Reader mail: favorite diners, kid getaways

A soaring heat index, then buckets of much-needed rain, made it a fine time to take a cool dip into the reader mailbag. Here are excerpts:

Jean Sweet of Madison writes to let us know about Ron Lukes’ “Toft Point: A Legacy of People and Pines” (Nature-Wise, $24.95), the story of Emma Toft, whose family is among those who established The Ridges Sanctuary in Door County. Toft Point is north of Baileys Harbor.

“The story of how she started a resort on the family land at the turn of the century, with no electricity or indoor plumbing (and no need to advertise) is fascinating,” Jean says. “It was the peace and beauty of nature, the delicious meals prepared by Emma from fish just caught that day, chickens from their flock, fresh vegetables from the bountiful gardens, wild berries gleaned from the land, and the wonderful conversations with Emma and outstanding guests that attracted people.”

To learn more about the author, a longtime naturalist, go to (select “guides,” then “learning opportunities”) or write: Ron Luke, 3962 Hillside Road, Egg Harbor, WI 54209. The website contains great information about art and nature classes conducted in Door County.

“I have been a faithful fan of Road America and Elkhart Lake for over 35 years,” writes Gerry Pechmann of Cottage Grove. “From the first trip there with older friends in 1970, I have been hooked on the fun and excitement … Now, our 19-year-old son travels along and has fallen in love with the area, too.”

Gerry says he plans to build a small memorial at Road America, in honor of drivers who have lost their lives there, “doing what they loved.”

We also love hearing back from the people whose businesses have been “Roads Traveled” topics.

“We have been hearing from your readers via phone, plus this weekend two different parties came to the desk wanting to check us out (after reading your article) for a family reunion,” write Denny and Sue Robertson at Dillman’s Bay Resort, Lac du Flambeau.

Todd Bucher of Bayfield County says reader response to the recent column about his Delta Diner has been good. “We have seen people in the diner from each of the markets that picked up your article,” he writes. “The day after the article ran in the Janesville paper, a gentleman showed up for breakfast to have the Norwegian pancakes.  Turns out he drove all the way from Janesville that morning and was headed back home the same day!

“Thirteen hours roundtrip for breakfast … unreal.  He grew up in New Jersey and frequented a diner similar to ours.  His trip was a pilgrimage of sorts.”

Sally Whiffen sent a handwritten note: “Loved your Up North diners’ article, but you missed the Twin Gables Café in Brule, Highway 2, just west of Iron River. It is superb.”

Joanne Raetz Stuttgen thinks so, too. She writes, in “Café Wisconsin” (UW Press, $19.95): “Stop in and try the hot beef – and pick up a Finnish-American calendar for the coming year.”

Joann Goodlaxson of Waupun liked hearing about some of our favorite churches in Wisconsin. “Here’s another neat church,” she writes, with regard to the white frame Waupun Norwegian Lutheran Church, on Church Road, east of the city.” Its 150th anniversary will be celebrated Aug. 28, first with a light lunch and Norwegian violin music at noon, then a worship service at 2 p.m.

“A guest from the Vesterheim Genealogical Center in Madison will also share the background of why and how many Norwegian immigrants came to Wisconsin, particularly this area,” Joann says. Call (920) 748-8909 or (920) 324-6099 to learn more.

“We are in the process of turning my Grandma’s house into a rural retreat for quilters, needleworkers, stampers and people just looking for a rural vacation,” writes Kari Bender-Burke of Poynette. The family’s working farm of 240 acres can accommodate up to 15 guests and is on Highway J. For more, see or call (608) 575-0736.

Further back in the mailbag are reader suggestions that we sent to Madison’s Lu Ann Williams, the inspirational and creative retired teacher whose Christmas gift to her granddaughters is a fun and educational weekend trip. They have been to Milwaukee, Chicago and St. Paul, Minn., and welcomed other destination ideas.

Amish Acres at Nappanee, Ind. — not far from South Bend – fits the bill, says Shirley Bickley, Stoughton. “There are buggy rides, theaters, wonderful restaurants where you can get the Threshers Dinner, with loads to dishes to pass, family-style,” she says. To learn more, see or call (800) 800-4942. The annual arts/crafts festival, Aug. 11-14, has 400 vendors.

Ardith Zarling recommends her own city, Fond du Lac. “We have many interesting things,” she writes, including the nearby Larson’s Clydesdales, 30-room Galloway House and the two-story Kristmas Kringle Shoppe. For more, see or call (800) 937-9123.

“A trip to the Henry Ford Museum is a bit beyond one tank of gas, but very interesting,” says Marilyn Cohn, Madison. “The historic hotel Henry Ford built is now a Marriott called the Dearborn Inn.” There are five Colonial guest homes that replicate the residences of famous Americans.

A stop at the museum was a part of a trip to Detroit that I took last winter. The Ford Rouge Factory Tour begins here; it is technologically fascinating, with unexpectedly sophisticated artistic components. More than what you’d expect!

Because it was winter, we were unable to see meander through Greenfield Village, a part of the museum complex that is more than 100 historic buildings and memorials, from Henry Ford’s home to the George Washington Carver cabin.

To learn more about all things Ford, go to or call (800) 835-5237.

Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to drop a line, and we wish there was room to acknowledge all of you!