In February of 1995 my wife Shelley and I made a job related move to Wisconsin. We became the resident managers for an assisted living home in Delafield, Wisconsin (see picture below). Delafield was located about twenty miles west of Milwaukee in the beautiful lake region of that state. The home we managed was one of two homes nestled in a lovely country setting a few miles outside of town, which were surrounded by beautiful trees and rolling fields. Heaven on earth! Shelley and I lived on the lower-level in a lovely managers residence, with sliding doors opening onto a beautiful patio.
AT THE TOP OF THE HILL
WAS THE HOME WE MANAGED
It was a marvelous home for us and up to eight residents. These residents each had a spacious bedroom and bathroom along with a roomy sitting/study area. We all ate in a gorgeous dining room on the main floor next to the kitchen. There was a very large living room centered around a large fireplace with gas-logs. Then you passed through a door into a large library and a TV room. There was also an octagon shaped reading/study area you entered through glass-paned double-doors. Then of course our office by the front door. A large laundry area was located on the lower-level.
We had very delicious meals delivered for us and the residents at lunch and again at supper seven days a week from a large kitchen in the Main Lodge about a mile away. Our kitchen always had a well stocked pantry with everything else we possibly could need. Shelley and I took turns cooking breakfast for the residents which was served in the large dining room.
All was surrounded by beautifully manicured grounds. One of the things we remember from our time there is stepping out at night to enjoy amazingly clear star-filled heavens with the Milky Way brightly emblazoned across the sky with its millions of stars. Several times a year we would focus on meteor showers.
Delafield, Wisconsin was directly on the mid-west migration route for Canada geese. In spring and again in fall we would stand in our yard watching literally hundreds of flocks, with approximately twenty-five geese to a flock, flying low overhead and landing in harvested cabbage fields nearby. The workers harvesting in their large machines would leave plenty of cabbage for the geese. You could drive by these fields and see thousands of Canada geese feeding and resting. It was an unforgettable sight if you happened to witness them lifting by flocks into the sky in order to continue their migration! On occasion this would be late in the evening, therefore they would be flying all night. The loud rhapsody of their calls fading into the distance would make you wonder how many miles they would be flying on the next leg of their journey?
Then I will never forget our first spring there and walking outside one evening just after sunset and being absolutely astonished by the fire-flies. I mean it seemed like there were literally fire-flies on every blade of grass and every leaf. It looked like millions of them! These flickering tiny lanterns transformed the fields and bushes and trees into a magical wonderland. Being from the deep south I thought I knew everything and had seen everything as far as these tiny creatures. But I had never seen anything that could even begin to compare to this scene! It was so beautiful!!!
During the summer months very often there were thunderstorms over Lake Michigan, which was about twenty miles east of us. When we would hear thunder way off in the distance we would head out to our front porch. Because we were on a hill we could sit and watch the intense lightening which was lighting up the large cumulus clouds over the lake. Believe me it was quite a show!
The Main Lodge nearby had a pontoon boat on one of the lakes and Shelley and I would drive there at night and join Colleen and a married couple Tom and Lore, good friends of ours who also worked for Colleen. The five of us would cruise out to the middle of the lake, drop anchor and then spend hours watching meteor showers. On another night we all went out to watch a full-moon rise over the lake. Spectacular!!
Then there was the winter day that it snowed...not real deep but everything was well coated. Later that afternoon it completely cleared up...not a cloud in the sky. Then a full-moon rose over this scene! I went for a long late night country walk. There are not enough words to describe the awesome beauty!
BIRDS-EYE VIEW OF THE TWO RESIDENT HOMES
(THE LOWER HOME HAD SIX RESIDENTS)
MAIN LODGE COMPLEX
Colleen lived and had her office at the Main Lodge complex about a mile from our home. This complex consisted of the Main Lodge, garages, and six buildings with four apartments in each. Her office was in the Main Lodge and she lived in one of the beautiful apartments which were situated on grounds which were meticulously kept by their own landscape/maintenance crew. Orville, the supervisor of this crew, is a dear friend of ours with whom we still stay in touch. All of this land is situated on a hill right between two large lakes. It is impossible to convey to you what an absolutely beautiful environment we worked and lived in!
