La Crosse, WI or Bust!
By: Jay and Linda Jablonski
Four brave souls from Connecticut decided it would be a fun trip to drive these small old cars to Wisconsin for the VTR National Convention. Well maybe two brave souls and two along for moral support. You can decide who’s who. We decided that if we are driving that far we might as well make the most of it and see some sites along the way. We carefully planned our route with a few necessities – cold beer, more cold beer, and back roads.
Jay and Linda prepared the trip binder, “LaCrosse, WI or Bust” often referred to as the “The Bible”, which contained more maps than one would ever need. As a backup for the maps, we also had with us a GPS and Waze on our phones. “The Bible” included suggested restaurants and brewery stops along the way, hotel information, etc.
Each day’s goal was to arrive safe, no car problems and hopefully a couple of breweries a day. Packing for this trip was a challenge since the trunk is small and we needed to make sure that we had enough room for car parts and tools. The car parts and tools were the first things packed. There was only enough space in the trunk to pack one small and I repeat small bag per person, but we managed to do it. Jay and Linda did have a dry bag on their luggage rack with a car cover (which was never used) and Linda’s T-shirt quilt for the craft show.
Day 1 – Avon, CT to Batavia, NY – We meet Neville and Susan in Winsted and began our trip, with a sign on our dry bag LaCrosse or Bust. Not long into the trip we discovered that about every 150 miles we would need to stop for gas and stretch. We used the need for gas as our excuse to stop so we could stretch. We tried to find small town local restaurants to eat at. Just outside of Richfield Springs, NY we found a little restaurant called Tally Ho.
Our next stop was for an afternoon break at Twisted Rail Brewing Company in Canandaigua, NY, which is on the northern edge of one of the Finger Lakes. As we talked to locals in the area, they would ask where we were going, and we would tell them La Crosse, WI. Their response was always the same – that’s a long drive in those little cars. We also found that many of them once owned a Triumph and wished they never sold it. We were asked if the cars had air conditioning and Jay would tell them, yes that we have 255 air. Two windows down at 55 mph. We always got a chuckle with that answer.
We ventured to a local Mexican restaurant that night and introduced Susan to Margarita’s. She said she never had one and well, we hooked her on them. Margarita ingredients at the Jablonski household are a must have on hand at all times. Day 1 was long but enjoyable and the weather was great. It was very sunny, so Jay & Linda drove with the top up most of the day. Neville and Susan braved the heat and sun with their top down.
Day 2 – Batavia, NY to Port Austin, Michigan – First stop, Niagara Falls. We wanted to arrive early to avoid waiting in long lines for the boat tour, since this was a Saturday. Well, we timed it perfectly and the falls were beautiful.
We did the typical tourist thing, the Maid of the Mist boat ride. This was our first of three cruises for the trip. By the time we go off the boat, the wait time was at least two boats deep.
Leaving the US and crossing into Canada took a little time since most lines were about 10 cars deep. Needless to say, that the 255 air was not working at this point. We eventually made it through and they even let Neville in with only a few extra questions. As we are driving across Canada, with the tops down, we are watching the weather as dark clouds were all around us. Linda was keeping a close eye on weather.com and saw orange and red on the radar. Linda’s suggestion was to pull over and put the tops up before the heavy rain hit. Much to her surprise Jay actually listened and thank God he did. The minute the tops were up, down came the heavy rain. We stopped at Upper Thames Brewing Company in Woodstock, Ontario where we sampled a few beers, enjoyed a cheese and meat plate and listened to a local band.
On the road again and we needed to stop for fuel in Canada. Wow was that expensive! Over $40.00 for about 7 gallons of gas. As we were leaving Canada and entering the US, we had a very funny border control officer. He asked Jay if we made any stops while we were in Canada other than to pick up parts that fell off the car during the trip. Jay replied, “you must be talking about an MG, but this is a Triumph”. The officer then replied, “oh you must have had to tow it across Canada then”. This went with a few more jabs from each of them before he let us back into the US.
