At least one of your summertime dreams looks a lot like Wisconsin, whether you know it yet or not.
Growing up in Georgia, I didn’t really have a clear picture of Wisconsin. I had vague imagery of dairy farms, cheese hats, and hyper-enthusiastic sports fans, but not a lot more. So my expectations for the third phase of our progressive road trip were tempered.
Basically, I told myself, we just need to pass through the midwest on our way to the ubiquitous tourist stops further west.
I had managed to find an intriguing Relais & Chateaux hotel in Wisconsin, though, so we planned around that. The rest of the details would unfold spontaneously, without a detailed itinerary.
We left Chicago behind and headed into farm country.
As luck would have it, we arrived in Appleton, Wisconsin just as the annual vintage car show was getting started.
Now entering its 46th year, the Appleton Old Car Show & Swapmeet is one of the largest events of its type. More than 15,000 people regularly attend – and more than 1,000 cars are on display.
We discovered acres of wooded parkland – Pierce Park in Appleton – filled with shiny machines from every era. The pace was leisurely. We stopped and talked to the owner of a vintage Avanti and a couple who owned a Model T.
We admired hood ornaments and tail fins, bucket seats and rumble seats.
Trophies are handed out at the show in 29 categories, including Best of Show Pre-War and Post War, Thunderbirds, Corvettes, Trucks, Customs, and a Mayor’s Choice award.
The romance of cars – and the road trips they enable – is on full display at a vintage car show. The Appleton event includes a concours d’elegance – a parade of participating cars, where the sounds of the engines add to the excitement.
Over the years, Mr. H. and I have stumbled upon car events in Europe and beyond. He enjoys them even more than I do. I now make a point of checking the international concours d’elegance calendar before a trip. Sometimes we get lucky!
After a Covid-related hiatus, the Appleton Old Car Show & Swapmeet is back in Pierce Park on July 18, 2021!
From Appleton, we headed northeast, with a stop at Moe’s (Almost World Famous) Diner, a quirky roadside eatery that has since closed. The classic diner interior, menu and jukebox added to the sense of American nostalgia that had become our theme for this portion of our trip.
We generally use the Roadtrippers app, along with Yelp! to find meals along our route. For white table cloth splurges, we use OpenTable and Resy, as well as Zagat. For vegetarians – or whenever you’re craving something healthy – we highly recommend the Happy Cow app, too.
Then it was on to Canoe Bay, the Relais & Chateau resort in Chetek, Wisconsin that had caught my eye online.
If Canoe Bay has a summer camp vibe, it’s because it was, in fact, once a church camp. Now there are 300 secluded acres of hardwood forest and spring fed lakes reserved for a couples-only resort.
Lakefront cabins and tiny houses with a rustic vibe, feature fireplaces, private decks and mini-kitchens. Gourmet dinners, made from ingredients farmed on site, are delivered to your door.
There’s even a two-story A-frame library complete with loft seating overlooking the lake.
One of Mr. H.’s favorite activities is swimming in lakes and rivers. We keep additional apps like Outly and SwimGuide on our phones – and swimsuits in the car – so that we can jump in whenever we discover something new. (SwimGuide even monitors water quality at thousands of watering holes and beaches.)
Canoe Bay offers lake swimming at its most classic. There’s a floating dock to swim out to and dive from.
Canoes and kayaks are stacked along the shore for paddling further out. There’s great hiking as well as simple trail walks and, in winter, you can borrow snowshoes from reception and trek out to the frozen lakes.
Adirondack chairs and loungers are set up in just the right spots for enjoying relaxing sunsets or morning coffee.
(We’ve added similar folding Adirondacks by Polywood to our SmithHönig outdoor product mix. We love them because they’re lightweight, long lasting, low maintenance – and made using recycled plastic bottles!)
Adirondacks and colorful pillows have such classic summer vibes! We love being transported back to our own summer camp days when we see these beauties around a fire pit!
After three days of complete relaxation and gastronomical indulgence we said goodbye to Canoe Bay – though we were already planning a next visit.
By the time we parked the Lincoln and returned home, we’d decided that Wisconsin was one of our favorite destinations. And we couldn’t wait to get back.
Next Thursday, the journey continues, as we head to The Badlands & Beyond.