Saturday, August 15, 2009


August 10th, 2009
The trip to Door County started with the Toilet Busters getting into a knock down, drag out slapping fight in the backseat merely 20 minutes outside of Milwaukee, over some “unfair” move during a video game competition. I pulled off the highway to wait for the fighting to stop then, I confiscated the games. How is it, when shit hits the fan, I forget my own Medicine; lose complete knowledge of everything I’ve learned, practiced, and preached? And I find myself in a knock down, drag out fight…with reality, desperately scanning my mind for the antidote!

I’m driving along in my Wrangler, watching motorcyclists cruise down the road solo, fantasizing that it’s me. I had a flash of a Hal’s Harley-Davidson billboard on I-94, showing a woman driving in a car, lusting at the motorcyclists passing by; a look of envy in her eyes and a yearning to be riding one herself…a bike that is. I decided the real marketing ploy is to have two kids fighting in the back of her car while she’s doing that! Gone are the days of “Calgon take me away”; let me take my own ass far away, by myself, on a motorcycle with one seat…mine!

The first stop we hit on the lower portion of the peninsula, in Luxemburg, was Otto’s Meat Market for fresh homemade beef jerky, brats, bacon, and salami. From there it was Ron’s cheese shop for fresh cheese curds that squeaked so loud it hurt our ears; not quite as much as the screaming fight an hour earlier. If you’re not familiar with cheese curds, the sqeakier they are, the tastier! Before leaving Luxemburg, we made a quick stop at Salmon Brothers Meat Market for “the best hotdogs in the world.” The Jeep smelled like a smoked sausage rolling down the road. Even dogs were chasing us.
Finally arriving in Sturgeon Bay, indicating our arrival into The Door, we rolled through the downtown area and I noticed an awning I hoped my children wouldn’t see. Suddenly Wyatt exclaims; “Now, that’s the place to go; toys, chocolate, candy, and ice cream!” I kept driving. Down the road, we spied a farmer’s market and stopped for fresh produce, then headed over to the grocery store for a few things to accompany the food we’ve already gathered…like cold beer and a lime! The grocery store was like a nightmare I couldn’t wake myself from. It started with a chase scene through the isles; myself pretending I didn’t know whose children those were, continued with a “poopy fart” and emergency run to the restroom, followed by an explosive…no, thank God…cherry Dr. Pepper. The white shirt Schuyler was wearing…now an original work of art.
As we made our trek up the northwestern side of the peninsula, we found the spot for “the best caramel corn in the world.” No one told us they had the best gelato in the world!
Door County is infamous for cherries. So…we had to stop at Hyline Orchard for cherries, cherry pie, cherry jam, cherry syrup, and pure organic, made right there, maple syrup. I’ll be making blueberry pancakes with fresh berries from the farm market for breakfast! As I’m writing this, I’m thinking, “Oh, shit,” literally…that last run is a recipe for disaster!

So, it took us four hours to get to Ellison Bay from Otto’s in Luxemburg. Most people get to Ellison from Milwaukee in less than four hours!
There may be some toilet bustin’ on this trip after all!

Tuesday, August 11th

We started the day with fresh blueberry, malted pancakes with 100% pure maple syrup, and a side of Otto’s awesome bacon…heavenly!
We then headed down the road to Fish Creek and rented bicycles to go into Peninsula State Park. Being that it’s been 12 years since I’ve ridden a bike without a motor, I was hoping the boys would decide they weren’t up for the trek…no such luck. We were set up with the appropriate bikes; mine with a big seat to cushion my spoiled ass being used to a leather Corbin , though I still think I may need to sit on the ice packs instead of leaving them in the cooler. Unfortunately, there were no bikes with a throttle or clutch. I set out wobbling down the trail freaking out over the mass of people coming towards me on the narrow trail. Bike riders were EVERYWHERE! I envisioned myself being attacked by bicyclists like the swarms of grasshoppers I once experienced on my motorcycle in South Dakota.

