2013-May-June-Trip Research Archives

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Wed. May 29th: Exploring Mystic

• CATEGORIES: Features • TAGS: This site contains affiliate links for which I may be compensated.

<– Day 25 – Tues. May 28th: Some Family History | Trip Overview | Day 27 – Thur. May 30th: A Submarine, A Lighthouse, and Lobsters –>


Another “if built for a movie, then built for real, people will come” story … Mystic Pizza.

On Wednesday we drove from Darien, Connecticut, to Warwick, Rhode Island.


Wednesday’s drive from Darien to Warwick.

Wednesday morning we left my cousin-by-marriage George’s place. It was a beautiful day for a drive along the coast.


We traveled east along the Connecticut shoreline until we stumbled on the town of Mystic. Being young adults of the 1980s, we immediately recognized that it was the town used during the filming of Mystic Pizza, a movie which greatly helped Julia Roberts’ career.

Our first stop was at the Mystic Seaport.


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Tues. May 28th: Some Family History

• CATEGORIES: Features • TAGS: This site contains affiliate links for which I may be compensated.

<– Day 24 – Mon. May 27th: Peter Debella Jeep Parts  | Trip Overview | Day 26 – Wed. May 29th: Exploring Mystic –>


I undiscovered some gems for my upcoming book on my family’s history.

Over Memorial Day Weekend we stayed  in Sea Cliff, New York, at the Guerci’s house. My relationship with the Guerci’s is another internet-sent miracle. The Guerci’s live in my great aunt Emma’s painting studio, one built on the former Eilers’ Estate.

A few years ago, Leslie contacted me and told me they were living there and were looking for a Emma Eilers‘ painting for their house. Mom and I gave them one for free that needed a little restoration work. Since then, we’ve built a very warm relationship and they have opened their home to Ann and I any time our weary traveling feet climb their stairs. Last weekend they welcomed Karson as well, which gave me a wonderful opportunity to explain some of the family history to him and show him the remaining family homes in the area. I never expected to have that opportunity.

After we said our goodbyes to Sea Cliff, we drove a short distance to Darien, CT, for a dose of family history from a man named George who married one of my father’s cousins.


Tuesday’s drive from Sea Cliff, New York. to Darien, CT.

I’d never met George and barely knew of him before we exchanged a few emails prior to our trip out here. I told him we were traveling east and he invited us to stay right away.


George Ratcliff and I

A former president of a reinsurance company, the eighty-five year old had plenty of interesting family stories from the ‘eastern Eilers’ clan, as well as pictures and information. One of the most fascinating tidbits of information was the reason behind my grandfather’s 1924 trip with his brother through Europe. His mother (my great grandmother) made him take his brother to Europe so that he wouldn’t marry the ‘wrong’ girl. That scheme didn’t work and the man returned from Europe to marry the ‘wrong’ girl anyway and have a happy long life with her.

George enjoyed painting for much of his life. He said that he couldn’t wait to retire so he could paint all the time. However, when he retired, he stopped painting altogether, something he never understood.

George told us about a house on Martha’s Vineyard he and his wife purchased (and later sold – then, it was torn down and replaced). He painted their island house and allowed us to take a picture of it. The painting is full of specific references to family members and life at the vineyard. You might recognize the house as the location used as ‘Brody’s house’ for the first Jaws movie.


George’s wife Jean Eilers passed away a few years ago. In a sweet gesture, he still kept her recipe holder on the counter that held a recipe she’d placed there before she died. The funny thing is, he never liked that particular recipe. He likened his marriage to baseball. Some batters walk up to the bases and strike out a few times. If they are lucky, they might hit a home run. With his wife, he walked up to the plate and hit a home run on the first pitch. With a batting average of 1000, he explained, he has no desire to step up to the plate again. Very romantic.

A little family history:

Below is the first page of an 1859 story that was originally written in French by my great great grandmother’s brother, Eugene Farny. In it he describes the Farny family’s move in 1959 (along with all their possessions, including horses and chickens) on a 30-foot raft from Tionesta, Pennsylvania, down the Allegheny River to Cincinnati. It was quite the journey!


Here’s a photo of my great grand parents, circa 1913, sitting at a desk. It may have been part of a photo shoot for their 50th wedding anniversary. I can’t think of another reason to create such a casual photo.



This photo of the family hiking in the Alps was likely taken in 1914, just prior to the start of the war. My family got stuck in Germany as WWI engulfed Europe.


My great grandfather Karl is far right. Next to him is my great grandmother Leonie. Their daughter Leonie is behind them, followed by their youngest son Farny and their oldest son, my grandfather, Fritz.

Another interesting piece of art was this painting by Emma Eilers showing Farny Eilers, my grandfather’s brother, riding a bike around his parents house (my great grandparents place). The house still stands in Sea Cliff.


Not the best photo of it, but it’s an unusual painting, as I believe it is one of only two paintings Emma did that included a male. She preferred painting landscapes and women.

We had a great time with George, as he was full of stories. On Wednesday, we drive to Rhode Island.

<– Day 24 – Mon. May 27th: Peter Debella Jeep Parts  | Trip Overview | Day 26 – Wed. May 29th: Exploring Mystic –>

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Sat. May 25th & Sun. May 26th: NYC & Family With Karson

• CATEGORIES: Features • TAGS: This site contains affiliate links for which I may be compensated.

