Model T Trip of a Lifetime June, 2014
By Brian Jordan and Todd Johnson
Photos by Valerie Jordan and Kem Johnson
Well, how does something like this get started? I had read an article on the S.S. Badger, the coal fired ferry that crosses Lake Michigan, and about how they might be shutting it down in the near future. Then I read on the Forum about a couple that had driven their Roadster pick-up around Lake Michigan in 2009. I had also read about the Gilmore Car Museum and thought we might be able to hit it on the way home. Then you mention you would like to drive your Model T around Lake Michigan to a few club members around a campfire and the next thing you know you are making plans for a trip of a lifetime! We ended up with 6 cars starting out on this adventure. Todd & Kem Johnson of Greenwood, IN, Howard McAnaulty of Ladoga, IN, Evan Cork and Nick & Thelma Ellingwood of Wallace, IN, Brian & Norma Andrews of Rossville, IL and Brian & Valerie Jordan of Williamsport, IN. When we met in Williamsport for the start of the trip, after filling up with gas and posing for pictures, I told everyone that we were leaving as friends and we were going to come back as friends or we weren’t going. Everyone agreed.
The basic plan for the trip was no deadlines or schedules except the crossing of Lake Michigan on the S.S. Badger out of Ludington, MI on day 4 because reservations had to be made for the Badger a couple of months ahead of time, and we had to be back in 14 days because some of us had to be back to work. We had planned to keep the trip laid back with easy days driving and time to stop and see things when the mood hit any of us. After we crossed the lake, we met up with Dan Schultz, a friend from Wisconsin who I had been talking to about the trip. He wanted to go and was our tour guide through Door County, Green Bay and the Upper Peninsula. He knows the area well since he travels this area in his Model T and on a snowmobile in the winter months. One of the amazing things about the trip was we were always able to find motels with 6 or 7 rooms. The trip was an adventure for sure. We had no major car problems, and those that we did have were very few and minor. We were all on our own and didn’t have a trouble truck following along behind us. Pretty amazing since one of our cars was 100 years old.
When we got home, Todd & Kem put together a hardback scrapbook for all of us that went on the trip. What a wonderful surprise and a wonderful keepsake of our amazing trip! Then when Dan came to the Covered Bridge Tour in September, he brought all of us blankets he made showing where we had visited on the trip. How incredible was that? Both items will be treasured by all of us.
I’m finally getting this article written in the memory of our friend, Evan Cork, who passed away in November, 2015. He is and will be missed.
Following are the days of the tour and the stops we made that Todd posted on our Chapter Forum as we were on the trip (with some additional commentary added by Kem).
Day 1: Sunday, June 8, 2014
What a great day! We started from Williamsport, IN and drove to New Buffalo, MI. No breakdowns, just a broken bolt on a starter. We had a great surprise when JR & Deb Coyner, members of our Chapter, joined us in West Lafayette. They traveled with us until we reached North Judson, IN. We drove 140 miles at an average speed of 28 mph. We actually drove for 5 hours, but our travel time was 7.5 hours. (Note: Model Ts are not heavy enough to trigger the signals to change in West Lafayette, IN.)
Day 2: Monday, June 9th
We started out running along the lake and seeing some lovely and expensive homes. Another great day and no car issues. We stopped in South Haven for lunch and walked down to the lighthouse. We left South Haven and drove to Holland. We were in search of a Wal*Mart and in the process lost part of our group in Holland. Large cities and traffic lights aren’t friends of Model Ters. We did finally find each other. We had walkie-talkies with us, but those don’t really help when you don’t know the area.
Of course, if we pass a place that serves ice cream we have to stop. It’s our “thing”.
We thought we would only go about 80 miles today, but we were having such a good time we continued on to Grand Haven, MI, which made our drive 119 miles for the day. This means we will get into Ludington early tomorrow and have more time to rest and look around. We will need to be ready to board the ferry at 7:30 AM on Wednesday. We have had great weather, in the mid 70's with a light wind today. (Note: Before you go off to the front desk at the hotel because your door key doesn’t work, you might want to check to be sure that it isn’t the key from the night before.)
