21 September 1998

White Dunes - Fleece - Trip home

It was still cold in the morning and I definitely wanted a hot breakfast and some tea. When I came back from the bathrooms, Coe Ann was sitting at the picnic table eating her cereal wrapped in a sleeping bag. It was quite chilly.

We sat around for a while after breakfast just talking and being relaxed. We finally decided to start packing up camp and ended up taking everything out of the back of my car to get everything stored neatly again. Once we actually started to break camp, it didn't take very long and we were on the road again, headed toward Bailey's Harbor.

This part of the peninsula is definitely where the "real people" live. There are some signs for restaurants, BnBs and the like but for the most part it's rural with gently rolling hills.

I had the directions to get to Nora Ahlen's sheep farm ("Homestead Sheep & Fleece") just outside Bailey's Harbor. We found it without any trouble and found Nora to be a fascinating woman. I went nuts in her house. It's mostly built of stone with heavy beams and hardwood floors inside. Everything inside was wood, stone, or something with a very "natural" feel. There were bags of wool cloud, batt and roving, carded llama, fiber everywhere and skeins of handspun yarn hanging from pegs in the ceiling beams to dry. I was in heaven!

There were 3 dogs in the house...an elderly border collie, a full grown papillion that had markings and coloring like the collies, and a border collie puppy about 12-14 weeks old. Coe Ann fell in love with the papillion and, even though I typically don't much care for small dogs, I thought he was a real sweetie. I fondled all the fiber but decided I'd go look at the fleeces before making a decision about what had to come home with me.

Nora took us to one of the outbuildings to meet the cashmere and angora goats and the Jacob spotted sheep, then to a storage room with bags of raw fleece. I picked out a couple (one black, one white) to take back to the house and look through more carefully. I spread them out on a sheet to look at the whole fleece and compare them. I couldn't decide between the two so I got them both. Plus a couple balls of ready-to-spin wool/mohair roving totalling almost 2 pounds.

We also went out into the field for a demonstration of one of her dogs doing what a border collie loves most...working sheep. When Nora called off the dog and got the sheep back in their pen (with the dog's help...), the dog jumped into the water tank to cool off. It was one happy-looking dog. The whole show was pretty impressive.

By then, Nora had spent about 2 hours talking with us and showing us her farm. We thanked her profusely and paid for our purchases (Coe Ann got a couple goat skins) and headed out.

Further along the coast we came to White Dunes SP and decided to stop there for lunch and to see if I could find a spot to fly a kite. We paid the access fee for the park ($7) and found a lovely spot at a picnic table to look out through the trees, over the lake and down the shore. When we finished lunch, we started along the shore to the beach area.

At this point we hadn't decided whether to try to drive home yet today or just go part way and stop somewhere. We didn't want to leave the dunes just yet and decided to decide later.

We walked for quite a ways along the shore. The sand was very fine and tended to pack together. At one point I was running my hand over the sand to feel it and discovered that when you do that, the sand makes an eerie squeaky, whistling sound. It was a very peaceful place to be and there was so much of interest there. There is an archealogical dig going on in one part of the park, lots of hiking trails, and lots of shore and beach.

We finally managed to tear ourselves away from the shore and sand to continue our journey homeward. Nora had recommended cutting across Wisconsin on Hwy 20 instead of getting on the interstate. Just for a change of scenery, we decided to try it.

Hwy 20 is 4-lane for the most part and you do have to slow down and/or stop in some of the small towns but for the most part, it was a good way to get across Wisconsin. We took it all the way to I-90 in MN which took us to I-35 at Albert Lea and from there it's a straight shot home to Des Moines.

Somewhere along the way, we decided to head all the way home that night instead of stopping for another night somewhere. I knew there was no way I could drive it but Coe Ann said that with proper sugar and caffeine management, she wouldn't have any trouble.

When we stopped for supper, we rough-figured what we'd paid for the trip (roughly $100 each, for all 4 days) and Coe Ann began her caffeine-sugar high for when she would take over the driving. Once we got on the interstate, I pulled over at a rest area so she could drive...and discovered that she hadn't driven a stick-shift in a whooooooole lotta years. It was kind of a rough start but once we got up to speed on the interstate, she was fine.

