ROLLIN’ ON THE RIVER ON THE AMERICAN QUEEN STEAMBOAT

Following our ten-day road trip around Wisconsin, we met up with the other American Queen Steamboat passengers for a night at the Radisson Blu hotel at Mall of America, near Minneapolis.  After getting registered and settled in, I took advantage of the hotel’s pool for a swim workout (such as it is in a small hotel pool), as Bruce relaxed poolside.  Not being shoppers, we opted to spend the evening at the mall getting a good walk in and a casual dinner at an Asian noodle restaurant, before returning to our room.

The next morning, we got to know some of our fellow passengers during the buffet breakfast.  They were from California, as were approximately ten percent of the sold-out ship’s 400 passengers.  Another ten percent were from either Australia or New Zealand where the seasons are reversed, and they were escaping their cold winter.  Since this was the only longer vacation (23 days) offered by the cruise line during the year, it attracted travelers from afar who wouldn’t be inclined to fly such a long distance for a 7-day cruise.  This made for an interesting mix of passengers, several of whom we had fun getting to know during our weeks aboard the paddle wheel boat.

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Boat?  It’s not a ship?  No.  Ships sail the oceans, and boats, like the American Queen Steamboat, sail the rivers—just one of the things we learned from Bobby, the “Riverlorian” who presented lecturers throughout the journey.

Our home away from home for the following 21 nights, was a paddle wheel steamboat built in 1995, recently renovated, and beautifully maintained.  Step aboard, and you feel like you have been transported in time back to the 1890’s.  Other than the Front Porch Café and the outside decks, the ship has been decorated to bring you back to that era when steamboats were a common site on the rivers.

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We were transported from our hotel to the American Queen by a bus wrapped to look like the American Queen on wheels.  The company has a fleet of these matching buses that mostly serve as hop-on/hop-off buses at each port.  In the early evening, the buses caravan to the next port where the drivers stay the night at a hotel.  One evening, while enjoying the view from the top deck, we saw all five buses in a line crossing the bridge over the river—cool!

In the morning, the buses are lined up dockside, ready to transport the boat’s passengers around town, arriving at each stop every 15 minutes or so.  Local docents hop aboard each bus during the busy morning hours to provide running commentary, and then disembark at Noon.  As the afternoon winds down, the buses make their rounds at each stop every 30 minutes while each driver takes their break for lunch at the Front Porch Café or their local favorite haunt.

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The Front Porch Cafe offered buffets at each meal for a casual alternative to the dining room, as well as 24 hr. access to non-alcoholic drinks, soft serve ice cream (with toppings), fresh-baked cookies, and popcorn.

The drivers were terrific, especially Al, my favorite back in 2013 when my mom and I rode his bus frequently.  It was great to see he was still with the company!

Our cruise began in Red Wing, Minnesota where we were dropped off to embark the American Queen.  We stayed there overnight, so we had plenty of time to settle in our cabin, tour the boat, and still enjoy the town the following day.  (More about that in my next post.)

I was so pleased to see that Bruce was just as impressed with the boat as I had been when I boarded the American Queen the first time.  Although I had emphasized the small cabin size ahead of time, he even commented on how much space we had for storage!  (We had space left over after unpacking our suitcase filled with clothes for our 5-week trip AND our business supplies for our Etsy business at www.CookedGlassCreations.Etsy.com !).

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We had the cabin next door to this one; however, we had already started unpacking before I remembered to get a picture!  (The storage and door were located along the wall behind me.)

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Our stateroom attendant, Cassie, was such a sweetheart!

The food, entertainment, and friendliness of the staff was just as impressive to Bruce, and I was happy it was just as good as I had remembered it to be from my first cruise on the American Queen.

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The menus changed daily.

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Here are the crab cakes I ordered from the menu above.  YUM!

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These scallops were AMAZING!

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So was this lobster!

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During lunch in the dining room, we had a choice of ordering off the menu or enjoying the lunch buffet.

Stories about our experience on board (and more photos!) will be included in future posts, so for now, I will leave you with some photos taken aboard the American Queen.

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The Engine Room Bar was situated directly above the engine room (pictured below).  See those round windows?  We would watch the paddle wheel turning while listening to the music.  On each end of the night club, there were doors leading out to outdoor seating with a view of the paddle wheel.  More stories to follow about the band– and Bruce!

