My family and I had a great time again at all the stops planned out by the tour organizers, Daryl and Kathy Kemerer. The roads chosen were beautiful and fun to drive, and much less challenging than the mountainous trails we traversed in Pennsylvania during the 2004 tour (at least that is what my Model T said).
We arrived in South Bend about 3:00 PM, got checked in, and then spent the next several hours talking cars, which I loved. Much time was spent working on Scott Langeneger’s recently acquired 1909 E-M-F Double Rumble Roadster that was having rear-end and clutch problems. The Langenegers had picked up the car in the Chicago area the day before and brought it straight to the tour.
Sunday concluded with an ice cream social and get together where we all got a chance to know each other and hear about the days that were to come.
Monday’s tour started out with a trip to a fantastic pedal car collection. There were more pedal cars than I had ever seen in one place before, most of which were impeccably restored and displayed. The owner also had several (6-7) Elkar automobiles, which was an impressive display.
From there we continued onto Amish Acres for lunch. Our family was still so full from the breakfast provided by the hotel and chose to sustain ourselves on fudge and giant dill pickles bought in the shops at Amish Acres.
We continued on to “Antique Carriage” which is an Amish business that builds and restores buggies and early automobiles. One word to describe the operation would be INCREDIBLE! The work was outstanding! They were finishing up a 1910 Marmon body that included diamond tufted leather seats, which were beautiful. It was interesting to see how this was done. The owner, Ernest Schwartz, spent quite a bit of time showing us around and telling us about his business. It was the highlight of the day for me because he also does the patent leather fenders which our Rauch & Lang has and, up until this point, I had no idea where I was going to obtain this rare commodity from.
From here we were on to LaVine’s restoration shop which handles newer cars such as Auburn’s, Packard’s and street rods. Though they had forgotten we were coming, the owner spent ample time with us explaining his business and showing us the truck they were preparing for the Riddler competition.
From there it was back to the hotel for fellowship and discussions about the interesting things we saw that day. Amy headed out to a local pharmacy to pick up the antibiotics that our doctor had called in for McKenna, who had continued to complain pitifully of an earache.
The weather forecast for Tuesday called for rain all day, so most of the cars stayed in the trailers. But not the Fitzhugh’s 1909 E-M-F 30 5-Passenger touring! It motored right down the road through the rain for the entire tour.
Our first stop was the Hesston Steam Museum which has several narrow gage locomotives in its collection. Normally open only on the weekends, they had opened specially for our tour group and we were glad they did. We saw the Shay locomotive currently under restoration and learned of the fire that had destroyed one of their buildings years before, taking with it most of the museum’s locomotives. The Shay survived, although it was damaged in the fire. Volunteers are almost finished with its restoration.
From there it was on to LaPorte for lunch and then the Door Prairie Museum which houses the Kesling Car Collection. This collection includes a Tucker automobile and Playboy automobile, as well as other classic cars. This museum was also not open to the public at large, but special arrangements were made for us to view this impressive collection.
The route back to South Bend included a stop at the Studebaker proving grounds, now called Bendix Woods. While under the ownership of Studebaker, pine trees where planted such that the word “Studebaker” could be seen when viewed from the air. It was really neat to drive past these now-gigantic pine trees and try to discern from the ground which letter we were passing.
Wednesday was spent in South Bend viewing the new Studebaker museum, the Oliver mansion (Wow!), and other sites and attractions around South Bend. We were grateful for the invention of antibiotics, as McKenna seemed much better and no longer whimpering in pain. In the evening we drove to a nearby park to meet up with the local Studebaker Club chapter and kick the tires. Too bad none of them drove their Studebakers out for us to see. A quick stop for ice cream at the historic and trendy Bonnie Doon’s drive-in before returning to the hotel completed the day nicely.
The weather was fantastic on Thursday for a trip back to Amish country. We stopped at the Haynes private car and toy collection and then at the Ramsey toy collection. Both collections contained more fantastic objects than I could comprehend. I especially liked the 1912 Rauch & Lang Electric car in the Haynes collection since we also have a 1912 Rauch & Lang (though we learned that it is quite a bit different than the Haynes car).
Lunch was in The Blue Gate Restaurant in Shipshewana, which is in the heart of Amish country. After lunch, we spent several hours looking in the shops before venturing back to the Hotel. We were sure to pick up some famous Yoder’s popcorn while we were there.
The forecast Friday called for rain once again, but not until the afternoon, so most people drove the E-M-F’s, or Flanders’. As I prepared to get our 1920 Ford Model T Centerdoor Sedan out of the trailer (I am restoring our E-M-F), I could hear thunder in the distance and opted to leave the car in the trailer. I was glad I did when we ran into some very heavy rain.
The rain did not stop the others as they forged on through the rain to our first stop at the Pears Mill in Buchanan, MI. This mill is now a museum that still includes the water operated mill. I was fascinated watching the shafts and pulleys that allowed the energy in the water to be used to grind the corn.
From the mill we continued through some wine country to our lunch stop at Fernwood Botanical Gardens. This lunch acted as our closing banquet where several awards were handed out and thank you’s were made. Most people said their good byes at this point, but we headed back to the hotel, stopping first at the Fort St Joseph museum in Niles Michigan.
The week had gone by so fast and now we had to head back to Illinois for a baseball tournament for our son Matthew. We had such a great time and enjoyed the chance to renew old friendships and start new ones.
If you missed the tour, you missed an absolutely great time. Don’t miss the next one. It will be in Detroit as we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the E-M-F Automobile. This will be an event you will not want to miss. If ever there was a “once in a lifetime” event for E-M–F or Flanders owners, this will be it. Stay tuned for more details, but plan now to attend the 2008 E-M-F Factory Outing to Detroit, MI.