Tag Archives: Scenic Drives

Metamora

21 Sep

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This year Metamora Hunt is celebrating its 90th year. We’re here for the 10th Annual Hunt Country Stable Tour, a self-guided tour that allows participants an up-close, personal visit to 6 area farms. Metamora Hunt Country is the area from Ray Rd to Sutton Rd and Metamora Rd to Havens Rd; proceeds from the tour go toward maintaining the bridle paths. We start at the Hunt Kennels on Barber Rd where we purchase tickets and pick up our maps; the first stable is just down the road. Red House Farm was established in the 1880’s by the Morse family, the current owner added a horse stable and a smokehouse. As soon as we arrive we see the namesake Red House trimmed in white, porches are adorned with fancy spindles and trim, seasonal wreaths hang on the doors. The in-ground pool behind the house surprises us, it’s so inviting it’s hard not to be tempted to dive in. Perennial gardens are jam-packed with tall grasses, Black-Eyed Susan, butterfly bush and Russian sage; the Cleome are stunning.

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Old Magnolia Farm is just as beautiful as I remember it. 100 acres of riding trails, wooded areas, hay fields and of course the elegant home and stable. The grass is green and lush, the split-rail fence is black, gentle, rolling hills make up the terrain; you’d swear you were in Kentucky horse country. We stop in the tack room with its casual sitting area, cold bottles of water and sugar cookies in the shape of horses set out for guests. Horses appear content in their luxurious surroundings, they don’t seem to mind the extra attention from today’s visitors. We stroll along the covered walkway leading from the stable to the main house, mounds of Hydrangea wrap the corners of the home. Standing in the front yard we pause to take in the sight, there is tons of architectural detail, from the wrought iron on the second level to the more than a dozen arches surrounding the front porch, shrubs are perfectly manicured, flower-studded urns flank the front patio–sigh. Yeah, it’s that beautiful.

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Black Fawn Farm covers 15 acres, the stable and house match in grey with crisp white trim and black shutters. They have a great horse weathervane. Outside I visit with the animals, a donkey shares yard space with horses, he’s doing his best to get his share of attention. There are 5 fenced paddocks, a carriage barn and a horse barn with a pretty southern yellow pine interior.

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Stonehedge is home to many of the country’s top Arabian horses, it’s also a prominent breeding facility. The long, rustic-looking stable sits on wooded property, inside, horse stalls wear the name of each tenant; as I pet each one I call them by name. We wander around the barn complex into the arena, we end up in the indoor round pen designed by the owner, definitely unique.

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Stonefield Farm is 80 acres of land, the home, designed by architect John Vinci, is built in the style of Frank Lloyd Wright. Horizontal in nature the structure looks as if it’s built into the landscape, there are lots of windows to overlook the property, landscaping is naturalized. It’s s bit of a hike back to the barn built earlier this year. I’m going to make it up and say the barn is built of Pine, whatever kind of wood it is, it’s lovely. We enter through a sliding door and find ourselves in a cozy family room type space. That same beautiful wood makes up the interior, couches look comfy and inviting, there’s even a mini kitchen. The stable area has that same cozy touch; the wood and wrought iron stalls give the barn a very open feel, I could definitely hang out here.

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Stump Lane Farm has been owned by the same family since 1956, the name comes from the grass lane lined with tree stumps set on end, you can find more tree trunk sections embedded into the cement in the old section of the barn. The house is a beauty in white with black shutters, flowers spill from window boxes. We walk over to see the horses, the white fellow catches a glimpse of us and trots over for a visit. Before we leave we cross the road and watch the herd of cows in the pasture. The little ones seem as curious about us as we are about them.

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Let’s eat! White Horse Inn re-opened in November of 2014 after a complete restoration, with its equestrian theme and homage to the days of fox-hunting and stagecoaches it’s the only proper place to eat today. As much as I love the interior, the weather is patio-perfect. Striped umbrellas hover over wrought iron tables and chairs, the exterior of the beautiful stone fireplace and weathered cedar adds a lovely touch. We start with the Orchard Salad; mixed greens, blue cheese, diced apple, candied walnuts and dried cherries splashed with maple vinaigrette. I love the different textures and the balance of sweet and tart. There’s a grilled cheese sandwich on special today; thick bread grilled with a blend of cheeses, sautéed onions and jalapeno peppers, the bread has a nice crunch and the filling oozes out with every bite, yum! The waffle fries are excellent.

