Day 4, Monday, 27 June 2011
Bowling Green, Ohio to Motown
Woke up a little late this morning, and didn't end up leaving the motel until 10. Headed toward Toledo. Just after it, I saw a billboard for a beef jerky store. A whole store for jerky? Oh heck yes, I have to stop. Inside, the owner gave me a little tour and told me about the place. It was a family owned and operated store, and all the jerky was home-made. The traditional jerky types, of which there were over a dozen, were free to sample, so I tried ALL of them. Being from the South, I guess my taste palate is just accustomed to a spicier food group than up north, as the one I was told was the hottest he made and his most popular was no hotter than plain black peppered beef jerky to me. I'm not a big fan of turkey jerky, as it has an odd rubbery taste and texture. The beef stick Slim Jim type things were not free to try, but I got a few of them, pepperoni, salami, teriyaki, etc. I ended up buying 2 ½ pounds of jerky here, more than enough to be snack food for the journey, wish I had a Ziploc or other airtight bag to keep them fresh.
When asking me of my plans for the day, the guy told me since I was going into Detroit, I had managed to plan the perfect first night. The week before 4th
of July, the big cities in Michigan each take a day to have a pre-4th
of July fireworks celebration, and this night happened to be the one in Detroit. Sweet. This is the highlight of this guy's year, and he and his family drive up the 50 miles into the city each year to see the festivities. He also told me that since I planned to go to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, I HAD TO visit Mackinac Island, and to plan ½ a day there, including the requisite fudge-buying.
Outside, I saw hundreds of nasty looking winged creatures. They didn't seem aggressive, and no one else took note of them, so I took a mental note to find out about them later. I saw a sign on the interstate for another store I wanted to visit off this exit, but no mention of it after I pulled off. It was the perfect store for my friend Danny and I wanted to take a picture for him. It was a liquor store that also sold beer, fishing licenses, bait, and sandwiches, and conveniently had a pier on Lake Eerie you could “snack” and fish from. Wow, I had no idea I was that close to that Great Lake at this point, until I just tried to find the store on Google Maps.
After there, I continued on into Michigan and stopped at their Welcome Center, which was wonderfully informative. As everywhere I stopped this day, I saw thousands more of the nasty bugs.
I asked a gent to take a picture of me in front of the sign and he obliged
Entering the building, there were posters printed to teach me of these conspicuous creatures plaguing the scenery
Ah, well that explains that. Inside, a very polite and helpful lady gave me lots of information on the Detroit area. She pulled out maps and brochures, and pointed me toward the Henry Ford Museum (one of my planned stops), Greenfield Village (the historical part of the Ford Museum, where Henry had brought in over 80 buildings from around the country and filled with Americana history), the Motown Music Museum, and where I should stay for the night. She asked me about my lodging plans, and I asked if she knew of any places to camp within 30 miles of downtown. She said she knew of a few campgrounds, but for safety's sake, could not in good conscience recommend me anything. I asked if she knew of anywhere relatively cheap, ~$50. She immediately threw out a few places in Dearborn right off the interstate, one across the street from a police station, one behind a Home Depot, and so on. I thought it hilarious. I asked her about the fireworks, and she just said somewhere along the river, and that I would see signs. She did warn me though, if I were to be in the city and away from my bike, to store any valuables I had in the hotel room before night-fall. Ominous. I thanked her and was on my way.
Since the Ford Museum closed at 5, and it was nearing 1, I skipped lunch and headed straight over. When buying my tickets, $30 combined for the Museum and Village, the sales clerk informed me that the car exhibit of the Museum was closed. Seriously?! That was the main attraction, over 200 cars from the company's history. She said
that “Don't worry, many of the cars are still on display scattered throughout the Museum. I believed her. I also had to pay $5 because she asked if I parked in their lot. I said yes, and asked for a tag to put on my bike. “Oh, we don't give those out.” “Then how will security know I paid for parking?” “We operate on the Honor System.” Good grief lady, you should have told me that BEFORE I paid.
