I have both a written account and a movie I put together about the trip Stan and I took toward the end of June. One note about the movie: I included a lot of my own audio creations as well as royalty free clips included with the iLife suite. After I posted the video on YouTube, I was sent a letter from YouTube saying some of my material my be copyrighted. Some copyright holder must have some snazzy algorithm that sniffs out certain wave sequences, but don’t they know that this stuff is part of the royalty free stuff Apple uses in their software for the end user to use as part of their creations? Jeez. I’m not the only one with this problem either.
Anyway, I won’t let the YouTube legal dept get me down. I know I’m in the right to use Apple’s clips in my movie. So here it is….about 15 minutes long:
And here’s the written version:
This was the best vacation ever. This was the first time I ever returned home, and felt sad to be home. Not that I don’t love where I live, but I had such a good time, (with a few exceptions, of course) and I felt so sad leaving a beautiful setting.
Usually I bring my computer on my trips, but this time I had an iPad equipped with 3G and figured it was all I needed for checking email, not considering it isn’t the most comfortable thing for typing out my long-winded adventures. So I’ll try to recount it from memory, several days after the fact, instead.
We left Friday the 22nd in the morning to take a circle tour of Wisconsin’s outer perimeter. We did something like this about 6 years ago in the early spring. At that time we went up the Mississippi, across the north, and then down the coast. We were planning on doing something similar this time, except in reverse.
We boarded the cats and the dogs; the first time for Apollo and Jasper.
We drove up to Horicon Marsh and stopped to use the Visitor Center, and watched songbirds flying around their back deck, and envied having that in our backyard. Then we drove through the Kettle Moraine region, which was our first time. We headed up through Plymouth, Kohler and Sheboygan, where we stopped at a city beach overlook and watched the sky get moody. From there we headed on up to Two Rivers and found a room at the Village Inn and Suites on the Lake. We ate at a family restaurant in Manitowoc. I realized “Family Restaurant” is code word for “Old people eat here.” I just thought it meant they served a wide variety of generic American food and didn’t serve drinks. Frankly, I would’ve preferred something ethnic, but when you’re not familiar with the area, you take what you find. When we stayed in Two Rivers 20 years ago, we ate at a restaurant that served sushi, which unfortunately doesn’t exist anymore.
While we were bringing up our suitcases upstairs to our motel, we found a beautiful Saturn moth on the steps. Stan picked it up and put it inside where I videoed it, and later released it when it wanted to fly away. We literally saved its life, because after we came back from dinner, highway worker dorks were hanging out on 2nd floor balcony outside our room. It was most obnoxious, and I’m sure if they would’ve seen a moth like that, they would’ve smashed it. They were the kind of he-man idiots who only cared about tits, ass and beer. You could just tell.
We walked along the lakeshore across the highway from the motel. 20 years ago there was dead smelts lining the shore. Now it was millions of zebra mussel shells. But the walk was nonetheless very nice. Afterward I stared at the lake, watched it changed various colors of gradients with a pink thunderstorm heading toward Michigan, until it turned dark.
I don’t know if it was those highway workers, or groups of other loud dorks that kept us awake all night. It was dreadful. I have nothing against the motel, the motel itself was very nice. The clientele, however, wasn’t.
Saturday morning we stopped in at the Hamilton Wood Type Museum in Two Rivers. It’s not just a museum of historical wood prints and type, but also a working press. Then we headed north to Point Beach which had wonderful sand. The temperature was too cold to do much other than wade along the beach a little bit. It was a beautiful sunny day in the 70s. We considered getting the Village Inn for a 2nd night (hoping that the highway workers would be gone on the weekend), but our room was already reserved. So we headed up toward Door County checking various motels along the way. The first two we checked near Kewaunee were all booked up, which is just as well. Because we found a little piece of bliss at the Algoma Beach Motel which was right on Lake Michigan. We had a lakeside room on the 3rd level that had a private balcony that overlooked the beach. I was overjoyed to find such a gem.
