05 October 2009

Door County - Journey home

Since we had a long drive ahead of us and Alan wanted to be home by the time the boys got back from cross country practice, we decided (much as it killed us…) that we’d have to skip the Inn breakfast at 8:30 and leave at 7:30. Judy was crushed that we wouldn’t be there for breakfast but she offered to leave us some fruit and coffee cake in the den at 7:00. So we had coffee/tea, fruit and coffee cake before heading out. John and Judy were bustling about in the kitchen getting breakfast ready for the others so we just popped in to thank them and say goodbye.

We hit the road and started our journey home. It was pretty much just driving and driving…stopping occasionally for gas or food. We won’t talk about the wrong turns and backtracks…

The only sort of adventure was when we were on a 4-lane divided highway and coming up behind a big, extended cab pickup. I saw something moving…it looked like a dog standing on the back bumper. That obviously couldn’t be right. I said something to Alan and he said, it can’t be a live dog…it’s got to be stuffed or something. Then we both saw it move.

We got closer and figured out the truck was pulling a small trailer…like you’d haul a snowmobile on…and the dog was indeed alive and pacing around on the trailer. We were horrified. What kind of idiot would do that?!? All he had to do would be hit a bump and the dog would go flying off the trailer and into following traffic. At best the dog would die instantly and at worst it would cause a multi-car accident.

We talked about did he/didn’t he know the dog was there. But then I thought, as a long-time dog-owner, what it’s like to have a dog. I would bet the guy didn’t know the dog was back there. He probably got into the truck, the dog hopped on the trailer, and he pulled out without a thought. The trailer was low enough, he’d never see the dog in any of his mirrors. By the time we came to that conclusion, we’d passed him and traffic wouldn’t allow us to slow down enough to get beside him and try to get him to open his window so we could yell to him. An exit came up and we decided to pull off and get right back on, which would put us behind him and we could catch up to him again.

However, as luck would have it, he also pulled off at that exit. Alan got out and flagged him down. He rolled down his window and Alan asked if he knew he had a dog on his trailer. He said, “What?!?!” Alan repeated it and he jumped out of the cab and dashed back to the trailer. He had no idea the dog was back there and was ever so grateful we told him. He thanked Alan repeatedly and shook his hand. He put the dog in the back of the pickup and we all went on our way.

04 October 2009

Sunday pictures

Drawbridge at Sturgeon Bay
Ships at the marina, Sturgeon Bay

Simon Creek Winery

Stone's Throw Winery

Squall coming up across Green Bay

Door County - Sunday

Morning was pretty much like yesterday except John played the grand piano as everyone was gathering for breakfast. And breakfast was Swedish pears in the tulip glass, Mexican strata and hash brown casserole.

We left around 9:30 to catch a 10:30 cruise out of Sturgeon Bay. We got to Sturgeon Bay but didn’t find the boat place until after 10:30. It turns out that they didn’t get anyone signed up for the cruise so they canceled it…they needed 20 and we’d have only made 2 had we been there on time.

So we toddled up the street to Sunset Park and played a couple rounds of disc golf on the 6-hole course there. I’d done some research before the trip to see if there were any courses in Door County and this was the only one I could find. Reviews of the course were not stellar…most commenters (likely better players that we are) said it wasn’t challenging, it was only 6 holes and it’s lakeside location left it completely covered in goose poop. It was certainly a bit easier than the course we’re used to in Waukee…we actually parred some holes. And it was definitely covered in goose poop. I didn’t really want to pick up the disc after it hit the ground. Oh, and it sprinkled on us off and on while we played. But we still had a great time.

By the time we’d played 2 rounds, it was after noon and we decided we should go winery hopping. AFTER wiping our shoes on any cleanish grass we could find and washing our hands.

We headed north out of town toward Simon Creek winery…one of the 2 that John said were his favorites. I’d quizzed him on what kinds of wines he likes because his recommendation wouldn’t be worth anything to us if he liked sweet wines. He didn’t so we thought it worth checking out his faves.
We tasted 4 wines each and like the Chardonnay the best. I also kind of liked the Door Co. Cherry, even though it’s a little sweeter than I typically like. It wasn’t cloying and syrupy like some fruit wines. They had live music all afternoon but we decided to press on and check out the other winery before committing to anything.