<– Day 21 – Fri. May 24th: Jeeps, Meats, and Beeps  | Trip Overview | Day 24 – Mon. May 27th: Peter Debella Jeep Parts –>


Karson, Ann, and I on the Long Island Train heading into the city.

SATURDAY MAY 25TH: On Saturday, went to Manhattan for the day, then drove to a relative’s place in Quogue. New York.


Our Saturday travels to Manhattan, then to Quogue.

First, we joined the rest of Manhattan and half of Connecticut when we went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It has been almost exactly thirty years since I’d last seen the museum at age 17. I’m pretty sure in the past thirty years the museum has doubled in size. Well, that or my 47 year old legs are a little more tired than they should be. I guess that’s the downside of spending the last three months either traveling or writing. I look forward to getting back into shape when we return to Pasco.


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Mon. May 27th: Peter Debella Jeep Parts

• CATEGORIES: Features • TAGS: This site contains affiliate links for which I may be compensated.

<– Day 22 & 23 – Sat. May 25th & Sun. May 26th: NYC & Family With Karson | Trip Overview | Day 25 – Tues. May 28th: Some Family History –>


Peter Debella and I at Peter Debella Jeep Parts in Riverhead, Long Island

On Monday we drove east on Long Island to Riverhead, New York.


Monday’s drive to visit Peter Debella in Riverhead.

On Monday we dropped off Karson at his ‘home’ (an Extended Stay Inn), exchanged good byes, and headed east to meet with Peter Debella in Riverhead, New York. Peter runs Peter Debella Jeep Parts. He invited Ann and I out to see some of the jeeps and parts he has.


This unlucky parts jeep got hit by a falling tree during a storm.

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Fri. May 24th: Jeeps, Meats, and Beeps

• CATEGORIES: Features • TAGS: This site contains affiliate links for which I may be compensated.

<– Day 20 – Thurs. May 23rd: And Then it Started Raining at the Worst Time | Trip Overview | Day 22 & 23 – Sat. May 25th & Sun. May 26th: NYC & Family With Karson –>


The new Great Willys Picnic Banner unfurled!

We started out the morning in Reading, PA. Our first objective was to meet Seth in Kempton. I felt bad about not being around for the Picnic, so meeting up with Seth was the next best thing.


On Friday we drove from Reading, Pennsylvania, to Sea Cliff, New York.

Seth’s place is hidden among some of the endless Pennsylvania hills. It’s east to see how much fun having a jeep would be for cruising all the quiet backgrounds in the area.


Another quiet Pennsylvania road.


This is one of many old barns in excellent condition set against a quaint backdrop.

By the time we arrived, Seth and his wife Heather were waiting for us at their house atop a windy hill. It’s a great vintage looking home that was built only ten years ago. Their son Levi wanted to join us, but had to go to school instead. I signed a poster and told him I’d try to get to the Picnic next year.

Seth volunteered to get his jeeps out of the shed (despite some drizzle) so we could photograph them. We didn’t have to push either of them! He’s got some additional jeeps in back that serve as parts vehicles. Seth also got a few neat signs on the walls.

Ann and I enjoyed their company very much and look forward to more time next year! Thanks for the coffee cake, too! Here are a few pics:


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Thurs. May 23rd: And Then it Started Raining at the Worst Time

• CATEGORIES: Features • TAGS: This site contains affiliate links for which I may be compensated.

<– Day 19 – Wed. May 22nd: Old Cars and Chocolate Shots  | Trip Overview | Day 21 – Fri. May 24th: Jeeps, Meats, and Beeps –>


Henry performing ‘toppage’ on a Jeepster in a downpour . . .

Today we plan on visit Bill and Henry at Lime Street Carriage in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.


On Thursday we drove from Ronks, Pennsylvania, to Reading, Pennsylvania.

Ann and I awoke to a rainy morning in Ronks, PA. I’m not certain Ronks is a town, but it’s definitely a street. I do know for certain there’s a Waffle House off of Ronks street because we ate a midnight dinner there last night, because I wanted some grits: scrambled eggs, bacon and grits to be exact. Yeah, I know their butter is really hydrogenated oil coupled with other ingredients requiring a chemistry masters to decipher; I enjoyed my grits just the same.

Our goal today was Bill Reiss’ Lime Street Carriage in downtown Lancaster. Ronks is only a short drive away, so it didn’t take long for us to get there. When we arrived at Bill’s, he showed us around his current showroom of jeeps (and other vehicles) for sale. He explained that he’s in the middle of a renovation. His building was formerly a Studebaker dealership and other businesses. He laughed about the seven layers of carpet and three false ceilings he’s torn out of one area of the building. On the plus side, he was able to open up a great deal of space. Even though there’s plenty of work left, it’s easy to see how great the space will be when he’s done.


Here are Bill and I checking out a few of the jeeps in his shop. There are several 2As and a CJ-5 lined up there.


Here are twins Norm (on the left) and Norma. Norma is named Norma, because she’s prettier.


Bill has this vintage truck for sale.

