After the familiar sound of Sandhill Cranes at Ottawa Lake, we moved to another familiar sound – auto racing at Elkhart Lake. (Our “home” campground in Elma, Washington, is very near the Grays Harbor County Fairgrounds where they have sprint-car racing all summer.) Road America, just outside Elkhart Lake, is a major stop on the road race circuit and draws sport car enthusiasts from all over the world. It all started in 1950 when the Village of Elkhart Lake hosted an open-road sports car race on the surrounding roads. Organized by local Sports Car Club of America members, the race covered a 3.35-mile circuit. Thirty-three cars entered and attracted 15,000 spectators. In 1951, the race expanded to 6.5 miles and included streets within the city. That year there were 98 entries and some 75,000 spectators. Nineteen-fifty-two saw 238 cars entered and an attendance of 130,000! Open-road racing ended then until 1955 when Road America was established. The old road circuits for the 1950s races are now marked for tourists to follow, which we did – at the speed limit, of course.
However, we were not there for racing; we were there to visit a friend. Formerly from Washington State, Deborah is now the pastor at the Community United Church of Christ in Elkhart Lake. We knew her at our home church in Olympia since she was on staff there with Sharon just before Deborah entered seminary. She joined us for lunch and a nice long conversation in our motorhome. We also attended service at her church on Sunday.
Part of our time in that area, we camped at the Broughton Sheboygan Marsh County Park which includes a lodge, a restaurant, a campground, and the 13,000 acre Sheboygan Marsh Natural Area. Beginning in the 1870s, numerous attempts to drain the “swamp” were made to convert it to farm land. As often happens when we try to “improve on nature,” it was a disaster; large areas became environmental wastelands. Beginning in 1927, environmental activists began attempts at restoring the marsh. In 1938, a small dam was constructed on the Sheboygan River by the Federal Works Progress Administration (WPA). The area quickly flooded, and the Marsh flourished.
The park also boasts Wisconsin’s tallest wooden observation tower. Measuring in at 80 feet, it commands an awesome view of the marsh, Sheboygan Lake, and the surrounding countryside. We climbed the tower several times, once just to watch the sun set.
Then, to cap everything off, we were able to spend a wonderful afternoon with Sarah, one of Jon’s late sister Margaret’s daughters. We were disappointed that Kathy, Sarah’s sister, was unable to join us because she was ill. We sincerely hope she recovers completely and quickly.