Though my mind feared my ability to ride a bicycle again with ease, my body remembered everything it was supposed to do to keep me upright and on the trail. A great metaphor for life; “Let go of the steering wheel!” I suddenly envisioned myself as the Wicked Witch of the West, riding her bike through the sky during the tornado, with that jaunty “do, doot, doo, do, doo, doot, do, doo,” tune in my head; I started laughing my head off…humor is the best Medicine!

Now, feeling rather comfortable, I cruised down a small hill at a pretty good clip, approaching the curve, I grab the lever on the left handgrip to downshift! Following a quick fishtail maneuver and a mild stroke, my body quickly flooded with memories, reminding my mind that the left lever on a bicycle is for the front brake! I managed to remain upright and on track. Good thing, I needed to be physically and emotionally available for the two children who simultaneously crashed half way through the trip. Far be it for me to tell them how to ride up a steep grade in first gear as opposed to sixth. Then again, why bother? They just figured it out for themselves. Sometimes it takes a tremendous amount of willpower not to laugh hysterically; like being inchurch whn someone in the pew ahead of you farted.

Three miles to go and two injured riders who have no other choice than to buck up and ride back. Time to focus on the gorgeous setting…”Let the trees hug you!”

A quick game of mini-golf and chess on the way back, a stop at the Door County Confectionery (I love their licorice caramels!), and a shot at Go Karting in Sister Bay…a real bust, as Wyatt is 54 inches tall and regulations say you must be over that. They both went in the mini-karts…mini is an understatement! They basically sucked; I was bored watching. A three year-old may have thought it was a gas, but not a 9 and 11 year old. The look on their faces was classic, only too brief to capture on film.

Back at the ranch, Salmon Brother’s hot dogs in swine intestines. My boys don’t like casings on their wieners! Great! Raising two boys who don’t like casings on their wieners…I’ll let their dad handle that subject.
The day ended at the drive-in outdoor theater to see G-Force from the back end of the Wrangler. I converted the back of the Jeep into a loveseat recliner…now that was the cat’s ass! The experience was not only deluxe and memorable, but a flash-back; the ads were the same ones they showed the last time I was at the drive-in…probably 40 years ago!

Returning to base, a fight erupted on the recliner which I chose to walk away from, forgetting the back doors were inaccessible from the inside and it was pitch black out there. I was summoned back to the vehicle by screams. Hopefully there are no nightmares involving cased wieners coming out of the woods attacking small children.

Wednesday, August 12th

I threw in a load of laundry this morning in order to soften my duties when we return home. The scent of strawberry wafted through the air as I opened the dryer door. That old familiar scent was NOT from fabric softener; someone left gum in their pocket! It was apparent we weren’t the first to wash and dry gum. S.O.S. to the rescue! So, we got off to a late start today due to a dryer cleaning delay.

Starting the day with something gooey and sweet was a precursor for most of the day’s events. Our first stop was at White Dunes State Park. Naturally, the first thing I had to do was use the restroom. Oh, yeah; the smell of something gooey alright, but not so sweet…the ‘ol outhouse. Oh, how I loved my scout camp days. Funny how a disgusting smell can bring about sweet memories! Such is life; lots of times the things we think to be so horrible, bring about the greatest treasures.

We staked out our territory on the sandy beach where I sat watching my children frolic in the waves of Lake Michigan; feeling more like I was at the ocean up than a Great Lake. My soul was instantly filled with delight. The worries I let plague me earlier in the morning simply vanished, and I was truly able to bask in the beauty of the moment as well as the sun.

A couple of hours at the beach had us screaming for something gooey, cold, and sweet, so we drove over to Ephraim to the famous Wilson’s, for homemade ice cream…delicious! Snarfed those scoops right down and set out on another adventure.

Off we drove to check out the towns on the other side of the peninsula. In route, we HAD to stop at The Door County Bakery for one of their famous Dooey-Gooey Peanut Butter Cookies; a glob of peanut butter baked between two peanut butter cookies. There were a lot more tantalizing items in there besides big-ass cookies…OMG! The breads made my mouth water and my eyes nearly popped from their sockets as I scanned the cases… macaroons…triple chocolate brownies…spice cake bars, frosted…I looked up at the double wide doors in that joint and thought, “how appropriate!” Then, the crème de la crème, Corsica bread sticks. Big, fat slices of Corsica Bread, drenched in olive oil and butter, smothered in toasted sesame seeds…to die for! The oil dripped down my chin and fingers as it oozed from the bread with every crunchy bite. It’s been a long time since I felt that way. In fact, it was probably the day I discovered Gail Ambrosius Chocolates in Madison, WI four or five years ago.

