Hickory Corners, Michigan – September 2018 – Gilmore Car Museum

I have had the opportunity to visit most of America’s great transportation museums. Having that background I can state that in my opinion the Gilmore Car Museum is the best in the country.

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I had read about the Gilmore for some time now, and had always looked forward to going. With the long Labor Day weekend and the emphasis on cars, now was the time.

When we arrived one of the staff said ‘see you in 4 hours’. He was wrong, we spent 4 1/2 hours 🙂

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Gilmore is more than just a single building with some cars. It is a campus of buildings and barns, each featuring a genre of cars or car companies.

Each building is immaculate, clean and well light with great presentations. They also take pride in that there aren’t barriers for most cars, just notes to remind you not to touch. This makes photography much easier.

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Among the buildings is a 1940s diner that was moved from Connecticut. It serves as the restaurant for the museum. We had a basic lunch there, with great milkshakes and friendly staff.

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An example of one of the barns. This one was moved from a nearby farm, with 2 levels for cars.

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A complete 1930s Shell Station.

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The pumps represent different eras.

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The motorcycle building.

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Inside are a number of bikes from the early 1900s to current day.

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A vintage Cleveland and 1919 Johnson.

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As the sign notes – a 1928 Indian. Check out that rear seat.

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Outside near one of the storage barns is an un-restored London double decker bus.

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Another building – another collection. This one has a peddle car collection.

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As with the motorcycles, the collection was vast and pristine.

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Even some peddle airplanes – how cool.

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In the 1960s Mr Gilmore built a replica of the train depot for the little town of Hickory Corners. Inside is a hood ornament display.

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I am always enthralled by the old hood ornaments.

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Almost too nice for the hood of a car.

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At the Gilmore they have over 1300 of them.

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While the photography was tricky with the display cases and the light and shadows, many came out very nice.

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Also called mascots, it was a common occurrence in the 1930s to personalize your car with a different ornament.

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Our next building was called ‘The Classics’. Higher end cars from the 1930s.

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A Cadillac for a movie star.

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The large two level barn shown earlier from the outside had 1950s cars on the lower level.

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And the impressive upper level had earlier models.

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Hudson Motor Car Company made automobiles from 1909 through 1954. This one is from the 1940s.

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So many great cars.

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In the same barn is a Ford display.

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One interesting feature of the the Gilmore campus is that car clubs build their museums there. In this example the Cadillac club built essentially a Cadillac dealership on the outside.

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Inside are Cadillacs over the years.

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Without a doubt the older Cadillacs are much nicer looking than the 1970s and 1980s.

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The Ford Museum has a complete, authentic 1930s parts counter.

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The Ford museum is dedicated to Model A’s.

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A 1930s school bus.

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As with Cadillac, from the outside it appears to be a vintage Ford dealership.

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Across the driveway in the main building is the Lincoln building, whom have some of the nicest cars of all.

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Another earlier Lincoln model.

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A collection of 1950s and 1960s sports cars.

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As with Cadillac, Lincoln and Ford, there is a Franklin dealership.

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But back to the Lincolns.

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Also in the main building is an exhibit for A J Foyt.

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The main building seemed to have more of a mix of cars.

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One of the last of the Packards.

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A stylish 1934 DeSoto Airflow

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If you are into cars the Gilmore Car Museum is a must to visit.

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Hickory Corners, Michigan – September 2018 – Midwest Miniatures

Just northeast of the city of Kalamzoo, Michigan is Midwest Miniatures. Located on the grounds of the Gilmore Car Museum (more on this later), Midwest Miniatures features numerous miniature houses, roomboxes and vinettes, most in 1:12 scale.

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The details are amazing. The display below is the size of a small doll house.

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But when you zoom in you see the detail of the individual quilts – in this case tiny pieces of paper towels printed to look like quilts.

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Each vignette has a scene from a house or business. The dog in this display is about 1/8″.

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In keeping with the car museum theme, they have a garage. Notice the very tiny cans of oil on the shelves.

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There is a series of antique health care settings.

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An obstetrician.

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A florists truck with bundles of flowers.

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By panning back you can see the size compared to the table and windows of the room.

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The Kellogg Manor House – miniature

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Nearby is the real thing.

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Working on a quilt.

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A final stop at the nursery.

