Where are all the Kennedys?, or Happy Fall, Y’all!

Although Monday’s trip to Egg Harbor was short, based upon the events of earlier that morning we expected the worst.  First, at 3 a.m we awoke to unexpected howling wind that drove us outside to add and tighten lines.  Second, we both struggled with the Wordle.  Every English-speaker in the known world will agree that “trice” is a stupid and unfair word.  While the wave conditions weren’t great by any stretch, however, the cruise wasn’t horrible either.

One logically might assume that Egg Harbor would be found nestled between East Egg and West Egg and would be what Jay Gatsby looked across as he lusted after Daisy, except those are in New York.  And even more except, they’re fictitious.*  Instead, Egg Harbor is another of these cool Door County villages.

Door County essentially is the Door Peninsula, with some 300 miles of coastline.  This has led the locals to call it “The Cape Cod of the Midwest.”  We have thoughts.  First, there’s a lot less lobster and a lot fewer of the aforementioned Kennedys around here.  Second, Door County is fabulous in its own right.  We get the sad desperation that led Grafton, Illinois, to proclaim itself “The Key West of the Midwest,” but this area seems neither sad nor desperate.  Even the questionably-named Cape Cod Motel is cute enough that someday it just might be absorbed into the Rosebud Motel empire.

Basically the Midwest just needs to be happy with what it is, although it’s not coincidental that no place in the world claims to be the false equivalent of, say, Gary, Indiana.

Back to Egg Harbor.  Nice marina.

The always helpful geographical totem pole, however, seems a bit off.  No way Santa’s House and Aspen, Colorado, for example, are in the same direction from here.

Just down from Tumbleweed, our dude reeled in a huge something or other.  There was a discussion on the dock about whether it was a brown trout or a king salmon.  We’re not experts—and the ironmonger’s daughter “who knew a surprising amount about fish as well” was nowhere to be found—but based on a five-second internet search we’re strongly leaning salmon.

Have we mentioned the flowers and pumpkins and stuff?  Door County is all in.

Now about that sign.  We’re in frickin’ Wisconsin.  It’s one thing to pretend to be Massachusetts, but this cultural misappropriation is taking it too far.  While we’re at it, that directional thing at the marina contains another yankee abomination.  Anyone entitled to say “y’all” would know that Dolly is from Sevierville—or Pittman Center, or Locust Ridge, depending on how far you zoom in—not Gatlinburg.  Dollywood is in Pigeon Forge.  Nobody is from Gatlinburg.

Anyway, Egg Harbor is small, and cutesy, and has delicious food, and has paths.  So basically it’s our kind of place.

The name Egg Harbor supposedly dates to 1825 and that time some fur traders were racing to shore and started throwing eggs at each other.  Really.  That’s what the sign says anyway.  What we know for sure is that the current villagers have embraced the name and all the same clever puns used by breakfast joints all around the country.  “Blue Sail,” for example, is a sculpture that the town purchased with funds raised at the “EGGstravaganza.”**

 Lots of other colorful pieces are scattered about town.

Speaking of colorful, the marina tree tried mightily to give us a small taste of what’s coming right after we pack up a rental minivan and head back to Arizona.

This morning we awoke to 40°.  Wait, what?  Forty degrees means it’s time to move south as fast as possible.  The last couple of days used 40-knot gusts and thirteen-foot waves to keep us pinned to the dock, but today looks decent.  So right now we’re pushing through to the balmy climes of Sturgeon Bay.  Which is only 16 miles from Egg Harbor, but still.


*This reminds us of that sad time we were cruising through the Rhode Island Sound and wanted to take a photo of Rosecliff—which was Robert Redford’s mansion in the vastly superior original movie—but unfortunately remembered about five minutes too late.

**We’re not at all fans of East Coast gangsta rap, but we do have to give a Biggie thumbs up to whoever created the “Notorious E.G.G.” shirts.

“Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door”*

Tuesday’s acceptable weather window allowed us to tuck in behind the ferry, which we discovered was hauling other people away from Washington Island at the exact same time we wanted to leave.

Short day.  Nice day, although we did pass dangerously close to death’s door.  That’d be Death’s Door Bluff.

