Ferry Across Lake Michigan

July 26-27

We got up at a leisurely pace after our exertions of the Sleeping Bear Dunes, because it was a mere hop-skip to our one-nighter near Luddington (where we were scheduled to catch the SS Badger ferry to Wisconsin). 

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The Mason County Campground was actually quite nice, and although many sites are “RV Park” style, right next to one another, our site (#4) had some space between both of our nearest neighbors. 

The bath house was up a small hill, with a main “entry hall” to get to both the men’s and the women’s areas—clean and tidy and roomy.

We had some small trouble getting Roomba level without unhitching—and since we had to leave by 7:30-ish to be in line for the ferry no later than 8 (but it was only a 15-minute drive), we definitely did NOT want to unhitch. Likewise, our setup was minimal, and we unpacked next to nothing.

So we leveled left-to-right, but the front-to-back was too high in the front (on the hitch), so we tried to sleep in our bed with our heads the opposite direction from our normal, so our heads would be higher than our feet.

We didn’t even want to cook and have to clean up, so we found a pizza shop with delivery service to the campground, and ate our pizza with beer around 7:30P.

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Not much sleep was enjoyed, unfortunately. Jack was unable to stretch fully out, being wrong-way-to, and having gotten used to dangling his feet over the bed’s edge during some of the sleep phases. I had trouble freeing my hot feet from the sheets when they were where my head usually is.

But part of it might have been anticipating the ferry—the most disconcerting part of which is that we knew someone other than ourselves would be driving Roomba aboard. Jack worried that the task would fall to a 17-year-old whose summer job was to get the vehicles on the ferry—and we’d been told that the trailers are all backed onto the boat, to boot.

While the campground owner assured us that they do this all the time, and not to worry, that none of the summer kids would be backing Roomba into his slot on the vehicle deck, we still worried. And, of course, as is usual with me, I was worried about seasickness.

In the end, it was a bit stressful, watching the older fellow, who had obviously backed trailers most of his life, reverse our camper onto the boat—happily, we were at the dock early enough that Roomba was the first aboard (and the last off, of course) so there wasn’t anything our backer had to avoid to get him situated.

I’d dutifully taken my Dramamine an hour before we got underway at 9, and I also stayed as much as possible on the deck, although it began pelting with rain shortly after we’d cast off. I nevertheless had some time to take pix of the harbor at Luddington. One fellow out in the water fishing brought in an enormous fish, which a fellow next to me said was a salmon.

When the rain started, we tried to get to a place where I might be able to see the horizon, and face forward, which always helps ease my nausea. But while I could face forward at a table, it got hot and stuffy with everyone else on the boat also out of the rain, which is not at all good for nausea.

It finally stopped raining, however, and I took my rain gear and my growing headache outside, where I shivered in the seriously gusting winds for a while on the bow deck. Eventually, Jack came to fetch me for a seat on the (mostly) leeward side, where plastic chairs were available for some to sit beneath the life boats. The fresh air was glorious, and when the sun came back out, we both felt drowsy, even though the lifeboat we sat under was dripping water from one of the underside drain holes.

After 3 or 4 hours we began to come into Manitowoc Harbor, which was a pretty place. Jack had watched a video about the process, and without using any extra “side jet engines” (whatever they’re called), the ferry pilot did a 180 using his rudder and anchor to swing the back end of the SS Badger around to offload the passengers and cargo. It was pretty amazing.

It was not long, although a bit chaotic with everyone awaiting their vehicles, before Roomba came driving out of the Badger’s maw. We hopped in and headed to our stop for the night: High Cliff State Park in Wisconsin, on a high cliff overlooking Lake Winnebago. 

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We checked in and set up for a two-night stay in lovely woods without power, but with what we believed would be a decent amount of solar gain during the day. We were both so tired, we found it difficult to function. It was a pizza leftovers night (thanks, Mancino’s!) and we hit the hay very early with no agenda for the morrow.

 

Sleeping Bear Dunes Park

July 25

According to legend, a mother bear and her two cubs swam from Wisconsin, across Lake Michigan to what is now Sleeping Bear Dunes, Michigan. In the indigenous telling of the story, the bears risked the journey in hopes of food, because they were starving. 