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Bloomfield Hills, MI – June 2017 – Cranbrook Art Museum & Saarinen House

The Cranbrook Academy of Art was founded in the 1920s by George Booth, who asked renown Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen to design the campus and buildings. Eventually the campus was expanded to include both boys and girls schools, a Science Museum as well as the Art Museum.

The Saarinen House has been restored to it’s 1930s look, and the museum offers tours, which we attended. The house itself (in my opinion) was somewhat disappointing as it did not give the ‘wow’ feeling that I often have when going into other famous homes, such as many of the Frank Lloyd Wright homes of the same period. Instead it seems more ‘practical’ and commonplace, in a 1930s art deco way.

The grounds of the campus are very nice, with gardens scattered about, along with numerous sculptures and fountains. The museum was somewhat smallish, but had some interesting artifacts including the chair collection.

 

The Art Museum

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Gardens and Fountains

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The interior of the Art Museum

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Saarinen House

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Brighton, MI – June 2017 – Lingenfelter Collection

As part of the weekend long ‘Eyes on Design’ car show the Lingenfelter Collection had an open house. Owned by Ken Lingenfelter, who runs a business that specializes in engineering high performance automobile modifications.

The collection included a number of Ferrari’s, a Bugatti, and numerous Corvettes. It was held in their garage in an industrial park in far suburban Detroit.

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Grosse Pointe, MI – May 2017 – Great Lakes Boating Festival

Grosse Pointe, Michigan is an interest place. Situated along Lake St Clair about 10 miles from downtown Detroit, it is clearly old money with numerous mansions located along Lake Shore Drive, while just a mile or so away is the desolation that impacted much of the city of Detroit.

Grosse Pointe is actually 5 different towns, GP Park, GP Farms, GP Shores, GP Woods and the town of Grosse Pointe. The center piece of the area is the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club, and it’s 187 foot high steeple.

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Each year the GP Yacht Club hosts the Great Lakes Boating Festival. It was billed to have vintage boats (there were 3 that I could find), a couple of classic cars, music (a bad Jimmy Buffet cover guy), and other activities, we found only a few booths of people peddling insurance, a couple home improvements, and a few nautical vendors.

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The Yacht Club’s dock area however was much better. There appeared to be a couple of hundred boats docked there, and this was where the best views were.

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A cadet ship, the Pride of Michigan, was docked to offer tours.

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The cadets all appeared to be high school age, or younger.

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There were numerous large yachts throughout the marina.

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Almost every dock had a view of the steeple.

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The sailing events were well attended.

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Just down Lakeshore was a learn to sail event that from the shore looked like they were dodging the large Great Lakes ore boats.

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Grosse Pointe, MI – May 2017 – Edsel and Eleanor Ford House

Edsel Ford was the only child of Henry Ford, and as such had plenty of money to build his mansion however he pleased. He and his wife Eleanor chose the vernacular architecture of the Cotswolds, in England. This included sandstone walls, slate roof with reducing sized shingles, and an amazing collection of old materials collected and brought over from England, including paneling, flooring and windows.

The home is located in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, a small community about 10 miles from downtown Detroit.

The house is filled with art, much of which is now reproductions that represent the originals that once hung in the home, but are now in the Detroit Museum of Art, donated by the Ford’s.

As you arrive at the gatehouse you can’t help but notice the massive doors.

 

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The house is 32,000 square feet, but with the various roof lines and wings to the building, it does not feel oppressive.

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Situated along Lake St Clair, on this day it was home to what felt like 1000 Canadian Geese, which is appropriate since Canada is just across the lake.

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A large lawn faces east from the home to the lake.

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The grounds cover 87 acres, much of which is nicely landscaped, although not overdone.

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The pool and pool house are detached from the main house by a couple of hundred yards.

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The gardens are minimalist, but well kept, as noted by the persistent groundskeepers who kept getting in the photos.

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Detroit and Beyond – August 2016 – A Weekend of Spectacular Automobiles

Sometimes it seems we get on a theme for a period of time, and I realize we often find events with wheels, but the third weekend in August was the best weekend of automobiles we have had. The main event of the weekend was to go to Detroit for the Woodward Dream Cruise. We had been to this a few years earlier passing through, but this year I wanted to spend the day checking out the events.

We left Columbus before dawn, arriving in downtown Detroit by 9 AM. Most of the cruise takes place in suburban Oakland County, but I had read that the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant had an event the day of the cruise. The Piquette Avenue Plant is a museum in the second home of Ford, and is known as the birthplace of the Model T. It is the oldest automobile factory building in the world open to the public, and has been open as a museum since 2001. On this day they were going to have a cruise of classic cars up Woodward through the city to Oakland County.

