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By Staff | Aug 12, 2011

Whenever my wife and I travel we try to maximize our absorption of flavors and sights and sounds. As Yogi Berra once sagely stated, “you can see a lot by observing.”

This means being willing to chat with whomever we might chance to meet. Usually, this leads to some delightful encounters. The vast majority of folks, we have found, are nice and polite and helpful.

For instance, when we recently visited Door County, Wisconsin, I chatted for a while with a local guy. Through careful observation, I noticed that he pronounced “Milwaukee” as “Mwaky.”

He recommended that we visit a place called Charlie’s Smokehouse, located at Gill’s Rock, noshing on freshly picked cherries as we motored along.

Finding Gill’s Rock is fairly easy: you simply drive north on the Door Peninsula until you run out of land. Failing to observe the “end of road” sign will result in vehicular baptism in the sapphire waters of Lake Michigan.

Gill’s Rock isn’t so much a town as a small settlement, a remote outpost on the tip of Wisconsin’s thumb. And Charlie’s Smokehouse doesn’t so much feature smokable materials as things that have been smoked.

Fish is obviously at the top on their list. My wife and I each selected a hunk of nicely smoked fish, then sat on the deck at Charlie’s and ate fish out of its newspaper wrapping. I observed that the fish that had landed in the Editorial section was especially pungent.

After experiencing as much excitement as we could tolerate at Gill’s Rock – visiting a pair of gift shops was involved – we got back into the car and continued our peninsular wanderings and cherry munching.

“We’re living like bears,” I observed to my wife. “We’re eating so many berries and fish, you’d think we’re getting ready for hibernation!”

“Except for bears usually don’t breakfast on French toast stuffed with cream cheese and cherries,” she replied.

She was right, of course. But, still.

No visit to a maritime region is complete without a stop at a beach. With that in mind, we headed for Whitefish Dunes State Park.

The day was quite warm and the swimming area at the park was swarming with swimmers. An uncountable number of little deceased fish littered the beach, lending the area a powerfully fishy aroma.

I later learned that these were alewives, who cope with spikes in water temperature by dying in droves. The expired alewives deterred the swimmers not in the least.

Vast herds of gulls roamed the beach, stuffing their gizzards.

During my stroll, I observed a young man who was using an air pump to inflate a very large, extremely colorful and gracefully curved object. I stopped to chat with him and learned that his name was Jasper and that he’s originally from Madison, Wisc., and that the thing he was filling with air was a kite.

“I’ve been kite surfing for 10 years,” said Jasper. He then paused to cast a wary eye toward a park ranger who was purposefully striding down a nearby path.

“Listen,” said Jasper, “If that ranger asks, “I’m just demonstrating an inflatable tent, OK?”

Within moments Jasper was harnessed to his kite. The kite jumped up into the sky and soared high above, tugging mightily at its pilot. I watched from the beach, deeply jealous. Not just because Jasper was young and carefree and owned a kite, but also because he probably knows how to swim.

Farther down the coast we stumbled onto the town of Algoma. We stood on the pier and watched boatloads of sport fishermen go out to match wits with the wily salmon.

As they exited the breakwater and smashed into the big waves, the boats’ prows appeared to rise up to a 90-degree angle.

If I were to ride on one of those boats I would be too busy feeding the fish to even think about catching any of them.

Speaking of fish, my wife and I both noticed an overpowering side effect of consuming large quantities of smoked fish.

Throughout the day and well into the evening, we both experienced extremely fishy burps. There seemed to be no end to these eruptions; I feared that fishy burps would still be bubbling out of us weeks later.

We didn’t think much of it until we arrived at our hotel that evening. Walking across the parking lot, we heard a familiar noise behind us.

And there was a herd of seagulls, observing us expectantly.

Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at jjpcnels@itctel.com.

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