Tragically, after many days of swimming, the cubs grew weary and slipped beneath the waves. The distraught mother bear continued to the shore, pulled herself from the water, and lay exhausted on the beach gazing at the spot where her cubs perished. 

Sympathizing with her loss, the Great Spirit Manitou raised the two cubs from the depths of the lake and created North and South Manitou Islands. The mother bear became a great sand dune and even today, she keeps watch over her two cubs.

Sleeping Bear Dunes is now a long, narrow National Lakeshore Park in Michigan, along the shore of Lake Michigan, taking in Sleeping Bear Bay, and then Good Harbor Bay at the park’s north. The Philip A. Hart Visitor Center is a “must” to fully enjoy this extraordinary park. It’s a great launch to help you decide what to see and do in the park.

We left the campsite early with our bikes on the Honda, and got maps and advice from the nice folks at the VC, as well as purchasing a few gifties for ourselves and friends.

We set off on what would be quite an adventure, after every bit of an hour’s drive from Kalkaska Campground to Empire, where the VC is, along Rt. 72 all the way. Unfortunately this route takes you through Travers City, although that was not the problem at 10A that it was at 5P. So we parked at the Bar Lake parking area (off Voice Rd., south of the “Dune Climb” and about a mile from the VC) and began riding at about 11 AM.

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We’d been warned that there was some “serious climbing” to be done at the outset of the trail, before getting to the Dune Climb. The person at the VC said there were some 12% climbs. The signs we saw along the roller part of the trail indicated only one 11%, 2@10%, and the rest 8 and 7%. It wasn’t any kind of a big deal. I had to laugh at a couple of the signs that said “Steep Grade Ahead” and it was less than our driveway through the pasture. In other words, NOT steep.

But for some folks, families especially, that would be good info to know before you started. At the end of our ride, a fellow driving through the parking lot as we loaded our bikes back onto the truck asked how we did on the “steep parts.” He was a little younger than we, and he said his buddy who was older, was intimidated by the descriptions. We tried to ease his mind, because he obviously thought his buddy could manage the rolling part. So the folks at the VC aren’t doing a great favor to a lot of folks who are more serious riders.

In any case, the first leg to the actual Sleeping Bear Dunes, where there is a large parking lot and scads of folks enduring the very long and sandy hike up the steep hill to the top, was quite a fun ride. Shady and lovely, good pavement, not terribly many other riders or walkers, it was a great start to a long ride.

The dune hike was pretty awesome to see, however. We did NOT attempt it, but wondered what the view was like from up there. We saw one person who was actually on all fours trying to get up one of the hills.

After passing the Dune Climb, we enjoyed relatively flat cycling to Glen Haven. It says it’s an historic village, but other than the cannery and an old boat, we didn’t see much to get excited about. It used to be a fishing port, since it’s right on Sleeping Bear Bay.

We rode down to the maritime museum, but it was closed. En route, we passed a group of plain aire painters, and stopped to take a few pix. Only one of the painters had been there long enough to have some work on his easel.

There was parking and a pit stop available there, but we pushed on to our next “segment” goal, Glen Arbor, where we thought we’d catch a bite to eat.

When we got there, however, it was just 11:30A, and neither of us was hungry yet. Besides, the place was trammelled by tourists. Glen Arbor is also the site of a bike, canoe, rafting/tubing, and kayak livery, and a generous plenty of restaurants and gift shops. 

We had a bit of trouble finding the route through/around Glen Arbor, as our maps left us confused and flailing. Following some cycling route signs instead of the “heritage trail” signs, we pedaled along some backroads with less traffic than in town; a nice residential section with quiet roads, mostly.

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Finally, we found not only the return of the dedicated bike route, but also the put-in for the canoe/kayak livery. It’s next to the parking area called the Crystal River Trailhead, and the livery put-in is Crystal River, called thus because you can see straight through the water to the bottom. The float from there to Glen Arbor looked like it would be a fun something to do next time we’re in the area.

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Our paper maps did not indicate anything like what we found at the END of our trek through the residential roads.