With the help of a conveniently placed trash can
The weather was looking doubtful at this point, so I opted for the Village while it was still dry. I rushed through here as I was warned it would take 2 ½ hours to get through this, and 3 for the Museum. It was 1:30. I had 3 ½ hours to absorb possibly 5 ½ hours worth of entertainment. Let's do this!
Greenfield Village was very neat, and huge. I skimmed through the agricultural sections, but saw little of interest, so headed toward the plane section. Re-enactors were outside a re-built model of the Wright brothers' home. I listened to the actors speak for a good ten minutes and thought them great.
Model Ts were driving around with visitors inside, a $10 privilege I thought of trying, but decided not to. I was surprised with how quiet these were, but they were driving on asphalt, much smoother than the dirt and gravel roads of the early 1900s.
I walked over to Menlo Park, a restored version that had most of the original buildings that Thomas Edison and his crew worked in. Henry Ford had been inspired for Edison and wanted to become an inventor like him. After the company took off, they met and became “friends,” so after Edison's passing, Ford bought much of his old original property and had it moved here. In fact, the name of the place was Edison Park, but later changed when more exhibits were added. There are a number of well-educated park guides that can tell you all about Edison and the 1000+ patents he and his crew designed. The rest of the Village I mostly just walked through, but wished I had more time for. Back to the Museum, yay!
Inside the Museum, I first sought out drink and snack. Happily, Oscar Mayer was on the case with Weinerama, with a Weinermobile displayed out front.
From here I munched on a pretzel, sipped down some orange soda. The sales associate for Weinerama talked me into upgrading from the normally priced drink in a styrofoam cup for $3 to a larger, souvenir plastic cup that had unlimited refills for $4. Fat kid → Sold. After finalizing the sale, she started asking me about my jacket, heard I ride a motorcycle, then started asking me about the trip from across the counter. She was elated to hear of a “crazy” guy riding up from South Carolina all the way to Michigan, just to see Detroit! When I mentioned the Upper Peninsula, she told me of all her favorite places to go, which included the Tunnel of Trees, a supposedly awesome scene where the trees are so big, they arch over the road and form a tunnel (we have a lot of this in the lowcountry as most every movie that includes Charleston, Beaufort, or Savannah will attest). After 5 minutes of talking, she said she had to get back to work, but hoped I would at least say good-bye before leaving. Argh.
I walked around the museum. It was interesting, but I was severely disappointed about the car exhibit. I kept my eye out for every car I could, and think I may have seen 8.
Original GT40 built for Le Mans. I know a bit of the history of this car and love them, and their ancestral line that came back in the 21st
century. I would love to have one of the modern versions of this.
Some Lotus racing car, with another generic-looking old car in the background (sorry, can't recall details on either)
Cool tractor wheels
This ride was gorgeous! This vehicle was the original concept car for the Mustang, built in 1962. It is tiny, Miata-sized, with a low windshield, swept back curves, fender-mounted mirrors, simple and distinguished little roadster. Sadly, it was designed to be the working man's sports car alternative to the Corvette. When Ford's designers showed this to some of the blue collar plant-workers, they thought it too small and complained its lack of a backseat made it impractical with their having kids. Ford redesigned it to the 1964 ½ classic styling you see a glimpse of in the back. This picture turned out really blurry, so I deleted it and thought I took another to replace it. Apparently, I didn't.
This was a neat design. It was called a Dymaxion house, mobile pre-manufactured homes with centralized everything in post-War times. This debuted in 1952. Only two were ever made, this being the only one that sold to a customer. After the original owner died, his grandchildren donated this one to any Museum that would take it. Most wouldn't, Ford did. Around this house, I thought the Museum pretty chilly, high 60's. I had goosebumps and walked past two women, one of whom remarked that I was lucky to be wearing a jacket in here. I laughed and said, “Yea, when I left home on Friday, I think it was 103! I can't believe the temperature change.” She said, “Ohhh, you're not from here?” I said, “No, Charleston, South Carolina.” “Really?! I'm from Summerville” (15 minutes from here and where my parents live). We got to talking for a bit about her visiting family and so on. Small world and all that jazz.
