Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Hollywood Spoils Little Bohemia

We saw Public Enemies last week, our one venture to the movies all summer. It was the 7:00 show and the theater was packed. It was also filthy. Spilled popcorn and snack wrappers littered the floor and clearly, the high traffic for this show had taken its smelly toll.

This made me wonder: Can the Northwoods handle Hollywood success?

Public Enemies, starring Johhny Depp, was not a winner for me. I had hoped it would be more of an inside look at the life of the notorious gangster, John Dillinger—particularly because of the talents of the man portraying him. But no. It wasn’t much more than two hours of machine guns blasting. And because all the trench coats and “Cagney” hats looked the same, I had a hard time distinguishing which characters were the public enemies and which were the public servants.

In my uncomfortable seat, I spent most of my viewing time waiting for the scenes shot at Little Bohemia, a restaurant located in Manitowish Waters. I had eaten there many times prior to the release of the film on July 1, 2009, viewed the preserved bullet holes in the windows, and read the yellowed newspaper articles about the shootout there in 1934. Last spring, “Little Bo’s” menu got an overhaul and I made the 45-minute drive there twice, just to eat the best walleye I’ve ever had in the Northwoods.

Being a resort owner, I am asked daily by our guests where they should go out to dinner. This year, without reservation, I have suggested they make the drive up to Little Bohemia, to experience the atmosphere and the fantastic food. I make the recommendation with such passion, that almost EVERYONE goes.

Last night, we took a visiting friend there, expecting a wonderful evening out. Unfortunately, Little Bohemia fell far short of our expectations.

First of all, our table wasn’t ready at our reservation time. And then, the surly hostess seated us right next to the constant swinging doors of the kitchen and the waiter’s station. We asked to be moved and it was as if we had asked for a free meal. She reluctantly moved us to a table across the room and then we were ignored. Wait and bus staff folded napkins and set tables all around us, but no waiter or waitress would even look in our direction. All the indifferent hostess had to say was, “Someone will be right with you,” and it would have been fine. But she couldn’t have cared less.

Finally, our waitress, who failed to give us her name OR smile, was highly unpleasant. The Coke’s were flat. Twice. My salad tasted like Styrofoam and I was brought the wrong dressing. The appetizer of sour creamed egg whites was inedible. My daughter’s ‘medium rare’ steak was still “mooing” and had to be sent back.

The good news is that the walleye was still delicious. It was the best part of the experience—similar to Johnny Depp being the best part of
Public Enemies.

My guess is Little Bohemia is experiencing mid-season burnout. The wait staff seems to resent their success more than they appreciate it. Clearly, they’re tired of the onslaught of tourists, and even though it wasn’t particularly crowded when we got there, they had no desire to act the role of accommodating public servants.

In spite of how much business we’ve sent them week after week, we didn’t mention it, nor did we expect any special treatment. Regardless, we certainly didn’t expect to be treated like public enemies. We were just hoping to have a nice evening out and ended up doing research for the concierge portion of our job.

So, this morning when asked where to go out to dinner, I recommended the families staying in two of our cabins skip the drive up to Manitowish Waters tonight, and instead go to
Mama’s Supper Club. It’s close by and ALWAYS a winner.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Piper in the Pro Shop

Musician, Dave Graham, Illinois resident and Sandy Point guest for the past seven summers, treated the resort today with his bagpipe show. Decked in a jaunty Scottish tam, this year he left the kilt behind and first played at the beach, where it was a bit windy. He brought the pipes up to the cabin area and when he played, a large group of disc golfers stopped in their tracks, held onto their discs for a moment and listened. Soon, putting practice took on a ceremonial feel.

Friday is always a busy day on the course and today was no exception. So, Dave brought his pipes into the pro shop and gave me a personal performance. "It's going to be a lot louder in here than it is outside," he warned as he stepped inside and filled his lungs with air and his pipes with music.

It was a true treat from one of the nicest guests we are lucky enough to see each summer at Sandy Point. Dave is also known as Dave "Catfish" Graham. He is a member of The Salt Creek Boys, probably best described as a folk rock band, and regularly performs in venues around the Chicago area. He not only plays the bagpipes, but also guitar and dulcimer. For more information about the Salt Creek Boys, visit their website at: www.saltcreekboys.com. Meanwhile, check out the Pro Shop Performance:

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Sushi in the Northwoods? Moo!

