2013-May-June-Trip Research Archives

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Memorial Day Weekend: Karson, NYC and Debella Jeep Parts


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

On Saturday, we got cultured with Karson. 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.


This was my wife’s idea. That’s all I”m saying.


After the museum, we braved the cold and rain as Karson led us to his favorite noodle shop in Chinatown near the Manhattan bridge. The place was a hole-in-the wall with barely enough for the three of us, let alone the twenty three people who squeezed into the tiny lobby to escape the rain. I handed Karson a twenty dollar bill and told him to order enough dumplings for us. I was surprised to see him return with twenty dumplings and beef pancake, along with fifteen dollars in change. The food was awesome! We quickly gobbled through it, so I ordered more. $6.50 later we had more dumplings and another beef pancake. Who would have thought that we’d roll out of the tiny lobby stuffed with great tasting food for under twelve dollars! Well done Karson!

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On Monday we dropped off Karson at his ‘home’ (an Extended Stay Inn), exchanged good byes, and headed to meet with Peter Debella. 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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May 24th Going to NYC: Jeeps, Meats and Beeps

• CATEGORIES: Features • TAGS: .

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.

He 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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2013-05-24-seth7 2013-05-24-seth6After our visit with Seth and Heather, we drove to Dietrichs, which is located in Krumsville, PA. They had endless varieties of smoked and pickles meats. It was a fun place (thanks for the suggestion John).


2013-05-24-dietrichs1After forking out a good chunk of cash, we headed for NYC to pick up my son. We arrived to the sounds of the locals beeping at us. We assumed they were welcoming us.

Karson informed us that he was still on call, but didn’t know when he’d leave for Oklahoma. However, he did receive permission to come stay with us, so tonight he doesn’t have to share a bed (they have him sharing a room with three other guys, so two guys per bed). He seems very happy about sleeping alone for a few days.


Karson and I fighting over the celery.

On the book front, I pushed the Amber Panels of Konigsberg book to the publisher on Thursday night. The book was approved and an order of the initial books has shipped. I’ll be signing and selling a limited set of books at the Bantam Festival as a special edition. Then I’ll review the book to determine if any additional changes need to be made before releasing it for everyone.

Since I won’t be working on the book for the remainder of the trip, regular updates should begin on Tuesday. There may be some posts this weekend, but they’ll be sporadic.

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May 23 in Lancaster, PA: And Then it Started Raining at the Worst Time

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Henry performing ‘toppage’ on a Jeepster . . .

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 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. That’s opened 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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May 22 in Hershey: Old Cars and Chocolate Shots

• CATEGORIES: Features • TAGS: , .

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, each car is is placed within a context. Even the colors seemed coordinated with the backgrounds. Here are some pics of the AACA.




On other hand, the buses of the Bus Museum on the bottom floor were packed next to one another with little context. I wished we could have boarded a few of them and looked around (though I understand why they don’t let people do that). The wall of the Bus Museum contains a long and detailed look at the history of buses which seemed well done.


1912 White Truck: The oldest running motorcoach in the world. It used flames for headlights and ran on solid rubber tires.


My best Forrest Gump impersonation. This bus was used in the movie.


This bus history runs the entire length of the museum.

The AACA does have a couple jeeps (according to one employee we spoke with), but they aren’t on display. We did find an American Bantam and a Crosely, so we made sure to get some pictures!


After buying a t-shirt and hat, we left the AACA. We hadn’t one more than half-a-mile when my wife spotted a ‘must-take’ picture. Of course, that meant I had to find a place to double back. Once we found the ‘mast-take’ place, we discovered that one of us had left the camera in the AACA museum. Now, I’m not gonna say it was my fault, but I might have been the one who put it down when I paid for the shirt and hat. Fortunately, when we sheepishly returned to the museum, we found the camera safely in the care of the museum staff. WHEW!