We drove up along the edge of Lake Huron to Port Austin, Michigan where we stayed at a Bed and Breakfast – The Garfield Inn. The Inn is over 150 years old and is a national historic monument and absolutely gorgeous on the inside. President Garfield was a frequent visit at the home.
That night we walked to a local café called Pak’s Backyard and Beer Garden, which was right at the tip of Lake Huron. After dinner we took a walk out onto the breakwater where we saw a beautiful sunset.
The next morning our room even had “Room Service”… oh wait that’s Jay.
Day 3 – Port Austin to Ludington, Michigan – The morning started out a little foggy but cleared up pretty quick. We drove from Port Austin to Ludington, stopping at two breweries. The first brewery we stopped at was the Frankenmuth Brewery, which is the oldest microbrewery in the US. It is located in the town of Frankenmuth, which looked like a small German town, with blue and white flags lining the street.
We had a few beers and watched the final World Cup Soccer match and enjoyed a German pretzel, which was absolutely delicious. It reminded us of our time spent in Germany.
Our next stop was for late lunch/early dinner at Mountain Town Station Brewing Company in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. This brewery was converted from an old train station. From there we went to our final destination for the day, Ludington, Michigan.
Day 4 – Ludington, Michigan to LaCrosse, Wisconsin – Today we took the S.S. Badger across Lake Michigan. The Badger was a 4 hour cruise. This was cruise two of three.
There were 6 other Triumphs on the boat with us. This group was from Ohio. The Badger was built in 1953 and is the only coal fired car ferry operating in the US.
We ate lunch in Appleton, Wisconsin, at Fratellos Riverfront.
The restaurant was in a building that was converted from a hydroelectric power plant. The plant was originally built in 1909. Our table was right alongside the river, where we could see the dam and the various ducks, geese and storks in the river.
It seemed like we passed quite a few airports. Jay thinks that was planned by Linda, just in case she had enough time in the Triumph and decided that flying to Wisconsin would be a better option. Finally arrived at the host hotel for the 2018 VTR Convention with our sign still in tow, where along the route we had a few laughs from passers by.
Tuesday: The VTR Convention officially started this morning. We went through registration and got our goodie bag and name tags. Linda entered her Triumph Tee-shirt quilt in the craft show and I entered my 3D printed Triumph logo coasters. Jay took the car to the Autocross Tech Inspection.
The inspection was pretty straight forward. They make sure your battery is tied down, the brakes seem to work and there was no excessive play in your wheels. First event was the Funkhana.All four of us participated in the Funkhana. The Funkhana was setup in a nearby parking lot by the Oktoberfest grounds.
The Funkhana had several tasks to complete including a hatchet throw, fishing, ring toss, water skier towing and barge pushing. It is a timed event with penalties for not completing your tasks successfullyThe Welcome Reception was held that evening in the hotel ball room. We then walked to an Irish Pub a few blocks from the hotel for a late snack/drink, before calling it a day.
Wednesday – Jay and Linda drove to the Autocross site, which was located across the Mississippi at a truck driving school.
We attended the driver’s meeting where the rules were explained, and we told how the event was going to be run. Then we walked the course to get an idea on how to drive through the course. As you walk the course, you are thinking where will I put the car so I can have a smooth run, which typically is a fast run.
The course had a number of slalom sections and a few long sweeping turns. We each had three runs and were able to improve each time we drove the course. After the first group’s runs were complete, there was a break for lunch. Then the people who finished their runs replaced the course works who were the second group to run. The course workers were spread around the course and would radio in if the driver hit a cone or went off course. Our job was to stay with a photographer to make sure he didn’t get run over as he was photographing the event!
There were a few vendors that had set up tables at the hotel. One of them, Litezupp, was selling LED lights. Jay decided to replace his headlights with LED headlights. The guy selling the new lights said it is an easy swap and shouldn’t take over 15 minutes. With Linda timing, it only took 14 minutes. What a difference in the brightness of the new lights over the stock lights.
