13 August 2007

Lost City: Wisconsin Edition: Primitive Living Still Possible

Journalists and sociologists like to go on about globalization and how the world is ever shrinking. It's all a bit exaggerated in my opinion. From my experience, it's still quite possible to cut yourself off from the modern world with very little effort.

Take my recent day trip to Washington Island, a Manhattan-sized isle in Lake Michigan, just off the tip of the Door County peninsula. The island has one grocery store, one school, one everything. Until recently, it's single gas station had no competition. And it only received its first ATM two years ago (and let me tell you, it's a primitive one, sounding a bit like an old fax machine as its churns into service). One of the few public phones listed on the map turned out to be touch-tone phone attached to an old GTE phone box, usable only if you had a credit card number to dial in.

Building costs are very high on the island, since all materials must be brought over from the mainland. Many buy prefab homes for this reason, but ferrying them over to the isle will run a cool $30,000 or so.

In the winter, there is only one ferry a day to the island, with room for only 17 cars, two of which must be the grocery truck and the mail truck. You must make reservations in advance both from and back to the island and the trip, owning to ice, could take anywhere from 2 to 11 hours. (It usually takes a half hour.) Because of this, people board the ferry equipped with food, water, warm clothes and a good book.

Spend just a few hours on Washington Island, and it's easy to forget the rest of the teeming, striving planet.

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