My side of the family planned a summer vacation starting in the Wisconsin Dells. However, we had a day to burn before meeting up with them and decided to pay a visit to Leah’s cousin in Chicago. We had a lot of fun staying with Kendra and meeting her boyfriend, David. While in Chicago, we enjoyed Lincoln Park Zoo (which is free – we highly recommend it) and a delicious Mexican restaurant.
Leah and I were a little ahead of the rest of the family. We were commissioned to locate a restaurant and found a Denny’s down the road. However, after realizing Wisconsin is home of Culver’s, Mom and Dad asked us to find one. One of the most common phrases on the vacation was, “There’s a Culver’s – how much you want to bet Mom and Dad stop?”
Once we had our first Culver’s fix, we continued to the Wisconsin Dells. The Dells are sandstone rock formations that surround the Wisconsin River. We got a close-up view on a Wild Thing jet boat ride. We enjoyed getting whipped around as the boat captain thrashed us into 360 degree turns and plunged the nose of the boat into the water.
There are over 20 different water parks in the Dells area. We went to Noah’s Ark, who claims to be America’s largest waterpark. My favorite attraction was the Scorpion’s Tail. At the top of the tower, I stepped into a capsule. As the glass closed around me, a voice counted down toward zero (I felt like I was about to join the Hunger Games). When the countdown got to zero, the floor dropped out from beneath me and I plummeted ten stories before doing a loop and reaching the end of the slide 400 feet later. It was the most intense water slide I’ve ever experienced, and it couldn’t have taken more than 7 seconds.
One night, we attended the Tommy Bartlett Show. The show consisted of aqua athletes performing breath-taking stunts on boats, skis, and wake-boards. There was also a stage show that featured acrobats, jugglers, and comedians. Other than a comedian crossing the line of acceptable family humor, I recommend taking a family to this show; it was suspenseful and filled with humor.
After a few days, we packed up two tents and a thirty-foot trailer to travel onward. Joe and Brittany had to head home early, but we were glad to have had time with all of the immediate Benedict’s.
Several Culver’s stops and hours of driving later, we settled down in Door County. Door County is a peninsula on the Wisconsin side of Lake Michigan. We did a lot of shopping and were amused by Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant, where goats live on it’s grass roof. We swam at a few beaches and enjoyed riding the car ferry to explore Washington Island.
One of the highlights and musts of Door County was the Pelletier’s Fish Boil. Fish boils originated in Door County and are unique to that area. A fish boil takes place outside over a fire. A cook fills a giant pot with water and adds potatoes and onions, and fish are added later. As everything is cooked, the fish oil rises above the water. The cook then pours fuel on the flames below the pot, causing a giant flame to ignite the fish oil. I was standing so close that I almost singed my eyebrows! The result is a delicious meal. We enjoyed the fresh-caught (same day) white fish and potatoes. The food was delicious, but the service was so-so.
Next, we made our way into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. We passed through Escanaba (in the sunlight) and floated across the springs of Kitch Iti Kipi. I was excited to show Leah the springs since it was a place I visited as a child.
We settled near Lake Superior in Tahquamenon Falls State Park. We enjoyed viewing the falls and wading in the river. We also spent some time at the Michigan Shipwreck Museum at Whitefish Point. We walked the beach and learned about the many shipwrecks in the Great Lakes, including the Edmund Fitzgerald. It’s crazy how a freshwater lake can stir up such wild sea-like storms.
While in the Tahquamenon area, we also visited Oswald’s Bear Ranch . This ranch has 29 live roaming bears. We were able to get up close and personal, and Benny fed the bears apples. We were hoping to pet the bears, but due to a new federal law, we missed the opportunity by just a few weeks.
We were so blessed to be able to join my family on this trip. Mom and Dad were so generous and found the most interesting places to visit. I spent lots of time bonding with my brothers, and we had many interesting game nights. The campfire food and morning breakfasts were fun to make together, and we faced the challenge of sorting individual marshmallows out of a big bag of them melted together. Leah and I left a few days early to prepare for more Northern Michigan with Leah’s family. I had the privilege of driving Leah on her first trek across the Mackinac Bridge!