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After much anticipation Metamora General has opened right across the street. Brought to you by the same folks who own White Horse, the store is a blend of neighborhood coffee shop, convenience store, boutique and wine shop–you really have to see it to get it. It is no surprise the shop is beautiful; from the relaxing patio area with casual seating and fall decor to the interior with its opulent chandeliers, cafe tables, grey subway tile and the handmade wood floor. The shop is still in its infancy, you can get an espresso and drink it in the quaint surroundings, pick up a bottle of wine and a gift your party host, find a scarf or new handbag or grab one of Max’s donuts and a fountain drink for the road. Eventually there will be more food items and wine by the glass so stay tuned.

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One more stop… Red Barn ~ Metamora is this great home accessory, found objects, antiques, furniture, gift shop located inside of, you guessed it, a big red barn. Outside Kris checks out the old tractor, I head inside, it’s extremely charming–that may have something to do with those strings of white lights I’m always telling you about. Items range from wicker chairs, antique bed frames, art deco, old signs, bird cages, milk glass, vintage mirrors, milk glass, candles, well, you get the idea. The owner has a great eye, she chooses quality merchandise and arranges it in a very appealing way. Every time we come there’s always something new. The stable tour only happens once a year but you can take a nice scenic ride to horse country any time.

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The Thumb: Be Cool…

21 Jul

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It’s in the mid 90’s… again; we scan the weather forecast, looks like the Lake Huron breeze is going to help us out, low 80’s on the thumb coast. We point the car north and aim for the tip of the thumb, in less than 2 hours we’re looking at the beautiful blue waters of Lake Huron. Kris zig zags his way north and west to Caseville Rd, we make a right on 25, this is where the view gets really good. The lake is gorgeous, a kaleidoscope of blues and greens, cars fill cottage driveways, beach-goers have their arms full carrying towels, coolers and floating devices, I swear I can smell Coppertone in the breeze. We follow the shoreline north and slightly east, public parks and beaches are in high demand today. We catch glimpses of the lake between cottages; many look like they were built in the 1950’s, others are new and stately like something from HGTV. We reach Port Austin, park and walk out to the lake. The town is buzzing with tourists, lines form at restaurants and cafes, we have something else in mind.

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A short drive from downtown Port Austin on Grindstone Rd leads us to The Tap Room At Bird Creek Farms. The 40-acre farm grows alfalfa for local dairy farmers, vegetables, strawberries, raspberries, edible flowers; their largest crop is garlic. The large white farmhouse has an inviting wrap-around porch, pretty planter boxes and colorful hanging pots; all of the activity is out back. The covered deck plays host to a corrugated metal bar, mismatched bar stools and tables; a brief menu lists today’s food offerings, a chalkboard lists beverages. Kris is drinking B Nektar’s Zombie Killer, I’m having Blake’s Flannel Mouth; crisp and cool it’s perfect for a day like today. Before long cardboard serving cartons arrive filled with Sausage Gravy Poutine Fries, traditional BBQ Pulled Pork Tacos and Baja Tacos. Everything is very tasty, they even manage to keep the fries crispy under all that yummy gravy. 

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Continuing our lakeside journey we drive on to Grindstone City. In the mid 1800’s two companies operated out of two quarries producing grindstones; by 1888 the population rose to 1500 people. Unable to survive the Great Depression the companies folded. There are two buildings left in the Historic District, one of them is the 3-story grain mill, the other is Rybak’s Ice Cream Store built in 1884 by Capt. A.G. Peer. Visitors sit on benches placed on the deep front porch when we arrive, each has their hands full eating humongous ice cream cones. The building is charming in that very old-fashioned way; floors creek, black and white photos line the walls, antique lights illuminate the space, posts are quite decorative. There are a variety of items for sale, candies, cards, gifts and notions; I’m here for the ice cream. I study the list of Guernsey flavors and choose the mint chocolate chip, it has some kind of dark chocolate cookie chunks in it too, it’s sooo good! I have to eat it quickly before it all melts.

