Hell, MI June 5, 2008 - I had wondered for years what it was like. I had heard all of the stories; tales of raucous days in summer heat and waves of humanity rolling down the highway to perdition in search of a good time. Most of all I remembered that many of those that had found themselves in Hell had actually intended on going there - at the very first opportunity and the best possible speed.
I nearly missed it.
Hell, despite all of the publicity to the contrary, isn't very big at all. There might be 100 people there, probably less. And there isn't even an official highway sign to welcome you - you just come around the curve and suddenly you are there. I always hoped there would be a warning before crossing the boundary line into Hell. At the very least I expected a church, a pastor, maybe a friendly priest to wave me down and tell me about what lay ahead if I kept to my current path.
I found a small store, a tavern, and a few tourist photo cut-outs - that's all. No writhing souls, no demons gleefully tormenting the residents, no sheets of flame - not even a Bic lighter flickering in the parking lot.
I walked into Hell's Country Store - it was like a thousand other small town convenience stores. Beer coolers in the corner, bread on the shelves next to snacks, and a big pizza oven. Obviously, the only thing getting hot around here was some pies being cooked for the late lunch crowd . . . which didn't seem to be evident, maybe these were orders for pick up.
"Is this all there is to Hell?", I asked to nobody in particular. "I really expected more. . ."
A cheerful voice behind the pizza counter responded, "Wow, that's the first time I've heard it put that way!" At that point the store owner and I began a polite 20 minute conversation about the merits of living in small towns and the particular problems encountered by her neighbors that call Hell home. "The county gave up on keeping a town limit sign here years ago", she said, "they were always stolen almost before the road crew was finished installing a new one!"
Soon it was time for me to move along, Hell was only a stopover on my life's big adventure and I had other places to be. I bade my farewell and walked out to take a photo or two before starting up the Honda and riding away. I left Hell as I found it, a small place known to many but appreciated by so few. Small towns are like that, they often gain a reputation that is undeserved. You know a place like Hell, I'm sure. But for the residents of this town I bet they like saying, "Well, I gotta run, there's some friends waiting for me in Hell!"
Post Script: A few days later I visited Paradise, Michigan. After the trip was over I calculated the round trip distance from Hell to Paradise . . . 666 miles !