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Trip Report Big 10 Quest #5 - University of Michigan

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2012 Big 10 Quest 5 – University of Michigan– April 15, 2012
12 campuses – 12 months - 2012

After leaving Michigan State University, we drove the short distance to Ann Arbor and checked into our hotel. It is a Clarion, but feels like a refurbished Holiday Inn with Holidome. The public area featured many tables (handy for groups) under a ceiling decorated with dozens of college flags and an indoor poor (which added lots of noise). Entering our fourth floor room, we were surprised to find every light blazing. The room had a king bed, couch, microwave and refrigerator, but, we later discovered, only one bath towel and no washcloths. We went out for snacks and when we returned, we stopped at the desk to ask for more towels. On our way back to the room, a maid got on the elevator at the same time dragging two huge plastic bags - one full of clean towels and one full of used towels. I commented to My husband that you'd think they'd provide her with a cart. Someone brought up more towels tout de suite. Not long afterwards, we heard someone fiddling with our door lock. As we sat in the room, the maid entered apologizing, but without knocking, and dropped off towels in the bathroom.

Sunday morning, we enjoyed the complimentary hot breakfast. It was crowded and serving was difficult. I burnt my bagel in the confusing toaster, so tried again with an English muffin. While waiting, I considered testing out the waffle-maker, but they were temporarily out of batter.

After checking out, we headed to the Central Campus of the University of Michigan. After a brief introductory drive, we parked a block behind the union. In front of the union, we took photos of plaques commemorating the announcement of the formation of the Peace Corps by John F. Kennedy. Entering the building, we felt at home. The stately building was of the era of the union at Illinois or perhaps even older. Just inside the door was an information desk. The friendly girl manning it suggested various points of interest on campus. I asked if there were any statues that were musts for photos. She thought for a bit and said that the campus wasn't big on statues. However, after a minute, she suggested a cube around the corner of the building that sits on one vertex and can be spun. Outside, we spent some time looking at a historical sign about early buildings that are no longer there and then walked past a lovely fountain to the twirling cube.

We then crossed the street to check out the diagonal, Michigan's version of the quad. Along the way, there were actual many piece of sculptural art and benches and rocks dedicated to various parties. As we walked the campus, I felt an immense sense of history. I wondered when the campus was founded and discovered that it is older than Illinois - likely the oldest of the campuses we've visited so far.

On a corner, we saw the Ruthven museum and took photos of the sign. We kept walking and decided to keep going on to the arboretum. Just inside, there was a sign showing the distances between various parts of the walking path. There were also two water sources. One was low and emptied into a dog's water dish. Not far into the walk was a huge peony garden. It must be spectacular when they are blooming. We went as far as the first marker and then decided to continue on to a second entrance. At one spot, there was a bench that overlooked a beautiful vista. It's interesting to see the variety of terrain. It started to sprinkle, but fortunately, there were only a few drops.

We continued on to the art museum, now open since it was after noon. I picked up a brochure and saw a list of several paintings that were good to view to relieve stress. We found one of them right away, but decided it would be stressful to try to find all of them. We stopped by an odd video presentation and peeked inside the gift shop. It was a short visit, but when we went back outside, it had turned into a rainy day. It was pleasant to feel the rain in the air and to see students scurrying around with umbrellas. This campus, like MSU, was filled with students - more so than Ohio, Indiana, and Penn State.

We went back to the car and then drove by the stadium. It is well-constructed, my favorite so far, and has huge MICHIGAN signs at either end.

After leaving campus, I wanted to briefly visit a few other attractions in Ann Arbor. First, we searched for fairy doors mentioned in my 2009 AAA book. We tried a coffee shop, where I would have loved to linger. But, alas, no fairy doors. As I got back into the car, I noticed an outdoor farmers market next door which was also enticing.

Back in downtown Ann Arbor, it was amazing to see open shops, lots of people, and filled parking spots on a Sunday afternoon. Since there was no parking, My husband dropped me off. I found one door at the Arc. It was cute - but didn't open. I then checked a gallery mentioned in the article. I walked through and then asked. The door was outside and the clerk suggested that I could find a list of the doors on the Internet. I took a photo of the door (had to delete photos from my memory card to do it). I was disappointed to find that this door did not open either.

We drove by the Gerald Ford Presidential Library even though we didn't want to take time to stop. It was just as well as we found that it is only open Monday through Friday.

Driving away, we marveled at the size of the medical center campus. We also saw huge buildings similar to Huff Gym or the Armory that were for ice hockey and the like.

We topped off the visit with a lunch at Zingerman's Roadhouse. I first learned about it on Fodor's and then read more about it during our stay from tourism information. It's won many awards and been featured on TV shows. Inside, we saw Zingerman candy bars that had been featured as O favorite things. I thought about buying a couple until I found that the tiny bars were $5 each.

My husband had a burger and I had macaroni and cheese. I debated between a full order at $9.50 or a side order at $7.50. I asked the waiter and he said that the full order was about two ounces larger, so I decided the side order would be plenty. I was wrong. It was absolutely yummy, but the serving was small. The meal came with a basket of bread, so that helped supplement my tiny meal.

Back on the road, we drove more or less straight through. We considered stopping at the Old Spaghetti Factory in Indianapolis once again. However, we were anxious to get home and thought foregoing it would save the wasted cost of the parking ticket at the at-that-time "college that will not be named."

My husband and I chatted that our visits to the colleges have been even more fun than we'd envisioned. Each is special in its own way - but has a palpable connection to the group. University of Michigan is my favorite so far. I would love to spend a weekend exploring more of the campus and Ann Arbor.

History: Ann Arbor had originally set aside 40 acres for a site for a new state capitol. When Lansing became the capital, the land was given to the university, then in Detroit. Classes were first held in Ann Arbor in 1841.

Campus lore: We really didn't learn of any campus lore - but I am sure there is some.

Architecture: The Central Campus has the feel of a campus that dates to the 1800's. It has a stately and traditional feel that practically screams out its link to education.

Lay-out: The Central Campus has a diagonal which has a quad-like feel except with more mature tress and less grassy area. The campus extends over a huge area and seems much bigger than the other campuses. (It would be interesting to compare their acreage.)

Points of interest: The campus has a fine art museum and a natural history museum. There is also an arboretum within walking distance which has the feel of a state or county park.

Branding: Is it my imagination or have the students at the first five schools all been less likely to wear branded merchandise than at Illinois? That is not to say that they don't wear it at all, it just seems less ubiquitous.

Visitor information: Desk in the union.

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