The Door Peninsula’s name actually comes from the Potawatomi term that translates as “door of death,” supposedly because bunches of tribe mates perished while attempting to make the same crossing we made.**  Apparently back in the day the Potawatomi lacked a term that translated as “acceptable weather window.”

Then on in to Sister Bay.  Now this place is cool, even though we’re still weeks away from any colored leaves.

Sister Bay’s most famous attraction is Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant and Butik.***

We know a thing or two about Sweden, because we like ABBA.  And we’ve been to IKEA.  And when they were little, Mallory and Shannon loved those tiny gummy fish.  So of course we ate at Al Johnson’s.  But Al Johnson’s isn’t known for Swedish Fish.  It’s known for the goats.  Which graze on the roof.  They even have two goat cams on their website.

Several years back some wingnut New York attorney filed a lawsuit, alleging that putting the goats on the roof was demeaning to the goats, although his claim of personal harm was a bit murky, what with him having no obvious connection to the goats or to Wisconsin.  Not surprisingly, he lost at every federal court level and now has to pay Al’s fees and costs.  Duh.

Also right near the marina is an odd little self-serve place—The Holy Transfiguration Chapel—full of Orthodox Christian iconography.

The path through the woods to get to it basically goes through some dude’s yard, and every website we found about it contained a bunch of jargon but nothing that really explains any history.  So it’s kind of hard to piece together what’s going on.  Maybe there’s some connection to Mother Russia, however, and they want to lay low for a while.  Which would be understandable.

After Sunday’s season opener, Packer fans also may want to lay low,  although we’re not sure they have the ability.

Our new membership in the Door County Pickleball Club got us on the courts in Sister Bay.  Pickleball as visitors is hit or miss—sort of like our abilities—but this time was a hit.

Anyway, Sister Bay is a fabulous stop.  Dana even worked in a good deed, by helping a boat pivot.  No really, the boat was Pivot.  Al and Judy and Wrigley the dog mentioned their plan to zip back through the Trent-Severn yet this season.  They hadn’t heard about the Kirkfield Lock being closed for the winter, however, and would’ve been stuck in Georgian Bay.  Eeeek.  But no worries for us.

No rain and few clouds mean awesome sunsets, which have replaced sunrises for us since we’re in a different time zone so the sun comes up too early again.  And our view is to the west.

We call this one “Dana on a park bench in silhouette.”

Enough of the artsy sunsets already.  So Friday we knocked off a quick eight miles of the trip down to Green Bay and stopped at Fish Creek.  Fish Creek should not be confused with Schitt’s Creek, which the Rose family supposedly owns and yet nobody pays them rent and Moira only was elected to the town council because Jocelyn dropped out, rather than, you know, because they own the town.  Makes no sense.

Not much along the way to Fish Creek, other than the Eagle Bluff Lighthouse.  We imagine it’d be pretty awesome if the leaves had changed.  Grrrr.

Fish Creek made a couple of lists ranking the coolest villages in America, and it’s indeed pretty cool.

But small.

And the marina misrepresented the Wi-Fi situation, which complicated Football Saturday.****

Despite the lack of fall colors, Door County already is embracing the season.  Lots of pumpkins.

Also lots of farms and orchards and such.  After all, this is “Orchard Country,” according to the winery barn.

We passed the barn and the pumpkins on our way to “a celebratory slap up binge at Mrs. Miggins’ Pie Shoppe.”  Actually we went to Sweetie Pies—not Mrs. Miggins’—but it’s a crime against humanity to skip an opportunity for a Blackadder line.

Dana even found a little premature color on her incredibly scenic walk, which she took alone because Verizon hotspots allowed Doug to thwart the marina’s efforts to block football.

Yup, we’re big Fish Creek fans.

The most exciting thing that happened over the past few days, however, was the addition of a grandson.

Ok, Pretzel actually is a rescue dog Shannon adopted, not an actual baby, but he also doesn’t cry all night or need his diaper changed, so we’re good with that.


*Bob Dylan, NOT Guns N’ Roses.

**Fortunately for Wisconsin gambling addicts, enough Potawatomi survived to open not one, but two casinos in the area.

***Combining (1) our powers of linguistic deduction, (2) what we learned from Swedish Chef on The Muppets, and (3) the availability of Scandinavian knickknackery to purchase, we determined that “butik” likely means “boutique” in English.