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Wed. May 22nd: Old Cars and Chocolate Shots

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<– Day 18 – Tues. May 21st: Food and Jeep Rides | Trip Overview | Day 20 – Thurs. May 23rd: And Then it Started Raining at the Worst Time –>

On Wednesday we spent the day touring Hershey.


It’s not clear to me why the passenger sits so low in the Crosley.

We started out our morning in Hershey, Pennsylvania, by driving to the Antique Automobile Club of America’s museum (aka: AACA). It was Brian who first suggested we visit it. The museum is actually two museums, the AACA’s collection uses the upper two floors and the Museum of Bus Transportation is on the bottom floor.


The outside of the AACA Museum / Museum of Bus Transportation.


The Kissmobile was gone when we left the museum, so I was glad we stopped for a picture before we went inside.

The contrast between the two museums was interesting. The AACA’s exhibits are highly crafted. The volume of vehicles they show isn’t large, but each car is is placed within a context. Even the colors seemed coordinated with the backgrounds. Here are some pics of the AACA.



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Tues. May 21st: Food and Jeep Rides

• CATEGORIES: Features • TAGS: This site contains affiliate links for which I may be compensated.

<– Day 17 – Mon. May 20th: Gettysburg and A Little Slice of Heaven  | Trip Overview | Day 19 – Wed. May 22nd: Old Cars and Chocolate Shots –>

TWO UPDATES From the original post:

  1. We will spend Wednesday in Hershey, PA. We have plans for Thursday in Lancaster and Friday morning in Kempton, PA. From there we will be driving to Long Island on Friday and meeting up with my son (unless they ship him out to Oklahoma). We’ll be staying in the Sea Cliff area through Tuesday morning and then driving up to Connecticut. I hope to have a map update in the next couple of days.
  2. On Wednesday morning I finished version one of the Amber Panels of Konigsberg book (YEAH!). I still need to build one graphic and dump the text into the formatted book template, but then I’ll be sending it to the publisher for printing. I plan to do a limited run of fifty books as a “Bantam Festival Special”. LIke the last book, I’m sure there are a few errors that people will find. Once I fix the text, I’ll open the book up for general sales (sometime in mid-July?).

On Tuesday we spent the day with Tom, then Merlin, then headed to Hershey, Pennsylvania.


Merlin and Ann driving in a 1941 MB down a forgotten Maryland road.


Tuesday’s drive from Gettysburg to Hershey

After we left Gettysburg on Tuesday, we drove a few miles east to Tom’s house to check out his Truck and Wagon. Tom’s 1948 truck is his daily driver. He’s added some disc brakes and a Ford 302, so it’s got some power and stopping speed. He also rebuilt the entire rear bed and it looks great!

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The wagon is a cheap beast he bought that his son now plays with. It’s got lots of rust issues, but runs good.

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Mon. May 20th: Gettysburg and A Little Slice of Heaven

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<– Day 16 – Sun. May 19th: On the Road to Gettysburg | Trip Overview | Day 18 – Tues. May 21st: Food and Jeep Rides –>


Adam, Me and Frank inside the large shop that houses their collections.

On Monday we took full advantage of a lazy morning and didn’t leave the motel until the crack of noon. Our first stop was downtown Gettysburg, where we walked around a bit. I can’t imagine why Lincoln would be so popular around this town!

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2013-5-20-gettysburg-cool-shop-lores Soon, we were hungry, so we stopped at  Hunts Battlefield Fries and Cafe, a place just south of downtown known (according to the internet) for it’s fresh fries and good burgers.

True to our internet source’s information, the fries were good and there were a lot of them! Ann had a grilled ham/cheese/bacon sandwich that she enjoyed. I had a burger with a good bun and tasty meat. They put no extras on the burger . . . maybe I was supposed to ask for them? It was good anyway.

After lunch we drove to the Gettysburg Battlefield National Park Visitor’s Center. It’s a beautiful new structure. While the surrounding park is free, the museum, the cyclorama and the movie at the visitor’s center costs money. We tried all three and liked the movie the best. After the movie we were whisked upstairs to see the cyclorama. We wished they’d explained what a cyclorama was and underscored how old the cyclorama’s painting was before the show began rather than at the end.


The museum had several groups of school kids completing assignments, so we moved through it rather quickly. It didn’t hit us until near the end of the museum that the different areas of the museum represented each day of the Gettysburg battle. I think it would have been useful to have a sense of nightfall and sunrise as people pass from Day 1 to Day 2 and Day 2 to Day 3.

With the visitor’s center complete, we did a quick tour of the surrounding area:

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After touring the park, we headed over to visit Frank at his home, just a few miles north of Gettysburg. Frank had explained that he had some jeeps for us to see.

Entrusting our visit to Siri (iPhone), I asked her to get me directions to Frank’s house. All was going well until we turned into Frank’s long driveway. At that point, Siri warned us to park the vehicle and walk. Ann and I turned to each other and started cracking up. Apparently, Siri was concerned about our well-being and felt we were too far off the road. We were convinced Siri would start yelling “Danger, Danger” and start assimilating us to force us to turnaround. Eventually, I had enough of Siri’s warnings and shut her down.

