We started our second day with a good breakfast in Sheboygan.
Actually, my cousins started it earlier than I did, because they were up before 8, and I find that reprehensible. They took an early morning walk down to a different area of the lake shore, where the remains of a ship that sank in the late 1800s – the Lotte Cooper — was on display.
After breakfast, we drove back down there so I could see that ship. While doing so, we learned another Sheboygan area shipwreck story that brought home the vicissitudes of fate.
In 1847, a propeller steamer carrying around 300 Dutch immigrants, the Phoenix, sank about 7 miles north of Sheboygan harbor. The boiler had overheated, setting the ship on fire, and while 41 people escaped on lifeboats and two crewmen clung to the boat until rescued, everyone else died.
One more tragic detail: the Dutch immigrants had first arrived in Buffalo, NY, and when they arranged to settle in Wisconsin, they chose to get there by boat rather than traveling by land because they believed that sailing would be less dangerous.
Stories like that certainly make one feel a little ridiculous for whining about gauges that don’t work in a car that’s a little old!
From Sheboygan we drove to nearby Sheboygan Falls, another small town with a quaint downtown. The falls themselves weren’t especially impressive, but I love a small town with a river running through it.
Our old hometown of Marseilles was similarly situated in the Illinois river valley: Main Street came in past a state park along the river, then over a bridge and past a gigantic Nabisco factory which used the river for power and transport. Unfortunately, when the plant changed owners and eventually closed, the town never recovered, and is still struggling.
Sheboygan Falls seems to embody a happier ending to that story. The town only has around 8000 residents, but the downtown is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Coming into town, we passed a big old mill – now converted into apartments – called the Brickner Woolen Mill. Extending from the river for several blocks is the downtown, with a lot of well-maintained and ornate business buildings, including several with turrets on the corners. When I was a kid, I always fantasized about living over a storefront in one of those kinds of buildings, and hanging out in a turret, reading a book and watching the townspeople going about their business on the street below.
Employees at a flower shop were putting out at least a full city block’s length of every kind of flower you can think of. They looked gorgeous and smelled great, and customers were out in numbers, doing some very pleasant window shopping, minus the windows.
On our way out of town, we passed a gigantic Kohler plant nearby. I love businesses doing their manufacturing in America, and I’ve got Kohler faucets in several of the rentals, so good on them!
We spent the next few hours driving north under increasingly dark skies, through several small towns. We saw some cemeteries with a lot of German names, some modest houses and some impressive ones, some gently rolling green countryside, and frequent views of lakefront vistas.
We took a quick tour of the town of Manitowoc. After some generic strip mall stuff on our way into town, we arrived at a waterfront harbor with a gigantic ferry ship (the Badger), just pulling out for a trip across the lake, and more nice old houses than you’d expect in a town that size.
The next town we reached was small Two Rivers, where we found a nice bit of Americana, right beside the Civil War memorial and statue: a plaque showing some hometown pride, touting Two Rivers as the birthplace of the ice cream sundae.
According to the plaque, in 1881 George Hallauer asked soda fountain owner Edward Berner to top a dish of ice cream with chocolate sauce, which to that time had only been used on ice cream soda. After that innovation proved popular – duh! – it was initially sold only on Sundays, for some reason.
Soon, a 10-year-old girl asked for one on a weekday, saying that, “we could pretend that it’s Sunday.” And a boon to the world was born.
On the one hand, that doesn’t seem like a towering achievement to me. I mean, ice cream tastes great, and chocolate also tastes great. How hard was it to come up with the idea to put chocolate ON ice cream?
It would be like giving a MacArthur genius grant to the guy who invented the mini-skirt, just because he said, “I love looking at women. If only I could think of a way to see much more of– Hold on! What if I were to cut a normal skirt much, much shorter? That’s just crazy enough to work!”
Regardless, I love an all-American story, and stories don’t get much more all-American than a small American business in dairy country coming up with a great-tasting treat, and then watching it take off because of the sweet-tooth of a wholesome, Wisconsin girl!
After leaving Two Rivers, the rain clouds that had been threatening all day let loose, and we drove through rain for the next 45 minutes or so, including around 20 minutes of a pretty good downpour.
The good news: the Caddy’s windshield wipers worked.
The bad news: the front of the convertible top is not completely waterproof. Darryll was driving, so he had to keep toweling off the spot where the convertible top meets the top of the windshield.
Crucially, the rear seat – where I was sitting – remained cozily dry. So I enjoyed watching Darryll and Bob going through their character-building exercise in the intermittently drizzled-upon front seats.
During a break in the rain, we reached Green Bay, and drove into the Lambeau Field and Title Town complex, where the Packers play football. I love the idea that a modest town of 100,000 has a storied NFL franchise, and their stadium complex is pretty impressive.
On the other hand, I’m a Bears fan from Illinois, so I can’t say anything too nice about the Packers. Darryll and Bob discussed various ways to express themselves on the subject – sneaking in and relieving themselves on the 50 yard line was a particular favorite. But we managed to rise above our baser nature, and leave Green Bay without scandal, or charges being filed.
We made it to Oconto for a nice lunch, then Kewaunee, and then Marinette, on the Wisconsin border. Then we crossed into the upper peninsula of Michigan at Menominee.
The driving through northern Wisconsin and up through Michigan took us through more and more lightly inhabited countryside. At Escanaba we found another small town with a waterfront park area, and a short hill topped by some stately houses facing it.
We stopped at the Sand Point lighthouse, which was built in 1867. We got out to stretch our legs and read the story of the lighthouse, and we would likely have spent a little more time there. But when I was walking about 40 feet away from Bob and Darryll, I saw both of them start to twitch and flail erratically. As I got closer, I saw that a small cloud of mosquitos had enveloped them both.
I’d heard about far-northern, lake-adjacent mosquitos, and I had a plan: I hightailed it back to the car, abandoning them to their fate.
I figured if they made it back, fine. If not, Darryll had given me an extra set of car keys, and I know that he would have wanted me to have the Caddy, and to drive it in his honor.
But they got back to the car – itchier and more irritable than usual — and we hit the road one more time, for the last leg of the day’s travels.
We had decided that even though it was out of our way, we wanted to go farther north than we had to, to the city of Munising, on the edge of Lake Superior. We’ve heard that Pictured Rocks is an especially beautiful sight, and that a tour boat that takes people on a lake trip to see them is well worth it.
So we left the traditional “Circle the Lake” route and drove sixty miles or so through the Hiawatha National Forest – stopping briefly at a small, scenic waterfall (Wagner Falls) — before arriving at Munising. We got rooms in a small hotel on the edge of the lake, where the views were breathtaking.
Because Munising is just into the Eastern time zone, the sun didn’t set until almost 10:00, after we’d eaten and walked the town for a bit.
The plan for tomorrow is to take the boat ride on Lake Superior to see Pictured Rocks, and then to head south to re-join our regular route across the upper peninsula.