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White Church Gallery is just across the street, I meet Kris inside. The building is a simple white church with red-trimmed Gothic-style windows. Inside purple paint covers the walls, a mix of old and new light fixtures hang from the ceiling; the way the light is coming in right now everything seems to glow. In the front room a gorgeous Art Nouveau cabinet is used to display the works of Michigan fine artists. We wander around on wide-plank floors looking at photography, lovely jewelry, life-like paintings, stained glass and  attractive wooden bowls.

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We are headed south and east on 25 passing through Historic Huron City. This was a lumber town back in the mid 1800’s, several of the original buildings still remain, they are maintained through the Lyon Phelps Foundation. The buildings are open to tour on Saturdays in July and August from 11 am – 4 pm. The Pointe Aux Barque Lighthouse is next. The original lighthouse was constructed of stone taken from the shores of Lake Huron in 1848,the light keepers house was separate from the tower. This area was complete wilderness back then, winters were rough, storms were wicked. The weather and a fire took their toll on the building, a new structure was built in 1857, this time living quarters were attached to the tower. The light is still in use making it one of the oldest, continuously operating lights on the Great Lakes.

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The house and tower have been completely restored, it’s now a museum open to the public and it’s free. Let’s go in. We walk around in the house where the light keeper lived, rooms are tiny, I like the turquoise stove in the kitchen. Artifacts are on display; models of ships, books, newspaper articles, blueprints of the building and a lens. The sleeping quarters are upstairs, there’s an old wood-burning stove to keep the family warm and a pitcher and bowl for washing up. You had to maximize space so rooms were multi-purpose, beds share the space with a sitting area and desk. Back on ground level we learn more about the history of the lighthouse and the people who lived here. 

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Outside we walk around the grounds, in 1875 a Class A lifesaving station was built south of the house, it was the first lifesaving station on the Great Lakes. In 62 years of service the crews performed over 200 rescues. Walking toward Lake Huron I stop and read the signs telling us about shipwrecks and storms, the Great Storm of 1913 also referred to as the “White Hurricane” is legendary, it was a blizzard with hurricane-force winds. It killed 250 people, destroyed 19 ships and stranded 19 others. Today the lake is calm and beautiful, bluish-green water laps at the rocky shore, trees cling to the coast line, wildflowers grip the sandy soil, the water is clear to the bottom. Kris traverses the rocks, you can see how they’ve broken away from the shoreline. Notice their unusual coloring, almost like they’re rusty, moss covers the ones closest to shore, it’s slippery so he has to be careful. Meanwhile I stand on shore looking out into infinity.

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25 leads us through Port Hope and Harbor Beach, the beaches, lake and piers are shrouded in swimsuit clad visitors. We stop in Lexington to get something cold to drink, to our delight the Cadillac House Inn and Tavern is open. The building has been completely renovated back to its 1859 glory. When it opened July 4, 1860, it was such a big deal they celebrated with a parade and a steamer ship brought guests all the way from Detroit for the occasion. The 3-story Italianate structure has never looked better! We enter the building and are greeted with a blast of cold air, the dining room is busy, guests are in a waiting area to be seated. There are empty bar stools at the bar, perfect. Kris orders a craft cocktail with Gin, blueberries and lemon, I’m having a Kalamazoo Stout. I like the simple interior; antique-looking lights, wide moldings and wood beams. It feels good to sit back, cool off and enjoy a drink. It’s nice to see people embracing the old Cadillac House once again. It’s been a full day of Lake Huron adventures, we’ve enjoyed good food, good booze lake breezes and unbeatable views.

