Day 18: Wisconsin by Land and by Sea

A whirlwind of a day.  Really digging in and trying to get things done.  The weather has been very cool and clouds mostly cooperative.  Gorgeous clouds rolling through all day long.  It would be a good day for just lying on your back and watching them.  But not me, not today.

Last night, as I was shooting the lit signs outside Northern Advertising in Antigo, a woman was leaving and invited me to “come see the signs inside in the morning.”  I didn’t know there were any!  So you betcha, I was there at the crack of dawn.  It was actually the biggest functioning collection I’ve ever seen outside of the American Sign Museum in Cincinnati.  Loads of beer signs — all porcelain enamel and in fantastic condition.  This is an overview of the front building:

And there’s more signs in the back building:

It’s hard to pick out any favorites — but here are a couple nice ones.  I’ll post a bunch more at my website eventually.


Sure, these modern hamburgers signs are pretty tacky — but I liked the monumental-ness of it here — and it looked pretty good in the sun.  At the Cool Twist in Suring:

At the former Decker’s Uncle Sam Fireworks in Abrams:

From Green Bay — I’m pretty sure this is either a replica or a newly-created sign.  But Al’s Hamburger Shop has been there since 1934.  That’s plastic protecting the neon:


Also from Green Bay — the Willow Street Bakery has been open “for over 40 years”:


Moving on to the Door Peninsula — do Wisconsiners call it the “D.P.”?  This one from Sturgeon Bay.  A very sad, very closed (since at least 2007) mid-century motel:

Barely discernible at the bottom of the sign face — identifying this place as the Dun-Ro-Min Motel:

Another one from Sturgeon Bay — vitrolite of the day shot!  George Draeb Jewelry opened here in 1910.  The vitrolite or carrara glass must have been added to the building in the 1920s or 1930s.  This picture doesn’t do it justice — those are clouds reflecting at the top:

A bit of terrazzo as well:

OK — moving on to today’s big event and time-eater.  I’ve always wanted to get a shot or two of the giant coffee pot on Washington Island.  But it’s only accessible by ferry so I’ve blown it off til now.  Lots of traffic on the little scenic and touristy roads of the Door Peninsula — for a while, it seemed impossible.  Plus, from my pre-printed schedule, the last ferry back to the mainland left at 6pm.  I did the math as I drove and even called the ferry office to make sure I had it right.  The ferry person on the phone said it couldn’t be done.  The ferry takes about a half hour.  If I got there for the 5:15pm boat, I could grab my photos of the Coffee Pot which is right there by the ferry and catch the ride back.   I did some speeding when I could and prayed I wouldn’t get stopped.  Didn’t.  Rather stressful but we got there at 5:10.

More than likely, we wouldn’t make that 6pm boat back so I brought Sparkle along for the extra $25.   If I would up “stuck” there — no tragedy — I’d be forced to romp in the sand with the dogs for a couple of hours and then rough it overnight by camping with Sparkle.  I’m sure the hotels there wouldn’t take four dogs and/or cost a fortune.

Here’s Sparkle enjoying the ride:

The view:


As I grabbed my photos of the Coffee Pot (uploaded one to Flickr tonight), I saw the line forming for the 6pm ferry back.  I hesitated and got in line.  I knew it meant sacrificing a lot of beach romping and exploring time — but I’m just way too far behind schedule.  I’m sure I’m the only person that would have done this:  spent $37 for 5 minutes to shoot a Coffee Pot.  But there you have the insanity of me and these roadtrips.

Back on land…. From Ephraim.  Wish I’d had time to stop for ice cream here — but the light was fading.


From Baileys Harbor — nicely done wood carvings:



The Cape Cod Motel in Egg Harbor.  This area was very Cape Cod-y with rich folks, yachts, cutesy stores.  I couldn’t get out of there fast enough!  No, actually, it was very pretty — the water lapping at the road and I got to take the roads much slower on the way back.


Tomorrow — working our way further south towards Milwaukee.  I doubt we’ll actually get there though until Thursday.

10 thoughts on “Day 18: Wisconsin by Land and by Sea

  1. Thanks for sharing this trip with us! I’ve been reading it daily (as usual for your trips) and look forward to each installment.

    The pictures are looking great, and it makes me wish I was still on vacation.

    I was wondering if you had ever tried a circular polarizing filter to eliminate reflections on signs and Vitrolite storefronts? I’ve been using one recently (a Kenko Pro1 Digital) and it’s amazing how it can remove reflections from car windows and car interiors.

