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8:15am, Sunday September 10, with 2.1 miles logged on the Spider's tank of gas I bought last night in preparation for today, my wife Christine, our little yellow traveling buddy Mr. Happy, and I set off from home. Our destination was Door County, Wisconsin. None of us has been there before but it is a popular tourist destination in our region, so we thought maybe it was our turn to see what all of the fuss is about.



Door County makes up the north end of that peninsula that pokes out into Lake Michigan at the northeast corner of the state. At its southern base is Green Bay, a bit under 300 miles from home. Another 40 or so miles up the peninsula is Sturgeon Bay. From here north is the general area of which we will explore over the next few days. Click here to see a Google map of the Door County Peninsula area. https://goo.gl/maps/kz9doVMLAms

The drive from Minneapolis, MN across Wisconsin was pleasant and uneventful, other than finding lots of repaving projects on WI Hwy 29. Being Sunday, the traffic was light and work was halted so being slowed down meant sticking to the posted speed limits. But there is nothing exciting about this route, either. The topography of the route is pretty bland but at least the surrounding landscape varied between prairie and farm field to forest, so it had visual interest. And the weather was just right, clear skies with the temperature topping out near 70.

We made it all the way across the state, 297 miles, on 8.5 gallons of fuel, an average of 34.9mpg, with speeds averaging about 70mph. I'll take that.

It was around 3:00pm by the time we checked into our little hotel in the town of Little Harbor, after which we stopped at a nearby winery and then headed into downtown Sturgeon Bay to find dinner. We walked into a bar/grill and discovered three quarters of the patrons wearing Packers green and gold. Great, and the Packers-Seahawks game was showing on a half dozen screens. Boy, were those fans a vocal bunch! I'm glad they didn't wander outside to see my MN license plate. After dinner we meandered the sidewalks for a few blocks before heading back to the hotel for the evening, watching a clear sunset over the waters of Green Bay.



Monday September 11, after breakfast, and after mopping a night of dew off the ragtop, we headed out to wander the county.

From a driver's perspective, Door County does not offer much in terms of exciting roads. State Highways 42 and 57 more or less parallel the coastlines of the peninsula, and nearly all "interior" local and county roads follow a grid pattern, but there are a few roads hugging the coastlines that offer a bit of lower speed adventure. County Roads B and G on the west side, and Q, T, and TT on the east (all north of Sturgeon Bay) are worth the effort of searching out while being a tourist in Door County. These aren't long roads but can be doubled in length by running them from each direction. They are narrow roads with good pavement but sight lines are short and blind and are lined with houses on heavily wooded lots so posted speeds are kept low. Lots of locals walk and bicycle these roads but with little to no shoulder they are typically out in the traffic lane, so sharing the road is a way of life. That said, both you and your Spider will enjoy these roads very much. They prove you don't have to push like an F1 driver to have a lot of fun.

Sightseeing visits were made to scenic overlooks, local shops, a brewery, another winery, and a distillery, but with limited storage capacity in the Spider there were no cases of anything bought home, just a select bottle here and there tucked away in bags of clothes or wrapped in jackets. A great lunch was had at the Top Deck Restaurant at Gordon Lodge in Bailey's Harbor, and pizza dinner at Sonny's Italian Kitchen and Pizzeria in Sturgeon Bay filled us to capacity. Another perfect Lake Michigan sunset capped the perfect day. Tomorrow we'll do it all over again in the northern end of the county.

Happy is tuckered out after his big lunch so he opts to nap on the sunny, warm dashboard as we head out for more exploration.


Tuesday September 12. After a nice room service breakfast at our hotel, we took to the road once again. Today we kept mainly to the west shore of the peninsula, following WI Hwy 42 north to make our way through more small towns. Door County seems to work hard to draw visitors. The highway department takes good care of the state highways and county roads, and the main drags of the small towns we went through were kept prim and proper. Businesses were clean, maintained, and inviting. Lots of specialty and gift shops work to separate you from your cash. The region, known for apples and cherries, has been creating new fields for grape production. In this modest size region there are at least 5 or 6 wineries to choose from. Fish caught right in Lake Michigan, and cheese from the many dairies throughout the state, are found in their own specialty shops as well. And if fishing is your thing, it's easy to find charter services to take you out onto the high seas for all sorts of game fish.





