From the Sublime to the Ridiculous
Yes, folks, I said Spam Museum. But before I get to that, I want to tell you about Door County. Those of you who read my previous article will have deduced that I am a fan of the little towns and charming farms dappling the rolling green hills of the Wisconsin landscape. Well, Door County, on that little finger of a peninsula that sticks out into Lake Michigan, forming Green Bay, ratchets up the charm factor a notch or two. It was originally named for the dangerous passage between Door Peninsula and Washington Island. The strait, which is now scattered with shipwrecks, was known to early French explorers and local Native Americans for its natural hazards. The French named it Porte des Morts Passage, which in English means, simply, “Death’s Door.” Nowadays it means “Door to more shopping than you can ever get through.”
Seriously. All of the little towns, with such appealing names as Egg Harbor, Sister Bay, Baileys Harbor, are replete with shops of every description and restaurants and cafes and fudge shops…oh my. Unfortunately for us, or fortunately, perhaps, if you wanted to sell something, it was raining the day we were there. I’m not talking about occasional showers; I’m saying it was bucketing down. As disappointing as it was that we couldn’t go into the Peninsula State Park, we had to content ourselves with an orgy of shopping. Not necessarily buying… the two don’t have to coincide, of course.
What makes shopping so pleasurable is that there is a plethora of talented local artists and craftsmen. Many of the shops feature items made in Door County, or other nearby Wisconsin counties. One shop/studio we particularly enjoyed was Off the Wheel Pottery, where we chatted with the potter in her studio. Purchases were made, but that’s all I’m saying.
There are 12 lighthouses in Door County. Most were built during the 1800s and are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Due to the rain, and miserable visibility, we didn’t get to see any of them. Next time. And I’m sure there will be a next time.
We kept seeing signs proclaiming Fish boils. Thankfully, they were not announcing an outbreak of some nasty marine disease. It turns out that many Door County restaurants offer this traditional local dish as a popular meal for tourists. Potatoes, onions and whitefish from the local waters are cooked in a large kettle over a wood fire. At the end of the cooking, the cook throws fuel oil or kerosene on the fire. This “flame up” causes the water to boil over. The fish and vegetables are served with melted butter. Apparently it is traditionally followed by cherry pie. Cherries used to be the Door County trademark, but some claim that the fish boil has taken over the number one spot. They say that cherry and apple stands are still found along country roads when in season. We didn’t hit the right season, but we did get to taste some yummy local cherry strudel.
Before I leave Door County, I should mention that we stayed in Sturgeon Bay. There was a slight mix-up with our reservation and we arrived to find a ‘resort’ that didn’t quite measure up, if you know what I mean. We all wrung our hands and tried to avoid being the one to say “I’m not staying here!” Our driver and navigator (Joanna and Mary) were dispatched to check it out. They reported that it was clean, and otherwise …adequate. But their body language said otherwise. I’m not saying they returned with long faces; more like short faces, on account of being tightly screwed up around the nose. Finally one of them mentioned that the room(s) did smell a bit. That was enough for me. “I’m outa here, then,” I declared. No more hmmming and hawing. Once again Jo and Mary were dispatched to the ‘office’ to negotiate to get our advance payment back. I volunteered to be the one to put my hand up and say I was allergic to mould, but they chose to handle the negotiation slightly differently. They said they were traveling with an elderly aunt who couldn’t walk very far (the parking lot was a slight distance from the rooms). Served me right, I suppose, for not going in to do the haggling. Anyway, it turned out that the owners had a newer, nicer place across the bay, and there were rooms available for the two nights. So all ended well, except that I had to hobble around like an “elderly aunt” whenever I went outside. Deb offered me the use of her golf club (which she brought along to exercise her shoulder with) so that I could use it as a cane.
Our next port of call was Black River Falls, where my mother was born and reared. (I recall being taught in school that ‘born and raised’ was incorrect; one raises corn or pigs; you rear children.) Anyway, that’s where my mom was born and where she grew up. It was one of the main reasons for the trip–to search out a bit of family history. That turned out to be a wonderful experience, and one which I shall save for another post. Meanwhile, I’ll tell you about the other bit of the adventure; the one we neither expected nor believed we’d done, once it was over.
The Spam Museum
This is difficult for me to write about. Perhaps a little photo journey through the Spam Museum would save me the humiliation of saying anything.
You need to know that Austin, MN smells like Spam. MM