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FALL TOUR 2015: A 1,000 MILER

By Larry Palguta

Day 1 - The 2015 Fall Tour trip to the Sugar Creek, OH started early on Thursday morning, September 17th, at Stack’s Pancake House and Restaurant on the east side of Elkhart, IN. At 8 AM on a Thursday, Stack’s was not busy and happy to greet 14 guests for breakfast. Those at breakfast were Randy & Bev Glanders (Spitfire + Detroit van), Keith & Mary Wishmeier (Spitfire + van rider), Kai & Michele Shepherd (Mini Cooper), Larry & Deb Palguta (MGB), Bob & Mary Petersen (MGB), Tom & Debbie Shumaker (TR7), and Roger & Ruth Deacon (Mini Cooper + part time van rider). Because a couple of the ladies were recovering from surgeries, a van provided more comfortable and relaxing transportation for them. The van was quickly named the “disabled van”. Stack’s provided a long table for all 14 diners, and breakfasts were enjoyed by all; the club decided to have breakfast there on October 3rd before driving down to the Cruise In at Winona. Shortly after 9 AM, David & Judy Dean joined us after their commute from La Porte, IN (from the Central Time Zone to the Eastern Time Zone!).
Proving that we were not in a great hurry, the caravan left shortly before 9:30 AM. We headed east on the Route 20 bypass to Route 5 at Shipshewana, US 33 at Ligonier to I-469 around the north and east side of Ft. Wayne, where we stopped at a gas station before getting on US 30. Although the club prefers to stay on secondary roads, there just was no way to get around Ft. Wayne to US 30 without using the Interstate loop around the city. So started what seemed to some a long, hard day of driving required to get to our Best Western Hotel in New Philadelphia, OH. Nearly all of the LBC tops were put down and a day of sunny LBC driving commenced.
Keith Wishmeier was the “to and from” destination leader and he led us by Van Wert, Delphos and onto Route 309 to Lima in Ohio. None among us having been to Lima in decades, we did not know that the stretch of road from Elida (west of Lima) through and to the east side of Lima is purgatory for LBCs. It is continuous urban sprawl, and worst of all, continuous stop lights. Some stop lights were no more than a little over 100 yards apart. As we crawled from one stop light to the next, in a seemingly endless procession of lights, it became apparent that Lima had employed the same traffic engineer who designed US 31 around the east side of Kokomo, IN. It took about 30 years and a multi-million dollar bypass to cure the Kokomo problem; who knows how many decades it will take Lima. In any event, DO NOT DRIVE ROUTE 309 THROUGH LIMA, OH!!!
After the frustrating trip through Lima, 26 miles on Route 309 brought us to Kenton, OH, where we were more than ready for lunch. A short cruise through town did not locate any viable eating spot (we stopped once and the place had closed, permanently). So Bob Petersen spoke with a local and determined that Henry’s Restaurant on Route 68, just at the north edge of town, would be a good spot. A good tip it was – Henry’s is large, modern and could easily handle 16 diners. Plus, Larry Palguta determined that on our return drive home, a 12 mile drive north on Route 68 would bring us to US 30 which we could take west to Delphos and completely avoid Lima (an LBC dream come true!). After a hearty lunch, we started the long afternoon drive to our hotel. East of Kenton we drove on Wildcat Pike which runs parallel to Route 309 and
through the corn fields, back onto 309 to Route 95 at Marion, through Mt Gilead, to US 36 at Mt. Vernon. US 36 took us through Millwood to Route 62 at Danville, into Holmes County, through Millersburg, and to Berlin at around the end of the afternoon.
Berlin is the location of most of the shopping in the Sugar Creek area, and they are in the process of having their one and only main street torn up for major work. Our caravan had to sit and wait for a scoop shovel to crawl on its tracks up part of the main street while all traffic was at a standstill. But we did get through town while seeing the many stores, and took Route 39 to Walnut Creek, Sugar Creek, and finally New Philadelphia where we hopped on I-77 for a one mile trip to our hotel at Exit 81 which also was Route 39.
After checking in at the Best Western, a somewhat tired and hungry group went to the El San Jose Restaurant just a few hundred feet away at the corner. Again we caught somewhat of a break in that at around 7 PM the restaurant was not busy on a Thursday night. The Mexican restaurant did a great job of seating 16 at one long table, and bringing out the orders hot and ready to eat. Amazing how a Margarita or beer, or two, makes the day seem better than it may have actually been. We decided to meet at 9 AM Friday, after breakfast, to drive to the northeast corner of Holmes County to visit the Mohican Memorial State Forest at Loudonville.