My children looked out of the car like something was seriously wrong with me; and trust me; it’s not the first time. A couple actually pulled into the lot and watched me finish my delight, inquiring as to what it was I was eating with such ecstasy. They told me I should go ahead and have another, so I took their advice and ate two pieces right away.

One last town to check out, Rowley’s Bay…a real sleeper. Nothing much there but a resort housing Grandma’s Bakery, aptly named as that end of the peninsula appeared to be heavily populated with grandmas and grandpas. A Swiss bakery no less; hadn’t been to one of those yet, so naturally, we stopped. By then, I was ready to purge but the bakery still looked good. We walked out of there with a cherry turnover and gooey cinnamon roll (for Schuyler) and a bag of this funky, really tasty treat called Skorpa. All I can tell you is it’s a Swedish coffee dunking treat; sweet, crunchy, and habit-forming.

The kids were now screaming for dinner; mind you, they hadn’t been eating any of the bakeries we’d purchased thus far. I, on the other hand, needed to go for a 20 mile run, though a walk would have sufficed. I’m sure you can imagine how well that bowled over. We made it about 4 blocks before heading to “Al” Johnson’s in Sister Bay. They have grass growing on the roof tops with goats grazing around up there. Dinner on the other hand was nothing to write home about.
Within about five minutes of returning to base, you needed a number to get into the bathroom. Gooey-dooey was the name of that tune. As you may know, there’s little ventilation in older cottages. I am, however, grateful for indoor plumbing and that I didn’t have to live with THAT cooking in the pot for the next few days.

Thursday, August 13th

Woke up to a perfect summer day; in the low 70’s under crisp blue skies, along with the sweet smell of summer coasting along the gentle breeze. I started my day with an 8 mile run; a small percentage of what needed to be done to counteract the prior day’s lack of moderation. There was a t-shirt in the Door County Bakery boasting, “Everything in moderation…even moderation.” I took that advice, no prob.

The day’s events unfolded as if moderation were the plague; “Avoid it at all costs and go full-bore! Life’s an adventure; live it!” And so we did.

We arrived at the 10AM passenger ferry to Washington Island just in the nick of time. I quickly grabbed our swimming suits, a bottle of water and a bag of Sun Chips, leaving everything else I had packed in the cooler behind. We opted to forego the car ferry as our plan was to ride bicycles to School House Beach and back when we got there. How long could that take? It’s a small island.
I ate those words and inhaled a whole host of others. If my ass could talk, you’d get an earful right now. Actually, my kids would tell you my ass does talk, so let me be more specific; the bones in my ass were killing me! And this is how it all started…

I overheard a woman on the ferry say it was 5 miles to the beach; roundtrip…you do the math. OK, I just won’t say anything and the kids will never know.
Upon arriving to Fantasy Island, we headed straight over to the bicycle rental facility. Why were we the only ones renting bicycles? I, personally, was lusting over the motorized scooters, entertaining thoughts of riding alongside my children on their bicycles. Walking into the bike shed, I was hit with that huge sinking feeling in my gut…a blast from the past, no doubt. Most of the bikes resembled the one I had as a child; one speed with foot brakes and practically bald tires; really looking forward to this trek…ten miles??? Once Schuyler got a look at those bikes, kiddy cocktail hour started…he was serving whine and lots of it, no cherries. Now it made sense why people either take the “Cherry Train” or their own bicycles around this island.

We hopped on the bikes and headed down the road to Main Road…love the creativity there…which will take us to the road to School House Beach on other side of the island. I was really feeling like the Wicked Witch of The West on that classic set of wheels, and was certain Schuyler was convinced of it. My cheerleading was constantly interrupted by groans coming from behind me. Wyatt on the other hand was jamming down the road, totally digging the adventure. Two miles into it, it became real clear to me why so many people wear spandex shorts with pads in the butt, though personally, pillows and balm seemed better than pads at that point.