Scenic Backroads: Autumn Splendor

21 Oct

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Fall has arrived in southeast Michigan; the leaves are changing, the air has turned crisp, darkness comes early. Mother Nature beckons us to spend time outdoors, soak in the warmth of the sun, the aroma of burning logs; we long to walk and hear the swish and crunch of fallen leaves, marvel at the colors that have painted the landscape. Today Kris and I are heading out to Oakland County to do just that! Rochester Rd  travels through cities large and small, once you get north of Rochester, the road changes from hectic to relaxing, a scenic rural postcard. 

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Foglers Orchard and Farm Market sits roadside, in Summer you can purchase a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, this time of year pumpkins and apples take center stage. It’s chilly this morning, roll-up doors encourage the sun to warm the building. White paper Peck bags bulge with freshly picked apples: Empire, Golden Delicious, Gala and Mac’s are just a few of the varieties available, the scent of apples permeates the air. Huge heads of cauliflower, broccoli and brussel sprouts still on the stalk line the counter. A bin overflows with colorful gourds and teeny tiny pumpkins. In the greenhouse area families take on the all-important task of picking just the right pumpkin; out back a tractor takes folks on a hayride around the property. 

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Back on Rochester Rd. Maples add a splash of color, the street begins to wind as we meander into the countryside. A ways up (near 32 Mile) we make a turn onto Predmore Rd to check out Cranberry Lake Farm Historic District. Oakland Township was one of the original 25 townships when the Territory of Michigan was organized in 1827, this particular property was the farmstead of John Axford, he built the Greek Revival house here in the 1840’s. The farm was purchased by Jacob Kline in 1848, the family continued to operate the farm until 1925. In 1939 Detroiter Howard Coffin, an oil company executive and US congressman (who lived in Detroit’s Sherwood Forest) converted the farm to a country retreat; the house was enlarged, a field stone fireplace added, buildings updated. In 1996 the township purchased the farm, it is now on the National register of Historic Places. There are 10 buildings, a garden and orchard on the 16 acre historic district which sits adjacent to the 233 acre Cranberry Lake Park. Let’s have a look.

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We park the Jeep near the beautifully restored Flumerfelt barn, this post and beam structure dates back to 1879. Rusty antique farm equipment is on display, the lush, green grass is sprinkled with leaves. The house is not open, but I can see the fireplace through the windows–very cozy, the buildings are well maintained. In the distance we see a freshly mowed pathway leading away from the farm, how about a walk? Here the trees are already bare, weeds and wildflowers have died off leaving interesting looking seed pods. The sun peeks in and out from the clouds, a strong breeze gives flight to yellow and brown leaves. We are led into the woods, sunlight dapples the dirt trail, low boardwalks keep the feet of hikers dry in rainy periods. The trail takes us in and out of the woods back to the wide grassy trail ending back at the barn. It is here that we spot the Cranberry Lake barn quilt designed by Mary Asmus, it’s quite lovely.

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Continuing on Rochester Rd we veer onto Drahner road, Lakeville Cemetery is just a little west, it’s one of those small, quaint, very old cemeteries you find in the country, this one was established in 1843. Following a very narrow dirt road we park near the gazebo, here the Maples are steeped in color, vibrant reds, oranges and yellows, even a little lime green. We walk the hilly terrain reading tombstones dating back to the 1800’s, many are so worn by the elements I can no longer read the inscriptions. At one time it was common to write out the exact age of the deceased–years, months, right down to the number of days. Evergreen and Pines occupy one section, the ground below thick with long brown needles, it is here we discover the headstone belonging to Minoru Yamasaki and his wife Teruko. The man who changed the face of architecture, bringing us buildings such as One Woodward, Mc Gregor Memorial Conference Center on the campus of WSU and of course, most notably, the World Trade Center, is represented here by a simple headstone, a large rock rests adjacent. Tombstones are each unique in design, personal tributes to those who have passed, the grounds here are gorgeous, it’s so peaceful.

