A fish boil like none other

Lakeside seating at the fish boil.

Lakeside seating at the fish boil.

The restaurant entrance.

The restaurant entrance.

The storyteller.

The storyteller.

Fish ready for boiling.

Fish ready for boiling.

The boilover.

The boilover.

I’ve been to several of Door County, Wisconsin’s trademark fish boils, but my favorite one is at Rowleys Bay Resort Restaurant, 1041 County Road ZZ, Ellison Bay.

What I like about this place, which is open from Memorial Day weekend through mid October, is their verbal presentation about the rich history of the area and their huge buffet and salad bar. There is also a dessert bar, which includes Swedish bakery items baked on-site.

Breakfast and dinner are served daily, and there’s a Sunday Brunch. But my wife and I attended what Rowleys says is the only all-you-can-eat fish boil in Door County, which takes place every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday night and costs $19.99.

The fish boil starts with customers seated lakeside around a large cauldron of water on a wood fire as a master storyteller, an elderly man dressed in pioneer attire and portraying the bay’s namesake, Peter Rowley, relates the history of the area, throwing in some humor along the way.

As the boiling water cooks the fresh whitefish netted from Lake Michigan, some sweet onions and red potatoes, “Mr. Rowley” pauses to educate the audience about the fish boil tradition.

Then, when the time is right and the boiling fish, onions and potatoes are ready to be served, he has everyone move safely back as kerosene is thrown on the fire and the water in the pot boils over, taking the oils of the fish with it.

Everyone moves inside then to enjoy the buffet. For those who don’t care for fish, there’s chicken and many other dishes to satisfy their hunger.

Before and after dinner, we found time to admire Rowleys Bay Resort’s view of Lake Michigan and have a drink or two in the place’s small pub.

Rowleys also offers lodging but we were staying elsewhere. Next time we may give them a try. I’m ready to go back!

Copyright 2016 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises.

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Posted by on October 29, 2016 in Uncategorized


A first-time visit to Sam’s Diner in Davenport was very enjoyable

A first-time visit to Sam’s Diner, 3839 N. Brady St., in Davenport was very enjoyable. The service, food and prices were great.

I ordered a daily special, barbecue ribs, for $9.99. The meal included soup or salad and a side dish. I was pleasantly surprised. I received a full rack of ribs — eight bones surrounded by lots of meat — and the French onion soup I ordered was second to none. My side dish was French fries, which also were good.

There are booths and tables that seat from two people on up. A plus for me was a spoon among the table service. Have you noticed that many restaurants don’t offer that anymore? They expect customers to make do with just a knife and fork. (A soup spoon also came with my soup.)

Sam’s is closed on Monday but open for breakfast, lunch and dinner from 6 a.m to 9 p.m. the other days of the week. I was there on a Sunday. Phone (563) 888-1439.

Copyright 2016 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises.

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Posted by on October 28, 2016 in Uncategorized


A large honor for an old racing announcer

The 2016 inductees. this appeared in a QCS program and on a banner that hangs at the speedway.

The 2016 inductees. This appeared in a QCS program and on a banner that hangs at the speedway.

Sherry took this photo of me at the podium. I love being a racing announcer but don't particularly care to be in the spotlight myself.

Sherry took this photo of me at the podium. I loved being a racing announcer but don’t particularly care to be in the spotlight myself.

I received a large honor Sunday night, Aug. 21, 2016, at Quad City Speedway in East Moline, Ill. I was one of seven people inducted into the track’s Racing Hall of Fame for contributions made to auto racing. Following is a paragraph from an article that later appeared in the Moline Dispatch and Rock Island Argus:

2016 Hall of Fame: Jesse “Tuffy” Morehouse (driver, track official), Bob Stogdell (driver), Rick and Randy Wages (drivers), Jake Willert (driver), Phil Roberts (announcer), Randy Swanson (current track promoter, car owner) and Mike Bardoel (driver) were celebrated and inducted into the Quad City Speedway Hall of Fame as part of the 2016 class on Sunday. Bardoel, who passed away in 2013, was represented by his daughter, Angie Bardoel.

Following is the acceptance speech I read:

I grew up near Davenport Speedway.
I don’t think a young man in the 1950s and early 1960s could grow up near a speedway and not be drawn by the sound of those racing engines.
My buddies and I didn’t have access to smart phones or computers or color television sets that picked up scores of channels.
For fun, we rode our bicycles, built AMT model cars and, when we were old enough, sat together at the speedway on race nights to cheer for our favorite drivers – our heroes.
Some of my buddies wanted to grow up to become race drivers. You may recognize the name of one of them who succeeded in doing so – Gary Webb.
I, on the other hand, wanted to be a racing announcer.
And thanks to determination and some lucky breaks, I was able to achieve that. I did it for 40 years before deciding to hang up the microphone.
I also was the host of an auto racing news program on radio, an auto racing publicist and a freelance writer of racing articles.
Being involved in racing has been a wonderful experience. I met some wonderful people – drivers, crew members, promoters, officials, sponsors and spectators. That included many of the racing heroes I had cheered for as a youngster.
What I miss most about not being actively involved in racing now is seeing these people on a regular basis.
I am honored and appreciative of being included in the Hall of Fame.
But I would like to dedicate this honor to my wife, Sherry, who has supported me in my racing-related endeavors.
For many years, when our family was young, she stayed home raising our four children while I announced races anywhere and everywhere two and three nights a week.
Thank you, Sherry. And thanks to all of you for supporting the best sport in the world, auto racing.