Day 2 – Friday September 18th started with most of the travelers eating the complimentary breakfast at the hotel, while some dined out at nearby restaurants. At the appointed time of 9 AM, all gathered and began the drive of about 40 minutes to Loudonville. We retraced out route to Millersburg, where Route 39 continued toward and through Nashville. We arrived at the State Forest, found the non-camping entrance and drove up into the hills to the gorge and overlook. There is a deep gorge with a two-level overlook next to the parking lot.
The view was very pretty and rather restful in the quiet solitude of the forest. However, the roads are in really bad condition, so even though we drove slowly through the State Forest, we had our eyes focused solely on the road instead of the surroundings. We then drove back toward

The group had decided to spend the afternoon at Berlin, shopping or just relaxing at the stores on the small main street, and/or visiting the 50,000 square feet in four wings of the Holmes County Flea Market just east of the downtown area. A “tacky” gift exchange was announced for those who wanted to participate. The objective – locate and purchase for $10 or less a tacky gift that would be entered in a blind exchange of gifts.
Everyone was to eat lunch on their own and then meet up at 5 PM in the parking lot of the Flea Market. Larry & Deb Palguta and Kai & Michele Shepherd opted for shopping in the downtown area first. After the Helping Hands Quilt Shop and several other shops were visited, Kai and Larry scouted the area for a lunch spot.

One of many shops in Berlin

At the east end of town where Routes 39 and 62 split, they located the Der Dutchman Bakery & Café, where everything is made fresh. The two couples found this to be true as they ordered Deli style and were then brought freshly made sandwiches, etc. at their table.

Der Dutchman Bakery & Café and typical Berlin traffic

During lunch, the guys noticed a blue Spitfire headed west and about 20 minutes later the Spitfire and a white TR7 headed east. It appeared to be a lunch run, but turned out to be a hardware shop run for the Petersen’s car.
The Petersen’s MGB had an overheated engine and, after the hood had been opened, coolant sprayed out onto Bob and the adjacent parked car. The electric cooling fan mounted to the radiator had a temperature probe mounted in a hole drilled in the backside of the top of the radiator. The probe had blown out of the hole, permitting coolant to spray out of the drilled hole in the radiator. After cleaning up himself and the adjacent vehicle, Bob got help from Keith and Roger Deacon. The repair was a classic LBC fix. The probe was put back into the hole and secured with Permatex, and the back of the probe abutted a pencil (donated by a local store) with the other end of the pencil abutting the coolant hose, all secured together by black Duct tape. It held just fine throughout the remainder of the Tour, which included some lengthy, hard driving.

Temperature Probe, Permatex, Pencil, Duct Tape and Hose repair – classic!!!

After lunch and across the road, the search for tacky gifts in the Village Antique Mall produced surprising results for the two couples. Then Kai and Larry relaxed on the porch of the Village Gift Barn also located across the street from the Der Dutchman Bakery & Café. The cool breezes, shaded porch and rocking chairs provided an open-air man cave while the ladies shopped and shopped. And there was plenty of traffic creeping along the main street for entertainment!

Kai & Larry’s outdoor man cave at the Village Gift Barn

Later the two couples moved farther west down the street where the ladies checked out the various shops and their wares. Back again and across the street from the Helping Hands Quilt Shop, Kai and Larry located another set of chairs that were in the shade by a passageway between the buildings. Below is a photo of the author’s preferred shopping position, and including a bonus view of the traffic inching slowly through the town. Kai and Larry enjoyed their version of a relaxing afternoon of shopping, which included lively conversation with new acquaintances/strangers, until time to head to the Flea Market.

A man’s most enjoyable position while shopping!

The group, minus the Deans and Petersens, met at the Flea market parking lot. Overhead was spotted a slow moving Ford Tri-Motor airplane. The Marion Municipal Airport had a weekend event called “Fly On The Ford”. At ground level, the Petersens were to meet the group at the restaurant, and the Deans had headed back to the hotel after an untimely fall by Judy. However, some of the restaurants have similar names which can be confused. The group headed to the Der Dutchman Restaurant and Bakery down the road in Walnut Creek. After locating this restaurant, the group got into a long and slow moving line. While waiting in line, it was discovered that the Petersens were at the Des Dutch Essenhaus restaurant in Shreve which is north of Millersburg, and about ½ hour drive from Walnut Creek. By now the line was lengthening and our group had made no forward progress, so we bailed on the restaurant and headed out to Shreve. Roger Deacon led the drive through numerous turns and connections in the countryside, and got us to the highly rated Des Dutch Essenhaus located in the small town. Despite it being Friday night, there was plenty of room in the large seating areas. A long table was set up for all 14 of us so we could enjoy conversing while waiting for the food to arrive. Everyone enjoyed the various “favorite” marked entrees on the menu. After dinner, Roger and Randy led the group back to the hotel in New Philadelphia.

Day 3 - Again the group met after morning breakfast, with an agenda of driving south to a ferry ride across the Ohio River to Sistersville, WV, and returning for a tour through a locomotive repair facility just south of Sugar Creek. We headed south on US 250 which connected with SR 800 outside of Ulrichsville. SR 800 is shown on the map as an erratic road which also includes a scenic portion along a southern stretch of the road. It was thought that it might take 1 ½ to 2 hours to get to the Ohio River; it took a full 2 ½ hours to reach the ferry port.

