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Part 1: “Time Well Wasted”

By Larry Palguta

Early on the morning of September 21, 2017, seven LBCs of Michiana Brits met just north of South Bend at Eleni’s Restaurant on SR 933N for the club’s annual Fall Tour. This year’s destination was famous and scenic Mackinac Island located in the strait between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron and between the Upper and Lower Peninsulas of Michigan. The Tour group included Keith & Mary Wishmeier (Spitfire), Roger & Ruth Deacon (MGB/GT), Paul & Gail Noeth (MG Midget), Tom & Debbie Shumaker (TR-7), Mike Scullion & Vicki Bloom (MGB), Randy & Bev Glanders (Spitfire), and Kai Shepherd & Larry Palguta (Mini Cooper). A lunch stop was planned at Chase, MI where David & Judy Dean (TR-8) and Jim Betz (Mini Cooper) would join the group. After a hearty breakfast at Eleni’s where tour leader Keith Wishmeier is a regular customer, we actually left the parking lot at 7:55 AM, not only an on-time departure but a few minutes early, almost unheard of for Fall Tour drives.

In preparation for the long drive, everyone had checked their LBC to ensure it was in shape for the trip. About 5 miles north, the caravan stopped at a red light on the south side of Niles, MI, and under the watchful eye of a local constable parked next to the road. The light turned green and none of the LBs moved an inch. Knowing how our LBCs can be a bit finicky, everyone sat through one cycle of the traffic light while Keith Wishmeier tried to start his Spitfire. Before the light again turned green, the Spitfire belched a big cloud of black smoke and started, so we then proceeded through the light when it turned green. Keith had experienced either 1) a massive passing of gas, 2) the fog generated from lighting one of his infamous cigars, or 3) the Spitfire blowing out a bunch of crud from its exhaust system. The caravan was moving so no one much cared which one had occurred.

Driving was smooth on SR 140 to our first bio/fuel stop near Watervliet, MI. After relieving and topping up, we were ready to leave but Randy Glander’s Spitfire wouldn’t start. Everyone dismounted their LBC and waited for the outcome - this being a typical event for LBC driving. After removing the air cleaner and fiddling with things, the Spitfire fired up. This was an omen that things would be different on this Fall Tour. The Spitfires have been among the most reliable LBCs during a long string of Fall Tours.

The Glanders’ Spitfire receives “hands on“ attention

The Tour followed I-196 through South Haven and Holland, then onto US 31 to Muskegon and I-96 to the north side of town where we picked up SR 120. We jogged on SRs 20, 37 and 10 to Chase, MI and our lunch reservation at the Chase Creek Smoke House just off SR 10. The Smoke House is a large log cabin style structure with a faux four-blade propeller hanging over the middle of the large dining room. They switched on the propeller and it rotated slowly above us.

Although we changed our reservation to an hour later, it didn’t matter because we were most of their lunch crowd for the day. David and Judy Dean were waiting for us, and Jim Betz somehow ended up at what had been the initial lunch stop before the itinerary was changed. We ordered for him and when he arrived his lunch was served with no waiting time. The smoked meats were really good and the portions large. Lots of draft beer for your selection. We highly recommend that you dine here if you are travelling on US 131 which is just a few miles east by Reed City.

Lunch at Chase Creek Smoke House in Chase, MI (one prop blade arched downwardly just above the roof of the bar opening)

Just east of the restaurant, we picked up US 131 for the long drive to Petoskey, MI. A few hours after bio/fuel stops, we went through Petoskey at the afternoon rush hour and connected to US 31, which did not pose any problems since there is but one main road through town and US 31 is the route to our hotel in Mackinaw City, MI. We arrived at the Best Western Plus, Dockside Waterfront Inn, in Mackinaw City a little past 6 PM.

After checking in at the Best Western (located at the beach front and adjacent two of the ferry boat lines), we gathered and headed to downtown Mackinaw City in search of dinner. We found O’Reilly’s Irish Pub & Restaurant which was just the north end of the large Dixie Saloon, were advised the Pub could not accommodate our large party, so we tried the Dixie Saloon which is connected to the Pub. A party of 15 had a reservation for about ten minutes after our arrival, failed to show up, and we were seated as a group after only a brief wait time. The food was good, beer tasted great, and a long day was finished as planned.

The next day, Friday 22nd, our itinerary called for a visit to Mackinac Island. The Brits always plan on visiting the main attraction on Friday when the number of tourists is smaller, and then visiting local sites on Saturday where the number of visitors is much smaller. However, first was breakfast - either the hotel’s complimentary breakfast buffet or directly across the street to Toast A Go-Go which offered 24 hour breakfast, lunch and dinner. Starbucks was just up the street.