After the Port Oneida trailhead, we found a shady cemetery in the middle of farm country. It was a great place to pause for water, and a fellow who’d been riding a bike and dragging a burly trailer, apparently full of English Sheepdog, was resting in the shade and throwing sticks for the dog. 

Next along the path we found a wetland (possibly Narada Lake) with (maybe?) swans paddling around (if anyone can tell what kind of water birds they were from the pics below, please drop me a line). The bike path crossed the wetland via a wide, well-built boardwalk.

We thought we’d be riding all the way to the Good Harbor Bay endpoint (according to our paper map) but we had discovered at the cemetery, that part of the trail was blocked out with paint from the signage. We’d heard there was a part of the trail that was under construction or development, so we figured the Park Service didn’t want anyone to go up there—anyone who didn’t want to ride along Rt. 22 and Rt. 651 to get there, anyway. So we figured we’d continue until Bohemian Road, which dead-headed at the western-most beach of Good Harbor Bay, and call it a turn-around point. By that time, we had about 22 miles on our trip.

So we reversed our direction and re-traced our ride back toward the car.

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Back at the cemetery, the light was right to see a hillside covered in the pretty purple asters we’d been seeing everywhere along the ride, across Rt. 22 from us.

The swans were gone by the time we re-crossed the boardwalk, and we made it back to Glen Arbor for a spot of lunch at around 1:30, stupidly thinking that a lot of the lunch set would be done by then. But there were still lines out the doors of the most attractive places to eat.

There weren’t many folks at a country store type place where you could get a hot dog at the back and carry it out front to eat. On the side of this place was a Leinenkugel’s sign—I’ve no clue if it was old or not.

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We found another place, however, with a shady terrace and there weren’t many folks there. Steeling ourselves for a bad meal or slow service (since few folks seemed to be eating there), we had a quite nice shrimp taco meal with restorative Pepsi and lots of cold water. It was actually quite fine. I wish we’d remembered the name of the place—someone’s bar and grill, we think. Anyway, it was a great meal stop and charged our batteries for the ride back to the car.

Not far out of Glen Arbor, my bike slipped its chain for the second time of the day (very unusual for my bike, but not a rough loss). When I got it back on, the derailleurs began going crazy. I was not trying to shift but the chain kept leaping from the different sprockets in the back and the two chain rings at the front.

I stopped to see what the problem was, and found one of my chain links to be seriously bent sideways, taking quite a few of the following links into its slant. This link and those following were hitting both derailleurs and forcing the chain to leap from gear to gear. It was the damndest thing and neither of us have a clue how it could have happened. Our best guess is that a stone had lodged itself in between the gear cassette in the back and when the chain hit it, somehow it bent. But that’s only a guess. 

These pix (above) were taken after Jack pried it back into alignment a little with the only tool he had with him.

This happened at mile 38, 3 riding hours into the trek. We had calculated that the endpoint of the ride would be 44-45 miles. So I limped along, keeping the rear cassette in the middle (around 4 or 5), although with Jack’s temporary “fix” (bending it back closer to straight) I was able to use the front gears, switching from the small ring to the larger one—but even then I was down from 20 gears to 2.

At every trail head, we thought about just leaving me behind with Jack heading to the car to come pick me up—the chain braking altogether was a real possibility, and that option was available to us, if that had happened. But it didn’t.

And I took things gently and did some “cross-training” (walking up hills) on the 11% grade, and one of the 10%, easing up all the other grades in gear 14.

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Cross-training = time to stop and smell (photograph) the flowers.

Actually, I was surprised when we made it back to the car, because it didn’t seem all that far. I lost some “average speed” stats, but overall, the injury to my bike was pretty insignificant, if annoying. In fact, by the time I was circling the parking lot, most of the chain-slippage that I’d endured for most of the ride (sometimes it would slip out of 4 and then back in; sometimes it would slip from 4 to 5 and then back to 4) appeared to have abated.

We drove through rush hour Travers City (not recommended) and got back to the campsite by around 6, re-heated the poultry stew on the stovetop, and called it an excellent day.