Colleen had worked about twenty-five years for this foundation. She started out as a bookkeeper, but then after being trained for several years by the Director who was retiring, she was promoted to take his place. At the time she hired Shelley and I, she had been in this position for about twenty years.
During her time as Director she had purchased a large parcel of land about a mile from the Main Lodge and built two additional homes. The one on the hill Shelley and I managed and the other home was right down the driveway from us. She was thinking also about possibly building a third home a little ways behind our home. Colleen was an amazing individual!
A few weeks after Shelley and I had begun managing, we drove one afternoon to the Main Lodge for a scheduled meeting with Colleen in her office. During the meeting we couldn't help but notice a large plate hanging on the wall behind her. There was a hand-painting of a lovely Swiss chalet style home in the center of the plate. When we commented on the plate she told us that it was her get-a-way and future retirement home on Lake Michigan in Door County. She said it was a three and a half hour drive north and she couldn't wait for spring to come so she could start taking us up there on weekends as much as possible.
Our favorite place to eat frozen custard was right outside Delafield in Wales, Wi. When Door County cherries were in season they made the most famous and delicious Door County Cherry Sundae. The best! Fudge brownie topped with vanilla custard, hot fudge, warm door county cherries, and white chocolate chips.
The thumb of land sticking out into Lake Michigan
to the north/east of Green Bay is Door County.
AS WE DESCRIBED IT!
WHEN YOU CROSS THE BRIDGE INTO STURGEON BAY
YOU ARE IN DOOR COUNTY
COLLEEN'S HOME IN DOOR COUNTY
Colleen would constantly say that she couldn't wait for spring so we could go up to Door. Finally April arrived and toward the end of that month...when it warmed up a little...we made our first of many trips to Door!
On the way back from this first trip, Colleen presented us with a set of keys to her home and said, "Anytime you two are off work feel free to go to Door and the home will be waiting." This we did, so many times! Sometimes we were with Colleen when she could get away, and sometimes it was just Shelley and I. One summer Shelley's sister Dee and Phil her husband along with our son Ryan drove over from Michigan and we all spent a long weekend in Door County at Colleens house. What a blast we had!
It was a breath-taking three and a half hour drive using back roads through dairy country. And the country was high rolling hills which offered stunning vistas from the top of each hill.
As you start nearing the peninsula you pass through Green Bay where the famous Green Bay Packers football team plays. In fact you could see the stadium just off to your right while crossing a bridge. Just a short time later you crossed the bridge into Sturgeon Bay and were officially in Door County! It was also known by many as the "Cape Cod of the Mid-West" which was very appropriate.
We knew we were getting close to home when we passed through Valmy (check map of south-east Door). Just a few miles further at Whitefish Point is where Colleen's house was located, right on the shore of Lake Michigan.
CAVE POINT PARK IS LOCATED JUST A FEW MILES FROM COLLEEN'S HOME
So, on Saturday mornings we would load up and leave to begin driving "the loop" which was all the way to the tip of Enchanted Door and back. We would begin by driving Route 57 up through Jacksonport and Bailey's Harbor. Then 57 cuts across through beautiful farm country to Sister Bay on the west coast of Door County. (MAKE SURE TO KEEP REFERRING TO MAP ABOVE TO SEE LOCATIONS)
BEAUTIFUL FARM COUNTRY OF DOOR
We would arrive in Sister Bay and immediately head to eat breakfast at the restaurant with the "goats on the roof." Always there was some waiting time before being seated, which nobody seemed to mind...it was well worth the wait! This was an extremely popular restaurant, located right across the street from the bay.
AL JOHNSON'S SWEDISH RESTAURANT
JUST LOOK AT THIS MENU!
EVERYTHING WAS DELICIOUS!
After a marvelous breakfast we would load up and drive Route 42 to our next destination...
We thoroughly enjoyed these gorgeous views of Lake Michigan.
We would then proceed up Route 42 to Gills Rock, then take a right and begin driving the" fun road" to Northport where the ferries to Washington Island load and unload.
This is how the "fun road" is described in a travel guide:
The road's winding design, providing stunning panoramic views, is very curvy over very slight and rolling hills and fun for a leisurely ride, so it pays to take it slow. Door County’s Coastal Byway stretches over 66 miles of Wisconsin's beautiful Door Peninsula. It begins just north of the City of Sturgeon Bay, following State Highway 42 north along one side of the Peninsula to Gills Rock located at the very tip, and then right to Northport.