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As I drove up in my Audi S5 to the front of the factory the attendant said ‘are you cruising with us today’? When I commented that I thought it was for classic cars, he said mine was easily cool enough to come along, which of course brought a smile to my face. But still initially we parked in a vacant lot across the street (being inner city Detroit there are many vacant lots), crossed the street where we signed in, and followed a lady inside to see the factory. Little did I realize we were going to start out on a freight elevator, the same elevator that took finished Model T’s out a hundred years earlier!

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Already mesmerized we walked out onto the old wooden floors to see a large collection of Model Ts, Model As and others displayed down the production floor. For a car guy this was like being where the telephone, radio and television were perfected, only all in 1 place! I stood there imagining what it would’ve been like full of machinery, noisy and smelly, but re-inventing the world as we now know it. In addition to the vehicles the museum did a great job of displaying photos and other artifacts explaining the production there.

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On the third level were even more cars represented, this time from various periods including a 1964 Mustang and a early 2000s reproduction GT.

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As we left the building the attendants again asked if I was coming along – of course. The parking lot was filled with American muscle, from hot rods to tricked out Mustangs, as well as a few old Model Ts, which were honored to lead the parade. The Detroit Police had been contracted to lead the parade and off we went, all these classic American with my German ‘hot rod’.

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The drive up Woodward goes through much of what most people think of Detroit, blocks upon blocks of vacant lots or burned out buildings. But we also passed a couple of really nice looking neighborhoods. As we drove everyone walking along the street would wave, shout and take pictures because very few of the cars in town would come into this area.We had as much fun as they did, taking photos of the neighborhoods, going through every red light (probably a good thing), until we reached the edge of town and joined the rest of the Woodward Cruise crowd.

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As we continued north our parade did a U turn and went through Palmer Park. As we drove it seemed more cars joined in. Once you reached Ferndale the street becomes 4 lanes each way with a huge median strip for those Michigan left turns (U turns). From this point there was a traffic jam for 10 miles, but one of the best looking traffic jams you will ever see.

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The Woodward Dream cruise has no rules about who can and can’t drive up and down the street, so you get a mix of about 70% cruisers and 30% your normally frumpy Honda just trying to go to the grocery store. The cruise is the world’s largest one-day automotive event, drawing 1.5 million people and 40,000 classic cars each year from around the globe—from as far away as New Zealand, Australia, Japan and the former Soviet Union.

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Every parking lot was having some sort of event, Chrysler had a Mopar display in a shopping center, Ford had Mustang Alley down 9 Mile Road. With the afternoon getting late and rain coming in we decided to move on, but not for home as we had more cars planned for the next day.

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Leaving Detroit through the southeastern Michigan countryside, we eventually stopped in Angola Indiana for the night, stopping briefly on some country road to stand where Michigan, Indiana and Ohio come together.

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The next morning we made our way to Auburn, Indiana, first touring the National Auto and Truck Museum. This museum is in some of the remaining production buildings of the Auburn Automobile, including the Service and New Parts Building, and the L-29 Cord Building.

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The Service and Parts building, built in 1923, was used for test – driving automobiles, factory service and distribution of parts to distributors and dealers all over the world. The L29 building was built in 1928-29 for assembly and storage before shipping, and was innovative in it’s use of skylights that opened to provide ventilation.

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Also here is an extensive toy and model cars and trucks display from the 1800s to present day. In the lower level in an extensive truck display include a custom built GM vehicle called the Futurliner,  one of 12 large dual-front wheeled display vehicles that crisscrossed the country in the early 1950’s, part of a General Motors promotion called the Parade of Progress.

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Next door is the beautiful Auburn, Cord, Dusenberg Museum. This building functioned as the Corporate offices as well as an extensive showroom, with the showroom section exceeding even the Packard Museum in Dayton for a stunning display of automotive brilliance. Never have I seen more beautiful cars in a magnificent setting.

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The upper level feature more of the 3 brands over the years. The Dusenberg’s particularly were stunning cars with their long hoods and art deco feel. The upper level also houses the design studios that were used, complete with some of the original desks and designs. This museum and these automobiles truly are works of art, highly recommended to anyone who appreciates either.