We headed north again and decided to have lunch in Baileys Harbor. We’d finally learned our lesson on ordering food in Door County and the two of us split a walleye cake sandwich with potato salad. We hit the road again to look for Hwy E and fairly soon discovered that we’d driven past it. We got straightened around and headed west on E to find the winery. It wasn’t well marked and we kept driving and driving. Finally, we stopped at a roadside bar to ask where it was and the bartender pointed across the street. Sure enough, that’s where it was…we just couldn’t see the sign from the direction we came.

For $5 you could taste 5 different wines and keep the glass. Between us, we tasted 10 different wines (it pays to take a buddy wine tasting!) but didn’t find anything we liked any better than the first place…and everything here was more expensive. And we weren’t in love with anything at the first place so we decided not buy anything and headed back toward the Inn.

We stopped at a combo roadside market and antique shop we’d seen on the way out. We bought some honeycrisp apples and continued on.

I tatted. Alan read. We rested and snuggled a bit. We headed out later to walk around Sister Bay and shop for a supper spot.

We parked at a city park on the shore and walked out on a pier then over to the swimming beach, watched the clouds change over the bay, listened to the waves…it was very peaceful. We decided to walk up the street and ended up at the Mission Grille…a former church converted to an upscale restaurant. We were perusing the posted menu when it started to rain. We stood under the eaves for a bit to see if it would be a short shower or a longer rain. It was settling in to be a rain. We didn’t really want to eat there but we decided to go sit at the bar and have a glass of wine. We chatted with the bartender, talked, occasionally glanced at the football game on the TV, and just hung out for a while. By the time we’d finished all that, the rain had stopped and we walked back to our car.

We ended up eating at Al Johnson’s…another Swedish-themed restaurant. They had Swedish food but they also had other things. Alan had the special…half a baked chicken with mashed potatoes and veggies. I had the cheese ravioli with marinara. Both were very good.

Back at the Inn, I finished tatting the heart I was planning to leave with Judy. All the people who had been there for the weekend were gone except for us. There was a whole new crop of guests there now. 5 of them had come together and they were playing cards on the coffee table in the great room. Alan and I poured brandies and curled up in wing chairs with our books.

At one point, Judy came in to see if anyone needed anything and went into the kitchen to get a bottle of water for one of them. I followed her in to give her the tatted heart. She was thrilled and thanked me many times and hugged me.

It was a wonderful evening and cap to the weekend!

03 October 2009

Saturday pictures

View of Sister Bay from the end of the Inn driveway. Fall color...

The Eagle Bluff lighthouse

One of the roads through Peninsula State Park

The 30-gal fish boil pot when we arrived, with potatoes rolling in the boil

The fish slabs getting ready to go into the pot

Taking the fish and veggies out of the pot after the boil over


Full moon over Lake Michigan and the remains of the fish boil

Door County - Saturday

We woke around 7 but lazed around a bit longer. Alan went to the nook down the hall to get us coffee and hot tea while I showered. Then he showered and we went down to breakfast and met the other guests. Heinz and Char had the room across the hall from us. Debbie and Rachel are next door. Joie and Dawn are in the room downstairs by the front door and Bob and Katie have the back room downstairs.

Breakfast was a feast! … OJ, granola with yogurt and Door County cherries in a tulip glass, caramel pecan French toast, a brown sugar coffee cake, and Door County sausage with apples. It was all incredibly good. I couldn’t eat it all but Alan helped me ‘clean my plate.’ Rachel was running and didn’t want the big breakfast so Judy brought her a bowl of cereal and some fruit.

We all sat around the table chatting for a while, trying to see if it was going to clear off or keep raining. John said we could sit as long as we wanted…although he did let us know that in the 8 years they’ve been running the place, the record is 12:15.

