For our final summer fling, my wife and I met some friends in Door County, Wisconsin. The last time we visited Door County was late-August 2004. The trip was memorable because we ran out of gas on our way to a resort. 

We didn’t see a single gas station, after we left Sturgeon Bay. I warned my wife we were going to lose power and coast to a stop. Sure enough, the engine died and we stopped on the shoulder of the highway. There was a mailbox painted in the colors of the Irish flag. I took this as a good omen. 

As I approached the house, I heard a TV blaring. I yelled to the owner we had run out of gas in front of his place. He sounded irritated. “I’m watching the girls play soccer. The gas is in the shed.” He was referring to the 2004 USA Women’s National Soccer Team, who were on their way to winning Olympic Gold. 

I took the gas from the shed and poured it into the car but it still wouldn’t start. A young man came out and sprayed starter fluid at the carburetor, while I cranked the starter. This is when my wife proved to be an automotive genius. Our car was parked slightly uphill and she suggested we push it to level ground. This allowed gas to flow to the engine and it finally started. 

We proceeded to the resort, where I was forced to wear a hideous green-checked sport coat to dine. I suggested we return to Door County when we were older because many of the activities seemed geared to seniors. 

This year, we stayed with our friends at a bed-and-breakfast in a Victorian mansion. Tim is my high school classmate and a retired history professor. His wife, Peg, is a retired social worker. That night we dined at a posh restaurant. We were just finishing when the hostess told us she needed our table. It was my first time getting kicked out of a restaurant.

We walked to a resort, where we found a band playing at the water’s edge. The next morning, breakfast was served promptly at 9 a.m. After we ate with our fellow lodgers, we drove to the tip of the peninsula to take the ferry to Washington Island.

We crossed the treacherous waters of Porte des Morts, French for “Death’s Door,” which is how the county got its name. The ferry crashed through waves giving everyone a free car wash. The next day, we drove to the Cana Island Lighthouse. On the way, we passed the green, white and orange mailbox. The shed was still there but we didn’t stop for gas.

The highlight of the trip was a fish boil at the Old Post Office Restaurant in Ephraim. The cook told us the history of the county, while he used firewood to bring a giant pot to a boil. He added salt, red potatoes and onions. Then he added filets of whitefish that had been caught that day. He poured kerosene on the fire. This caused the pot to boil over and eliminate the fish oil and other impurities. Everything was cooked to perfection, followed by cherry pie. 

Throughout the trip, I talked non-stop about the wonders of Forest Park. When we got back, I thought of how great it would be to have a fish boil in Forest Park. Then I learned that Old School Tavern recently hosted a shrimp boil. I don’t know if they used kerosene but we’re definitely on the right track. 

John Rice

John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.