A while back, when we still had snow on the ground, Rob asked me if I’d be interested in an adventure tour this summer. Originally, it was a loop around Wisconsin and the U.P., then down through Mackinac. After reality set in for the time committment involved, we cut it to a more manageable 4 day tour of Door County. Rob Meendering, Scott Thenikl, Rick Plite, Jeremy Karel, Chris Davison, and myself all signed on. We had several “planning meetings” for this adventure, which basically helped everyone align on a general plan of taking the SS Beaver (I know it’s not really Beaver, but it’s more fun this way) from Ludington to Manitowac on Saturday, June 30 and a return trip on July 4. Pretty much everything in between was going to be classic “winging it” mentality. Jeremy and I took an extra day off on June 29 to ride the 100 miles from Rockford to Ludington. I would say the highlight of the day was a sea salt bagel in Muskegon for lunch and some strangely intriguing porta-jon activity at a roadside park in Hart. Rick knew Jeff, the owner of Trailhead Bike Shop in Ludington, and had called ahead for accomodations. We stopped in as soon as we got into the city and were promptly offered a beer from the cooler. What a reception! The rest of the group met up that night for dinner at James St. Pub and Grill. Nevermind we were supposed to meet at Jamesport Brewery, our first diversion from the plan. Jeremy and I were a little heat stroked, I think. We all proceeded to set up camp in Jeff’s front lawn, unwittingly setting the precedent for our nightly routine which consisted of dinner at the local pub
(in this case – The Mitten) and free yard camping. Thanks again Jeff!
We took the Beaver on Saturday morning as planned and within 30 miles of our departure from Manitowac, we were off track. We rode beautiful lakeside trails and roads to our first stop in Kewauny for some smoked salmon and crackers behind a gas station. High class lunch — good start! We proceeded on the Ahnappee (pronounced I-wanna-pee) Trail which would have taken us into Sturgeon Bay for our first night, but we took a poorly marked fork in the trail and before we knew it, we were half way to Green Bay! Trying to make the best of it, we headed straight north to limit our losses and ended up doing pretty much the equivalent of a Marne Tuesday night ride through farmland and the sweet smell of sun baked manuer up to Little Sturgeon Bay. One bright spot on the way was the sighting of a “whiskey” distillery near our destination. Apparently, “whiskey” tastes a lot like saki when it’s made by the Japanese, which we all came to realize after securing a free shot in the tasting room. I’m not complaining, just an observation. We ended up at an RV park, all camping in one lot for a total of $5 per person. 70+ miles on the first day. We ate at the local pub and took some pickled eggs to go — one of the requirements of the trip. One of us (Rick) didn’t particularly like his egg, and I ended up with pickled egg smashed into my spokes the next morning. Not complaining, just an observation.
Our second day ended up being the longest, over 80 miles. This was the defining day of the trip, combining the highest highs and the lowest lows both literally and figuratively. We made our way along the west shoreline up to Egg Harbor, home of Shiprecked Brewery. We didn’t have high hopes for this beer, based on our experience with the WI standard level of hoppyness, but we were all pleasently surprised. We had our 3 martini (read “IPA”) lunch and promptly retired to the bayside park across the street to let the dinner settle. Everyone fell asleep. High point of the trip so far! Well, 3 hrs from stopping, we were back on the horses for the rest of the trip up to the tip of the Door Co. peninsula. We continue the gorgeous lakeshore ride down into several bays and long climbs back out until we reach the intended destination of Europe Lake. The only three sites, yes three, available were spoken for so we went over to neighboring Newport State Park. Only two sites available there and it’s almost 8:00 by now. We rode in and were severely disappointed. Rick wanted to take a dip in the lake, which ended up being a dip in the muck. We all were a bit surprised to see him come back covered in mud up to his knees! There was a lot of inappropriate laughter at Rick’s expense at this point and Jeremy emerged as our source of positive energy – “Sunshine” from now on. Chris chipped in too with an enthusiastic, “We’re on a quest for fun, dammit!”. Rick sucked it up like a man when we all decided we would try to ride back 8 more miles to the last town we passed to try and find another yard to squat rather than eating trail food with no beer in the mosquito infested campsite. I’m not lying, the only place to eat in town when we got there was a high class Italian “ristorante”. So, six guys sweaty from 80 miles on the road and one of us with swamplegs get the center table in the dining room. We got a little concerned at this point, since every table was occupied and everyone was drinking wine. I’m not complaining, just an observation. We asked the server for beer and the first option she offered was Bell’s Two Hearted! Oh yeah. Six please. We proceeded to push our luck and asked about local places to crash. By the end of the dinner, we had an offer from one of the patrons to stay at a farm about a mile outside of town, complete with a map to the “shitter”. Thanks Zack! Confident in our situation, we all kept the momentum going and went to the only bar open in town and completed the night with a few pickle backs and a free round offered to us from the chef at the restaurant we just ate at. No one could believe the way this night ended up!
Our third day was admittedly a rest day, only 25 miles to Jacksonport. Still no campground though. Rob sweet talked the owners of a local pub to let us camp in the back yard and our theme of “yard camping” was maintained! A relaxing dip in the lake and some beers in the park was exactly what we needed.