We drove up to Door County and found some cherries at a couple different stands, Sweet Cherries from Michigan and Tart Cherries from Door County, which we ate over the course of several days. They were literally a lifesaver, as I crave fruit a lot in the summer, and it’s so hard to find nutritious meals on the road. We stopped at a beach in a less touristy-part of Door county. It had very unusual limestock rock formations. If it were on the ocean, there would be tidepools of sea creatures. But the lake didn’t offer much life, just strange rocks.
We were planning on trying out a restaurant in Algoma when we returned, but at the last minute realized it would be better to get some take out food and eat it on the balcony and watch the lake. It’s not every day you can do it, so you need to take advantage of this when you can.
The beach was actually chilly and I had to put on jeans to keep warm. But inside it was warm enough to sleep with the windows open to listen to the gentle lapping of the water and the seagulls. We thought about staying a second night there, but thought it pointless going up to Door County again, enduring the never-ending parade of tourists with ice cream cones again. So we said goodbye to the motel and it’s beach and great view the next morning, and headed across Wisconsin to the Ashland area.
Most of the day was spent driving, and fairly non-eventful. We drove through some forest in northern Wisconsin, and I was so confused as to where we were on the map and felt a bit panicky. Fortunately, we figured out we had in fact taken the right way, and found ourselves in Park Falls. We located a Chinese restaurant, which provided us nutrition and leftovers to microwave later. As we drove further north and came to Ashland, we were greeted with the Chequamegon Hotel on the shore of Lake Superior. It was like a smaller, less ornate version of The Stanley Hotel (The Shining). We should’ve picked it to stay at. What were we not thinking? But no, for some reason we drove up the shore to see what was available and settled on The Crest, a no-frills old-style motel. The cost was $30-50 less than what we payed for other motels on the trip, so I decided to take a look at the room before I committed to it. With a cursory glance and sniff through, it seemed perfectly fine; two beds, love seat and chair, good-sized bathroom with shower tub…it seemed like it had all we needed. But there’s just things you don’t think about that you miss. And the price should have been a big indicator.
First of all, I couldn’t get any hot water. I ran that faucet for…it must have been several minutes… and NOTHING. In fact, the further I turned it to the left, the colder the water got. So we contacted the front desk and they said they’d sent the owner out to check out the situation when he got there. Meanwhile, we took a walk down by the very red, silty Gitche Gumee. We hurried back to the room as we saw the owner coming. As I entered the room, he’d been running the water for a half a minute or so, and he was like “can’t get it any hotter than that.” I felt the water and it was hot. I have no idea how he got it so hot so quick, as I was getting no results myself. I figured he probably pulled some switch back up at the office. But he made it seem like there wasn’t a problem. Look, just admit the water is slow to warm. I have no issue with you if you admit there are inadequacies and tell me a way to solve them, like “just have to wait longer, it takes a while.” But when people try to mask that there is a problem to begin with, that’s what i can’t stand. Because there clearly was a problem.
After a while I began to notice strange things about the room. Things that were lacking that are always available in other motel rooms. Like towel racks. Like a digital alarm clock. Like pictures on the wall. And the north-facing room seemed quite cold, but the master control for the thermostat was off so customers couldn’t adjust the heat if needed. Now pictures on the wall are not really necessary, and as an artist I often find myself laughing at a motel’s taste in art. Nonetheless, sometimes a photo or print of a local landmark is a nice touch, and probably has a calming effect. And it’s although one usually may not even notice motel pictures, it’s amazing how at least I noticed they didn’t even exist.
As for the heat, I generated myself by taking a very warm, steamy shower and turning ALL the lights on the bathroom and main room. But I did miss the towel rack. The only place to put the towels was back on that wire stacking thing where they put the clean towels. And it wasn’t as if there wasn’t space for a towel rack. The bathroom was the roomiest one we had on the trip. Now as far as alarm clocks, I had to sleep with my cell phone and check the time periodically throughout the night. Usually I just glance over at the alarm clock. I do that at home as well as in motels to keep track of the time. But not in this motel. Fortunately no one called my cellphone. Oh, but someone did call the motel phone. It was shortly after we started discovering all the place’s shortcomings. I picked it up and some jerk on the other end shouts “Who’s this?” I hang up immediately. I’ve heard of scams people pull on unsuspecting motel guests. So we unplugged the phone. Out of all the motels (with phones) that we stayed at on this trip, The Crest was the only one where someone tried to call the room.