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Our journey continues taking us into Lakeville, vintage cars out for a drive pass us  as they head the opposite direction. We hang a right on Main Street, a few old structures remain, the Mill has been recently restored, painted white with red accents. Back on Rochester Rd the street hooks one direction, then another, it’s hilly here, we twist and turn past attractive homesteads, picturesque barns and splendid Fall scenery. In the northern portion of Addison Township we stop at Watershed Preserve, a 229 acre nature preserve with 4 kettle lakes and inter-connected wetlands within rolling glacial moraine deposits. The purpose of the preserve is to protect and preserve this extremely sensitive watershed and wildlife habitat. The wetlands here form the headwaters for the Belle, Clinton and Flint river systems.

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We start out on a grassy trail, referring to the large map of the preserve we choose the orange trail; leaves are just beginning to color, many are still green. The path narrows, we snake our way through the woods to one of the lakes, a dock allows us a closer look at the clear water. The next lake is larger, beavers have built themselves a mansion near the shore, the water is perfectly still, a mirror image of the sky covers the surface of the lake. Kris makes his way to the dock, getting a better look at Loon Lake. The trail changes in elevation as it curls through maturing second-growth forests and meadows, we loop around finding ourselves where we started.

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Our roadtrip continues, we turn left on Dryden Rd, a Porche club is out on a fall color tour, I lost count after 40 cars.  We are immersed in splendid scenery; silos peek out from dried-up cornstalks, long-standing churches charm us as we pass, Oaks and Maples are showy with color. We stop at High Street Eatery in Metamora for lunch, the taupe and white building resembles a home more than a business. Menu selections are made from scratch, in house, bread and baked goods come from Crust in Fenton. We sit in the front room with a pretty view looking out onto the street.

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The special of the day is an open-faced hot turkey sandwich, we order ours on the Saskatoon Prairie Seed bread, the turkey is moist, there’s just enough gravy. A generous portion of mashed potatoes, stuffing and corn also share the plate. Our Michigan salad arrives at the same time, a heap of greens is topped with apples, walnuts dried cherries and a tasty vinaigrette, everything is delicious. It has been a day well-spent in nature enjoying scenic roads that rise and fall, coiling through beautiful countryside. It’s a delightful time of year to get out and enjoy the beauty.

 

Scenic Backroads: Ohio’s Amish Country

25 Jul

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It’s true the shortest distance between two points is a straight line;  it is usually the most boring too.  With an overnight trip to Pittsburgh planned, Kris chose a route that would take us through the rolling hills, gorgeous farms and tiny towns of central Ohio; I’m talking about Amish Country. We did a post on the area last summer, it’s so unique and pretty we think it’s worthy of another.Ohio’s Amish country is made up of 8 counties; together they are the worlds largest Amish/Mennonite settlement. The topography of the area is made up of picturesque farmland that carpets  hills and valleys; barns are immaculately kept as are the homes. The roads are a treat for those that love a road that winds around tight corners and hugs wide curves, as the rise and slope challenge your driving skills; precisely the reason Kris enjoys them so much. It seems to be one photo worthy scene after another as you reach the top of a hillside or come around a curve; fields resemble a patchwork quilt of greens and gold; cows and horses appear content within their fences grazing on the land.  All the while you are traversing the roads you have to remain conscious to the fact that you are sharing the road with an entire community of non-motorized travelers. Horse-drawn buggies are the most common means of transportation for local families; bicycles are right up there too; I have great admiration for the thighs that are able to pedal a bike up some of these hills….not to mention women do it wearing a dress! Life is lived at a much slower pace here, you can feel it as soon as you start to explore the area.

