Maybe more appropriately titled “part one of…”. We had so many unique experiences during our vacation to Michigan, I couldn’t just cram them all into one (super long) blog post.
When we found out that D was going to be taking a second command with a break in between, we immediately began planning a vacation to Europe. However, once all the commanding officers had their say, we realized we’d only have 1 week between the movers arriving to MO and D having to report on June 1st. So we put our European plans on hold and decided to focus on some National Parks instead.
My parents live in Wisconsin and had graciously agreed to watch sweet E and Oakley for our vacation. We decided to stay within driving distance so we wouldn’t have to worry about flying on such a shortened schedule. From there D found the National Parks, and I mentioned wanting to visit Mackinac Island on Lake Superior. When we found out that some of our best friends were going to Mackinac for Memorial Day weekend, we were sold!
Since D and I had just driven from NC to MO (16 hours) and then MO to WI (10 hours), we wanted to cut out as much driving as possible on our mini vacay. Enter the SS Badger. The Badger is the only coal-powered steamship operating in the United States and in 2016 was added as a National Historic Landmark. The Badger crosses Lake Michigan, and although it’s only 60 miles, it cut at least 4 hours of driving off of our trip AND helped us avoid crazy Chicago traffic.
We set sail from Manitowoc, WI which is a quaint little city. We arrived early and passed a brat fry fundraiser so we stopped for lunch and then ate at a park overlooking the harbor. If we had more time, I would have loved to walk around the downtown area because there were some really adorable looking storefronts. I’ve lived about 45 minutes from Manitowoc almost my whole life, but never actually visited so I hope to go back some time.
The Badger itself is HUGE. It can hold 600 people and 120 cars. It can also hold rail cars, semi trucks, tour buses and more! My uncle used to drive truck and on more than one occasion would utilize the ferry. As we were in line to board, we were able to watch all the cars being taken aboard.
There Badger has something for everyone. There are several food options, including a bar, a community room with BINGO, a movie room, areas to sit and watch TV, a kids room, a gaming room, as well as staterooms that can be rented where you can sleep or store your gear (since you can’t access your car).
Our Time on the Badger
When D and I boarded, we immediately went to the upper deck where they had a bunch of lounge chairs set up. A lot of people gathered up there to watch the ship set off. Although it was a little chilly, we were sheltered from the wind and had the sun shining on us, so we napped up on top deck for almost two hours. When we woke up, we were the only people on the deck which we thought was odd…until we stood up and were almost knocked over by the wind!
We headed below deck where we got some snacks, watched a little bit of the movie, and then hung out in the make-shift museum on board. There was so much to learn about the Badger as it has a unique history. They also played a short video about day to day operations which I thought was fascinating. As we approached Ludington, MI, a lot of people gathered around the sides of the ship to see it enter the harbor. We joined the crowds and I was blown away by how beautiful Ludington is from the water. There was a ton of green space and there were so many people enjoying their evening and waving to the ship.
Once we disembarked, we waited for our car to be driven off the ship and away we went.
Thoughts and Suggestions
Although I don’t think this I’ll make the SS Badger a regular thing, I really enjoyed our time on it. It was a really cool experience to sail across Lake Michigan and have our car shipped over, and I loved learning about the history of it. I also really enjoyed not being stuck in the car for 4 hours of driving. However, it’s $60/person and $60 for the car so we didn’t save any money by taking the Badger. Again, definitely worth the experience, but not something I feel like I need to re-live.
If you decide to take a ride on the Badger there are a few things you should know:
- You can bring non-alcoholic drinks on board but no food. They will check your bags and confiscate any food items. Bring money for snacks or eat before you go.
- Once your car is parked, you cannot access it. We each brought a backpack with an extra layer of clothes, water, and a book. If you want to bring a lot on board with you (or are traveling with kids), it might be a good idea to rent a stateroom so you can have a home base for all your stuff.
- Bring some Dramamine or sea-bands with you. D tends to get carsick so he took a non-drowsy Dramamine before we boarded. I brought sea-bands along just in case, but didn’t have any problems. We were warned that the water in April/May is unpredictable because of the weather/waves so we wanted to be prepared.
- Wear sunscreen! It was cooler in WI at the end of May, but the sun is beating down on you. We definitely got some sun during our time napping on the top deck.
Have you ever taken a car ferry? What’s the most unique form of transportation you’ve experienced?
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