****Next year, Starlink hopefully will put an end to this recurring nightmare.

“Cryin’ oh the dreadful wind and rain,”* or “[She’s] not Lisa”**

So Washington Island is an island.  Duh.  Thus by definition it’s not attached to the Door Peninsula.  But Washington Island IS part of Door County, which is significant because Julie runs Washington Island Pickleball as part of the Door County Pickleball Club.  The amazing part is that there only is Julie and a handful of others, yet she not only convinced the town to allow her to remake the two tennis courts into pickleball courts, she also raised the money and found people to help with the work.  Now that’s some dedication.  Hopefully everything will be done by the time we return in May, because right now the courts are kind of crappy.  But we had fun anyway.

Julie grew up on the island, spends every summer on the island, inherited awesome property on the island, and thus knows it well.  So after pickleball, she spent an afternoon driving us around.  Very cool.

Here we are with Julie on Schoolhouse Beach, famous because the beach is made of smooth stones rather than sand.

Stone poachers are such a problem that they criminalized it.  They also provide one last opportunity for thieves who happen to find Jesus on the way out.

Although we can’t find any evidence of Vikings landing on Washington Island—and the Packer fans around here actually hate the Vikings—someone went to the trouble of building a traditional Viking stave church here.

The local Lutherans run the Stavkirke, which holds periodic services despite periodic vandalism.  Some people suck, but the church is very cool.

After a delicious lunch of freshly caught whitefish, Julie took us up to Jackson Harbor.

The most interesting thing we found in Jackson Harbor was an odd fishing boat that looked quite uncomfortable and barely seaworthy.

But we know the boat floats and works, because it’s the very boat the restaurant dude used that very morning when he caught our delicious whitefish lunch.  Yum.  We highly recommend getting it Parmesan crusted.

Washington Island may not be super hopping, but quaint and picturesque make up for what it lacks in action.

TripAdvisor recommends a stop at Jacobsen Museum, which it accurately describes as “a quirky little log cabin packed full with neat artifacts.”  It even had some references to Julie’s grandparents, which was in fact neat and all, but truthfully we spent far less than the recommended one to two hours there.

After the tour, Julie hosted us at her house on the water, with a sweeping view of Rock Island.

Unfortunately, Julie skipped what she called her “inbred tour,” because all “the inbreds have died or moved away.”  Now that’s the sort of thing only a true islander would know, although Julie says she isn’t actually an islander because she only spends half the year here.  She seems to know everybody, however, and supports most of the treasured institutions.  Like the famous Coffee Pot, which she painted.

Anyway, Julie is awesome.  The green paths and roads of Washington Island Island also are awesome from a scootering or walking perspective.

However, we don’t want green.  We want autumn and red and yellow and orange leaves.  Apparently we’re a few weeks too early, which sucks.  At least we’ll be back in Scottsdale when the license plate colors start changing, so there’s that.

The plan was to scoot over to Sister Bay on Sunday.  Sunday it rained and the wind blew, so no scooting.  Sunday night 38-knot winds slammed even more rain on us, so no sleeping.  That’s not a joke.  Whilst we were in our pajamas watching Moira take over the town council and Alexis work towards graduation, what looked ominously like a hurricane magically developed in Lake Michigan.

Today more rain and wind.  All day.  Two inches of rain in 24 hours.  What the hell?  How do they even measure rain when when it’s blowing sideways?  Arizona doesn’t get two inches of rain in a year.  But at least we can cherish our distant memories and photos of back in olden times when the Washington Island weather was nice.

That was supposed to be the end of this post.  Just moments before posting it, however, we learned that our friend Rich has passed away.  Rich loved talking about pickleball, and golf, and boats, and Wisconsin, and the unlimited and profitable future of hydrogen as an energy source.  Mostly Rich just loved to talk.  We’ll miss him.  Cholla won’t be the same.


*“He made fiddle pegs from her long finger bones.” – Jerry Garcia

** “[Her] name is Julie.” – Jesse Colter

Strang people, new state, and RIP Lois

It’s not that unusual for us to wake up with posters’ remorse, generally relating to something offensive we left in the last post or something interesting we left out.  Tuesday morning’s regret was forgetting to thank Deb and Sam for making the trip down.  It definitely was great to spend a couple of days with them.

