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Issue Date: September 2007 Issue

Tradition's Town

Amber Matheson, Photo by Carine Lutz
The Drive: Ann Arbor, Michigan
Miles: 168
Tailgate of the Year: Wrap your trip around the annual clash of titans: This year the OSU vs. Michigan game caps the regular season at the Big House Saturday, Nov. 17.
Each spring, college classes come to an end, and seniors prepare to graduate. At the University of Michigan, hundreds of them mark the occasion with the Naked Mile, a storied evening run that traces a wobbly, drunken course across campus, to the wonderment of the Ann Arbor masses — all of whom seem to have brought their cameras. If you’re looking for a great college tradition, we do not recommend this particular one.

Krazy Jim’s Blimpy Burger is one of Ann Arbor’s more family-friendly traditions. Look for a red-and-yellow striped awning clinging perilously to a storefront stuffed into a space half its size, with a sidecar patio hanging on for dear life. Inside, families struggle with the traditional question — will a quad (four sliders on one bun) be enough, or should I go with the quint? — as they bump trays with hungover college students and Ann Arbor townies. As the crowd — there’s always a crowd — jostles down the line, fry cooks bark questions, barely wait for a reply and throw orders onto an ancient grill a scant two or three feet from waiting customers.

With the first snowfall, life-size snowbears populate the miniscule front yard, courtesy of Rich Magner, the current owner. He maintained the tradition after Krazy Jim went to that big hamburger joint in the sky. Spend a weekend in Ann Arbor, and you’ll discover how integral its traditions really are. The Zingerman’s Reuben ($12, but worth it), the painted rock, brunch at Café Zola, Hash Bash, the Little Brown Jug — there’s even a restaurant devoted to that football tradition. Campus and city meet in an eight-block mishmash of restaurants and stores, making it easy to soak up more than 150 years of city and college lore. 1-800-888-9487,

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