If you read my last post, you might think the title of this blog refers to the roads we encountered in Michigan. While driving on those roads was indeed torturous, I am referring to the fact that Michigan actually has a town known for fire and brimstone.
Yes, there is a town (actually an unincorporated community) officially named: Hell, Michigan.
While having a fascination with the afterlife, we decided to take a trip to the other side. If you research it on the Internet (and yes, they have the Internet in Hell), we found that this town, founded in 1841, has a mayor, a post office (oh, there are so many jokes in that statement), restaurants, and a chapel. Many of the same attractions found in the charming small towns we've visited across America. So my wife said to me "Go to Hell!", and off we went.
About an hour later, we found ourselves closing in on our destination:
When we arrived, we were a disappointed to find that this *town* was nothing more than a cheesy tourist stop (imagine that).
Now, there are two theories for the origin of the town’s name. The first is that a pair of German travelers arrived at this location one sunny afternoon in 1830 and commented, "So schön hell!" (which translates as, "So beautifully bright!") Their comments were overheard by other travelers and the name stuck.
The other theory is that early settlers found the living conditions here akin to "hell-like". The extensive wetlands, and thick forests gave rise to hordes of voracious mosquitoes. Whatever the origin, the name became official on October 13, 1841.
While here, you can get your mail stamped with the town's name:
Grab a burger:
Get married (they say if you get married in Hell, your relationship has no where to go but up!).
Buy a cold treat at Screams Creamatory:
And of course, you have to pass through here in order to visit the town:
In their visitor center (souvenir shop), we found many funny t-shirts that play off of the town's unique name.
These t-shirts (along with coffee mugs, key chains, hats, jewelry, stickers, signs etc..) can also be purchased at Hell's website.
After about two hours, we decided that we had enough and hightailed it out of the nether region. Although not what we expected, the next time someone instructs us to "Go to hell!", we can honestly say "been there, done that"!
Another place we visited in this area was the town of Ann Arbor, home to the University of Michigan Law School (from where my nephew graduated).
The town had a very "collegiate" feel, a bit dated but with lots of trendy eateries and bars.
The law school, consistently ranked among the best in the nation, has placed 41 of its alumni on United States Circuit Courts, over 100 of its graduates on federal trial courts, and 36 of its graduates on the Michigan Supreme Court, including 16 who served as Chief Justice. More than 170 Michigan law graduates have served in the United States Congress, including 20 United States Senators and more than 150 Congressional representatives. Additionally, numerous graduates have served as state legislators. Whew!
Here is a picture of their campus taken from their website:
The campus, designed in the English Gothic style, has a distinct "Harry Potter" look. Here is the exterior of the law library:
And here are some shots of the interior:
I know Harry is in here.. somewhere..
My nephew told us no visit to the area would be complete without eating at Zingerman's Deli. And I must say, it was quite an experience. If you ever saw the Soup Nazi episode of the Seinfeld t.v. show..
..you have a pretty good idea of what Zingerman's is like. First, you wait in a line outside the restaurant, all the while being tantalized by the siren smells coming from within. Then, as you approach the doorman (or is it "doorperson"?) you get the distinct feeling of trying to get into an exclusive night club. I found myself checking my breath, tucking in my shirt and straightening my hair. We stepped up to the Zingerman's employee and tried to make pleasant conversation. Seeing right through our feeble attempt at gaining her approval; she looked us up and down then head-nodded for us to pass. The only thing missing from this scene was a red velvet stanchion rope.
The inside is a treat for all your senses. It's colorful, loud, and filled with sensuous smells.
Just to torture you a bit longer, you are greeted by another line just inside the door.
As you wait you're handed a menu. Your job --if you choose to accept-- is to decide what you want and how you want it prepared and then find the corresponding number on their menu.
As best as we could tell, when you finally reach the order-taker you are not to make chit-chat. People would briefly make eye contact then state their name and order number.. they then quickly stepped aside for the next customer. It is all very orderly with everybody seeming to know the process and their place in it.
Being our first visit here, we were dreadfully afraid of making a venal error and hearing those dreaded words: "NO SOUP FOR YOU!" With palms sweaty and lips parched, we stepped forward and blurted out: "We'll have two #73's.. PLEASE!". We were met with silence. Beads of sweat formed on our foreheads. Our muscles tensed. The order taker looked at us expressionless. "Oh, crap", I thought, we messed something up. Slowly, her lips began to part as the words "TWO NUMBER 73's!" were yelled to someone lurking behind the deli counter. Feeling like we just successfully escaped over the Berlin wall, we thanked her profusely and stepped aside.
This store boasts many famous customers including President Obama, who visited here in 2014.
We found the food fresh and prepared exactly as we ordered.
Here's my #73: "Tarb's Tenacious Tenure Turkey breast, fresh avocado spread, Wisconsin muenster cheese, tomato & plenty of Zingerman's Russian dressing on grilled farm bread."
Oh yeah, that's the stuff!
It was a fun experience eating here and perusing their isles filled with unique gourmet products. If you're ever in this area, and have an urge for a good Reuben sandwich, this is the place to go (as long as you follow the rules!).
We have found that once you get outside of the Detroit area, Michigan is a beautiful state. It has lots of attractive small towns, lots of trees, and an abundance friendly people. Being that we are here at the start of the summer season, we've found it difficult to find available campgrounds. We don't usually plan this far in advance, but after a considerable amount of time and research, we've managed to procure sites around the perimeter of the state. From here we are heading north to a region of the state we've heard much about, the U.P. (Upper Peninsula). Looking forward to seeing what these Michiganders* are so proud of.
[*Interesting Michigan fact: A recent poll conducted on six-hundred Michigan residents shows that fifty-eight percent of those surveyed prefer to call themselves Michiganders while only twelve percent favor Michiganian. The remaining thirty percent were fine with both, did not like either of the two, or simply did not care.]