For a site that has to be seen to believe, find Al Johnson's Swedish Restaurant in Sister Bay, WI. You'll know you're there because the roof of the building is grass, and during the tourist season there are about a half dozen or so goats on top the roof maintaining the grass. Yep. Website, including webcams- http://www.aljohnsons.com/



The farther north we traveled, the more enjoyable WI 42 became. The terrain was becoming quite wiggly, lots of hills and curves came and went to keep the driving senses piqued. The last mile or so coming into Northport at the north end of the peninsula took on the disposition of a slalom course- left then immediate right then immediate left... I felt like I should be watching for orange cones. Yee-haa! At Northport you have the chance to ferry across to Washington Island. We skipped this opportunity this time. $56 gets the car and 2 passengers across, or $13 each to walk aboard. It must be a popular destination for all of the people that were lining up for the ferry rides that came about every 30 minutes.

My wife is a live theater junkie so she found us a play to attend on our last evening at the Peninsula Players Theater near Fish Creek, which was the town where we spent our last night in the area.

Wednesday September 13, time to head home. Each morning of our stay we heard of dense fog warnings over mainland Wisconsin and the U.P. of Michigan to our west, but the skies remained clear over us. Well, not today. For the 70-80 miles or so we drove to the south end of the peninsula at Green Bay, we were in and out of pea soup fog. Many stretches had fog so thick that I was lucky to see even 150 feet, at best. Drop the speed way down and pay close attention, that's all you can do shy of getting off the road and waiting.

At Green Bay, I topped the gas tank. 325 miles and 8.9 gallons burned on the peninsula for an average of 36.5mpg. There was no high-speed driving on the peninsula, instead speeds were kept around 25-30 in the towns, and between 40-55mph on the highways and county roads, pretty much the posted speed limits. I liked all the gas stations I came to. All the way across the state my only choice for 91 octane fuel was non-ethanol. Sweet!

Our route west to Minnesota was the same as our route of a few days earlier, just backwards. Speed zones in the rural areas were typically 70mph, so Via had lots of long stretches to really open up and run steady. We made great time under now clear skies with mild traffic, even in construction zones. I'll admit, though, by lunchtime the temperature was climbing fast, bringing the humidity along with it. After a quick bite to eat we easily decided to travel in comfort. Up went the top, on went the air conditioner for our last hundred or so miles home under blazing sun. Boy, can the AC in this little car bring down the temp fast.

We arrived home about 7 hours after leaving that morning. I stopped at a gas station a few blocks from home to top the tank one last time. The westbound leg from Green Bay to home, 295.7 miles, used 8.6 gallons and gave a fuel average of 34.5mpg. Prevailing westerly breezes, 70mph+ running the air conditioning, and a GVWR that probably exceeded the maximum shown in the owner's manual helped knock down the average a bit vs. the first two legs of the trip, but overall we had a grand total of 916 miles and 35.2mpg, that's pretty good.

With only about 6 weeks of average enjoyable fall weather ahead of us, hopefully I can get in a couple more longer drives, probably just day trips, but sometimes I like those the best anyway.

Happy Trails To You!

Steve.
 

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I'm glad you had a good time in our back yard, we're from Green Bay, and that you found two of favorite places, Al Johnson's and that little stretch of road to North Point. Door County is great for open top driving, we've been up there a over a half dozen times since picking up Sophia the beginning of August.
 

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Thanks Chris. You've got a very nice area to enjoy there. By first glance, it looks like things are doing pretty well for a tourist-based economy. Much better than life in the northern reaches of the Michigan U.P. That's another area I enjoy very much, primarily for the scenery and the roads. Except for a few small diamonds in the rough, the MI UP is really a depressed looking area, with some spots becoming darn near ghost towns. We didn't get that impression in your region, up in the peninsula.

Steve.
 
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