Last week and for the past 20 years, anytime anyone mentioned “sushi” in the Northwoods, the word that most frequently followed was “bait.” It was similar to the asking the question, “Farms in Berkeley?” (the place from which we came) and hearing the answer, “Moo!” *

Being major sushi aficionados when we first moved here from Northern California, it wasn’t unusual for us to travel as far as Appleton or Madison with a cooler full of ice in order to transport a to-go package to fulfill our constant cravings for this raw fish, Japanese delicacy.

But that has changed. In the year 2009, sushi has finally found its way to the Island City of Minocqua, Wisconsin. We went there for the first time last Sunday and three days later, tonight, we went back. Yes, it’s a regular hamachi, unagi, maguro, caterpillar roll, dragon roll, white tuna, salmon, miso soup and edamame dinner. And, it’s fabulous.

The first time we were there it was odd eating something other than fried food, steak or grilled walleye here in the Northwoods. But not tonight. Tonight we sat right next to the Main Street window and watched the tourist show walk by. Meanwhile, every 10 minutes we saw someone we knew either dining at or passing by the restaurant—disc golf season pass holders, resort guests, even fans of my books.

So, when sushi hits a small town it tastes even more familiar.

Dōmo arigatō to the proprietors of Kobe Sushi, 519 Oneida Street, Minocqua, WI • 715-358-7983. We highly recommend it.

* Berkeley Farms, a dairy company based in Northern California once used the slogan: “Farms in Berkeley? Moo!”

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Cost of Good Clean Family Fun

Yesterday was Camille’s birthday—a family holiday to be sure. Each July 15 we all do minimum tasks at Sandy Point Resort and put the pro shop in the very capable hands of our man Stu, so we can spend the day celebrating our youngest member.

After watching her annual renewed membership in the Northwoods Birthday Club on NBC Channel 12, she opened her gifts and plastered a smile across her beautiful face that lasted the entire day. It doesn’t take much to please Camille. She could have opened a box of rubber bands and it would have made her happy. So, the iPod touch sent her soaring.

In years past, we’ve gone to an indoor waterslide facility, a place called The Waters; however, last year her broken arm prevented that. This year she was looking for something “new.” I’m not sure who had the idea to go Go-Karting, but it was certainly in-line with all our thinking (particularly because we’ve seen the movie “The Great Outdoors” about a thousand times) that it’s a great—even classic— Northwoods family activity.

And it was.

The kids went on all three tracks, dad on two, I on one. The kart was a little kramped for me, but I accelerated around those curves and loved the feel of the wind in my face. It was a fun-filled five minutes of burning fossil fuels.

Total cost for 15 minutes of activity (45 if you add up all our individual five minute runs): $54 . . . plus six bucks for the ice cream, bringing us to $60. This means that while we were out gallivanting, our own business that tries to attract the family-activity crowd, needed to take in 12 green fees to pay for our expenses.

We might have had half that number.

Something is wrong with this picture. Sandy Point Resort and Disc Golf Ranch offers a great family activity that costs five bucks a head and kids under 12 are FREE. Further, as compared to a Go-Kart run that lasts five minutes, a disc golf green fee is good for the entire day. With 25-27 holes on the course, an average round takes 1-1/2 to 2 hours; but you can play it twice, even three times. You can even leave and come back, and like some of our die-hard fanatics, play night golf til 3 AM.

Even if you don’t care for the game, no one can deny that the grounds are gorgeous, and walking with your friends or family while they play is a great outdoor exercise. There’s a picnic area and a lovely, clean public bathroom. 

So if you’re looking for an inexpensive way to spend time with your family this summer OR if you want to bring out the kids for a birthday party, head out Hwy. 70, 20 minutes West of Minocqua. It's worth the drive and we’re open during the road construction. 

We've got a fabulous, unique shop too, and frankly, we could use the business. For one reason, we have to find a way to pay for that iPod.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Beyotch at Sandy Point Resort

What a nightmare. I have been the crabbiest beyotch on the planet for the past six weeks due to the Internet project put before me at a time of year when I hardly have time to go to the bathroom without interruption.

