Well Spoke'n

Exploring the World by Bike

Sailing the S.S. Badger

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Every year on the Cycle of Hope, we will get one day off in two weeks, a reprieve from riding.  Usually, our day-off falls on a Sunday, but this year, on Saturday we reached the shore of Lake Michigan and the organizers have found a creative way for us to cross the lake and enjoy a day-off.  Today, we were lucky enough to ride on a floating entry in the National Registry of Historical Places (NRHP), the S.S. Badger. The NRHP is the United States government’s official list of “districts, sites, buildings, structures and objects deemed worthy of preservation.” There are more than 1 million such registrants in the NRHP, but less than 100 of them are ships or boats, and we are lucky to have spent our morning on one of these ships as we cross Lake Michigan.

The S.S. Badger, named after the University of Wisconsin sports teams, was built in 1952-1953 in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin (which incidentally, I cycled through during the 2012 Cycle of Hope) and came into service on March 21, 1953. An ice-breaker, the Badger originally ran year round on Lake Michigan, ferrying railcars, trucks, cars and passengers.

National Register of Historic Places

National Register of Historic Places

Changing economics in the railway industry lead to the demise of the ferry business and in 1990, the S.S. Badger was taken out of service. It seemed the end of an era, until Ludington, Michigan-native Charles Conrad purchased the Badger and refurbished her as a passenger ferry. Today, the Badger sails May to October between Conrad’s hometown of Ludington and Manitowoc, Wisconsin and offers passengers an historic experience of riding a steam-powered vessel. Covering 60 miles in four hours, it is about 3 1/2 hours shorter than driving around the southern tip of Lake Michigan, via Chicago and immeasurably more pleasant than riding the freeway. After a grueling day of riding yesterday, loafing on the Badger today was perfect.  The weather was warm.  The wind was mild.  The lake was smooth.  We relaxed in the sunshine, chatting or perhaps sleeping.

Support Crew taking a well earned nap.

Support Crew taking a well-earned nap.

The Badger is the last, large coal-burning steamship in the United States and the only operating ferry of its kind in the world. It is the last of 14 ferries which at one time ran out of Ludington, which has had ferry service since 1897.

Historical details in this post are from the S.S. Badger website.  For more information on the S.S. Badger visit their site using this link: S.S. Badger ,


Details for today:

Distance: 0 km. (Yippie!) / 675 km. Total

Route: None

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