The Dean’s decided to drive up to Saulte Ste. Marie for a drive into Canada and back, the Noeth’s would cross the bridge to Gustafson, MI to buy beef jerky for their son and smoked fish for Keith before heading to the Island, Mike Scullion and Vicki Bloom scheduled lunch at the Grand Hotel, and the rest of us purchased tickets at the hotel for the Star Lines Ferry. It turned out that the boat dock was not right next to the hotel, but a shuttle was called and we rode about a ½ mile to the actual ferry dock. Sales receipts were exchanged for actual ferry tickets, and we boarded the 10 AM catamaran ferry. The catamaran had three decks and traveled quickly (20 minutes) to the dock on Mackinac Island. Our boat trip was uneventful – the weather was sunny, calm and the water smooth as glass. The group decided to meet for the 4:30 PM return ferry ride.

Star Lines ferry headed into the Mackinac Island dock

The Brits split up into groups & couples and headed out for a day on the Island. Kai Shepherd, Jim Betz and myself, three wild and crazy guys, decided to hang together for our day on the Island. We decided that some type of activity had to be accomplished during our visit, so we headed up to the fort that overlooks the downtown area. We slowly trudged up the long ramp type walkway to the fort entrance, viewed some of the buildings, watched a demonstration of Springfield trap-door rifle firing, and then looked for a place with cool drinks. Despite the high of only 81 degrees, the temperature felt a lot warmer and was aggravated by almost no air movement. It was a very calm day on the lakes and ashore.

We quickly found the café and sat down to cold beverages and some good conversation. The view from the café, basically a terrace along the front of the fort, was spectacular as we looked out over the town, bay and adjoining Round Island with its iconic lighthouse. After about a ½ hour, we decided it was time for lunch, and since nothing was moving including us, we told the waiter we were staying for lunch and let’s have another round of drinks. The lunch was quite good, with large sandwiches and fruit on the side. And cold beverages.

Great view from our Café perch at the fort

After eating lunch and enjoying the view for about 1 hour, we selected a destination for our next stop. Directly below the fort, at a corner of the main street, is a small park with benches, shade and water fountain. The photo above shows the park located at the corner. It was the obvious destination for our group.

In the fort, Jim and Kai discuss the risks of walking downhill

We trudged down the walkway and found an open park bench to occupy while people watching. The time spent in the park was well-spent as we relaxed and revitalized ourselves for a foray into town. After an appropriate long lapse of time, we thought a search for ice cream should be pursued but only along the shady side of the street. Off we went, but did not make much progress because the shady side of the street included a bench that needed occupying. Paul and Gail Noeth came by, having completed their buying trip to Gustafson’s Smoked Fish, and were on a walkabout of the island.

With adequate time on our hands, we headed down the street, window shopping until we entered the Pink Lady fudge and ice cream shop. The selections of ice cream were great and cooled us off a bit after the seemingly lengthy window shopping spree. We discussed whether or not we should leave and in ten minutes take the 2:30 PM return ferry, just back up the street a short distance. But again nothing was moving including us, so we decided to stay and enjoy the ice cream.

While headed south (on the shady side of the street, of course), we came to a small park where we could watch a huge cargo ship move quickly through the passage between Mackinac and Round Islands. Nearby was a typical horse-drawn wagon used for cargo deliveries on Mackinac Island.

Packages awaiting delivery while the horses idle

By now it was mid-afternoon and deemed safe to walk on the other side of the street. Interestingly, there seemed to be a number people, some dressed formally, passing out political literature and signs in the entire downtown area. Kai asked a local gendarme what was going on. The constable answered, somewhat wearily, that every two years the Republican Party of Michigan holds its annual convention on Mackinac Island. This was the arrival day for the delegates, supporters, etc. and it added noticeably to the number of people on the street. Apparently we were on the “right” side of the street, because we walked by the horse-drawn carriage for the Grand Hotel.

Ride in style to the Grand Hotel

Our meander down the new shady side of the street was not without purpose. That purpose was the laudable search for good Mackinac Island fudge. Everyone has their opinion as to which business sells the best fudge – we selected Joann’s essentially because they let us walk in side and start sampling the numerous flavors of fudge.

Joann’s fudge is very good and they have a large selection of flavors. We tried the sample plate next to the cash register, asked to sample other flavors, made insightful comments after the tastings, and confronted the age old problem of how to select from so many good flavors. The young ladies behind the counters understood our task and offered more samples. Eventually, we did finish our task and I purchased three flavors – double dark chocolate, dark chocolate toffee, and dark chocolate espresso.

While window shopping on the main street, we saw a lot of knick-knacks, decorative items and T-shirts for sale. One T-shirt had something about Old Geezer on it - we felt it didn’t match our style and panache. But one T-shirt had the most fitting expression for our eventful day on Mackinac Island – “Time Well Wasted”. That is the one we should have purchased – but, as usual, nothing was moving including us.

