Category: Our Great State

Car Enthusiast Bucket List: R.E. Olds Transportation Museum

 

Long before Henry Ford’s assembly line produced the first Model T, and before General Motors was even conceived, Pliny Olds moved his family up from Ohio to Michigan’s capital city and started a small machine shop. It was there in the late 1800s that P.F. Olds & Son built steam engines, and young Ransom Eli Olds tinkered with development of a horseless carriage.

When R.E. Olds built a three-wheeled vehicle with a steam engine in 1887, it worked — just barely. His father quipped that “Ranse thinks he can put an engine in a buggy and make the contraption carry him over the roads.”

Said the elder Olds: “If he doesn’t get killed in his fool undertaking, I’ll be satisfied.”

Good thing R.E. Olds was foolish enough to keep trying. A decade later he had built a four-wheeled carriage with a gasoline engine and, at speeds of up to 15 miles per hour, that “contraption” attracted the attention of financiers who helped start the Olds Motor Vehicle Co.

Utilizing a progressive assembly line — a precursor to Ford’s moving assembly line — the inventive Olds was able to build the world’s first mass-produced automobile. Pricing the Curved Dash Oldsmobile at an affordable $650, Olds sold thousands of them before Ford ever built a single Model T. By 1905, Lansing had become the car capital of the world with both Olds Motor Works and the new REO Motor Car Co. making vehicles in the city.

Chosen as the home of state government because of its central location, Lansing was transformed by Olds’ tinkering into the center of an emerging automotive industry that would revolutionize the city and beyond. Automotive production hasn’t stopped since, and to this day Lansing remains a major automotive player by making popular vehicles including the Chevrolet Traverse, Buick Enclave, the Cadillac CTS and the sporty Camaro.

“If it wasn’t for R.E. Olds, Lansing wouldn’t be Lansing,” said Bill Adcock, director of the R.E. Olds Transportation Museum. “He brought industry to this place. It built the middle class.”

The story of R.E. Olds is chronicled at the downtown Lansing museum, where visitors can see his early vehicles like the Curved Dash Oldsmobile and one of the four original gas-powered carriages. More than 60 classic vehicles are on display including the REO Speedwagon, REO Royale and “Baby REO,” the world’s first fully functional miniature car.

Plus, there are exhibits on R.E. Olds’ other exploits like patenting the first power lawn mower, designing yachts and developing Oldsmar, a residential community in Florida. There also are artifacts from the Olds family mansion, which, ironically, was torn down in 1971 to make way for the I-496 Olds Freeway.

Of course, long after R.E. Olds passed away, Lansing continued to make Oldsmobile cars and REO trucks, and many of these models from the last half of the 20th century are on display at the museum, too. Each car has its own story, and a common heritage that goes back to R.E. Olds.

“It’s a wonderful walk down memory lane,” said Lori Lanspeary, museum president.

The museum is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday throughout the year. An especially good time to visit is during the upcoming Car Capital Auto Show on Saturday, July 28. The free event celebrates Lansing’s automotive heritage by showcasing more than 200 classic cars and collectible vehicles on the streets near the Capitol Building. Proceeds benefit the R.E. Olds Transportation Museum.

Another great opportunity to visit the museum is Wednesday, Aug. 22, when the Old US 27 Motor Tour stops in Lansing. This premier event starts in Coldwater with hundreds of classic cars that make stops in DeWitt, St. John’s, Ithaca, Alma, Clare, Grayling, Gaylord and more on the way to Cheboygan as they travel historic Old U.S. 27 over the course of five days.

Any time of year you visit the R.E. Olds Transportation Museum, you can also drive around Lansing to see the city’s historic automotive sites — from the River Street site of the original P.F. Olds & Son machine shop to the GM Grand River Assembly plant where vehicles are still made today. There are signs at seven MotorCities National Heritage sites around the city detailing the development and legacy of the automotive industry.