We finally found Frank and his son Adam at their shop where they keep their collections. As Ann and I marveled at the beauty of the shop, the surrounding barns, and the rolling landscape, Frank explained that he owned three hundred acres of land. He called it a slice of heaven. We could not argue with that description.

Frank and Adam gave us a tour. As you can see in the pictures, they’ve assembled some great stuff. There jeep collection includes a few original paintings, five military jeeps, toys, models, and a CJ-2A they are restoring. They enjoyed sharing their collection with us and we felt honored to be invited. Here are a few photos.

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Sun. May 19th: On the Road to Gettysburg

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<– Day 15 – Sat. May 18th: At the Reunion; A Brick Shy of a Full Load  | Trip Overview | Day 17 – Mon. May 20th: Gettysburg and A Little Slice of Heaven –>

On Sunday, we didn’t participate in the ritual Sunday drive through Cuyahoga National Park. Instead, we headed for Gettysburg. However, I was able to get a few pics from the ride:

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As folks toured in their jeeps, we exited Hudson, Ohio.


Sunday’s drive from Hudson, Ohio, to Gettysburg.

As we wound our way through Pennsylvania to Gettysburg, the toll roads lightened our wallets to the point we were considering taking out a bank loan. In addition, we encountered clouds that were as thick as fog as we traversed a few tall hills. Isn’t it summer yet?

Finally, it seems the only photo we took all day was a blurry photo a barn. On the bright side, we got a killer deal of $51/night at a Marriott hotel using Priceline, so we plan to stay two nights in Gettysburg.

Tomorrow we will see the Gettysburg battlefield and museum.

<– Day 15 – Sat. May 18th: At the Reunion; A Brick Shy of a Full Load  | Trip Overview | Day 17 – Mon. May 20th: Gettysburg and A Little Slice of Heaven –>

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Fri. May 17th: Day 1 of the Midwest Willys Reunion

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<– Day 12 & 13 – Wed. May 15th & Thurs. May 16th: Mixers, Foodies & Heavy Equipment   | Trip Overview | Day 15 – Sat. May 18th: At the Reunion; A Brick Shy of a Full Load –>


Friday morning we awoke in Hudson, Ohio, a short distance away from the reunion, to a beautiful sunny day. I spent the morning honing Saturday’s presentation. I will be sharing with the audience (assuming more than just Ann shows up) why I run eWillys, how I do it, the challenges, and what the future holds.

On Friday afternoon we made our way to the Clarion Hotel where the 2013 Midwest Willys Reunion is being held. After a quick practice run through the presentation with the slide projector, Ann and I went out to look at all the jeeps.

It seemed every few steps we took someone approached us to share how much they enjoyed eWillys. It’s great to know the site is enjoyed by so many enthusiastic readers and it was fun putting names to faces and shaking hands.

As you can see from the pictures, there were plenty of jeeps to browse today. More are expected tomorrow.

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Wed. May 15th & Thurs. May 16th: Mixers, Foodies & Heavy Equipment

• CATEGORIES: Features, Museums • TAGS: This site contains affiliate links for which I may be compensated.

<– Day 10 & 11 – Mon. May 13th Rest & Tue. May 14th: Crust, Raisins, and Smoked Pork  | Trip Overview | Day 14 – Fri. May 17th: Day 1 of the Midwest Willys Reunion –>

Wednesday, May 15th: We spent all of Wednesday at Ann’s Great Aunt Alice’s place in Greenville, Ohio.

Thursday May 16th: We drove from Greenville, Ohio, to Hudson, Ohio. Along the way, we made more new friends!


Me and Roger Martin in front of his CJ-2A.

This morning we were back on the road. Our ultimate destination was Hudson


On Thursday we drove from Greenville, Ohio, to Hudson, Ohio.

We began the morning heading to the Kitchen Aide Experience. Having never been, I pictured it as part tour and part museum in the Kitchen Aide factory itself. Instead, it’s a giant Kitchen Aide store where you can buy new or used Kitchen Aide products of every color and kind. Downstairs there are some beautiful refurbed mixers and blenders. Those ‘in the know’ tell us the refurbs are actually better than the new ones. They certainly were better prices.

Next to all the refurb machines in the lower level was a mini-museum. Since Ann assured me we didn’t have room to bring a refurbed 6 quart 575KW mixer with a glass bowl home, I had to make due with the mini-museum. What amazed me most about the museum was how little some of the attachments had changed. Here are a few pics from the museum:

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Mon. May 13th Rest & Tue. May 14th: Crust, Raisins, and Smoked Pork

• CATEGORIES: Features, Museums • TAGS: This site contains affiliate links for which I may be compensated.

<– Day 9 – Sun. May 12th: Tuckered Out? Then Visit a Firehouse   | Trip Overview | Day 12 & 13 – Wed. May 15th & Thurs. May 16th: Mixers, Foodies & Heavy Equipment –>

Monday May 13th:  Instead of trying to squeeze in a long day at the Ford Museum, we decided to take a day off instead, as we have a busy week coming up. So, Monday was a day of rest at Brian’s house in Fenton. Thanks to his hospitality, I was able to finish the 6th draft of the Amber Panels of Konigsburg book.


Tuesday May 14th: Today, we left Michigan for the state of Ohio.