Day 3: Tuesday, June 10th
When you don't think it could get better, it does. Today was just 99 miles and all I can say it was awesome. What a great day! Well, except for a little hiccup in the morning. We were happily heading out of Grand Haven on US31 WHEN IT CHANGED INTO AN INTERSTATE WITH A MINIMUM OF 45 MPH! You know when you’re driving in your Model Ts and everyone is smiling, giving you a “thumbs up” and honking? Well, we were being honked at all right, but not in a nice way. After all it was a weekday morning at a little before 9 AM. Remember those walkie-talkies that were mentioned previously? Well, they were being used in a major way by us to the lead car to get off at the NEXT OFF-RAMP. And we did without incident. Whew! The rest of the day was excellent.
While we were stopped for lunch in Stony Lake, MI, a gentleman told us about a man who had Model Ts close to where we were. So off we went in search of Model Ts. As it turns out, Nick, Thelma and Evan knew this gentlemen from other Model T tours. He was very gracious and showed us all of his cars. Honestly, it just may have been the highlight of his day to have 6 Model Ts show up at his home. The same gentleman at Stony Lake told us about two other stops we should make – a bakery and a winery. Both were excellent suggestions.
We ended in Ludington, MI. The ferry will depart from here tomorrow at 7:30 AM for a 4 hour trip across Lake Michigan, ending in Wisconsin. We went to dinner at the House of Flavor (ice cream flavors.) And did they have a selection of flavors! After dinner we drove to where we would be boarding the ferry in the morning, to get the “lay of the land” for tomorrow.
We had no breakdowns and everyone had big smiles on their faces because of the great day. Can’t wait to see what is next. Wish everyone could be here with us. (Note: One should always remove the chock before trying to move their Model T.)
Day 4: Wednesday, June 11th
We started our day with a 4 hour ferry ride across Lake Michigan landing in Manitowoc, WI. Usually the crew of the Badger loads all of the cars onto the ferry, but since we had antique cars, we loaded our own cars. Pretty awesome to be below deck with all of the other vehicles including semi-tractors and trailers, and RVs. This ferry is HUGE!
As we were coming into Manitowoc, they announced over the PA system for the “Model T drivers to go down to the hold to unload first”. Pretty awesome. It rained most of the night and all the way across. We were met by Dan Schultz, a long time Covered Bridge attendee. Now we are 7. Dan will be our guide for the next several days. Dan knows the area both by Model T and snowmobile. By the time we docked the rain had stopped, but it stayed overcast all day, with jus a slight drizzle now and then. We only had 3.5 hours of driving today ending up just North of Sturgeon Bay in Door County. On our way up, we stopped at a wonderful shop called The Flying Pig. They had unusual and beautiful yard art, but with limited space in our vehicles, we had to pass on purchasing anything. We saw some great sights, most of our drive was along the lake, and only had a little problem with one car. This morning the car had a dead battery, so that was charged while we were on the ferry. The alternator wasn’t charging, so we stopped at an auto parts store to check it out. Later the same car had fuel problems. We spent a little time taking the fuel bowl off and checking fuel supply back to the cutoff switch. Got it. The rest of the day was great. Dan says that he has some great sites for us to see the next few days. (Note: As it turns out a huge ferry has the same type of entertainment as a cruise ship and the same type of comedians. “What do you call a seagull when it flies over the bay – a bagel”? Ha!)
Day 5: Thursday, June 12th
We spent the first half of the day in Door County, stopping at Wood Orchard Market. We drove through a beautiful town called Egg Harbor. This is area is a must see. God's hand definitely at work here. The roads were great, maybe some of the best so far on this trip. We drove just a little over 100 miles today; 4 hours driving and the other 4 hours stopped for shopping, eating, and touring Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers. The tour was awesome. A few of us took the expanded tour which took us to the top of Lambeau Field, right under the scoreboard. And yes, lots of pictures.
We stayed in a 50's style motel with our vehicles parked right outside our door. We had dinner at the restaurant attached to the motel.
Day 6: Friday, June 13th
Leaving Green Bay this morning was a little cool, with a light wind. Drove 115 miles today, in just a little over 4 hours. Stopped in Escanaba, MI for the night. This puts our total number of miles at 662 so far. Again an early stop. The roads are great and so are the views of the land and lakes. We stopped in Peshtigo, WI at the Peshtigo Fire Museum. There was a horrible, and widespread, wild fire in this area that happened at the same time as the Great Chicago Fire. Thus the reason that not very many people are aware of the tragedies that happened here.