And to make it even worse, we found out about a very disturbing family situation that night. Not a “someone’s dying of cancer” type situation, more of a life-altering interpersonal non-communication situation that I don’t want to go into. But it had both Stan and I very upset, me to the point of tears. But I suppose if one is going to have bad family crap going on, it’s best to experience it in a bad motel room. You wouldn’t want to ruin a nice stay. It’s only fitting.
Fortunately the room itself was quiet. Our neighbors were bikers, and although I was a little wary at first, bikers actually are very quiet motel neighbors. Even my parents have noted as much.
Unfortunately the story doesn’t end there. There were many amenities that we did not get at this particular motel stay. But there was something Stan did get as a bonus. Bedbug bites. They ravaged his stomach and lower legs/feet. I am lucky…they must not have been in the bed I slept in. Mosquitos absolutely love me, and I’m sure these would have too had they been in my vicinity.
We left the motel very early that morning. A combination of “we have to get out of here,” no alarm clock for Stan to see (he didn’t sleep with his cell like I did), and the very early-rising sun on Lake Superior made that happen. Motel room coffee, the kind that comes in the little packets, is never a gourmet treat, but this room coffee was the worst, ever. I mean, why bother even having room coffee? Spend that money on alarm clocks instead. We headed up to Bayfield where we would catch a boat ride around the Apostle Islands. We had a good breakfast at a Bayfield local eatery and then waited on the dock for the boat, I think it was called “The Superior Princess” or something. It was a little more than a three hour tour around all of the islands. We stayed in the cabin because I didn’t want all the sun one would be get on the top deck, which is where most of the touristas immediately headed. The boat also came with glass bottom viewing areas, but because of all the rains the north had been getting lately, Lake Superior was not crystal clear as it usually is, so nothing but boat wake bubbles could be seen. (The lake was actually RED down in Ashland) The most spectacular part of the cruise was Devil’s Island’s “sea caves,” hollowed out areas on its shore.
After the cruise, we ate lunch at another good local eatery, and then headed back down to Ashland to get a room for the night. This time, we were doing it right, and getting a room at the place we should have gone to in the first place: The Chequamegon. The Chequamegon was not an old hotel itself, but it was based on the original Chequamegon built in 1877, that had since been destroyed. And although the motel was built in the 1980s, the detailing…wood trim, furniture, antiques, tin ceilings…made it look authentically old. And this sounds a bit looney, but it even smelled old. Not in a bad way. But there is this smell about old buildings, and I don’t know if it’s the furniture or what, that is distinctive, that I smelled in the Cheq. The smell was only noticeable in the first floor public areas, not so much down the room hallways.
Our room was beautiful, nice furniture, comfortable bed, beautiful view of (red) Lake Superior and the Ashland marina. It was a class act. We had dinner in the hotel restaurant in the lower level. This is the only day we ate three meals. Usually we’d be lucky to get one full one; not that we need more than that. This was a special indulgence.
Most travelers and vacationers exist in little protective bubbles in their hotel rooms, keeping windows shut and shades pulled closed. Not me. I sleep with windows open instead of air conditioning, and shades drawn open to enjoy the late setting sun. Of course if you’re on the first floor it’s sometimes not the best to do that depending on the situation. But being on the second floor of the Cheq, it seemed like the best way to enjoy the northern Wisconsin night.
After a good continental breakfast, we headed across Highway 2 toward the UP. We planned to go up to Lake Michigan’s north shore around Escanaba, Michigan, but as we crossed the state line and looked in Michigan’s visitor’s center, Stan got an idea to travel up to the Keweenaw peninsula. We had been up there about a decade earlier in the late fall (that’s another story) but thought it would be a good time to see its agate beaches. Stan chose a route that seemed to take forever, didn’t take us by as many beaches as we thought, and actually got him a little paranoid as he wondered if we’d ever find a place to stay or get through it to find a place to stay somewhere else. We stopped at a nice beach with lots of red rocks. It would’ve been a good place to spend more time, but since we needed to find a room and it was already in the afternoon, we didn’t want to stay longer. It was still quite a long trip ahead of us, and lots of sad, decrepit buildings in dried up mining towns. We stopped at another beach with interesting rock finds (I think we found low grade Peridot!) But we stuck it out and found Copper Harbor at the peninsula’s northernmost point (if you don’t count Isle Royale) You won’t find a brand name motel chain here, so we decided to try a traditional motel, the long, one-story kind, despite my resolve not to do that again after my experience a couple nights before. But it’s not like we had a choice.