Back to general Americana junk (they had a whole furniture section, and televisions, and other 1900-1960s household items). This was a scary looking chair built in the 1930s you could buy from a catalog
Before leaving the Museum, I decided to visit Weinerama again to, umm, fill up on soda! Yea, that's it, just wanted soda. Terrific luck! They had soda! Oh, and that cute cashier happened to be on break. Might as well say “Hi,” just to be polite, you know, that whole Southern hospitality schtick. I sat down at a table nearby, and when I caught her eye, threw out a simple “Fancy meeting you here, are you stalking me or something?” She laughed and rushed over and wanted to see pictures of the Bandit (wish I had a pretty bike for times like these). She mentioned being about to start at Michigan State (hmm, so 17/18 as I guessed she meant as a freshman; frustrating that border) and how she wished to travel, but didn't have money for it yet, so on and so forth.
She asked what I had planned for the night and if I planned to see the fireworks. I said I would after getting room. She asked if I would like to meet up with “us.” I asked who “we” were, and she said she'd be with her parents. Hmmmm. Perfect timing for her break to be over. With such a hasty decision in front of me, I declined as I thought it a little awkward. She gave me a hug and wished me well on my way. Argh. I know, I know, I know. I could have had a personalized little tour of the Motor City with a cute young chica. I wish I had stepped up to the opportunity and not worried of her age, or meeting her parents, and so on and so forth. I frustrate myself much more with worry than I do by disappointing you, the few that may have possibly made it this far into my rambling. I just kicked myself for you.
Now, what to do next? It was 3:45 and I had no plans beyond hotel room and fireworks at 10. I pulled out my brochures and pamphlets and walked out to the bike. I took off my jacket and boots for a much-needed airing out. I sat down in the grass behind my trusty steed to read, snack on some jerky and a Powerade. Hmm, looking at my rear tire, what's that line? Carp! Threads showing. This Dunlop Challenger only lasted me 6000 miles, compared to the last one that did 8 or 9. Guess I should get that changed since I have nothing else to do. Pull out phone and Google Maps away for Motorcycle store Dearborn. Great news! 47 positive reviews for Rosenau Powersports only 3 miles from here. Rush over there, buy a new tire, and wait an hour to have it put on. It was a little pricey, but I was glad to have that worry off my mind, and that of my chain being adjusted (I HATE doing that myself on street-bikes and will gladly pay a shop for this; on dirt-bikes, it's soooo simple though).
In the hour I waited, I walked around their little place, and noticed they had an upstairs no one is visiting. Probably just offices, I thought to myself, but no red tape or signs stating against visitors. Investigator's hat a la Indiana Jones on. So downstairs is sport-bikes and cruisers resting on carpet, and one lonely V-strom 650 that has no sideracks or cases. That may very well be the only Strom I have seen without either. What is upstairs you ask? Checkerboard tiles lead your way up to one of the saddest sites an ADV'er may ever see. Downstairs has 12-18 customers wandering around, sitting on all the bikes, stoked to be near that cool new shiny GSXR.
Upstairs is the place of forgotten toys, like Sid's room from Toy Story. Up here are the ATVs, dirt bikes, and a few majestic dual-sports. There are 2 KLRs, a red and a blue, a DRZ, a KLX250, a WR250, and that red-headed step-child I hear so much about but never see a TW200. It was immaculate and looked like I may have been the first customer up there in months. There were no sales people up here, but there were offices in back. An accountant lady came out of her room when I was checking out the new KLR and asked if I needed any help, with a look of “Are you lost?!” on her face. I said “No, thank you,” and she disappeared again before I finished my third syllable.
El Bandita was soon done and we were on our way to a Red Roof Inn. On the way I saw a cool looking kit car in a tow lot, but couldn't see any descriptive details that would help me learn more.
The Inn was a little pricier than I hoped, but I was excited to finally be in spitting distance of Detroit. The check-in woman gave me yet another warning about going into the city, but I brushed this away with little regard. I stripped off the soft bags and anything I worried about being taken from the tankbag and put all this in the room. I threw a couple things in my little messenger bag/cooler that I would carry with me. It was about 6 at this point. I took a little break and watched some TV for the first time on the trip, Wheel of Fortune seemed to be the only thing on.
