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The following is an excerpt from Bill Schwab's Virtual Roadtrip Web Site. The complete Fall Color Tour and other road trips are available at Virtualroadtrip.Com
dot1.gif - 0.0 K Autumn Color Tour! - Day Three dot1.gif - 0.0 KOctober 8th, 1996

M-119, A Tunnel of Color...
by Bill Schwab
1081191.jpg The day was great for a trip south on M-119. For a stretch of 20 miles, it's a one-lane road not quite wide enough for a center line. It twists and turns with the Michigan coast, offering views that have earned it a spot on several lists of the country's most scenic drives. We only have to go a couple miles to get to its start in Cross Village. You can always count on finding some action in this small town. Last summer it was a movement to fend off a harbor development threatening the piping plover, a protected, sand-loving bird that nests on the shores of Lake Michigan. Usually, however, Cross Village is bustling with patrons of the Legs Inn, a state historical landmark/Polish restaurant.10-8legs.jpg
Stanley Smolak, a Polish immigrant who settled here in 1921, built the rustic place of stones and drifwood from the lake. He named it after the inverted stove legs used as decorative railing on the roof. Stop in and raise a glass of one of 100 imported beers to Smolak's one-of-a-kind work or enjoy the international fare -- from nachos to golabki, goulash and kompot polonaise -- at a cost of $4 to $15. Don't forget to check the gift shop next door. It's filled with imported boxes and an always changing stock of Polish Easter eggs.

Between Cross Village and Harbor Springs, M-119, is the kind of road that has you oohing 10-81192.jpgover a red one-room schoolhouse at one turn and the tops of pines towering over the lake at another. About 60 percent of the trees are decked in fall's finest colors now and the road takes you through a tunnel of them just outside Cross Village. About seven miles later, we makd a quick stop in Good Hart -- don't blink when you pass the general store/post office or you'll miss it -- and continue south. As we make way to one of the state's toniest towns -- Harbor Springs -- the summer houses on the lake get bigger and bigger. The affluent have been coming here since the days of Al Capone and some fly their own planes to lakefront mansions.

10-8gdh1.jpg Downtown Harbor Springs is made up of a couple blocks of tiny shops specializing in toys, fashion, gourmet foods and art. Northern Michigan is an inspiration to countless painters, sculptors, potterers, etc.and they show work in half a dozen galleries. There are as many antique stores and if you can set aside an hour or two to look around, you won't go home empty handed. This time I got a Christmas gift for one of the passengers so I won't go into detail. I will say, however, it's from American Spoon Foods, which is owned by Carol Rice. She used to live in Wyandotte, Mich., which is where I work, and was hungry about news from home so10-8hspg.jpg we talked a while as I sampled a generous smorgasbord of crackers, honeys and jams. She carries a line of preserves that she calls "edible treasures from the orchards, fields and forests of northern Michigan"

According to Rice and the woman who owns the Cross Village sub shop, the colors have been bringing good crowds to the north every weekend. Unless you drive up on a Friday after work, it's hard to tell how many Michiganders have made the weekly migration. 10-8schl.jpgAll year long, a line of cars starts snaking its way up I-75 from the southeast part of the state. M-119 is a popular destination no matter the season. In the spring, trillium forms a white carpet along the road. In the summer, we head north out of Cross Village to some of the best beaches in Michigan. Sand dunes hide the shore from the road. The winter brings dramatic ice formations on the lake and pines dusted with snow. I'm glad that show's a couple months away. Go to Day Four




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