July 31st, 2007

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Weekend in Wisconsin, eh!

So, as I noted previously, The Girls and I ran off to Wisconsin this past weekend. A college buddy and his highschool friends have been doing a party every summer up in Door County for 30 years now, and it has evolved into its second generation (his daughter was specifically asking if my Daughter #1 was going to be there). Fortunately, I had, even at the last moment, been able to get some pretty amazing deals on car rental and hotel, so was able to make this happen.

We stayed (thanks to HotWire) at the Hampton Inn up in Green Bay for only $10 more a night than it would have cost over at the Motel 6 we usually stay in, and since they had a free breakfast, it was more than a wash. However, there was one freaky thing about breakfast that I don't believe I'd ever encountered previously ... pre-fab fried eggs! Now, I don't doubt that the "egg" in something like an Egg McMuffin is likely pre-fab like this, but it was sort of freaky running into these "frankeneggs" just out in a pan. The top side had a nice tidy quarter-sized yolk circle, but the bottoms had a wider "smear" of yellow. They tasted fine, just looked like you were eating a plastic display piece from a Japanese restaurant!

The weather this year was almost ideal (although, not being a "heat & sun" guy, I would have been happier had it been over-cast and about 10° cooler) with sunny skies and the temp around 80° ... even though I'd picked up a hat (forgot to pack one), I did eventually retire to the car for an hour's nap in shade & airconditioning mid-afternoon!

The "theme" of the party is The Turkey Roast, and the event revolves (culinarilly) around several turkeys being slow-cooked in Weber grills, with whatever side dishes the various co-conspirators and guests show up with. "Back in the day" this also involved a lot of Wild Turkey consumed from the bottle, but most of the long-term attendees, like myself, have gone dry, so there is far less wild revelry than "in the old days"!

The location is a small, almost hidden, park at the very bottom of Door County, which marks the spot where Robert de LaSalle supposedly came ashore in 1679. The park has an "upper" and "lower" part, with the party happening down by the lake in the "lower" part (unfortunately, the washroom facilities are up about five flights of stairs in the 'upper" part ... there was some serious discussion about having porta-potties brought in for future years to save our aging knees from having to make the climb!).

There have been years when the lake has been "swimmable", largely when currents have dumped a big sandbar along the beach, but the past few years it's been all rocks and slime and pretty chilly (when the sandbar's out there you can walk way out and the water's warm!), which has put a damper on the swimming concept. Fortunately, The Girls got to swim 3 times over the weekend at the indoor hotel pool.

Due to it being very clear and the Moon being full, there was a pretty amazing moonrise over the lake. I shot a lot of pics of it, but none of them were as sharp as I had hoped. I got shots when it was still light, ones like this deep into dusk, and then some after dark (which were sharper, but lacked the "context" and color of this).

We'd brought various "outdoor activity" things (to go along with the playground equipment in the park), and The Girls were pretty worn out by the time it got dark, so we were out of there way earlier than used to be the case. Just as well, though, as it was the better part of an hour's drive back to the hotel across the peninsula in Green Bay.

On Sunday we hung out at the hotel (breakfast & swimming) and then headed out around noon. Both of The Girls pretty much passed out as soon as we were on the road (half activity, half Dramamine), so I made it down to Manitowoc before we did lunch. I'd never encountered the Culver's chain before, but we'd considered eating at one just up from the hotel in Green Bay, and when we pulled off we saw one right over by the Wal-Mart (I needed to stop in for a new pair of jeans to replace the pair I ripped up over the weekend). That was interesting, and I was surprised to see that they're all over Illinois, but just nowhere near Chicago! Anyway, we did some shopping, got fed, and The Girls went back to sleep.

We have typically ended up stopping in Port Washington to eat on the way home, but that didn't happen this time (although we did hit the McDonald's there on the way up), but we stopped off there for gas. The Girls started rousing once we got into Milwaukee, and were up for a side-trip once we were down by Kenosha. My Dad is buried in Kenosha (next to his first wife, which is something of a long story), and I usually make a point of driving over to the cemetery when we're up that way. This time we were only there 5-10 minutes, just long enough for The Girls to gather some wild flowers for the grave and for us to make a bit of a visit.

We had to make one last stop before the final leg, which was a brief stop in at the classic Mars Cheese Castle. There used to be a whole array of "road kitsch" on I-94 up that way, but slowly all have gone away but Mars. and it has expanded to be a "something for everybody" location, with cheese/sausage shop, bar/restaurant, snack shop, bakery, and Gift Emporium ... with the on-ramp heading back to Chicago right out its front door! Now, as a Bears fan, it's hard to be in the presence of as much Packers green and gold that's found in the Mars gift shop, but there is so much stuff that if you try real hard you can tune out the Brett Farve shot glasses and the foam cheese wedges of various sizes and functions, and find some basic vacation tchotchkes ... I let each of The Girls get a small item, picked up some cheese and mustard, and got back on the road.

Anyway, that's the Turkey Roast weekend for 2007.


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