Bike Stats:

  • Ride Time = 3:52
  • Stopped time = 2:30
  • Distance = 45.5 mi
  • Average speed = 11.75MPH

 

Kalkaska, Travers City, Michigan

July 23-24

Enjoyed an uneventful border crossing not long after leaving The Pinery, where Ontario’s Sarnia turns into Michigan’s Port Huron across the border bridge. We asked the guidance lady in the Honda to take us all the way to Kalkasa, MI via a less-interstate-slightly-longer route (we’ve named her Mo, short for Miss Obvious Woman, as she tells us there’s traffic when we’re sweating it out in a construction zone going 4MPH; and when we’re Cadillacking right along she tells us the traffic is light. Doh). So it was actually a lovely drive with only I-75 as the speedy-but-boring part. We listened to more of the book we’d started on our way to The Pinery.

So it was maybe 4-4:30 when we got to Kalkaska—or actually just east of the community/town, and to the Kalkaska RV and Campground, a private concern run by friends of our housesitter, Dennis.

We didn’t have an assigned site, so Gail offered us the choice of 4 she said would probably suit us. It looked like we would be setting up in the rain, so we chose D-19, where one side looked like a pool without water, and there was a decidedly higher place for the trailer. The awning, however, is slightly interrupted by a couple of trees.

But the trees are lovely, the set-up was speedy, we were not too terribly chock-a-block with our neighbors (who apparently only sleep here as they’ve been gone all day), and we have the puddle-to-be (it did not rain significantly) to park the car.

There is a site that we did not choose, however, that might be worth looking at if we’re ever here again: D-8. Gail had offered us D-7, which was low and uneven (someone was in D-8 when we arrived). But the occupants left during our stay, and by getting a better look at it, we’d choose D-8 instead, if it’s available.

We had a quickie meal of BLT sandwiches and chips, and called it a day.

July 24

We got rolling and jumped into the car to head to Travers City because it looked like the skies would open and the rain would again drench everything (it didn’t). We did a bit of online research to help us decide whether to take our bikes into the city or not. With the impending rain and seeing that the only “bike trails” in and around TC that we could find were decidedly urban riding experiences, we elected NOT.

The rain cleared and the day turned sunny and hot (low 80s), and we found a bicycling map at one of the best community visitor centers I’ve ever been to. The folks were friendly and helpful, and we came out with lots and lots of literature about not only Travers City, but Sleeping Bear Dunes and other areas up in this part of the world.

But TC itself was crawling with peeps, and lots and lots of traffic. It is a resort town, after all. I’m sure if we’d taken a stroll down the walk along the bay, we would have seen some nice marinas and beachy areas.

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One of our purposes in driving to TC was grocery shopping, so we found a Lucky’s, which Jack remembered from the NABA trip we’d taken to Indianapolis/Carmel, and it reminded me a lot of Earth Fare—the new grocery in Roanoke. There were a few things we couldn’t find there, however, so we tried to avoid TC traffic and headed back to Kalkaska, where we’d seen a Family Fare store on our way out.

We finished our shopping and were quite hungry when we made it back to camp to fix lunch and prep all the food for our Dutch Oven Dinner of chicken thighs, a turkey breast (!!) and roasting veggies. We’d also gotten some frozen burger patties and some sausage patties that needed flat-packing for the freezer. Jack worked on a few “this-and-thats” around the trailer and truck, and I took up the blog updates again.

The campground is virtually empty and so very quiet! Nice change from The Pinery. The sun is shining and the breeze is just enough to keep the bugs (not that there are many of them) away. Lovely afternoon and evening. We cranked up the Solo Stove, but the rules said all fires had to be in the designated fire pit, so we started it on top (a bit aslant).

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We found, however, that it was not drawing as well as normal, and the secondary burn that comes of the gasses burning at the top of the Solo was not happening. We weren’t sure why, but the only difference is it’s perch upon the firepit. So we moved it off and it gathered itself and did MUCH better. So if you’ve bought a Solo Fire Place, don’t mount it on a ring or other structure that might block the bottom holes from getting their air inflow.

The Dutch Oven cooking went quite well, with only an hour and a little before the turkey breast made it to 165-ish degrees, with all the veggies included in the pot (shallots, carrots, celery, potatoes). It was delicious, although the breast (which was boneless but had skin, and I cooked on top of the bone-in thighs with lemon slices between and on top) got a bit overcooked. But the pot likker was quite fine, and would make an excellent stew for us tomorrow, with the remaining meat cut up and included (with about a third of a beer to stretch the liquid). Very yum altogether.

