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.