve been there, and we really didn’t want him or his family cited by the ranger. It was just that the parents weren’t there and he didn’t know where they were, et cetera.”
The ranger said he understood and our family was soon on their way back to Al Johnson’s for those meatballs Michelle really wanted.
“They were so good,” she said, “and this time? There were goats on the roof. See?”
And so our travelers enjoyed a leisurely lunch (“Greg actually got meatballs this time, not some crazy Americano food,” Michelle laughed) and returned to camp just about in time to go see a play.
Peninsula State Park hosts the American Folklore Theatre, which puts on several productions of their own design throughout the year. Well, once Michelle knew of this there was no hope for anybody who wasn’t up to watching thespians. Away they went to their reserved seats (“Yes, I did, I paid more for the reserved seats,” Michelle said) and watched Belgians in Heaven, a delightful comedy that left them singing about “Cheese Curds, Boo-yah, and Beer,” all the way back to camp.
Ethan, in particular, was excited about the entire prospect – not so much because he loves plays (though he does enjoy a good rousing comedy) but because of the mode of transport to the amphitheater.
“WE RODE BIKES!!!!” he exclaimed.
And so it was fortuitous they attended the first showing of the evening at 6 p.m., for it was a cloudy evening and the ride back to camp would have been, shall we say, hairy had they waited for the late show in the dark.
It wasn’t long after the return to camp that the whole family turned in.
“Vacationing really takes it out of you,” observed Laurel.
Day 14 was another rainy one, so there was nothing for it but to laze around camp until lunchtime when our family headed south to Shipwrecked brewery for lunch.
The most notable thing about Shipwrecked is its décor. Specifically, this décor:
Now, normally this wouldn’t really be anything to catch our family’s collective eye (well, okay, maybe Greg’s), but Ethan is growing up to be sure, and before the parents knew it, Ethan was taking photos of the above-pictured maiden with his DS, and drawing big blue arrows pointing right at her breasts.
“At least they’re natural,” shrugged Michelle. “Now if I can just keep him from showing people that on Electronics Day at school, we’ll be in business.”
The food was mediocre. The beer was mediocre. But, true to form, our family was full by the time they left.
On the slow drive back north (“Yes, SLOW DRIVE,” complained Greg, “getting ANYWHERE in Door County is SLOW,”) our travelers stopped at the geographic marker for the 45th parallel, which Ethan thought was pretty cool.
“WE ARE HALFWAY TO THE NORTH POLE. WAIT. HALFWAY FROM WHERE?”
So Michelle and Greg explained and he thought i
t was cool and climbed to the top of the rock upon which the plaque was affixed “(“THE BEST PART!” he exclaimed), and then the whole crew was back off to the park and campsite once again.
And then what did they do?
“We drank beer. That’s about it,” Greg responded.
Day 15 was much sunnier, which was a very good thing. Why?
Because our group had scheduled a kayak tour in the bay. Away they went, bright and early, up to the beach to rent their kayaks. Laurel and Michelle took one while Greg and Ethan labored in the other.
And laboring, friends, is precisely what it was.
“I don’t know if it’s the lack of current or the two-man kayaks or what,” Greg said, “but this was rough.”
“Indeed,” Michelle agreed. “And I came back with the blisters to prove it.”
The family was also facing a good solid 5-hour drive to Rock Cut State Park in Illinois immediately after the kayak trip, so they mostly had camp shut down anyway and were anxious to get back.
“I could’ve totally rowed crew with the way I beat it back to that dock so we could get out of there,” Michelle laughed. “Besides, the most exciting thing the naturalist had to show us was an eagle’s nest. The eagle wasn’t there, and we’ve seen many eagle’s nests, so….y’know….”
And beating it back to the dock is what they did, followed by a quick change out of their kayak wear, a quick packing for a lunch on the road and a quick exit from the park.
Everything was not so quick, though, for alas, there is much construction through Madison, Wisconsin.
“Thought we’d never get out of there,” Michelle grumbled. “All I wanted was to GET THE F TO ROCKFORD ILLINOIS.”
Well, get there they finally did and after what must have been the fastest registration for a campground ever, they backed into their little one-night spot. One lacking a picnic table.
“Oh, well,” Michelle said, “We’d planned to go to Giordano’s anyway, and were picking up donuts for the drive home the next morning. What’s really cool is there is a camp store that opens at 8 a.m. and serves coffee, so we didn’t have to go hunting for that.”
After a heavy meal of Chicago style pizza, our family scurried back to camp for one last night in the camper before returning home.
“SERIOUSLY?! I mean, what the hell?” Michelle exclaimed. “Ugh, this is just…so frustrating!”
It was 8:05 on Day 16.
The store with the coffee wasn’t open.
“I don’t even smell any damn coffee brewing,” she continued. “GAH!”
She made her way back to the site where Greg and the rest of the family waited, trailer hooked up, all ready to roll.
“No friggin’ coffee,” she relayed.
“Oh well,” Greg replied.
So the family endured the final 5.5 hours of their journey without any coffee but with some old stale donuts.
How did they feel about it?
“It made home that much sweeter,” Michelle said.
And there you have it, folks. That puts an end to our Great Northern Adventure 2012. 16 days and approximately 2100 miles later, our family pulled back into the driveway in scorching heat and made one final decision for the trip.
“Let’s maybe wait to unpack.”