Saturday, 10 December 2011
I've accumulated a few more seconds of my quota of 15 minutes of fame, the Australian Morgan club highlighted my Plus 8 model in their December issue of 'The Morgan Ear'. That got me moving again preparing the build for the Three Wheeler.
See them both at:
Now where did I file that set of drawings for a Series I DHC Fred sent to me?
Sunday, 4 December 2011
|My Morgan in the Badlands of South Dakota.|
A little more than a year earlier I had lost my job as a newspaper photographer for The London Free Press. There was a layoff with a buyout offer attached. I took the bait, the company took my camera, I walked out the door. Almost a year and a half later, the stock market had recovered somewhat, my retirement looked a little more secure, it seemed safe to hit the road.
Morgans are often called "the last of the true British sportscars." Still made today in Malvern Link, Great Britain, the Plus 4 model that I drive has a history going back to the early '50s and a look with roots in the mid '30s. I've had mine for 43 years and a lot has changed since I bought it new in December of '68.
Back then a Morgan was a simple car on which any mechanic could work in a pinch. Today an old Morgan is somewhat of a mystery to many mechanics. I asked my wife's mechanic if he'd feel comfortable working on my Morgan's twin SUs. "No problem, " he quickly replied. "The only thing that would give me pause," he continued, "would be old carburetors. I don't know a thing about old carburetors."
He was right. He didn't. Twin SUs are carburetors --- two of them! (A history of SU carburetors can be found here.) I found another mechanic.
As you can imagine, taking a Morgan on a cross-country tour today is an adventure. You have a better chance of finding an old farmer familiar with a sputtering Morgan with its Ferguson tractor heritage than finding a young mechanic comfortable with old-fashioned mechanical stuff.
I carry a box of spare parts on the shelf behind the seats. I figure an old farmer will appreciate the stuff. I certainly don't have a clue as what I should do with a set of points or a new distributor rotor. (It is said that one reason that Standard Vanguard cars sold so well in Australian farming communities was because the engine parts were interchangeable with the farmer's tractor.)
|The little roadster got a clean bill of health before leaving.|
I also visited the CAA before leaving and loaded up on maps, lots of maps, maps of every state and every province on our itinerary. And then I bought a GPS so that we wouldn't need the maps. Mix maps and my wife together and the result is divorce. The GPS was marriage insurance.
And so, on Saturday, May 29, we struck out. Shortly after leaving the GPS struck out. It stepped up to the plate and took a swing at telling us how to get to Sarnia from London and proclaimed: "Go north, young man!" I guess our GPS has never heard of Horace Greeley. The correct answer was, "Go west, young man!"
All the way to Sarnia our GPS insisted we get off the 402 and head north. While in line at the border, I took the time to reboot the damn electronic navigational genius --- not! This time it wanted to head for I-94. This seemed reasonable and so once through customs we headed for the Interstate.
But the ETA, estimated time of arrival, seemed wrong --- hours too late --- and I was getting concerned. My gut told me we should soon be heading west for Clarkston and our B and B; my GPS disagreed. I rebooted it again or maybe I should say that I re-rebooted it. In a moment it was re-recalculating and in another moment it was commanding us to turn right in 200 metres. Gads! We darted to the exit and off the freeway heading west.
|Our first stop: Clarkston, Michigan. A cool America town.|
In less than thirty minutes we were in beautiful downtown Clarkston, Michigan. Clarkston is a bedroom community of Detroit, but unlike Detroit, Clarkston is successful. We stayed at the Millpond Inn. This is a B&B that an old friend from my art school days recommended and which I, too, heartily recommend.
|Heritage flooring salvaged from Detroit|
This was the only B&B at which I tipped. The breakfast served at the Millpond Inn was not only good it was huge. Our host, Joan, went all out. I could not get over the selection. I had a little of everything: Omelets, fruit, pancakes, homemade bread, tarts and more. I waddled from the table. This lady earned a tip.