Copyright 2016 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises.

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Posted by on August 23, 2016 in Uncategorized


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Cinnamon Ridge Store is one of Scott County’s great treasures

P1010609 P1010610 P1010612P1010615P1010616P1010617 I’d call it one of one of Scott County’s great treasures. It is Cinnamon Ridge Store, located north of Donahue at 10600 275th Ave. It’s across 275th Avenue from the lane leading to Cinnamon Ridge Farms (, another Scott County treasure.

Cinnamon Ridge Farms (Photos above were taken by Sherry Roberts) is a huge, state-of-the art farm owned and operated by the Joan and John Maxwell family. They milk Jersey dairy cows with robots and make cheese and cheese curds from the milk produced on the farm. They also raise beef cattle, pigs, goats and chickens, and they produce corn, soybeans and winter wheat.

In addition to farming activities, Cinnamon Ridge, which also has a Facebook page, is available for tours, meetings and parties. The tours are by reservation only and booked through their website.

As impressive as all of that is, my favorite part of the entire operation is that little store on 275th Avenue.

The rustic store of roughly 12-by-20 feet with a front porch and an American flag waving in the summer breeze, is easily recognized. It sits next to a giant carved yellow corncob.

The knotty pine-paneled interior gives the store the feel of a cabin in the woods.

Air conditioned in the summer and heated in the winter, Cinnamon Ridge Store, which has been in operation for six years, is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, said Joan.

For sale there are firewood, jellies and jams, cold drinks, baked goods, beef, pork, eggs, cheese and soap made from milk.

“We also have cutting boards made by John’s brother from native wood,” said Joan.

My wife, our granddaughter Marin and I visited Cinnamon Ridge Store recently and left with some frozen sirloin steaks, apple streusel bread, kalamata olive cheddar cheese, brown eggs, soap and beef jerky, all of which came from the farm.

What’s really amazing is, the store is run on the honor system. The price is clearly marked on each item and there’s a calculator on which to total your purchases. You then put your money through a slot on the back wall, and it drops into a small locked room.

Joan said most people are good about paying for their purchases. In fact, “many times they pay more than what their bill is.”

She said, “We have many people who watch our store. The community really embraces the store.”

A while back some farm boys were out during the early morning hours and saw someone in the store, Joan said, and “decided they’d better check it out because they weren’t so sure about it.”

The young men later told Joan the customers “were OK.”

The Maxwells have received phone calls or texts on rare occasions from people who have seen a customer who didn’t pay.

Joan Maxwell said Cinnamon Ridge Store is “not a huge moneymaker, but it is way for us to market our beef. We get more for the beef than we would if we sold it to a packer.”

Customers appreciate this Scott County treasure. A whiteboard on the back wall is full of positive messages from past patrons.

Copyright 2016 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises. This piece ran as a column in the North Scott Press, Eldridge, Iowa.

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Posted by on July 30, 2016 in Uncategorized


The joy of camping – or perhaps not

The joy of camping – or perhaps not. Years ago, Sherry and I and our four children used to go camping on a fairly regular basis. The camping segment of our lives began when we could barely afford to take a summer vacation.

Any summer vacation trips were made financially possible by spending at least half of our vacation nights in a tent with our children. The nights we weren’t in a tent were spent in the least-expensive motels we could find. That way everyone got a shower and a good night’s sleep in air-conditioned comfort.

Oftentimes, the motels wanted large families to rent not one but two rooms, and that was something we just could not afford. So we got around that by leaving the kids in the car while we registered at the motel. We’d reserve a room with two double beds and a rollaway bed.

Then all of us — two adults and four children – would either slip in when no one at the front desk was paying attention or perhaps we’d walk in in two groups.

There are several tent camping adventures that I can recall, all involving the weather.

One was in Wyoming when what appeared to be a bad storm was approaching one evening. It was 1984, and we were on our first family vacation. Our transportation was our 1981 Dodge Aries station wagon, a former rental car. It seated three people in a front bench seat and three more in a second bench seat, which also folded down to become part of the back floor.