Alan went out to check the rain situation and came back proclaiming it “not raining” so we all headed out. Joie and Dawn are checking out, as they’re here for one night only. The rest of us went on our way. I spent some time wandering around the outside; exploring the deck, bird feeders and woodsy trails.

We made some phone calls about bay sight-seeing cruises and then decided to head to Peninsula State Park, near Fish Creek. We got in line to pay the daily use fee ($10) and started driving through the park, stopping whenever the mood struck us and walking trails whenever they looked interesting.

Eventually, we ended up at Eagle Bluff lighthouse with a tour starting in 5 minutes so we paid the $4/person and took the tour. I’d toured the lighthouse the last time I was in Door County (about 10 years ago) but I thought this tour seemed more detailed. I think it lasted for the better part of an hour.

The lighthouse was built in 1868 and the last keeper left in the mid-20s.Much later it was turned into a historic site and refurnished as it had been. A lot of the items on display were from one of the actual keeper families…a family with 7 sons, one of which was still living in the area at the time and helped immensely with the history and descriptions of what life in a lighthouse was like.

After the tour, we wound our way out of the park and to nearby Fish Creek. We found a parking spot on the street and decided to eat at the restaurant that was right there…the Pelletier. I had a Wisconsin brat and Alan had a pub cod sandwich. Just like I did last night, Alan decided to forego the bun and just eat the fish.

After lunch, we decided to wander among all the little shops in the Founders Square area. At one time they were mostly tiny cottages for vacationing folk but now they’re unique little boutique type shops.

We decided to go back to the Inn to rest a little before heading out again to our fish boil reservations. When we got there, John and Judy had gone out for a bit and taped a note to the banister (our room key had let us into the house). We realized we’d forgotten the name of the place where we were supposed to have supper. While Alan shaved, I called the number left on the note to get the info from Judy. (The Square Rigger in Jacksonport).

By the time we headed out for Jacksonport, it had clouded up again. It had never been actually sunny all day…all trip, in fact…but it has gotten darker. Driving back from Fish Creek there were ominous clouds looming over the bay. Looks like they caught up with us.

We headed across the peninsula on Hwy57 and got to our restaurant. The fish boil had started…the 30-gal pot was on the fire out back, the water was roiling and the potatoes were in the pot. We watched a bit and asked the fire-tender how long until the onions went in. He said about 5 minutes and then the fish about 5 after that. We went back inside and had some hors d’oeuvres of pickled fish, crudités, fried mushrooms, etc. and a glass of wine. We went back out in time to see the fish go in. It cooked a while and they it was time for the boil-over. They take a can of kerosene and dump it on the fire. The fire wooshes up into a huge fireball and water and steam boil over the lip of the pot with the extra heat. Then we watched as two guys ran a pole through holes in the baskets holding the fish, potatoes and onions and hauled them out of the cauldron and into the restaurant. They dished up the plates with 2 slabs of fish, a few potatoes, some onions a pile of steamed veggies that didn’t get cooked in the pot. After they served everyone, the waitresses would walk around and ask if you needed help deboning the slabs of fish. I had her do one of mine so I could see how they did it then I did the other myself. There was a dish of cole slaw on the table as well as a basket of bread. They came around later with platters of fish and potatoes to ask if anyone wanted more. Then there was the cherry pie and ice cream for dessert. There was certainly no shortage of food!

The dining room has huge windows that look out onto the back yard area where the fish boil happened and to Lake Michigan beyond. There were clouds hanging over the horizon but the full moon did peek out at one point and I went out on the deck to take a picture of it.

Once again, we waddled out to the car and drove back to Woodenheart. John met us at the door and asked if we wanted a fire. Sure! Heinz and Char were watching TV in the den upstairs. They came down to the fire and we poured brandy and had a very pleasant evening in comfy chairs with our toes up to the fire.

02 October 2009

Woodenheart Inn pictures

The front of the Woodenheart Inn, Sister Bay, WI The back walk around the Inn

The front porch

Whimsical planters made from old boots

The great room with fireplace and grand piano

The Heart Room where we stayed

Door County - Madison and arrival

We had a leisurely morning, got up around 8, showered (sans shampoo ‘cause we forgot to pack any and the Motel 6 doesn’t provide it), checked out and went to Burger King for breakfast. We ate, finished the jumble and most of the crossword in the paper then hit the road to Madison at 9:30.

