Wisconsin Dells Stories and Tips

Across Lake Michigan

Leaving Ludington Photo, Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin

My wife and I must be gluttons for punishment because we seem to find more ways to get up early on vacation than anyone I know. Two years ago, when we took a cruise, we tacked on a tour of DC at the end. On the cruise, we had to get up early a couple of times for day trips at port stops. In DC, we got up about 5 a.m. twice to take bus tours of the U.S. Capitol area. So what did we do this year? We got up about 2 a.m. so we could drive across Michigan to be in Ludington by the 7 a.m. departure for the car ferry across Lake Michigan. I guess someone forgot to tell us that vacations are for resting, not early rising.

The trip across the Michigan was almost more excitement than we had planned. Someone forgot to tell the deer in the state to sleep in as well. We saw a dozen or more, several close enough to the road to be a hazard. I know camping is supposed to be roughing it, but it seems a bit too rough to scrape off road kill before the trip really gets started. Luckily, we dodged Bambi, his parents, and all his siblings.

We left early enough that we arrived in Ludington almost an hour before the car ferry was to take off. New problem: there was no ferry at the dock. The Lake Michigan CarFerry Company has their schedule down pat, though, and the ferry arrived from Manitowac, Wisconsin in good time. When making our reservation, I mistakenly thought it would be a rather small car ferry like I had seen in other parts of the state. I worried that it couldn't hold our full size Ford van. I made an extra call to the car ferry company to confirm it could handle our "big rig." When the first vehicles off the incoming ferry were an 18 wheeler and a double-decker tour bus, I guessed that I had sounded a little ridiculous with my worries. Oh well, live and learn.

The Badger is actually the size of a small cruise ship, specially fitted to load and carry cars, trucks, busses, passengers... pretty much everything. We had been offered the chance to book a "stateroom" with our reservation, but declined at first. Once on the ship, though, we were tired enough that we thought a bed would be nice. Thankfully, there were still some available to book. I would recommend to anyone considering this trip to book early, including a stateroom if you are at all considering it. We were just lucky one was open. Though it was small, we did catch a couple of hours of sleep, and it made the rest of the day much more pleasant. The alternative is sleeping in chairs in one of several common rooms throughout the ship. I think our room, though tiny, was more comfortable.

We stayed awake long enough to take photos of Ludington as we left. Very shortly after we took a picture of the Ludington North Pierhead Lighthouse. We took one of the lighthouse at Manitowoc as well. The lighthouse pictures don't appear impressive, because we were looking down from a ship about 5 stories tall. Somehow the lighthouses dwarfed in size. We figured that we only saved an hour or two by taking the ferry across Lake Michigan. Had we lived closer to Ludington, or been planning on staying closer to Manitowoc, the time savings would have been greater. We went more for the adventure, to be able to say, "been there, done that." We were happy enough with the crossing to consider doing it again. Then again, we had a beautiful day to cross in mid summer, with little or no waves or wind. I am sure there are times when the weather isn't nearly so cooperative, but the company brags of having had no loss of life in many years of crossings. Calumet County Park is a very nice campground, with large sites and electricity, and pleasant views. I hope to tell you more about the trip with my next free form entry. >

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