At 7, I headed off into the wilds of the concrete jungle. I didn't pay much attention to where “Downtown” Detroit was on my map or look on my GPS, so just was going off the road signs I was seeing. There were police blockades and signs pointing you in the direction of where the fireworks would be along the Detroit River. Interesting sidenote: the closest part of Detroit to the Canadian border is called Mexicantown. No kidding, it's on government signs.
As I neared “downtown,” it became very urban. Suddenly, broken down cars, dilapidated structures, and the lowered economy became very much implanted in my retinas. There were people sitting on top of cars, with grills cooking dinner, lower-income families walking the streets without shoes, people parked on sidewalks, rampant displays of vandalism and wanton acts of graffiti everywhere. It was a little bit nerve-wracking for a guy from the suburban South. The population density was that of what I have only heard on TV (have not seen many big cities myself). The police were present everywhere, both in cars, on bicycles, and on foot, but seemed there mostly for riot control. Some I saw even had helmets and shields nearby (wish I took a picture of these). They weren't pulling anyone over for the ludicrous driving violations I saw, or caring about the drugs being openly dealt on street corners. I wasn't scared at this point, but in sheer and utter CULTURE SHOCK.
I learned that the Rules of the Road in Detroit were not those painted on signs or of politeness. It was a bit like what I have heard from foreign countries that are “You see an opening, you take it; who cares what the street-light says?” Stop signs, red lights, No U-turn, No Parking, and green lights were ineffectual. Although I've seen it on and around Spruill Avenue, I was pissed every time I came up to a car that was too busy talking to the car next to it, or to passersby on the sidewalk to continue making progress on the street. Eventually, I succumbed to this, and sidewalks, and street lanes all just became terms of the past. Detroit was all about freedom, especially as a motorcyclist. Weird thought, eh?
I once was stuck in a traffic line for over 5 minutes, three blocks from the light with the interference. I got tired of this and lane split up to the offenders. It was 3 guys coming from separate directions that had decided the intersection was a nice place for a conversation. There had not been a collision, just friendly joking around. Lane splitting became my friend here, and felt a safety net a few times.
After riding up the main street in the area I was in, East Jefferson Avenue, for 10-15 minutes looking for a legal and “safe” spot to leave my baby, I pulled over to ask a couple cops in front of a barricade. When I stopped, turned, the engine off, and walked over with helmet on, one unbolted her Glock and kept her hand at the ready. She asked why I stopped, and I inquired as to a good place for a motorcycle to stop. She pointed out a spot in front of a fire hydrant. I told her I didn't want to be ticketed, she said they don't usually give out parking tickets, but I pressed for another area, she said to squeeze between some cars parallel parked, I wanted to leave them room, so said No again, so she asked why I didn't just pull up on the sidewalk somewhere like the scooters. I asked if this was legal, and she gave me a look like I had just asked if it was okay to pee in an alley, “It's not technically legal, but nobody's going to bother you if you keep it discreet. I already told you we won't ticket you here.” Umm, okay, well thanks anyway for the No Help. Luckily, I saw a car pulling away from a prime location under a lamp-post and darted over and locked m'lady up.
I still had not had any dinner yet, and as it was 8:15, I wandered up each side of the road looking for some roadside cafe or diner I could grab grub from and pass a little time. I called my mom and talked to her as I walked. I had three guys following me at one point, maybe just walking behind me at an uncomfortably close pace, but after a couple minutes, I got off the sidewalk to lean against a fence and let them pass. Two walked on, but one paused, “played with his phone for a few seconds,” and then continued walking. As he did so, he “stumbled” about five feet from the path he was walking and into me. Glad I wore my jacket at this point as I keep my belongings in my zippered pockets while riding instead of my pants, so things don't slide out. As he knocked against me, I felt his hands quickly slide from my knees up to my rib-cage. He stood up, said “Sorry,” asked if I had a couple bucks as he hadn't eaten all day and his food stamps were all used and didn't get any for a few days. I was still on the phone with my mother but had paused our conversation when I saw his “stumble.” I had my hand over one of the knives I carry on my person for a number of reasons, but hadn't pulled it out. Assuming bad things if I were to pull out my wallet, I grabbed a couple bucks of change I carry in a side pocket, told him “This is all the cash I've got man,” handed it to him, got back on the phone and started walking the other direction toward the nearest cop stand as I noticed his friends had stopped about 30' away. I didn't look back until I was almost two blocks away, and he was long gone.