On a happier note, one of us decided that ice cream would be good this evening, so, of course, we all decided that sounded pretty darn good. We found an ice cream shop not too far from our hotel. We weren’t sure they were open because there wasn’t anyone there. Soon after we got there, the place was packed.
On a more unpleasant note: One thing we noticed, the wild life is bountiful, and I found that road kill at 30 mph looks a lot worse then at 70 mph.
(Note: Wherever Model Ts gather, a crowd will arrive. The owner of the ice cream shop knows that for sure.)
Day 7: Saturday, June 14th
I thought on the 7th day we were to rest. We did 139 miles today, but first.
After posting yesterday, I was called to the parking lot. Why? Yes, a problem with our car - water leak. It was a small leak coming from around one of the freeze plugs. Had it fixed in no time. Easy fix.
Today we started at 8:00 AM because we knew we would have a busy day. We started with a temperature of 38 degrees. It is colder this morning than Kem liked to have the top down, so up it came. The top up only lasted about an hour, not because Kem wanted me to put it down, but because we lost the screws to latch our top to the window frame. TOP DOWN! Dan took us on some great country back roads with thick forests of trees. We stopped one time and were immediately swarmed by mosquitoes. One of our group wondered what the mosquitoes ate on until we stopped for them to have lunch. We stopped at Munising Falls, and Pictured Rocks. Yes, Kem and I have taken over 200 pictures so far. Then our next stop was the "Log Slide". This is where, in the 1800's, they would slide the logs down the dunes into Lake Superior. Temperatures were dropping as evening was just about to catch up with us.
We stopped in our most Northern town. The town of Grand Marais, MI, with a whopping population of 300. Had a great dinner. Then it is time to fix the top. Screws? What screws? We have just about every part you could think of but no screws that would work. So into town I go to try and find something open. After 3 stops, and 45 minutes later, one of the employees at the only gas station in town, went home and cut down a couple bolts that worked great. He got a good tip for a job well done.
All I know is, from here it is South and East, South and East.
Day 8: Sunday, June 15th
Well, things couldn't get much better than this. Missed any rain overnight and looks like we will get away before it starts. Our first stage of today was down a dirt, washboard road. It lasted a lot longer than any of us would have wanted but that is part of what will be a memory we will never forget.
Stop was for lunch and a walk to view the upper Tahquamenon Falls. Can you say WINDY? Well the wind picked up, the temperatures began to drop. Did I mention the WIND? Well we all bundled up, and held on. Oh yea, ice cream was a stop too. We each now have our favorite flavors.
We arrived in St. Ignace around 6:00 PM. Time to get dinner and cover our cars because it's time for the rain. We have a view of the Mackinac Straight and Mackinac Island from our hotel rooms.
We totaled 142 miles today with 5:11 driving and 3.5 hours stopped. We haven't seen the weather yet so I'm not sure what we are in for tomorrow. There are two things I know for sure, we have headed south, toward home, and this is one Father’s Day I will always remember.
(Two Notes for today: First, amazingly all of our vehicles held together after the very rough, washboard road that we drove on for about 20 miles. Second, Tahquamenon rhymes with phenomenon.)
Day 9: Monday, June 16th
Five of our group decided to take the ferry out to Mackinac Island for the morning. Kem and I and another couple went to the local Laundromat to wash the first half of the trips clothes so that we could wear them on part 2 of this adventure. After lunch, we headed across the Mackinac Bridge, which wasn't as bad as I thought it might have been. It wasn't near as windy as the day before. It was pretty great to cross the Bridge in an open air vehicle even though it was windy and cool. We only drove 73 miles, part of which was through the "Tunnel of Trees". You need to Google it and see pictures. Yes, we took some too.
We drove through Harbor Springs and Petosky. Our day ended at the Bay Inn just South of Petosky and we had a wonderful view of Little Traverse Bay.
After dinner, we sat outside to watch the sun set over the bay. While we were waiting for that to happen, Todd entertained us by flying (and crashing) his new drone he bought in St. Ignace.
We had been watching the weather and they were talking rain for tomorrow.
Day 10: Tuesday, June 17th
Well, you may have guessed it. RAIN, RAIN, RAIN, and not just a little. Our day started early as our friend, Dan, who meet us when we got off the ferry in Wisconsin, left almost before the sun came up to head home. He was headed south to get the ferry home. We got our things together, stopped for breakfast and watched it RAIN. Did I mention that it was RAINING?
