I'm not very good with estimating mileage. Not the sort that figures into the consumption of gasoline, but the sort that measures how far one thing is from another. For instance, I would guess that Madison is roughly 60 miles from Williams Bay. I may be off on this. I would also guess that Minneapolis is roughly 300 miles away. I refuse to check to see if I'm right or to learn just how wrong I am. One length I'm certain I can't quite grasp is the definition of a million miles. I'm creeping out onto a very thin limb here, but I'm guessing that a million miles is roughly the distance from Chicago to Door County, give or take.
I didn't come up with this measurement on my own. Instead, Door County pitched the idea to me in one beautiful two page ad in the most recent Chicago magazine. That magazine, by the way, is like a rock band with 17 active members, each strumming or hitting a different instrument at the same time in someone's parent's garage. The noise is overwhelming, off-putting, confusing. To the band it's righteous rock and roll, to nearly everyone else it's just an assault of very loud noise. Chicago Magazine has so much going on inside the tranquil cover that I find it hard to concentrate on any one thing because so many other things are screaming for my attention. And that's just in the table of contents.
But I take exception with Chicago magazine for more than just that one design "attribute". The recent issue - the one with the big Door County ad that I'll get back to in a second - has an article titled "Will Drive For Food". The article, like so many in so many Chicago publications with ulterior motives, works very hard to skip over the Lake Geneva area in favor of such vacation hotbeds as Harbor Country (good luck finding any open restaurants if it isn't July or August), Madison- with it's lakes that look pretty until you smell them, and the ever-popular Chicago vacation destination of Louisville, Kentucky. It's practically every other day I hear someone telling me about their weekend trip to Louisville.
That's a joke, just like the article. But back to Door County. It's big. It's sort of delightful, actually. It's a break from the spastic ways of the other pages, and that visual halftime is welcome. But the ad is filled with trouble, both intentional and unintentional. The ad features a bunch of blue water and some happy couple in a boat. The boat is the first problem. It's a Chris Craft, which is nice. But it's a small Chris, perhaps just a 20' Launch, or whatever Chris Craft calls their smallish 20ish foot boat. The boat is pretty, the water calm. I'm grateful for the boat and the actors and the photographer that they were able to capture the shot while the waters were calm. Perhaps just 30 minutes after the image was captured there was likely a storm on the water that left that Chris looking more like the Edmund Fitzgerald.
The boat is too small for Lake Michigan, and that's all there is to it. The lake is dangerous, and I wouldn't feel at my most confident if plying those angry waters in a 20' open bow runabout. That issue of life and death aside, it's more about the million miles. The ad says, proudly, "A million miles away is closer than you think". Ah, so Door County understands their geography problem, and we all know that acceptance is the first step towards recovery. But I think the ad plays on words in a way that reinforces an already cemented opinion: Door County really is a million miles away.
Now, granted, it's not a long million miles. It's like how 120 in Phoenix only feels like 112, on account of the dry heat and all. It's like that with Door County and the million miles you must travel to get there. It might feel like a million miles, but it's a short million. If you've never driven a million miles in a weekend, it really isn't that bad. The scenery is fine, well, fine once you get through Milwaukee, which means your drive will improve once you travel approximately three hours from your city or suburban home. After that, the million miles isn't all that far. Remember, it only feels like a million miles. It's really just like 900,000 miles, or so.
I suppose if that couple in the boat was interested in boating over blue waters, they could have just come to Lake Geneva. When a storm whips up, as storms do, they could race in to their pier where their boat lift will effortlessly lift their little blue boat out of the water and it will be saved from large waves and menacing winds. But if they were forced to ride out a brief summer storm while aboard their little boat they would survive, no matter what. Lake Michigan might want to eat your boat, but Geneva just wants you to get back safely to the pier. It appears now as though you have two very distinct options. You can drive a million miles to find a place to boat, or you can drive about 90 miles and do the same. The choice is yours, but we all know there's really only one correct answer.
Lake Geneva: Closer than you think since 1833 when John Brink was told to go find Door County and he wisely replied, "But, it's too far...".
(Photograph courtesy Ideal Impressions Photography)