That’s the former Willys Overland Smokestack behind me. As you can see, there isn’t much left of the old Willys plant.


On Tuesday May 14th we drove from Fenton, Michigan, to Ann’s relative’s house in Greenville, Ohio.

We started the morning bidding a fond farewell to Brian, who’d opened his home to us for several days (Thanks!).


Brian and I posing behind his beautiful 1923 Buick. Unfortunately, it was so cold, we couldn’t take it out for a ride.


One of the places Brian recommended we visit before we left was a bakery in Fenton, MI, called CRUST. As soon as I looked up the website and examined their menu, I was hooked. Most of their breads are made with starters rather than commercial baking yeast. So, I HAD to visit the place.

I wasn’t disappointed. Everything looked so good, we walked out of there $37 poorer. I can’t recommend the place highly enough.

After the bakery, we’d planned to head for the Ford Museum. But, at the last minute, we changed our minds. I knew we had to be down in Ohio by dinner time, so I was concerned we’d have to rush through museum. Instead, we had the opportunity to take our time to drive south. It proved to be the right decision.

As we drove south, Ann’s cousin recommended we visit the River Raisin Battlefield National Park in Monroe, MI, from which the War of 1812’s “Remember the Raisin” call-to-action originated. At the battle of River Raisin the Americans thought they’d won, but then the Brits & Indians regrouped and beat the US troops. American’s were shocked by the loss, hence the rallying cry of Remember the Raisin. Ann’s cousin claims that one of the men captured was a distant relative of Ann’s. To capture the feeling of Ann’s relative, I put her behind bars.


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Sun. May 12th: Tuckered Out? Then Visit a Firehouse

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<– Day 8 – Sat. May 11th: Fire Engines, 16,000 Toys and A Destroyer  | Trip Overview | Day 10 & 11 – Mon. May 13th Rest & Tue. May 14th: Crust, Raisins, and Smoked Pork –>

On Sunday we spent the day sightseeing.


Sunday’s drive was a short one down to Ypsilanti and back.

On Sunday Ann and I drove down to Ypsilanti, MI, which is about an hour south of where we are staying in Fenton, MI. Our goal was the Ypsilanti Automotive Heritage Museum (aka Miller Motors), which has a real Tucker and a fiberglass fake Tucker (or so I’m told) made for the Tucker movie.

Ever since I learned Ypsilanti was home to Preston Tucker, I’ve wanted to visit this museum. So, I triple checked the website to make sure it was open on Sunday. The site confirmed this was true. Confident the museum would be open, we arrived at noon Sunday, only to find the museum closed. I was bummed.


So sad . . . I looked in all the windows.

Brian had mentioned the Michigan Firehouse Museum in Ypsi was worth a look. So, we decided to check that out. It consists of an old renovated fire station with a building extension that housed different types of fire trucks, fire fighting equipment, and information. It is a fine exhibit, but after Saturday’s experience with Jim Dobson, our fire-museum quality bar was set pretty high.



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Sat. May 11th: Fire Engines, 16,000 Toys and A Destoyer

• CATEGORIES: Features, toys • TAGS: This site contains affiliate links for which I may be compensated.

<– Day 7 – Fri. May 10th: From Iron Mountain to Mackinaw City | Trip Overview | Day 9 – Sun. May 12th: Tuckered Out? Then Visit a Firehouse  –>

On Saturday morning May 11, we hoped to escape the cold of Northern MIchigan’s Mackinaw City by driving south. Our goal was Brian’s house in Fenton, MI, where he planned to take us out to dinner at the French Laundry (more on that tomorrow). He’s outdone himself with his generosity and hospitality, so many thanks to him!


On Saturday we drove from Mackinaw City to Bay City, then southward to Fenton.

Saturday’s first stop was the Antique Toy and Firehouse Museum in Bay City, MI. I can’t remember how I learned about this museum, but it was a wonderful treat.


When we arrived, there was only two other vehicles in the parking lot. We took a few pictures of the outside and headed into pay. When we stepped inside the door, the foyer was empty; there was no one was around to take our money. I yelled, but didn’t get an answer. I checked the door to make sure the open-sign said ‘open’; it did. I checked the prices and discovered it cost $7 per adult, but they were running a mother’s day weekend special, so Ann didn’t have to pay. Therefore, I laid $7 on the museum’s till and we began our tour.

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Wow. Wow. Wow! There were toy automobiles neatly arranged everywhere. We’d later learn that more than 12,000 toy vehicles were displayed. Another 4,000 were awaiting display. As Ann and I looked around a man in a scooter and a young boy appeared, said hi, then went to the front. We told them we’d paid, and the man didn’t say much, he just continued to the front.

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As we made additional progress through the different rooms a man in a wheel chair appeared. He was very friendly and began to explain the history of the different items. After a while, it became apparent that this wasn’t just a museum, it was one man’s collection: Jim Dobson.  The man who was helping us (I missed his name) pointed out one wall where Jim had placed signs related to some of the companies he’d founded or been involved with. It was a long list.

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Fri. May 10th: From Iron Mountain to Mackinaw City

• CATEGORIES: Features • TAGS: This site contains affiliate links for which I may be compensated.