We got a room at the Bella Vista, which had nice rustic touches with natural all-wood panelling and a back patio door that went out on to the back lawn with a little area for sitting, a wonderful view of the Copper Harbor marina and Lake Superior, and the sweetest little rock garden with flowers and butterflies and even the occasional hummingbird. We went to a local gift shop that had Michigan rock specimens and Stan got me a ring (for my birthday) that was Michigan’s state stone, Chlorastrolite (greenstone).
It was actually quite a bit later than we thought because Michigan is on Eastern Time, and we couldn’t find a place to eat that was open or that I especially wanted to go into (we didn’t look hard enough, later we found a restaurant down by the marina that looked promising, but it was too late), so we got microwave tv dinners at a general store and took them back to the motel room to eat outside on the patio and watch the wonderful view. For some reason, we had thought there was a microwave in the room, but there wasn’t. Oops. They were nice enough to let us use the one in the motel lobby. Microwave TV dinners are never the healthiest of foods, so fortunately we still had the Door County and Michigan cherries we bought a few days earlier to supplement our meals. They were a lifesaver for that trip. That evening we headed back to the little beach to find more Peridot and other interesting finds. I don’t know for certain if it is Peridot, but it sure looks like it. I don’t know what else it could be.
We watched as the boat from Isle Royale came into the harbor, and sat outside until mosquitos started to appear. It stayed light so long that night. I swear it was 10:30 and still dusky light out. Because the patio screen door had a tear in it, we closed the glass patio door at night, but still slept with the curtain open, as the thought of motel creeps in that area seemed extremely minimal. Bears seemed more of a concern, actually. Bad sleep was still an issue, however, through no fault of the motel itself: our neighbors had an infant. It screamed all night, or so it seemed. But that’s my only complaint. The setting was very beautiful, and with the late sunset and early sunrise, combined with the incredible view of Lake Superior made one feel like being on the top of the world in a literal, geographical way. My one regret is that I didn’t walk out back and down to the lake that morning before we left.
Heading home, we decided to stay at The Algoma Beach Motel one more time before we went back to Madison. It was about a 5-6 hour drive down through the Keweenaw and Upper Peninsula, this time taking the faster route. Unlike the first day, which was overcast, this time it was sunny in Algoma, and instead of the lake lapping against the beach, it crashing! It was like the ocean! Exhausted from the Eraserhead screaming baby night, I took a nap shortly after I arrived, then showered and went down to the beach again. The beach is public, and as long as you stay on sand, you can go anywhere on it in Algoma. How awesome is that? We need more public beaches. That setting was just so perfect, I wanted to stay there forever, just hang out on the beach and listen to the water, whether it be calm or violent, and stare out as far as I can see into nothingness. I want to go back again and again, and when we left the following morning, I was very sad to be leaving. I never experienced emotion like that before, anywhere. Sure, some places are fun to stay, like when we stayed a couple days in Benson, Arizona about five years ago. But I wasn’t SAD to leave. This is a first.
I’m now wondering when we can go back to all these places again, Algoma, Apostle Islands, The Chequamegon, High Point Beach, Copper Harbor, even Door County to get more cherries and maybe try a Swedish restaurant if possible. And to other places we didn’t get to…Isle Royale, Madeline Island, Lake Michigan’s northern shore.
The animals all did very well at the kennel while we were away. Caligula seemed the happiest, probably because the first and last time he went he was alone, but this time he had his buddy Apollo. Apollo seemed the most perplexed and bewildered by the whole thing; Jasper missed us the most, and Lucifer Sam seemed like it didn’t phase him at all, since he’s been through it a couple times before and he knew we’d eventually be there to bring him home.