 

NABA Convention Cont.

July 27, 28, 29, 2017

Thursday, July 27 was a “free” day for me — for the Convention-goers, it was for seminars, Room-To-Room trading/buying/selling, and catching up with old friends at the Hospitality room.

Jack and I headed out to discover what the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail was all about — a friend we spoke with at the Brewmaster’s dinner the night before warned that the trail out our way (east of town) was not terribly pleasant, as it was right beside a traffic-filled road that was under construction, complete with new asphalt.

So we drove our bikes to Comstock and parked at the South Wenke Park lot, and headed from there toward Kazoo. It was fine, even though it was along the road (business 94), but from Comstock toward Kazoo, it was not under construction.

The layout was quite dicey, however, when the trail went under the bridge on the east side of town, and we passed a popular homeless hang-out, which was creepy enough. But then we went just north of town, and the scenery got very industrial and we rode (quickly) past several individuals who were staggering about to a significant degree.

Shortly, however, we left the dingiest part of North Kalamazoo, and, while it was still urban, it wasn’t quite so filthy and decrepit. Eventually we crossed some rail road tracks, left the river proper, and headed into suburbia, which was quite nice. We made it to the northern terminus of the trail, and the best bit was encircling the nature preserve, although we did not go into the Nature Center itself. The way along that final 3 miles of the northern leg of the trail was shady, cool, green, and hilly, believe it or not. It was quite nice all along there.

Once we reached the end (about the 13-mile marker, although since we carved some of the mileage off by starting at Wenke Park, our cyclometers read 10.5 mi.) we turned around and headed back. The return timing proved to be beneficial, because the North Kazoo and Under-Bridge activity seemed to have abated with the rising of the sun (not that we had been there all that early on the outbound trip). Still, because of the urban-ness of the ride, we elected not to pedal into Kazoo proper to have lunch, but instead returned to Comstock, loaded up the bikes and went back to Roomba for a lunch of chicken salad and chips. Unfortunately, the trail was relatively uninspiring, so I took exactly zero photos.

I had discovered, through Facebook, that a long-ago High School good friend lived near Kazoo, and he got into touch and suggested we get together. We arranged to meet at Hop Cat in downtown, and so we headed out around 6:30P to link up. What a grand time we had. I don’t think Leroy’s changed a bit since High School, although we’ve all gotten heavier and older. He’s doing great, though, and that was excellent to hear and share with him what’s been going on with me in the intervening 42 years. I’m so glad we were able to make it work out to share a meal together.

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When we drove back to the campground, Jack drove us out to the Eagle Lake area, where he had ridden his bike on Wednesday. It was quite lovely as the sun set behind us and the shadows lengthened on the water. Took a few pix of the day-use folks who were down there with us.

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Friday was a very early day for me, as I was expected to attend a 7AM Board of Directors’ meeting. I was into the car and headed into the Radisson by about 6:15. Parked at the $9.75/day lot near the rear entrance of the hotel, as I’d done each day so far (on Water Street), but the rear entrance didn’t open to the public until 7. Eventually I got to the front doors and found a cup of coffee, and headed down to the meeting.

The President managed to keep the entire event (which included breakfast) to 2 hours, so everyone was able to get ready for the Big Event of the day, the members-only auction. I took some photos there, chatting with members and watching the action until I just had to head out for lunch. It was also freezing cold in the room, so it was good to be outside for a bit to find lunch.

I stayed for the Full Bottle Swap, for which I’d brought my fave (nearly) hometown brew, Parkway Brewery’s Get Bent Mountain IPA (Salem, VA). I came home with 6 IPAs from other parts of the world, including one from our own Virginia Beach.

Raced home to pick up Jack and turn around and get back so we both could participate in the “Taste of Michigan” display of breweriana and the Bell’s Brewery sampling of an enormous variety of their brews that we never see in Virginia. Then we had the Friday Banquet, at which Larry Bell (founder of Bell’s) was the guest speaker. It was, as usual, a pretty fun event with excellent food.