<– Day 6 – Thurs. May 9th: Rain Rain Go Away | Trip Overview | Day 8 – Sat. May 11th: Fire Engines, 16,000 Toys and A Destroyer –>


Whitefish Point Lighthouse and the Shipwreck Museum on Lake Superior

Well it worked. I wished the rain away and we didn’t see any all day. However, I forgot to wish the cold away. But, I’ll take the cool temperatures over the rain.

Today, Friday May 10th, our first goal was to drive to the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum at Whitefish Point near Paradise, MI, where a light saving beacon has been maintained in one form or another since 1849.


On Friday May 10th we drove from Iron Mountain to Mackinaw City.

On our way to the museum, we encountered a couple different jeeps. One was in the form of a wooden jeep at a Big Boy Burger restaurant in Manistique, MI. This one included a slide. Ann tried real hard to get a shot of me on the slide. Unfortunately, our memory card lost the pictures I took of the front of the wood jeep (time for new memory card).

2013-5-10 wooden Jeep-lores


The next jeep we saw at an old motel near Tahquamenon Falls State Park in Michigan. There was a dog near the jeep that wasn’t too happy to see me taking photos, so I kept my distance. It looks like someone took the time to fabricate a custom hardtop.


whitefish-point-cj2a-2We finally reached Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum at Whitefish Point around 2pm. It was later than I expected to be there, by at least one hour, because we crossed into another pesky time zone. I always thought Michigan was in the Central Time Zone. It turns out only a small portion of it is (to be fair, this is my first visit to the great state of Michigan).

The museum costs $13/per adult. However, if you have an active military ID, you and a friend can get in free. However, they don’t advertise that fact, so you’ll have to ask about it.  We had a nice time looking around the exhibits.

There are plenty of harrowing stories of sailors freezing, drowning, and dying. To be fair, many people were saved by life-saving crews as well. If you are in the area, it’s worth dropping by to see. The fact that of the 550 known major shipwrecks lying on the bottom of the lake, at least 200 of them are in the vicinity of Whitefish Point, underscores the importance of alerting sailors to the dangers of the area.


Here we are at Lake Superior. You can just see Canada behind us in the distance.

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Thurs. May 9th: Rain Rain Go Away

• CATEGORIES: Builds, Features • TAGS: This site contains affiliate links for which I may be compensated.

<– Day 5 – Wed. May 8th: Don’s 1962 Wagon and Mr. Jangles   | Trip Overview | Day 7 – Fri. May 10th: From Iron Mountain to Mackinaw City –>

Following a night at a St. Paul Super 8 that we can’t in good conscience recommend — maybe it was the guy we saw peeing outside near the front door that dampened our enthusiasm for the place — we awoke to rain. It rained all day and into the evening. It can stop anytime!

In the meantime, we started the day by returning to the Minnesota History Center to complete our research.  After finishing, we spent some time touring the Minnesota History Museum. The museum’s building is beautiful and many of the exhibits were cleverly designed. We shared the museum with 1,000 grade school kids who must have had sugar injections before they entered. Ok, maybe it wasn’t that many, but it sounded like that many!



We even located a Wurlitzer Juke box, so of course had to take a photo:



We definitely had a ‘blast’ at the museum:


By the time we completed the museum it was lunch time, Ann and I headed to a meeting with Jonathon McDonough, who with his brother Jim, operates the web company and data center out of St. Paul that powers eWillys. Jonathon is a jeep enthusiast who owns a yellow M-38 he’s had since he was 14.

At Jonathan’s urging, we met for lunch at Cossettas in downtown St. Paul. He made a great choice. Ann and I both loved the place. We both chose a lasagna packed full of tasty sausage and covered in a rich tomato sauce. It was fantastic.

After our lunch, we toured the market area of the restaurant. I feel fortunate that we aren’t towing a trailer, because it would now be full of italian food. Forced to limit our selections, we bought some freshly baked italian bread, a small chunk of sheep/cow cheese with black truffle, and some specialty butter. If you are ever near St. Paul, check out Cossettas. It’s a treat for the eyes and the stomach!


Picking one loaf of bread wasn’t easy.

During our meeting with Jonathon I received an email from Adam. He’s got a 1951 CJ-3A that has a pretty beat up body, but a strong power train. It’s even been featured in JP Magazine. Adam suggested we stop by Max-Bilt in Eau Claire, WI.

Max-Built is a jeep rebuilder and product manufacturer that was started a few years ago by Adam’s good friend Phil Norvold. The company’s first shop was the basement of Phil’s home, but after many late nights of basement work, Phil’s wife strongly urged him to find a space far enough away from their home so she couldn’t hear him working at 2AM.

So, in November of 2012, Max-Built moved into its new shop at 6129 Sandstone Road, Eau Claire, WI. It’s located on highway 93 one mile south of I-94. If you are driving by, you can’t miss the place with all the jeeps out front. So, thanks to Phil and his father Mark for entertaining us and showing us around.


Phil and I outside the Max-Bilt shop

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Wed. May 8th: Don’s 1962 Wagon and Mr. Jangles

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<– Day 3 & 4 – Mon. May 6th & Tues May 7th: Bismarck, North Dakota | Trip Overview | Day 6 – Thurs. May 9th: Rain Rain Go Away –>


We started Wednesday morning in Fargo, North Dakota. Ann had been driving more than usual, because I’ve been typing. And typing. And typing.