We rolled in to home about 1 or 1:30 am. I was a little tired from all the sitting and Coe Ann was a little wired from the driving but we were otherwise whole and sound and glowing from a great weekend get-away.

20 September 1998

Biking around

We were up around 6:30 and lazed through breakfast and clean up. We'd decided we were going to bike into town and through PSP to the lighthouse and back. After breakfast, I was writing in my trip journal and noticed the sky darkening just about the time the thunder started rolling in. That didn't change our plans, we were going to ride anyway, and dug out the rain gear. As we were prepping for the bike outing, it started to sprinkle. We donned rain gear and about then it stopped raining and the sky cleared. We lucked out!

We biked to the park, which was probably no more than a mile, although there is a wicked downhill stretch just before the park that wasn't going to be any fun on the return trip. We hadn't checked our tires before we left home and I forgot to bring the pump so we stopped at the bike rental place near the entrance to the park to see if we could get some air. We did that and headed on our way.

The trail was described as "gravel" and Coe Ann was concerned about a gravel trail with her skinny tires but the trail was so packed that it might as well have been lumpy asphalt. She didn't have any trouble at all.

After the first little bit through woods, the trail turned to parallel the bay and it was a fantastic view. We pulled off the trail sit on the cobblestone beach and watch the waves and gulls for a while.

It was basically an easy ride. There were a couple of steep down hills (that were going to require a lot of effort on the return trip) but other than that, nothing to speak of.

When we got to the lighthouse, we parked the bikes and wandered around a bit. They had guided tours and I wanted to take one and see the inside of the lighthouse. When I went to ask about the next tour, it was starting in 3 minutes so we timed that just right! The tour lasted about 30 minutes and included a refurbished interior stocked with period furnishings including a ... I think it was called an upright... grand piano in the living room. They'd originally ordered a regular grand piano and had it hauled all the way from the east coast somewhere, including miles of trekking it on rollers through the forest to get it to the lighthouse. Only to find that it wouldn't fit through the doorway so they sent it back and got this other type of grand piano. There was a spinning wheel in one of the upstairs rooms that I looked closely at. It wasn't a type I was familiar with and I couldn't decide if it had all it's parts and was in working order or not. We couldn't actually go to the top of the lighthouse because it was still a functional lighthouse, although automated now. There was a plexiglass ceiling so that you could stand at the top of the circular stairway and look up into it though. A very interesting tour.

After the lighthouse, we continued on the trail around the tip of land that is PSP. The campgrounds here look much more inviting. The sites are nestled through the trees and you can hear, smell and see the water.

A little further on is another campsite area on a bay (Nicolette Bay, I think). This is more "civilized" that the other camping area. There's an actual beach with swimming area, volleyball courts, a shower house and concession stand where you can get various types of food as well as rent pedal boats, canoes or kayaks. There's a playground, benches along the shore, etc.

Shortly after the bay, the bike trail merged with a paved roadway. It all still seems to be going downhill and I'm dreading the one big uphill I remember from the trip out. As it turned out, we never hit that hill...since we made a big loop, we missed that part of the trail on the way back. I would swear the entire ride was downhill all the way but that's just not possible. The uphills must have been so gradual or taken in small increments in various places that I just never noticed them. In any case, it made for a pretty easy but very satisfying and beautiful ride.

We biked back to the campsite...and that killer hill just outside the park really was. I managed (barely) to pedal it all but I stopped to rest at the top and Coe Ann walked it.

When we got back to camp we put together lunch then loaded the bikes and headed for Washington Island. For the most part we followed highway 42 up to the end of the peninsula. Most of northern Door county seems to be made up of little unincorporated towns along the shoreline with marinas, lots of boats and (this time of year) tourists. None are so touristy as Fish Creek, though. We decided that Ephriam had the best balance of water-town charm and architecture and points of interest. It looked like a place where people actually lived. All along the way, in all the little towns, there were lots of little cottages, cabins and BnBs.