Saturday, July 29 was slightly more leisurely, since the Public Trade Show (where members display their wares on tables in the show room and the public is invited to buy, ask questions, etc.) doesn’t officially start until 9AM. I got there just as the members had finished setting up and the public began perusing tables full of all types of beer memorabilia. I took photos of the action for a while, and then returned (meter-free parking on Saturday!) to our campsite, which Jack had begun packing up in prep for an early departure on Sunday. When he got to a stopping place, we headed about a half-hour’s drive down to Portage, where my brewery buddy, Dave lives.

Dave and I have known each other for years, but only virtually. He has another buddy, George, with whom he’s written several articles for the magazine I edit, and Dave has written one or two solo contributions to the oeuvre. He has been unable to attend many of the Conventions in person, but a couple of years ago, I met George face to face, and this Kazoo Convention was our opportunity to introduce ourselves.

We had a lovely visit with Dave, and met his pup, Smiley. Dena, Dave’s wife, was away for a bit, but she arrived later, and I was so glad to have the chance to meet her also. We talked beer and told stories and shared a beer together, and overall had a grand old time. Dave has led an interesting life, and I was very happy to meet him for real.

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Some of Dave’s Breweriana


The final event of the Convention was the Saturday banquet. It was very low-key and involved not only a 50/50 raffle, but also a free chance to win an all-expenses-paid trip to Virginia’s own Blue and Gray show, which one of the NABA board members has been running for years and years. Everyone had a grand time, and said goodbye for another year.

Upon arrival back at camp, Jack and I hitched up the car and readied for an early departure.

NABA Convention, Kazoo

July 25 & 26, 2017

Not much to report about our travel day to Ft. Custer State Recreation Area in Michigan. Happily, it was an uneventful drive, we set up camp in a decent spot (site #16) with lots of shade, and settled in a bit before we went to the National Association Breweriana Advertising (NABA) Convention hotel, the downtown Radisson Kalamazoo, so we could register and let folks know we had arrived.

A bit about the camping: deep, thick undergrowth all around well-forested spaces arranged in the shape of a “pair of kidneys.” Lots of poison ivy and oak everywhere (no hammock-hanging here, I can tell you!). There is no water at the sites, but potable water at the dump station, so we pulled in there at the get-go to fill our fresh water tank, as usual, using our own filter to do so.

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The bath house is very near our site, and it is elderly and frankly, not all that tidy. There’s a playground behind it, and sometimes the kids use the facilities as an aspect of their hide-and-seek games. But the good news is that the showers are individual, across the hall from the restroom facilities, and there is a family restroom/shower for parents with young kids to use.

Another strange downside is that one must buy a $35 non-resident recreational pass just to get in and out of Michigan’s RAs. It is good for a year, but I think there will be few MI recreational areas we’re going to visit over the next 12 months. But just so one’s aware of the need, it won’t be such a surprise.

Back at the NABA Convention (the Radisson is about a half-hour drive from Ft. Custer SRA, although it’s only about 15 miles — one must leave “our” town of Augusta and thread through Galesburg and Comstock before winding one’s way into the downtown area, with significant construction and lots of traffic lights). We found our way to the registration/hospitality room on the 9th floor — again, rather strange because one needs to have a card-key to get to the 9th floor. Those of us registered but not staying at the hotel have to get a special pass from the front desk just so the elevator will go up there. Once we got there, however, the Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale was on tap and the folks were friendly and it was good to see a few peeps and catch up a bit.

Shortly thereafter, Jack and I went to Bell’s Eccentric Cafe in downtown for dinner and had good sandwiches and excellent onion rings. A half-hour later, we were back at Roomba and without much ado headed to bed.

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This is where the Bell’s Brewing legend began, now their signature downtown eatery.