What we didn’t regret on Tuesday morning was leaving Harbor Springs in calm conditions that are becoming increasingly rare. After days of absurd wind, it almost felt odd to have not much of it.

Nice easy trip over to Beaver Island, which irrelevantly for our purposes is Michigan’s third largest island.*  For our purposes, Beaver Island is a new stop and conveniently located in the middle of Lake Michigan, thus breaking up what otherwise would’ve been an excruciatingly long day.

The main “town” on Beaver Island—population 600—is St. James.  Given the decidedly Irish tone of the island, one might assume there’s a Catholic history to the name.**  Nope.  One James Strang—a Mormon dude who oozed self-importance—named it for himself.  Not a whole heck of a lot going on in St. James on Tuesday evening.

In 1844, Strang dubbed himself “King Strang” and became one of roughly a zillion crackpots claiming to be the true LDS “Prophet, Seer, and Revelator.”  As the King, Strang led an “ecclesiastical monarchy” that dominated Beaver Island for nearly a decade.  Unfortunately he died in 1856, thereby preventing Doug from stopping by to gawk at the silliness.

The sign marking the site of Strang’s assassination notes that two “disgruntled followers” shot and clubbed him as he was about to visit the U.S.S. Michigan.

What the sign doesn’t mention is why those two followers were disgruntled.  Turns out Strang ordered all the Strangite women of the realm to wear certain Temple drawers, and when two women refused, Strang flogged their husbands right into understandable disgruntlement.  So basically he had it coming.  After he died, folks came over and burned down all the buildings and drove the Mormons to places unknown and now nobody at all adheres to Strang’s dress code.  The only thing left is what used to be the Mormon Print Shop.

There’s other stuff on Beaver Island, like the Lodge where we had a delicious dinner.  And a lighthouse.  If anyone ever invites us over for dinner and trivia, and one of the trivia questions is “President McKinley’s nephew Peter was a keeper at what lighthouse?”, we confidently can identify the Beaver Island Harbor Light.

Apart from the placement of poles we had to shimmy around while shoehorning Tumbleweed into a spot intended for boats half as wide, Beaver Island was a fantastic stop.

Wednesday morning brought even better conditions, likely to give us a false sense of security before some apocalyptical disaster befalls us.  But we took advantage anyway.  Up at dawn, delayed only by the ferry leaving just ahead.

Lake Michigan was impossibly flat.  Spooky calm.  Still waters run deep, however, and Tumbleweed is a deep draft boat, so we felt pretty good about things.

Wednesday’s destination was Manistique, our one and only stop on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula this year.  We knew we were on the U.P. because after we arrived and walked into town to the pizza place that was closed during hours that the sign suggested otherwise, we saw the shape prominently displayed.  Everywhere.  None of the “mitten” nonsense that downstaters hype.

To get in to Manistique, however, we had to navigate the harbor.  The first part was easy, because we just hooked around the big red lighthouse.

From there, it was a straight shot right into the tow boat maneuvering the barges from which the dredging operations were blocking everything.  Only after waiting a bit for a chance opening were we able to sneak by.

From our research, we know that Manistique has a lot of cool stuff going on.  Like the Annual Flannel Festival at the end of the month, which we assume everyone was busy resting up for because nobody was around.  We did walk over the coolest water tower we’ve ever seen, however.

The steel tank inside held 200,000 gallons, and could be gravity-fed through a turbine to create electricity.  The tower’s main attraction is the outside, of course, although it would’ve provided a poor canvas for Billy Bob to express his feelings “in letters three-foot high.”***

Mostly we spent last evening worrying about today’s forecast.  Big wind again.  Big waves again.  The joint on Washington Island said they’d have a wide slip waiting for us, however, and we figured the bad stuff wouldn’t hit until 3, and most importantly Friday looked to be much worse.

We thought we’d get up at 6:30 and leave around 7.  No need to worry about missing our 6:30 alarms, because the dredge guys were on the job at 6, clanging around outside our open windows.

