Scenic back-roads: Ann Arbor to Hell

26 Oct

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 In Michigan you have to take advantage of every nice day that comes along, so when presented with a beautiful Autumn day jump in the car and take a drive. The Ann Arbor area has some of south eastern Michigan’s most scenic roads, so that’s where we headed.  First stop lunch. Located on S Division at Packard is a tiny unassuming little storefront with a bright red awning. You’d never know by looking at it that this place has been serving up some of the best burgers around since 1953. This is the home of Krazy Jim’s Blimpy Burger, the burgers have won numerous “best of” awards for years and was even featured on “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives” back in 2008. There’s a reason for all of this attention: these guys know hot to make burgers, they even grind their own meat.

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There are certain rules to ordering here, which of course, we were not aware of. If you aren’t doing it right, they’ll let you know, and being a first-timer is no excuse. You order cafeteria style, each patron is give a tray that you slide along the counter, stopping at each station, or cook. First up, the fryer; what will it be? Fries, onion rings, or a pile of mixed veggies battered and deep fried. Next, tell them how many patties you’d like; 2, 3, 4, or 5, you must also choose your bun at this point. After that is your choice of grilled items, I went with onions, hot peppers, and mushrooms, the list of options is long and you have to think fast if you don’t want to be scorned. Cheese on your burger? Finally, choose your toppings, such as olives, tomatoes, or pickles, followed by condiments. Finally the whole burger is wrapped up in one of those wax paper sheets; the bun gets steamed from the warmth of the burger and the cheese gets gooey and slides out from under the bun. We took our tray loaded with 2 burgers, fries and a pile of veggies over to the window seats and dug in, now I know what all the fuss is about. We finished lunch and headed North on Main street to Huron River Drive , the road starts just as Main is merging onto M-14 , don’t blink or you’ll miss it .

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Huron River Drive is one of the prettiest roads around, it hugs a portion of  the Huron River as it twists and turns through 5 counties and 13 Metro Parks and State Recreation Areas. The river travels a total of 136 miles to the mouth of Lake Erie and is the only state designated scenic river in south east Michigan. We left downtown Ann Arbor and headed north west on Huron River Drive, the scenery is picturesque, especially this time of year. Canoes and kayaks paddle along the calm water, groups of cyclists hold tight to the shoulder as swans float along gracefully. Large windowed homes watch over the activity from their perch up on the hilltops. The view changes with each curve of the road and it’s wonderful. The speed limit is low, 35, and there are no stop signs in this section so you can truly enjoy the ecologically diverse surroundings. Huron River Drive ends in Dexter,  from there we hung a left, cut through town and continued on to Jenny’s Farm Market.

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Jenny’s has been one of our favorite places to visit in Autumn for years. You enter the market area through a covered patio, here you will find glass jars filled with items like sweet hot pickles, a variety of salsa’s, jams, pickled vegetables, maple syrup and apple butter. Walk up to the counter to purchase a gallon of cider and Jenny’s delicious pumpkin donuts, check out the homemade pies and pumpkin bread too. Make your way back outside to visit the animals; donkeys, horses, baby cows and goats all vie for your attention (well, ok they may be looking for food). The animals are friendly and you are close enough that you can pet them too, they’re all so cute. Other activities include a straw maze, hayrides and pony rides for kids, everyone seems to be enjoying themselves here. If you’re in need of decorative items for your home, look no further; cornstalks, mums, and of course an abundance of pumpkins are available.

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From the market we took lovely Dexter-Pinckney Road north; this stretch of road winds through the countryside passing small lakes, charming homes and marshy areas. We made our left on Darwin Road and knew we were going straight to Hell, Hell Michigan that is.  With a name like Hell you have to make the most of it, and the owners of Screams Ice Cream and Miniature Golf have done just that! Inside Screams every day is Halloween; decorations, costumes, and scary masks. There is also a great variety of “Hell” T-shirts, to let everyone know you’ve been to, well…..Hell. We passed on the ice cream and played miniature golf instead.  When it comes to miniature golf, except for the rare miracle shots where I have gotten a hole-in-one I suck, my husband on the other hand plays well, and always wins. The 18 hole course continues the campy Halloween/haunted theme, it is clever, and a lot of fun. Outside there are several large sheets of plywood painted with scenes and a devil or Big Foot with the face missing, just waiting for you to insert yours for those awesome souvenir photos. To one side of Screams runs Hell Creek where there is a small dam, the Dam Site Inn restaurant sits here in case get hungry on your travels. If you find yourself with nothing to do on a gorgeous Autumn day, go to Hell.

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