We got to the ferry terminal and the boat was just about to leave so we hurredly bought our tickets ($10.50 each for us with our bikes) and boarded. The ride out is only about 15-20 minutes and the sky was a bit on the gray and misty side so it was hard to see some of the wayside islands clearly.

At the ferry terminal on Washington Island I picked up a map for the island and ferry schedules so we could see if we were actually going to have time to get to the ferry terminal on the other end of the island, get out to Rock Island, see that and get back in time to catch the last ferry back to the peninsula. We didn't. We only had about 2 hours and even if we'd brought the car, the ferry schedules wouldn't have allowed us to do that. So we just biked around Washington Island for the time we had.

WI is much less populated and touristy than anything in the rest of Door county. Next time, I want to catch the first ferry to the island and spend the whole day on Washington and Rock Islands. There is one campground on Washington and one on Rock. No vehicles (including bikes) are allowed on Rock Island. The loop trail around all of Rock Island supposedly takes 3 hours. It sounds like a must-see sort of place.

We caught the ferry back and took highway 42 back to Fish Creek. Back at camp, we had the whole section of the camp to ourselves and there were hardly any other campers around. It was very quiet and since the night was clear, I had a great view of the sky. I was, once again, very happy that the campground (at least our section of it) didn't have any yardlights! Without any other campers' campfires or lanterns it was most excellent star viewing!

By bedtime, there was a cold front moving in and the temperature had dropped dramatically. After showering, I put on long pants and fleece. The wind was blowing pretty fiercely too and I woke up several times in the night to the tarp slapping around. It never rained though.

19 September 1998

Exploring Fish Creek (the town, not the water)

We drove a while then decided to stop for breakfast. We stopped at a McDonalds to use the restrooms and buy OJ (and get spoons) then we sat in the parking lot and had our cereal, milk and juice.

Unremarkable road and countryside until we actually got to Door county. We stopped for gas in Manitowoc and had lunch on the green by the Maritime Museum. They have a WWII submarine docked in the canal adjacent to the museum. We didn't tour the museum but we watched boats moving through the canal, the drawbridges going up and down and enjoyed the sun.

After lunch, we continued our wander up the eastern (Lake Michigan) side of the peninsula. At Algoma, we stopped at a roadside beach to walk on the shore and out a breakwater to a red-painted lighthouse.

At Sturgeon Bay, we crossed from south Door County to north Door county and the landscape changed some. There were more dairy farms in the south and as we moved north, they changed to fruit orchards. We saw lots of signs for apples and cherries (and cider of both), Wisconsin cheese, sausage and wine. It sounded really good but we didn't stop to get any.

After Sturgeon Bay, we got on highway 42 which runs up the western (Green Bay) side of the peninsula through most of the tourist towns. We'd decided to head for Peninsula State Park at Fish Creek. In Fish Creek, I missed a turn somewhere and we ended up at a marina. Luckily, there was a civic building right there with a map on it and we found our way to the park.

When we got there, the campground was full so we couldn't get a spot. I asked the park attendant for other places in the area and she suggested Path of Pines...a private campground just outside of town. We found it and liked it a lot better than what we saw at Penninsula. PSP was right near town (the entrance is on a busy street) and the grounds looked way too "civilized" for us. PoP was far enough out of town to feel like it wasn't the center of activity without being too far from the park and town. We liked the proprietor also. He seemed to run his camp the way that we wanted and helped us pick a good site. The restrooms/showers were very clean and we had a water tap and electricity right at our site which was nicely nestled into some trees.

We went to look at the available sites and settled on #20...although we really liked 19 which wasn't available. We went back to the office to say we'd decided on 20 and he said, "Nope, I put you in 19. They just called and canceled while you were out." We were thrilled! We went back, moved the car and started setting up camp.

We talked about how to structure the rest of our day/evening. We decided to eat supper first, while it was still light then go into town to wander through some of the shops and sites. I made the lentil/bulgar chili, we ate, cleaned up then headed out.