We had other breakfasts that equaled Joan's for quality but not quantity. Thank goodness. I actually lost about fifteen pounds over the course of the holiday. If every breakfast had been like Joan's, I would have gained fifteen pounds.
|Our GPS recommended this gravel road as the quickest route.|
Judy did get us to Grand Rapids but this still was not good. Judy hates maps and maps hate Judy. Luckily the GPS had no trouble finding our B&B in the Heritage Hill District. Then again, who would have a problem finding the Brayton House, a 9000 square foot, twenty-room Georgian Revival mansion. The magnificent staircase alone was worth the price of admission. Wow!
|The Meyer May House in Grand Rapids is open for tours.|
There appeared to be another Wright designed home in the neighbourhood; This was the J. H. Amberg House. It was one of the commissions left unfinished by Wright when he ran off to France with a client's wife. Completed by another architect, it has the Wright look but it's not an officially designated Wright residence.
|Heritage Hill District in Grand Rapids, MI.|
We left Grand Rapids before 8:00 a.m. heading for Muskegon, Michigan, aiming to catch the Lake Express. The modern ferries speed across Lake Michigan, docking in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Again we used our GPS and again we had problems. It got us to a spot on Lakeshore Drive that it claimed was the entrance to the ferry terminal. It wasn't.
This time it the fault didn't lie with the GPS. The terminal had a Lakeshore Drive address but was actually located at the end of a long drive. Even Judy found it a little confusing. If Judy couldn't get it right, how could I expect the GPS to do better?
|The line waiting to board the Lake Express.|
We had reservation in the Stagecoach Inn. Supposedly Cedarburg is the perfect Midwestern American town. We heard that John McCain and Sarah Palin kicked off their post convention campaign tour in Cedarburg. Their handlers felt the downtown provided the perfect mid-America streetscape.
Rumour has it that McCain lost. I'm not surprised. Cedarburg was nice but it didn't come close to winning our award for the best preserved Midwestern town. It did win the best hype award. And the folk in Cedarburg were genuinely friendly. I'd go back for the people but not necessarily for the town. I might steer clear if McCain and Palin were visiting.
|Cedarburg has a number of heritage inns.|
Half way across the state are the Wisconsin Dells, a scenic glacially-formed gorge with striking sandstone formations. A popular tourist destination, the Dells have an estimated five million visitors annually. We took a break from sightseeing in the Morgan and took to the water to do some sightseeing from a boat.
The GPS got us to the boat ticket booth just fine. And more amazingly, it got us to our B and B without a hitch. I was happy and Judy was happy. Our maps, for once, stayed in the glove compartment. That night we stayed at the Four Gables Bed and Breakfast on the edge of La Crosse.
|The Dells are worth a stop. We took the northern tour|
|Pipestone County Courthouse made of local stone in the Beaux Arts style.|
|Centre: First National Bank with arch|
|Wind turbine sighted above trees.|
|The original Richardsonian arch is gone.|
But Pipestone still has heritage Pipestone — the cluster of century-plus buildings in its downtown core. And Pipestone still has pipestone — the special stone that gave the town its name. Only native Americans now quarry the unique, local stone used for making ceremonial pipes.
My wife and I stayed at the historic Calumet Inn. It wasn't expensive and it shouldn't be. The inn is one of those places that is trying hard but you get the feeling that cash flow is a problem. The little inn didn't even have a proper hotel parking lot. This was no surprise as century hotels were built before the advent of the car. At that time, guests simply walked from the train station to the hotel. We parked the Morgan on the street. The downtown's quiet and parking was not a problem.
|Our room in the Calumet Inn.|
Click the link and check out the inn and the various packages offered. The little inn wants, no needs, your business.
Pipestone National Monument
Outside of town, the Pipestone National Monument was established in 1937, restoring quarrying rights to the Native Americans. During the summer, natives conduct cultural demonstrations such as traditional pipe making. Craftsmen, many third or fourth generation pipe makers, carve ceremonial pipes using the unique stone from the Pipestone Quarry located within the park.