We returned to the dock for the 3:30 PM return ferry and met the Deacons, Noeths, and Shumakers (and a small group of Jehovah’s Witnesses who spent the day offering pamphlets). The remainder of our group returned on the 4:30 PM ferry as planned. The Brits hiked, rode bikes, shopped, and walked all about the Island. Our group of three enjoyed our activities and found the other activities … well, … inspiring.

Upon returning to the hotel, we assembled in the fireplace room and decided on the evening’s activities. Many Brits wanted to take a 6 PM two-hour trolley tour of Mackinaw City, over the bridge, St. Ignace, and back over the bridge. So tickets were purchased, the trolley summoned, and off on the tour went the Brits, minus our group of three and the Dean’s who had not yet returned from their trip to Canada. As the trolley passed by us, we were heading down the street to the Irish Pub & Restaurant where we had a good dinner and cold beverages. After the trolley tour, that group went down the street to the Nonna Lisa’s Italian Restaurant which turned out to be basically Papa Zo’s Pizza place. Part of the group got served, part did not and ended up ordering their pizzas delivered to their rooms.

Part 2: “Off-Roading, Mushroom Abodes, & Polish Cuisine”

Saturday morning, September 23rd, started with breakfast at the location of your choice. The itinerary for the day included the Tunnel of Trees (between Cross Village and Harbor Springs), the Mushroom Houses in Charlevoix, and dinner at Legs Inn in Cross Village. All nine LBCs headed out at mid-morning to Cross Village where we would meet John & Kathy Bushnell who were motoring up from Charlevoix in their 1949 MGTC.

After connecting with US 31, we turned onto CR 66 and headed due west to Cross Village. When we arrived, the Bushnells were not there and it seemed that if we headed due south we would come to the Tunnel of Trees. However, you have to head north about two blocks to see, to the west, a sign for CR 119 and the Tunnel of Trees, while to the east stood the large Legs Inn. But we got onto CR 77 and headed south where our mistake was figured out, so we turned west on a road that terminated at a dirt road labeled as a “Seasonal Road”. Knowing that CR 119 had to be close, we off-roaded along the dirt road for about a ¼ mile and connected to CR 119 a bit south of the north end of the Tunnel of Trees.

Off-Roading in search of CR 119

By this time, Keith had connected with the Bushnells, so we looped around, headed north and returned to Cross Village where we pulled into the Legs parking lot at 11 AM and the Bushnells arrived in about a minute. We then headed back down the Tunnel of Trees. As well-known, the Tunnel is a beautiful 16 mile drive along the bluff above Lake Michigan with great views of the lake, large and small homes, and a truly scenic drive. Definitely worth driving again.

At the south end of the Tunnel of Trees drive is the north end of the exclusive town of Harbor Springs, which was preparing for its “Taste of Harbor Springs” festival. We found the public facilities, and then the group discussed the options and decided to head to an automotive-themed restaurant, Duffy’s, in Petoskey for lunch. It did not take long to get down to Petoskey, find parking on the street, and sit down on Duffy’s back deck in the shade and enjoy a relaxing lunch.

Lunch on Duffy’s back deck in Petoskey

The 10 LBCs made the short drive down to Charlevoix to see the renowned Mushroom Houses, a group of 28 houses that look a little like Hobbit houses from the Shire. We pulled up to the first group of houses, parked along the road and began taking photographs.

Brits parked along a street with several Mushroom Abodes


A large Mushroom House (see below) had a thatch-like roof covering portions of the two-story house. The roof was made of some actual thatch material, obviously treated to ensure it would last for many years. A very impressive structure in view of its size. A Brit checked the internet listing for the house (behind the house the land sloped downwardly to a chateau style house where the owners appeared to reside). The large Mushroom House was available for rent - $2700 for a two day rental.

Little Mushroom Abode in Charlevoix

Large Mushroom Abode with thatch roof in Charlevoix

Shortly, a really nice 1960 TR-3 came along the road and pulled over to talk with the Brits. Kai Shepherd had seen the TR-3 headed down the hill toward the beach, chased and caught it, and told the driver about our group of LBCs at the top of the hill. The TR-3 came back up the hill where the driver and several Brits had a nice conversation about, of course, LBCs.

Local TR-3 headed for the beach in Charlevoix

The afternoon was turning out to be warmer than anticipated (there was a substantial temperature difference between Mackinaw City and Traverse City), so we decided just to drive past some of the remaining Mushroom Houses (they are congregated in groups) instead of stopping and getting out of our cars. After that drive, we headed down to the beach to get a group photo of our LBCs. We parked in a side lot which abuts the waterway passage that leads from Lake Michigan, under the bridge in Charlevoix, and into Lake Charlevoix.

