Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Michigan and Mr. Ford



September 4th and its south to the Lower Peninsula. About halfway down in Ludington, Michigan and another state park. After staying at Straits State Park and being required to purchase a State Park Annual Pass for $29, we figured we better get our moneys worth. We stayed 4 nights at Ludington State Park on Lake Michigan. Nice clean beaches for walking and miles of bike paths. We took advantage of both. We rode our bikes up the lake shore to Big Sable Point Lighthouse where we climbed to the top for the exercise and the view.

After Ludington we continued south to Sterling State Park, our third Michigan State Park. Located one the shore of Lake Erie between Detroit and Toledo, Ohio, it is a convenient location for visiting Dearborn and The Henry Ford. Then Henry Ford is a complex of museums and an IMAX theater. There are two main parts, one of which is an actual museum and the other is Greenfield Village. The Museum, once called Henry Ford’s attic contains a wide variety of artifacts depicting American History, from the chair Abraham Lincoln was sitting in when he was assassinated to the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile, to the Allegheny, one of the largest steam locomotives ever built.

Greenfield Village is 90 acres of historic structures including the Wright Brothers home and workshop, Thomas Edison’s laboratory, to an early 1700’s plantation house. Most of the buildings are the original building, purchased by Henry Ford, dismantled and shipped to Greenfield Village where they were put back together with the original materials. The village is a living museum with people dressed in period clothes performing the jobs and tasks of the day. There is a working steam railroad, a working farm and lots of Model T’s.

The glass shop was of interest to us, as we collect blown glass. For a fee, you can make your own glass flower. I volunteered to document the occasion by taking the pictures while Cathie, with the assistance of one of the artisans, made her glass flower. We don’t know how it turned out as, it has to sit in an oven overnight and will be shipped home later.

The next day we returned and took the Ford Rouge Factory Tour. The Rouge complex is huge and would probably take several days to see it all, but Ford only gives tours of the
F-150 truck assembly plant. Taken by bus from the museum you see part of the complex which was built by Henry Ford in 1917. Here raw materials are marshaled, delivered by rail and ship, for the production of steel. Then the steel goes to the stamping plant when the individual parts are manufactured. The stamping plant covers 2.5 million square feet, or about 50 football fields.

The tour of the F-150 plant includes a movie about the history of the Rouge complex. After that you enter a multisensory theater to “experience” what it’s like on the floor of the assembly plant. The floor shakes, you smell the smells of the factory and heat from the steel furnaces. When the finished truck is put through water jets to check for leaks, you even get sprayed with water.

You then walk via overhead walkways over the assembly line. You can take as much time as you want, stopping at video presentations explaining the process before you. Although you don’t see the entire production of the 2008 model truck, you do get to see many of the parts coming together. While we were there, they were running one 2009 model through the line to see what adjustments would have to be made to the production process. They had most of the body covered so you couldn’t see what it looked like. Here it is 2007 and they already have a 2009 model.
After the factory tour, we returned to the museum where we spent the rest of the afternoon. I suppose you could do it all in one day, but for us two days was about right. Tomorrow our plan is to sleep in and take it easy for the day. Perhaps a bike ride, but I’ll probably wash the truck as I’m getting tired of the dirt.


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