Our second big adventure of the day was the chocolate museum. I use the term chocolate museum even though there is no museum in Hershey by that name. In this case our poor research led to lots of confusion. I won’t launch into the back tracking, confusion, and frustrated expletives I shared with Siri, but I later had to apologize to my iPhone.

The problem is that a great number of things are named Chocolate or Hershey in the city of Hershey. So, it’s confusing to know when Hershey refers to the town, the company or the man. It turns out there are two chocolate related ‘museums’. One museum, called the Hershey Story, covers the town and it includes a chocolate lab and a chocolate bar (with ‘shots’ of chocolate made from around the world).

The second museum called the Chocolate World used to be in the old Hershey factory and focused on the history of the company and the process of making chocolate. Ann saw this back in the 1970s and said it was cool. We learned (too late) that Chocolate World had been moved to inside the adventure park (with free parking for 3 hours – an attendant at the Hershey adventure park that we talked with steered us wrong).  That’s what we *thought* we were seeing when we went to the Hershey Story Museum. Confused yet? Here are a few pics:


Inside the Hershey Story Museum.


Six different chocolates made from cocoa beans from six different countries. Yum!


This was taken inside the chocolate lab.


We got to design our own chocolate bar. My jeep bar was delicious!

After the Hershey Story Museum, we thought some real food was in order. We tried a Vietnamese Restaurant on Chocolate Avenue East of downtown called Miss Saigon. If you like good Pho, I definitely recommend it.

On Thursday we meet with Bill from Lime Street Carriage in Lancaster. We ought to have a good jeep picture or two from that experience.

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May 21 Gettysburg to Hershey PA: Jeep Rides

• CATEGORIES: Features • TAGS: .

I’d plan to et more posts done tonight, but time got away from me. So, here’s a big post to sum up our Tuesday. 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.


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

This 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?).

After we left Gettysburg today, 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. 2013-05-21-tom-wagon

Tom offered to buy us lunch at Scozzaros Old Mill Inn, so he and I took off in his truck, while Ann followed. We soon found ourselves traveling along the Lincoln Highway, which turn 100 years old this year.


At the restaurant, Ann and I enjoyed both our time with Tom and the food. I had a delicious steak sandwich and Ann had great tasting polish sausage sandwich. Though we both rolled away from the restaurant full from the portion sizes, we didn’t have to eat again until very late. Thanks for lunch and the present Tom!

* * *

From Tom’s house, we drove down to Westminster, MD, where we met up with Merlin of Hanson Mechanical. Merlin and I have been exchanging emails for several years now and it was great to finally shake his hand and see his operation.


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May 20th: Gettysburg and A Little Slice of Heaven

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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 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.

After enjoying the park and the city of Gettysburg, we brushed aside the civil war in favor of another jeep experience. We headed over to visit Frank at his home, which was 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 of their collections. 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. It’s a beautiful place. Here are a few photos.

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Just One Update Tonight

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I’m taking the night off. Tuesday morning I’ll resume regular updates.

We left Hudson, Ohio, and wound our way through Pennsylvania to Gettysburg. Along the way 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?

Through Priceline we got a killer deal of $51/night at a Marriott hotel, so we plan to stay two nights in Gettysburg. Tomorrow we will see the Gettysburg battlefield and then tour the town a bit.

Gerald forwarded a few photos he took from the Willys Reunion. The first one is from Derek’s presentation. It shows Liz Taylor on a CJ-2A.


This one was also from Derek’s presentation and shows a Pope mobile.2013-willys-reunion4

These three photos were from the Sunday run into the Cuyahoga National Park.2013-willys-reunion3 2013-willys-reunion2 2013-willys-reunion1

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Friday in Hudson Ohio: Day 1 of the Midwest Willys Reunion

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Friday morning we woke in Hudson, OH, to a beautiful sunny day. I spent the morning honing the presentation I’ll be giving on Saturday. 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. I had 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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Greenville to Hudson, OH: Mixers, Foodies & Heavy Equipment

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We spent all of Wednesday at Ann’s Great Aunt Alice’s place in Greenville, Ohio. It felt good not to drive at all. This morning we were back on the road. Our ultimate destination was Hudson, but our initial objective was the Kitchen Aide Experience.