Schuyler, a bit of a distance behind, began yelling something I couldn’t quite make out, though I sensed the flavor of concern. I slowed to hear that we were being followed in the bike lane, by a car. I know he’s just dying for an excuse to get out of this activity, so I have little concern. Schuyler now picks up the pace to get closer to me, freaking out about this car behind us. He quickly turns his head once more, starts laughing and yells, “We’re being chased by the mail car in hot pursuit!” That was the only humor he experienced throughout the entire adventure. Who could blame him?

Now, getting lost on a motorcycle is one of my favorite pastimes…getting lost on an island with two kids, one who is particularly NOT happy with the experience in the first place…not good. In the midst of wallowing in my own misery, I had missed the cutoff for the beach. About a mile into it, I realized why there was no bicycle lane on this road! When Schuyler heard that news, I thought you’d be reading about me in the paper! The groaning that persisted started to sound like that of a low budget porn film (I think that was a redundant statement). Back down the road, and all the way up the big hill we had moments earlier enjoyed coasting down, we arrived at the road taking us to the beach. Two minutes later, we were there.

Beautiful beach, covered with perfectly smooth, white stones. The boys enjoyed a swim and lengthy rock throwing session. Schuyler was probably contemplating throwing rocks at me!

We downed our only bottle of water, snacked on a few chips and headed back to the bikes. The drag in Schuyler’s steps had me convinced he had broken the law and stashed about 50 stones in his trunks.

Back on the road, motivated by the incentive of juicy burgers and thick quart sized custard shakes at the Albatross, about 4 miles away. The ride back always seems faster, especially when you know how to get there and there’s food involved.

Waiting for the 2PM ferry, I concluded; Washington Island is for seasoned cyclists or at least bikes with gears and…a V-Twin engine. Next time, we’re taking the car ferry.
Island Ferry Tickets; $22.50
Getting lost on rental bikes; $36.00
Island lunch; $23.50
Cold Corona back on the mainland; PRICELESS!

Friday, August 14th

Operating in slow-mo this morning; feeling parts of my body I had not realized existed. Somebody get my oil can! Feeling rusty was in part, my body’s response to not really wanting to go home; we didn’t want the fun to end. The scattered thunderstorms helped in that regard. Spent a few hours cleaning up the house and packing up our “stuff”; I swear, half the load was food!
Speaking of food, we had to make one last stop at The Door County Bakery; yep, that was WE. $38.00 later…I had food stuffed into a make-shift frige I created on the floor in front of the passengers seat. I had it packed a foot above the seat with frozen foods and refrigerated goods, right under the AC vent, then covered the loot in blankets…worked like a charm!
I won’t even begin to tell you about the pastry I had at the bakery today. I’ll just suffice it to say, my arteries need flushing in a bad way.

Nearing Sturgeon Bay, I had to fulfill one last request before leaving The Door; a stop at the “fudge, candy, ice cream, toy store.” Good thing I had to pee badly; got them out of that store within eight minutes and only a $16.00 deficit, knocking off three out of the four. Ice cream wasn’t desired much after that last bakery run.

Somewhere south of Algoma, on some back road, Wyatt needed a restroom. As I was looking for an inconspicuous spot to pull over, he opened an empty soda bottle; you can deduce the rest of the story. Coincidentally, we were, at the very same time, passing Schweiner Road. I announced for Wyatt to make sure that he keep his schweiner in that bottle. I, on the other hand, was wishing I had a schweiner and a bottle, but I had to hold it until I found a gas station. I practically pissed my pants walking to the door.

We made it home in 5 1/2 hours. I unpacked while managing a few loads of laundry and a new pile of “stuff” to pack up for my motorcycle trip to Colorado on Sunday.
As I looked into those sweet little eyes of my boys this evening, I said, “I love you guys. I really had a lot of fun with you on this trip.” They, of course, felt the same, then Wyatt interjected, “That’s because you made it fun, Mom.”

I’ll miss those inspiring little cherubs next week, though the homecomings are always the best part of the trip!

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