Might as well make lemonade.  The early jolting awake allowed a quick breakfast and pre-dawn departure, the latter of which we hoped would shave off a few minutes of hell from the back end.  By the time we reached the lighthouse, we didn’t even need it.

We’ve previously observed that the only redeeming thing about leaving before dawn is that, barring clouds—or, God forbid, fog—we can watch the sun come up.  Yes, they all look the same.  But yes, we still enjoy them.

Even not counting the sunrise, things started off great.  Michigan may deserve to be loathed for its disgusting spiders and even more disgusting Jim Harbaugh, but the awesome shoreline of its many islands deserves a standing ovation.

The trip down to Washington Island took us around a bunch of them, so we should know.

Dana’s calculations suggested that the wind and waves would hit us around 11.  Eastern Time.  Which meant that all her careful calculations were off by 60 minutes once we left Michigan waters.  And meant that we’d be arriving an hour earlier than the marina guys agreed to be there to help us in.

An hour or two into the day, the Coast Guard marine weather update said things would ramp up to 25 knot wind and eight foot waves by evening, right about where we were heading.  Although the wind did start increasing and the waves intermittently threw spray up over the pilothouse—which intermittently sucked—we were tucked in to the mostly deserted Kaps Marina well before the nasty stuff hit.  Hey!  This is our first boating stop in Wisconsin!  The last new state will be Minnesota, which we plan to check off next summer.

Kaps Marina has been owned and run by the Krueger family since Will and Lois bought it way back in 1978.  Will passed away in January.  Lois died two weeks ago, leaving the sons to run the place.  We didn’t know either Will or Lois so obviously won’t be attending the “sharing of memories” event at the marina restaurant on Saturday, but we do sympathize with those who will miss her.

We’ll explore Washington Island and hopefully play some pickleball,  because we’re staying here until at least Sunday.  A Small Craft Advisory is in effect, and in this context we consider Tumbleweed to be the size of a kayak.


*The second largest is Drummond Island, which we visited in 2018.  Hopefully we’ll complete the trifecta by reaching Isle Royale during next summer’s planned Lake Superior expedition.  Extrapolating from Jules in Pulp Fiction, we assume “Royale” is French for “quarter-pounder,” although we won’t know the connection to a Michigan island until we get there.

**The Beaver Island family trees may not be quite as twisted as, say, those of Tangier or McClellanville, but on our scooter cruise around St. James we found a remarkably large number of Gallaghers.

***“And the whole town said the boy should’ve used red but it looked good to Charlene.  In John Deere green.”

All we are is dust in the wind

After an absurdly unproductive stay in Mackinaw City that spanned several days because gale-force winds whipped up huge waves out on the open water, on Thursday we left the Mackinaw Bridge and Lake Huron in our wake.  More huge waves were in the immediate future, so everyone who needed to travel by boat screamed out of every nook and cranny like Florida fans rushing to a jort sale.

What about Mackinaw City?  We did some stuff last time we stayed in Mackinaw City, and posted about it, and this time the wind was so fierce that we didn’t go outside much anyway.  Some new non-looping friends did turn us on to the local pickleball scene, however, so we played twice in a dimly-lit abandoned ice hockey rink.  Better than nothing, and we did enjoy playing with Beck, Nancy, Cheryl, and John.

At the risk of putting fluff lipstick on this pig of a report, here’s a statue of Edgar Conklin, a rich dude from Cincinnati who decided that the northern tip of the Michigan mitt was destined for a population explosion so he bought a bunch of land that became Mackinaw City.  The explosion never came, which might explain the sad and disappointed look in his carved eyes.

For a time, however, the train ferry and then the car ferries did a brisk business from terminals right about where we docked.  This allowed for other turn-of-the-century pioneers to build thousands of fudge shops and t-shirt emporia, which are too numerous for plaques but remain in business to this day, attracting tourists who otherwise might be in Gatlinburg or lined up at a fried pork rind stand.  “My parents got fudged in Michigan but all I got was this lousy shirt.”

Most importantly, Deb and Sam and Lea drove down from the U.P.—that’s the “Upper Peninsula” for those of us not in the know—on Wednesday.  Awesome to see them.  Awesome to have a boat dog aboard again.

