Passing Through One Last Door Before Winter 

It’s funny how, once Labor Day is behind us, we start thinking about winter.

It doesn’t matter that fall hasn’t even started yet. We notice the shorter days. We turn off the air conditioner and replace the furnace filter. Sweaters are retrieved from storage. Outside water is turned off. We practically hold a vigil for the first frost.

Well, in these parts, we really don’t have three months to prepare for winter. I always figured November 1 was when you should try to have things buttoned up, just in case. It’s shocking how the weather can sometimes turn nasty right around Halloween.

Realizing this, Catherine and I decided to take a quick driving trip somewhere. That somewhere ended up being Door County, Wisconsin. We had never been there and it was decidedly cheaper than even one day on Mackinac Island. A little internet research and we were booked for two nights at an inn in Fish Creek. We spent a night on the road each way.

I’d been to parts of eastern Wisconsin but not this part which includes Green Bay. For most of my life as a Vikings fan I wouldn’t dare drive through Green Bay. I was sure I’d be called out and dealt with severely. But I have moved on from pro football. I invested way too much time getting let down each year. I don’t watch them anymore and I’m much better for it. However, as we got closer to Green Bay I saw a sign that read “Green Bay 24.” I wanted to paint “Minnesota 31” above it.

Strangely, we saw a lot fewer Packer fan signs and stickers than I expected. It seemed that pro sports has been, maybe temporarily, superseded by politics. It’s obviously very top-of-mind. Democrats had far too many of the same sign imploring us to save democracy while Republican signs were often grouped so they looked like a GOP org chart with Trump at the top.

We spent the first night in Stevens Point. We purposely didn’t book a room so we could see what we wanted once we got there. The first place was the cheapest. It was just one night after all. But it was full. Looked like a lot of contractor workers were in town. A nicer hotel right next door had many rooms available but cost a bit more. A Caribou Cabin coffee drive through was nearby, giving us a view of what the one in Red Wing will look like when finished.

We drove through Sturgeon Bay, the threshold to Door County. The peninsula county is really not that large. You could drive around it in a day. But that’s not the point. You find a nice room at an inn near the lake in a town that has lots of little shops and restaurants. Everywhere was clean and organized; the roads were the smoothest on the trip. Someone must be making money.

We stayed two nights in Fish Creek at a nice inn. Other options include renting a condo or buying one in a private area. It was obvious that the tourists were like us – mostly older, retired folks getting away to somewhere quiet one last time before the mad fall rush. The leaves were just starting to show fall colors and while it was busy, it was not bumper-to-bumper busy. And there weren’t any kids.

One evening we met a couple from Hawaii who were freezing in the 55-degree air. I was eating an ice cream sundae. The weather the first day was warm. The next day, the first full day of autumn, a front came through making it colder and windier. The lake had whitecaps.

This didn’t stop us from visiting the Eagle Bluff Lighthouse in Peninsula State Park. Lots of history there. We also climbed the newly rebuilt Eagle Tower which now includes an 850-foot walkway that most assuredly was designed for elderly and handicapped tourists. The view over the lake from above the trees was spectacular.

We couldn’t visit Door County without attending a fish boil and there just happened to be one two blocks from the inn. I was a bit skeptical that it might be an expensive way to watch your dinner of whitefish, potatoes and onions prepared. But it was not expensive and was fun to watch everything we ate cooked over wood. And it was really delicious. 

Catherine reminded me that many of the shops carried things you don’t need and were not even locally made. But that’s true with every tourist destination. What Door County provides on its own include seasonal things like apples, cherries and strawberries. Wineries are a big draw as are art museums, camping and tours.

On our way home we stayed in Wausau. The one-day Wisconsin state park pass we bought in Door County still had a few hours on it so we drove to the top of Rib Mountain State Park and hiked around. Quite a view from the top of its tower.

This was not intended to be a travelogue. Our trip was short but got us out of town for a bit of scenery and quiet.

Before the door of winter slams shut.