Adventure + Connection: 18 Hours in Sheboygan

March 19, 2018

I used to (very judgingly) have somewhat of a strange confusion around, or maybe it was a misunderstanding of, people who lived in tiny towns in the middle of nowhere. On our frequent drives from southern to northern Wisconsin for lake time, it wasn’t uncommon for me to express a little uneasiness as we passed through these towns. I unfairly considered these towns as drive-through towns, just as so many people consider the Midwest to be flyover states. While that sentiment saves us in terms of the area staying less-populated than the east or west coasts, it’s kinda bullshit. And to come full circle, it’s also bullshit that I considered small towns as any less desirable than the more populous areas that I’ve lived or where I felt comfortable. But the more that I drive and travel and see, I seem to understand it much more. I have chased many things in my life, all in pursuit of flow and peace. And it's precisely that which I find when in the smaller towns. I imagine that when you are surrounded with less people and less things to compare your life and status to, it's so much easier for you to focus on what you are grateful for. You aren’t constantly comparing. Or maybe there is the same comparison taking place and I have it all wrong, but it feels as though when you are in a place where the focus is on what you do have, what mother nature around you is giving you in that moment, there is so much staring at you, blatantly telling you, “this is for you.” Social media may try to rob this of you. The interconnectivity of it all may sneak in and cause some confusion and insecurity and lust for more, but for those able to refocus on the true gifts of their lives, I think maybe a simpler life brings you closer to sustainable, intrinsic joy. But again, that’s not my place to confirm that as truth.

When I’m out of the city, that state of constant gratitude helps me feel an inner peace that I don't easily feel otherwise. Contrary to all of this though, one might say that the city does that exact same thing for them. They find a peace and flow among humans and that brings them a sense of constant awareness of and appreciation for what they have as they compared to those with less or those with more, recognizing that they are actually totally content. I suppose there is no right or wrong here, and it wasn't my point to dive into this, but it just seems as though it's something that in crazy times like we live in - which I should say I think everyone always says no matter what the times are - it just goes to show that we are always seeking peace of mind, peace of soul, peace of whatever...the answer is. Maybe this is also known as the Truth, notice the capital t, and for ourselves to find a way of living that feels good, happy, sustainable. I think this is also why there are so many people seeking a minimal and simple way of life - when you take stock of all that you have and love every single belonging, you are so much more able to find fulfillment, find clarity, find that which makes you happy. Less decisions and less clutter just might translate to living closer to your Truth. I think that's also why people are so in love with time by the water, it's so easy to find a sense of how small we and our problems are in comparison to a body of water (or a mountain or a vast expanse) and it's a truly refreshing feeling.

Going to the lake always feels like a true going home for me. Home is the place where we feel loved and a sense of non-complication. Going home could be a person, a physical building, or, if you’re like me, a body of water. It's important to discover what your home is and prioritize either physically being home or emotionally/spiritually accessing home whenever and however you want to. And as often as you can. Which leads me to my most recent trip "home"... In the months leading up to this little getaway, things have been wild. Sometimes in a good way, sometimes in a “drink a bottle of wine and watch KUWTK to rinse off the emotions” type of way. If you don’t know what KUWTK is, don’t Google it because that means you can stay free from the shame I feel from binge-ing KUWTK. Here is some context as to what inspired this trip. In November I started working with two coaches because I knew I needed support if I was going to go ALL IN with Lake Effect Co. In the past year I’d felt a bit off in my intentions behind the business, like my original intent was gone and I was hustling for reasons I couldn’t quite feel good about. I was not making the kind of money I needed to support myself and therefore couldn’t justify the time I was spending on this business. I was just, in a funk. Funk is probably an understatement - I was miserable and a lotta self-loathing. Both of these coaches fell into my life the way most “right” things do - unexpectedly though totally calculatedly by the Universe, God, whatever you call him/her/it.

All I know is that the last few months of working with them both has corrected my course and as I wrapped up intense period of activity with one, the other also noticed that perhaps I was on my way to burnout. That’s because I’ve been gone weekend after weekend, hustling at shows/markets. In between those markets, I seem to work no less than 60-70 hours a week and I’m not bragging, I’m complaining because that HUSTLE is not mine. If you are someone who works that amount and loves it, YOU, GO. I am not someone who does well when in the middle of those seasons, but they are, at times, necessary to shake the stagnation and build momentum. So it goes. What was missing in all of this hustle was the very thing that makes me feel truly alive and aligned with my purpose and the point behind Lake Effect Co. - adventure and connection.

