Joe J 1968 Mercury Montego MX 2dr Hardtop Coupe

Honeymoon Montego

Canadian Honeymoon

Betty and I were married in 1969. She had recently purchased a new Mercury Montego. Being an ardent hot rodder, I was not impressed with its’ 302 with 2-barrel and automatic transmission. I was soon to change my mind. We loaded it with tent and gear, planning to camp on our honeymoon.

We left our reception in Westmont, Illinois, a very tired couple. The night before was very hectic and neither of us had slept much. Leaving about 9 PM, we started for our destination, Manitoulin Island in Canada. Not having much experience with weekend traveling, we didn’t make reservations. Big mistake! Moving around the Eastern edge of Lake Michigan, we encountered one no vacancy sign after another. Finally, at 5 AM we found a vacancy in Benton Harbor, Michigan. We took a day off from traveling to recover.

We resumed our trip, traveling over the Mackinac Bridge and into Canada. When we arrived at the island, we stopped to ask an old fellow about a campground. He offered us a cabin for a week for 25 dollars. Forget the tent! The only caveat was that we had to keep the yard light lit at night to discourage the bears. The cabin was primitive with pitcher pump and outdoor facilities. There was no shower in our cabin, but we found out that Meldrum Bay, about 25 miles West offered bath services to visiting boats.

We set out displaying the skills I had honed while conducting county road surveys for the state of Wisconsin. You wouldn’t believe some of the roads those Wisconsin counties tried to collect gas taxes on. We made it despite the road being more suited to a jeep than a passenger car. No shower there, just a bathtub to greet two grubby newlyweds. Our week was filled with similar adventures. The Montego survived. It cruised at 70 mph and delivered 20 miles per gallon. It changed my thinking about cars. Our faithful steed finally succumbed to the metal mice after many years of faithful duty in Northern Illinois.

We eventually moved to Raleigh, North Carolina. When I retired in 1998 it was time to seek a cooler climate. Tryon in the foothills filled the bill. I have a Willys MB that I had restored. We started attending car shows with it. It seemed unfair that I should have all the fun. If this sounds like a rationalization for getting another old car, so be it. The choice was obvious. After an abortive trip to Colorado, we discovered a low mileage beauty in Missouri. It is almost identical to our beloved Montego. The only difference is the new one has air conditioning and disk brakes. Air conditioning is a must in North Carolina. We rescued it from a young man, intent on changing this beautiful original car into a mediocre hot rod. The only damage was a four-barrel carburetor and mag wheels. We lucked out on the wheels because he still had the original ones. The Montego now sits beside the Jeep at car shows. The recent orphan status has brought it additional attention.

Our marriage survived the initial disaster and is going strong forty plus years later. We have returned to Manitoulin several times since then, and it is still a peaceful place to vacation. Our honeymoon cabin is long gone, but accommodations are easy to find and prices are reasonable.

It was great way to start a shared life. We would never trade our adventures there for a high buck honeymoon at a pampering spa or an ocean cruise.

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