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Thursday, July 24, 2014
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Published: Sunday, 6/29/2014

Heading somewhere or nowhere, it’s a good time for a drive

BY MARY ALICE POWELL
BLADE COLUMNIST
Powell. Powell.
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It’s day trip season in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan. The regional landscape seems to be greener, more colorful, and more welcoming than ever.

No doubt we feel a renewed appreciation for Mother Nature’s fresh, vibrant blanket because we still remember last winter’s cold blasts and deep snows that seemed endless.

I was sure that the hostas would never survive. But, amazingly, they are larger than ever, so much so that more than one person has asked what I had done to develop the largest hostas they had ever seen.

The answer is nothing. Apparently they were planted in the right place three years ago and the spring temperatures and rainfall were ideal, or maybe being covered with three feet of snow is the answer.

Being a farmer at heart, I love day trips that consist of aimless driving through the countryside, checking the height of the corn, and seeing how the soybeans are doing.

For years I slowed down to appreciate big, beautiful barns. But, now that there seem to be fewer barns in good repair my focus is on silos. The silos that I admire and stop to photograph are not the new, dark blue ones, but the old ones that still stand erect alone in a farmyard and often in a field. You know that once there was a barn nearby that is now gone. Silos are survivors.

For day-trippers who don’t get sentimental about such things, there are plenty of destinations in this area.

A drive into Williams County wouldn’t be complete in summer without a stop at the Homestead Ice Cream Shoppe at 22360 County Rd. F, near Archbold. In the opposite direction on the same county road, Goll Woods, an incredibly thick forest, is as cool as air conditioning on a hot day. There is a parking area for walkers to take to the trails.

There is always something of public interest going on at Sauder Village on State Rt. 2 near Archbold with activities that relate to farming and homemaking in the past.

Speaking of barns, they don’t get any bigger or more handsome than the one the late Erie Sauder, founder of the living village in 1976, had moved to the village and converted into a restaurant. It’s the perfect setting to reminisce about barns and also for children to learn the different “departments” of a working barn.

For stays longer than a day trip, Sauder’s has extended the campground with 40 new full hookup sites and operates the Heritage Inn, a full-service, upscale hotel complete with a swimming pool.

In the same general area, hungry travelers may want to find Blakeslee, on State Rt. 34 between Montpelier and Bryan, to eat and kibitz with the Sam Mohre family at Sam’s Place. Sam’s is known for steaks and Syrian fries that score high as homemade potato chips.

It is not uncommon on a busy night for more people to be at Sam’s than live in Blakeslee, with a population of 140. Mosehopper is a popular drink. It is made with ice cream that makes it even better in summer. That’s one reason they serve it by the pitcher as well as in individual glasses.

Heading into Michigan, on U.S. 12 it’s easy to understand why the pioneers named the hilly region that stretches for miles in a green canvas the Irish Hills.

Hidden Lake Gardens, on M-50, is a Lenawee County gem that is tuned into nature at all seasons and a wonderful place to unwind any day of the week.

It is operated by Michigan State University. Just driving slowly through the gardens is relaxing, but to park and walk on the marked trails is a sure cure for stress. Some guided walks with naturalists are offered. And if you take a picnic, the place to enjoy it is near the lake that really isn’t hidden at all.

Visiting regional wineries, especially where tastings are offered, can be an educational venue on a day trip; that is, if you don’t over imbibe.

The Cherry Creek Winery in a charming old schoolhouse is at 11000 Silver Lake Highway, three miles east of U.S. 127, at the corner of U.S. 12. In addition to an extensive wine menu, Cherry Creek is known for fudge and cherry preserves. Appetizers are often served with wine under the pergola in summer. Cherry Creek wine aficionados schedule a winery visit Saturday afternoons to catch a live band concert. The outdoor concerts begin at 5 p.m.

Once upon a time, the Walker Tavern was a stagecoach stop on the five-day trip between Detroit and Chicago. It is at 13220 M-50 at the junction of U.S. 12 in Cambridge Junction Historic Site. Visitors can tour the restored tavern and imagine the challenge of travelers in the last century compared to today. A Farmers’ Market is held on Sunday in the grove.

The tavern is also home to the Wheels, a vintage baseball club that plays by 1860s rules. Today’s home game is with the Royal Oak Wahoos. The next home game is with the Mount Clemens Regulars on July 13. Both games are at 2 p.m. and are open to the public.

I know the price of gas is high for pleasure driving. But summer is short and so is life.

Mary Alice Powell is a retired Blade food editor. Contact her at: mpowell@theblade.com



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