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Road Trip Across Michigan

At Greencrest Manor, a French Normandy mansion that has been rescued from disrepair and filled with flowers, art, and antiques, we slept in a Ralph Lauren dream under cozy chintz comforters. Rising early to admire St. Mary's Lake and eat Kellogg's products, we discovered Ruby in cardiac arrest. The proprietors jump-started her dying battery and pointed us back toward Battle Creek. There, after the curator of the Art Center showed us her rented Lustron home, a 1950's Erector-set house made entirely of powder-blue enameled steel panels, we hit the local auto parts store and gave Ruby a transplant.

Backtracking farther to Kalamazoo led us to the Air Zoo, an impressive collection of 76 restored and replicated airplanes. Then we headed north, around the blue-gray waters of Gull Lake to Hickory Corners, home of the Gilmore Car Museum, nine barns containing a fleet of 175 antique cars—boasting an 1899 Locomobile and a 1948 Tucker, one of 51 ever produced—along with a display of 1,200 hood ornaments. Despite the depth of their collection, the curators seemed duly impressed with our Ruby.

Feeling as revved up as the revived Ruby, we took a long, straight shot back east on I-94, through the dark to Dearborn, the city that Ford built, just west of Detroit. The following day, we gave Ruby a final workout, through the multiple interchanges of Detroit's expressways. At the world-famous Pewabic Pottery building, we watched ceramics artisans re-create century-old Arts and Crafts tiles and examined museum-quality ceramic vessels glistening with an iridescence like vitrified smoke.

It felt like a small act of subversion to drive Ruby, a General Motors vehicle, onto the grounds of the Henry Ford Museum, but that is far less a gaffe than cruising Detroit in a foreign car. Not that Ford would have minded. An archivist of catholic tastes, he filled a 13-acre museum with Edison memorabilia, household appliances, and planes, trains, and automobiles of every era and provenance. Nothing, however, surpasses the Ford Museum's recent acquisition: the Dymaxion House, a sheet-metal, spaceship-like structure conceived by R. Buckminster Fuller in the 1920's and built in the 1940's. Only two such houses were prototyped, at the end of World War II, and parts from both were used to resurrect the museum's historic dwelling.

As we peered through the curved windows of the Dymaxion (a gee-whiz name that Fuller derived from "dynamic," "maximum," and "tension"), tour guides pretending to be real estate salesmen circa 1946 pointed out such Jetsons-esque features as round walls ("No corners to sweep, ladies!") and dressers with "ovolving" shelves that deliver clothing into place behind a central pull-down door. Somehow it seemed a fitting end to our journey, standing inside a vision of the 21st century that was now a museum piece, in the daze of a future passed.

Day 1: 220 miles. From Bloomfield Hills, drive north on I-75 to U.S. Highway 10, then west to Midland. Take 47 south to 46 and head west to U.S. 131, continuing south to Grand Rapids.
Day 2: 60 miles. Take 131 north to Dinerland, then backtrack south through Grand Rapids. Take I-196 southwest to Holland and Lake Macatawa.
Day 3: 96 miles. A few miles south of Holland on I-196, catch the Blue Star Memorial Highway (A-2) through Saugatuck. Cross the Kalamazoo River into Douglas, and pick up U.S. 31 south to South Haven. Take 43 east, through Kalamazoo, picking up I-94 east to Battle Creek.
Day 4: 183 miles. Head west on I-94 to Kalamazoo. Take 43 northeast around Gull Lake to Hickory Corners. Backtrack on 43 to 89 W., to I-94 W., to the Southfield Freeway (39). Drive north to Dearborn.
Day 5: 40 miles. Take I-94 east to the John Lodge Freeway (10 south). Go east on Jefferson Avenue into downtown Detroit. For the suburbs, take I-375 north, which becomes I-75 (exit at Big Beaver Road). Go west to Woodward Avenue. For Cranbrook, take Woodward Avenue north to Bloomfield Hills.


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