What a great time we had with Dan. Memories that I will never forget. Thanks, Dan, from all of us. Can't wait to see you at the Covered Bridge Tour.
As the saying goings, “it’s darkest before the dawn”. With Dan gone, Kem and I are now taking the lead, and just as we were leaving the restaurant, our truck started bucking and backfiring. It seems that the "True-Fire" that we run had gotten wet from all the RAIN! We are on a very busy highway (US31), it’s pouring rain and there is a huge amount of traffic with people trying to get to work. So after a couple stops, some WD-40, a plastic bag under the hood and over the firewall, (not an attractive look, but it worked) we were on our way again. We sort of felt like “back in the day”, when this vehicle might have made it from Indianapolis to California – you make do with what you have to stay on the road).
We started making a little better time. We had to drive in the RAIN for over 40 miles. We stopped at noon for lunch in East Jordan, where we were also meeting Paul Hollingsworth and Diann Hollingsworth. What a nice surprise! While we were waiting, a woman approached us and asked if we wanted to come to her house and see her and her husband’s Model Ts. We said sure and headed out. What a surprise for her husband to see 6 Model Ts and a modern car (Paul and Diann were in that) pull into their driveway. We spent about an hour visiting, then we headed back on the road. After lunch, we surprised Kem, with a birthday candle in a Hostess cupcake, in fact cupcakes for everyone. We all sang happy birthday to Kem, and gave her a card (which was wet from all the RAIN) right there in the parking lot of the BP gas station and McDonald’s. This will be a birthday that she will not soon forget. Heading South things started moving along. Until they didn’t. WHAT? I run out of gas. I had 2 gallons on the running board so it wasn't long and we were on the road again. (With egg on my face, no wait Hostess Cupcake.) We traveled 158 miles today putting our total at 1,175 miles. It was dinner at the House of Flavors again tonight. Some of us had the “Hog Trough” for their dinner. I won’t mention any names. We made it to our beach front motel in Manistee, MI and, as we speak, the sun is setting over the lake, and yes we do have pictures.
Day 11: Wednesday, June 18th
Good morning! I will give you a sneak peek of what our day’s drive looks like it’s going to be……… RAIN! The sneak peek was just what we thought. RAIN, and lots of it, along with lightning and thunder. The kind that makes you think, "What the hell are we doing"?
We planned an aggressive day and that caused us to put more hours behind the wheel. To stay off the main roads through the Manistee National Forest, we did everything you could think of for roads. All with lots of water. We drove on some beautiful roads today including “2 track roads” (and I use that term “roads” loosely) that had huge puddles in the middle of them that we had to drive around because we weren’t too sure how deep they were. Paul said the roads weren’t even on his GPS. That’s what happens when you follow Todd and Kem. However, everyone had big smiles on their faces and said they had a blast driving on “2 track roads”. Of course, these types of roads caused us to drive at a slower pace than we had hoped.
We stopped at noon-thirty to let a line of heavy rain and thunder storms pass that were south of us. We had a few stops along the way for things like looking at a 1914 that was for sale, ice cream, taking pictures and eating. Today we logged 165 miles ending at 7:30 PM in Hastings, MI. I think everyone is going to call it early tonight. We have a big day tomorrow going to the "Gilmore Car Museum". Depending how long we stay will determine how far we will get tomorrow.
(Note: Our GPS, “Rosie”, will take us the shortest distance no matter what the roads are like.)
Day 12: Thursday, June, 19th
What? It's after 9:00 PM and the day just flew by. We did stop at the Gilmore Car Museum. When we parked all of our cars in their parking lot, all of these employees started coming out of the building. We thought we had done something wrong. But no, they just wanted to see our cars and then had use drive all of our cars through the gate and onto their lawn right outside of the ‘50s diner. How cool is that? We had lunch at the diner, which was a lot of fun, and we were all given a free frozen custard for displaying our cars for most of the day on their grounds. Very nice. We spent about 5 hours looking at all the great things they had. Not just the cars, but all of the neat buildings and displays. Believe it or not we did take a bunch of pictures. A couple guys in our group got a nap waiting for the others. They will be surprised when they see the pictures.
