Columns

2009.07.15 I went to Hell and survived to tell

on . Posted in Nowhere Road

By RICH FOLEY


“Hell is only half full

Room for you and me”

                 – Warren Zevon


If I remember my history correctly, it was Sir Edmund Hillary who answered “Because it’s there” when asked why he climbed Mount Everest. Or maybe it was some other famous person’s reply to a similar query. In any case, that kind of sums up why I spent last Tuesday visiting Hell, Michigan.

I’ve already visited Moscow (Michigan), Brazil (Indiana), and Lebanon (Missouri). Like the old Hoyt Axton song says, I’ve never been to Spain, but I’ve been to Oklahoma. Come to think of it, back in the mid-1980s, I even visited Paradise, Michigan. Why not do the flip side and go to Hell, Michigan, too? Especially since it’s so close. One of the internet map sites says it’s only a one-hour drive from Adrian.

A year or two ago, Chevrolet put out a calendar featuring a different recording artist each month, photographed in some interesting scenic place. Singing duo Big and Rich were shown in front of the Hell Country Store in Hell. That added a little push to my desire to visit. Armed with the online maps, a gazetteer and someone else to do the driving, it was off to find, with apologies to AC/DC, the highway to Hell. 

Actually, the road to Hell almost ended in Adrian. While stopped at a red light near the old courthouse, a policeman got out of his patrol car and approached a suspicious-looking box on the courthouse lawn. Figuring he’d probably call for backup, I’m sure I probably flinched when he poked at the box with his foot. When that move didn’t kill us all, he turned over what proved to be an empty container and was carrying it off when the light changed.

From that point, the trip was rather uneventful until we were well past Chelsea. Then, the internet directions started to go downhill, an appropriate direction considering where we were headed.

First, we discovered the road to Hell is not always paved. Then another road did not appear where it was supposed to be. At that point, we abandoned the internet directions and turned to the gazetteer for guidance. Considerably over an hour from Adrian, we rolled into Hell, almost hitting a dog running loose near the “Welcome to Hell” sign. Yes, we nearly killed one of the hounds of Hell. Amazingly, the temperature was in the mid-70s, almost the proverbial “cold day in Hell.”

We quickly found the Hell Country Store, which wasn’t all that hard because “downtown” Hell only has about four buildings. Going inside, I saw a copy of the Big and Rich calendar page near the cash register. I was tempted to ask how they arrived for the photo shoot. I can’t believe that Chevrolet had them fly into Detroit, then spend half a day lost on twisting country roads. I’m guessing they probably took a helicopter from the airport. If I ever had to go back, that’s how I’d do it.

The store had several interesting looking souvenirs in the windows, but not much for sale inside. The cashier said that they had been really busy over the Fourth of July weekend and had sold out of a lot of items. Going to Hell for the Fourth of July? Apparently, some people really are more desperate for entertainment than me.

I finally purchased one of the several designs of bumper stickers that were still available. They were sitting next to an empty shelf labeled “Maps, $6.66.”

Actually, the most appropriate souvenir was free: a book of matches advertising the store. Not only do you almost never see free matches anymore, what could be a more fitting remembrance of Hell than a book of fire starters?

We decided against visiting the business next door, which features a miniature golf course out behind the building. Yes, if you were wondering, there is golf in Hell.

About a mile east of town, there’s a buffalo ranch, but the signs say that it’s in Pinckney, which is actually quite a distance away. Apparently, potential customers aren’t excited by the prospect of buying buffalo from Hell.

Driving back through town on our journey back to civilization, the little Hell hound made one last attempt at getting in our way, but we missed him a second time and began our roundabout jaunt back to M-52.

After this experience, I probably won’t be visiting any more towns just because of the name, except for, maybe, Truth or Consequences (New Mexico),  96 (South Carolina), or perhaps, Intercourse (Pennsylvania). Could they possibly be as boring as Hell?’

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