Neville and Susan did some of the self-guided drives that were listed in the VTR program. They said that the routes were good roads with nice scenery.
Wednesday evening, we went on a Mississippi river paddleboat cruise, our third cruise of the trip. It was a nice relaxing trip. We also met up with some of our friends from the Houston club that were at the convention.
Thursday – We went out for breakfast that morning to Jayze’s a local restaurant a few blocks from the hotel. Our next event was the Fun Ralley also known as a gimmick rally.
The Minnesota club laid out a great route with twisting turning roads through the countryside outside of La Crosse. One of the stops on the Rally was at an old country one-room school house.
We also drove past the world’s largest six-pack. It could hold 688,200 gallons of beer.
During a gimmick rally you have to answer questions as you drive the route. The first two questions had to deal with a painting of a riverboat on the side of a building. We didn’t see any riverboat painting, so we drove that section again, and again nothing. How can one miss a painting on the side of a building? As we got back to the convention site, we had to stop at the local car rental place as Linda was going to drive to Chicago that evening to see her dad. She asked the guy at the counter about the riverboat painting. He laughed and said that building was torn down about a week ago! He then proceeded to give us the history of the riverboat and the building that was torn down. There is nothing better than local knowledge.
Linda left for Chicago and Jay did a Dinner Run to the Two Beagles Brewpub. It was pouring down rain on the drive back to the hotel and the new LED headlights worked great. Back at the hotel, there was the moving events awards presentation. I thought that this was a great idea, instead of presenting them at the Friday night awards banquet.
Friday – The Concours was set up at a park alongside the river, a short walk from the
hotel. The weather was threatening all morning but held off until after the show. The show was divided into two sections: Concours and Participants Choice.
Jay entered the Concours with our TR6. There were many really nice cars in the show. It was great to walk around look at the cars and talk to the owners about their cars. Neville and Susan decided to leave a day early as they were having a few car issues. With their “Bible” in hand off they went. So, each of us were on our own driving back to Connecticut.
The awards banquet was that evening. Jay was at a table with several members of the Houston Triumph club. The banquet was well done and didn’t last too long.
Saturday – Jay got up early and left to drive to Chicago to pick up Linda at her Dad’s house. Jay’s mom was there, and we had lunch, before it was back on the road. Of course, we had a sign on the back of our car for the ride home. We got a lot of honks, thumbs up and laughs.
The day was a mix of heavy rain and clouds. We had not made any hotel reservation, planning to decide where to stop, depending on how we felt, and no brewery stops planned for the long ride back to Connecticut. We made it to Cleveland that evening by about 9:00pm.
Sunday – Up early and had breakfast at the hotel and we were on our way home. Once again, no brewery stops, so you know you’re in for another long day. We had the long drive through Pennsylvania in front of us. It was another day of rain and clouds. We stop for dinner in Bantam, CT at one of our favorite pizza places, Bantam Pizza. Their pizza reminds us of the Chicago thin crust pizza we had when we were growing up in Chicago.
We arrived in our driveway at around 8:30pm. We had driven a total of 2,700 miles over the past 10 days. This is more than I drive my TR6 in a full year. All in all, it was a good trip. Neville and Susan arrived safely at home on Saturday and Jay and Linda on Sunday. We asked a lot of the little cars on this trip and they surprised us and made it!!! Linda said that she would do it again, so it must not have been too bad.
We were able to meet with some folks we had not seen in years and also made new friends at the convention. Having the convention in La Crosse was a good choice as it had the Mississippi River as a backdrop and La Crosse had a good selection of restaurants and bars within easy walking distance from the host hotel. But it was good to be home and be able to sleep in our own bed. We will have to decide if we make the 1,900 mile (one way) drive to Dripping Springs, TX, the 2019 VTR Convention site.