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Next up:  A RELAXING DAY IN RED WING

AMAZING AMNICON FALLS & DELIGHTFUL DULUTH

Before visiting Amnicon Falls State Park, we took the scenic route around the tip of Bayfield Peninsula.  The little town of Cornucopia was having a festival, so we pulled over to check out the crafts booths and shops along the marina.

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The vibe we picked up on throughout Bayfield Peninsula was that many of the residents were progressive, so this awesome solar-powered pottery studio fit right in place:

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Amnicon Falls was well worth the detour before continuing to Duluth, Minnesota.  The scenery was spectacular, and the hiking trails throughout the state park were so peaceful.  From any location, we could hear the rushing water from the falls.  The day was gorgeous, and we had chosen the perfect place to have a picnic and devour the remainder of our smoked fish and hand-picked berries.

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The remainder of the final full day of our road trip was spent up in Duluth, Minnesota, located on the south-western shores of Lake Superior.  The Downtown Lakewalk sounded like a nice way to spend a beautiful afternoon, so we put more miles on our legs while taking in the sites around the lake.

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Fitger’s Inn up on the hill looked interesting, so we climbed the stairs to see what was up there.  Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Fitger’s was Duluth’s first brewery, dating back to 1857.  After 115 years of brewing beer, the brewery closed in 1970.

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The Fitger’s Brewery Complex was re-opened in 1984, and it appeared to be thriving during our visit.  Between the Inn, brewery, restaurant, and shops; the place was bustling.  It was warm, so many people were out enjoying a cold brew while relaxing on the patio and taking in the view of Lake Superior.

We opted for a cold Bridgeman’s ice cream, instead, and thoroughly enjoyed this local favorite.   Dating back to 1936, Bridgeman’s began as a family-owned business, and it remains in the Bridgeman family to this day.

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This was a great place to enjoy the sunny afternoon before heading south for the last night of our road trip.  The following day, we would be joining the American Queen Steamboat Company for a pre-cruise stay at Radisson Blu, at Mall of America.  Soon, we would be rollin’ on the river!

Coming up next:  ROLLIN’ ON THE RIVER ON THE AMERICAN QUEEN STEAMBOAT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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THE APPEALING APOSTLE ISLANDS

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In addition to the berry farm trail and beauty of Bayfield Peninsula itself, the big draw to the northern region of Wisconsin was the opportunity to see and photograph the Apostle Islands, a group of 22 islands in Lake Superior.  Our favorite light for photography is the golden hue cast by the sun just before sunset, so we opted to take the 3-1/4 hour, 55-mile narrated Grand Tour sunset cruise offered by Apostle Island Cruises.

As we headed out to the furthermost islands we cruised by Manitou Fish Camp, which was built in the 1930’s and used by local fisherman.  Since then, it has been restored and depicts the fishing industry in the area from the 1930’s through the 1950’s.

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The most photogenic highlight of this cruise was located at the most northern point of the islands at Devils Island.  We arrived during the prettiest golden light, so the photography was fantastic.  Between “sea stack” rock formations and extensive sea caves, I shot more photos per minute than I could remember shooting in a long time!  (Thanks to digital, it didn’t cost any more to do so like it had back during the film-shooting days.)

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As we cruised back to Bayfield we saw the Raspberry Island Lighthouse that marks the entrance to the West Channel.  Built in 1863, it served as home to several lighthouse keepers through the years until 1947 when the light was converted to automatic operation.

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Throughout the cruise, we enjoyed the informative and entertaining narration while we took in the views from the open-air deck.  Once the sun set, though, it got too cold to stay up on top.  I did manage to brave the cold out on the aft deck for a few final pictures:

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Next up:  AMAZING AMNICON FALLS & DELIGHTFUL DULUTH

BAYFIELD: FROM BLUEBERRIES TO BOATS

Gloomy skies and occasional light rain showers continued during our drive from Ashland to Bayfield, so we went straight to Winfield Inn to pick up our key to the rental we would be staying in for the next two nights.  After settling in, we decided to spend the remainder of the late afternoon exploring the area.

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Click on the picture, and read the “instructions,” because they are a hoot!

Bayfield is Wisconsin’s self-proclaimed “berry capital,” so we headed out to the berry farm trail located just up the hill from our apartment.  Our plan was to return in the morning to pick berries for breakfast; however, we found a pick-your-own berry farm that was still open, and the blueberries looked too delicious to wait until the morning!  Compared to the blueberries we pick every June in our area of Georgia that tend to split from the heat while they are still small, these berries were HUGE, and the bushes were LOADED.  We grabbed a box and went to it, ignoring the rain and mud.