I knew nothing about the Kitchen Aide Experience, so I didn’t know what to expect. I pictured it as part tour and part museum in the Kitchen Aide factory itself. Instead, it’s 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 was a mini-museum. Since my wife 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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Tuesday May 14th: Crust, Raisins, and Smoked Pork

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

Note . . . On Tuesday we had a very busy day. This is a huge post.

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. Thankfully, 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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Pictures from the Jeep Factory in Toledo, OH

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As you can see, we managed to reach at least one iconic place yesterday (iconic for jeep nuts anyway). The most unexpected thing about the Chrysler assembly plant in Toledo, OH, was that it was impossible to park. So, we had to do a park-in-the-middle-of-the-road-leap-from-the-jeep-take-pictures-quickly-and jump-back-into-the-jeep move before any other cars came up the road.


Not that it matters a whole lot, but I’m pretty sure that’s a Ford GP in the picture below, rather than a Willys-Overland vehicle.


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Sunday May 12th in Ypsilanti

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Today (Monday), I completed Draft 6 of the book. Another week and I’ll have it ready for print.

Yesterday (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.




On the plus side, we talked with a very nice man at the firehouse museum’s counter. He explained that Jack Miller, who operates the Ypsilanti Automotive Heritage Museum, was in the hospital, so volunteers were helping keep the museum open. The man explained that the auto museum’s hours might have changed from 12 – 4 to 1 – 5.

Oh, my heart soared! There was still a chance to visit!  After spending some time at the Fire museum, we hurried back over to the Automotive Museum. We arrived at 1:30pm, but the museum was still closed. Naturally, I fell to my knees and balled my eyes out. After Ann slapped some sense into me, I stood and noticed the museum had a declaration, which stated the museum was closed on major holidays. When we returned to the car we had a discussion about whether Mother’s Day qualified as a major holiday or not. I felt it was a mid-major holiday, but certainly not a major holiday.

As Ann and I were discussing the importance of Mother’s Day, I watched someone walk up to the museum’s door, unlock it, and walk inside. Two additional men followed him inside. OH oh oh! I was certain that THIS time I’d get to go inside. So, without waiting for my wife, I bolted from the car and ran inside. Seeing no one at the doors, I called out.

Hello . . .

A man appeared from around the corner. I asked him if the museum was open. He said no and explained, rather lamely, that it was Mother’s Day. I told him I’d driven all the way from Washington State. The man was unimpressed. Instead, he said nope, we are closed. I can’t say for certain, but I’m pretty sure that man was the devil. He even had a pitchfork. What someone was doing with a pitchfork in a car museum is beyond me.

So, my hopes and dreams were crushed. I so wanted to like this place, yet I felt spurned and cheated.

Since the Tucker folks won’t let me in their museum and Chrysler/Jeep VPs haven’t responded to let me in their museum, Ann and I will go to the Ford Museum on Tuesday. From there we head down to Fostoria to have dinner with Doug. After dinner we will drive down to Greenville, Ohio, where we’ll spend a couple days with Ann’s relatives.


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May 11th Fire Engines, 16,000 Toys and A Destroyer

• CATEGORIES: Features, toys • TAGS: .

UPDATE: Thanks to Lester for correcting me on my boat models. I mistakenly called a Battleship a Destroyer. I mentioned my mistake to my wife and she assured me that she knew the difference. 

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!

Our 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 till was there, but non one was around to take our money. I yelled, but didn’t get an answer. I checked the door to make sure the open side said ‘open’ and 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 till and we began our tour.

