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On the road again: They see the USA in their Model A (copy)

DEEPHAVEN — Leah and Steve Barnacle live life in the slow lane. Literally.

One of their favorite pastimes is loading up their 1930 Model A Ford and taking road trips, exploring the byways and county highways close to home in Minnesota and far away, usually no faster than 50 mph.

Currently, the Deephaven couple is on their way to Nova Scotia. And with the help of their Garmin GPS, they’re looking forward to discovering offbeat towns and curiosities along the way.

Steve Barnacle, a Chanhassen native, was born and raised near Lotus Lake, and his wife, Leah, met at Minnetonka High School. Not only did Steve find Leah attractive, the deal was sealed when he learned her father owned a 1921 Reo automobile, manufactured by R.E. Olds, who founded Olds Motor Company, makers of the Oldsmobile. But we digress.

“That was back in 1966,” Steve recalled. “It (the Reo) wasn’t running, and I asked her dad if I could work on it. We drove it all over. Then he had a 1911 Maxwell, and we got it up and running.”

The Maxwell was more of a parade car that they’d trailer to parades. Thirteen years later — by then, Leah and Steve were married — Steve decided he wanted a vintage car he could drive on the highway. He came across a reproduction Shay 1929 Ford roadster. Shay Motors made reproduction Model A and Model T cars.

“It had a fiberglass body with a Pinto frame,” Steve said. “We had it a year. I was on a Model A tour and the guys were giving me a hard time about it.”

Steve finally gave in and bought his 1930 Model A Ford touring sedan. It needed work and he was willing to invest the time.

As a maintenance manager for a major food company, Steve was accustomed to spending time making things right. As a result, “I’ve had just a few little hiccups on the road. And the biggest draw about the Model A is that Henry (Ford) made 5 million of them, so you can get parts.”

He and Leah drive it everywhere, even to the grocery store. In winter, he stores it in his man cave where he maintains it.

“Every winter, I’ve done something to the car, working on the body, the interior. I replaced the vinyl seats with the original mohair wool upholstery.” The brakes were trickier to fix, but once he figured them out, “that’s when we started taking longer trips.”

How they roll

In 2012, the couple drove it to Marquette, Michigan for the Model A Ford national conventional, whetting the couple’s appetite for long distance trips.

Is it possible to drive cross-country without using the interstates and other major highways clogged with speeding traffic?

“What I try to do, say I want to go from A to B. I turn off ‘Highways’ in ‘avoidances’ on my GPS. Then I start looking at maps, and I go to the Chamber of Commerce of towns along the way. ‘What goes on in this town?’ ‘What’s interesting?’ I look at what’s on the way from A to B. One thing about the U.S. is, every 25 miles there is a gas station.”

As for eating and sleeping, “We used to bring food, but we don’t deal with that. We’ll have snacks and beverages in a cooler, but we don’t eat much while we’re traveling. And you can always find a grocery store if nothing else, even in the smallest towns.” As for hotels, they don’t plan ahead. Instead, about 3 p.m., they’ll look up the next town and check the hotels and motels online. They usually find a nice one that includes breakfast.

To date, they’ve driven parts of the Lincoln Highway, the Yellowstone Trail, Route 66, as well as many drives to small towns around the Twin Cities and the Upper Midwest.

“We’ve been to Menomonie, Pepin, New Ulm, St. Joseph,” Steve said. “We’ve been to Center City, and up to Spooner, Wisconsin, where you can spend the night in a sleeper car. We’ve been to the Andy Taylor Home Inn Bed & Breakfast in Clear Lake, Wisconsin. A guy built a house exactly like Andy Taylor’s house in (the TV show) ‘The Andy Griffith Show.’

“And yes, you can spend the night in Aunt Bea’s Room, Opie’s Room, or Andy’s Room,” Leah said.

The Barnacles couldn’t stay because it was booked, but they learned from the owner that Mt. Airy, North Carolina, the actual town Mayberry is based on, has recreated Mayberry. It prompted their later road trip to West Virginia and North Carolina. That trip was an adventure. Despite making 19 U-turns and misdirection by the Garmin GPS — “I did a lot of mapping on Google maps,” Steve said, “but a lot of times, the roads aren’t marked the same. You’ll be going along, and all of a sudden, no road. So you have to do a U-turn. The Garmin takes you to places you don’t even know.”

Happy trails

“Fortunately, we’re both extroverts,” Leah said. “We don’t have trouble talking to anyone. People will wave or someone drives by and takes photos of us with their phone.”

“If I’m on a two-lane, I will pull over to let people pass,” Steve said. “But sometimes, people will pull up right beside you to talk. And every time you stop for gas, someone wants to know about the car.”