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The weather forecast looked promising for the following day, so we planned to return in the morning to pick more, and then see the other farms on the trail.

Meanwhile, after enjoying our afternoon snack of delicious blueberries while gazing at the view of Lake Superior from our rental, we headed back down the hill to town.

Located on Lake Superior, Bayfield is small and hilly; however, the town is attractive and quite nice to stroll around.  It served as a perfect base, too, for exploring the area.  They even had a community center with a 25-meter swimming pool!

The following day, we woke up to sunny skies and a beautiful day, perfect for the outdoor activities we had planned to enjoy, including exploring the remainder of the berry trail.  We returned to Rocky Acres Farm to pick more blueberries, and picked some raspberries as well—the best I had ever tasted.  It was such a beautiful setting, too!

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This is one of the other farms we stopped at along the trail (the one with the self-kicking machine):

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After our breakfast of fresh-picked berries, we enjoyed the gorgeous day poking around town, doing some photography, and visiting the excellent Bayfield Maritime Museum.

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My mid-day swim at Bayfield Area Recreation Center was wonderful—and, much needed.  It was my first opportunity to swim on this trip since we were in Minneapolis, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Bruce, meanwhile, returned to the maritime museum to see the remaining exhibits.

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Having worked up an appetite, we were ready for the picnic lunch we had planned to enjoy at a table overlooking the marina.  Bodin Fisheries, located near the pool, had a nice selection of tasty-looking fish, so we picked up some smoked salmon and white fish, as well as a filet of sugar-cured smoked lake trout.  Ritz Crackers claims that everything tastes better when it sits on a Ritz, and we both agreed.  That fish tasted great sittin’ on a Ritz!

It’s amazing how thoroughly enjoyable such a simple experience can be.  Start with a beautiful day, add a pleasant setting with a lovely view, toss in some delicious smoked fish and crackers, and then finish it off with some fresh Wisconsin tart cherry juice.  Life is good!

It was also good that our Apostle Island sunset cruise that was scheduled for the same evening rather than the rainy evening before.  We had waited to book the cruise until the 10-day forecast clued us in on what to expect for weather, and the gamble paid off.  Fortunately, the cruise hadn’t yet sold out, and the weather forecast was spot-on.  What a beautiful evening!  Check it out in my next post!

Next up:  THE APPEALING APOSTLE ISLANDS

 

 

ASHLAND’S HISTORY THROUGH MURALS

From Boulder Junction, where we bid farewell to the “Townies,” Bruce and I headed northeast toward Bayfield, our home base for the next two nights.  To break up the drive, we thought Ashland would be a great place to stop, stretch our legs, and see the town’s murals I had read about in my research.

Expertly and beautifully painted by Kelly Meredith and Susan Prentice Martinsen, most of the huge murals depicting Ashland’s history are located in the eight-block Main Street business district, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places:

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Ashland’s historic downtown was quite charming.  Between the murals, architecture, lovely little park, and artistic mosaic trash receptacles, it was a great place to visit!

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Coming up next:  BAYFIELD:  FROM BLUEBERRIES TO BOATS

OH DEER! THOSE “TOWNIES” DO OWN THE WHOLE DAMN ROAD!

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The suggested scenic drives from Door County northwest to Boulder Junction were indeed scenic.  Wisconsin’s tourist bureau was spot-on.  Upon arrival in the small fishing/hunting town of Boulder Junction, we saw three does, two bucks, and two fawns cross the road in front of us as we pulled into the Boulder Junction Motor Lodge for our night’s stay.  I quickly parked the car and crossed the street to see where the deer had wandered off into the woods.  They didn’t seem bothered as I watched them feed on the leaves as I photographed them.

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Later, when we returned from the laundromat (a necessary evil when traveling for a total of five weeks), we noticed those same deer had crossed back over and were munching on the front lawn grass right there at the lodge!  When I pulled into the lot, they had migrated toward the back of the motel.  I quickly parked and walked around to the back of the opposite end of the building, hoping to head them off and catch a glimpse.  Bruce joined me, and we stopped to watch as they were heading right toward us!  Holding my camera in both hands down in front of me, I froze.  I didn’t want to spook them by moving, so I figured it was better to just watch than try to get a shot.