This route turned out to be probably the most challenging drive the Brits have taken. SR 800 is not a small and relatively short secondary road (e.g., Hocking Hills); it is the main road through the region, and is a wide, well paved two lane that can be traveled a fast speeds. Then, somewhat like Hocking Hills, the road continually rises, falls, twists, and turns radically along nearly its entire length, which takes close to 2 ½ hours to travel! While the ride was wild, the drivers had to constantly have their eyes on the road to be ready for every change in the road’s topography. One example challenge was coming over the crest of a hill to look at about a 1/8 mile descent which included a shape curve left and back right, and then a hairpin curve leading into the base of the descent. Randy warned Bob Petersen, “grab ahold of Mary”; it was a rather daunting descent. Another example was a slightly sharp rising curve to the right with no view around the corner. Except the corner seemed to extend around about 300 degrees – an incredible hairpin curve that just kept going with no view ahead.
We stopped at Barnesville to gas up and bio out, before heading into the scenic stretch. The respite was needed, and also served as an opportunity for the disable van to catch up. This was followed a little later for an emergency bio break by the disabled van. The scenic stretch includes some ridge top driving where the views extend for miles. And the incredible driving continued as the topography dropped continually to the river. Finally we reached Fly, OH where a small car ferry was waiting at the Ohio River’s edge.
Only one vehicle was on the ferry, so car by car we scooted onto the ferry. Our two rear cars could not get onto the ferry – Keith Wishmeier who regularly holds down the back end of our caravans, and the disabled van. But the ride over to Sistersville, WVA was only about 10 minutes.

Waiting for the Ferry to disembark to cross the Ohio River

Nearly across the Ohio River

The first ferry load of LBC’s got to Sistersville and got out to look over an old oil rig, it being one of the first rigs in the area. When Keith and the disabled van arrived, we headed to a local gas station to have a bio break, gas up and decide what our plan was for the afternoon.
An afternoon event was to be a visit to a locomotive repair facility located just south of Sugar Creek. However, it was clear that we could not get back for the 2 PM tour even if we drove straight through without a break. It was decided that we would find a local place for lunch, which turned out to be Choo Choo’s Restaurant, 10 miles up the road in New Martinsville,
WVA. Choo Choo’s is a “quaint mom and pop diner” with reasonable prices, absolutely outstanding onion rings, cold beverages and just the place we needed after a demanding drive.
After lunch, we cut across the river to Ohio’s Route 7 and snaked along the Ohio River to SR 148 that headed northwest. We took back roads that were smaller than SR800 but which were just as challenging. There are many hard curves and quick elevation changes on roads that appeared relatively straight on the map. As a result of some sharp turns, the caravan ended up at an I-70 interchange minus the disabled van which was at an interchange about 5 miles west.
Making plans quickly, we got back together and headed north until we reached US250. The drive back to New Philadelphia ran alongside the lengthy Tappan Reservoir, a great viewing area slightly marred by the only rain we encountered during the Tour.
Upon our return to the hotel, everyone agreed to meet later in the lobby for a dinner in the area, and then spent the remaining time relaxing. The evening’s dinner was at The Pros’ Table, a nice restaurant on the east side of New Philadelphia. Our large group sat at two tables and had a very good dinner with lots of lively conversation.

Day 4 – The LBC drivers met for breakfast, most at the hotel and some at other spots, and afterwards assembled for the drive home. However, we decided that we could drive by the locomotive repair facility because it is just south of Sugar Creek where we were headed. Below are a couple of photos of a very impressive set of buildings (built in the last 5 years), locomotives and vintage dinning and passenger cars. A tour of the facility would have to wait for a future time.

Locomotives and vehicles adjacent a turn table

The guys gaze at the facility and contemplate a future visit

Another sight along our drive home was the longest covered bridge in Ohio. It is located a couple of hundred yards off of SR62 just before we cross over the Holmes County line, and east of Brinkhaven. The access road goes under the bridge, but the road leading up a hill to the bridge was closed. We made it a quick sightseeing stop and then LBCs headed out in groups for the short drive to Danville, a gas station and bio break. The remaining drive home was uneventful as the caravan stayed intact, stopped for a quick lunch at an Arby’s in Marion, and then homeward.

The long covered bridge along SR62

Each of our Fall Tours has had its share of surprises and unexpected events. Our itinerary seemed to have a balance of activities and driving, but that is where the unexpected occurred. It is hard to adequately describe the length of the roads, their irregularities which are not shown on the maps, and how challenging they are even for the best equipped LBC’s. Thus, in this case the amount of time to travel a route is hard to predict unless you are a local resident. Even a local resident, when was asked how long it would take to drive SR800 to the river, just shrugged and said he had no idea. So our unexpected surprise was the large amount of driving, which was good to outstanding, but far more than anticipated. The GPS devices revealed that those leaving from Elkhart drove about 1025 miles, from South Bend about 1050 miles, and from La Porte about 1075 miles. This will be remembered at our “1,000 mile Fall Tour”, and one that raised substantially the bar for challenging LBC driving.





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