About 260 acres of the area has been restored to native tallgrass prairie. A larger area of restored tallgrass prairie and a small Bison herd are maintained by the Minnesota DNR at Blue Mounds State Park, 20 miles (32 km) to the south.
|Pipestone Quarry: George Catlin Smithsonian Museum/Renwick Gallery|
Saturday, 3 December 2011
|My Morgan Plus 4 in Georgia with an antique iron bed tied onto its back.|
In the spring of 1971 my Morgan and I took our annual spring trip south. Starting when I was 16, I had welcomed spring with a long prowl down the back roads of Kentucky, Tennessee, the Carolinas, Georgia, Arkansas and Alabama. Every year it was the same states, somewhat different roads and completely different adventures.
In 1971 the adventure centred around an iron bed. It was old and a little bent but it had all its parts. It had both the head board and foot board, and the bed spring side supports were still intact. With cast iron ends, these bars could be brittle and often broke in use --- and an old bed has seen a lot of use.
I was in northern Georgia, checking out an antique store in an old wood clad home, when I found the bed. It was thick with green paint but that was good. No rust. It was a simple design but I liked it. I asked the owner of the store what he was asking.
"I reckon about ten dollars," he said.
I bought the bed on the spot. He carried my purchase outside, spotted my car, and thought no way this young man is carrying this bed all the way back to Canada with that little car. But, I found a long plank, had the store owner drill a large hole in the middle and I attached the plank to the back of the Morgan. I then rested the bed on the bumper overriders and tied the bed firmly in place.
I duct taped two short metal plates to the bottom of the legs to protect them from being damaged when the Morgan went over bumps. As it was, each time we hit a bump, sparks shot from the sacrificial metal plates. It was rather spectacular at night.
I made sure I got a receipt for the bed. I didn't want to have to pay duty. The owner of the shop took a slip of paper and had me write that this was a receipt for a ten dollar bed. The fellow took the paper from me and put a large "X" at the bottom. He had made his mark. He didn't know how to write his own name! I wasn't all that surprised. This was the south and I was used to stuff like this.
I had been planning to drive to northern Florida but with a bed tied to the back of my Morgan I decided to change my plans and head north. I would head in a direction vaguely towards home. On April 30th I was in Washington, D.C.
I parked the Morgan and went to the Washington monument, taking the elevator to the top. When I got off the elevator I heard loud beeping and noticed a couple of uniformed policemen checking me out. I must admit that my hair was a bit long; Yes, I once had hair. They politely took me aside and asked to check my bag. They were looking for bombs and their instruments indicated that I had an incredible amount of metal in my canvas bag.
The found camera gear: camera bodies, camera lens, a small tripod. But what they really took an interest in was my 300mm lens which I paired with a 2X converter. The police officers took turns looking at the distant city through my "friggin' telescope."
When I got back to the Morgan I found more police were taking an interest in me. It was the bed this time that caught their eye. I had more than a dozen police cars surrounding my little Plus 4. "What's with the bed, young man?" I was asked.
Soon they were satisfied that I wasn't planning on taking up residence in the park and they turned their interest to the Morgan. A steady stream of officers slid behind the giant Bluemel steering wheel. Some toggled the toggle switches. Some asked to see the engine. All, in the end, smiled. Morgans are like that. They make people smile.
"Boy, do you know what tomorrow is?" "May 1st," I replied.
I soon learned that tomorrow was to be a very special May 1st. Large scale civil disobedience protesting the war in Vietnam was planned for Washington, D.C. There would be mass arrests and maybe a few bashed heads. The police officers told me I'd be wise to get in my little roadster and put a few miles between Washington and me.
My long hair, tattered army jacket and weird car with a bed tied to the back would draw attention and tomorrow would not be a day for friendly chatting. They made it very clear that I might get hurt. I started up my Morgan and waved good-bye to Washington. Dozens of boys in blue waved back.
I motored out of Washington and kept going until I crossed into Pennsylvania.
I still have that bed today. It is now beige and sits in Judy and my guest bedroom in London, Ontario. I think it may need a new mattress. Guests have suggested to me the mattress is beginning to feel as old as the iron bed itself.