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As I stood there with Bruce behind me, a doe walked out in front of the others and came right up to me!  After a quick lick of my hand, she quickly took a couple of steps back.  Shocked, I asked Bruce to take my camera and see if he could get a shot while I tried to lure the doe back.  It didn’t take much effort!  I reached out my hand slowly, and she returned for another lick.  Then, she kept on licking!  This was no dog licking me; it was a DEER!

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Meanwhile, one of the bucks sauntered right by us and kept on going through the parking lot without a care in the world.  He decided to do his own thing, I guess, because he casually strutted into the road on his way into the woods on the other side.  When a car approached at speeds fast enough for my heart to skip a few beats, I thought I was about to see a bloodbath.  Thankfully, the car stopped just in the nick of time.  Do you think that deer was long gone by then?  Nooo!  He stood there staring that car down and didn’t budge an inch as if to say, “Yes, I DO own the whole damn road!”  Once he made his point with the stare-down, he meandered his way into the woods with no sense of urgency.

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What the heck is going on here with those deer, anyway?

I excitedly told my story to the gal at the motel’s reception desk thinking something really amazing and special had just happened.  “A deer licked my hand and didn’t get scared off by my presence!  I was even able to grab my camera and take some shots without them running off!!” I exclaimed.

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Responding with a look of total boredom, the receptionist casually replied, “Oh yeah, that happens all the time.  They’re known around here as the ‘Townies,’ and they live in the woods behind the lodge.  They are always hanging out around town.  Everybody watches out for them here.”  She then agreed that they DO own the whole damn road!

Next up:  ASHLAND’S HISTORY THROUGH MURALS

EGG HARBOR, PENINSULA STATE PARK, AND SISTER BAY (“BRING IN DA GOATS!”)

When Bruce and I take a road trip, we typically have a plan for each day; however, we like to keep it loose.  I’m usually armed with the names and addresses of a couple of different restaurants I’ve researched on Trip Advisor, as well as a list of top-rated things to see and do in each place we plan to visit.  As the day unfolds, we see how the mood strikes.  Typically, Bruce and I are interested in the same things, so we rarely need to compromise.  We almost always agree!

We decided to spend our day exploring the towns we hadn’t yet visited on the west coast of the Door County Peninsula.  Our first stop was Egg Harbor, and I was curious how the heck it got its name.  A sign posted at the town park explained it like this: “According to legend, a fleet of boats departed Green Bay in 1825 to deliver furs to the Mackinac Island trading post.  The men stopped at this unnamed harbor for the night.  While landing, the boat crews raced each other to reach the shore first.  Eggs were thrown at the leading boat and quickly returned.  When the boats reached the shore, the battle continued until the eggs were gone.  In honor of the battle, the men named this bay “Egg Harbor.”

What a charming town with a funny name!  The park was landscaped beautifully, and interesting sculptures adorned the path through the terraced park, and down to the beautiful harbor.

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Egg Harbor had some nice shops, galleries, and gardens we enjoyed poking around before continuing on to Peninsula State Park.

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Other than the light house, I didn’t do much photography; however, it was a wonderful park for picnicking, riding on the bike trails, camping, enjoying the beach, or just wandering through like we did.

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Bruce and I were working up an appetite, so we continued on to Sister Bay with my list of a few restaurants to check out for lunch.  I had read in National Geographic Traveler Magazine that Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant had great lingonberry shakes, so we already knew where we were going to splurge on dessert.  (After all, we hadn’t a clue what a lingonberry was, so our curiosity had us sold!  It’s turns out to be a cross between a cranberry and a currant.)

Although Al Johnson’s is quite touristy (and we usually prefer local hangouts), we couldn’t ignore the fact that more than 1,500 reviewers had given the restaurant an average 4-1/2 out of 5 rating.  Besides, Swedish restaurants always serve herring, and we both had a hankering for herring!

What I wish I hadn’t done was actually read the reviews, because it (almost) spoiled the fun.  Imagine driving down the street and casually looking left and right as you look for a parking place, and then spot goats out of the corner of your eye!  Oh, and did I mention those goats were on the grassy ROOFTOP of the restaurant??  Yeah, I knew that from the reviews, but can you just imagine how shocked we would have been if I hadn’t read those reviews???  It makes me wonder if the sight of those goats had ever caused any car crashes!