As we watched the approach of darkening clouds, saw flashes of lightning and heard the rumble of thunder, we knew it wouldn’t be safe to stay in the tent. So we moved our suitcases and other possessions from the car into the tent. That way we had more room in the car and, with all of our items in the tent, it was less likely to blow away in the storm.

I honestly can’t remember whether or not the storm actually hit us that night. I think it did rain because we all ended up spending that warm summer night in that little station wagon with the windows rolled up. Sherry and I slept – if you can call it that – sitting up in the front seat, and the four kids, crammed like sardines in a can, slept behind us on the floor.

Another memorable tent camping time was in the Amana Colonies, and once again a storm was approaching. We were under lots of trees in our tent at the park in Middle Amana.

Sherry heard the rumble of the approaching storm in the early morning hours and woke us all. We emptied the tent, took it down and put it and all of our possessions into our vehicle, which by this time was a Dodge window van. It was much roomier than the little Aries station wagon had been years earlier.

We all climbed into the van and tried to get some sleep. As I recall, the storm itself went around us again but it did rain. So we had to leave the windows up, and the van’s interior got quite warm.

I also remember the time we pitched our tent in the mountains of Colorado. (We camped at Mt. Evans. where the campground has a 10,600-foot elevation.) It was a warm August day, but when the sun went down, the temperature dropped like a rock. We had only light jackets and sleeping bags and were very thankful that some campers nearby invited us to sit around their campfire. But later, in the tent, it was a long, cold night as we tried to sleep.

The next morning a camp ranger happened by, and I mentioned how cold it had been overnight. “You’re lucky it didn’t snow on you,” he said. We didn’t feel very lucky.

We eventually gave up our tent and graduated to a used 17-foot Mallard travel trailer that slept six, albeit not very comfortably. The trailer, which we pulled with our window van, went to places like Koch’s Meadow Lake near Tipton, Landuit’s Lake near Joslin, Westlake Park in Scott County and, of course, Middle Amana.

Toward the end of its life, the van began having overheating problems when pulling the trailer, so we stayed close to home.

I remember pulling into the campground at Westlake Park one time when a well-meaning person emerged, pointed to a cloud coming from our engine and said, “I think your van’s on fire.” Embarrassed, I replied, “No, that’s steam; it’s merely overheating.”

Family camping trips were not a bad experience if the weather was good, and the children could be outside the trailer, using playground equipment, playing catch or riding their bikes.

But the rainy days, a regular occurrence in our camping years, were miserable because everyone was cooped up inside the small trailer. Or, if the kids did go outside, they found mud and brought it back with them.

We finally sold the travel trailer because, as Sherry pointed out, she’d often spend a day loading it with food and other items for a planned camping trip. Then we’d end up camping in the rain. And then, when we returned home, she’d spend another day unloading the trailer, mopping its muddy floor and laundering muddy clothing.

Sherry eventually put her foot down and said all of her future camping trips were going to be taking place at a Holiday Inn. I didn’t argue, and we’ve lived happily ever after.

Copyright 2016 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises. This piece ran as a column in the North Scott Press, Eldridge, Iowa.

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Posted by on July 30, 2016 in Uncategorized


Scraps from an old reporter’s notepad

Here are some scraps from an old reporter’s notepad:

• Retired Blue Grass farmer Bob Bancks said he made a little history on Memorial Day. He became the first non-veteran to lead the singing of the “Star-Spangled Banner” at the Blue Grass American Legion’s Memorial Day ceremony. Said Bob: “Being a non-veteran doesn’t mean someone is unpatriotic.”

• My wife Sherry and I recently had eye exams, and our pupils were dilated for a while, making seeing difficult. That reminded me of something funny that happened years ago. A fellow I worked with went to the eye doctor. When his appointment had ended, he phoned me at the office and asked for a ride because his pupils were dilated. So I drove to his eye doctor’s office, and he walked out to my car. “Thanks a lot,” he said, then turned to walk toward his pickup truck. “Wait a minute!” I exclaimed. “Aren’t you riding back to the office with me?” “No,” he said with a grin. “They told me I had to call for a ride, and I did.” He then got in his truck and drove away.

• I don’t know about you, but I consider it a good day if Rachel from Cardholder Services has not called me to tell me there is no problem with my credit card, but….

• I appreciate clever signs. And I enjoyed the ones posted outside Animal Care Center in Davenport. They were based on rock ‘n’ roll songs. One said, “I kissed a pug, and I liked it.” The other sign read, “It’s all about the basset.”

• I was out for a walk — an important part of maintaining one’s health, but not my favorite activity — and my wife approached in her car. I put my thumb up like I was hitchhiking. She stopped, rolled down her window, smiled and said, “I don’t pick up strangers, and there’s no one stranger than you.” With that, she drove off. I’m starting to feel a little like Rodney Dangerfield.