The problem: Our original webmaster, who could never get the shopping cart to function on our online store, gave up. Yes, he threw up his hands, pushed aside the keyboard and said, "I quit." He doesn't feel good about it and has offered to make some kind of restitution; however, this cost us A LOT of money and even more time photographing and uploading products to said site. 

So, we hired a new guy, who promised us a working site in 12 days. He agreed to match the cost of the original but failed to mention we'd have to duplicate the number of hours (and we're talking hundreds of hours) to upload the some 200 products we had in the store.

After 12 days, we weren't even close to having a working site. Every day there was a new glitch, snafu or problem. The misspellings and grammar errors alone made the editor in me ROAR (and I've never been much of a copy editor). I lost count after day 45 of correspondence that usually began with a morning email from me asking: "When is our site going live?"

That was at least a week ago.

Well, it looks like we finally have an operating online store. I can't be sure because we haven't had any REAL customers yet, and I suppose that means I'm going to be spending whatever minutes of time I can find during the remainder of the season to promote this thing . . . hence this blog.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Christmas in July

This Thursday, July 9, 2009, the annual Christmas in July Arts and Crafts fair will take place in St. Germain, Wisconsin. This will be one of only two juried shows I will be participating in this summer. I will bring with me my traveling jewelry boards, showing off all the latest creations from Dream Life Designs.

This fair, St. Germain’s largest of the season, takes place between 9am and 3pm at St. Germain Community Park, just off Hwy. 70 East. For the first time I’m not bringing my tent with the colorful waving flags. They wanted me to set up on a dirt road and I didn’t want the jewelry to get dusty. Why I can’t manage to get the same tent site each year after doing this show for about seven or eight years is always puzzling; however, I’m happy to try out a site under the pavilion.

Hopefully I’ll see many of my regular customers who always help make this show a success, and meet some new people as well. Of course, for those of you who can’t make it, the shop at Sandy Point is open every day between now and September and you may also want to check out our NEW online store: www.sandypointproshop.com

And by the way, the weather forecast is for 78° temperatures with a chance of late thunder storms. That's far better than the 53° highs we had last week, when it truly felt like Christmas in July.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Birch Trees Strip Tease

Some of you may remember our valiant effort to save the birch trees at our shoreline last summer after a momentary microburst tore apart about 400 ft. of our lakefront. Most of the trees uprooted or snapped in half by the sudden wind gust could not be saved, nor could the boat house they smashed. But the stand of four birch trees at the east end of the property were pulled back into position by our “muscle boat.”

Here is a link to a video documenting the birch tree rescue.

Seventeen years ago when we moved to the Northwoods, the previous owner of Sandy Point told us “all of the birch trees would be gone in ten years.” Given we still have hundreds of them on property, happily his prophecy didn’t come true. We have, however, lost several hundred to both a birch blight and a birch bore. Evidence of dying birch trees is around every corner in the Northwoods.

Because they tend to die from the top down and regularly drop branches and large sections of trunk, they can be a hazard. Twice now, we’ve had our friends, The Good Family, (who are Sandy Point regulars and happen to be lumberjacks) come in the fall and take down all the dead birches in the common areas of the grounds.

When we returned to Sandy Point in the spring, we were happy to see our rescued lakefront stand had re-rooted and survived a particularly harsh winter.

But it was a sad sight to see the holocaust pile of dead birch logs piled just off of Sandy Point Lane, on the fairway of long-hole 9.

Because I couldn’t bear see these trees go to rot, I found a way to preserve their beautiful paper white bark. Armed with plenty of mosquito repellant and a utility knife, I stripped many of these beauties bare and opened the birch bark factory.

So far my creations have been canoe ornaments and switch plate covers. Unfortunately I just ran out of sewing sinew.

More is on the way, though, and I’ve got these beautiful pieces of classic Northwoods beauty for sale in The Shop at Sandy Point.

I don’t know how much longer nature will supply my materials, so don’t hesitate to get your hands on these items. They make great gifts, and even better reminders of Northwoods’ beauty.