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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 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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Friday May 10th: From Iron Mountain to Mackinaw City

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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 goal was to drive to the Shipwreck Museum at Whitefish Point near Paradise, MI, where a light saving beacon has been maintained in one form or another since 1849.

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).

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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 the Shipwreck museum 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 I was wrong.

The museum costs $13/per adult. However, if you have an active military ID, you can bring one person 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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Thursday May 9th: Rain Rain Go Away

• CATEGORIES: Builds, Features • TAGS: .

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. I hope the rain goes away soon!

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!



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’s 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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Trip Map – From Pasco, WA, to Hudson, OH

• CATEGORIES: Features • TAGS: .

I’d planned to put this up at the beginning of our trip, but a lack of time has conspired against me. So, here it is. If the weather holds, we plan to camp for two nights in the UP are of Michigan before arriving at Brian’s outside of Detroit for a couple nights. Then, we have a couple nights with Ann’s relatives before we hit the Willys Midwest Reunion.


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Spotted along I-94 South of Albany, MN

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My wife had been driving more than usual, because I’ve been typing. And typing. And typing. 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 found the spider, but I’m pretty sure her nerves were several hundred yards behind us. So was my heart.

Second, she stops for jeeps using a technique strikingly similar to her spider-veering-off-the-freeway maneuver. I witnessed her using this technique today 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 75, but I can say it can brake pretty quickly from 75 to 0. 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 you all (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 bow holders on the driver’s side. It actually looked in decent condition. There was no evidence of a for sale sign.  Maybe google maps show it? I don’t have the time to look tonight.


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Sunday May 5th: Cowboys, Vistas, and Pirates

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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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The TR National Park is known for its Badlands, its bison, its grasslands and its solitude. We got a bunch of each. We meandered along the road, running into Bison every mile or so. After driving for a while, we found Buck hill, which yielded some beautiful vistas.

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By the time we had driven an hour, we neared the end of the loop when we encountered the pirates. One pirate stuck out from the top of the silver ship (read cheap compact Mazda(?)). Her hair blew in the wind as she cheered her man pirate to victory. On the other side of the road was an idiot waving a flat stick the size of a broad sword at a group of Bison. Now, when you see stuff like that happening, you have to ask your self, is it really happening? But, yes, it kept going. The idiot with the sword was waving it at the bison and trying to get them to move back so the female pirate could get his photograph. Satisfied they’d gotten the shot, the idiot pirate turns around and throws the sword at the bison.


One of the South Dakota Pirates. I took a lousy picture, but it still helped the police.

Well, we’d had enough of that show. Ann and I finally reached the two idiots, kids in their early 20s, and told them to knock that S&*T off. Those idiots start flipping us off and yelling back. So, we snapped some pictures of them and bee-lined it straight to the camp host (the park ranger’s office was closed). We got the sheriff and state patrol to show up. That’s when we learned that the pirates had three other complaints against them. (We also learned that every time you enter and exit the park, a camera snaps your picture).

So, we’ll likely never know what happened to the pirates. At least we made new friends with the camp hosts. It was only their first full day, so it was quite exciting for them!

No other updates, because I have no electricity and the wireless is slow here, so I’m not responding to emails over the next 12 hours.  We will be heading to Bismark tomorrow where I’ll get some posts done, etc. We’ll be in St. Paul following that for two days on Wednesday and Thursday.


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Saturday May 4th: Miracle of America Museum, Polson, MT

• CATEGORIES: Features, Museums • TAGS: .

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.

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) 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)
3) We saw all 5 Great Lakes
4) We had 0 car problems!
5) Number of tickets . . . 0 (warnings 0)
6) Total cost of trip (unknown at this point, but would have been higher without all the generous jeepers)
7) Amount of debt from trip — $0. We don’t use credit cards.
8) Number of museums visited: 20
9) Number of National Parks: 4
10) Number of fights between Ann and I: Zero
11) Total amount of fun we had: incalculable!