Wednesday May 8th’s drive to St. Paul.


Because she’s been driving a lot, I’ve become aware of two things. First, she swerves to the side of the freeway it she sees a large spider scamper above her head and race towards the windshield. We never did find the spider; our nerves are back there somewhere, too . So was my heart.

Second, she stops for jeeps using a technique strikingly similar to her spider-veering-off-the-freeway maneuver. I bore witness to her using this technique yesterday after she spotted a flattie just south of Albany, MN, next to a fence along Interstate 94.

Now, I don’t remember how fast our jeep goes from zero to 75mph, but I can say without reservation that it can brake 75mph to 0 in the time it takes my wife to say, “there’s a jeep!”.

And, I’m not saying she backed up along the shoulder of I-94 to get this shot, but I am saying she’s the kind of wife who’d do that for me so I could share a pic like this with all of you! (funny story, this was shot with my iPhone, which I’d done as a backup shot. The ‘real camera’ with the zoom lens apparently didn’t have the disc inside it . . . sigh).  Through the zoom lens I could easily see the CJ-2A’s bow holders on the driver’s side. It actually looked in decent condition. There was no evidence of a for-sale sign.

A couple of readers later commented on this jeep, one writing: I think I spotted it. … 45.61396,-94.511097 (near Albany, MN) .. Looks like its on the edge of that property but what an odd place to park it and leave it.

The other reader added: We checked on this a few years ago and at the time this jeep was owned by the same people who own the Chrysler/Jeep dealership in Albany MN that you guys passed through. They own this property where the jeep sits on and use it for groups to drive around with jeeps and 4 wheelers. They also owned a 3B jeep painted like a military jeep that they would take to car shows and parades in the area.

(In March of 2020 Ann and I through the area, but did not see the jeep … it no longer appears on Google’s street view.)



A CJ-2A was parked for several years just off of the southwest side of I-94.

When we mentioned we were heading to St. Paul, MN, to do some research before heading to Michigan’s Upper Penninsula, Don dropped me a note and suggested I drop by to meet him and his wagon. So, after Ann and I got done at the Minnesota Historical Society (more on that tomorrow), we dropped by and visited with Don.

He’s got a 1962 Wagon sold in 1963. Don said the original owner of this wagon was named Don (I’ll call him Friend Don). One day, just before Don was old enough to legally drive the wagon, Friend Don gave the wagon to Don. That was 1980. Don had owned it ever since. He used it as his daily driver throughout High School. Eventually, Don decided to add the stenciling to the side of the wagon, so a buddy of his just down the street painted it on. It give is a great look.



The wagon is nearly bone stock, though there have been a few minor repairs to keep it running. Don seemed to waffle a bit about whether he wanted to fix some of the rusted body. He likes the idea of it being original, yet he wouldn’t mind have it fixed. At one point Don said a jeep can only be original one time, so I suspect this wagon won’t see a body shop for some years to come.


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Mon. May 6th & Tues. May 7th: Bismarck, North Dakota

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<– Day 2 Sun. May 5th: Cowboys, Vistas, and Pirates  | Trip Overview | Day 5 – Wed. May 8th: Don’s 1962 Wagon and Mr. Jangles –>

On Monday May 6th we drove east on I-94 from Theodore Roosevelt National Park to Bismarck, North Dakota.


We spent two days visiting a family that used to live across the street from Ann Pasco.


On Tuesday evening, we left Bismarck to spend the night in Fargo, North Dakota.


By the time we arrived in Fargo it was dark and cold. We toured the town very briefly (learning years later we missed downtown entirely).

On the morning of May 8th, we left Fargo for St. Paul.

<– Day 2 Sun. May 5th: Cowboys, Vistas, and Pirates  | Trip Overview | Day 5 – Wed. May 8th: Don’s 1962 Wagon and Mr. Jangles –>

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Sun. May 5th: Cowboys, Vistas, and Pirates

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<– Day 1 – Sat. May 4th: Miracle of America Museum, Polson, MT | Trip Overview | Day 3 & 4 – Mon. May 6th & Tues. May 7th: Bismarck, North Dakota –>

UPDATE: Busted!  On our way out of the National Park we spotted the ‘pirates’ car off to the side in a parking area parked by itself. We believe they were arrested and their car left there, because there was no sign of them 🙂

2013-05-05-montana-ndakota-TRNP-david-ann-overlookOur goal for today (Sunday)  was to reach Theodore Roosevelt National Park at the western edge of North Dakota. Since we spent most of our time driving through Eastern Montana, I’d love to share that experience with you, but I had my nose buried in my computer, so I didn’t see much. Occasionally, Ann would point out something of interest and I would look up. But, I had my reading glasses on, so everything looked pretty blurry beyond the car. However, the weather was beautiful and sunny, the temperatures a perfect seventy degrees. Fortunately, she didn’t see too much interesting either. Just lots of rolling grassy hills. I can see why cowboys like it here.


We saw this sign at a rest stop

I have to say that I will gladly take those endless grassy hills and the sunny weather over last week’s weather along I-94: it was closed due to a blizzard. Yikes!

