Steve Repucci’s recent road trip

I have not been able to go on any decent road trips recently, other than my brief one this past April out to Albany, NY. In the last week or so I had been wracking my brain about what I should write for my next post when my pal and long-time road trip buddy, Steve Repucci forwarded some photos to me from a decent ride he took out to Wisconsin a few days ago. I thought they might make a great “Guest spot” for a post to Diner Hotline and asked Steve for some background on the trip he took. He started the journey, leaving from Acton, Mass. early on the morning of September 8th…….

It was supposed to be an easy ride out to Columbus, Ohio, where I was arranging to pick up Layne, my niece’s boyfriend. From Columbus, we  were heading out to Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin to watch some vintage motor racing.

I was traveling west on I-80 and had just crossed the Susquehanna River and was probably near Bloomsburg, PA when the traffic stopped. I had already had a pretty slow trip driving through rain all the way from Massachusetts to Milford, PA and was beginning to enjoy not being rained on. Unfortunately, now I found myself parked on the interstate because the road was closed. It  was about 10:30am when I called Layne at his place of employment to let him know of my situation and that I would probably be arriving a little later than expected.

After about 45 minutes of crawling on the highway I made it to the intersection where all traffic was being turned around. While on the ramp following everyone, I asked a State Trooper how I could get to Columbus and was told the only way he knew was to reverse direction and go south on  I-476 to the Pennsylvania Turnpike. This was not in my plan book… it would have meant a lot of backtracking and I didn’t want to do that, so I got on the phone to Layne again and told him what was going on. He was at work and quickly went to his computer and looked at the traffic patterns in the immediate area and informed me that I-81 south looked good up to a point just south of Hazleton so I elected to go that route and get off on Rte. 309 which lead me to Rte. 209 and then back on to I-81 hopefully south of any road closings. While driving west out of Pottsville, PA I crossed paths with the Garfield Diner. Already behind schedule to my destination in Columbus, I decided not to stop and drove on by the diner, continuing west but not for long. Just a short way from the diner, Rte. 209 was also closed and I had to turn around again… this time I would at least stop and take a couple of pics of the diner as I went past.

The Garfield Diner of Pottsville, PA….  a 1954 vintage Kullman Diner that
was expanded in 1957 by the same company.

A slightly closer view of the Garfield Diner

After shooting the Garfield photos, I got back on the road and found all the rerouted traffic from the closure of I-80 and I-81 was now being funneled down Rte. 61 through Pottsville and was moving at a snail’s pace at best, which offered me ample opportunity to take a passing shot of the Manheim Diner in nearby Schuylkill Haven. I eventually made it to I-76 (the Pennsylvania Turnpike) at about 2:30pm… a 4 hour detour!

According to “Diners of Pennsylvania” the Manheim Diner is a Starlite model that was bought used in 2008 by Dave and Mark Frew and moved from St. Henry, Ohio to replace a fire-damaged Silk City diner of the same name. They reopened it in 2009.

The rest of the trip from Rte. 61 south to the Pennsylvania Turnpike and on to Columbus was smooth and I eventually arrived safe and somewhat sound at 9:30pm…. a 17 ½ hr. trip.

After a surprisingly smooth ride up to Wisconsin and a 2 day stay in Elkhart Lake for the races, Layne and I did a little touring for ourselves on the way back to Ohio via South Bend,  Auburn, and Fort Wayne, Indiana for some sightseeing of our own. We figured it might be squeezing time just a little but that was our plan.

First stop was the Studebaker Museum in South Bend. It did help that there was also an Italian car exhibit there also. The museum was not hard to find, the displays were good and the Italian cars were superb (of course).

A sign at the Studebaker Museum in South Bend, Indiana

Studebaker on exhibit at the museum

The legendary Studebaker Avanti designed by Raymond Loewy

A great detail shot….

and still another!

Next stop was the Auburn Cord Dusenberg Museum in Auburn, housed in the original Cord manufacturing building. I can’t say enough about the vehicles inside there, suffice to say that the 1 plus hour that we were there was not even remotely enough time to review all the classic 4 wheeled artworks within those hallowed walls.

Historical Marker outside the Auburn Cord Dusenburg Automobile Museum

A classic Auburn at the Auburn Cord Dusenburg Automobile Museum

A classic Cord at the Auburn Cord Dusenburg Automobile Museum

A classic Dusenburg at the Auburn Cord Dusenburg Automobile Museum

As the above photos attest, simply astounding stuff. But it was already getting late for our last stop on the way home so we hit the road for Cindy’s Diner in Fort Wayne.

We knew that the diner was only open for breakfast and lunch, what we didn’t know was that it closed at 2:00pm. We arrived promptly at 3:00pm to find a guy taking out trash through the back door who informed us of the closing time. We elected to take some pictures anyway (that was, in addition to trying to get something to eat, what we were there for). It was while taking photos that the “trash man” came out front and invited us in to get interior shots, we naturally complied and went in and took pictures and talked to Johnnie who has owned the diner for 21 years and informed us that he had just spruced it up with new paint, neon, windows and a good interior cleaning a week before, timing is everything. Didn’t get to eat but did get a t-shirt and had some nice conversation. I will have to go back there again some time for lunch.

Cindy’s Diner is a Valentine Diner – Little Chef double-length model

exterior of Cindy’s Diner in Fort Wayne, Indiana

exterior of Cindy’s Diner in Fort Wayne, Indiana

interior of Cindy’s Diner in Fort Wayne, Indiana

interior of Cindy’s Diner in Fort Wayne, Indiana…. as the sign says
“We can serve the Whole World, 15 at a time.”

interior of Cindy’s Diner in Fort Wayne, Indiana

interior of Cindy’s Diner in Fort Wayne, Indiana

interior of Cindy’s Diner in Fort Wayne, Indiana

interior of Cindy’s Diner in Fort Wayne, Indiana

The remainder of the trip home was boringly uneventful.

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