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As we made our way to our last stop of the day we passed through Fairmount, Indiana, home of James Dean. They play it up, as most towns do their famous sons or daughters, but in the end it is just a simple little town in the middle of cornfields.

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Finally we reached the small town of Alexandria, Indiana where we had an afternoon of watching go cart racing through the streets of the town. These small karts can hit speeds of 80 MPH down the 3 block long straights.

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There were a number of classes for both adults and kids, with the racing close and fast. But you can only have so much fun over two days with things with wheels, and ours came to an end, so we headed off for the 3 hour drive back to Columbus.

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Detroit – January 2016 – Return to the International Auto Show

Normally I try not to do the same thing twice but when the opportunity to go to the International Auto Show in Detroit on ‘Insider Day‘ I couldn’t resist. Thanks to a nice nephew who got the tickets from the company he works for, and the weather still holding (no snow) I made the trip up and back to Detroit on a Wednesday.

Similar to last year the parking is very expensive for Detroit, but with it being Inside Day there was no crowd, and those that were there were other ‘insiders’ or the press, which made it so much better than 2015.

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Held at Cobo Hall in downtown Detroit the level of investment in presentation by the participating companies is immense. If you attending a car show in Cleveland or Pittsburgh you are greeting with a large open hall with carpet across the entire floor, and individual desks with some stylish backgrounds, with a couple of the larger car companies (Ford, Chrysler, Chevrolet) having an elevated stage with a car on it.

In Detroit some of the companies have two level displays built, with lounges. The level of multimedia for presentation is second to none.

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Another feature of this car show are the number of  announcements of new cars, followed by those cars being on display.

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Prototypes are also always present.

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Even the models who do the presentation have a more professional style and approach.

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All in all a Insider Day at the International Auto Show was a great time.

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Michigan UP, Wisconsin and Minnesota – National Parks Road Trip – Day 3 – Abandonded Air Force Base, Marquette, MI and Duluth, MN

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We started our day in Marquette, Michigan at the abandoned Sawyer Air Force base. There are literally hundreds of vacant buildings scattered about, with a few in use. We went past entire apartment complexes boarded up after the military left in the 1990s. It looks like it could double for Chernobyl.

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Interestingly though, as a tourist attraction, are a number of jet airplanes parked around town. They seem to be in good shape, just parked in fields and parking lots. At the edge of town is a new, small terminal that is used for the Marquette International Airport. We walked in to check it out and the board has one destination written permanently, ‘Detroit’.

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It was about a 15 minute drive into the middle of Marquette, the largest town in the U.P It is also home to Northern Michigan University. Given the tough weather, over 200″ of snow per year, they have a domed stadium, the Superior Dome, however theirs is unique in that it is made of Douglas Fir beams and fir decking. This geodesic dome arena is the world’s largest wooden dome and is in the Guinness Book of World Records.

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We made our way inside the Wildcat football arena, walking onto the cushioned Astroturf, with a beautiful smell of wood used to build the arena. The ceiling was stained wood inside and had white panels for the exterior designed in a sloping fashion to funnel snow off the domed stadium into large wells positioned on the ground at points around the structure.

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We saw another amazing item in the arena. It is the World’s Tallest Trophy at 22 ft 6.5 inches tall given for the largest skateboard parade and this trophy is also in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Along the Marquette Harbor we stopped at the Marquette Maritime Museum but it was closed, however there was a torpedo stationed outside that was perfect for sitting on and waving my arms as if I were Slim Pickens in the movie Dr. Strangelove while I had my photo taken. Just across the parking lot is the Marquette Bay Park, with a massive abandon ore dock.

We met a person in the parking lot of the park who told us how it was used; there was a massive train bridge that spanned across downtown Marquette, crossing overtop the buildings, and onto the ore dock. Trains would pull in with loads of ore, and dump them directly into the boats headed down the lakes. Given the fact we were along the Lake Superior shore at an ore dock brought to mind the Edmund Fitzgerald disaster, along with the accompanying song.

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Leaving Marquette we stopped in Ishpeming to see the U. S. Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame, but it was closed. The building was designed with a steep roof modeled as a ski slope. An old ski lift chair provided seating in front of the building and international flags and an Olympic torch stood in front outside to complete the scene. We checked out the items outside the building and the well painted murals on a nearby bridge.

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Also in Ishpeming is Da Yoopers Tourist Trap, a store I found on the Roadside America website. Large strange and unusual contraptions were placed on the store property along the road, including an 18 foot long chain saw called Big Gus.