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Speaking of exploration, that’s exactly what we do on our visits. We have no specific plan; we just simply drive around turning here or there on any road that looks interesting. I have a wonderful visitors map of the area and our Jeep has a compass, with that and a sense of adventure we are destined to have a great time. We were ready for lunch when we reached BerlinBoyd and Wurthmann, open since 1938, is the oldest continually operating restaurant in Berlin; one of the most popular too. With no open tables we took two seats at the counter; we ordered a salad and a club sandwich then sat back and watched as waitresses cut and served more slices of delicious looking pies than I could count. Waiting gave me the opportunity to study the list of the day’s pies; from Apple Brown Bag and Fresh Peach to Southern Coconut Cream and Raisin, pieces disappear as fast as they can cut them! After polishing off our tasty meal we couldn’t help but indulge in a piece of Peanut Butter Pie…..YUM! We returned to the Jeep, back to the other side of Berlin and further east through Walnut Creek, Winesburg and Wilmot; stopping in here and there to wander through quaint shops. We dropped in at the Wendell August Forge, America’s oldest and largest forge featuring the well-known, hand-wrought metal ware. The elegant giftware and jewelry made from aluminum, bronze, pewter and sterling silver is still handmade in the US! Definitely click on the link and take a look at the magnificent pieces they make. We passed furniture stores, Inns and markets; there are wineries and farm tours, so much to see and do. We made another stop at Heini’s Cheese Chalet, wow! now that’s a lot of cheese. The cheese making tours were over for the day, but you could still get a look at the area and equipment used. This place was packed; samples of each kind are readily available; customers wander about with armloads of cheeses. This is good stuff. 

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North of Charm ( yes, it really is charming) is one of my favorite places; Hershberger’s Bakery and Farm. We start out in the animal petting area where I quickly regress to the age of 10 or so and want to take home a bunny, a duckling or even a goat?  My lifestyle is not conducive to pet ownership, but one look at those cute little faces, a pet on the head, a scratch behind the ears and I’m hooked. We walked from pen to pen, I getting my animal fix and Kris taking photos, until we had visited all the critters. At the bakery next door we joined the crowd staring at the large volume of cookies, cakes, pies and jams; everything looks so good.

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We were staying at the Berlin Hotel & Suites in Millersburg, so we thought we check in and freshen up before dinner. This time of year hotels and Inns fill up quickly, so be sure to make a reservation well in advance. Upon check-in we each received a warm oatmeal raisin cookie; once in our room I slid it out of the wax paper bag and took a bite, mmmm mmmmm good! I find that all baked goods in Amish country are outstanding. After a little R&R it was dinner at Chalet In The Valley located on SR 557 in Millersburg. The restaurant is quaint in its Swiss decor; known for its Swiss cuisine and Amish favorites, it appeals to tourists and locals alike. We thought we’d go with something traditional; Jaeger schnitzel, spaetzle, German potato salad and a side of sauerkraut balls. Each item was delectable, the mushroom sauce on the tender schnitzel was to die for, in addition to the sauerkraut the little deep-fried goodies had shredded pork and came with a side of mustard for dipping. Don’t even get me started on the spaetzle…I am a pastaholic and found these amazing. We finished our meal in the glass enclosed dining room overlooking the countryside. Back in Berlin, which I would say most people consider “town” we happened upon a couple of performers on an outdoor stage. Plastic chairs were set up inviting passerby’s to sit down and enjoy the music. The performance ended at 9pm; a coffee shop remained open kiddy corner from the venue, so we stopped in for an iced coffee fix. Back at the hotel there are wonderful outdoor spaces to enjoy, so we did just that. The back of the hotel has a large patio; two fire pits were burning bright surrounded by groups of chairs. The temperature had dropped into the 60’s so we had a seat fireside while we finished our coffees. Further down the grassy hill is a lovely gazebos; you can sit and listen to the sound of running water as two man- made waterfalls run into a large pond, the set up is made for relaxation. It was getting late and we had a full day ahead; tomorrow we would say goodbye to countryside and hello to the city; Pittsburgh that is.

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Snow Day !

21 Feb

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It was a long wait, but at last the first real snowfall of the year had finally arrived. Upon discovering the fresh blanket of snow, we couldn’t wait to take one of our favorite scenic routes.  We wandered through Rochester and onto picturesque Orion Rd, from there we went north on snowscaped and unplowed Lake George Road. A drive through the country is nothing unusual for us, generally we avoid gravel roads but once frozen over and covered with snow they become quiet and pleasurable. This is the kind of road you want to take your time driving down; you’ll wander past everything from charming cottages and old family homes to late 20th century styles and modern estates.  The journey will lead you past decades old Tree farms and working farms complete with horses and cows. After a snowfall the landscape is particularly stunning; snow clings to bare tree branches, Evergreens sag with the weight of the snow. There is a new-found silence when Mother Nature drapes your surroundings in white fluff, all you hear is the sound of snow crunching under the tires.  The road is twisty and changes elevation, creating a beautiful panorama, so we take our time as we make our way up to Dryden Road and the town of Metamora.

