Tuesday, August 5, 2008


Well, we got back from our vacation a couple of days ago, but I haven't been able to muster up the energy to write anything until now. I know, "bummer" say you, dear reader.

So, as I mentioned in the last post before we left, I had to play a gig in the late afternoon before we could head up nort'. It was hot and sunny. As a bassist, that means my strings get all loose and floppy, which makes it difficult to play, particularly if I need to play anything fast; the strings just don't snap back as quickly when they're hot. Still, everything was going pretty well until the middle of the second-to-last song, when Pam's guitar amp abruptly stopped amping. We played the rest of that song and the entirety of the last song without guitar. It sounded just plain weird, if you ask me (but who asked me? I'm just a lowly bass player, after all.) Here we are in all our middle-aged rock 'n' roll glory. Not the best photo in the world, but at least you can see all four of us; it's a rare photo that includes the whole band.

After the gig, we headed north pretty quickly, thanks in large part to the efforts of Ms. Geranium. We managed to catch the second-to-last ferry to Rock Island on Sunday, carried all our stuff to our campsite and, Bob's-your-uncle, it was time to get down to the work of relaxing. And hard work it was, as you can see from the following photos.

Ms. Geranium (Terry Pratchett's Wyrd Sisters in her lap) and Molly hard at work.

Sparkly Seacow and Violet hard at work.
Is it just me, or does something happen when kids get to a certain age that causes them to forget how chairs work?

Rock Island was, of course, originally settled by Native Americans. More recently (1800s) it was settled by European-americans who built a fishing village on the island. It was the first european settlement on the Door peninsula. The village was deserted in the latter part of the 1800s when the villagers resettled on neighboring Washington Island. The entire island was purchased in 1910 by an Icelandic immigrant and Chicago resident named Chester Thordarson, who had made a fortune in the U.S. as an inventor. (Incidentally, Thordarson spent some of his childhood in Windsor, WI, which is only a few miles from where I live.) Thordarson used the island as a private summer resort until his death in 1945. In 1965 the State of Wisconsin purchased the island from Thordarson's heirs and it is now a state park. Wake up! (I think all that history stuff is interesting. Sorry)

Anyway, Thordarson must have eaten a few too many of these.

Why else would he have thought that building this was a good idea for keeping deer out of his garden?

It didn't work, and the deer on the island ate every single one of the 6,000 apple trees he planted. He planted 1,000 in one year and none of them survived until the next year. (Okay, he also built a 10-foot high barbed-wire fence, but the deer jumped over it.)

Speaking of his garden, Thordarson was an afficionado of Japanese gardens and planted many Japanese plants, but, after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, he bulldozed them all. I'll bet you didn't know we have Chester Thordarson to thank for the U.S. victory in the Pacific arena of WWII. If he hadn't bulldozed that garden, we'd all be speaking Japanese right now.

He also planted some native Icelandic plants. Here is a patch of the Icelandic thyme that is still plentiful on Rock Island.

Looking to the southwest, you see Washington Island about two miles away and it doesn't feel all that exposed to the elements.

But, look in any other direction and you realize that you are way out there in the middle of one of the Great Lakes (kind of like the ocean, but without the salt.) It makes you feel, well, small.

When you're on "The Rock", as many people refer to it, the weather can get kind of intense. We were pretty lucky last week, but we did have some stormy weather. One day, after an afternoon of overcast skies and high winds, at the end of the day the sky was clearing in the west and the sun managed to illuminate the island as it set, shining underneath the cloud cover. I love the way it looks when the landscape is lit up against a dark sky.

Returning home is an odd experience. From the primitive conditions on Rock Island, (pit toilets, hauling water from the only pump, no cell-phone reception, even the single telephone on the island wasn't working while we were there) you head across on the ferry and Washington Island sort of eases you back into civilization.
Washington Island is only accessible from the mainland by ferry or light plane, but there are roads, cars and, of course, tourists. But, thanks in part to that ferry across what they call "Death's Door", it's a slightly different class of tourists. Take the ferry from Washington Island to the mainland and, WHAM!, instant tourist hell. You know the type. Polo shirts and deck shoes. Loud. Big honkin' boats. Entirely too many Illinois license plates (up here in Wisconsin we have a name for people from Illinois with their big honkin' boats who think of Wisconsin as their playground, but it's not very nice, so I don't think I'll say any more.) The rest of the trip home is a little less of a shock after that.

There are cool and awesome places all around the country and the world, but I'm partial to the combination of the North Woods and Maritime feel you get at places like Rock Island. The light is different. The air smells different. The air feels different. I had a similar reaction when we took a trip to New Brunswick and the Bay of Fundy. It's about as good as it gets for me.


Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

That looks like a really cool place. Take me next year please.

Suzy said...

Nice pictures, Ed. Except for the hammock one.

It is a cool place indeed, Dr. Monk. Every year I wish we were staying for longer than a week. I envy the campground host, who gets to live there for the entire summer.

Sure, come and join us for a few days next summer!

Suzy said...

P.S. The one disappointment was that they were out of fish guts that day. Wrecked my dinner plans.

FranIAm said...

This looks like heaven to me. Take me too!! Please.

Frankly I rather love the photo of my friend Suzy, snoozing in the hammock, book in hand.


And no fish guts you two!!

Ed said...

Dr. Monkey & Franiam: I think 2009's trip is going to be the first week of August, in case you plan that far ahead. I wouldn't plan on fish guts, though.