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I just had to know the story of the goats.  Curious?  Read about it here.

All I knew is that I had to have my picture taken with those goats, so I could send it to my best friend, Laura.  “Bring in da goats!” has been a running joke of ours since she visited us in Georgia.  As what typically happens when the three of us get together, we drink a little too much wine, the jokes start flying (mostly started by Bruce), and we can’t stop laughing.  Darn if I can remember what the joke was, or how the whole goat thing got started; but, whenever we see a goat, it inevitably leads to an exclamation of, “Bring in da goats!” delivered with an Indian accent.  Then, if I am so inclined, I snap a picture, and send it off to Laura with the same caption.  So, dear Laura, this photo (and blog post) is dedicated to you!

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Now, about that herring.  Check out this $15.00 plate of pickled herring, assorted cheeses, and pickled beets.  What you don’t see is the beautiful accompanying basket of fresh breads and assorted crackers that came with it.  Thankfully, we split this beast, because we barely had room for the huge shake ($5.50) we split afterwards.  (Not only did our waiter give us the entire metal shake cannister full of delicious shake, we were each provided a pewter mug to enjoy it in.  It sure kept that shake cold!)

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That lunch rocked.  We’re still talking about how delicious it all tasted!

A stroll along the harbor and beach after lunch was delightful—that is, until we saw the oncoming storm.  Lightning appeared to be headed our way, so we decided to continue our exploration within the (hopefully!) safe confines of our rental car.  After exploring the northern tip of the peninsula, we headed back south and outran the storm.

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The following day, we wandered around the eastern side of Door County Peninsula before returning to enjoy the town of Sturgeon Bay.

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Seen on a car in Holiday Music Motel’s parking lot.

Next up:  OH DEER!  THOSE “TOWNIES” DO OWN THE WHOLE DAMN ROAD!

 

 

DOOR COUNTY: HOLIDAY MUSIC MOTEL, CAVE POINT, AND A TASTY FISH BOIL

My go-to source for researching travel accommodations is always Trip Advisor, and I have never been disappointed.  The key to success is choosing the accommodation in your price range and desired location with the highest ratings and the most positive reviews written by REAL people.  Has the reviewer written only one review EVER (or very few reviews that are all glowing and gushing with raves)?  Chances are they were offered some sort of incentive—or, they are friends or relatives of the owner of the establishment.  That’s a Trip Advisor no-no.  I look to see how many reviews a Trip Advisor member has written and how many helpful votes those reviews have received, and then concentrate on what the most experienced reviewers have to say.  (For comparison, I’ve written 102 reviews and have received 100 helpful votes; however, there are many reviewers who have written a lot more.)

Once again, my research paid off when I booked a room at the Holiday Music Motel in Sturgeon Bay for our three-night stay.  As soon as we entered the parking lot, we knew it was going to be a cool place—at least if their garden was any indication.

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Entering the lobby, it felt like a blast from the past.  I’ll let the pictures tell the story, but if you want to get the full details, check out my Trip Advisor review.

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The tree was loaded with music-themed ornaments, and there were a bunch of instruments in the corner.

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Cool postcard!

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Continental breakfast was included, so we went behind the counter to grab some cereal and juice to enjoy at the cute little dinette table.

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Love the phone booth!

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Our very comfortable upstairs room was much larger than what appears in the photo.

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Note the drawer contents containing a “bible” (see below) and complete lyrics to “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall.”

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This is my kind of bible!

After checking in, we drove up the east coast of Door County’s peninsula to Cave Point County Park on Lake Michigan.  What a gorgeous place!  The hiking trails through the woods along the lime-stone cliffs were stunning.  Although it started to rain, we kept on hiking, because we wanted to see more and more.

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A nice surprise was this rocky beach and seeing the creations made by industrious (and patient!) visitors who passed through.  It reminded us of the beach in Stanley Park, Vancouver, where we had first seen rock sculptures of this kind.

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Our next stop was at Baileys Harbor for a walk around the marina before heading across the peninsula to Fish Creek where I had made dinner reservations for a Traditional Door County Fish Boil at the White Gull Inn.

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Baileys Harbor

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By now, we had really worked up an appetite after our very full day.  Between our tour of Lambeau Field in Green Bay, the drive to Sturgeon Bay to check into our motel, our hike around Cave Point, and walks around Baileys Harbor and Fish Creek; the all-you-can-eat fish boil (not fried!) sounded GREAT!