We drove 108 miles today and ended in Niles, MI, making us wonder if we have one or two days left. We heard that we were going to have rain tomorrow so that may slow us down.
Even though we had the time of our lives just the thought of sleeping in your own bed sounds pretty good right now.
We only had a little problem today, one of the guys tightened his brake band last night, and then, after it started smoking, we stopped and he loosened it back up. I told him if it isn't broke don't fix it.
Day 13--Last Day: Friday, June 21st
We stopped in North Judson, IN for gas. While we were at the gas station, a man came up to us and said he had a Model T and a Model A and asked if we wanted to come see them. Of course! So off we go to this man’s home – 6 Model Ts and 1 modern vehicle. This time the man must have called his wife and let her know we were coming by. As we drove up, his wife, daughter and granddaughter will all sitting on their front porch waiting for the “parade”. We started out with a little rain in the morning, but by the time we hit Indiana the sun was out and it was pretty warm.
Our last day was 179 miles. We only had a couple small slowdowns: one for a brake rod dragging, the other was our car. At about 70 miles from being back to Williamsport, Indiana, our "T" started making a horrible noise. Sounds like the universal joint is going out, but it still made it back to Williamsport.
Let’s put our trip into some perspective;
1. Started out (and ended) with 6 Model Ts
2. Each car drove at least 1626 miles, with an average speed of 25 MPH
3. Total mileage for all 6 vehicles - more than 9,756 miles
4. 12 nights in hotels - $960.00
5. 75 gallons of gas - $296.00 (+ / -)
6. At least 26 meals out, not counting breakfast with rooms
7. 4 quarts of oil (others a lot more)
8. Unknown scoops of ice cream
9. The experience-PRICELESS!
That sounds like a great trip. I hope my car is capable of a trip like that one day.
Great story Brian---you should submit to Vintage Ford !!!!
It was a pleasant surprise when you all stopped at my place to look at the 14 depot hack I had for sale. Nice to know you all made it home safe.
Pictures? Video? sounds like fun
Wow what a cool trip William! My cars are all capable of doing that sort of thing, not sure myself is? Maybe. Had to be a gorgeous scenic route. Mackinac Island is on my bucket list. I crossed the bridge twice (obviously?) over 40 years ago in my early 20s. What an experience and view! I'm kinda surprised they let Model T's cross it. A friend of ours who "summers" up in the Keweenaw sent us pics of the Tunnel of Trees. Just gorgeous.
Now you're making ME wanna make this trip!
Sounds like a amazing time.
thanks for sharing.
My lovely wife and I also made this trip.
I believe we spoke prior to your departure.
My advise to anyone considering this adventure?
JUST DO IT!!
This was a great trip that I had the opportunity to tag along for part of. The pictures are of a roadside stop in Wisconsin, and getting lined up to cross the Mackinac Bridge.(note the 48 star flags on the motometer) If you have the time it is a great way to see the countryside, of course we all already know that. UP Michigan has a lot to explore in a Model T. If you need a guide, look me up. Dan
Loved the story! Mom and Dad (and our Fordor) spent 20 years at Grand Marais. Their western property line was the Pictured Rocks national park.
What a nice enjoyable read this is, makes me want to do a trip like this. It would be nice if our website had a site where our folks could post a rough route of their travels so others may use it as a progressive trip of their own.
William - Sounds like a great trip for sure! And as others have said, a great "write up" that needs to be in the club magazine! You're a great writer William, and I'm betting that you could add in any number of small "incidents" of all kinds to add to the interest. That way, the write-up could be at least a 2-part series, or maybe even more!
Great story. Sounds like a fun trip. Sorry I didn't know when you were coming through, I live just outside of Ludington would have loved to met up with you. George
Why did you take the ferry and cut off half the journey? To avoid Chicago?
Great story! My wife and I traveled the UP about a month ago. The Mackinac Bridge, Rt.28, Munising, Copper Harbor. All beautiful country rich with history. Hope you had a chance to eat some delicious UP pasties.
Dave, Yes to avoid Chicago but really wanted to load the T on a ferry and go across the lake.
Thanks Dan for adding pictures.
Here is a shot of the Miners Castle at Pictured Rocks on Lake Superior. Great stuff to see in a model T. We saw 3 of the Great Lakes that day.
Please use paragraph breaks .... that page of text is like a wall of words.
Sorry but that is what happens when you copy and paste.