How windy was it?  The fancy new “luxury expedition ship” Le Dumont D’Urville—which basically is a small-ish fast-ish cruise ship but without the all-you-can-eat buffet and karaoke bar—couldn’t get wherever it had planned to go so just sat there all afternoon on the leeward side of Michigan.

When a break in the wind finally came, we took off.  Right after the decent sunrise, of course.

Excellent decision.  Smooth all the way to Harbor Springs.  None of our guests got sick.  Which is a good thing, because Thursday was Deb’s birthday and it would suck to battle huge waves on your birthday.

Now about Harbor Springs.  We love Harbor Springs.

Thanks to invasive mussels that filter the water (and drive off all the fish) in these parts, you can see the bottom twenty feet below.  It’s so clear that we all could see Deb’s debit card when it sank out of our net’s reach off the dock in Mackinaw City, and it’s even clearer in Harbor Springs.

We’ve commented before on how well folks do flowers when the flower season only lasts about five weeks.  The Harbor Springs Garden Club does it as well as anybody.

The town is full of cute shops and restaurants and boats and women in Lilly Pulitzer dresses.  And yes, we stand out, but not in a good way.

Now here’s a majestic boat, docked just down the street.  No really, the boat is Majestic.  Her name used to be secret.  No really, her name used to be Secret.  This 200-foot monster is owned by Bruce Sherman, who also owns the Miami Marlins.  We figure he’s bummed that he was a month ahead of us through Lakes Ontario, Erie, and Huron, and then on up to here, because he didn’t have our blog updates to help him pick marinas.

Harbor Springs’ famous and favorite son is Ephraim Shay, who developed a revolutionary locomotive engine that provided power to all wheels and thus made it much easier for loggers to clear cut forests on steep grades.  His home isn’t open as a museum but did get a plaque and a sign.  Turns out this isn’t just your average house with hexagonal rooms.  Shay built it entirely out of stamped steel, which literally means he could cover all the walls—inside and outside—with refrigerator magnets.  He certainly could’ve picked up a few hundred thousand of ’em in Mackinaw City souvenir shops.

Shay also designed and built an odd-looking all steel boat named Aha, which Harbor Springs proudly displays in, wait for it, Shay Park.

According to the sign, in 1894 Aha pulled the stranded steamship Manitou—carrying “hundreds of passengers”—to the safety of Harbor Springs “through foggy darkness and uncertain Lake Michigan waters.”  This is the sort of thing we like to research further.  However, despite our efforts to scour the universe of historical information available through Google searches, the only reference to this heroic event we could find is on that little sign.  In Shay Park.  Hmmmm.

Sunday’s wind switched direction and started bouncing us around like some really bouncy thing, so we decided to head over to Petoskey, which is just across Little Traverse Bay.  Most Loopers skip Harbor Springs and stay at Petoskey instead and we wanted to know why.  No Ubers in this part of Michigan and the ferry wasn’t running, but Maggie’s mom heard us complaining and offered us her car.  So we took it.

Just like Harbor Springs, Petoskey has cute shops and restaurants and boats.

Petoskey also has way more tourists like us who feel a bit out of place in both Mackinaw City and Harbor Springs.  And, of course, Petoskey has Petoskey Stones.

This area is a hotbed of the fossilized coral that now is Michigan’s state rock.  They’re pretty and all, but we didn’t buy any.

Dana, however, did patronize a shop run by booksellers who either are very brave or very foolish, because they either don’t know or don’t care that in some parts of the country they could face execution in a gas chamber.

Did we mention the wind?  Yeah, it was windy.  Ripped the dinghy cover off.  Blew the flybridge hatch open.  Did we mention the rain?  One night it dumped an inch and a half on us.  Between the wind and the rain, some poor slob’s moored sailboat flipped over about 75 yards from us.  Hopefully he didn’t leave his computer and passport and all his gold bullion on board.

No worries though. TowBoatUS managed an efficient salvage operation and sort of had things under control well before sunset.

Anyway, Harbor Springs still is a top ten town for us.  But we can’t move here.  We wear socks with our shoes and don’t own white pants.  Maybe we’ll fit in a bit better over on Beaver Island.  Tomorrow looks like a decent travel day.