Around 3:30pm we reached the campground at the National Park. We found a nice campsite and got it set up, before touring the 25(?) miles long loop trail.

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Sat. May 4th: Miracle of America Museum, Polson, MT

• CATEGORIES: Features, Museums • TAGS: This site contains affiliate links for which I may be compensated.

<– Trip Overview | Day 2 – Sun. May 5th: Cowboys, Vistas, and Pirates –>

2013-05-05-miracle-museum1Saturday May 4th, our two month trip begins! We will be on the road until the end of June.

For the first leg of our East Coast trip our principal objective today was to make it to the Miracle of America Museum just south of Polson, MT. We left Pasco at 10am knowing it would take 5 1/2 hours to drive there and a 1/2 hour stop for lunch (we had to stop for some pho at our favorite place in Coeur D’ Alene, ID). Doing the math, we realized we’d arrive at the museum at 4pm, which gave us an hour to look around it before it closed at 5pm. Simple math, yes? . . . Wrong.


Our first day of driving, from Pasco to Livingston, Montana.

The first sign of trouble occurred as we crossed into Montana from Idaho on I-90. I was driving when I spotted a sign that informed us we were Entering Mountain Time Zone. Oh crap! I forgot all about the time change. A quick review of the math meant that we’d arrive at 5pm, just as it closed.

However, there was a caveat. The website indicated that the museum stayed open until 8pm during the summer, but never defined what days were considered summer days. So, as we descended out of the pass towards Missoula, Ann gave the museum a call at 3:30pm and it went like this:

Ann: Hi, how late are you open tonight?
Museum: Depends. Where are you now?
Ann (shocked): We are approaching St. Regis, Montana.
Museum: Ok, I’ll keep the museum open for you. I have some paperwork to do anyway.

With that simple phone call, Gil Mangels volunteered to keep his museum open so we could look around the place all by ourselves! I called at 4:40 to update him and say we wouldn’t be there until 5:15. He said that wouldn’t be a problem.

We finally arrived at 5:20pm, just as the last remaining visitor left. We walked inside and there was Gil ready to take our money ($5 each – BARGAIN!) and explain where everything was. We thanked him for staying open and said we didn’t want to use too much of his time. He said just take your time.

We weren’t there five minutes before we knew we had a problem. There was so much cool stuff to look at that we couldn’t move ourselves along fast enough. Gil and his late wife have done a wonderful job of creating a feast for the eyes. Ann and i were giddy school kids pointing things out to each other, reading stuff, and having a blast. We were there forty five minutes and still hadn’t made it through a 1/4 of the complex yet.

We didn’t want to impost on Gil, so we chose to go to plan B:  See the jeeps real quickly, photograph them, and then return later this summer so we could spend all day looking around the place.

Before we left, we got a chance to spend some time talking with Gil. When we explained about eWillys, Gil explained he grew up on a nearby farm and his parents had an old flattie, but he couldn’t remember the model. He said they did everything with it.

Gil belongs to the Military Vehicle Preservation Association and he restored the M-38 below that he proudly displays in one of the rooms. It’s a very nice restoration. It was featured in the MVPA and GIl was kind enough to copy the article for me, but I haven’t had time to go through it yet.

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In addition to the M-38, there are two more M-38A1s, a Slat Grille MB, and a M-151, a Mule, and a Jeepster for visitors to see. There is a Pedal Jeep in the toy section, a few hot wheel-like jeep toys. I also spotted several posters, cards and brochures in the war-related areas.

The Miracle of American museum is a gem. It reminded me of my experience to House on the Rock in Wisconsin, where each corner was a feast for the eyes. But, unlike HOR, there’s a better educational and museum experience. I can see why it’s been called the Smithsonian of the west. There is enough wonder — cool stuff, historic stuff, and odd ball stuff — to keep a whole family entertained. Military buffs, car buffs, farm buffs, motorcycle buffs, history buffs (how about a whole shed of old washing machines?) will love this place. It is worth the trip, especially since you get to talk to the guy who made it happen.

Here’s a bunch of pictures we took:

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2013 Cross Country Tour: Summary

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2013-may-june-mapOur seven week journey was the most memorable trip I’ve ever taken. There were so many unexpected opportunities only made possible by all the wonderful people we met along the way. We appreciate everyone’s patience with our ever changing schedule as folks contacted us and said “if you are near, come visit!” We tried to meet as many people as possible, but at times the timing just didn’t work out.

Here are some stats from the trip:
1) We drove over 10,043 Miles
2) Trip lasted 49 days
3) We passed through 27 States (It would have only been 26 states, but Ann accidently drove into Colorado, before I looked up from my computer to see we were going the wrong way . . . lol)
4) We saw all 5 Great Lakes
5) We had 0 car problems!
6) Number of tickets . . . 0 (warnings 0)
7) Total cost of trip (unknown at this point, but would have been higher without all the generous jeepers)
8) Amount of debt from trip — $0. We don’t use credit cards.
9) Number of museums visited: 20
10) Number of National Parks: 4
11) Number of fights between Ann and I: Zero
12) Total amount of fun we had: incalculable!

All the posts related to the trip: