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Michiana Brits Tour to Switzerland
Report submitted by Larry Palguta

Switzerland's rolling green hills, cool valleys and winding roads were explored by six cars from the Michiana Brits car club of Northern Indiana/Southwestern Michigan. Yes, we drove our LBCs to Switzerland... County, Indiana, that is. Switzerland County is the southeastern corner of the State of Indiana, bordered on the east and south by the Ohio River. Keith Wishmeier (aka Fearless Leader) planned the annual Fall Tour for September 23-26, 2010 to include sight-seeing, shopping, hiking, dining, and of course, some challenging LBC driving. Only a week earlier, Fearless Leader had discovered that a mechanic's improperly installed U-joints were the cause of a violent vibration in the rear end of his Spitfire, so he installed new ones and had time to road test his LBC.

On Thursday, September 23rd, five cars met at the Das Essenhaus Restaurant in Middlebury, IN (about 40 minutes east of South Bend) for breakfast before traveling from the northern border to the southern border of Indiana. Das Essenhaus' Amish style meals feature local breakfast fare including Fearless Leader's favorite – fried mush. We departed south bound on IN Route 5 and along the way met up with club members Chuck and Blanche Knight. The fellow travelers were Keith Wishmeier (1980 Spitfire), Randy & Bev Glanders (1974 Spitfire), Roger & Ruth Deacon (2006 Mini Cooper), Larry & Deb Palguta (1972 MGB), Chuck & Blanche Knight (1966 MGB), Paul & Janet Dillon (1978 Arkley/Midget).

The morning driving weather was unusually cool for a day that eventually made it to the 90's; by noon most of the soft tops were folded down. Not too far south, the Dillon's Arkley/Midget began acting up and it took a stop in downtown Ligonier to clean up the distributor contacts. IN Route 5 winds southward and avoids the traffic of Ft. Wayne, in addition to being a pleasant drive through rolling country side and small Indiana towns. We had a pleasant and uneventful drive until we stopped in Newcastle (east of Indy) for lunch at Bill's Grill. Bill's Grill is a down-to-earth eatery that serves good, everyday food at good, every day prices. And a good place to relax out of the increasingly warmer weather. Again the Arkley/Midget was having electrical problems and considerable time was spent diagnosing and replacing the failed parts. However, the club's brain trust of LBC knowledgeable and experienced members figured out the causes of the problems and got the repairs done over the first two days of the Tour. While waiting for repairs, the club hung out next door at the "Weenie World" Drive-in. Weenie World's specialty is a local favorite – deep fried hot dogs! Having just eaten lunch, everyone stuck to pop and ice cream.

The six LBC's headed south along IN Route 3, including a couple of detours that put us onto local farm roads, and at Greensburg picked up IN 421 to Versailles and then Route 129 to Vevay, IN. As we approached the Ohio River, the road began a significant descent on a nearly 2 mile, 6% decline of open, winding and easy driving with great views of the surrounding green hills, rock formations and local farms. At Vevay we checked into the Best Western Ogle Haus Hotel located next to the Ohio River. Most of our rooms had a river view where we immediately saw only two hundred feet away a tug boat pushing 17 barges up the Ohio. Before dinner, Fearless Leader and Randy Glanders took their Spitfires out for a short run on IN Route 62, to see if the road matched up to their memories of a long ago Fall Tour to this area. Upon their return, the club descended on Moe's Steakhouse – a good steak house for a small town.

Friday morning started with a complimentary breakfast in the hotel and then everyone headed into Vevay to take a group photo at the Ohio River.

We then drove west 18 miles on IN Route 56 to Madison. Route 56, snuggled closely adjacent the Ohio River, is designated a "particularly scenic route" that meanders through river side flat lands, past small hamlets, sheaves of tobacco leaves curing in open curing barns, and even a small farm field landing strip inhabited by a huge hawk. It is one of the most LBC enjoyable and scenic drives in the US. For several miles, our caravan travelled along with a speed boat headed west on the Ohio River. At Madison we drove up steep inclines to Clifty Drive on the high ground north of the Ohio River, and stopped at O'Reilly's Auto Parts to charge up the Arkley/Midget's battery. After some speeding and winding driving down hill Michigan Road, we arrived back in downtown Madison. Madison was once the second largest town in Indiana, a State settled from the south to the north due to the easy and excellent river travel down the Ohio. Many of the buildings and homes are from the mid-to-late 1800's and painted a variety of colors.

This was the weekend of the annual Chautauqua Festival of Art at the city center. Artists, artisans, vendor booths and trailers were set up in the streets south of the main drag. The club headed off on foot to see the sights, enjoy the Festival, and meet for lunch at an undetermined location.

Lunch time found the group reunited and walking west when Larry Palguta (the President) spotted Franco's Restaurant. Franco's has an Italian theme, a contemporary décor in an old building, and a good place downtown for lunch. Afterwards, the group split up again to investigate the downtown area. The President and Deb ended up in a quilt/fabric store where the owner, dressed as usual in a kilt, was asked about the small local Amish population. The owner provided a twenty minute recitation on the building of the store in 1811, subsequent owners and additions, three fabric stores in town that together have successfully withstood the depressing effect of the Walmart store up on Clifty Drive, and the origins of the three local groups of Amish. Interestingly, one of the Amish groups immigrated not long ago from Shipshewanna in LaGrange County, just east of Elkhart and Middlebury, IN. After an afternoon of much enjoyable sightseeing, President Larry and Deb and the Knights decided to see the architectural gems located on the back streets. So both MGBs headed out on a short drive that took them into the east entrance of Mt. Pleasant Cemetery. Larry drove through the cemetery closely followed by the Knights, each car just managing to fit on the tiny asphalt paths and mini-bridges of the cemetery. Deb's advice to turn and head out of the cemetery went unheeded and the cars were caught in a long drive to the west end and back again. The unheeded advice was not taken well until Larry said "rather light traffic this afternoon" as the MGBs headed back east toward the entrance.

After this MGB-only optional cemetery tour, everyone headed west to visit Hanover College. Club member Kai Shepherd (he of the TR6 breakdown on the Club's Spring Drive to Wabash County) attended college at Hanover and often spoke of the beauty of the campus. Hanover College lives up to its reputation as one of the most beautiful small colleges in the entire country. Founded in 1827, one has to drive down a narrow, winding guard-railed asphalt road through deep woods to arrive at a campus of numerous old and new red brick buildings spread out on spacious grounds. The guard-rail was somewhat abused, possibly due to numerous late night returns of less than alert students. Upon leaving, we stopped to take a photo at the front gate; the photo shows the Arkley/Midget being unsuccessfully push-started before the ignition wires were hot-wired! But we got rolling and made it back to Vevay where the group had an excellent evening meal at Los Bandidos Mexican Restaurant.

Saturday had on tap two activities – a hike at Clifty Falls State Park and driving IN Route 62 (another "particularly scenic route") from Madison to Dillsboro. We headed back to Madison along Route 56 (again a very enjoyable drive) and parked in the north end of the State Park. Nearly everyone hiked several well-trod paths bordering deep gorges and now dry waterfalls. The Park was quite pretty in the early fall and well worth the visit.

We drove along the pretty winding and hilly Park roads to the State Park's Cliffy Inn where everyone enjoyed a good lunch and a panorama view from high above the Ohio River. At the north Park entrance, we quickly got onto IN Route 62.

Parts of Route 62 have a large yellow sign warning "THRU TRUCKS DO NOT USE SR 62 SHARP CURVES STEEP HILLS WINDING ROAD USE SR 129-US 50".

The only way to describe driving LBC's on Route 62 is to explain the topography where the road was built. Various creeks cut their way between large, steep hills and the road was laid down at the bottom of the "hollers" on ledges where the road follows the creeks beds. Trees are everywhere, the sky many times not clearly visible. The drive started out with a ninety-degree, descending turn executed in about 50 foot of roadway. The road rises, falls, turns sharply, has "blind" curves and rises over which the car in front of you disappears, and requires constant attention and shifting of gears just to get around the seemingly endless miles of sharp turns and curves. Wicked and fabulous LBC driving!!! We passed through a few small towns along the way, but mostly zipped along the route until slowed for awhile by a farm tractor. Two years ago the Fall Tour drove the similarly challenging roads of Hocking Hills in southeastern Ohio; Route 62 is definitely "Hocking Hills quality driving". The late afternoon was topped off by a brief visit to a Skyline Chili Drive-in at Lawrenceburg where Fearless Leader got a 5 layer Chili order to go (spaghetti, chili, sauce, onions, topped with about 2 inches of cheese), and an aborted dinner attempt at a casino east of Vevay (steak dinners $39-$56). Dinner ended up being a small Italian diner in Vevay.

Sunday morning the six LBC's headed back up SR 129 and then over to SR 229 toward Metamora. SR 229 was a Sunday morning surprise providing lots of twisting and turning driving similar to some parts of Route 62. Metamora, home to the Historic Whitewater Canal State Historic Site, was founded in 1837 adjacent the new Whitewater Canal connecting Cincinnati with Indianapolis. The pre-Civil War village features numerous early 1800's buildings, rides in a steam locomotive with passenger car and a horse-drawn canal boat, and lots of antique and knick-knack shops.

After sightseeing, our group met for a home-cooked lunch at one of the small restaurants. The Fall Tour ended with the drive back to northern Indiana via a few gas stations stops along the way.

If you would like to experience exceptional scenery, festivals, picturesque old towns, good restaurants, and some fabulous LBC driving, Switzerland County, Indiana is the place to visit.

 

 
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