So Long to a Door County Summer

I sat at my desk feeling a strange mixture of joy and sadness. As I examined the single sheet of notebook paper in my hands, I realized that I was holding my summer. Infused in every scrawl of ink that listed an experience I had in Door County were the sunsets on the water, the inside jokes, the crazy nights, and the drives through the county that have filled my time here. Now, as summer is winding down and I ready myself to say goodbye to the county that has been my home for these few whirlwind months, I’m taking some time to remember how I got to this point.

The summer started a little shaky. I found myself facing my first summer away from home, 10 (yes, 10) roommates, most of whom were relative strangers, little to no cell phone reception where I was staying, and a whole summer to get to know an unfamiliar county. There were times when I felt incredibly lonely and isolated; I missed my family. I missed my friends. I missed home. I even missed fast food. At work, I got my first angry letter to the editor – for my first assignment of the internship no less. Though I knew I shouldn’t let it get to me, it was hard not to feel shaken.

But gradually, things began to change. I got to know my roommates, I begrudgingly adjusted to the bad cell phone reception, one of my roommates picked up McDonalds for me whenever he was in Sturgeon Bay and vice versa, and I regained some journalistic confidence. I went to concerts and shows, and started to get acquainted with towns and villages. With every experience I had, the county started to feel more and more like home.

It was a home that I found to be multifaceted and completely unique. Door County is like no place that I have ever been before. It embodies a strange, but wonderful combination of Midwestern rusticity, involvement in the arts, friendliness, and a relaxed state of mind. Another roommate of mine said that “It is impossible not to feel like you’re on vacation here,” and I would have to agree. Everything about Door County – from the beaches to the sunsets, the live concerts to the mellow music on 106.9 The Lodge – makes life seem a little less heavy. There is a laid-back attitude that pervades everything, from entertainment venues to businesses. Interactions seem intimate, like all of the people here are old friends.

I experienced my share of Door County friendliness while I was here, learning that the kindness of strangers can be our saving grace at times. When I locked my keys in my car at the Settlement farmers’ market, it was the kindness of the vendors and employees at Sweetie Pies who helped me through it. In my time of need, they offered me phones, a phone book, a place to wait, pie samples, and sympathetic words – simple gestures that meant the world to me and allowed me to finally get into contact with a co-worker who was nice enough to drive my spare key to me. In another instance, a mother and daughter who sat next to me at Door Shakespeare noticed my shivering and offered me one of their blankets.

I have also had the opportunity to meet some amazing people through work. I talked with Lori Meyer, who is teaching children how to play string instruments at the Door County String Academy and interviewed Brittany Jordt, who is telling the story of Rachel Corrie and spreading awareness of her tragic demise through her acting.

It goes without saying that my summer would not have been the same without all of the wonderful people I met at Peninsula Pulse and Björklunden, the lodge where I worked and lived for the summer. My coworkers at the Pulse helped me through difficult assignments and gave me advice that will help me journalistically for as long as I am in the field. My co-workers and roommates at Björklunden became so much more than just the people I worked and shared a room with. They were my friends, my confidants, the people with whom I had adventures and made memories that will last a lifetime.

One of the biggest lessons that I learned this summer was to be open to new things and push myself out of my comfort zone. After experiencing the sketchy, but fun Door County fair and facing my fear of heights on Eagle Tower, I realized that I’ve spent way too much time wanting to do things and not enough actually doing them. As I looked at my list of Door County experiences, I felt no regret; rather, I felt a sense of accomplishment. Though my list is too long to include in one article, I will leave you with my top ten most significant experiences in Door County:

1. Attending the live broadcast of Michael Feldman’s Whad’Ya Know?

Bitters shots, Hi-wian shirts, and an auditorium filled with fellow public radio geeks. What more can I say?

2. Fred and Fuzzy’s.

The view. The atmosphere. The music. The deep fried green beans…this popular bar and grill perfects the meaning of the words ‘simple pleasures.’

3. Watching the sunrise.

There’s nothing like a Door County sunrise (or sunset), and the company was even better.

4. Driving around the county.

A gift and a curse, however, there is nothing like the freedom that I feel with the windows down, music playing, and the beautiful Door County countryside around me. I am an admitted car singer as well, so don’t worry, I’m not talking to myself.

5. Meeting local celebrities and finding out that they are really just nice people.

Doing a Q & A with Eric Lewis and Tommy Burroughs, meeting some of the members of The Nicks, even meeting Michael Feldman, I was impressed with how down-to-earth they all were. Plus, I have to admit that it was fun to be able to point them out at a performance and say that I had met them.

6. Taking in the natural beauty of Door County.

Stargazing, staring at the water, feeling the breeze on my skin, laying on the beach, and just looking at all of the gorgeous plant and animal life here has become a favorite pastime.

7. Trips to Good Eggs with the Peninsula Pulse staff.

Who knew that a breakfast burrito could be so good?

8. Adventures with my Björklunden friends.

Too many to list, but I treasure them all.

9. The Stuff O Rama flea market at Domicile.

Great finds, cheap prices, and nice people. I was even able to correspond with the original owner of the mugs that I wrote about in the Shopping for Bargains article, giving an example of the power of mere ‘stuff’ to bring people together.

10. Al Johnson’s rooftop goats.

They’re goats. And they’re on the roof. For some reason, that is endlessly amusing. (And I don’t care if it’s tourist-y)

It has been a truly wonderful summer, and I thank everyone who has been a part of it. I will miss Door County and all of my friends here immensely.