• I recently walked by some beautiful red, pink and white peonies in a vase on our dining room table and commented to my wife how nice they looked. “They’re artificial,” she said. “And they’ve been there for two weeks.” Maybe floral stupidity is in the Roberts blood. Years ago, when my mother was in the hospital, my dad watered her flowers in the house religiously. Turned out they were silk flowers.

Copyright 2016 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises. This piece was printed as a column in the North Scott Press, Eldridge, Iowa.

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Posted by on June 23, 2016 in Uncategorized


Few regrets

An interviewer on “CBS Sunday Morning” recently asked a celebrity if he had any regrets in life. The celebrity – I don’t remember now who it was – said he didn’t because decisions he’d made in the past were based on the best information he’d had at the time.

That echoed something I’d heard from a speaker many years ago at a convention I attended. She said we shouldn’t look back and kick ourselves for decisions we made that ultimately didn’t work out because we had based them on the facts we’d had at the time.

I don’t regret the decisions I’ve made that were based on careful thought at the time but ultimately turned out to be wrong.

But I do regret some decisions I’ve made in haste without considering all the facts or without fully considering possible repercussions or were based merely on assumptions that I’d made that turned out to be incorrect.

Here are some examples:

* When I was a Cubmaster with my pack on a father-son campout, I prepared a Mexican hamburger dish for the boys and their fathers for supper. My wife had sent along the ingredients: crushed taco chips, ground beef, ketchup and mustard. The mustard was supposed be added to the concoction to taste, but I used the entire jar, incorrectly assuming that’s what the recipe called for. The boys and their fathers were hungry and ate the hamburger dish, which had a yellow tint to it because of the mustard. But it made them all very thirsty. I had never seen so many people drink so much water. That’s one regret.

* When preparing pancakes from scratch one Saturday morning as a surprise to the family, the recipe called for baking powder. I couldn’t find any in the cupboard, but I did find some baking soda and assumed it was about the same thing. It wasn’t. I did, indeed, surprise the family. I regret my assumption.

* When I stored some unused fishing worms in a former oleo margarine container in the basement refrigerator, I regret not labeling the contents. When we ran out of oleo in the kitchen, my wife sent one the kids downstairs to grab that oleo container she’d seen in the basement refrigerator. When she put it on the supper table, pulled the lid off and saw those wriggling worms instead of oleo, I was instantly filled with regret because I was in big trouble.

* Once, when we were out of dishwasher soap, I assumed that using some liquid dish soap instead in our dishwasher would accomplish the same thing. It did not. Much of the kitchen floor ended up covered in a couple inches of suds. I regret the assumption I had made.

* When our chimney froze up in December 1983 during near-blizzard conditions, I told my wife I’d climb up to it and knock the ice off of it. She begged me not to, but I was sure I could do it and persisted. I never made it to the chimney. My trip in that direction was interrupted by a slip, then a fall off of the roof. I then had some painful months to consider and regret my faulty decision.

* When the woman who would become my wife and I were dating and I came across some standing water in a low part of a road following a downpour, I assumed it was only several inches deep. I said I could easily drive my little 1959 Simca through it. The water was actually a couple of feet deep, and the engine stalled about halfway through the standing water. Murky water poured into the car up to the level of the seats, and the car began to float. Luckily a nice guy in a pickup truck came by and pushed us out. Of course, the engine was waterlogged and would not start. I regretted my decision, based on a poor assumption, to try to drive through the standing water.

* We once were in the same car on a date, headed to a movie in downtown Rock Island, when smoke started pouring into the passenger compartment. The temperature gauge did not work, so I had no idea the car was out of water and overheating. I assumed – incorrectly – the smoke was from some insulation burning off a hot wire, and we kept on going. We made it to the movie. As we stood in the concession area on arrival, waiting to buy popcorn and smelling like smoke, the theater staff started checking the popcorn machine because they thought it was burning up. Later, when we were seated watching the movie and still smelling like smoke, the ushers walked the aisles and shined their flashlights on overhead ventilators, thinking one of them might be on fire. Of course when the movie was over, the car would not start. The overheating had caused a warped cylinder head. And I regretted my earlier assumption that the smoke had been from insulation burning off a hot wire.

* At one time I used to smoke an occasional cigar. It was my policy not to smoke in my car. But one time, on the way home from work, I broke my own rule and lit up. Bad decision. I was driving down the interstate when I dropped the lit cigar, and it went between my legs. Thanks to some quick action, I kept the car seat from getting burned, but the cigar burned a hole in my slacks. It also burned my upper thigh. I quickly regretted my decision to break my own rule against smoking in the car.

Those are a few of my regrets. I don’t regret that I can’t think of any more at the moment.

Copyright 2016 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises. This piece has been submitted as a column to The North Scott Press, Eldridge, Iowa.

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Posted by on May 12, 2016 in Uncategorized