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The White Horse Inn has been an active part of Metamora for over 160 years.  Once known as the Hoard House, it has served as the village store, stage-coach stop, Inn and restaurant. The historic building has stood the test of time and has become a destination restaurant. Located off of Dryden Road east of M-24, you can’t miss the 2-story white wooden building on the corner in the tiny hamlet. A large black sign hangs perpendicular to the front entrance to let you know you have arrived at the White Horse Inn. We parked in the lot behind the building and walked around to the front door, it took a minute for our eyes to adjust from the bright sunlight outdoors to the dark wood interior. One look and you would swear you have stepped back in time; from the wood plank  floor and thick beams to the stained glass lights and wagon wheels. Even the menu features items that have been around for generations. We were in the mood for a hearty sandwich so we ordered the patty melt, it was absolutely delicious. A thick and tender beef patty sandwiched between grilled rye, smothered in sauteed onions and melted Swiss, accompanied by crispy seasoned fries, yum! We ordered a salad with the house made mustard maple dressing, excellent. You cannot help spotting the dessert tray as you are waiting to be seated, the thought of which one to order weighed heavily on my mind throughout the meal.  When the moment arrived to choose, the bread pudding easily won. We have been to a lot of restaurants in a lot of different places, but never have we seen a bread pudding such as this; thick slices of bread baked in sweet custard, scooped out and piled high in a footed bowl, drenched in a fabulous rum sauce, this is some seriously good stuff. Four people could share the bread pudding, or any of the desserts for that matter. What we couldn’t eat, we took home for later……

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There is a cute little shop across the street from White Horse called Saltbox, be sure to stop in. It’s one of those charming gift/home stores that smells great as soon as you open the door. Filled with pretty things, it is a wonderful mix of new and vintage goods.  Old stained glass windows hang from the knotty pine ceiling, refinished dressers and cabinets show off decorative glassware, candles, and unique objects. Upstairs is more like an antique store with all the usual suspects; dishes, linens, jewelry and the like. I enjoy pointing out the things I remember from my grandmothers house or even things we had in our own home when I was growing up. It was getting to be time to start heading back, still taking back roads we started down Haven road heading south and making one last stop in Romeo.

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We are no strangers to Romeo, but with two turns off of Main Street we discovered something new.  Something had caught Kris’s attention so we were heading around the block; on the street named St Clair sat a house with a sign that read Village Winery, really?? It was dark out now, and the lit up sign had attracted our eye, we had to stop and check it out. We were happy to find the door unlocked and the tasting room open for business, the owner was standing behind the counter and invited us in. The room was cozy and pleasing, the wine selection is on the left wall and larger than I had imagined. After chatting with the owner we learned he imports his grapes from all over and makes the wine in small batches right there. I am not a white wine drinker by nature, but I have to admit when I saw the Peach Chardonnay it piqued my interest, what’s more Romeo than a peach? We were poured generous samples of  the clear aromatic liquid, with just one sip I was sold! It was good, really good, crisp and light with a delicate peach flavor. My only mistake was tasting a sweet wine first, though the others were quite good too, there is a reason you work your way up to sweet when doing a tasting…… Romeo had hosted a Chocolate event earlier in the day, Village Winery was a participant so there was a bottle of Chocoraz sitting on the counter; underneath the name on the label it says “candy in a bottle”, they aren’t kidding. We each had a shot of this decadent Port, there is no mistaking the presence of chocolate or raspberry in this divine concoction. Made in limited quantities, there were only a few bottles left, so we bought one of those too.  It was almost closing time, we had tasted delicious wines and had pleasant conversation with the man who makes the wine. We will be back and next time bring friends along. The Village Winery was a great discovery, and one you are sure to enjoy too.

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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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