The summer of 2006 was one of travel. May and June found me on a five-week visit to Norway for the first time, and July found my youngest daughter and me on a road trip to upstate New York to celebrate her Dad’s parent’s 50th anniversary. We then traveled on to Door County, Wisconsin for my family’s reunion (and a magical sunset).
It was a lot of driving, but it provided such wonderful moments with my daughter! I treasure the memories of conversation and music and laughter that we shared while driving together. They are, of course, even more poignant and special now, eight years later.
I dislike driving through big cities — even staying on the Interstate as it snakes through a city makes me nervous. To avoid Chicago on the return trip to Maryland from Wisconsin, and to experience something new, we decided to take the huge car ferry over Lake Michigan from Manitowoc, Wisconsin to Ludington, Michigan.
I remember it was a beautiful day. The drive from Egg Harbor to Manitowoc was peaceful, and some of it was along Lake Michigan’s blue waters.
Arriving at the point where we loaded our vehicles, we parked our car in the queue, paid for the trip, turned over our keys, and joined the other passengers in the long line to walk onto the ferry.
From our vantage point up on the huge deck, we watched the vehicles being loaded. Ominous metallic noises accompanied the small cars, mini-vans, RV’s, and a huge tractor-trailer (last one on, first one off) being loaded. They all fit!
And then the propellers did their work and off we went! Four hours of walking around the huge ship later, we arrived in Michigan refreshed and ready for the continuing drive.
From the ferry’s website:
The S.S. Badger offers the largest cross-lake passenger service on the Great Lakes and an authentic steamship experience. The relaxing four-hour, 60-mile cruise takes passengers, autos, RVs, tour buses, motorcycles, bicycles, and commercial trucks across Lake Michigan between Ludington, Michigan and Manitowoc, Wisconsin … Outside deck areas, deli-style snack bar, buffet-style dining area, private staterooms, upper deck lounge, aft end lounge, video arcade, children’s playroom, gift shop/ship’s store, free quiet room/museum, two free TV lounges, free movie lounge … 40 (Staterooms) … (an average speed of) 18 miles per hour … (a capacity of) 600 passengers, 180 (vehicles) … approx. 450 (crossings per season) … Built and launched in 1952; began daily service on March 21, 1953.
Of course I took many photos:
… but I also took several videos of the four hour trip, focusing on the launch from Wisconsin and especially the arrival and connection in Michigan. I stitched them together into an amateur movie … at almost 10 minutes, it’s too long for *my* usual web-viewing attention span, but thought I’d share it if you’d like to experience a bit of the journey with us:
My favorite moments from the video:
– When we first pulled away, we stood on one of the passenger decks and looked down to the car deck. The car deck was open with no railing — it was a little disconcerting! Until the giant restraining bar was slowly lowered (0:47) I had visions of the tractor trailor’s brakes failing and it taking a trip to the bottom of the lake!
– The seagulls sure knew what they were doing. (1:36)
– The jet-skiers knew too! (1:53)
– From the side deck it was so windy — yet peaceful. (2:14)
– Arriving in Ludington, the harbor’s guidance boat surprised us by whipping around the big ferry. (3:26 and 3:55)
– What is it about a ship’s horn that is so haunting? (4:20)
– Dogs are allowed on the ferry, but can’t be out with their humans. On the car deck we saw several cages set up for those that weren’t in their cars. They let the world know how they felt about it, especially as we approached our landing … and the excitement level of the ferry picked up. (6:48)
– Wow. Amazing navigation. (8:50)
An observation: Manitowoc’s loading area was more industrialized, but Ludington’s was more commercialized; it looked more like a welcoming area to me with beach and grilling areas, and a marina and condos. I was born in Michigan … maybe it was just calling me home?! 🙂
I’ve been on the Staten Island Ferry, the Cape May – Lewes Ferry (from Delaware to New Jersey), the ferry to Osterøy here in Norway, a small one in New Zealand, and the ferry out to Washington Island in Wisconsin earlier during this particular trip — but this experience was sure unique and fun!
Have you ever experienced this Lake Michigan crossing? How about another ferry crossing — long or short? I’d love to read of your experiences!