Thursday, October 13, 2005

Heading Out and Coming Home
I don't swim, I don't boat, I don't fish--but I love to vacation by the water. As The Mrs. and I watched the Lake Michigan waves hit the beach at Kewaunee, Wisconsin, yesterday morning, I thought again how the waves were rolling long before any of us arrived on the scene, and they'll be rolling long after we're gone. I suppose that bothers some people, but not me. It's actually a comfort, that no matter how badly humans screw things up, much will endure even though we may not.

Lake Michigan is there in the first place due to the glaciers that sculpted North America as recently as 10,000 years ago. On our way Monday, we drove through the Kettle Moraine State Forest, which also exists thanks to the glaciers. The area represents the southern extent of the Green Bay Lobe of the Wisconsinan Glacier, which left behind an unusual landscape of cigar-shaped hills called drumlins, sinuous ridges called eskers, and deep pools of water called kettles. ("Moraine" is term for the the soil found at the glacier's edge.) Autumn was just beginning to color the forest earlier this week--in another week or so, it ought to be spectacular.

Our destination Monday was Kewaunee, a little lakeshore town. Tuesday, we headed up to Door County, which is probably Wisconsin's most famous travel destination. The first town you hit on Highway 42 is Algoma, another lakeshore town that's more aggressive in luring tourists than Kewaunee, better-scrubbed, with a lakeside boardwalk and picturesque downtown. From there, you leave the lakeshore behind and head up to and through Sturgeon Bay, the biggest city in Door County. We went as far north as Egg Harbor, one of the more elite resort communities on the peninsula. All up and down Door County, funky fishing shacks co-exist with luxury condo developments, and the contrast is never more pronounced than in Egg Harbor. The fall colors were near their customary brilliance up there, which we found encouraging, since the color forecasts we've been hearing for southern Wisconsin are not too promising. It's good to know that autumn has arrived up north like it always does.

Egg Harbor is not very far north, though. You can go another 30 miles or so before reaching the end of the highway at Gills Rock--the last Highway 42 sign is a few yards from the pier where the ferry to Washington Island picks up. But even Washington Island isn't as far out as you can go. That would be Rock Island, which is so remote that one veteran camper I know says she was frightened by the brightness of the Milky Way the first time she saw it out there.

We'd have gone farther, but we didn't have time. And on Wednesday, we were heading in a different direction, straight west from Kewaunee on Highway 29 to Green Bay, to worship at the shrine that is Lambeau Field. Unlike many football stadiums, which are open to the public on only a handful of game days each year, Lambeau is open every day except Christmas and Easter--the newly built atrium, completed in 2003, houses several restaurants, a gift shop, and the Packers Hall of Fame. I've written here several times before about being a Packer fan, and how fandom here is different than fandom in any other NFL market. The popularity of the atrium is only the newest indication of it.

Coming home is what makes travel worthwhile. And with this trip, my fall travel season is over. Until late January, I'll be sticking close to home, and that's OK with me.

We're Going to Need a Bigger Bus: You need no more vivid evidence of the way things have changed for George W. Bush than to read the Associated Press piece on his talk with soldiers in Iraq today. Instead of solemnly allowing themseles to be played, and reporting the event as if it were real news, the AP's report is almost entirely about how the event was staged and ultimately phony. As recently as three months ago, they'd never have been so bold. If there's one thing the Bush gang has always been good at, it's photo ops. Now they can't even do that anymore. But the most amazing development of all is that the fakery has finally become the story, after more than 4 1/2 years. Nice to have you aboard, national media. What took you so long?

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