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The first “real” day of Convention activities is often a long one for me. Jack stayed at camp while I drive in to catch the bus for the day’s tour, starting at 9 and finishing (with luck) at 4:30. Our first stop was the Bell’s production brewery out in the Comstock Commercial Park (back toward camp!). Our group of about 45 broke into 3 sub-groups and each sub-group had a guide. It was an excellent tour and the facility was so much more than just an industrial-style factory buiding (as so many breweries tend to be). I won’t go into too many details but Larry Bell started brewing beer and educating his public about “real” beer flavor and nuance back in 1985. By 1989, he was kicking the market in the Kalamazoo area, and some folks credit him and his mainly British-style ales etc. with having a major influence on the start-up of what we now know as the craft beer industry. Our guide told us that by 1989 there were a total of 280-some breweries in the US, including the multi-nationals. Today there are something like 5500 breweries in the US, so Larry Bell was brewing excellent beer and making a business of it decades before 5,220-ish breweries even got into business. And he was teaching a whole lot of folks that beer could be better than what Budweiser, Miller, Coors, and Pabst were offering.

Anyway — from there we went to lunch early at the Bell’s Eccentric Cafe, where we had our own room, food, servers, and our bus ticket bought us each one beer from the taps.

From there, we went to the Gilmore Car Museum, about 15 miles out of town. Certainly, antique cars are not my big thing, but the 90-acre campus full of barns full of vehicles and their history is quite amazing. Attached to but not directly associated with the car museum is the Michigan Miniatures Museum, where I saw many teensy-weensy rooms, houses, stores, crofts, etc etc etc. It was an amazing glimpse into the artistry and perfection of craftspeople who reproduce (or invent) scale replicas of things, people, and spaces (there even was a Waterford crystal setting — either a “home” or a “museum”). It’s difficult to tell from some of these photos, but the scales ranged from one inch = one foot to one-quarter inch = one foot. With everything to scale.

There was one fun bit at the car museum, that included a 1939 Packard coupe hitched to (and supposedly towing) a 1937-39 Conestoga Covered Wagon camping trailer. Pretty cool stuff.

Kalamazoo was also home to the Checker car and car parts company. That is in the past tense because it was only during the most recent Recession (2008-ish) when the company went out of business, even though it’s been ages and ages since it made its famous Checker Cabs. The 1923 company survived post-WWI recession, the Great Depression, the failure of its partner business (E.L. Cord conglomerate) in 1937, the WWII economy and post-WWII. But the thing that destroyed the car-manufacturing part of the business was crash testing mandated by the federal government in the 1970s. After 59 years, the last Checker rolled off the line in 1982. The company continued until 2008-ish by selling car parts.

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As for the Gilmore Car Museum, it was started in the 1960s when Donald S. Gilmore began collecting vintage cars, including a 1927 Ford Model T, and 1913 Rolls-Royce, and a 1920 Pierce-Arrow, all of which he restored himself. He then acquired 90 acres in SW MI in the small town of Hickory Corners. His wife encouraged him to showcase his collection, so they created a nonprofit foundation and opened the museum to the public on Sunday July 31, 1966. Today, it’s the largest auto museum in North America, with 6 onsite partner museums (like the miniatures place I visited) and the auto collection features 400 vehicles.

Next our bus tour went to a member’s home to see his collection of breweriana, and our host and hostess were gracious and generous. More beer and nibbles were enjoyed by all before we headed back to the Radisson.

We were about 15 minutes behind our hoped-for time, so I had too little time to get back to camp for a shower. So I got back to camp to pick up Jack and we about-faced to get to the “big event” of the Convention, from my perspective anyway, which is the famous Brewmaster’s Dinner. At this event, different styles of beer are paired with different courses of the meal, and sometimes the recipes for the meal are augmented with beer. It is always a very relaxed and fun event, and this one was no exception, even featuring a starter course of cheeses and roasted vegetables that came before the salad. Even though we got there late and had to catch up on the starter course, we sat with some great fellow members and had a wonderful time. Saw additional friends from past Conventions there, and stayed long past when the bus crew was breaking down the tables.

We’re finally getting the hang of getting in and out of Kazoo, and back to our abode without the map software in the car.

By the way, while I was bus touring, Jack hopped on his bike and explored the camp/recreation area. He found few multi-use or bike trails in the RA, but tootled around the paved roads and some of the almost-good-for-bikes (that weren’t mountain bikes) trails, and got 15 miles on the odometer. He reported seeing a large raptor of some sort, either an immature bald eagle or an osprey.