We were NOT disappointed.

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Fish oils rise to the surface of the boiling cauldron, and when the fish is perfectly done, the Master Boiler tosses a small amount of kerosene on the flames under the pot.

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The great burst of flames causes the boilover, spilling the fish oils over the side of the pot and leaving the fish perfectly done, steaming hot and ready to serve.

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Count me in as one of the 758 Trip Advisor reviewers who gave the White Gull Inn the top rating.

Just when I thought the day and evening couldn’t get any better, we were greeted by this gorgeous sunset as we left the White Gull Inn and took a stroll to nearby Sunset Beach Park:

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Coming up next:  EGG HARBOR, PENINSULA STATE PARK, AND SISTER BAY (“BRING IN DA GOATS!”)

 

TOURING LAMBEAU FIELD, HOME OF THE CHEESEHEADS

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Wisconsin is the Dairy State; however, I wondered just how the Cheeseheads got their name.  As quoted by Lee Remmel, the Packers team historian, “The birth of the world famous ‘Cheesehead’ hat was not initially about fashion, but a gouda, self-deprecating response to those we kindly call the ‘flatlanders’.  Still riding high from their only Super Bowl victory in 1986, Chicago Bears fans began ridiculing citizens of the Dairy State by calling them ‘Cheeseheads’.”

It didn’t take long for the marketing and merchandising department to take advantage of that moniker.  Cheeseheads (surely, you have seen those silly hats on Packer fans) are sold in the Packer’s gift shop for just $21.95!

Bruce grew up a Cheesehead having lived eight of his childhood years in Appleton and having a Cheesehead mom and maternal grandparents.  I, then, became an adopted Cheesehead as Bruce’s wife.  It’s infectious!  Once you get to know the history of the team and the loyalty of their fans, it’s hard not for it to grow on you—that is, unless you’re an arch-enemy Minnesota Vikings, Chicago Bears, or Detroit Lions fan.

First of all, the Green Bay Packers are the only community-owned franchise in American Professional Sports.  Right there, you got me, as I have a hard time getting behind teams owned by multi-gazillionaires.  Since the spoiled-brat owners of the San Diego Chargers took their team away from San Diego when they couldn’t get the city to build a new stadium for them (Whaaaa!), I’ve given up on them.  If the Packers can keep remodeling and improving Lambeau Field (but keep a bunch of the same metal bleachers they have always had; bleachers seat more fans than chairs do), then good on ‘em!  (Don’t even get me started on the idiocy of the Atlanta Braves abandoning Turner Field for a new stadium.  Built in 1996 for the Olympics and given to the Braves for a whopping fee of $1, the stadium was perfectly fine!)

As of 2014, the Packers were owned by 360,584 stockholders.  That’s a lot of owners!  (Keep in mind, too, that no one person can hold more than approximately 4% of the outstanding shares.).  That kind of community support (and non-profit structure) has kept the Packers in Green Bay, since they were founded in 1919.

Green Bay’s population is only around 100,000; however, Packer fans hail from all over Wisconsin and the entire United States.  As a matter of fact, Packer fans are so loyal that every home game has been sold out since 1960, and their season-ticket waiting list is more than 86,000 names long!  According to Wikipedia, “The average wait is over 30 years, but with only 90 or so tickets turned over annually, it would be 955 years before the newest name on the list got theirs.  As a result, season tickets are willed to next of kin and newborns placed optimistically on the waiting list.”

Not being born into a season ticket-holding family, Bruce never had the opportunity to see a game at Lambeau Field, so we decided to see the Packers stadium the only way we could—on a tour.

We arrived for our tour the morning after sold-out Family Night, so the stadium was still in the process of getting cleaned up.  That was of no concern to us; we were getting to see Lambeau Field!

As we pulled into the parking lot, I couldn’t help but to notice the modest homes located in the residential neighborhood just across the street.  There was nothing glamorous or big city “Wow!” here!

Lambeau Field itself, on the other hand, got an attractive makeover in 2013, and it looked great.  Its capacity is now 81,441, which is the third-largest stadium in the NFL.  (By the way, the Packers paid only $250 for its charter membership to the NFL.  In comparison, the Houston Texans paid a whopping 750 MILLION dollars to join.)

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Bruce doing the “Lambeau Leap.”