    Keep up the great work!

    • Thanks for the positive feedback & tip. You know, I have a filter with me that I bought with the camera. I think it is a polarizing filter but I’ve never used it. Maybe I’ll give it a shot the next time I’ve got serious glare.

  2. Episode 18: Sparkle Takes The Ferry

    You spent the entire 5 minutes shooting the coffee pot? I guess you wanted your money’s worth.

    Wilson’s: Two words: Black Cow.

    Patio Drive-in and Motel: Of course I love it,too. Nice they keep it up.

    Sky-Lit Motel : Still like it but after removing half of the “stars” & painting it solid blue, it just looks, ODD.

    Good timing at Northern Advertising ! Neon heaven! I have a sentimental attraction to Hamm’s Beer stuff, but it’s ALL good.Schlitz & Pabst of course iconic, too.

    Sweet stuff, DJ.

    • Sparkle got a nice, refreshing car wash for my $37, too. Water crashing against the bow of the ship on the way back. Guess the captain was making time and wanting to get home since it was his final trip for the day. I might have only shot the coffee pot for two minutes. Then hopped in line. The dogs didn’t even get to pee!

      I DID have an orange cow (like creamsickle) today if that makes up for it. It was tremendous. At Ardy & Ed’s — the roller skating car hop gave the dogs free biscuits. Didn’t take a photo of orange cow — but here’s the place:
      Ardy & Ed's Drive-in

      Shame about the Sky-Lit losing stars — but that part could be repainted — not as bad as a missing piece — or neon replaced with plastic.

      Northern Advertising had a couple fantastic Hamm’s neon signs with sequentially animated plastic (celluloid?) beer mugs. I’m sure I took close-ups — have to wait for the website this winter.

  3. As always… love the blog! I didn’t know Northern Advertising had all those things inside – we only saw the outside! While in Milwaukee, this may interest you, my wife recently submitted it to Roadside America…

    If you get a chance in Milwaukee to see the Oriental Theatre in Milwaukee (especially the main auditorium) it is AMAZING – we perform Rocky Horror there every month (my wife and I are in the cast)

    Are you hitting my hometown of Racine?

    Thanks again for all the photos!

    • Yup — I’ve got the ship & lighthouse at my site here:

      And the Oriental Theatre here:

      Though I’m hoping to reshoot both places. I will be doing Racine again. Reshoots & new stuff. I’ve been to Wisconsin about 3 or 4 times now but in varying weather, with an older camera, and always places that I missed before on my list.

      Yes, I bet most folks don’t know about those signs inside Northern Advertising. The collection is mind-blowing.

      Glad you’re enjoying my blog — don’t forget to check out the simultaneous Flickr photos, too:

      Sid & Roxie

      Oh, and if you’re looking for something particular at my website (like the Milwaukee ship or the Oriental), don’t forget you can use the search boxes at my site’s home page and the main pages at each section.

  4. Yay! You know I need to hear about your refreshments! Sounds great!
    Creamsicles were a staple for me as a youngin’.

    What a pal! I have to wait for Hamm’s shots…..Humph!

    You do know I must weigh in on the polarizer idea. I think I know you a bit & your shooting style. So, here’s my opinion. It won’t hurt to try it, but for you, the results may not outweigh the drawbacks.It is certainly effective in SOME ways but I can’t see you keeping it on your lens for long.

    I don’t know if I like the idea of removing reflections from Vitrolite or not. Doesn’t that remove the charm? Don’t know.

    Anyway, here’s a short video (no reading involved unless you want to). You may want to give it a whirl (pun intended).

    Say HI to the Kids.

    Blue skies tomorrow & more good shooting!

    • Not sure how much glare we’re talking about removing with filters. All foreign territory to me. But I’ll try it if I come up against a hard case on this trip. No time for reading or videos right now but I’ve copied the link to look over maybe this winter.

  5. Bah! You’ve left Door County? I’ve got a small (and very cleverly hidden) neon shop in Sturgeon Bay. Would have loved to chat :O)

    • Rarely time for chatting on these trips. Must maximize daylight for photo-taking. But if you’ve got some interesting neon signs stashed about, let me know where you’re located so I can stop in next time I’m up that way. Which probably won’t be for a few years. I’ve just started adding a couple thousand Wisconsin photos to the website — so you might want to check it out in a month or so:

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