TALK ABOUT A "ROLLER COASTER RIDE"
This is a ferry either loading or unloading cars, visitors or residents of Washington Island. Shelley and I and Colleen took a boat ride from Gills Rock to the island one day. It was a very special trip because on the way back we saw an extremely rare "round rainbow" circling the sun overhead.
Northport was the furthest point you could drive on Door County. There were beautiful scenes of Lake Michigan from here, and also the very nice Northport Pier Restaurant was located here.
When it was time to head back, we always looked forward to driving the Route 42 "roller coaster" back toward Gills Rock. There we would turn south and enjoy the scenic ride back to Sister Bay. Then instead of taking Route 57 back across the peninsula to Bailey's Harbor, we would continue down Route 42 in order to enjoy the attractions on the lower west side of Door.
Pirates Cove miniature golf was located right outside of Sister Bay as you headed south on Route 42. We never passed by without enjoying at least one game. The very last time we played here my wife had an amazing three holes-in-one! She still has the three silver coins for three free games. I still wonder after more than twenty years could she still cash them in!
SUMMER KITCHEN O'MEARA'S IRISH HOUSE NOT LICKED YET WILSONS
Then heading down Route 42 through the towns of Ephraim, Fish Creek, and Egg Harbor these were some of the other attractions we would enjoy:
SUMMER KITCHEN: Another delicious restaurant which was only open for their specialty...lunch. They always had the most beautiful flowers all along the front of the building. The menu selection was of the most scrumptious sandwiches, soups, full course meals, and desserts.
O'MEARA'S IRISH HOUSE: This was always terrific shopping featuring mostly casual clothes and accessories. Also great gifts and souvenirs focused on Door County. Every item in that store was from Ireland...so it was very appropriate Irish heritage shopping. The last time we were in the store the Irish owner had just flown in from Dublin having been on a shopping trip to her beloved Ireland.
"NOT LICKED YET" FROZEN CUSTARD: Anyone who has ever lived in the mid-west will tell you that when it comes to frozen desserts, that by far the favorite is frozen custard. This was one of the best! Everyone always ate outside in order to enjoy the very lovely setting of a stream which flowed through the property.
WILSON'S RESTAURANT AND ICE CREAM PARLOR: Wilson's soda fountain...serving ice cream, house-brewed root beer and burgers since 1906. The date says it all! Top quality and a Door County "classic" for well over a century.
When we left Egg Harbor we would drive down to Carlsville turn east and cross the peninsula to Valmy.
Then it was a short drive to Whitefish Point and Colleen's beautiful home...which was the "start" and "finish" of what we called "making the loop of Door!"
So this is the beautiful part of Wisconsin we spent so much time in! All of the attractions I have shared with you concerning Door County only scratches the surface so far as all the attractions available. These were just a few of our favorites! You should make the opportunity to visit and make your own favorites. You will not be disappointed!
Colleen talked with us several times about training us to take over when she retired in about five years, She also wanted us to buy a parcel of land near her in Door to put a home on. In fact one time in the middle of winter she went up to Door just to check on her home. She told us when she got back, that she had found the perfect lot for us near her home and just a short walk from Cave Point. It was definitely a beautiful setting!
Shelley and I definitely considered everything, we even looked at some terrific manufactured homes. But in the end, as wonderful as it all sounded, we realized that at some point we would be moving back to Boston for our kids and someday our grand children. Colleen completely understood how we felt.
Long after Shelley and I had moved back to Boston, Collen who had been retired and living in her home in Door for quite a few years told us in a phone conversation that she had finally decided to sell her home and move to Sturgeon Bay. This was in order to be right near her church and save a long drive, particularly during the very snowy winter months. Also she wanted something smaller and easier to take care of.
A few weeks later she told us that a man and his wife stopped by and toured her house. They then said they were going to look at another home. But they soon came back and actually paid her "cash" for her home!
She bought a home in Sturgeon Bay and lived there until her passing just a few years ago. Shelley and I miss our dear friend Colleen.
is published by
WORDS OF WILLIAM™
William F. Carawan
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Boston, Massachusetts U.S.A.