Fall Tour travelers and LBCs at Charlevoix waterway passage

Time-wise, our schedule of activities worked well. We headed out of town and the Bushnells bid adieu as they headed to their car trailer parked in Charlevoix. Our drive took us back through Petoskey and Harbor Springs, through the Tunnel of Trees, and to Cross Village for dinner at Legs Inn. The drive through the Tunnel was well-worth the second drive along the entire length of the route, and we arrived at Cross Village at 5 PM, which was a very busy dinner period. The wait at the restaurant for our group of 17 was quoted as 1 to 1 ½ hour. Knowing the wait in Mackinaw City could be as long after another hour of driving, we settled into the waiting/bar area. In forty minutes, our entire group was seated.

Legs Inn is a large restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating. The Brits sat outside, in the shade, at four tables. The restaurant theme is Polish and the food was every bit as good as advertised.

Our last drive of the day was back to Mackinaw City where we arrived before dark. The group agreed to leave at 8 AM on Sunday for our long drive home.

September 24th, the Brits were to meet and leave the Best Western Plus, Dockside Waterfront Inn at 8 AM. Roger Deacon bid us farewell since they were heading later to Traverse City to spend time with friends. We left on-time at 8:30 AM and headed south in I-75. We sort of missed our turn for US 31 so we turned onto CR 66 which took us over to US 31. We proceeded through Petoskey which was relatively traffic free on an early Sunday morning, onto US 131 and made good time, with petrol/bio stops, to Big Rapids.

At Big Rapids, we diverted onto the business route and stopped at a Burger King for a quick lunch. The Junior Whopper meal was a popular selection. Larry Palguta passed around two boxes of Joann’s fudge for everyone’s dessert. The Dean’s then bid everyone farewell so that they could heard west along the shoreline of Lake Michigan.

After leaving Big Rapids, we drove down US 131 at a higher than normal caravan speed – 65 to 70 mph. Randy Glanders radioed that his Spitfire could not maintain this speed, to which Keith Wishmeier answered that his Spit was also having problems at this speed. We pulled off at an exit, discussed the situation, and most of the caravan then headed south to a side road and a lower speed. Kai Shepherd and Jim Betz kept on US 131 because their Mini Coopers could maintain the higher speed. And so the caravan was divided.

Kai (with Larry) and Jim drove to Grand Rapids, turned onto I-196 and got to just south of Saugatuck and Douglas when Kai’s Mini hit a large hole in the road. At first it seemed that the tire might have blown out, but the engine simply stopped and the car lost speed until it stopped on the berm. Jim stopped and all of us looked for the cause of the engine failure. No fluids on the ground, good tire, electronics not smoking or smelling bad, etc. Eventually we had to call AAA’s emergency road service for a tow truck to take the Mini back to South Bend. The tow truck was ordered from Holland and would arrive in an hour (more than an hour had already elapsed). Then the caravan of LBCs appeared and all stopped to see what was wrong with Kai’s Mini. It turned out that Keith’s Spitfire had to run below 3500 rpm to maintain a smooth engine operation, and Randy’s Spitfire had to run above 3000 rpm to maintain a smooth engine operation. This speed range ruled out driving on a slower speed side road, so they had gone back onto US 131.

Tree shade for Kai, Randy, Jim and Brits to discuss the Mini’s engine problem

No one in the caravan had any solutions for the Mini’s engine problem, so the caravan headed south. In a few minutes, Randy called Kai and asked if he had checked his inertial fuel shut-off valve. Kai et al. said – what’s that? Randy explained that fuel injected engines have an inertial shut-off valve to prevent gas from being pumped all over the engine after an accident. Kai checked the manual, found the valve situated in the engine compartment in front of the passenger seat, and pressed the reset button. Upon turning the ignition key, the engine roared to life and we all were smiling again.

Engine roaring to life, Kai and Jim close up the Mini for its drive home

The two groups of LBCs returned home around 5:30 – 6 PM without any more engine issues. Several Brits swapped text messages to find out what had occurred, if anything, in the other group of LBCs.
The 2017 Fall Tour turned out to be another, in a long string, of four day drives in beautiful weather. There was only a brief shower on Saturday evening after all had returned, from the ferry rides, to the hotel in Mackinaw City. Everyone had an enjoyable time, and saw a lot of northern Michigan including some of its most famous tourist attractions. And the dining choices were great, as usual. Our sometimes finicky LBCs survived the trip and brought everyone home safely. After almost 50 years, the LBCs are still fun to drive, pretty reliable, and take us to regional destinations that we all like to visit.



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