We swung through the park office of PSP to get park maps of the biking trails for our ride the next day then parked near the park entrance and started walking.

Our first stop was a jewelry-maker's shop. He works mostly in gold and had some beautiful things. The thing that we were most impressed with were his cast, gold spiders. He'd cast real wolf and garden spiders then molded them in gold. The threadlike legs were amazingly thin, and except for the color, lifelike. In one of his display cases, he'd made a web out of filament and perched one of the spiders in it. He showed us photos he'd taken of webs so that he could create a web that was authentic to the spider. They were fantastic! And not for sale. He wouldn't even put a price on them.

Further down we hit another little collection of shops ("Fred's Back Yard") and got ice cream cones. Further yet we came to Founder's Square...a collection of tiny little buildings (maybe they used to be cottages for the summer folk?) that now house various types of merchants and artisans. An adjacent restaurant was having a traditional Door County Fish Boil, which we watched but didn't partake of.

The Wild Orchid was a favorite with it's yard and garden "stuff"...kinetic lawn watering sculptures, ornamental garden plaques/tiles and wind chimes. I saw a wind chime sort of thing that, instead of tubes hanging on strings, was a collection of small temple bells mounted on lengths of wire. The sound was extremely pleasing (moreso than the traditional chimes) and the chime itself was very graceful and swaying. I'd really like to hear these chimes in the rain...as they filled with water, the tones would change until the cupped bells finally tipped to spill their contents. The base was butt-ugly though...a poured concrete sort of monstrosity. If I bought it, I'd definitely either bury the base or remove the chime wires and set them in another sort of base...a real rock or piece of wood.

The Stargazer shop was kind of cool, too...in a very retro sort of way. It was basically a 90's version of the old "head shops". Lots of crystal prisms, incense, aromatherapy, etc. And a wicked assortment of pins sporting slogans like, "Tell me again why I need a man" and "Martha Stewart... cutify THIS"

By the time we got back to the car, I felt like we'd been walking for hours, although I'm sure most of it was standing around looking at things. It was fully dark by the time we got back to camp, even though it was only about 8 or 8:30.

I laid out on the picnic table for a bit to look at the stars but with the light breeze and the cooler night air, I needed more clothes than I had on so I decided to just go to bed. Coe Ann and I talked over the day for a bit then I think we were both asleep by 9:30 or so.

18 September 1998

Travel to Door County

Friday's leave-taking didn't quite happen the way we'd envisioned it. I took the dog to the boarder over lunch to save some time there. Coe Ann and I were going to try to get out of town by shortly after 5. In the afternoon, I had several new machines that (suddenly) had to be set up and configured...which cascaded a couple other machine setups... and I was beginning to wonder if I was even going to get out of the office on time. Coe Ann wasn't having any better luck. Although she had cleared with her office to leave at 4, she ran into snags and SNAFUs that kept her there until after 5. We finally got out of town around 6:15.

On the interstate, just before the east mixmaster, I saw Coe Ann's bike start to fall off the rack. I pulled over and stopped as fast as I could. It turned out that the little wing screw that keeps everything in place had fallen out and the end cap and mounting doohicky had slid off of one side. Luckily, the other side held so the bike didn't go careening down the interstate. We put the bracket back on (it was still attached to the bike) and were puzzling over what to do about the screw when we decided to just bungee the bike to the rack and not worry about it. That worked just fine for the rest of the trip.

We drove acrosss Iowa and part of Illinois, passing the time by chatting and playing word games (Tri-Bonds and Hink-Pinks). Somewhere along the way, we stopped at a gas station to use the restrooms and have supper of bagels, cheese, beef jerky, apples and whatever else we felt like eating that was in the cooler.

By midnight, we were rolling into Rockford, IL and both of us were dead. We found a Super 8 but they were full. We went up the street to a Comfort Inn and got their last room. Apparently, there was something going on in town and rooms were scarce.

It was a bit more money than we'd planned to spend ($60) but we slept great and had a hot shower in the morning. We were up and back on the road by 8.