I stopped to ask the cops where a good place for omm-nom-nom was. They pointed me to the next street over for a gas station. I wasn't too keen on this idea, but was starving so headed that way. As I did, I saw the sign for a restaurant chain I saw a ton of in Ohio and Michigan. I hadn't heard of them before, but recognized the logo, Big Boy. I went inside, asked for a booth by the window, ordered meatloaf with a side salad. The meatloaf was mighty tasty (since I hadn't eaten beyond snacks all day), but the salad left something to be desired and obviously wasn't very fresh. After dinner, the waitress asked if I wanted any dessert. Well, yes, yes, I do indeed. I saw they had cookies on the menu, and asked for chocolate chip. “We don't have any chocolate chip cookies.” “Oh, are you out?” “No, we don't carry those at this store anymore.” “What other kinds of cookies do you have?” “None.” “Umm, okay, well why's that when they're on the menu?” “Our manager got tired of employees eating all of the cookies, so we stopped making them.” “Oh, umm, well no thanks for dessert then.” Odd, oh well, time killed as it is almost 9:30.
It was odd to only see white folk either as cops or working in stores in this part of town, but I didn't put much thought to it.
All the police blockades led me to the entrance to Bell Isle Park, which was a bridge that was blocked off before the river. To the north side of the bridge were hundreds, if not thousands, of people. I walked over to join in.
I was still wearing my jacket as it was a bit cool out. I don't know if it was because I was white, or fat, or intimidating with my ex-Army jacket on, but there were only two times anyone came within 5' of me while I was at this park. It had tons of people but I was being singled out. Maybe motorcycling had dulled my senses and I was smelling much sooner than I realized on this trip. I don't know, but I did enjoy the crowd and the break-dance competition I saw while people waited for the fireworks.
This man was the only person that talked to me in the 45 minutes I was here. He had a little cart and was selling candy bars. He walked up and asked if I wanted a candy bar. I politely declined and told him I had just eaten. “Well, I don't just have candy, I got cookies and brownies to man.” “No thanks, I'm good.” “I don't think you understand. They ain't just brownies, they bbbroooowwwnnniiiesss.” “Nah, I'm cool. I think I do understand.” “Well, when you change your mind, lemme know, but I'll have less, so the price'll be higher, but jus look ou' for the Bbbbrrrooooowwnnniiieeee Man.” “Alright, thanks, you'll be the second to know if I changed my mind.” “Second?” “Yea, I hope I'd be the first to know if I'm hungry, hehe.” “Oh snap! Lis'n to this white boi ova here makin' jokes. He think' he funny. Hahaha.” Then he walked off.
Sadly, my last picture of the night. I did have one other guy come up next to me while some teenagers were break-dancing in front of me. He stood a couple feet from me and loudly proclaimed, “What the f* is up all with all these G*damn niggas tearin' up this piece?” I had no idea what an appropriate response for this was, but he laughed after his statement, so I figured it was a joke. I still decided the best thing to say was nothing though, and he wandered off a few seconds later. He did seem friendly though.
The fireworks were also a complete ruse and disappointment. They could have been awesome. The noise and smoke lead me to believe so, but I didn't actually get to see them. See, it would seem you have to know where to go to see the fireworks, and you can't just trust The Man here. The fireworks were on the other side of the huge bridge, and far down the river behind some buildings, so all the people I had gathered in the park with couldn't see a thing except flashing lights and smoke rising. We tried rushing down the street a bit to get a different view but it was futile. I left soon after and went back to the hotel.
From there, I walked over to Hooters to have a few beers and catch the end of Game 1 of the 2011 College World Series, where our state's Gamecocks beat the Gators.