Heading to Wisconsin whips up lots of memories. My childhood lives there. I can hear my dad’s voice interrupting his station wagon load of mostly curly headed kids, coaxing us to, “Smell that air! Smell how fresh the air is!” To which we moaned, “What? Smell the air?!” It smelled more like cow poop – but that was dad. How I miss him. Ask Ben and Jack if they’ve ever heard me say, “Smell the air!”
On the road to Shawano we came upon signs for Door County, Wisconsin’s “thumb.” Once upon a very long time I played at a club in Baileys Harbor with my band, Blue Blazes, and I’ve always wanted to share it with Brian. Then in perfect gypsy-like fashion we made a detour. The next thing you know we’re snuggling the RV between the towering pines of Egg Harbor Camp Ground in Door County. Now that is my kind of camping.
Not Brian’s ideal kind of camping, I would soon discover. He prefers the concrete pad, all roomy, level and clean. Not a bad thing but c’mon! It’s Wisconsin…we’re camping…in the Northwoods…on the verge of Autumn. Our planned few days off the beaten path turned into eight, as we just couldn’t pull ourselves away from the awe-inspiring beauty of that special place. It is truly one of Wisconsin’s greatest treasures.
We were delighted to have my brother, Pat, his wife, Christine, and their two adorable boys, Milo and Leo, visit us from Green Bay. We only had one afternoon so we fished off the Pier in Fish Creek and returned to the RV for a very fresh fish fry complete with Wisconsin sweet corn on the cob! Yum!! Pat is a very talented musician and a very gifted teacher. Christine is also a wonderful teacher. These two take two dozen or so high school students to Belize each year, to give you an idea of how amazing they are. My only regret is that we didn’t break out the guitars around the campfire. What were we thinking?
One simply perfect day the four of us ventured off on a 10 mile bike ride through Peninsula State Park. It was breath-taking; Our human frames dwarfed by the towering canopy of giant pines, the fluorescent green moss and wispy ferns gently blanketing the forest floor, wild meadows out the corner of one eye and the diamond sparkle of the Green Bay with its pristine dolomite pebble shoreline out the other, just having the opportunity to take that all in with my three favorite people on earth – Precious!
Speaking of my favorite people on earth…my very best childhood friend, Wendy Crawford, her husband, Sam, and daughter, Morgan, have a beautiful home in Door County.
Morgan, Ben & Jack
We were able to hang with not only them but Wendy’s mom, Sandy, and husband, Bob. Wendy and I have known each other for all but about five of our forty six years on the planet. We have experienced so much of life together that even our stories have stories. It is a rare gift from God to have a life-long friend!
I was pleasantly surprised to discover that an old musician friend of mine, Jay Whitney, lived and played in Door County. I recognized his name in a local entertainment magazine and was thrilled to see that his band was scheduled to play in the park in Egg Harbor.
Jay Whitney playing with the Big Mouth Blues Band
It was a wonderful gift to be able to see him again and catch up on life after all those years. He was as nice a man and as brilliant a jazz/blues musician as I remembered him to be. For old time’s sake I took the family to dinner one night at that famed Florian ll Restaurant in Baileys Harbor and much to my surprise, my rock and roll days there were among those being commemorated in pictures at the club’s entrance, celebrating their 50th anniversary! There we were – rockin’ with the band way back in the day. My kids’ faces said it all as they tried to reconcile the pictures of mom with short, short hair (a one-time-only-EVER-cut) and chick singer threads to the mom standing there giggling in reverie.
With countless hours of fishing under my boys’ belts, many pages of good books savored by me and numerous S’mores consumed by all, we left the Peninsula for Shawano in time for the annual County Fair, a Labor Day Weekend tradition. We stayed at the Shawano County Park on Shawano Lake, a spot that brings back the sweetest of childhood memories. To this day I roll down my window and “smell the lake” as soon as I’m near enough to draw it from the air! I wonder where I got that?
I am so blessed to come from a big family. I just love my six brothers and sisters and I thank God each day that we are all still enjoying healthy lives AND that we genuinely enjoy each others’ company. All the in-laws are great too. Shawano is home to many loved ones. My beautiful sister, Debbie, (whom I just adore) flew in from California and stayed with us in the RV. My brother, Jay, a.k.a. Mr. Bossy Pants (fondly named so by Ben & Jack), came in from Minnesota for the weekend. We spent lots of time catching up with my brothers’ families, Mike, Karen and Amanda, (we missed seeing you Sarah), and Pat, Christine, Milo and Leo. Having five of the seven siblings in one place is pretty special. We did a lot of stuff but basically we just had fun being together.
Jay, Mike, Debbie/Jack, Ben & Karen
Milo, Leo and Jack at the Fair
Aunty Deb & Ben on a wild ride
Jack, Jacob and Dustin
My cousin, Todd, and his wife and son, Denise and Jacob, hosted a “cook-out,” as we say up north, which brought together even more of us. It was wonderful to see Aunty Van, cousin Steve and his wife, Kim, Aunty Carmen, Uncle Ben, cousins Jamie and Nick (no Hillary this time 🙁 ), and a whole beautiful bunch of my cousins’ kiddos. Nothing like a cook out to bring folks to one spot for a feast of food and fellowship. It is always so good to see my family.
We had a great time, as always, with the Crawfords, spending one night together at the fair. Ben and Jack made new friends with my friend Rhonda Krueger’s daughters, Gabby and Chloe.
Gabby & Ben eating s’mores
Jack & Chloe
They buddied up at the fair but also roasted marshmallows at the RV one night before we left Shawano – until next year…