Our tour guide was a hoot!  Between the funny stories he told as we toured the stadium from top to bottom (including the Champions Club, players tunnel and field), and the ribbing he gave a couple of Vikings fans in our group, we were thoroughly entertained.  (When you’re a tour guide for the team that boasts 13 National Championships—more than any team in the NFL—you have license to tease non-Packer fans!)

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The view from inside the Champions Club

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This giant neon football hangs from the ceiling of the massive Packers gift shop.

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The Packers Hall of Fame was two stories.  This uniform display could be seen while riding the escalator to the second story.

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Those Packer fans are LOYAL!  I couldn’t imagine even being outdoors in 13 degrees below 0 temps.!

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$900 in 2011!

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$900 in 2011!

Next up:  DOOR COUNTY:  HOLIDAY MUSIC MOTEL, FISH CREEK, AND FISH BOIL

 

 

HITTIN’ THE ROAD TO WISCONSIN

Why Wisconsin?  Besides the proximity to Minneapolis, Bruce and I both have family ties to the Diary State.  Bruce’s maternal grandparents lived on a farm in Hortonville (near Appleton), and he lived in town with his mom and sister for eight years as a child, after his father died.  My grandparents all lived in Milwaukee, where my parents grew up and met in the school orchestra where they both were violinists.  After graduating from medical school at the University of Wisconsin in Madison (my mom from occupational therapy school), they headed west to California, after my dad did a residency in Salt Lake City.  My parents and grandparents all settled in Long Beach, and Bruce’s mom took the kids back to California to settle in San Diego, my college town.  Go Aztecs!  (We’re both Aztecs, so Bruce would agree!)

Since we both wanted to concentrate our time in seeing beautiful Door County (with stops in Appleton and Green Bay) and the Apostle Islands, we decided to save Milwaukee and Madison for another trip when we go to Chicago.

We rented a car at Enterprise (I’ve always been very pleased with their customer service!), and our friendly agent picked us up at our downtown hotel for the short trip back to their office.  Before long, we were on our way to seeing a new state—at least for me!

First stop:  BEER!  Well, we did make sure to get some nutrition in us first, stopping at the Bass Lake Cheese Factory in Somerset for lunch of not-so-nutritious grilled cheese sandwiches made from their own cheese.  We then made our way to Chippewa Falls where we toured the brewery at Jacob Leinenkugal Brewing Co., the seventh-oldest brewery in the United States.  The Leinenkugal family has had many years to get it right, and right they have.  The tour was excellent, the beer was tasty, and the creek side setting was beautiful.  Their large tasting room and gift shop looked like a mountain ski chalet with a huge stone fireplace, and they offered an enormous variety of branded merchandise to wear head-to-toe or decorate your man (or woman) cave.  Kicking back next to the fire and sampling Leinenkugal beer while rain showers passed was an enjoyable way to spend the end of our day.

The rain clouds had cleared when we returned to town for dinner at Mahli Thai (excellent!), so I took advantage of our only evening in Chippewa Falls to capture some of the quaintness of their picturesque little town:

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In the morning, before we set out for Appleton, we stopped at Irvine Park & Zoo, open free to the public.  Established in 1906, it is supported by donations and enjoyed by local families and many of the tourists that pass through the small town to visit the brewery just up the road.

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One of the things I noticed in Minnesota and Wisconsin was the large percentage of towhead children!  There were so many cute kids with light blonde hair!

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Appleton was just a three-hour drive east, so we spent the afternoon in Bruce’s childhood stompin’ grounds near Lawrence University.  After moving from the farm, his Mom rented a house across the street from the University where the YMCA is now located.  Former Fox News Anchor Greta Van Susteren grew up around the corner in this house.  (Evidently, it looked as bad then as it does now.):

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This is where Bruce used to lace up his skates to skate on the frozen pond that formed on the lawn nearby:

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Amazingly, Bruce was still alive to show me where he and his friends used to ride their toboggans.  Of course, nothing was built on the bottom back then, but still, that hill is STEEP!

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Standing at the top of the hill and looking downward.

The last house they rented before relocating to San Diego was here on this lovely, tree-lined street:

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I so enjoyed seeing the places Bruce reminisced about from time-to-time over our 31 years together.  For Bruce, it was a trip down Memory Lane.

Next up:  TOURING LAMBEAU FIELD, HOME OF THE CHEESEHEADS