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Michigan Waterfalls: 3 With Easy Access and 3 for a Good Day’s Hike

The geological features that created Michigan’s natural beauty and attracts thousands of visitors every year also formed a lesser known, if not equally as stunning, physical phenomenon many don’t realize exist here: Waterfalls.

The state recognizes more than 300 waterfalls in the Upper Peninsula and at the epicenter of Michigan’s waterfall popularity is Munising, home to the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, where 17 falls can be found. The sites range in access from roadside stops to challenging hikes and from small, stream-like drops to cascading cliff falls.

“It’s amazing because people have no idea how many waterfalls there are,” said Phil Stagg, a photographer who has published five guidebooks on Michigan’s waterfalls. “You can find them all across the U.P., but in Alger County, and Munising specifically, there are really remarkable falls that are some of the most spectacular you’ll see anywhere.

“The variety makes a great opportunity to get outside and enjoy them at any time of the year.”

The changing seasons give waterfalls a unique look whenever visitors travel north to explore, Stagg said.

In the spring, water volumes are at a peak with the snow melt. Come summer, lush green growth of trees and other plants present a colorful and vibrant scene. Fall, Stagg said, is mesmerizing from the contrasting colors of the changing leaves. Winter offers a chance to see water seemingly frozen in midair.

“There’s always something new,” said Stagg.

Cori-Ann Cearley, president of the Munising’s Visitors Bureau, said she frequently recommends self-guided waterfall tours or Pictured Rocks boat trips that offer waterfall views to prospective tourists or guests who stop in for information. She’s usually greeted with words and looks of disbelief.

“I have to convince them that there are actually waterfalls all around us,” she said. “Once I show them pictures and describe what they’ll find, there is a lot of excitement and interest. They come back and are thrilled to have seen something they never had before.”

Cearly said waterfall enthusiasts and first-time visitors can tailor their tour to their level of adventure. The most popular falls are usually the most accessible and the more secluded the fall, the more you’ll feel like you’ve stumbled upon one of the most beautiful places on earth.

“They will really take your breath away,” she said.

Here are some of Cearly’s recommendations:

Most popular falls:

Munising Falls: In the city of Munising, this 50-foot waterfall is only ¼ mile into the woods and is accessed via a paved trail and a viewing platform. Interesting rock formations are highlighted in every season and this fall is also known for great ice formations in the winter.

Miners Falls: The impressive 50-foot fall is a 20-minute walk from a parking lot of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. There are two platforms for viewing and the park service advises to take the time to enjoy the views of the Miners Basin.

Wagner Falls: A short walk on a gravel path takes you to a peaceful spot where you can take in the 20-foot drop of the Wagner Falls, which is fed by Wagner Creek. This is one of the most photographed falls as it features stepped areas with multiple rock ledges.

Most challenging hikes:

Chapel Falls: One of the larger straight drops, the 60-foot falls are at the end of the Chapel Road Drive and about a 2 1/2 mile hike to Lake Superior, where the famous tree and rock formation is found. Pictured Rocks boat tours are available to this majestic setting, one of the few where falls cascade into the Great Lakes.

Bridalveil Falls: A one-of-a-kind view is found on the 140-foot sandstone cliffs of Pictured Rocks and is part of an eight-mile loop that will also take you past the previously mentioned Chapel Falls. Boat trips from Munising will also grant you looks that will last a lifetime.

Spray Falls: A 70-foot waterfall located along the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore can be observed by land or water. The remote area requires walking the trails along the cliffs and the Spray Falls are located 1.75 miles Northeast of Chapel Rock. If guests aren’t up for the hike, the falls are best viewed from a tour boat, kayak or personal watercraft.

Learn more about Munising and its waterfalls here

The advertiser paid a fee to promote this sponsor article and may have influenced or authored the content. The views expressed in this article are those of the advertiser and do not necessarily reflect those of this site or affiliated companies.