Road Rules! Pure Michigan – Backroads Cruising to Cure the 2020 Blues
Words by Jeff Betz
With all of the cancellations of car events in 2020, a bunch of Detroit-area buddies decided to take matters into our own hands and organize a tour of Michigan through the backroads and two-lane highways that are much less traveled. Our first one was in late July and, because it went so well, we added a second road trip in September. Both trips were filled with awesome roads, great friends, and as a bonus, all of our wives went and enjoyed the scenic route and hot rods.
One thing I learned is if you plan it, they will come. All it takes is one person to take the initiative to start organizing a weekend road trip, and after that it’s usually pretty easy to talk others into coming along. I did a lot of the planning for these excursions, with some input and suggestions from our friends. Both trips ended up being in the 700-800 total mile range which, over the course of two or three days, makes for a good balance of driving time and sightseeing. We purposefully avoided Interstates and freeways to keep things more relaxed.
Boyne City Bound
For our first trip, the ultimate goal was getting to the cruise at Classic Instruments in Boyne City. Our back-road tour started with breakfast, then on to Bay City, then Rose City, then up through the eastern part of the lower peninsula through the Atlanta State Forest Area. We made a late lunch stop in Cross Village, where we enjoyed some spectacular views of Lake Michigan. Then we drove through the Tunnel of Trees along the western coast of Michigan to Harbor Springs. What a great town!
From there it was more two-lane roads all the way to Boyne City. We stayed at the famous Boyne Mountain Resort and followed all of the prescribed social distancing and rules in place for the pandemic. Luckily, we still had a great party in the parking lot and fun bonfires at night thanks to the hotel. We took part in the Classic Instruments show and cruise the next day, and one of our crew won the poker run and the transmission and gauge package that went with the winnings.
The next day we visited many of the little lake towns and shopping and headed for home; again, using mostly two-lane routes all the way. The vintage rides for this this trip included my wife Nancy and me in our ’69 Chevelle wagon; Tom and Peppy Fahoome in their ’65 Corvette roadster; Jim and Deb Uhls in their ’67 Dodge A100 van; Brian and Becky Reibel in their ’66 Chevy pickup; Barry and Sharon Fountaine in a ’56 Chevy 210, Fred Reckley in his’76 Firebird with a newly installed LS2; and Dan and Elizabeth Lettshek in their ’39 Chevy coupe. Our only mechanical issue on this run was a power steering leak on the ’56 Chevy.
The first self-planned trip was so much fun we felt we had to do it again. In September we set off westbound for South Haven. This time my parents came with us in my ’69 Chevelle wagon – plenty of room for suitcases and people! We had much of the same crowd as the first trip with a couple drop-outs and a couple additions. Tom and Peppy Fahoome brought their ’65 Riviera instead of their ’Vette, and we picked up Rich Gasperoni in his ’85 C10.
This trip was purely a hot rod cruise and shopping for the wives. There were no car events planned and our only goal was to drive them and make it more of a trip “for the girls.” Our day started off with a mechanical issue in Tom and Peppy’s Riviera. It seems that a previous encounter with some road debris had bent a fan blade to the point that the fan locked up against the shroud, and the car would overheat if it quit moving. We quickly found the issue and bent the blade back well enough to spin and function.
Our tour took us from Ann Arbor, through the Irish Hills area, past Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, and on to Coldwater for lunch. After some refueling of our own, we continued on to South Haven, zig-zagging through southwestern Michigan towns and burgs. We arrived in South Haven in time for dinner and an awesome Lake Michigan sunset looking west.
Our plans the next day were interrupted by an electronic ignition issue in the Dodge van. We eventually got it figured out caught up to the rest of the crew in Saugatuck. It was an exceptionally warm and beautiful day in western Michigan, and everyone was out and about; shopping, and eating, and obeying social distancing like we should! Part of our crew broke off and went to a casino for the day. Most of us enjoyed the water and shopping and walking around Saugatuck.
On Sunday morning we made the short trek over to Hickory Corners to go through the Gilmore Museum. What a great place! It’s an incredible museum and great place to learn more about all makes and generations of automobiles, plus a restored Shell filling station made for a perfect photo opportunity. From there it was heading for home and we all broke up and went our separate ways.
The accompanying pictures chronicle both adventures. It was our way of making the most of an otherwise “off” year – and it proved to be a lot of fun! The simple truth is, you don’t always need to wait for a big car show or event to have some fun in your vintage car. A few friends, an open day or weekend, and some scenic backroads are all it takes to enjoy good times in a classic ride. Considering the fun we had, we’d highly recommend you round up a few buddies this season and put together a cruise of your own. You’ll be glad you did!
Photos by Jeff Betz and friends, and courtesy Classic Instruments