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Another ‘feature’ was an old pick-up truck with a rifle mounted to the bed that stuck up over the cab of the truck and extended about 8 feet beyond the front of the truck. Amazingly both the chain saw and the gun actually work.

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Lower Michigan becomes the butt of humor due to the dislike from Da Yoopers of Upper Michigan which is seen in many of the items for sale. Some items emphasized a local affection for beer and pasties- pronounced with a short “a” sound not long “a”. Pasties are dough sandwiches stuffed with beef, rutabagas, or other vegetables, not what I was expecting when I first saw the signs.

Our route this day took us across the western half of the U.P. across the M28. As was our goal we tried to find something interesting to stop for every hour or two, including Agate Falls Park, located in southeastern Ontonagon County, Michigan. What appears to be a basic roadside rest is actually the park for this 39′ high waterfalls, coupled with a classic old highway bridge crossing just above.

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Wakefield, Michigan was our next stop to see the Peter Toth carved Native American. We were disappointed to see that the carved head of a Native American was only half the size and not as intricately carved as a similar wooden statue in front of the Judith Resnik Community Learning Center in Akron, Ohio.

We continued on through Bessemer, Michigan to find the giant ski bum noted on Roadside America. The Ski bum was at the entrance to a ski resort called Big Powderhorn that claimed to be the Ski Capital of the Midwest.

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Finally we arrived in Ironwood in the early afternoon, and found the railroad station built in 1893 listed on the National Historical Places. In front of the depot is a memorial carved of three miners from an old tree. This town also has a mural painted the length of a downtown building of every miner with his name and the name of the mine he worked.

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In addition, this town boasts the “World’s Tallest Indian” as is noted at the foot of a 52 foot tall Hiawatha. The statue is made of fiberglass and erected at the top of Suffolk Street next to a neighborhood. This statue towers over the houses. You really cannot miss it even though we asked someone where to find it.

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Just across the border into Wisonsin we found another Roadside America classic, a giant large corkscrew in Hurley, Wisconsin. Appropriately it stands in front of a liquor store. Thank goodness Roadside America kept us entertained with oddball items like this to see along the way. You may interpret this mishmash of oddity as rambling fun, weird education, or just plain stupidity to fight boredom.

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Ashland, Wisconsin was our next stop, to see the murals on buildings throughout the town. There are murals painted on the sides of downtown buildings on most of the blocks. The murals paint life of downtown businesses and life through the decades. Nearly all the murals depict people who were residents of the town.

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Just outside of town we visited the Northern Great Lakes Center. The center displayed dioramas and murals of native tribes, wildlife, geology and life history of the area. It also exhibited professional photographs of Apostle Islands and Pictured Rocks. It was interesting to see these photos of Pictured Rocks which hung here in the Center because these photos were taken at different times of day and season to show so many beautiful captured scenes of the same landscape that we photographed while on our cruise. The winter scenes of Pictured Rocks and Apostle Island were especially outstanding.

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Dark clouds appeared with expected storms so we made our way to Superior, Wisconsin. Unfortunately, the accordion museum there was closed and so we moved on to Duluth, Minnesota.

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Welcome to Minnesota.

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We drove around Duluth and were surprised to find steep hills within the city, which of course we headed up. I had read there was an overlook but I was having trouble finding it.Eventually in one of my efforts to find it I ended up in a parking lot of a Catholic Church where there was some guy just hanging out in his dingy old mini van. When I asked him where it was he said ‘follow me, I will take you there’. Knowing this violates every rule of every slasher movie, we did follow him, far enough I knew where it was and I turned and took off the other way, leaving Freddy Kreuger to himself. The overlook was at Engel Park, with a 80′ tower at the top.

 

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The view from the top was spectacular, with a 360 degree view of the city, bay and lake. We spent quite  bit of time watching an ore boat leave the harbor under the lift bridge, as well as many ore docks, some still in use. On the Superior, WI side there were massive grain elevators.

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Our hotel was near the harbor in a restored area with restaurants and parks. Returning we walked to one of the more popular ones, Grandma’s Saloon & Grill (that is really the name of the restaurant) then walked through town and later walked the boardwalk along Lake Superior for amazing photos of the incoming storm, before retreating to the cover of the large porch of our hotel to watch the storm blow through. Afterwards we walked again for more great photos trying to capture lightning and ships through the fog. We got some great photos to end our day here.

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Lightning on the Lake

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