In Madison, we met a high school classmate of mine at Dobra Tea Shop. Anita and I met for the first time in about 5th or 6th grade and haven’t seen each other in something like 19 years so we had a lot of catching up to do. It was a lot of fun and Dobra and the State Street area were very cool places to be.

We left the tea shop and walked a bit up and down State Street, shopping for a lunch spot. We decided we weren’t really hungry yet and moseyed on toward Door County in the rain. Nothing new there. We drove the night before in pretty constant rain and it’s rained off an on all day. The clouded sky is nice for driving and at least in the daylight, the rain isn’t so bad. But last night in the dark, on strange roads, in the rain and with truck traffic, it wasn’t a lot of fun.

We arrived in Sister Bay and found our B&B…the Woodenheart Inn. The inn is a log-style home with lots of cute landscaping, nestled into the woods.

We were greeted most graciously by our hosts for the weekend, John and Judy. They had a pot of hot spiced cider on for us and, Boy! did that hit the spot after the chill and rain. They showed us around the great room with the 2-story stone fireplace, pointed out the deck and gazebo off the back of the house, the walking trails leading of into the woods, the dining room where we’d have breakfast in the mornings, and then to our room…the Heart Room…one of the 3 upstairs accommodations.

All 5 rooms have a theme (heart, apple, cherry, garden and Millie, I think) and were mostly decorated in red and white. Our room had hearts stenciled around the upper part of the walls, wrought iron or hammered metal hearts on the curtain swags and towel bars and other little heart knick-knacks scattered tastefully about. The bed had a great, white quilt over the bed and a hearts (of course) quilt folded over the foot of the bed. We had a red/white gingham loveseat on one wall, a nice closet with extra pillows, hangers, a white noise machine and a flashlight. Everything was so comfy and nicely appointed we just kind of wandered around with our jaws hanging open at how wonderful the place was.

We headed back out to the car to get our bags. John told us there were umbrellas behind the front door and to help ourselves…he noticed we had run to the inn in the rain without any. We brought the bags in, hung some things in the closet then went out to supper. We ate at the Sister Bay Café (recommended by Judy). It was a Scandinavian themed café on the main street through town. Alan had almond-crusted walleye filets; I had the special which was salmon chowder and a lake perch sandwich, because I wasn’t all that hungry. When my food came, it was on a plate that was half fresh fruit salad…big chunks of cantaloupe, honeydew, pineapple and strawberries. It was more than I could possibly eat so I didn’t eat the bun, just the fruit and fish. It was way tasty.

After supper we waddled back out to the car and back to the inn. We were again met at the door by Judy, who offered us hot tea or coffee. We declined (politely) and decided to relax and read in the great room. She asked if we’d like a fire. We would! So John built us one. We got our books and sat on the couch and decided we didn’t feel like reading, we just wanted to sit and listen to the crackling fire.

Not long after, Joie (as in Joey…I’m not sure why he spells it that way) and Dawn (a couple from near Green Bay) came in. We all introduced ourselves and Dawn snuggled up to the fire as she was chilled. John pointed out the decanter of apricot brandy and glasses on a side table and told us to help ourselves. Dawn wanted hot tea, so John brought her a carafe of hot water and basket of teas.

A while later, Debbie and her daughter Rachel came in from a trolley tour…more introductions and fireside chats. Then Joie and Dawn headed to their room.

We had all commented on how gracious and accommodating John and Judy were…always asking if we wanted or needed anything, ready with advice on restaurants or local attractions, offering umbrellas or maps or hot drinks or anything we might need. We joked that if we asked them to make the rain stop, somehow they’d see to it.

01 October 2009

Door County - First leg

Hit the road at 6:34. We drove east on 80 then north to Cedar Rapids then northeast to Dubuque. We found our Motel 6. It was very clean and looked newly remodeled. For a cheap bed and shower, it was perfect for us.