Steve welcomes the attention. “I want kids to be interested. It’s a dying hobby. People my age, we’re the last generation. The younger people are more interested in the muscle cars.”

There’s some roughing it, of course. There’s no air conditioning, no radio. When Leah isn’t taking in the scenery, she passes the time reading. For this trip, Steve has hooked up a Bluetooth speaker to connect to their mobile phone. On this trip, they’ll be able to listen to music, podcasts and books on tape.

For Leah and Steve, traveling in the slow lane gives them a chance to appreciate the journey as much as the destination.

“We have fun getting lost,” Steve said. “In the West Virginia mountains, parts of the road had fallen off. For me, that’s the most fun, seeing the unique, the beautiful, the out of the ordinary. If we see something interesting, we’ll stop. It’s not like the interstate, where everything goes by so fast and you can’t stop.”

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Minnetonka City Council approves Lone Lake Park mountain biking trails plan

MINNETONKA — After a marathon meeting, the Minnetonka City Council agreed to move forward with a plan to add hotly contested mountain biking trails to Lone Lake Park. 

The City Council approved the mountain biking trails concept plan at the end of its six-hour meeting on Monday, Aug. 26, by a 5-2 vote. Council members Bob Ellingson and Rebbeca Schack voted against. 

The vote came after dozens of residents passionately testified both for and against the trails for nearly four hours. Mountain biking advocates and nature enthusiasts alike filled the City Council chambers taking turns to speak — approximately 46 people testified, almost evenly split with 21 speaking in favor of the trails and 23 speaking against adding trails to the park.

Those against the trails argued against developing the land and expressed concerns about tree roots, the rusty patch bumblebee and the safety of walkers in the park, among other things.

“You guys have been charged with meeting a need and I just want to remind you that Lone Lake Park is only 146 acres,” Minnetonka resident Mary Mckee said during the meeting. “Carver Park, just west of us, they’ve got over 3,000 acres and they are already planning a bike trail. They’ve got it funded. It’s just as close to our high school."

Meanwhile, mountain biking advocates who testified focused on the benefits of biking for children and adults and spoke against some of the conservation points brought up by those who oppose the trail plan.

“I really appreciate all the planning the parks service has gone through,” Minnetonka resident Trish Gardiner testified, noting she enjoys mountain biking with her son and grandchildren. “I think they’ve addressed every issue and I think any obstacle that comes up they are willing to deal with it. I walk in that park alone. I walk in that park with my dog. I think we all love the park and I think all just want to share it.”

Council members also shared their thoughts on the plan prior to voting. Schack and Deb Calvert said they were disappointed at times with the tone of the debate between the two sides of the issue. Several Council members addressed how divisive the issue had become.

“I don’t want to wreck the park. I don’t think any of us wants to wreck the park,” Council member Mike Happe said during the meeting. “The bummer about this thing is there doesn’t seem to be a way to compromise. We have people on both sides and they are far apart and nobody wants to compromise.”

Calvert said people should trust city staff their recommendations for the city and the park.

“In terms of protecting the environment, the staff is recommending that we do this,” She said at the meeting. “These are professionals whose job it is to protect our natural resources, including endangered species, including fighting invasives, and they are recommending that we move forward on this plan.”

Trails still pending

The motion the City Council approved during the Aug. 26 meeting included a stipulation that the City Council and Park Board discuss the trails at their annual joint meeting for the first several years after the trails are added to the park to gauge any issues that might have arisen.

But there is still no timeline for when the trails could be added to the park. The city is waiting to implement the plan until the Minnesota Supreme Court makes a decision on a petition filed by the nonprofit Protect Our Minnetonka Parks Inc. (POMP) to review the city’s decision to not conduct an Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW).

POMP had sued the city for not doing an EAW at the park. In June, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the city. Marshall Tanick, the lawyer for POMP, filed a petition with the Minnesota Supreme Court on July 16.

City of Minnetonka Senior Communications Coordinator Justin Pelegano told Lakeshore Weekly News that city staff will wait for the Supreme Court’s decision before moving forward with the mountain biking trails concept plan.

If or when the Minnesota Supreme Court sides with the city of Minnetonka, the next steps for implementing the concept plan, as explained during the City Council meeting, would include: 

  • Staff would survey the land to minimize the future trail's environmental impact.
  • Obtain permits from regulatory agencies, including the Nine Mile Creek Watershed District and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
  • Comply will all applicable city ordinances.
  • Conduct an archaeological site survey.
  • Apply for trail grants.
  • Enter into a memorandum of understanding with the Minnesota Off-Road Cyclists — the group volunteering to help with trail maintenance.
  • Hire a contractor for the project.
  • Work with volunteer groups to salvage native plants.
  • Lastly, construct the trail.

The city's Lone Lake Mountain Biking Trails study website is eminnetonka.com/mountainbiking.