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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The S.S. Badger Car Ferry, Manitowoc to Ludington

Somehow, in the rush to get home from our Michigan vacation last fall, I neglected to post anything about our trip across Lake Michigan on the car ferry.  I enjoyed it immensely.  It is by far the best way I have found to drive through Chicago!

So we returned to Manitowoc, Wisconsin on Saturday morning to begin a trip to Connecticut via Detroit.  The S.S. Badger is a vintage coal-powered steamship still sailing as the missing link in U.S. Highway 10 across the northern tier of states.  Not without some controversey, though.  It seems that the Badger dumps its coal ash into the lake and the mayor of a nearby town is trying to undercut the competition.
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Many years back, the Badger was one of many ferrys hauling rail cars across the lake.  Today it takes mostly tourists and a bit of freight across making two daily crossings each way.  We caught the 2 p.m. departure headed east.
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The advantage of going across via Manitowoc is obvious to us.  Manitowoc is the home of Cedar Crest Ice Cream and has a fantastic factory store near the dock for the ferry.  This picture was taken on a cold day last October.  There were lots of patrons in the store on this sunny Saturday.
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We sailed on a beautiful afternoon this time.  People were out on the lighthouse to see us off and a number of gulls drifted over the area too.
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It's a four hour voyage and the ship provides entertainment via television, movies, bingo and a bit of comedy.  Kids are entertained with face-painting and coloring contests.
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Four hours can be a long time for a smoker and unlike the airlines, the Badger provides a smoking area for their comfort.  Well, comfort might be a bit of a stretch, but these social outcasts who are able to climb up to the top deck near the exhaust stack will find that "the smoking lamp is lit," as is said in the navy.
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As we approached the Michigan shore, an ore boat approached from the north.  All the photographers were on hand to record the event.  I thought it photographed best framed with some of the ship's equipment.
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As we pulled into Ludington, there were plenty of people to greet us at the lighthouse there.
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The cars are driven on and off the ferry by young students who do have one of the better summer jobs.  I imagine the one who drew the red Corvette considered this a pretty good day.  (I should have taken a picture but was too busy watching for our car.)

Soon we were headed out to Grand Rapids where we spent the night.

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