Seeing as this is now the 4th year we’ve done this ride, as lead guide I was concerned that some repeat riders might be getting a bit bored of the route. I think this year’s trip was a great reminder that every year is a little different but always special in its own way. The Door County magic is what has kept me coming back for a yearly visit my entire life! The peninsula may stay the same, but each time you visit there are new adventures to be had and new perspectives to experience. This year was no exception.
The forecast leading up to the ride had been completely different every single time I checked which always makes for challenging packing. Luckily on the first day of the ride the sun was out and everyone was in good spirits.
This year we added a new stop before riding into camp, riders enjoyed a sweet afternoon treat at Not Licked Yet Frozen Custard. From there we rolled into Peninsula State Park together and took the Sunset trail to the group campsite. We had a few drops of rain while at dinner but most of our group was unphased. We mounted bikes for the ride back to camp in the dark, some brave souls even took the Sunset Trail.
It was a new moon so the sky was especially dark all weekend. This made for great stargazing especially on Washington Island.
Day two we had a delicious breakfast at camp and rolled out, getting our legs warmed up gaining some elevation out of the park as we climbed the bluff. At the top of the bluff is one of the best views in all of Door County, from the top of the Eagle Tower! Of course we had to go up and check it out!
After a lovely morning of riding, we had a peaceful lunch at Jens Jensen’s folk school, the Clearing and got to explore the campus including inside some buildings. Some people even found the beach! We then were back on our bikes and all made it to the ferry with just 10 minutes before the 2pm ferry, rather than rush to get on the boat we decided to take the 3pm ferry and all got a chance to go swimming in the lake! The sun was out but after riding all afternoon the water felt cool and refreshing. The other folks waiting for the ferry bundled up in their sweatshirts gave us some funny looks for swimming, but we didn’t mind.
Once on Washington Island some riders went ahead to set up camp and a few of us enjoyed drinks at Nelsen’s Bitters Bar. Once we all made it back to camp we were treated to an amazing dinner, and the timing could not have been more perfect. A huge storm cloud rolled in right as we went in to eat.
One of the very best parts of this ride is that we have a caterer cook us dinner and breakfast for two days and nights while on the Island. Food is taken care of by the owners of the Washington Island Campground, Kayla and Mike and Chef Andy, who has become a bit of a legend among OOFD.
Some of our riders say they come back just for Andy’s food, and it’s no lie. We love Andy because he makes absolutely delicious food and makes sure we do not go hungry, and Andy loves our group because we love to eat! The food truly is so delicious, you can really taste the heart and soul that’s put into it!
By the time we came out from Dinner the storm had passed and we were able to dry off some picnic tables and have a nice bonfire to end the evening.
Day 3 the weather was a bit cooler and there was a strong wind coming from the north. After a hearty breakfast we set out for another adventure. We spent the morning checking out some of the most famous Washington Island sightseeing spots including the Stavkirke Icelandic Chapel. Next up we stopped at Schoolhouse Beach, a geological wonder filled with smooth limestones that cover the beach, formed by glaciers. This beach is very rare, one of just five like it in the entire world. Because of that, taking stones from it comes with a steep fine! The beach was also just voted one of the clearest in the US!
We then headed to catch the Karfi to Rock Island, a passenger only ferry with no cars or bikes allowed. The strong wind made for an exciting boat ride with big waves crashing on the bow, making us feel like we were on Splash Mountain.
Finally we had made it to Valhalla! We biked up the peninsula, crossed two bodies of water and made it to Rock Island State Park, the former estate of wealthy inventor Chester Thordenson who dreamed of creating a Valhalla in America. He died before he was able to finalize building his estate, but there are some remnants of his time on the island, including the magnificent Boat House that welcomes visitors to the Island. It’s filled with treasures and the journey to Rock Island is worth it for the boathouse alone.
On Monday we departed camp for good and said goodbye to our hosts until next year. We rode down the peninsula with a slight tailwind. Monday was definitely chilly, so we kept moving to keep warm. We almost had a catastrophe when Alex left his phone at the Ferry, but luckily we were able to send the van to go retrieve it and all was fine in no time.
Written by lead guide Maggie Marek
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