So at the prompting by one of those lovely coaches, I picked a lake, booked an Airbnb, and created my “weekend” getaway...when your weekends are actually booked, you have to be creative, so this one just so happened to be on a Wednesday. When I started my trek, I decided to take all backroads. There was no traffic, the sun was bright, the playlist was on point, and all was lovely. I arrived at my Airbnb in Sheboygan Falls, which was actually a small inn, at about 4p, and was greeted by the housekeeper - coffee, freshly baked cookies, the most lovely 2-story room. The wallpaper, the afternoon light, the kindness. It was all perfect. The Rochester Inn. Go there. I also needed to get to nearby Sheboygan by 5pm to visit a shop that will likely soon be offering Lake Effect Co gear. So I was on my way quickly, and I wound my way through Kohler (probably the classiest, most confusingly perfect place) and arrived in Sheboygan. And it was lovely too. Graced Home is the second shop (the original is in Manitowoc) by owner Natalie, and every item in the shop was perfectly curated - I snagged a few perfect gifts and cards. The lovely gal working the register gave me some recommendations for wine and dinner, which were the top two places I had chosen when doing my research, so it all felt synchronous.

I stopped at Il Ritrovo, an Italian wine bar, market and restaurant a few blocks away. The waiter flirted with me in a perfectly uncreepy way - the type of flirting with a girl drinking wine alone that all waiters should aspire to do. He was so disappointed I wasn’t staying for a whole bottle or for dinner “to get to know one another” (eye roll, yet so good) but I was on my way to catch the lake before the sun would set on the day. I should also mention there still wasn’t a cloud in the sky, the temps were mild in the mid-40s, the wind had died, and I was the perfect 1.5 glass wine buzzed. I walked along the shore, as so many others were doing, and enjoyed the smells and sights of the lake. I already felt my cortisol dropping. My heart was feeling sappy. Mission accomplished.

I then drove back to the main drag in town where I stopped at spot #2 - the Black Pig. Between the friendly, helpful waiter (who also had time for and interest in a fun banter), two chatty strangers also sitting at the bar - one from Hayward, one from south carolina, and an off-shift waitress, we shared stories, lake stories, business stories, travel stories, and all in all just chatted about all the things. After the waitress suggested that the Inn I was about to retire back to was haunted, I decided to take the rest of the bottle of wine home with me and make the lights out portion of the night a bit less scary. No issue. I was out like a light, slept like a baby. Next thing you know, the alarm was going off and I was not so happy that 6 AM had arrived so soon. Though I was happy to see I had not encountered any ghosts (and later confirmed with the innkeeper that there are no reports of ghost-sightings that they’re aware of.) But I was out the door after a cup of in-room coffee. I could see the sun was beginning to rise, so I hauled ass hard to make it to the lake before things got started. I pulled into Kohler Andrae State Park at 6:41, and the sky was perfect already. Over the next hour I snapped photos, walked the beach, climbed the dunes, slipped on the ice (wet sand when it’s cold is actually ice, friends), and watched the day start to unfold so, so beautifully, slowly, lovingly. Judge me all you want, but I think I got a lil teary when I realized just how necessary these slow, alone moments were. If my heart wasn’t already a pile of goop, it was all the way melted now. I’ve always loved the sound of waves on the shore, but maybe not more than this moment. And the fun part was that halfway through this little excursion, the overuse of the camera and the chilly temps killed my phone, so I was forced to slow down and live in these moments even more fully.

After beach time, I wanted to check out the coffee shop that the waitress had recommend the night before, so I started my slow commute into town. I hugged the lake instead of taking the freeway - something that I do as often as possible in Milwaukee as well. I settled into Paradigm (which doubles as a music venue) for a cappuccino, pumpkin chocolate chip muffin fresh out of the oven, and a window seat. Large space, cheap prices, chatty and accommodating staff, lovely morning light. I was productive. Words flowed. The day was good. When I checked into the Inn the night before, the housekeeper (did I mention how lovely she was?) had suggested that I leave my breakfast preference time outside my door before I went to bed and she’d have it - and any of my preferences - ready at that time. I didn’t even realize breakfast was included, but she sold her cooking skills to me, so I only had a few nibbles of my muffin to save room for a proper feast back at the Inn before I hit the road.

So when I returned to the Inn for my chosen time to dine and noticed a couple eating their breakfast, I was somewhat annoyed that I’d have to make small talk. I was so wrong. They were so awesome. They were staying there for one night, passing through for a work trip, and we ended up talking for almost two hours about all the things. Parents of eight, lovers of travel, business owners, we had surprisingly so much in common and were belly laughing until near checkout time. We met one of the owners of the inn, we had more coffee, we talked business strategy, I helped with some LinkedIn settings, we exchanged contact info, and we were both on our way. Not ready to hit the road quite yet, I headed to another coffee shop (guys, I drink half-caff, don’t worry about my consumption...) that was recommended from a friend and Kohler employee. The Craverie is too cute. The vibe is so European. The coffee is served in GIANT MUGS. If I was actually hungry, I would have done serious damage here. Another gem. More inspo. More writing. More flow. People. Yes, the lake was incredible over the 18ish hour getaway, but the people were even more lovely. Everyone I met was warm. The connections were genuine. So, as noted above, since the goal of this getaway was to refill my “adventure & connection cup”, hot DAMN it’s overflowing. From what I’ve heard, locals often knock Sheboygan, and so many people are quick to smacktalk small town life (self included), but I hope they’re kidding and secretly just downplaying their love to keep the masses away -, because this area is special. I hope they truly see what I saw, as an outsider.  

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Katherine Gramann

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